All entries by this author

Freedom, Freedom, Freedom

May 9th, 2004 12:06 am | By

It’s only a ruddy parking ticket.

But seriously. Speaking of Burke and Kirk, and the joys of tradition and custom…I thought the answer I got to my question at the Chronicle’s colloquy was not all that satisfying. Possibly the fault of my question. I took seriously the instruction to be brief, so my question was pretty simple-minded – then I saw that other people asked very long questions, and I gnashed my teeth in impotent fury. But all the same, I did find the answer a bit off the mark.

A widespread hostility exists, especially among those of a liberal or libertarian orientation, toward any body of thought that seeks to impose restraints upon the will of either individuals or

Read the rest

Lateral Promotion

May 8th, 2004 7:36 pm | By

Okay, let’s discuss this question of whether Freud is a philosopher, and whether it matters. Should we just all agree to call him a philosopher whether he is one or not because hey who cares? If so, why? If not, why not?

For one thing there is the question of what words mean. Is it useful for them to have such a broad meaning and application that they mean nothing? Or is it more useful for them to have a narrower, more precise meaning, so that we know what we’re talking about when we use them and so that we have some chance of talking about roughly the same thing as opposed to thinking we’re talking about roughly the same … Read the rest

Mistreatment of Prisoners Called Routine in U.S. *

May 8th, 2004 | Filed by

Humiliation, sex slavery, beatings not as rare as they might be.… Read the rest

Why Would Icarus Want to be the Ploughman? *

May 8th, 2004 | Filed by

Roger Scruton admires rural silence, settling, grunts, tradition. Ecch.… Read the rest


May 7th, 2004 | By

Fashionable Nonsense, as we have observed before, is a Hydra with many heads, a book with many chapters, a motel with many rooms, a folder with many files. There is, in short, no end to it. But in the great thronging crowd-scene that is Fashionable Nonsense, there is one exemplar that stands out like Abe Lincoln addressing the Munchkins. Freud and psychoanalysis are in a class by themselves for their ability to go on being taken seriously and at face value by otherwise rational intellectuals, in the teeth of all the evidence.

It’s not as if it’s a closely-guarded secret. Jeffrey Masson’s publication of the Freud-Fliess letters in 1985, for example, got a lot of attention and sparked much controversy … Read the rest

So It’s Actually Not Paranoia to Fear ‘Pope-Rule’ *

May 7th, 2004 | Filed by

Bishops are leaning on Kerry to oppose abortion rights.… Read the rest

Kant and Epicurus Were a Bit Off the Mark *

May 7th, 2004 | Filed by

Simon Blackburn investigates lust; Hobbes calls it a delight of the mind.… Read the rest

The TLS Reviews the ‘Rapture’ Series *

May 7th, 2004 | Filed by

The UN as antichrist, superheated blood making people explode – such fun.… Read the rest

Einstein’s Mythology

May 6th, 2004 7:49 pm | By

If you read Allen Esterson’s dissection of the April 22 ‘In Our Time’ on Freud, perhaps you were inspired to listen to the programme. Interesting, wasn’t it? The matter-of-factness, the confidence, with which the participants talked of Freud’s discoveries as if they were settled knowledge (or normal science, as one might say). As Richard Webster amusingly points out, it’s as if people sat around the Radio 4 studio agreeing on how flat the earth is. Just so. Or how pretty the fairies look as they dance around the lawn, or how alarming it is when the poltergeists throw the dishes and boxes of pasta onto the floor, or how long and tedious the trip to Alpha Centauri is … Read the rest

Girls Poisoned for Going to School *

May 6th, 2004 | Filed by

Militants angry about Karzai government’s reversal of Taliban ban on female education.… Read the rest

Webster on Freud on Hysteria *

May 6th, 2004 | Filed by

Neurology had barely begun, so concussion was diagnosed as hysteria.… Read the rest

Richard Webster Listens to ‘In Our Time’ *

May 6th, 2004 | Filed by

As flat-earthers are to geography, so Freudians are to medical history.… Read the rest

Samuel Johnson Prize Shortlist *

May 6th, 2004 | Filed by

John Clare, the Gulag, Everything, East Germany, Africa.… Read the rest

Samantha Power Reads Hannah Arendt *

May 6th, 2004 | Filed by

Why we still have trouble noticing when an abyss opens.… Read the rest

What Would Burke Think?

May 5th, 2004 10:44 pm | By

There is an article about Russell Kirk by Scott McLemee in the current Chronicle of Higher Education. I’ve meant to read some Kirk for awhile, but haven’t gotten around to it. I’ve also meant to read some Burke, but haven’t done much of that either. (Yes, I know; just never mind. I’m studying 7th century vaudeville, and that takes time.) Kirk was a Burkean conservative, not a libertarian cheerleader for capitalism nor a neoconservative.

What Kirk extracted from Burke’s thought — and found embodied in the work of British and American figures as diverse as John Adams, Benjamin Disraeli, and T.S. Eliot — was a strong sense that tradition and order were the bedrock of any political system able

Read the rest

Other People Are Biased, But I’m Not *

May 5th, 2004 | Filed by

The idols of the tribe are alive and well, Michael Shermer points out.… Read the rest

Anti-Vaccination Panic *

May 5th, 2004 | Filed by

When immunization works, people forget how awful the disease is – and bad thinking takes over.… Read the rest

Myths, Damned Myths, and Psychoanalytic Case Histories

May 5th, 2004 | By Allen Esterson

Allen Esterson comments on Melvyn Bragg’s radio programme on hysteria, “In Our Time”, broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 22 April 2004.

Melvyn Bragg, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s long-running weekly series “In Our Time”, has an impressive record of encouraging practising scientists to make even abstruse scientific topics accessible to the radio-listening public. But when it comes to Freud and psychoanalysis it’s a different story. Whereas scientists are questioned closely about the origins of the ideas in their field, Bragg’s chosen experts on Freud (ne’er a dissenter among them) are given a free run to propagate their faith to the listeners, and manifest errors and dubious assertions are rarely challenged.

On 22 April 2004 the chosen topic was “hysteria”, and … Read the rest

Save Breath to Cool Porridge

May 4th, 2004 11:06 pm | By

We have an idea – don’t we? – that discussion is always a good thing, that more of it will work things out, that if we discuss our differences long enough and throughly enough, sooner or later we’ll resolve them. But of course that’s not true, it can’t be true – not on this planet, with this species. Consider a thought experiment. The lamb and the lion can speak, and can speak the same language. They sit down to discuss their differences. Would that resolve them?

I once heard Amos Oz say much the same thing, chatting on a local radio station (then I went to the bookstore where he was appearing, and got a stack of books signed). Americans … Read the rest

Catching Up With ‘No False Medicine’

May 4th, 2004 6:36 pm | By

Amardeep Singh has been busy lately. I had been checking his blog every day and then things got busy, and now look at the result – I have to catch up!

There is for instance this very interesting post on Gandhi, in which Amardeep partly agrees but partly takes issue with Meera Nanda. He is reviewing her book for a journal, which will be something to look forward to.

I’ve been reading Meera Nanda’s Prophets Facing Backwards this week (and even last week — it’s been slow). It’s an excellent book, which I would recommend to anyone thinking about questions of the history of science, secularism (in India and elsewhere), or postmodernism. I’m planning to write a proper review

Read the rest