Last modified on 18 May 2014, at 17:15

The Closing of the American Mind

These students will assiduously study economics or the professions and the Michael Jackson costume will slip off to reveal a Brooks Brothers suit beneath. They will want to get ahead and live comfortably. But this life is as empty and false as the one they left behind. The choice is not between quick fixes and dull calculation. This is what liberal education is meant to show them. But as long as they have the Walkman on, they cannot hear what the great tradition has to say. And, after its prolonged use, when they take it off, they find they are deaf.

The Closing of the American Mind (1987) is a book by Allan Bloom that is a critique of the contemporary university and how Bloom sees it as failing its students. In it, Bloom criticizes the modern movements in philosophy and the humanities.

QuotesEdit

  • There is no real teacher who in practice does not believe in the existence of the soul, or in a magic that acts on it through speech.
    • Preface
  • Only Socrates knew, after a lifetime of unceasing labor, that he was ignorant. Now every high-school student knows that. How did it become so easy?
    • Introduction
  • Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise ... specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine.
    • From Socrates' Apology to Heidegger's Rektoratsrede, pt. 3
  • Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.
    • Books, pt. 1
  • We are like ignorant shepherds living on a site where great civilizations once flourished. The shepherds play with the fragments that pop up to the surface, having no notion of the beautiful structures of which they were once a part.
    • Our Ignorance, pt. 2
  • The history of liberal thought since Locke and Smith has been one almost unbroken decline in philosophic substance.
    • Values, pt. 2
  • When the liberal, or what came to be called the utilitarian, teaching became dominant, as is the case with most victorious causes, good arguments became less necessary; the original good arguments, which were difficult, were replaced by plausible simplifications—or by nothing.
    • Values, pt.2
  • There is no real education that does not respond to felt need; anything else acquired is trifling display.
    • p. 19
  • No real teacher can doubt that his task is to assist his pupil to fulfill human nature against all the deforming forces of convention and prejudice.
    • p. 20
  • These are the reasons that help to explain the perversity of an adult who prefers the company of youths to that of grownups. He prefers the promising “might be” to the defective “is.”
    • p. 20
  • A liberal education means precisely helping students to pose this question [“What is man?,”] to themselves, to become aware that the answer is neither obvious nor simply unavailable, and that there is no serious life in which this question is not a continuous concern. Despite all the efforts to pervert it, the question that every young person asks, “Who am I?,” the powerful urge to follow the Delphic command, “Know thyself,” which is born in each of us, means in the first place “What is man?” And in our chronic lack of certainty, this comes down to knowing the alternative answers and thinking about them. Liberal education provides access to these alternatives, many of which go against the grain of our nature or our times. The liberally educated person is one who is able to resist the easy and preferred answers, not because he is obstinate but because he knows others worthy of consideration.
    • p. 21
  • Although it is foolish to believe that book learning is anything like the whole of education, it is always necessary, particularly in ages when there is a poverty of living examples of the possible high human types.
    • p. 21
  • Most students will be content with what our present considers relevant; others will have a spirit of enthusiasm that subsides as family and ambition provide them with other objects of interest; a small number will spend their lives in an effort to be autonomous. It is for these last, especially, that liberal education exists. They become the models for the use of the noblest human faculties and hence are benefactors to all of us, more for what they are than for what they do. Without their presence (and, one should add, without their being respectable), no society—no matter how rich or comfortable, no matter how technically adept or full of tender sentiments—can be called civilized.
    • p. 21
  • It is sometimes said that these advantaged youths have less need of our attention and resources, that they already have enough. But they, above all, most need education, inasmuch as the greatest talents are most difficult to perfect, and the more complex the nature the more susceptible it is to perversion.
    • p. 22
  • The relativity of truth is not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate, the condition of a free society, or so they see it. ... The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all. … The purpose of their education is not to make them scholars but to provide them with a moral virtue—openness.
    • pp. 25-26
  • Every educational system has a moral goal that it tries to attain and that informs its curriculum. It wants to produce a certain kind of human being. ... In some nations the goal was the pious person, in others the warlike, in others the industrious. Always important is the political regime, which needs citizens who are in accord with its fundamental principle. Aristocracies want gentlemen, oligarchies men who respect and pursue money, and democracies lovers of equality. Democratic education, whether it admits it or not, wants and needs to produce men and women who have the tastes, knowledge, and character supportive of a democratic regime.
    • p. 26
  • Hobbes and Locke, and the American Founders following them, intended to palliate extreme beliefs, particularly religious beliefs, which lead to civil strife. … In order to make this arrangement work, there was a conscious, if covert, effort to weaken religious beliefs, partly by assigning—as a result of a great epistemological effort—religion to the realm of opinion as opposed to knowledge. But the right to freedom of religion belonged to the realm of knowledge. Such rights are not matters of opinion. No weakness of conviction was desired here. … It was possible to expand the space exempt from legitimate social and political regulation only by contracting the claims to moral and political knowledge. ... In the end it begins to appear that full freedom can be attained only when there is no such knowledge at all. ... The inflamed sensitivity induced by radicalized democratic theory finally experiences any limit as arbitrary and tyrannical. There are no absolutes; freedom is absolute. Of course the result is that, on the one hand, the argument justifying freedom disappears and, on the other, all beliefs begin to have the attenuated character that was initially supposed to be limited to religious belief.
    • p. 28
  • Liberalism without natural rights, the kind that we knew from John Stuart Mill and John Dewey, taught us that the only danger confronting us is being closed to the emergent, the new, the manifestations of progress. No attention had to be paid to the fundamental principles or the moral virtues that inclined men to live according to them.
    • p. 29
  • [The liberals’] beliefs do not entitle them as individuals, or collectively as a nation, to think they are superior to anyone else. John Rawls is almost a parody of this tendency, writing hundreds of pages to persuade men, and proposing a scheme of government that would force them, not to despise anyone. In A Theory of Justice, he writes that the physicist or the poet should not look down on the man who spends his life counting blades of grass or performing any other frivolous or corrupt activity. Indeed, he should be esteemed, since esteem from others, as opposed to self-esteem, is a basic need of all men. So indiscriminateness is a moral imperative because its opposite is discrimination. This folly means that men are not permitted to seek for the natural human good and admire it when found, for such discovery is coeval with the discovery of the bad and contempt for it. Instinct and intellect must be suppressed by education.
    • p. 30
  • One of the techniques of opening young people up is to require a college course in a non-Western culture. … In every case I have seen this requirement—when there are so many other things that can and should be learned but are not required, when philosophy and religion are no longer required—has a demagogic intention. The point is to force students to recognize that there are other ways of thinking and that Western ways are not better. It is again not the content that counts but the lesson to be drawn. Such requirements are part of the effort to establish a world community and train its member—the person devoid of prejudice. But if the students were really to learn something of the minds of any of these non-Western cultures—which they do not—they would find that each and every one of these cultures is ethnocentric. All of them think their way is the best way, and all others are inferior. ... Only in the Western nations, i.e., those influenced by Greek philosophy, is there some willingness to doubt the identification of the good with one’s own way. One should conclude from the study of non-Western cultures that not only to prefer one’s own way but to believe it best, superior to all others, is primary and even natural—exactly the opposite of what is intended by requiring students to study these cultures. What we are really doing is applying a Western prejudice—which we covertly take to indicate the superiority of our culture—and deforming the evidence of those other cultures to attest to its validity. The scientific study of other cultures is almost exclusively a Western phenomenon, and in its origin was obviously connected with the search for new and better ways, or at least for validation of the hope that our own culture really is the better way, a validation for which there is no felt need in other cultures. … In attacking ethnocentrism, what they actually do is to assert unawares the superiority of their scientific understanding and the inferiority of the other cultures which do not recognize it at the same time that they reject all such claims to superiority.
    • p. 36
  • The regime established here [in the U.S.] promised untrammeled freedom to reason—not to everything indiscriminately, but to reason, the essential freedom that justifies the other freedoms, and on the basis of which, and for the sake of which, much deviance is also tolerated. An openness that denies the special claim of reason bursts the mainspring keeping the mechanism of this regime in motion.
    • p. 39
  • History and the study of cultures do not teach or prove that values or cultures are relative. All to the contrary, that is a philosophical premise that we now bring to our study of them. This premise is unproven and dogmatically asserted for what are largely political reasons. History and culture are interpreted in the light of it, and then are said to prove the premise. Yet the fact that there have been different opinions about good and bad in different times and places in no way proves that none is true or superior to others. To say that it does so prove is as absurd as to say that the diversity of points of view expressed in a college bull session proves there is no truth. On the face of it, the difference of opinion would seem to raise the question as to which is true or right rather than to banish it. The natural reaction is to try to resolve the difference, to examine the claims and reasons for each opinion.
    • p. 39
  • It was always known that there were many and conflicting opinions about the good, and nations embodying each of them. Herodotus was at least as aware as we are of the rich diversity of cultures. But he took that observation to be an invitation to investigate all of them to see what was good and bad about each and find out what he could learn about good and bad from them. Modern relativists take that same observation as proof that such investigation is impossible and that we must be respectful of them all. Thus students, and the rest of us, are deprived of the primary excitement derived from the discovery of diversity.
    • p. 40
  • Men are likely to bring what are only their prejudices to the judgment of alien peoples. Avoiding that is one of the main purposes of education. But trying to prevent it by removing the authority of men’s reason is to render ineffective the instrument that can correct their prejudices.
    • p. 40
  • Historicism and cultural relativism actually are a means to avoid testing our own prejudices and asking, for example, whether men are really equal or whether that opinion is merely a democratic prejudice.
    • p. 40
  • Science is itself one of the modifications of amour-propre, the love of inequality.
    • p. 41
  • There are two kinds of openness, the openness of indifference—promoted with the twin purposes of humbling our intellectual pride and letting us be whatever we want to be, just as long as we don’t want to be knowers—and the openness that invites us to the quest for knowledge and certitude, for which history and the various cultures provide a brilliant array of examples for examination. This second kind of openness encourages the desire that animates and makes interesting every serious student—”I want to know what is good for me, what will make me happy”—while the former stunts that desire. Openness, as currently conceived, is a way of making surrender to whatever is most powerful, or worship of vulgar success, look principled. It is historicism’s ruse to remove all resistance to history, which in our day means public opinion, a day when public opinion already rules.
    • p. 41
  • When I was a young teacher at Cornell, I once had a debate about education with a professor of psychology. He said that it was his function to get rid of prejudices in his students. … Did this professor know what those prejudices meant for the students and what effect being deprived of them would have? Did he believe that there are truths that could guide their lives as did their prejudices? Had he considered how to give students the love of the truth necessary to seek unprejudiced beliefs, or would he render them passive, disconsolate, indifferent, and subject to authorities like himself?
    • p. 42
  • Merely methodological excision from the soul of the imagination that projects Gods and heroes onto the wall of the cave does not promote knowledge of the soul; it only lobotomizes it, cripples its powers.
    • p. 42
  • They [students] learned to doubt beliefs even before they believed in anything.
    • p. 42
  • Prejudices, strong prejudices, are visions about the way things are. They are divinations of the order of the whole of things, and hence the road to a knowledge of that whole is by way of erroneous opinions about it. Error is indeed our enemy, but it alone points to the truth and therefore deserves our respectful treatment.
    • p. 43
  • American intellectual obtuseness could seem horrifying and barbarous, a stunting of full humanity, an incapacity to experience the beautiful, an utter lack of engagement in the civilization’s ongoing discourse. But for me, and for many better observers, this constituted a large part of the charm of American students. Very often natural curiosity and love of knowing appeared to come into their own in the first flush of maturity. Without traditional constraints or encouragements, without society’s rewards and punishments, without snobbism or exclusivity, some Americans discovered that they had a boundless thirst for significant awareness, that their souls had spaces of which they were unaware and which cried out for furnishing. European students whom I taught always knew all about Rousseau and Kant, but such writers had been drummed into them from childhood and, in the new world after the war, they had become routine, as much a part of childhood’s limitations as short pants, no longer a source of inspiration. So these students became suckers for the new, the experimental. But for Americans the works of the great writers could be the bright sunlit uplands where they could find the outside, the authentic liberation for which this essay is a plea. The old was new for these American students, and in that they were right, for every important old insight is perennially fresh. It is possible that Americans would always lack the immediate, rooted link to the philosophic and artistic achievements that appear to be part of the growth of particular cultures. But their approach to these works bespoke a free choice and the potential for man as man, regardless of time, place, station or wealth, to participate in what is highest. … Some young Americans gave promise of a continuing vitality for the tradition because they did not take it to be tradition.
