All entries by this author

Sincerity is Not Enough

Oct 6th, 2003 5:28 pm | By

Alan Wolfe has a new book out, in which he apparently says something very silly.

As modern Americans with distinctly tolerant sensibilities, you pride yourselves on your willingness to change, yet religious believers, even the most conservative among them, have adopted themselves to modern society far more than you have changed your views about what they are really like. You have made the whole country more sensitive to the inequalities of race and gender. Now it is time to extend the same sympathy to those who are different in the sincerity of their belief.

Well, I for one don’t put ‘tolerance’ at the center of my politics or my belief system or whatever you want to call it, precisely because … Read the rest

You Mean Knowledge Can Be Useful? *

Oct 6th, 2003 | Filed by

Clever old Congress, firing those pesky scientists. Err – ooops.… Read the rest

Femininity, Phooey *

Oct 6th, 2003 | Filed by

Oh no, it’s gone! Well what a relief.… Read the rest

Fundamentalism in Pakistan *

Oct 6th, 2003 | Filed by

Creeping Talibanization apparent even in the universities.… Read the rest

Great Lowing Herds of Rebels

Oct 5th, 2003 9:38 pm | By

Erin O’Connor at Critical Timber continues to expand on her discussion of conformity in the humanities. There are new posts here and here.

This is a large, rich subject, and one that has been under discussion for quite a long time, for instance in the pages of the late lamented Lingua Franca. William Kerrigan has an excellent essay on his enchantment and then disenchantment with Derrida and ‘theory’ called ‘The Falls of Academe’ in Wild Orchids and Trotsky. David Lehman discusses the displacement of literature by literary ‘theory’ in Signs of the Times. Helena Echlin describes the misery of being a literature graduate student at Yale in this essay.

But my professors look at me as if

Read the rest

It’s All So Much Funnier Now *

Oct 5th, 2003 | Filed by

Criticism has gone bonkers in the forty years between ‘The Pooh Perplex’ and ‘Postmodern Pooh.’… Read the rest

Rorty on Davidson *

Oct 5th, 2003 | Filed by

Retail skepticism makes sense but wholesale does not.… Read the rest


Oct 4th, 2003 4:45 pm | By

As B and W gets ever more popular, I find myself cringing at times. So many right-wing blogs seem to like us. Fortunately so do a lot of left-wing ones, as well as less-politically-classifiable ones, but all the same, I do cringe. But as my colleague likes to remind me, the left has only itself to blame (or, when he’s being ruder, it serves the left right). If they will insist on being woolly, if they will insist on ignoring evidence they don’t like – then they’re just giving away ammunition, that’s all. The more leftish voices there are trying to keep the left honest, the better, and if that’s a gift to the right too, so be it.

But … Read the rest

Sacred and Inviolable

Oct 4th, 2003 2:49 pm | By

I had a bit of a dispute or anyway discussion with my colleague yesterday, about one paragraph in his article on the Bright idea. On this Durkheimian idea that religion does not necessarily entail a belief in the supernatural, that it can also refer to the sacred, and hence to inviolable unrevisable ideas. I haven’t read Durkheim, and I need to. I think the only reason I resist the idea is that that’s not what people usually mean by religion (a point Richard Dawkins makes in his article ‘The Great Convergence’). Discussions and arguments about religion can become frustratingly evasive and slippery when the parties are not talking about the same entity, and defenders of religion have a way … Read the rest

More Philip Stott *

Oct 4th, 2003 | Filed by

Newspapers are supposed to report, not speculate.… Read the rest

Philip Stott Tears a Strip Off Guardian *

Oct 4th, 2003 | Filed by

‘It is precisely such spin and partial reporting that is undermining the role of science in society.’… Read the rest

Royal Society Rebukes Guardian *

Oct 4th, 2003 | Filed by

For publishing a speculative article about the contents of scientific papers before publication.… Read the rest

More Than Politics

Oct 3rd, 2003 9:18 pm | By

I have another thought on the matter of lefties in the academy. It has to do with this one sentence of Timothy Burke’s that Erin O’Connor quoted:

The tripwires here aren’t generally as obvious as saying, “I voted for Bush”-though Brooks is completely correct in thinking that this would possibly be one of the three or four most disastrous things an aspiring humanities scholar could say during an on-campus interview.

What’s interesting about that is that it’s no doubt true enough, but there is more than one reason for it, more than one kind of reason. At least I assume so, extrapolating from my own opinion on the matter. In fact, the other reason (the reason other than the one … Read the rest

More on Academic Conformity *

Oct 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

Critical Mass is hearing from people.… Read the rest

Environmental Propaganda Wars *

Oct 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

Entrenched positions prevent both sides from evaluating arguments on the merits.… Read the rest

What’s Going On In There? *

Oct 3rd, 2003 | Filed by

What happens to the brain and to consciousness after trauma?… Read the rest

Not a Very Bright Idea

Oct 3rd, 2003 | By Jeremy Stangroom

When Tony Blair first became leader of the Labour Party in 1994, the Sun
newspaper, a British tabloid, took to calling him ‘Bambi’, presumably in the
hope that the nickname would become established in the public consciousness.
It did not, of course, for it lacked any kind of resonance with what people
could believe about Blair. He wasn’t a child, his leadership was anything but
childlike, and he lacked the requisite number of legs to be a baby deer. Not
discouraged, the Sun was at it again in 2001, this time when Iain Duncan
Smith became leader of the Conservative Party. In what was probably a desperate
attempt to establish his man of the people credentials, it started to call … Read the rest

Think Like Us

Oct 2nd, 2003 8:00 pm | By

There is an excellent post at Critical Mass – starting, interestingly enough, from a comment on Crooked Timber. So we’re in a hall of mirrors here, or the land of infinite regress, or something. Bloggers commenting on bloggers commenting on bloggers commenting on (finally) an actual newspaper column. But that’s all right. The truth is, plenty of blog posts are better than plenty of newspaper columns. And this one is very good indeed. Erin O’Connor quotes Timothy Burke on the excessively narrow terms in which charges of political orthodoxy in universities are framed.

Virtually anything that departed from a carefully groomed sense of acceptable innovation, including ideas and positions distinctively to the left and some that are neither left nor

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Uh Oh *

Oct 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

Do we really need ‘criticism’ of science similar to that of ‘art, literature, movies, architecture’?… Read the rest

Remembering Said *

Oct 2nd, 2003 | Filed by

A polemicist and literary warrior in the tradition of Swift.… Read the rest