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Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality 2020-01-17 00:22:11

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I daresay I do not think Ross Douthat has read Matthew Arnold. I believe Douthat only quotes him. I think Matthew Arnold was thinking of Douthat's hero Michael Clune—and of Douthat himself—when Arnold cast maximum shade on "futile... bookmen" and noted that "from the faults and weaknesses of bookmen a notion of something bookish, pedantic, and futile has got itself... connected with the word culture...". Getting—from some source—"a fresh and free play of the best thoughts upon his stock notions and habits" was called by Henry Rosovsky "learning approaches to knowledge". And Ross Douthat has no time for Henry Rosovsky: Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/4212/pg4212-images.html: '[I] recommend culture as the great help out of our present difficulties;

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I daresay I do not think Ross Douthat has read Matthew Arnold. I believe Douthat only quotes him. I think Matthew Arnold was thinking of Douthat's hero Michael Clune—and of Douthat himself—when Arnold cast maximum shade on "futile... bookmen" and noted that "from the faults and weaknesses of bookmen a notion of something bookish, pedantic, and futile has got itself... connected with the word culture...". Getting—from some source—"a fresh and free play of the best thoughts upon his stock notions and habits" was called by Henry Rosovsky "learning approaches to knowledge". And Ross Douthat has no time for Henry Rosovsky: Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/4212/pg4212-images.html: '[I] recommend culture as the great help out of our present difficulties; culture being a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said... and, through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits.... From the faults and weaknesses of bookmen a notion of something bookish, pedantic, and futile has got itself more or less connected with the word culture.... Yet futile as are many bookmen... a man's life of each day depends for its solidity and value on whether he reads during that day, and, far more still, on what he reads during it. More and more he who examines himself will find the difference it makes... at the end of any given day, whether or no he has pursued his avocations throughout it without reading at all; and whether or no... he has read the newspapers only.... [But] if a man without books or reading, or reading nothing but his letters and the newspapers, gets nevertheless a fresh and free play of the best thoughts upon his stock notions and habits, he has got culture. He has got that for which we prize and recommend culture; he has got that which at the present moment we seek culture that it may give us. This inward operation is the very life and essence of culture, as we conceive it...

Ross Douthat: The Academic Apocalypse https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/11/opinion/sunday/academics-humanities-literature-canon.html: 'Preservation and recovery depend on... belief that “the best that has been thought and said” is not an empty phrase.... Michael Clune... insist[s]... that the humanities must offer “judgment” on what is worth reading, and G. Gabrielle Starr and Kevin Dettmar of Pomona answer... that no, humanists can only really “teach disciplinary procedures and habits of mind… we model a style of engagement, of critical thought: we don’t transmit value.” The Starr-Dettmar belief was my alma mater’s philosophy when I was an undergraduate; back then our so-called “core” curriculum promised to teach us “approaches to knowledge” rather than the thing itself. It was, and remains, an insane view for humanists to take.... Humanists have often trapped themselves in a false choice between “dead white males” and “we don’t transmit value.” Escaping that dichotomy will not restore the academic or intellectual worlds of 70 years ago. But the path to recovery begins there, with a renewed faith not only in humanism’s methods and approaches, but in the very thing itself...

Bradford DeLong
J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

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