    • pp. 48-49
  • The current generation [1965] of students is unique and very different in outlook from its teachers. I am referring to the good students in the better colleges and universities, those to whom a liberal education is primarily directed and who are the objects of a training which presupposes the best possible material. These young people have never experienced the anxieties about simple physical well-being that their parents experienced during the depression. They have been raised in comfort and with the expectation of ever increasing comfort. Hence they are largely indifferent to it; they are not proud of having acquired it and have not occupied themselves with the petty and sometimes deforming concerns necessary to its acquisition. And, because they do not particularly care about it, they are more willing to give it up in the name of grand ideals; as a matter of fact, they are eager to do so in the hope of proving that they are not attached to it and are open to higher callings. In short, these students are a kind of democratic version of an aristocracy. The unbroken prosperity of the last twenty years gives them the confidence that they can always make a living. So they are ready to undertake any career or adventure if it can be made to appear serious. The ties of tradition, family, and financial responsibility are weak. And, along with all this, goes an open, generous character. They tend to be excellent students and extremely grateful for anything they learn.
    • p. 49
  • Many of the best students’ dedication to science was very thin. The great theoretical difficulty of modern natural science—that it cannot explain why it is good—was having its practical effect. … A little liberal learning easily attracted many of the most gifted away from natural science. They felt the alternatives had been hidden from them. And, once in the university, they could, this being a free country, change their minds about their interests when they discovered that there is something in addition to science. It was a tense moment, full of cravings that lacked clearly perceived goals. I was convinced in the early sixties that what was wanted was a liberal education to give such students the wherewithal to examine their lives and survey their potential. This was the one thing the universities were unequipped and unwilling to offer them. The students’ wandering and wayward energies finally found a political outlet. By the mid-sixties universities were offering them every concession other than education, but appeasement failed and soon the whole experiment in excellence was washed away, leaving not a trace. The various liberations wasted that marvelous energy and tension, leaving the students’ souls exhausted and flaccid, capable of calculating, but not of passionate insight.
    • pp. 50-51
  • Nietzsche … argued that the spirit’s bow was being unbent and risked being permanently unstrung. Its activity, he believed, comes from culture, and the decay of culture meant not only the decay of man in this culture but the decay of man simply. This is the crisis he tried to face resolutely: the very existence of man as man, as a noble being, depended on him and on men like him—so he thought.
    • p. 51
  • The dreariness of the family’s spiritual landscape passes belief. … The delicate fabric of the civilization into which the successive generations are woven has unraveled, and children are raised, not educated.
    • p. 57
  • The family requires a certain authority and wisdom about the ways of the heavens and of men. The parents must have knowledge of what has happened in the past, and prescriptions for what ought to be, in order to resist the philistinism or the wickedness of the present.
    • p. 57
  • The family, however, has to be a sacred unity believing in the permanence of what it teaches. … When that belief disappears, as it has, the family has, at best, a transitory togetherness. People sup together, play together, travel together, but they do not think together. Hardly any homes have any intellectual life whatsoever, let alone one that informs the vital interests of life.
    • pp. 57-58
  • Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise—as priests, prophets or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine.
    • p. 58
  • First radio, then television, have assaulted and overturned the privacy of the home, the real American privacy, which permitted the development of a higher and more independent life within democratic society.
    • p. 58
  • Television enters not only the room, but also the tastes of old and young alike, appealing to the immediately pleasant and subverting whatever does not conform to it.
    • p. 59
  • Nietzsche said the newspaper had replaced the prayer in the life of the modern bourgeois, meaning that the busy, the cheap, the ephemeral, had usurped all that remained of the eternal in his daily life.
    • p. 59
  • It is not so much the low quality of the fare provided [on television] that is troubling. It is much more the difficulty of imagining any order of taste, any way of life with pleasures and learning that naturally fit the lives of the family’s members, keeping itself distinct from the popular culture and resisting the visions of what is admirable and interesting with which they are bombarded.
    • p. 59
  • The impression that our general populace is better educated [than in the past] depends on an ambiguity in the meaning of the word education, or a fudging of the distinction between liberal and technical education. A highly trained computer specialist need not have had any more learning about morals, politics or religion than the most ignorant of persons. All to the contrary, his narrow education, with, the prejudices and the pride accompanying it, and its literature which comes to be and passes away in a day and uncritically accepts the premises of current wisdom, can cut him off from the liberal learning that simpler folk used to absorb from a variety of traditional sources.
    • p. 59
  • When a youngster like Lincoln sought to educate himself, the immediately-available obvious things for him to learn were the Bible, Shakespeare and Euclid. Was he really worse off than those who try to find their way through the technical smorgasbord of the current school system, with its utter inability to distinguish between important and unimportant in any way other than by the demands of the market?
    • p. 59
  • My grandparents found reasons for the existence of their family and the fulfillment of their duties in serious writings, and they interpreted their special sufferings with respect to a great and ennobling past. … There was a respect for real learning, because it had a felt connection with their lives. … I do not believe that my generation, my cousins who have been educated in the American way, all of whom are M.D.s or Ph.D.s, have any comparable learning. When they talk about heaven and earth, the relations between men and women, parents and children, the human condition, I hear nothing but clichés, superficialities, the material of satire.
    • p. 60
  • The Bible is not the only means to furnish a mind, but without a book of similar gravity, read with the gravity of the potential believer, it will remain unfurnished.
    • p. 60
  • Their souls are like mirrors, not of nature, but of what is around.
    • p. 61
  • Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.
    • p. 63
  • The distance from the contemporary and its high seriousness that students most need in order not to indulge their petty desires and to discover what is most serious about themselves cannot be found in the cinema, which now only knows the present.
    • p. 64
  • The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency—the belief that the here and now is all there is.
    • p. 64
  • I began to ask students who their heroes are. Again, there is usually silence, and most frequently nothing follows. Why should anyone have heroes? One should be oneself and not form oneself in an alien mold. … They have turned into a channel first established in the Republic by Socrates, who liberated himself from Achilles, and picked up in earnest by Rousseau in Emile. Following on Rousseau, Tolstoy depicts Prince Andrei in War and Peace, who was educated in Plutarch and is alienated from himself by his admiration for Napoleon. But we tend to forget that Andrei is a very noble man indeed and that his heroic longings give him a splendor of soul that dwarfs the petty, vain, self-regarding concerns of the bourgeoisie that surrounds him. … In America we have only the bourgeoisie, and the love of the heroic is one of the few counterpoises available to us. In us the contempt for the heroic is only an extension of the perversion of the democratic principle that denies greatness and wants everyone to feel comfortable in his skin without having to suffer unpleasant comparisons. Students have not the slightest notion of what an achievement it is to free oneself from public guidance and find resources for guidance within oneself. … Liberation from the heroic only means that they have no resource whatsoever against conformity to the current “role models.” They are constantly thinking of themselves in terms of fixed standards that they did not make. Instead of being overwhelmed by Cyrus, Theseus, Moses or Romulus, they unconsciously act out the roles of the doctors, lawyers, businessmen or TV personalities around them. One can only pity young people without admirations they can respect or avow, who are artificially restrained from the enthusiasm for great virtue.
    • pp. 66-67
  • Man is a being who must take his orientation by his possible perfection. To attempt to suppress this most natural of all inclinations because of possible abuses is, almost literally, to throw out the baby with the bath. Utopianism is, as Plato taught us at the outset, the fire with which we must play because it is the only way we can find out what we are. We need to criticize false understandings of Utopia, but the easy way out provided by realism is deadly. As it now stands, students have powerful images of what a perfect body is and pursue it incessantly. But deprived of literary guidance, they no longer have any image of a perfect soul, and hence do not long to have one. They do not even imagine that there is such a thing.
    • p. 67
  • Civilization or, to say the same thing, education is the taming or domestication of the soul’s raw passions—not suppressing or excising them, which would deprive the soul of its energy—but forming and informing them as art.
    • p. 71
  • Students are not in a position to know the pleasures of reason; they can only see it as a disciplinary and repressive parent.
    • p. 72
  • To Plato and Nietzsche, the history of music is a series of attempts to give form and beauty to the dark, chaotic, premonitory forces in the soul—to make them serve a higher purpose, an ideal, to give man’s duties a fullness. ... Such cultivation of the soul uses the passions and satisfies them while sublimating them and giving them an artistic unity. A man whose noblest activities are accompanied by a music that expresses them while providing a pleasure extending from the lowest bodily to the highest spiritual, is whole, and there is no tension in him between the pleasant and the good. By contrast a man whose business life is prosaic and unmusical and whose leisure is made up of coarse, intense entertainments, is divided, and each side of his existence is undermined by the other.
    • p. 72
  • Those who do not notice the role of music in Aristotle and despise it in Plato went to school with Hobbes, Locke and Smith, where such considerations have become unnecessary. The triumphant Enlightenment rationalism thought that it had discovered other ways to deal with the irrational part of the soul, and that reason needed less support from it. Only in those great critics of Enlightenment and rationalism, Rousseau and Nietzsche, does music return, and they were the most musical of philosophers. Both thought that the passions—and along with them their ministerial arts—had become thin under the rule of reason and that, therefore, man himself and what he sees in the world have become correspondingly thin. They wanted to cultivate the enthusiastic states of the soul and to re-experience the Corybantic possession deemed a pathology by Plato. Nietzsche, particularly, sought to tap again the irrational sources of vitality, to replenish our dried-up stream from barbaric sources, and thus encouraged the Dionysian and the music derivative from it.
    • p. 73
  • Nothing noble, sublime, profound, delicate, tasteful or even decent can find a place in such tableaux [as Rock music]. There is room only for the intense, changing, crude and immediate, which Tocqueville warned us would be the character of democratic art.
    • p. 74
  • The family spiritual void has left the field open to rock music. … The result is nothing less than parents’ loss of control over their children’s moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it.
    • p. 76
  • As Western nations became more prosperous, leisure, which had been put off for several centuries in favor of the pursuit of property, the means to leisure, finally began to be of primary concern. But, in the meantime, any notion of the serious life of leisure, as well as men’s taste and capacity to live it, had disappeared.
    • p. 77
  • [Rock and the intellectual Left] must both be interpreted as parts of the cultural fabric of late capitalism. Their success comes from the bourgeois’ need to feel that he is not bourgeois, to have undangerous experiments with the unlimited. … The critical theory of late capitalism is at once late capitalism’s subtlest and crudest expression. Anti-bourgeois ire is the opiate of the Last Man.
    • p. 78
  • Mick Jagger played the role in their [students’] lives that Napoleon played in the lives of ordinary young Frenchmen throughout the nineteenth century. Everyone else was so boring and unable to charm youthful passions.
    • p. 79
  • [Rock music] is apparently the fulfillment of the promise made by so much psychology and literature that our weak and exhausted Western civilization would find refreshment in the true source, the unconscious. … Now all has been explored; light has been cast everywhere; the unconscious has been made conscious, the repressed expressed. And what have we found? Not creative devils, but show business glitz.
    • p. 79
  • Lessing, speaking of Greek sculpture, said “beautiful men made beautiful statues, and the city had beautiful statues in part to thank for beautiful citizens.” This formula encapsulates the fundamental principle of the esthetic education of man. Young men and women were attracted by the beauty of heroes whose very bodies expressed their nobility. The deeper understanding of the meaning of nobility comes later, but is prepared for by the sensuous experience and is actually contained in it.
    • p. 80
  • Education is not sermonizing to children against their instincts and pleasures, but providing a natural continuity between what they feel and what they can and should be.
    • p. 80
  • The students will get over this [Rock] music, or at least the exclusive passion for it. But they will do so in the same way Freud says that men accept the reality principle—as something harsh, grim and essentially unattractive, a mere necessity. These students will assiduously study economics or the professions and the Michael Jackson costume will slip off to reveal a Brooks Brothers suit beneath. They will want to get ahead and live comfortably. But this life is as empty and false as the one they left behind. The choice is not between quick fixes and dull calculation. This is what liberal education is meant to show them. But as long as they have the Walkman on, they cannot hear what the great tradition has to say. And, after its prolonged use, when they take it off, they find they are deaf.
    • pp 80-81
  • The sexual revolution was precisely what it said it was—a liberation. But some of the harshness of nature asserted itself beneath the shattered conventions: the young were more apt to profit from the revolution than the old, the beautiful more than the ugly. The old veil of discretion had had the effect of making these raw and ill-distributed natural advantages less important.
    • p. 99
  • [For] Hobbes and Locke … the ruled are not directed by nature to the rulers any more than the rulers naturally care only for the good of the ruled. Rulers and ruled … are never one, sharing the same highest end, like the organs in Menenius’ body. There is no body politic, only individuals who have come together voluntarily and can separate voluntarily without maiming themselves.
    • p. 112
  • The nation as a community of families is a formula that until recently worked very well in the United States. However, it is very questionable whether this solution is viable over the very long run, because there are two contrary views of nature present here. And, as the political philosophers have always taught, the one that is authoritative in the political regime will ultimately inform its parts.
    • p. 112
  • In the tightest communities, at least since the days of Odysseus, there is something in man that wants out and senses that his development is stunted by being just a part of a whole, rather than a whole itself. And in the freest and most independent situations men long for unconditional attachments. The tension between freedom and attachment, and attempts to achieve the impossible union of the two, are the permanent condition of man.
    • p. 113
  • Modernity promised that all human beings would be treated equally. Women took that promise seriously and rebelled against the old order. … Women, now liberated and with equal careers, nevertheless find they still desire to have children, but have no basis for claiming that men should … assume a responsibility for them. So nature weighs more heavily on women. In the old order they were subordinated and dependent on men; in the new order they are isolated, needing men, but not able to count on them.
