Regarding young working-class men and women, Jennifer M. Silva is correct when she concludes that “we need to provide these young men and women with the skills and support to navigate the road to adulthood.” This isolation is a result of hours of TV, video games, texting and Facebook; interpersonal skills are being lost.
I have observed that many of the twentysomethings, even those who have college degrees, still need to learn and understand the importance of knowing how to speak articulately, how to write grammatically and how to dress appropriately.
As military and political leader, Washington also had a shrewd awareness of the importance of his public image, for it was he alone, in his multifaceted role, who incarnated the new nation. He rarely if ever refused to sit for an artist who desired to paint his portrait. With a growing understanding of the complex interplay between leaders and followers, he grasped that, to defuse an incipient rebellion among his officers, a few personal words and an eloquent gesture were more effective than stern admonitions. At the end of his words to the would-be rebels, he seemed to falter. “Gentlemen,” he said, “you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind, in the service of my country.” His self-effacing words, his reminder of his own sacrifice, left the officers in tears.
(James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn, George Washington, The American Presidents Series, ed. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. [New York: Times Books, 2004], 28)
Verlyn Klinkenborg points to the drop in the number of English majors as evidence that the humanities are in decline. But we should not measure the health of the humanities by the number of majors we mint. I teach college humanities courses to students who mostly do not go on to be majors. Nor do I measure my success by the number who do.
Instead, I tell them that the humanities can and should be an organic part of all fields of study. Whether they major in business, engineering, biology or even English, the values the humanities promote—clear expression, deep engagement with difficult texts, the importance of function and aesthetics, the power of imagination—are valuable everywhere.
Simply put, we don’t need a few more students to be English majors. We need every student to think more like a humanist.
JOSHUA PEDERSON Boston, June 23, 2013
The writer is a lecturer in humanities at Boston University.
Note from KBJ: This is exactly right. My university wants majors, but I can't in good conscience advise my students to major in philosophy. There are no jobs for philosophy majors. What we need are more philosophically minded people in every walk of life: accountants, engineers, nurses, lawyers, therapists, soldiers, ministers, corporate managers, and so on. My department should be evaluated not on the basis of how many majors (or minors) it produces, but on how many students it teaches.
You and a group of ecologists are studying the wildlife in a remote stretch of jungle when you are captured by
a group of paramilitary terrorists. You are held hostage for several days. One of the terrorists takes a liking to
you. He informs you that his leader intends to kill you and the rest of the hostages the following morning.
He says that he is willing to help you escape, but that he needs some assurance that you will not go to the
police. He devises the following plan. He will videotape you while you kill one of your sleeping colleagues. The
tape will ensure your silence, making it possible for you to escape.
Is it appropriate for you to kill your colleague in order to escape from the terrorists and save your own life?
The advance of the science of which Newton is the great representative genius has profoundly affected the political and economic structure of the western world. Let us list the principal features of this change: the ramification of science into technology; the industrialization of production; the increase of population; the higher population capacity of an industrialized economy; the transformation of an agricultural into an urban society; the rise of the new social groups—the industrial proletariat, the white-collar employees, and an intellectual proletariat; the concentration of wealth and the rise of the managerial class; the ever-increasing numbers of men who depend for their economic existence on decisions beyond their influence; the dependence of national power on a highly developed industrial apparatus; the dependence of the industrial apparatus on the political accessibility of markets and raw materials; the power premium on industrialization; the political decline of nations who do not possess the raw materials, or the population figure, or the territorial expansion necessary for the effective utilization of industrial technology; the corresponding political ascendancy of nations who possess these factors; the helplessness of agricultural, especially oriental, civilizations against the economic and political penetration by industrialized civilizations; the rise in the standard of living due to industrialization; the political tensions in the western world due to the differences in the degree of industrialization possible in the various national states; the further increase in the standard of living in some of the industrialized societies through the ruthless exploitation of the industrial power premium in foreign relations, and so forth. This enumeration is far from exhaustive but it is sufficiently long to make it clear that the advance of science after 1700 is the most important single factor in changing the structure of power and wealth on the global scene.
In order fully to understand the interrelation of power and science we must also consider that science is not simply the cause of the enumerated effects; we must rather speak of an interaction between science and the environmental changes. The "usefulness" of science for the increase of power and wealth was quickly seen and became a strong incentive for putting the means of power and wealth at the disposition of scientists for their further pursuit of knowledge; and, more subtly, the advance of science itself is today unthinkable without a laboratory equipment that presupposes a technology of production, which, in its turn, is unthinkable without previous advance of science. This interrelation between science and power has become so decisive in international politics that, in the wake of modern wars, the conqueror resorts to such measures as prohibition of research, destruction of laboratory equipment, the wholesale abduction of scientists into a more or less gilded slavery, and the deindustrialization of the conquered nation. The strict rationality of the procedure, without regard for human or civilizational values, closely resembles the procedure of the most rational of conquerors, Genghis Khan: when the Mongols conquered a country they took the skilled craftsmen and the shapely women for their personal use and let the rest of the people perish. The advancement of science and the rationality of politics are interwoven in a social process that, in the perspective of a more distant future, will probably appear as the greatest power orgy in the history of mankind.
