1. What Today’s Philosophers Think: Although I understand some of the questions given here by The PhilPapers Surveys, another subset are beyond me—at least as of today. The authors of the quiz concede that they framed many of the questions within the analytic tradition, and my strengths (the few I possess) do not lie in the history of that era, or in its terminology, so my ignorance should not have surprised me. Still, I’m intrigued by what I do know of the issues. The demographics portion of the survey included a question (at the bottom) about the non-living philosophers with which today’s group identified. Notice Foucault garnered only 11 votes, and Adorno only 6. I was shocked to see Hume at the top, as well as Aristotle—one of my favorites—still holding at #2. My other favorite is Aquinas, who came in at #24 with 69 votes. Dewey, Sellars, and Peirce came in at 29, 30, and 31 with 31, 30, and 28 votes, respectively. James entered at 34 with 22 votes. Based on my more recent, less historical observations of Catholic thought and the analytical framework of the questions, I’m somewhat surprised to see neither this guy nor this movement on the lists. I figured one or the other would get the 5 minimum nods to be counted.
2. Livingston At HNN: Here’s a partial reprise of James Livingston’s USIH address, which is also an excerpt from his new book, The World Turned Inside Out: American Thought and Culture at the End of the 20th Century. And here’s his new blog address. There he takes on the criticisms of Eric Alterman given during the conference, and reveals—at the end of the post—that he told a (white) lie to Alterman and the rest of us during Q&A.
3. Culture Wars at “The Great Books College of Chicago”: As an observer and student of trends in the history of the great books idea, I can’t resist bringing to your attention a story out of Chicago. The gist is this: Some faculty and and students at Shimer College are worried that the administration, headed by President Thomas K. Lindsay, is engineering a conservative take over of the institution. A bit of background is necessary. Shimer began as a small liberal arts college in Illinois, originally located in Mount Carroll, that took on a great books curriculum in the 1950s. That curriculum derived from the thinking of Robert Maynard Hutchins, former University of Chicago president, and probably Mortimer J. Adler, Hutchins’s friend and intellectual advisor. The college’s great books list originally looked a lot like the one comprising Britannica’s 1952 Great Books set, but evolved to something more liberal and inclusive as time passed. With regard to its staff, faculty, and students, Shimer became known, especially in the 1970s, for its liberal social and cultural atmosphere. This was evident not just in behavior (which hearsay has probably amplified) during the “Me Decade,” but also—and more importantly—in Shimer’s radically democratic shared governance scheme, the “Assembly,” discussed in the first link above. While some comments to the article express dismay at the culture wars overlay in the piece, saying this is an administrative issue only, there does appear to be a right-ward trend in relation to new Board of Trustees members. This weblog is documenting student, faculty, and staff resistance to the changes. There’s a lot to say about this story, but my biggest surprise is that this political-social tug-of-war is only just now hitting Shimer. I’m shocked it didn’t happen in the 1980s or 1990s, well before its move to Chicago.
4. The Great Books College of C.S. Lewis: Thanks to John Fea, I have learned that a C.S. Lewis-inspired, ecumenically Christian college is opening in Northfield, MA. The curriculum is, of course, to be based on the great books idea. John didn’t say which version of the great books idea they’d be utilizing, but I can imagine a Britannica connection. I’d have to explore their website to learn more. I’ll wait on that project, however, until they actually open and host a first class.
5. So you read the Encyclopedia Britannica?: Continuing the great books/Britannica subtheme of today’s entries, A.J. Jacobs reflects on the proportion of things-remembered to things-learned after having read the Encyclopedia Britannica near the beginning of this decade. He recorded much of that endeavor in his 2004 book, The Know-It-All. Two parts from the Youtube clip caught my attention. Jacobs emphatically declares that he’s forgotten “a huge amount” right off the bat– about 97-98 percent he thinks. But he also reflects, around the 55 second mark, on the fact that he’s gained a deeper, more useful-than-trivia kind of knowledge from that reading. For instance, he cited a justified, affirming optimism about humanity’s ability to adapt and grow (my words) that has resulted from his survey of the accomplishments of human civilization.
6. Midsouth Philosophy Conference: I bring this to your attention because of the openness of the call—meaning historians of the Lovejovian variety might be welcome: “The thirty-fourth annual Midsouth Philosophy Conference is scheduled for Friday afternoon and Saturday, March 5-6, at The University of Memphis. Papers in any area are welcome. There will be a $25 registration fee, payable by cash or check at the conference (but not by credit or debit card). Alastair Norcross (University of Colorado at Boulder) will deliver the keynote address.”