    • p. 114
  • Modern psychology at its best has a questionable understanding of the soul. It has no place for the natural superiority of the philosophic life, and no understanding of education. So children who are impregnated with that psychology live in a sub-basement and have a long climb just to get back up to the cave, or the world of common sense, which is the proper beginning for their ascent toward wisdom. They do not have confidence in what they feel or what they see, and they have an ideology that provides not a reason but a rationalization for their timidity.
    • p. 121
  • The old moral order, however imperfect it may have been, at least moved toward the virtues by way of the passions. If men were self-concerned, that order tried to expand the scope of self-concern to include others, rather than commanding men to cease being concerned with themselves. To attempt the latter is both tyrannical and ineffective. A true political or social order requires the soul to be like a Gothic cathedral, with selfish stresses and strains helping to hold it up. Abstract moralism condemns certain keystones, removes them, and then blames both the nature of the stones and the structure when it collapses. The failure of agriculture in socialist collective farming is the best political example of this. An imaginary motive takes the place of a real one, and when the imaginary motive fails to produce the real effect, those who have not been motivated by it are blamed and persecuted.
    • pp. 129-130
  • When wives and children come to the husband and father and say, “We are not your property; we are ends in ourselves and demand to be treated as such,” the anonymous observer cannot help being impressed. But the difficulty comes when wives and children further demand that the man continue to care for them as before, just when they are giving an example of caring for themselves. They object to the father’s flawed motive and ask that it be miraculously replaced by a pure one, of which they wish to make use for their own ends. … The peculiar attachment of mothers for their children existed, and in some degree still exists, whether it was the product of nature or nurture. That fathers should have exactly the same kind of attachment is much less evident. We can insist on it, but if nature does not cooperate, all our efforts will have been in vain.
    • p. 130
  • What is so intolerable about the Republic, as Plato shows, is the demand that men give up their land, their money, their wives, their children, for the sake of the public good, their concern for which had previously been buttressed by these lower attachments.
    • p. 130
  • But it [Freud’s psychology] turned out to be psychology without the psyche, i.e., without the soul. Freud just did not give a satisfying account of all the things we experience. Everything higher had to be a repression of something lower, and a symbol of something else rather than itself. … Aristotle said that man has two peaks, each accompanied by intense pleasure: sexual intercourse and thinking. … Freud saw only one focus in the soul, the same one as the brutes have, and had to explain all psychology’s higher phenomena by society’s repression.
    • pp. 136-137
  • People found that Freud’s “know thyself” led them to the couch, where they emptied their tank of the compressed fuel, which was intended to power them on their flight from opinion to knowledge.
    • p. 137
  • A value-creating man is a plausible substitute for a good man, and some such substitute becomes practically inevitable in pop relativism, since very few persons can think of themselves as just nothing. The respectable and accessible nobility of man is to be found not in the quest for or discovery of the good life, but in creating one’s own “life-style,” of which there is not just one but many possible, none comparable to another.
    • p. 144
  • Nietzsche said, “the greatest deeds are thoughts,” that “the world revolves around the inventors of new values, revolves silently.” Nietzsche was such an inventor, and we are still revolving around him. … The spectacle consists in how his views have been trivialized by democratic man desirous of tricking himself out in borrowed finery.
    • p. 148
  • Nietzsche believed that the wild costume ball of the passions was both the disadvantage and the advantage of late modernity. The evident disadvantage is the decomposition of unity or “personality,” which in the long run will lead to psychic entropy. The advantage hoped for is that the richness and tension present in the modern soul might be the basis for comprehensive new worldviews that would take seriously what had previously been consigned to a spiritual ashcan. This richness, according to Nietzsche, consisted largely in thousands of years of inherited and now unsatisfied religious longing. But this possible advantage does not exist for young Americans, because their poor education has impoverished their longings, and they are hardly aware of the great pasts that Nietzsche was thinking of and had within himself. What they do have now is an unordered tangle of rather ordinary passions, running through their consciousnesses like a monochrome kaleidoscope.
    • p. 156
  • The fact that most of us never would have heard of Oedipus if it were not for Freud should make us aware that we are almost utterly dependent on our German missionaries or intermediaries for our knowledge of Greece, Rome, Judaism and Christianity; that, however profound that knowledge may be, theirs is only one interpretation; and that we have only been told as much as they thought we needed to know. It is an urgent business for one who seeks self-awareness to think through the meaning of the intellectual dependency that has led us to such an impasse.
    • p. 156
  • Continental thinkers have been obsessed with bourgeois man as representing the worst and most contemptible failure of modernity, which must at all costs be overcome. Nihilism in its most palpable sense means that the bourgeois has won, that the future, all foreseeable futures, belong to him, that all heights above him and all depths beneath him are illusory and that life is not worth living on these terms.
    • pp. 157-158
  • Americans … do not naturally apply the term “bourgeois” to themselves, or to anyone else for that matter. They do like to call themselves middle class, but that does not carry with it any determinate spiritual content. … The term “middle class” does not have any of the many opposites that bourgeois has, such as aristocrat, saint, hero, or artist—all good.
    • p. 158
  • If the noble and the sacred cannot find serious expression in democracy, its choiceworthiness becomes questionable. These are the arguments, the special pleading of the reactionaries, the disinherited of the ancien régime.
    • p. 161
  • The revolutionaries who accepted our principles of freedom and equality … believed that we had not thought through these cherished ideals. Can equality really only mean equal opportunity for unequal talents to acquire property? Should shrewdness at acquisition be better rewarded than moral goodness? Can private property and equality sit so easily together?
    • p. 161
  • Once the world has been purged of ghosts or spirits, it reveals to us that the critical problem is scarcity. Nature is a stepmother who has left us unprovided for. But this means we need have no gratitude. When we revered nature, we were poor. … The old commandment that we love our brothers made impossible demands on us, demands against nature, while doing nothing to provide for real needs. What is required is not brotherly love or faith, hope and charity, but self-interested rational labor. The man who contributes most to relieving human misery is the one who produces most, and the surest way of getting him to do so is not by exhorting him, but by rewarding him most handsomely to sacrifice present pleasure for the sake of future benefit, or to assure avoidance of pain through the power so gained. From the point of view of man’s well-being and security, what is needed is not men who practice the Christian virtues or those of Aristotle, but rational (capable of calculating their interest) and industrious men. Their opposite numbers are not the vicious, wicked or sinful, but the quarrelsome and the idle. This may include priests and nobles as well as those who most obviously spring to mind. … This scheme represented a radical break with the old ways of looking at the political problem. In the past it was thought that man is a dual being, one part of him concerned with the common good, the other with private interests. To make politics work, man, it was thought, has to overcome the selfish part of himself, to tyrannize over the merely private, to be virtuous. Locke and his immediate predecessors taught that no part of man is naturally directed to the common good and that the old way was both excessively harsh and ineffective, that it went against the grain. They experimented with using private interest for public interest, putting natural freedom ahead of austere virtue. Self-interest is hostile to the common good, but enlightened self-interest is not. And this is the best key to the meaning of enlightenment.
    • pp. 165-167
  • Locke … wanted to preserve the primacy of the sentiments of nature in the civil order, and the result of his mistake is the bourgeois.
    • p. 168
  • If Rousseau is right, man’s reason, calculating his best interest, will not lead him to wish to be a good citizen, a law-abiding citizen. He will either be himself, or he will be a citizen, or he will try to be both and be neither. In other words, enlightenment is not enough to establish society, and even tends to dissolve it.
    • p. 168
  • The road from the state of nature was very long, and nature is distant from us now. A self-sufficient, solitary being must have undergone many changes to become a needy, social one. On the way, the goal of happiness was exchanged for the pursuit of safety and comfort, the means of achieving happiness. Civil society is surely superior to a condition of scarcity and universal war. All this artifice, however, preserves a being who no longer knows what he is, who is so absorbed with existing that he has forgotten his reason for existing, who in the event of actually attaining full security and perfect comfort has no notion of what to do.
    • pp. 168-169
  • Hobbes was surely right to look for the most powerful sentiments in man, those that exist independently of opinion and are always a part of man. But fear of death, however powerful it may be and however useful it may be as a motive for seeking peace and, hence, law with teeth in it, cannot be the fundamental experience. It presupposes an even more fundamental one: that life is good. The deepest experience is the pleasant sentiment of existence. The idle, savage man can enjoy that sentiment. The busy bourgeois cannot, with his hard work and his concern with dealing with others rather than being himself. Nature still has something of the greatest importance to tell us. We may be laboring to master it, but the reason for mastering nature comes from nature.
    • p. 169
  • Our minds must make an enormous effort to find the natural sweetness of life in its fullness. The way back is at least as long as the one that brought us here. For Hobbes and Locke nature is near and unattractive, and man’s movement into society was easy and unambiguously good. For Rousseau nature is distant and attractive, and the movement was hard and divided man.
    • p. 169
  • Plato would have united with Rousseau against the bourgeois in his insistence on the essential humanness of longing for the good, as opposed to careful avoidance of the bad. Neither longing nor enthusiasm belongs to the bourgeois. The story of philosophy and the arts under Rousseau’s influence has been the search for, or fabrication of, plausible objects of longing to counter bourgeois well-being and self-satisfaction.
    • p. 169
  • The side of Rousseau’s thought that arouses nostalgia for nature came to the United States early on, in the life and writings of Thoreau. … Anarchism in one form or another is an expression of this longing, which arises as soon as politics and laws are understood to be repressions, perhaps necessary, but nonetheless repressions of our inclinations rather than perfections of them or modes of satisfying them. For the first time in the history of political philosophy, no natural impulse is thought to lead toward civil society, or to find its satisfaction within it.
    • p. 171
  • The same people who struggle to save the snail-darter bless the pill, worry about hunting deer and defend abortion. Reverence for nature, mastery of nature—whichever is convenient. The principle of contradiction has been repealed.
    • p. 172
  • The self is the modern substitute for the soul.
    • p. 173
  • Machiavelli dared men literally to forget about their souls and the possibility of eternal damnation. … Hobbes, among others, took him up on the dare with a very new interpretation of the old Delphic inscription “Know thyself!,” which Socrates had interpreted as an exhortation to philosophize, and Freud was to interpret as an invitation to psychoanalysis. Freud was unknowingly following in the line of Hobbes, who said that each man should look to what he feels—feels, not thinks; he, not another.
    • p. 174
  • Man … was supposed to long to be all virtue, to break free from the chains of bodily desire. Wholeness would be happiness. … Machiavelli turned things upside down. Happiness is indeed wholeness, so let’s try the wholeness available to us in this life. The tradition viewed man as the incomprehensible and self-contradictory union of two substances, body and soul. Man cannot be conceived as body only. But if the function of whatever is not body in him is to cooperate in the satisfaction of bodily desire, then man’s dividedness is overcome.
    • pp. 174-175
  • [According to Machiavelli,] love of virtue is only an imagination, a kind of perversion of desire effected by society’s (i.e., others’) demands on us.
    • p. 175
  • This absoluteness of desire uninhibited by thoughts of virtue … represents the turn in philosophy away from trying to tame or perfect desire by virtue, and toward finding out what one’s desire is and living according to it. This is largely accomplished by criticizing virtue, which covers and corrupts desire. Our desire becomes a kind of oracle we consult; it is now the last word, while in the past it was the questionable and dangerous part of us.
    • p. 175
  • Once the old virtues were refuted—the piety of the religious or the honor of the nobles—Hobbes and Locke assumed that most men would immediately agree that their self-preservative desires are real, that they come from within and take primacy over any other desire. … Locke’s rational and industrious man partakes, as a prototype, of the charm of the sincere man who acts as he thinks and, without fraudulent pieties, seeks his own good. Beneath his selfishness, of course, lies an expectation that it conduces more to the good of others than does moralism. The taste of the sincere expresses itself more in blame of Tartufferie than in praise of virtue.
    • pp. 175-176
  • Locke had illegitimately selected those parts of man he needed for his social contract and suppressed all the rest, a theoretically unsatisfactory procedure and a practically costly one. The bourgeois is the measure of the price paid, he who most of all cannot afford to look to his real self, who denies the existence of the thinly boarded-over basement in him, who is most made over for the purposes of a society that does not even promise him perfection or salvation but merely buys him off.
    • p. 177
  • Socrates too thought that living according to the opinions of others was an illness. But he did not urge men to look for a source for producing their own unique opinions, or criticize them for being conformists. His measure of health was not sincerity, authenticity or any of the other necessarily vague criteria for distinguishing a healthy self. The truth is the one thing most needful; and conforming to nature is quite different from conforming to law, convention or opinion.
    • p. 179
  • In order to know such an amorphous being as man, Rousseau himself and his particular history are, in his view, more important than is Socrates’ quest for man in general or man in himself.