We must recognize this atmosphere of power in which science advances, for there are certain peculiarities incidental to the process which otherwise would appear as sheer lunacy. The source of these apparent lunacies is the utilitarian rationality of science. The idea of power through science has a rational core: if we have knowledge of causal relations we can form means-end relations; if we have the means we can achieve the end; hence knowledge in this sense is eminently useful. This rational, utilitarian core in itself is of necessity present in all human existence, both personal and social; utilitarian rationality determines a segment of life in primitive as well as in advanced civilizations; in itself it is not the specific determinant of any particular society. Under the impact of the modern advance of science, however, this core has acquired the characteristics of a cancerous growth. The rational-utilitarian segment is expanding so strongly in our civilization that the social realization of other values is noticeably weakened. This expansion is carried by the mass creed that the utilitarian dominion over nature through science should and will become the exclusive preoccupation of man, as well as the exclusive determinant for the structure of society. In the nineteenth century this idea of utilitarian exclusiveness crystallized in the belief that the dominion of man over man would ultimately be replaced by the dominion of man over nature, and that the government of men would be replaced by the administration of things. At this point we have to guard against the error into which critics of the totalitarian movements have fallen so frequently—the belief that an idea is politically unimportant because philosophically it is stark nonsense. The idea that structure and problems of human existence can be superseded in historical society by the utilitarian segment of existence is certainly plain nonsense; it is equivalent to the idea that the nature of man can be abolished without abolishing man, or that the spiritual order can be taken out of existence without disordering existence. Any attempt at its realization can lead only to the self-destruction of a society. Nevertheless, the fact that the idea is nonsensical has in no way prevented it from becoming the inspiration of the strongest political movement of our age. Here we can see in the raw the fascination of power that exudes from the new science: it is so overwhelming that it blunts one's awareness of the elementary problems of human existence; science becomes an idol that will magically cure the evils of existence and transform the nature of man.
This humanly destructive obsession is found not only in the totalitarian movements in the narrower sense. It occurs, too, in the so-called liberal or progressive movements, where it assumes the form of the belief that the rather obvious calamities which accompany the age of science must be cured by more science. We have gained dominion over nature through science; in order to avoid the misuse of this power, runs the argument, we must now gain control over our social environment through a corresponding advancement of social science. Scientists of more social prestige than human wisdom stand up before large audiences and tell them in all seriousness that social scientists will have to emulate the natural scientists and do their share in order to realize the perfect society. There seems to be no suspicion that the effects of natural science, both beneficial and destructive, are not due to the genius of scientists but to the objective structure of the realm of phenomena which permits the introduction of human action into the chain of cause and effect once the law of the chain has been discovered; no suspicion that this objective structure does not prevail in the realm of substance, that no wisdom of a Plato could prevent the suicide of Athens and no climactic synthesis of a St. Thomas the end of imperial Christianity. The knowledge of phenomena is certainly the key to their utilitarian mastery, but the understanding of human substance is not the key to the mastery of society and history.
The expansion of the will to power from the realm of phenomena to that of substance, or the attempt to operate in the realm of substance pragmatically as if it were the realm of phenomena—that is the definition of magic. The interrelation of science and power, and the consequent cancerous growth of the utilitarian segment of existence, have injected a strong element of magic culture into modern civilization. The tendency to narrow the field of human experience to the area of reason, science, and pragmatic action, the tendency to overvalue this area in relation to the bios theoretikos and the life of the spirit, the tendency to make it the exclusive preoccupation of man, the tendency to make it socially preponderant through economic pressure in the so-called free societies and through violence in totalitarian communities—all these are part of a cultural process that is dominated by a flight of magic imagination, that is, by the idea of operating on the substance of man through the instrument of pragmatically planning will. We have ventured the suggestion that in retrospect the age of science will appear as the greatest power orgy in the history of mankind; we now venture the suggestion that at the bottom of this orgy the historian will find a gigantic outburst of magic imagination after the breakdown of the intellectual and spiritual form of medieval high-civilization. The climax of this outburst is the magic dream of creating the superman, the man-made being that will succeed the sorry creature of God's making; this is the great dream that first appeared imaginatively in the works of Condorcet, Comte, Marx, and Nietzsche, and later pragmatically in the communist and national socialist movements.
(Eric Voegelin, "The Origins of Scientism," Social Research 15 [December 1948]: 462-94, at 484-9)
The Constitution does not pander to faddish theories about whether race mixing is in the public interest. The Equal Protection Clause strips States of all authority to use race as a factor in providing education. All applicants must be treated equally under the law, and no benefit in the eye of the beholder can justify racial discrimination.
(Clarence Thomas, concurring in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, 570 U.S. ___ )
The ruling against Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, though cloaked in process, represents a direct attack on the crown jewel of the American civil rights movement.
Lest we forget, injustice does not announce itself with sweeping gestures or blatant attacks. It moves quietly, gradually chipping away at the foundations of our justice system until the protections we hold dear crumble.
To believe that Section 4’s formula is a disposable relic from some previous era is to ignore the reality that greets American minority voters each November: the 12-hour ballot lines; the poll workers “mistakenly” trained to check photo IDs; the polling places that mysteriously open two hours late, long after the workday has started.
The Voting Rights Act remains one of the proudest legacies of Robert F. Kennedy’s service to our government, and we must condemn any act to dissolve this fundamental pillar of our country’s promise for equality and justice.
KERRY KENNEDY Hyannis Port, Mass., June 26, 2013
The writer, a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, is president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
Note from KBJ: For the love of God, if Congress doesn't like the Supreme Court's ruling, it can amend the law. By the way, shouldn't Kerry Kennedy stop living off the Kennedy name and become self-supporting? How can you have any self-respect if you're known as X's daughter?
You are in hospital lounge waiting to visit a sick friend. A young man sitting next to you explains that his father
is very ill. The doctors believe that he has a week to live at most. He explains further that his father has a
substantial life insurance policy that expires at midnight.
If his father dies before midnight, this young man will receive a very large sum of money. He says that the
money would mean a great deal to him and that no good will come from his father's living a few more days.
He offers you half a million dollars to go up to his father's room and smother his father with a pillow.
Is it appropriate for you to kill this man's father in order to get money for yourself and this young man?