In the spirit of answering my own questions from last weeks Kierkegaard discussion I noticed this interesting article on the cross-cultural similarities in moral development. Researchers have been conducting studies of moral development across cultures. The summary by Bruce Bower at Science News suggests that there are universal themes to moral development across cultures. This contradicts the arguments of some scholars that Eastern and Western cultures have different values about the role of individuals, family, institutions, women, etc.
I just finished rereading Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard. I read it for a philosophy course in college and returned to it at the urging of my book club. One of the questions discussed during our meeting was what we got out of reading the book. I recognize the value of such a pragmatic criteria for book reading and use something similar more often than not. I’ve abandoned plenty of books because I didn’t think I’d get anything from them or felt like I’d learned enough from the pages I did read.
Every once in a while I notice a story about metrology, or the science of measurement, that reminds me how many of our concepts about the world are carefully constructed and contingent. A few months ago I asked just how long ago the civil war was after hearing a story about a book stolen during the civil war and just recently returned. On the scale of a human life or generation the civil war is very recent history and yet America seems to have completely buried it in the past.
A note from a few months back when I was reading Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein. I’m posting it as a reminder to my future self. Reading Wittgenstein is a challenge. But toward the end of Philosophical Investigations it seemed to me that there were three spheres of argumentation going on in Wittgenstein. There is the sphere of ordinary language. This is the source for the examples and cases which Wittgenstein builds his argument.
It’s been ten years since Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris stormed Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, and killed thirteen people. Dave Cullen has just published the definitive book on the crime titled simply “Columbine”. I read through it in less than a day. Ten years after an event the key part of any retelling of a story is often a reevaluation of facts that we thought we knew: that Harris and Klebold were outsiders, that they targeted jocks and popular kids, that they were part of the trenchcoat mafia, that Cassie Bernall said she believed in God before being shot.
Is Twitter or any kind of technology killing poetry? That was the argument I listened to yesterday afternoon at a local Meetup group. I shake my head, silently, every time these arguments come up because they capture something real about our crazy modern life but also leave so much behind. To me poetry is just another form of technology - a linguistic one - which we use to communicate with each other.
I went to a funeral for my neighbor, Mary, on Friday. I estimate there were 80 people present. As I listened to the eulogy I was struck by the different feelings I had at the funeral and watching the Michael Jackson burial last month. Joe Bagent already wrote a rant about the system for me. “It’s only a system,” I told myself during the 24⁄7 blanket coverage of Michael Jackson’s corpse, deeply suspicious that that so many millions of Americans were really distraught over the loss of this weirdly mutated media flesh puppet.
I remember wistfully back in the 1980s listening to neoconservatives, like Jeane Kirkpatrick, argue that any comparisons between the bad things that America did oversees and bad things done by the Soviet Union were the height of irresponsibility. Liberals, like Noam Chomsky, were creating a “false equivalence” between the always-working-for-good America and the devil-incarnate-evil-empire Soviet Union. The whole messed-up thread was most salient during the year I was on the high school debate team and the resolution was about American foreign-policy in Latin America.
Is there such a thing as an immoral work of art? I attended a panel on this topic last weekend at Diversicon and have been thinking about the question since then. Opinion among the panelists and the audiences was divided, some clearly thought that a movie or a story could be immoral, others were less sure. There is not an obvious intuitive response to this question. The major example on the panel was the film Seven Pounds, starring Will Smith.
I noticed a couple of reports over the last two weeks about the Morgan Stanley report by a 15-year-old intern about social media use among teenagers. I clicked through to the news article, read it quickly, and then just as quickly dismissed it. Last week I read a post by Kent Anderson at The Scholarly Kitchen on the same story. Anderson contends that the incident is an example of a gate-keeping failure at Morgan Stanley.