    • p. 179
  • A man who can generate visions of a cosmos and ideals by which to live is a genius, a mysterious, demonic being. Such a man’s greatest work of art is himself. He who can take his person, a chaos of impressions and desires, a thing whose very unity is doubtful, and give it order and unity, is a personality. All of this results from the free activity of his spirit and his will. He contains in himself the elements of the legislator and the prophet, and has a deeper grasp of the true character of things than the contemplatives, philosophers, and scientists, who take the given order as permanent and fail to understand man. Such is the restoration of the ancient greatness of man against scientific egalitarianism, but how different he now looks!
    • p. 181
  • A small but illuminating example of the pervasiveness of anti-Enlightenment thought today is how scientists themselves have taken to styling themselves as “creative.” But nothing could be more contrary to the spirit of science than the opinion that the scientist fabricates rather than discovers his results. … When every man was understood to be essentially a reasoner, the scientist could be understood to be a perfection of what all men wanted to be. … Now the scientist scrambles to recover his position as the perfection of what all men want to be; but what all men want to be has changed.
    • pp. 181-182
  • It is easy today to deny God’s creativity as a thing of the benighted past, overcome by science, but man’s creativity, a thing much more improbable and nothing but an imitation of God’s, exercises a strange attraction.
    • p. 182
  • The use of words like “creativity” and “personality” does not mean that those who use them understand the thought that made their use necessary, let alone agree with it. The language has been trivialized. Words that were meant to describe and encourage Beethoven and Goethe are now applied to every schoolchild. It is in the nature of democracy to deny no one access to good things. If those things are really not accessible to all, then the tendency is to deny the fact—simply to proclaim, for example, that what is not art is art. There is in American society a mad rush to distinguish oneself, and, as soon as something has been accepted as distinguishing, to package it in such a way that everyone can feel included. Creativity and personality were intended to be terms of distinction. They were, as a matter of fact, intended to be the distinctions appropriate to egalitarian society, in which all distinction is threatened. The leveling of these distinctions through familiarity merely encourages self-satisfaction. Now that they belong to everyone, they can be said to mean nothing, both in common parlance and in the social science disciplines that use them as “concepts.” They have no specific content, are a kind of opiate of the masses.
    • p. 183
  • The bourgeois is selfish, but without the purity and simplicity of natural selfishness. … His faithfulness to others and his obedience to law are founded on expectation of gain. … Thus he corrupts morality, the essence of which is to exist for its own sake. The bourgeois satisfies neither extreme, nature or morality. The moral demand is merely an abstract ideal if it asks for what nature cannot give. Brutish selfishness would be preferable to sham morality.
    • p. 185
  • Universality and rationality were the hallmarks of all these teachings. But very quickly culture—which was for Kant and, speaking anachronistically, for Rousseau, singular—became cultures.
    • p. 191
  • Why, it might be asked, can’t there be a respect for both human rights and culture? Simply because a culture itself generates its own way of life and principles, particularly its highest ones, with no authority above it. If there were such an authority, the unique way of life born of its principle would be undermined. The idea of culture was adopted precisely because it offered an alternative to what was understood to be the shallow and dehumanizing universality of rights based on our animal nature. The folk mind takes the place of reason. There is a continuing war between the universality of the Enlightenment and the particularity that resulted from the teachings of Enlightenment’s critics.
    • p. 192
  • The … attempt to preserve old cultures in the New World is superficial because it ignores the fact that real differences among men are based on real differences in fundamental beliefs about good and evil, about what is highest, about God. Differences of dress or food are either of no interest or are secondary expressions of deeper beliefs. The “ethnic” differences we see in the United States are but decaying reminiscences of old differences that caused our ancestors to kill one another. The animating principle, their soul, has disappeared from them. The ethnic festivals are just superficial displays of clothes, dances and foods from the old country. One has to be quite ignorant of the splendid “cultural” past in order to be impressed or charmed by these insipid folkloric manifestations.
    • pp. 192-193
  • Honesty compels serious men, on examination of their consciences, to admit that the old faith is no longer compelling. It is the very peak of Christian virtue that demands the sacrifice of Christianity.
    • pp. 195-196
  • Marx denied the existence of God but turned over all His functions to History, which is inevitably directed to a goal fulfilling of man and which takes the place of Providence. One might as well be a Christian if one is so naive.
    • p. 196
  • The self must be a tense bow. It must struggle with opposites rather than harmonize them, rather than turn the tension over to the great instruments of last manhood—the skilled bow unbenders and Jesuits of our days, the psychiatrists, who, in the same spirit and as part of the same conspiracy of modernity as the peace virtuosos, reduce conflict.
    • [describing the Nietzschean view] p. 198
  • God is not creative, for God is not. But God as made by man reflects what man is, unbeknownst to himself. God is said to have made the world of concern to us out of nothing; so man makes something, God, out of nothing. The faith in God and the belief in miracles are closer to the truth than any scientific explanation, which has to overlook or explain away the creative in man.
    • p. 199
  • Psychology … finds causes of creativity that blur the difference between a Raphael and a finger painter. Everything is in that difference, which necessarily escapes our science.
    • p. 199
  • Commitment is the equivalent of faith when the living God has been supplanted by self-provided values. It is Pascal’s wager, no longer on God’s existence but on one’s capacity to believe in oneself and the goals one has set for oneself.
    • [describing Nietzsche’s view] p. 201
  • Everyone likes cultural relativism but wants to exempt what concerns him. The physicist wants to save his atoms; the historian, his events; the moralist, his values. But they are all equally relative. If there is an escape for one truth from the flux, then there is in principle no reason why many truths are not beyond it; and then the flux, becoming, change, history or what have you is not what is fundamental, but rather, being, the immutable principle of science and philosophy.
    • p. 203
  • It is Nietzsche’s merit that he was aware that to philosophize is radically problematic in the cultural, historicist dispensation. He recognized the terrible intellectual and moral risks involved. At the center of his every thought was the question “How is it possible to do what I am doing?” He tried to apply to his own thought the teachings of cultural relativism. This practically nobody else does. For example, Freud says that men are motivated by desire for sex and power, but be did not apply those motives to explain his own science or his own scientific activity. But if he can be a true scientist, i.e., motivated by love of the truth, so can other men, and his description of their motives is thus mortally flawed. Or if he is motivated by sex or power, he is not a scientist, and his science is only one means among many possible to attain those ends. This contradiction runs throughout the natural and social sciences. They give an account of things that cannot possibly explain the conduct of their practitioners. The highly ethical economist who speaks only about gain, the public-spirited political scientist who sees only group interest are symptomatic of the difficulty of providing a self-explanation for science and a ground for the theoretical life, which has dogged the life of the mind since early modernity but has become particularly acute with cultural relativism.
    • pp. 203-204
  • Hegel … said that the owl of Minerva flies at dusk, meaning that only when a culture is over can it be understood. Hegel’s moment of understanding of the West coincided with its end.
    • p. 204
  • In his greatest creation, M. Homais, the pharmacist, Flaubert encapsulated everything that modernity was and is to be. Homais represents the spirit of science, progress, liberalism, anticlericalism. He lives carefully with an eye to health. His education contains the best that has been thought and said. He knows everything that ever happened. He knows that Christianity helped to free the slaves, but that it has outlived its historical usefulness. History existed to produce him, the man without prejudices. He is at home with everything, and nothing is beyond his grasp. He is a journalist, disseminating knowledge for the enlightenment of the masses. Compassion is his moral theme. And all this is nothing but petty amour-propre. Society exists to give him honor and self-esteem. Culture is his. There are no proper heroes to depict nor audiences to inspire. They are all one way or another in business. Emma Bovary is Homais’ foil. She can only dream of a world and men who do not and cannot exist. In this sober world she is nothing but a fool. She, like the modern artist, is pure longing with no possible goal.
    • p. 205
  • The side of modernity that is less interesting to Americans, which seeks less for political solutions than for understanding and satisfaction of man in his fullness or completeness, finds its profoundest statement in Nietzsche.
    • p. 206
  • Nietzsche restored something like the soul to our understanding of man by providing a supplement to the flat, dry screen of consciousness, which with pure intellect looks at the rest of man as something alien, a bundle of affects of matter, like any other object of physics, chemistry and biology. The unconscious replaces all the irrational things—above all divine madness and eros—which were part of the old soul and had lost significance in modernity. It provides a link between consciousness and nature as a whole, restoring therewith the unity of man.
    • p. 207
  • When the liberal … teaching became dominant, as is the case with most victorious causes, good arguments became less necessary; and the original good arguments, which were difficult, were replaced by plausible simplifications—or by nothing. The history of liberal thought since Locke and Smith has been one of almost unbroken decline in philosophic substance.
    • p. 210
  • There is a continuous skewing of the historical perspective toward religious explanations. Secularization is the wonderful mechanism by which religion becomes nonreligion. Marxism is secularized Christianity; so is democracy; so is utopianism; so are human rights. Everything connected with valuing must come from religion. One need not investigate anything else, because Christianity is the necessary and sufficient condition of our history. This makes it impossible to take Hobbes or Locke seriously as causes of that history, because we know that superficial reason cannot found values and that these thinkers were unconsciously transmitting the values of the Protestant ethic. Reason transmits, routinizes, normalizes; it does not create. Therefore Weber gives short shrift to the rational side of our tradition. Philosophy’s claims are ignored; religious claims are revered. Dogmatic atheism culminates in the paradoxical conclusion that religion is the only thing that counts.
    • p. 211
  • Democratic individualism does not officially provide much of a place for leaders in a regime where everyone is supposed to be his own master. Charisma both justifies leaders and excuses followers.
    • pp. 211-212
  • There is no more foundation to legitimacy than the inner justification the dominated make to themselves in order to accept the violence of those who dominate them. These justifications are, according to Weber, of three kinds: traditional, rational, and charismatic. Some men submit because that is the way it has always been; others consent to obey competent civil servants who follow rationally established rules; and others are enchanted by the extraordinary grace of an individual. Of the three, charismatic legitimacy is the most important. No matter what conservatives may think, traditions had a beginning that was not traditional. They had a founder who was not a conservative or a traditionalist. The fundamental values informing that tradition were his creation.
    • p. 212
  • Hitler proved to the satisfaction of most, if not all, that the [bourgeois] last man is not the worst of all.
    • p. 213
  • The disproportion between what all these words really mean and what they mean to us is repulsive. We are made to believe that we have everything. Our old atheism had a better grasp of religion than does this new respect for the sacred. Atheists took religion seriously and recognized that it is a real force, costs something and requires difficult choices. These sociologists who talk so facilely about the sacred are like a man who keeps a toothless old circus lion around the house in order to experience the thrills of the jungle.
    • p. 216
  • The man without ideology, the one possessing science, can look to the economic infrastructure and see that Plato’s political philosophy, which teaches that the wise should rule, is only a rationalization for the aristocrats’ position in a slave economy; or that Hobbes’s political philosophy, which teaches man’s freedom in the state of nature and the resulting war of all against all, is only the cover for the political arrangements suitable for the rising bourgeoisie. This point of view provides the foundation for intellectual history, which tells the story behind the story. Instead of looking at Plato and Hobbes for information about what courage is—a subject important to us—we should see how their definitions of courage suited those who controlled the means of production. But what applies to Plato and Hobbes cannot apply to Marx; otherwise the very assertion that these thinkers were economically determined would be itself a deception, simply the ideology for the new exploiters Marx happens to serve. The interpretation would self-destruct. He would not know what to look for in the thinkers who were inevitably and unconsciously in the grip of the historical process, for he would be in the same condition as they were.
    • p. 218
  • “The last man” interpretation of the bourgeois is reinforced by a certain ambiguity in the meaning of the word “bourgeois.” ... The capitalist and the philistine bourgeois are supposed to be the same, but Marx presents only the economic side, assuming, without adequate warrant, that it can account for both the moral and esthetic deformities of the bourgeois described by the artists
    • p. 223
  • Hester Prynne and Anna Karenina are not ennobling exemplars of the intractability of human problems and the significance of choice, but victims whose sufferings are no longer necessary in our enlightened age of heightened consciousness.
    • p. 228
  • Socratic dialectic takes place in speech and, although drawn forward by the search for synthesis, always culminates in doubt. ... Marx’s dialectic takes place in deed and … puts an end to theoretical conflicts
    • p. 229
  • [American] optimism is a national strength and is connected with our original project of mastering of nature. But that project itself is not unproblematic and makes sense only when kept within limits. One of these is the sanctity of human nature. It must not be mastered. ... Human nature must not be altered in order to have a problem-free world. Man is not just a problem-solving being, as behaviorists would wish us to believe, but a problem-recognizing and -accepting being.
    • p. 229
  • Gide … latches on to Nietzsche’s immoralism for the sake of leveling bourgeois sexual morals, using a cannon to kill a gnat.
    • p. 232
  • Sexual interpretations of art and religion .. had a corrupting effect on Americans. They noticed the sublime less than the sex in sexual sublimation. What in Nietzsche was intended to lead to the heights was used here to debunk the heights in favor of present desire. Any explanation of the higher in terms of the lower has that tendency, especially in a democracy, where there is envy of what makes special claims, and the good is supposed to be accessible to all. And this is one of the deep reasons why Freud found such an immediate audience in America.
