Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Bits and bobs


It is worth reading more excellent posts supporting A C Grayling's defence of liberal learning. First up is Freens of Springburn. Some of you may remember my regret at his announcement that he was going to stop blogging. I am delighted to say that, after a brief hiatus, this declaration actually marked a prolific return to activity. His blog remains a delight. Secondly, Shuggy makes the important point about narrowly vocational learning that "this model of education usually fails to deliver even the dismal targets it sets for itself". He gives his reason why, but I have another one too - it is bloody boring. Finally, Norm posts a devastating riposte from a computer scientist giving an instrumental defence of the humanities.

Bobs - or more accurately, Bob's (from Brockley that is)

Bob's post comments on the same piece by Marko Hoare that I alluded to here. I liked a lot of what he had to say. In particular, this struck me:

But my most important quibble is that the West, whatever that is, has all too often not been the embodiment of the values Hoare describes here as “Western”...

One of my favourite general histories of Europe is Mark Mazower's Dark Continent. It not only takes intellectual history seriously and includes Greece and the Balkans in its narrative, but it also stresses the fragility of European democracy. Let us not forget that one of Europe's exports has been Fascism. That does not mean that contemporary Western society, built on Fascism's defeat, isn't hugely better than the imagined worlds of the totalitarian mind and the all too real worlds of vicious tyrannies around the globe. What it reminds us is that our achievements are vulnerable and that there is an ambiguity that a hubristic pro-Western definition of the left does not capture. And political activists have never been good at ambiguity.

That is why I am uneasy at a definition of the left as simply,
"the extension of the liberal-democratic order across the globe, through the politics of human rights, promotion of democracy, universal values and interventionism (not necessarily always military)". I would see it as axiomatic that included in the list are equality, economic security, social justice and the promotion of a democratic society with independent institutions, such as free trade unions, rather than simply a political democracy established through a representative state legislature. That is what would make it a left, rather than centrist, vision.


Nick Cohen on the Max Mosley affair

He had a little of my sympathy for proving the truth of P J O’Rourke’s assertion that, “no one has ever had a fantasy about being tied to a bed and sexually ravished by someone dressed as a liberal”.

Or so it seemed when the story broke. But within days a blushing Nick Clegg announced that he had had dozens of lovers. I’m now looking forward to next Sunday’s revelations about a Chelsea brothel where the clients demand that prostitutes talk dirty to them about the Lisbon Treaty before beating them black and blue with an Electoral Reform Society discussion paper.

And finally, from the incomparable Olly

Diana Inquest: We agree with verdict say relieved Illuminati.


DorsetDipper said...

well yes that's all hard to disagree with, but as a science graduate I find myself getting increasingly fed up with a basic inability to handle data and use logical argument in much of current debate and reporting, and to understand that science is a lot more than random correlations.

The main contribution of science and scientists to society isn't lots of whizzy contraptions but is the use of well thought out experiments and logical arguments to expand our understanding of the world. The huge increase in pseudo-scientific rubbish like much psychology at the expense of the proper difficult sciences has degraded the ability of society to discuss and debate many political issues.

The Plump said...

This is not an attack on science. It is an attack on a view, expressed by a lecturer in journalism, that all that matters is science and technology.

Read the contribution on Normblog about the interrelation of Humanities and scientific research.

I think, especially in our University, you might find someone disputing your data-free description of psychology.

Incidentally, we used to run adult education courses in ornithology, but no more.

mikeovswinton, Monkfan No.1 said...

I got excited when I saw that the discussant was called Adrian Monk. I thought San Francisco's finest obsessive compulsive detective was on the case. Typical - its not, just another boring academic (and I know of what I speak, being one). This country simply doesn't know what to do with Monk. The BBC's treatment of this brilliant series is a national scandal, and now they are rubbing salt in our wounds. Any more of this and I'm going to become a Druid (or Bard, or Ovate).

DorsetDipper said...

I said "much psychology" to exclude the proper hard stuff done by serious psychologists, rather than the cod stuff that passes for psychology in much of society

So I agree.