Sunday, April 22, 2012

Benedict XVI and Allan Bloom: Frenemies

There's a lengthy essay about Bloom's "Closing of the American Mind" over at the Standard.  (Yes, I read the book, and yes, I still have it.)  The book is now 25 years old.

Bloom and Benedict XVI have, perhaps, only one thing in common--this wisdom:

...Darwin survives, undiminished and if anything enlarged, as the font of a new materialism whose effects Bloom foresaw even then and witheringly described. I can think of lots of reasons why The Closing of the American Mind deserves as many readers as it earned in the eighties; Bloom’s sly wit and the torrential energy of his prose are worth the price of admission, in my opinion. But this one carries a special urgency. As well as anyone then or now, he understood that the intellectual fashion of materialism​—​of explaining all life, human or animal, mental or otherwise, by means of physical processes alone​—​had led inescapably to a doctrinaire relativism that would prove to be a universal corrosive

The crisis was​—​is​—​a crisis of confidence in the principle that serves as the premise of liberal education: that reason, informed by learning and experience, can arrive at truth, and that one truth may be truer than another....

Don't believe that?  Look at what occupies the White House--or what passes for "entertainment" these days.

Or this:

What follows when a belief in objectivity and truth dies away in higher education? In time an educated person comes to doubt that purpose and meaning are discoverable​—​he doubts, finally, that they even exist. It’s no mystery why fewer and fewer students in higher education today bother with the liberal arts, preferring professional training in their place. Deprived of their traditional purpose in the pursuit of what’s true and good, the humanities could only founder. The study of literature, for example, was consumed in the trivialities of the deconstructionists and their successors. Philosophy curdled into positivism and word play. History became an inventory of political grievances.

Thanks, Mr. Ferguson!!

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