    • p. 232
  • I fear that the most self-righteous of Americans nowadays are precisely those who have most to gain from what they preach. This is made all the more distasteful when their weapons are constructed out of philosophic teachings the intentions of which are the opposite of theirs.
    • p. 236
  • We now take what were only interpretations of our souls to be facts about them.
    • p. 237
  • That gray net of abstraction, used to cover the world in order to simplify and explain it in a way that is pleasing to us, has become the world in our eyes. The only way to see the phenomena, rather than sterile distillations of them, to experience them in their ambiguity again, would be to have available alternate visions, a diversity of profound opinions. … Souls artificially constituted by a new kind of education live in a world transformed by man’s artifice and believe that all values are relative and determined by the private economic or sexual drives of those who hold them. How are they to recover the primary natural experience?
    • p. 238
  • These words [“life-style,” “values,” etc.] are there where thoughts should be. … Each of the standard words seems substantial and respectable. They appear to justify one’s tastes and deeds. … However, these words are not reasons, nor were they intended to be reasons. All to the contrary, they were meant to show that our deep human need to know what we are doing and to be good cannot be satisfied. By some miracle these very terms became our justification.
    • p. 238
  • Our language is the product of … extraordinary thought and philosophical greatness. … There is a lifetime and more of study here, which would turn our impoverishing certitudes into humanizing doubts.
    • p. 239
  • From the moment I became a student there, it seemed plausible to spend all my time thinking about what I am, a theme that was interesting to me but had never appeared a proper or possible subject of study.
    • p. 245
  • The university was part of growing up, but it was not looked forward to as a transforming experience—nor was it so in fact. No one believed that there were serious ends of which we had not heard, or that there was a way of studying our ends and determining their rank order. In short, philosophy was only a word, and literature a form of entertainment.
    • p. 244
  • The university … made a distinction between what is important and not important. It protected the tradition, not because tradition is tradition but because tradition provides models of discussion on a uniquely high level. It contained marvels and made possible friendships consisting in shared experiences of those marvels. Most of all there was the presence of some authentically great thinkers who gave living proof of the existence of the theoretical life and whose motives could not easily be reduced to any of the baser ones people delight in thinking universal.
    • p. 244
  • In a nation founded on reason, the university was the temple of the regime, dedicated to the purest use of reason and evoking the kind of reverence appropriate to an association of free and equal human beings.
    • p. 245
  • Never did I think that the university was properly ministerial to the society around it. Rather I thought and think that society is ministerial to the university.
    • p. 245
  • I bless a society that tolerates and supports an eternal childhood for some, a childhood whose playfulness can in turn be a blessing to society.
    • p. 245
  • Falling in love with the idea of the university is not a folly, for only by means of it is one able to see what can be.
    • p. 245
  • The facile economic and psychological debunking of the theoretical life cannot do away with its irreducible beauties. But such debunking can obscure them, and has.
    • p. 245
  • Tocqueville shows how a democratic regime causes a particular intellectual bent which, if not actively corrected, distorts the mind’s vision. The great democratic danger, according to Tocqueville, is enslavement to public opinion. … The external impediments to the free exercise of reason have been removed in democracy. … Since very few people school themselves in the use of reason beyond the calculation of self-interest encouraged by the regime, they need help on a vast number of issues. … Some kind of authority is often necessary for most men and is necessary, at least sometimes, for all men. In the absence of anything else to which to turn, the common beliefs of most men are almost always what will determine judgment. This is just where tradition used to be most valuable. … Tradition does provide a counterpoise to and a repair from the merely current, and contains the petrified remains of old wisdom (along with much that is not wisdom). The active presence of a tradition in a man’s soul gives him a resource against the ephemeral, the kind of resource that only the wise can find simply within themselves. The paradoxical result of the liberation of reason is greater reliance on public opinion for guidance, a weakening of independence.
    • pp. 246-247
  • Although every man in democracy thinks himself individually the equal of every other man, this makes it difficult to resist the collectivity of equal men. If all opinions are equal, then the majority of opinions, on the psychological analogy of politics, should hold sway. …
    • p. 247
  • Unless there is some strong ground for opposition to majority opinion, it inevitably prevails. This is the really dangerous form of the tyranny of the majority, not the kind that actively persecutes minorities but the kind that breaks the inner will to resist because there is no qualified source of nonconforming principles and no sense of superior right. The majority is all there is. What the majority decides is the only tribunal. It is not so much its power that intimidates but its semblance of justice.
    • p. 247
  • Tocqueville found that Americans talked very much about individual right but that there was a real monotony of thought and that vigorous independence of mind was rare. Even those who appear to be free-thinkers … are creatures of public opinion as much as are conformists—actors of nonconformism in the theater of the conformists who admire and applaud nonconformity of certain kinds, the kinds that radicalize the already dominant opinions.
    • p. 247
  • There is a general agreement about the most fundamental political principles, and therefore doubts about them have no status. In aristocracies there was also the party of the people, but in democracy there is no aristocratic party. This means that there is no protection for the opponents of the governing principles as well as no respectability for them.
    • p. 248
  • Not only slavery, but aristocracy, monarchy and theocracy were laid to rest by the Declaration and the Constitution. This was very good for our domestic tranquility, but not very encouraging for theoretical doubts about triumphant equality. Not only were the old questions of political theorizing held to have been definitively answered, but the resources that nourished diversity concerning them were removed. Democratic conscience and the simple need to survive combine to suppress doubt. The kinds of questions that Tocqueville put to America—the answers to which allowed him to affirm the justice of equality more reasonably and more positively than most of us can do—came out of an experience that we cannot have: his direct experience of an alternative regime and temper of soul—aristocracy. If we cannot in any way have access to something like that experience, our understanding of the range of human possibilities is impoverished, and our capacity to assess our strengths and weaknesses is diminished.
    • p. 248
  • The university is the place where inquiry and philosophic openness come into their own. It is intended to encourage the noninstrumental use of reason for its own sake, to provide the atmosphere where the moral and physical superiority of the dominant will not intimidate philosophic doubt. And it preserves the treasury of great deeds, great men and great thoughts required to nourish that doubt.
    • pp 248-249
  • Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even especially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside. It is not feelings or commitments that will render a man free, but thoughts, reasoned thoughts. Feelings are largely formed and informed by convention. Real differences come from difference in thought and fundamental principle.
    • p. 249
  • With all regimes, there is what might be called an official interpretation of the past that makes it appear defective or just a step on the way to the present regime. An example of this is the interpretation of Rome and the Roman empire in Augustine’s City of God. Rome is not forgotten, but it is remembered only through the lens of victorious Christianity and therefore poses no challenge to it.
    • p. 249
  • Sycophancy toward those who hold power is a fact in every regime, and especially in a democracy, where, unlike tyranny, there is an accepted principle of legitimacy that breaks the inner will to resist.
    • p. 249
  • Repugnance at the power of the people, at the fact that the popular taste should rule in all arenas of life, is very rare in a modern democracy. One of the intellectual charms of Marxism is that it explains the injustice or philistinism of the people in such a way as to exculpate the people, who are said to be manipulated by corrupt elites.
    • p. 249
  • Flattery of the people and incapacity to resist public opinion are the democratic vices, particularly among writers, artists, journalists and anyone else who is dependent on an audience.
    • p. 249
  • Aristocracies hate and fear demagogues most of all, while democracies in their pure form hate and fear “elitists” most of all, because they are unjust, i.e., they do not accept the leading principle of justice in those regimes. Hence each regime discounts those who are most likely to recognize and compensate for its political and intellectual propensities, while it admires those who encourage them.
    • p. 250
  • Democratic concentration on the useful, on the solution of what are believed by the populace at large to be the most pressing problems, makes theoretical distance seem not only useless but immoral. When there is poverty, disease and war, who can claim the right to idle in Epicurean gardens, asking questions that have already been answered?
    • p. 250
  • In egalitarian society practically nobody has a really grand opinion of himself, or has been nurtured in a sense of special right and a proud contempt for the merely necessary. Aristotle’s great souled man, who loves beautiful and useless things, is not a democratic type. ... The lover of beautiful and useless things is far from being a philosopher, … but he has the advantage of despising many of the same things the philosopher does. Great and unusual undertakings are more natural to him than to the lover of the useful, and he believes in and reveres motives that are denied existence by utilitarian psychology. He can take for granted the things that are the ends of most men’s strivings—money and status. He is free, and must look for other fulfillments, unless he spends, as in the democratic view he should do, his life helping others to get what he already has. Knowing as fulfillment in itself rather than as task required for other fulfillments is immediately intelligible to him. Finality as op-posed to instrumentality, and happiness as opposed to the pursuit of happiness, appeal to the aristocratic temperament. All of this is salutary for the intellectual life, and none of it is endemic to democracy.
    • p. 250-251
  • Reason is only one part of the soul’s economy and requires a balance of the other parts in order to function properly.
    • p. 251
  • Older, more traditional orders that do not encourage the free play of reason contain elements reminiscent of the nobler, philosophic interpretation of reason and help to prevent its degradation. Those elements are connected with the piety that prevails in such orders. They convey a certain reverence for the higher, a respect for the contemplative life, understood as contemplation of God and the peak of devotion, and a cleaving to eternal beings that mitigates absorption in the merely pressing or current. These are images of philosophic magnificence—which, it must be stressed, are distortions of the original, and can be its bitterest enemies, but which preserve the order of the cosmos and of the soul from which philosophy begins. Tocqueville describes this marvelously well in his moving account of Pascal, whom he evidently regards as the most perfect of men. The possibility of such a human type, the theoretical type, is, according to Tocqueville, most threatened in democracy, and it must be vigorously defended if humanity is not to be grievously impoverished. Much of the theoretical reflection that flourishes in modem democracy could be interpreted as egalitarian resentment against the higher type represented by Pascal, denigrating it, deforming it and interpreting it out of existence. Marxism and Freudianism reduce his motives to those all men have. Historicism denies him access to eternity. Value theory makes his reasoning irrelevant. If he were to appear, our eyes would be blind to his superiority, and we would be spared the discomfort it would cause us.
    • p. 251
  • It is necessary that there be an unpopular institution in our midst that sets clarity above well-being or compassion, that resists our powerful urges and temptations, that is free of all snobbism but has standards. Those standards are in the first place accessible to us from the best of the past, although they must be such as to admit of the new, if it actually meets those standards. If nothing new does meet them, it is not a disaster. The ages of great spiritual fertility are rare and provide nourishment for other less fertile ones. What would be a disaster would be to lose the inspiration of those ages and have nothing to replace it with.
    • p. 252
  • The essence of philosophy is the abandonment of all authority in favor of individual human reason.
    • p. 253
  • Reason transformed into prejudice is the worst form of prejudice, because reason is the only instrument for liberation from prejudice.
    • p. 253
  • The university … in a democracy … risks less by opposing the emergent, the changing and the ephemeral than by embracing them, because the society is already open to them, without monitoring what it accepts or sufficiently respecting the old. There the university risks less by having intransigently high standards than by trying to be too inclusive, because the society tends to blur standards in the name of equality. It also risks less by concentrating on the heroic than by looking to the commonplace, because the society levels. … As the repository of the regime’s own highest faculty and principle, it must have a strong sense of its importance outside the system of equal individuality. It must be contemptuous of public opinion because it has within it the source of autonomy—the quest for and even discovery of the truth according to nature. It must concentrate on philosophy, theology, the literary classics. ... These must help preserve what is most likely to be neglected in a democracy. They are not dogmatisms but precisely the opposite: what is necessary to fight dogmatism.
    • pp. 253-254
  • The university’s task is illustrated by two tendencies of the democratic mind to which Tocqueville points. One is abstractness. Because there is no tradition and men need guidance, general theories that are produced in a day and not properly grounded in experience, but seem to explain things and are useful crutches for finding one’s way in a complicated world, have currency. Marxism, Freudianism, economism, behavioralism, etc., are examples of this tendency, and there are great rewards for those who purvey them. The very universality of democracy and the sameness of man presupposed by it encourage this tendency and make the mind’s eye less sensitive to differences. ... In aristocracies men … tend not to generalize, but rather to forget the natural community of men and the universality of thought. This is another thing the democratic university must learn from aristocracies.
    • p. 254
  • All the terms discussed in Part Two are evidences of this abstractness, simulacra of thought and experience, hardly better than slogans, which take the place of reflection.
    • p. 254
  • Concreteness, not abstractness, is the hallmark of philosophy. All interesting generalization must proceed from the richest awareness of what is to be explained, but the tendency to abstractness leads to simplifying the phenomena in order more easily to deal with them. If, for example, one sees only gain as a motive in men’s actions, then it is easy to explain them. One simply abstracts from what is really there. After a while one notices nothing other than the postulated motives. To the extent that men begin to believe in the theory, they no longer believe that there are other motives in themselves. And when social policy is based on such a theory, finally one succeeds in producing men who fit the theory. When this is occurring or has occurred, what is most needed is the capacity to recover the original nature of man and his motives, to see what does not fit the theory.
