Saturday, April 29, 2006

John Kenneth Galbraith Died Today

John Kenneth Galbraith Died Today

Such a wonderful, generous-spirited man. His economics will be debated but never his heart. A Canadian who immigrated to America and enriched our country as many others have but none more. God bless him. This is Public Occurrences.
On Lin Yutang

Modesty is a great virtue when dealing with immodest challenges, like War, and Philosophy. Americans are modest; Pragmatism, the homegrown American philosophy is modest; Metaphysics, European, is not.

However, modesty must not be failure to act. The Swiss fail to act. Americans do not fail to act.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Lin Yutang

"I should have liked also to write the entire book in the form of a dialogue like Plato's."
"I do not mean answers and questions like newspaper interviews...I mean really good, long, leisurely discourses..."
"...with many detours, coming back to the original point of discusion by a short cut at the most unexpected spot,..."
" a man returning home by climbing over a hedge...Oh, how I love to reach home by climbing over the back fence, and to travel bypaths!"
"The [Eastern] ideas expressed here...are hackneyed truths there...nevertheless...they have become a part of my being."..."when I first encountered them, my heart gave an instinctive assent."
"If one is too well-read, then one does not know right is right and wrong is wrong."

I believe that that is often true. In the work of some great thinkers there is a remove from right and wrong: in Marx for example killing comes too easily. It is almost as if they are so intellectually above the surface, where everyone else is, that they are beyond good and evil. Nietzsche too? Or like Richard Rorty: such a sensible, modest, American, philosophy. But he got excoriated for seeming to deny that slavery is, always was, and always will be morally wrong. In a footnote, he simply asserted the eternal evil of slavery, not connecting it to his philosophy.
"I have not read Locke or Hume or Berkeley, and have not taken a college course in philosophy." ..."Some of my sources are:...a Shanghai street car conductor...a squirrel in Central Park..."

Is Lin going to turn out to be twee? One can, or at least Chinese One's can, gain insight from non-human...things, like squirrels or sunsets. The intellectual tradition of the West is so, so limited by concentration on the mind's abilities. It is fetishitic.

"Thus deprived of academic training in philosophy, I am less scared to write a book about it [i.e. philosophy]."

That seems very wise. Philosophy must be a daunting subject to write about.
"Courage seems to be the rarest of all virtues in a modern philosopher."
That is a very insightful, very true observation.
"But I have always wandered outside the precincts of philosophy and that gives me courage."
At first read that is a thrilling sentence but is it that those inside philosophy cannot have courage? One sometimes gets "courage" from doing something well which one has had no grounding in? In sports, "He's not afraid, he's never been here before; he doesn't know that there is so much to fear?"

-Benjamin Harris