    • pp. 254-255
  • For modern men who live in a world transformed by abstractions and who have themselves been transformed by abstractions, the only way to experience man again is by thinking these abstractions through with the help of thinkers who did not share them and who can lead us to experiences that are difficult or impossible to have without their help.
    • p. 255
  • Tocqueville did not believe that the old writers were perfect, but he believed that they could best make us aware of our imperfections, which is what counts.
    • p. 256
  • The past was characterized not by ignorance but by false opinions. Men always had opinions about everything, but those opinions were without ground and indemonstrable. Yet they governed the nations of men and were authoritative. Thus the problem of Enlightenment is not merely discovery of the truth but the conflict between the truth and the beliefs of men
    • pp. 256-257
  • The problem of Enlightenment is not merely discovery of the truth but the conflict between the truth and the beliefs of men, which are incorporated into the law. Enlightenment begins from the tension between what men are compelled to believe by city and religion, on the one hand, and the quest for scientific truth on the other. To think and speak doubts about, let alone to propose substitutes for, the fundamental opinions was forbidden by every regime previously known to man. Doing so was thought to be, and in fact was, disloyal and impious. … The innovation of the Enlightenment was the attempt to reduce that tension and to alter the philosopher’s relation to civil society. … The earlier thinkers accepted the tension and lived accordingly. Their knowledge was essentially for themselves, and they had a private life very different from their public life. They were themselves concerned with getting from the darkness to the light. Enlightenment was a daring attempt to shine that light on all men, partly for the sake of all men, partly for the sake of the progress of science. ... Enlightenment was not only, or perhaps not even primarily, a scientific project but a political one. It began from the premise that the rulers could be educated, a premise not held by the Enlightenment’s ancient brethren.
    • p. 257
  • The disciplines are philosophy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and the science of man. … This is the academy. Dependent on it are a number of applied sciences—particularly engineering, medicine and law—that are lower in dignity and derivative in knowledge, but produce the fruits of science that benefit the unscientific and make them respectful of science. Thus the advantage of the knowers, who want to pursue knowledge, and that of those who do not know, those who want to pursue their well-being, are served simultaneously, establishing a harmony between them. And thus the age-old gulf separating the wise from those who hold power is bridged, and the problem of the wise in civil society is solved.
    • pp. 261-262
  • I have included among the Enlightenment philosophers men like Machiavelli, Bacon, Montaigne, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza and Locke, along with the eighteenth-century thinkers like Montesquieu, Diderot and Voltaire, whose teachings are usually held to constitute the Enlightenment, because these latter were quite explicit about their debt to the originators of what the Enlightenment was in large measure only popularizing.
    • p. 262
  • The men of the Enlightenment proper were the first whose teachings were addressed not only, or primarily, to other philosophers or potential philosophers of the same rank, and who were concerned not only with those who understand but also with changing the opinions of mankind at large. Enlightenment was the first philosophically inspired “movement,” a theoretical school that is a political force at the same time.
    • p. 262
  • Although Plato and Aristotle had political philosophies, there is no regime to which one can point as a Platonic or an Aristotelian regime, in the sense that either thinker had founded the movement or party that actually established the regime. But Enlightenment is certainly responsible for liberal democracy, as is Marxism for communism.
    • pp. 262-263
  • Machiavelli follows Callicles in Plato’s Gorgias, who ridicules Socrates for being unable to defend himself, to avert insults or slaps in the face. The vulnerability of the philosopher would seem to be the starting place for the new reflection and the renewal of philosophy. … Machiavelli, the inspirer of the great philosophical systems of modernity, starts from this vulnerability of reason within the political order and makes it his business to correct it.
    • p. 263
  • Socrates never suggests that … the nature of the cave could be altered or that a civil society, a people, a demos, could do without false opinions. The philosophers who returned to the cave would recognize that what others take to be reality is only image, but they could not make any but the happy few able to see the beings as they really are. ... Or to put it in another way, the unwise could not recognize the wise. Men like Bacon and Descartes, by contrast, thought that it was possible to make all men reasonable, to change what had always and everywhere been the case. Enlightenment meant to shine the light of being in the cave and forever to dim the images on the wall. Then there would be unity between the people and the philosopher. The whole issue turns on whether the cave is intractable, as Plato thought, or can be changed by a new kind of education, as the greatest philosophic figures of the seventeenth and eighteenth century taught.
    • p. 265
  • The Apology tells us that the political problem for the philosopher is the gods. It makes clear that the images on the wall of the cave about which men will not brook contradiction represent the gods.
    • p. 265
  • Practically everyone wants reason to rule, and no one thinks a man like Socrates should be ruled by inferiors or have to adjust what he thinks to them. What the Republic actually teaches is that none of this is possible and that our situation requires both much compromise and much intransigence, great risks and few hopes. The important thing is not speaking one’s own mind, but finding a way to have one’s own mind.
    • p. 266
  • It is Enlightenment that was intent on philosophers’ ruling, taking Socrates’ ironies seriously. If they did not have the title of king, their political schemes were, all the same, designed to be put into practice. And they were put into practice, not by begging princes to listen to them but by philosophy’s generating sufficient power to force princes to give way.
    • p. 266
  • What happens to poetic imagination when the soul has been subjected to a rigorous discipline that resists poetry’s greatest charms? The Enlightenment thinkers were very clear on this point. There is no discontinuity in the tradition about it. They were simply solving the problem to the advantage of reason, as Socrates wished it could be solved but thought it could not.
    • pp. 266-267
  • Socrates, who lives in thousandfold poverty because he neither works nor has inherited, proposes with ultimate insolence that he be fed at public expense at city hall. But what is the modern university, with its pay and tenure, other than a free lunch for philosophy and scientists?
    • p. 267
  • Thales … was the first man to have seen the cause of, and to predict, an eclipse of the sun. This means he figured out that the heavens move in regular ways that accord with mathematical reasoning. He was able to reason from visible effects to invisible causes and speculate about the intelligible order of nature as a whole. ... This moment contains many elements: satisfaction at having solved a problem; pleasure in using his faculties; fullness of pride, more complete than that of any conqueror, for he surveys and possesses all; certitude drawn from within himself, requiring no authorities; self-sufficiency, not depending, for the fulfillment of what is highest in himself, on other men or opinions or on accidents such as birth or election to power, on anything that can be taken from him; a happiness that has no admixture of illusion.
    • p. 270
  • Philosophy is not a doctrine but a way of life, so the philosophers, for all the differences in their teachings, have more in common with one another than with anyone else, even their own followers.
    • p. 271
  • The tiny band of men who participate fully in this [philosophical] way of life are the soul of the university. … Philosophy and its demonstration of the rational contemplative life, made possible and, more or less consciously, animated scholarship and the individual sciences. When those examples lost their vitality or were overwhelmed by men who had no experience of them, the universities decayed or were destroyed. This, strictly, is barbarism and darkness. I do not mean that philosophers were ordinarily present in universities any more than prophets or saints are ordinarily present in houses of worship. But because those houses of worship are dedicated to the spirit of the prophets and saints, they are different from other houses. They can undertake many functions not central to that spirit, but they remain what they are because of what they look up to, and everything they do is informed by that reverence. But if the faith disappears, if the experiences reported by the prophets and saints become unbelievable or matters of indifference, the temple is no longer a temple, no matter how much activity of various kinds goes on in it. It gradually withers and at best remains a monument, the inner life of which is alien to the tourists who pass idly through it.
    • pp. 271-272
  • As a result of Enlightenment, philosophers and philosophy came to inhabit the universities exclusively, abandoning their old habits and haunts. There they have become vulnerable in new ways and thus risk extinction. The classical philosophers would not, for very good reasons, have taken this risk.
    • p. 273
  • Although the philosophic experience is understood by the philosophers to be what is uniquely human, the very definition of man, the dignity and charm of philosophy have not always or generally been popularly recognized. This is not the case with the other claimants to the throne, the prophet or the saint, the hero or the statesman, the poet or the artist, whose claims, if not always accepted, are generally recognized to be serious.
    • p. 273
  • The prophets, kings and poets are clearly benefactors of mankind at large, providing men with salvation, protection, prosperity, myths and entertainment. They are the noble bulwarks of civil society, and men tend to regard as good what does good to them. Philosophy does no such good. All to the contrary, it is austere and somewhat sad because it takes away many of men’s fondest hopes.
    • p. 273
  • The kings praised by poetry and illustrated in sculpture are ambiguous. On the one hand they seem to exist for their own sake, beauty in which we do not participate and to which we look up. On the other hand, they are in our service—ruling us, curing us, perhaps punishing us, but for our sakes, teaching us, pleasing us. … All the heroes are in the business of taking care of and flattering men, the demos, receiving admiration and glory as their pay. In some sense they are fictions of civil society, whose ends they serve. Not that they do not do the deeds for which they are praised, but the goodness of those deeds is measured, alas, by utility, by the greatest good of the greatest number. The statesman possesses virtues that are supposed to be good in themselves; but he is measured by his success in preserving the people. Those virtues are means to the end of preservation, i.e., the good life is subordinate to and in the service of mere life.
    • pp. 273-274
  • The theoretical life … cannot, at least in its most authentic expression, be, or seriously be understood to be, in the city’s service. It therefore has an almost impossible public relations problem.
    • p. 274
  • The defenselessness of philosophy in the city is what Aristophanes points out and ridicules. He, the poet, has much sympathy with the philosopher’s wisdom but prides himself on not being so foolish. He can take care of himself, win prizes from and be paid by the people. His stance is that of the wise guy in the face of the wise man; he is city smart.
    • p. 274
  • Philosophy … is a threat to all the beliefs that tie the city together and unite the other high types—priests, poets and statesmen—against philosophy.
    • p. 274
  • The stark recognition that he depended on the city … compelled the philosopher to pay attention to politics, to develop a philosophic politics, a party, as it were, to go along with the other parties, democratic, oligarchic, aristocratic and monarchic, that are always present. He founded the truth party.
    • pp 275-276
  • Ancient political philosophy was almost entirely in the service of philosophy, of making the world safer for philosophy.
    • p. 276
  • It was to … the gentlemen that philosophy made its rhetorical appeal for almost two thousand years. When they ruled, the climate for philosophy was more or less salubrious. When the people, the demos, ruled, religious fanaticism or vulgar utility made things much less receptive to philosophy.
    • p. 277
  • It is not so much stupidity that closes men to philosophy but love of their own, particularly love of their own lives, but also love of their own children and their own cities. It is the hardest task of all to face the lack of cosmic support for what we care about.
    • p. 277
  • Various kinds of self-forgetting, usually accompanied by illusions and myths, make it possible to live without the intransigent facing of death—in the sense of always thinking about it and what it means for life and the things dear in life—which is characteristic of a serious life.
    • p. 277
  • Most human beings and all cities require the unscientific mixture of general and particular, necessity and chance, nature and convention. It is just this mixture that the philosopher cannot accept and which he separates into its constituent parts.
    • p. 277
  • The philosopher … applies what he sees in nature to his own life. “As are the generations of leaves, so are the generations of men,”—a somber lesson that is only compensated for by the intense pleasure accompanying insight. Without that pleasure, which so few have, it would be intolerable.
    • p. 277
  • Nonphilosophic men love the truth only as long as it does not conflict with what they cherish—self, family, country, fame, love. When it does conflict, they hate the truth and regard as a monster the man who does not care for these noble things, who proves they are ephemeral and treats them as such. The gods are the guarantors of the unity of nature and convention dear to most men, which philosophy can only dissolve. The enmity between science and mankind at large is, therefore, not an accident.
    • pp. 277-278
  • This hostile relationship between the prevailing passions of the philosopher and those of the demos was taken by the philosophers to be permanent, for human nature is unchanging. As long as there are men, they will be motivated by fear of death. … moral indignation, not ordinary selfishness or sensuality, is the greatest danger to the thinker. The fear that the gods who protect the city will be angered and withdraw their protection induces ecstasies of terror in men and makes them wildly vindictive against those who transgress the divine law. … This fervor Socrates took to be the substrate of civil society, which would always in the end overpower and deform reason in civil society. Thus there are two possibilities: the philosopher must rule absolutely, or he, “like a man in a storm when dust and rain are blown about by the wind, stands aside under a little wall.” There is no third way. … The intellectual who attempts to influence ends up in the power of the would-be influenced. He enhances their power and adapts his thought to their ends.
    • p. 278
  • The philosopher wants to know things as they are. He loves the truth. That is an intellectual virtue. He does not love to tell the truth. That is a moral virtue. Presumably he would prefer not to practice deception; but if it is a condition of his survival, he has no objection to it. The hopes of changing mankind almost always end up in changing not mankind but one’s thought.
    • p. 279
  • The ancients had no tenure to protect them and wanted to avoid the prostitution to which those who have to live off their wits are prone.
    • p. 279
  • Why are the gentlemen more open [to philosophy] than the people? Because they have money and hence leisure and can appreciate the beautiful and useless. And because they despise necessity.
    • p. 279
  • The world men incline to see is full of benevolent and malevolent deities who take their cases seriously. Poetry to succeed must speak to these passions, which are more powerful than reason in almost all men. Because poetry needs an audience it is, in Socrates’ view, too friendly to the enemies of reason. The philosopher has less need to enter into the wishes of the many or, as the wise of our time would put it, into the drama of history, or to be engagé. This is why Socrates heightens the enmity between philosophy and poetry.
    • p. 280
  • Aristotle tells the poets they should present heroes who deserve their fates, whose sad ends are plausibly attributable to a flaw in their characters. Their suffering, while pitiable, is not promiscuous, a reproach to the moral order, or the lack of one, in the world. The effect of such drama would be to make men gentle and believers in the coherence of the world, in the rational relation of cause and effect. They are not made reasonable by this but are saved from hatred of reason and more disposed to accept it. Aristotle does not attempt to make scientists out of gentlemen, but he tempers their prevailing passions in such a way as to make them friends of philosophy.
    • p. 281
  • The toleration of philosophy requires its being thought to serve powerful elements in society without actually becoming their servant.
    • p. 282
  • The philosopher must come to terms with the deepest prejudices of men always, and of the men of his time. The one thing he cannot change and will not try to change is their fear of death and the whole superstructure of beliefs and institutions that make death bearable, ward it off or deny it. The essential difference between the philosopher and all other men is his facing of death or his relation to eternity. He obviously does not deny that many men die resolutely or calmly. It is relatively easy to die well. The question is how one lives, and only the philosopher does not need opinions that falsify the significance of things in order to endure them. He alone mixes the reality of death—its inevitability and our dependence on fortune for what little life we have—into every thought and deed and is thus able to live while honestly seeking perfect clarity. He is, therefore, necessarily in the most fundamental tension with everyone except his own kind. He relates to all the others ironically, i.e., with sympathy and a playful distance. Changing the character of his relationship to them is impossible because the disproportion between him and them is firmly rooted in nature. Thus, he has no expectation of essential progress. Toleration, not right, is the best he can hope for, and he is kept vigilant by the awareness of the basic fragility of his situation and that of philosophy.
    • p. 282
  • Thrasymachus sees that Socrates does not respect the city. He sees the truth about Socrates, but he cannot, at least in the beginning, appreciate him. The others appreciate him, but partly because they are blind to what is most important to him.
    • p. 283
  • The practical politics of all the philosophers, no matter how-great their theoretical differences, were the same. They practiced an art of writing that appealed to the prevailing moral taste of the regime in which they found themselves, but which could lead some astute readers outside of it to the Elysian Fields where the philosophers meet to talk.
    • p. 283
  • The form and content of the writings of men like Plato, Cicero, Farabi and Maimonides appear very different, while their inner teachings may be to all intents and purposes the same. Each had a different beginning point, a different cave, from which he had to ascend to the light and to which he had to return.
    • p. 283
  • The ancients held that a man must never let himself be overcome by events unless those events taught something essentially new. They were more intent than were any men before or since on preserving the freedom of the mind.
    • pp. 283-284
  • The ancient philosophers were to a man proponents of aristocratic politics, but not for the reasons intellectual historians are wont to ascribe to them. They were aristocratic in the higher sense of the word, because they thought reason should rule, and only philosophers are fully devoted to reason. But this is just a theoretical argument, since philosophers never really do rule. They were aristocratic in the vulgar sense, favoring the power of those possessing old wealth, because such men are more likely to grasp the nobility of philosophy as an end itself, if not to understand it. Most simply, they have the money for an education and time to take it seriously. Only technology, with its attendant problems, makes universal education possible, and therefore opens the prospect of a different kind of relationship of philosophy to politics.
    • p. 284
  • The necessary unity of power and wisdom is only a coincidence for the ancients, i.e., dependent on chance completely out of the philosopher’s control. Knowledge is not in itself power, and though it is not in itself vulnerable to power, those who seek it and possess it most certainly are. Therefore the great virtue for the philosophers in their political deeds was moderation. They were utterly dependent on the prejudices of the powerful and had to treat them most delicately.
    • p. 284
  • The Ancients … subjected themselves to a fierce discipline of detachment from public opinion. Although they inevitably had to try to influence political life in their favor, they never seriously thought of themselves as founders or lawgivers. The mixture of unwise power and powerless wisdom, in the ancients’ view, would always end up with power strengthened and wisdom compromised. He who flirts with power, Socrates said, will be compelled to lie with it.
    • pp. 284-285
  • The uncompromisable difference that separates the philosophers from all others concerns death and dying. No way of life other than the philosophic can digest the truth about death. Whatever the illusion that supports ways of life and regimes other than the philosophic one, the philosopher is its enemy.
    • p. 285
  • The utilitarian behaves sensibly in all that is required for preservation but never takes account of the fact that he must die. He does everything reasonable to put off the day of his death—providing for defense, peace, order, health and wealth —but actively suppresses the fact that the day must come. His whole life is absorbed in avoiding death, which is inevitable, and therefore he might be thought to be the most irrational of men, if rationality has anything to do with understanding ends or comprehending the human situation as such.
    • p. 290
  • The great modern philosophers were as much philosophers as were the ancients. They were perfectly conscious of what separates them from all other men, and they knew that the gulf is unbridgeable. They knew that their connection with other men would always be mediated by unreason. … The theoretical life remained as distinct from the practical life in their view as in the ancient one—theory looking to the universal and unchangeable while understanding its relation to the particular and changing; practice, totally absorbed by the latter, seeing the whole only in terms of it.
    • p. 290
  • The philosophers in their closets or their academies have entirely different ends than the rest of mankind. ... The moderns did not think, as did the ancients, that they would lose sight of the distinction between the two in identifying them. ... What the ancients almost religiously kept apart, the moderns thought they could join without risk.
    • p. 291
  • The modern philosophers are alleged t have believed in a new dawn in which men would become reasonable and everything would be for the best. They did not, according to this popular view, understand the ineradicable character of evil, nor did they know, or at least take sufficient account of, the power of the irrational of which our later, profounder age is so fully aware. … This is a skewed and self-serving interpretation. No one who looks carefully at the project these philosophers outlined can accuse them of being optimistic in the sense of expecting a simple triumph of reason or of underestimating the power of evil. It is not sufficiently taken into account how Machiavellian they were, in all senses of that word, and that they were actually Machiavelli’s disciples. It was not by forgetting about the evil in man that they hoped to better his lot but by giving way to it rather than opposing it, by lowering standards. The very qualified rationality that they expected from most men was founded self-consciously on encouraging the greatest of all irrationalities. … as to superficiality, everything turns on what the deepest human experience is. The philosophers, ancient and modem, agreed that the fulfillment of humanity is in the use of reason. Man is the particular being that can know the universal, the temporal being that is aware of eternity, the part that can survey the whole, the effect that seeks the cause. Whether it is wonder at the apprehension of being or just figuring things out, reason is the end for which the irrational things exist. … The fact that popularized rationalism is, indeed, superficial is no argument against the philosophers. They knew it would be that way.
    • pp. 291-292
  • Gulliver’s Travels is to early modern philosophy what Aristophanes’ The Clouds was to early ancient philosophy. … Swift objects to Enlightenment because it encourages a hypertrophic development of mathematics, physics and astronomy, thus returning to the pre-Socratic philosophy that Aristophanes had criticized for being unselfconscious or unable to understand man. But, unlike pre-Socratic philosophy, which had no interest in politics at all, this science wished to rule and could rule. The new science had indeed generated sufficient power to rule, but in order to do so had had to lose the human perspective. In other words, Swift denied that modern science had actually established a human or political science. All to the contrary, it had destroyed it.
    • pp. 293-295
  • When a poet writes about a poet, he does so as a poet. When a scientist talks about scientists, he does not do so as a scientist. If he does so, he uses none of the tools he uses in his scientific activity, and his conclusions have none of the demonstrative character he demands in his science. Science has broken off from the self-consciousness about science that was the core of ancient science.
    • p. 298
  • The Ciceros and Bacons would not have been what they were if they had been professors. It was in living life as it really is, rather than in the artificially structured and protected universities, that they were able to grasp the human situation as a whole.
    • describing Rousseau’s view, in The Closing of the American Mind (New York: 1988), p. 298
  • Professors had made reason into a public prejudice and were now among the prejudiced.
    • [describing Rousseau’s view] p. 299
  • Professors … represented an unsatisfactory halfway house between the two harsh disciplines that make a man serious—community and solitude.
    • [describing Rousseau’s view] p. 299
  • Enlightenment presented the thinker not as the best man but as the most useful one. Happiness is the most important thing; if thinking is not happiness, it must be judged by its relationship to happiness.
    • [describing Rousseau’s view] p. 299
  • Aristotle’s human sciences are part of the science of nature, and his knowledge of man is connected to and in harmony with his knowledge of the stars, bodies in motion and animals other than man. This is not the case with the human sciences after Rousseau, which depend on the existence of a realm entirely different from nature. Their study is not part of the study of nature, and the two kinds of study have little to do with one another.
    • pp. 300-301
  • In antiquity there had also been mere scholars, studying Homer and Plato without knowing quite why, and without being interested in the questions the writers raised, fascinated by meters or the reliability of texts. But the objection to these scholars was that they lacked the urgent desire to know the most important things, whereas the modern objection to scholarship is that it lacks the urgency of commitment to action. … If deeds are the most important thing, then the scholar is by definition inferior to the doer.
    • p. 303
  • From the outset [of the Enlightenment], scholars treated Greek philosophers more as natural scientists treat atoms than as they treat other natural scientists. They were not invited to join the serious discussion of the scholars.
    • pp. 305-306
  • The scholar cannot understand the will to power, not a cause recognized by science, which made Alexander different from others, because the scholar neither has it nor does his method permit him to have it or see it.
    • p. 309
  • The university began in spirit from Socrates’ contemptuous and insolent distancing of himself from the Athenian people, his refusal to accept any command from them to cease asking, “What is justice? What is knowledge? What is a god?” and hence doubting the common opinions about such questions.
    • p. 311
  • Socrates thought it more important to discuss justice, to try to know what it is, than to engage himself in implementing whatever partial perspective on it happened to be exciting the passions of the day.
    • p. 314
  • The fact that in Germany the politics were of the Right and in the United States of the Left should not mislead us. In both places the universities gave way under the pressure of mass movements, and did so in large measure because they thought those movements possessed a moral truth superior to any the university could provide. Commitment was understood to be profounder than science, passion than reason, history than nature, the young than the old.
    • p. 314
  • … the casuistry of weakness …
    • p. 317
  • The radicalism of the sixties was intended to hasten our movement in the directions in which we were already going, and never really to question these directions. It was an exercise in egalitarian self-satisfaction that wiped out the elements of the university curriculum that did not flatter our peculiar passions or tastes of the moment. In short, the window to Europe, which was always the resource of free and oppressed spirits in America, was slammed shut,
    • p. 320
  • It was, and I suppose still is, a sure sign of an authoritarian personality to believe that the university should try to have a vision of what an educated person is. “Growth” or “individual development” was all that was to be permitted, which in America meant only that the vulgarities present in society at large would overwhelm the delicate little plants kept in the university greenhouse for those who need other kinds of nourishment.
    • p. 321
  • Such groups abandoned merely formal freedom to support substantive causes.
    • p. 325
  • The fact-value distinction admits that values are essential to life and shape the way facts are seen and used. Therefore values are primary. And if they do not come from reason, then they come from passionate commitment, the essence of morality. Of course, since commitment did not really produce values, the values adopted were the remnants of old reasoning, values with fallen arches, reaffirmed by claims of passionate commitment.
    • p. 327
  • A permanent feature of democracy, always and everywhere, is a tendency to suppress the claims of any kind of superiority, conventional or natural, essentially by denying that there is superiority, particularly with respect to ruling. The Platonic dialogues are full of young men who passionately desire political glory and believe they have the talent to rule. Plato admits that he himself was once such a young man. And they lived in a city where their peculiar right to rule was denied them, where they would find it difficult to get ruling office, and where to do so they would have to make themselves into what the people wanted. They burned with that special indignation a man reserves for wrongs done to himself, and believed that their potential could not be fulfilled in democratic Athens. They constituted a subversive group in the city, unfriendly to the maintenance of its regime. Such were many of the companions of Socrates, and taming this instinct for rule was an essential part of the education he gave them. But he began by accepting, at least partially, the legitimacy of their longing and denying the unadulterated right of the many to rule over the few. He gave intellectual satisfaction to their complaint. And, more important, he took very seriously the element in their souls that made them ambitious. The aspiration to be number one and gain great fame is both natural in man and, properly trained, one of the soul’s great strengths. Democracy in itself is hostile to such spiritedness and prevents its fulfillment. This was a problem for all ancient democracies. … The problem of ambition in democracy is much aggravated by modern democracy. Ancient democracies were factually powerful, but they did not persuade the proud and the ambitious that the rule of the many is just. Inner confidence was not weakened by the sense that the master has right on his side, for there was neither a religion nor a philosophy of equality. The talented young could hope, and sometimes act, without guilt, to gain first place.
    • pp. 329-330
  • The strength of his soul is a result of the part of it that makes him proud and ambitious, that seeks an autonomy not dependent on others’ opinions or wills.
    • p. 329
  • Hobbes’s psychology treated what he called vainglory as a pathological condition based on ignorance of man’s vulnerability, on unjustified confidence. This condition can, according to him, be cured by liberal doses of fear. One need only hear what is said today … to recognize how much of modernity is devoted to unmanning this disposition. Elitism is the catch-all epithet expressing our disapproval of the proud and the desire to be first. But, unsupported and excoriated, this part of the soul lives on, dwelling underground, receiving no sublimating education. As with all repressed impulses, it has its daily effects on personality and also occasionally bursts forth in various disguises and monstrous shapes. Much of modem history can be explained by the search of what Plato called spiritedness for legitimate self-expression.
    • p. 330
  • The avant-garde (usually used in relation to art) and the vanguard (usually used in relation to politics) are democratic modes of distinguishing oneself, of being ahead, of leading, without denying the democratic principle. The members of the vanguard have just a small evanescent advantage. They now know what everyone will soon know. This posture conciliates instinct with principle.
    • p. 331
  • The students [of the 60’s] substituted conspicuous compassion for their parents’ conspicuous consumption.
    • p. 331
  • The practical effects of unwillingness to think positively about the contents of a liberal education are, on the one hand, to ensure that all the vulgarities of the world outside the university will flourish within it, and, on the other, to impose a much harsher and more illiberal necessity on the student—the one given by the imperial and imperious demands of the specialized disciplines unfiltered by unifying thought.
    • p. 337
  • [Today’s] student gets no intimation that great mysteries might be revealed to him, that new and higher motives of action might be discovered within him, that a different and more human way of life can be harmoniously constructed by what he is going to learn.
    • p. 337
  • The real problem is those students who come hoping to find out what career they want to have, or are simply looking for an adventure with themselves. ... Each department or great division of the university makes a pitch for itself, and each offers a course of study that will make the student an initiate. But how to choose among them? How do they relate to one another? The fact is they do not address one another. They are competing and contradictory, without being aware of it. The problem of the whole is urgently indicated by the very existence of the specialties, but it is never systematically posed. The net effect of the student’s encounter with the college catalogue is bewilderment and very often demoralization. It is just a matter of chance whether he finds one or two professors who can give him an insight into one of the great visions of education that have been the distinguishing part of every civilized nation. Most professors are specialists, concerned only with their own fields, interested in the advancement of those fields in their own terms, or in their own personal advancement in a world where all the rewards are on the side of professional distinction. They have been entirely emancipated from the old structure of the university, which at least helped to indicate that they are incomplete, only parts of an unexamined and undiscovered whole. So the student must navigate among a collection of carnival barkers, each trying to lure him into a particular sideshow. This undecided student is an embarrassment to most universities, because he seems to be saying, “I am a whole human being. Help me to form myself in my wholeness and let me develop my real potential,” and he is the one to whom they have nothing to say.
    • p. 339
  • It is amazing how many undergraduates are poking around for courses to take, without any plan or question to ask, just filling up their college years. In fact, with rare exceptions, the courses are parts of specialties and not designed for general cultivation, or to investigate questions important for human beings as such. The so-called knowledge explosion and increasing specialization have not filled up the college years but emptied them. Those years are impediments; one wants to get beyond them. And in general the persons one finds in the professions need not have gone to college, if one is to judge by their tastes, their fund of learning or their interests.
    • p. 340
  • The university has lost whatever polis-like character it had and has become like the ship on which the passengers are just accidental fellow travelers soon to disembark and go their separate ways. The relations between natural science, social science and humanities are purely administrative and have no substantial intellectual content.
    • p. 350
  • Social science and humanities … have a mutual contempt for one another, the former looking down on the latter as unscientific, the latter regarding the former as philistine. … The difference comes down to the fact that social science really wants to be predictive, meaning that man is predictable, while the humanities say that he is not.
    • p. 357
  • The social sciences and the humanities represent the two responses to the crisis caused by the definitive ejection of man—or of the residue of man extracted from, or superfluous to, body—from nature, and hence from the purview of natural science or natural philosophy. … Neither challenged the champion, natural science, newly emancipated from philosophy: social science tried humbly to find a place at court, humanities proudly to set up shop next door. The result has been two continuous and ill-assorted strands of thought about man, one tending to treat him essentially as another of the brutes, without spirituality, soul, self, consciousness, or what have you; the other acting as though he is not an animal or does not have a body.
    • pp. 357-358
  • Man is the problem, and we live with various stratagems for not facing it.
    • p. 359
  • Economics has its own simple built-in psychology, and that provided by the science of psychology … flatly contradicts the primacy of the motives alleged by economics.
    • p. 359
  • The issue is what is the social science atom.
    • p. 360
  • Some political scientists, for example, say that the Economic Man may be very nice for playing games with but that he is an abstraction who does not exist, while Hitler and Stalin are real and not to be played with. Economic analysis, they say, not only does not help us to understand such political actors but makes it more difficult to bring them within the purview of social science by systematically excluding or deforming their specific motives. Economists, seeking mathematical convenience, turn us away from the consideration of the most important social phenomena.
    • p. 361
  • Economics and cultural anthropology … have as their clear presuppositions one or the other of the two states of nature. Locke argued that man’s conquest of nature by his work is the only rational response to his original situation. … Economics comes into being as the science of man’s proper activity, and the free market as the natural and rational order. … Rousseau argued that nature is good and man far away from it. So the quest for those faraway origins becomes imperative. … What economists believe to be things of the irrational past—known only as underdeveloped societies—become the proper study of man, a diagnosis of our ills and a call to the future. … Economists teach that the market is the fundamental social phenomenon, and its culmination is money. Anthropologists teach that culture is the fundamental social phenomenon, and its culmination is the sacred. Such is the confrontation—man the producer of consumption goods vs. man the producer of culture, the maximizing animal vs. the reverent one.
    • pp. 361-363
  • Aristotle said that political science is the architectonic science, a ruling science, concerned with the comprehensive good or the best regime. But real science does not talk about good and bad, so that had to be abandoned. However, both medicine and economics really do talk about good and bad, so the abandonment of the old political goods had the effect only of leaving the moral field to health and wealth in the absence of the common good and justice. This accords with Locke’s intention, which was not at all “value-free,” but was to substitute lower but more solid, more easily attained goods for those that had been classically proposed. Political science’s transformation into a modern social science did not further social science but did further the political intentions of modernity’s founders. It has tried to reduce the specifically political motives into subpolitical ones, like those proposed in economics. Honor is not a real motive; gain is.
    • pp. 363-364
  • The market (the peaceful competition for the acquisition of goods) requires the prior existence of the social contract (the agreement to abide by contracts and the establishment of a judge to arbitrate and enforce contracts) without which men are in a state of war. The market presupposes the existence of law and the absence of war. War was the condition of man prior to the existence of civil society, and the return to it is always possible. The force and fraud required to end war have nothing to do with the market and are illegitimate within it. The rational behavior of men at peace, in which economics specializes, is not the same as the rational behavior of men at war, as was so tellingly pointed out by Machiavelli. Political science is more comprehensive than economics because it studies both peace and war and their relations. The market cannot be the sole concern of the polity, for the market depends on the polity, and the establishment and preservation of the polity continuously requires reasonings and deeds which are “uneconomic” or “inefficient.” Political action must have primacy over economic action, no matter what the effect on the market. … Economics deals only with the bourgeois. … The warlike man is not within its ken. Political science remains the only social science discipline which looks war in the face.
    • p. 364-365
  • The expectation of substantive unity between natural science and social science has faded. ... Gone is the cosmic intention of placing man in the universe.
    • p. 369
  • True liberal education requires that the student’s whole life be radically changed by it, that what he learns may affect his action, his tastes, his choices, that no previous attachment be immune to examination and hence re-evaluation. Liberal education puts everything at risk and requires students who are able to risk everything.
    • p. 370
  • The specific effect of the MBA has been an explosion of enrollments in economics, the prebusiness major. … The prebusiness economics major … is not motivated by love of the science of economics but by love of what it is concerned with. … There is nothing else quite like this perfect coincidence between science and cupidity elsewhere in the university.
    • pp. 370-371
  • The humanities are the specialty that now exclusively possesses the books that are not specialized, that insist upon asking the questions about the whole that are excluded from the rest of the university, which is dominated by real specialties, as resistant to self-examination as they were in Socrates’ day. … The kinds of questions children ask … were once also the questions addressed by science and philosophy. But now the grownups are too busy at work, and the children are left in a day-care center called the humanities, in which the discussions have no echo in the adult world. Moreover, students whose nature draws them to such questions and to the books that appear to investigate them are very quickly rebuffed by the fact that their humanities teachers do not want or are unable to use the books to respond to their needs.
    • p. 372-373
  • Professors of the humanities have long been desperate to make their subjects accord with modernity instead of a challenge to it. … The effort to read books as their writers intended them to be read has been made into a crime, ever since “the intentional fallacy” was instituted. There are endless debates about methods—among Freudian criticism, Marxist criticism, New Criticism, Structuralism and Deconstructionism, and many others, all of which have in common the premise that what Plato or Dante had to say about reality is unimportant. These schools of criticism make the writers plants in a garden planned by a modem scholar, while their own garden-planning vocation is denied them.
    • p. 375
  • Philosophy … has been dethroned by political and theoretical democracy, bereft of the passion or the capacity to rule. Its story defines in itself our whole problem. Philosophy once proudly proclaimed that it was the best way of life, and it dared to survey the whole, to seek the first causes of all things, and not only dictated its rules to the special sciences but constituted and ordered them. The classic philosophic books are philosophy in action, doing precisely these things.
    • p. 377
  • Philosophy was architectonic, had the plans for the whole building, and the carpenters, masons and plumbers were its subordinates and had no meaning without its plan.
    • p. 377
  • When people speak vaguely about generalists vs. specialists, they must mean by the generalist the philosopher, for he is the only kind of knower who embraces, or once embraced, all the specialties, possessing a subject matter, necessary to the specialties, which was real—being or the good—and not just a collection of the matters of the specialties.
    • p. 377
  • Positivism and ordinary language analysis … repel students who come with the humanizing questions. Professors of these schools simply would not and could not talk about anything important, and they themselves do not represent a philosophic life for the students.
    • p. 378
  • As it stands, philosophy is just another humanities subject, rather contentless, without a thought of trying to take command in the crisis of the university. Actually it contains less of the exhilarating presence of the tradition in philosophy than do the other humanities disciplines, and one finds its professors least active of the humanists in attempts to revitalize liberal education. Although there was a certain modesty about ordinary language analysis— “We just help to give you clarity about what you are already doing”—there was also smugness: “We know what was wrong with the whole tradition, and we don’t need it anymore.” Therefore the tradition disappeared from philosophy’s confines. ... [Today’s jargon] was produced by philosophy and was in Europe known to have been produced by philosophy, so that it paved a road to philosophy. In America its antecedents remain unknown. We took over the results without having had any of the intellectual experiences leading to them. But the ignorance of the origins and the fact that American philosophy departments do not lay claim to them— are in fact just as ignorant of them as is the general public—means that the philosophic content of our language and lives does not direct us to philosophy. This is a real difference between the Continent and us. Here the philosophic language is nothing but jargon.
    • pp. 378-379
  • It is difficult to imagine that there is either the wherewithal or the energy within the university to constitute or reconstitute the idea of an educated human being and establish a liberal education again. However, the contemplation of this scene is in itself a proper philosophic activity. The university’s evident lack of wholeness in an enterprise that clearly demands it cannot help troubling some of its members. The questions are all there. They only need to be addressed continuously and seriously for liberal learning to exist; for it does not consist so much in answers as in the permanent dialogue.
    • p. 380
  • Men may live more truly and fully in reading Plato and Shakespeare than at any other time, because then they are participating in essential being and are forgetting their accidental lives. The fact that this kind of humanity exists or existed, and that we can somehow still touch it with the tips of our outstretched fingers, makes our imperfect humanity, which we can no longer bear, tolerable.
    • p. 380
  • After a reading of the Symposium a serious student came with deep melancholy and said it was impossible to imagine that magic Athenian atmosphere reproduced, in which friendly men, educated, lively, on a footing of equality, civilized but natural, came together and told wonderful stories about the meaning of their longing. But such experiences are always accessible. Actually, this playful discussion took place in the midst of a terrible war that Athens was destined to lose, and Aristophanes and Socrates at least could foresee that this meant the decline of Greek civilization. But they were not given to culture despair, and in these terrible political circumstances, their abandon to the joy of nature proved the viability of what is best in man, independent of accidents, of circumstance. We feel ourselves too dependent on history and culture.
    • p. 381
  • The real community of man, in the midst of all the self-contradictory simulacra of community, is the community of those who seek the truth, of the potential knowers, that is, in principle, of all men to the extent they desire to know. But in fact this includes only a few, the true friends, as Plato was to Aristotle at the very moment they were disagreeing about the nature of the good. Their common concern for the good linked them; their disagreement about it proved they needed one another to understand it. They were absolutely one soul as they looked at the problem. This, according to Plato, is the only real friendship, the only real common good.
    • p. 381

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