The traditional conception of democratic citizenship roots itself in a specific polity, and will for the foreseeable future. Disparate political communities, each with their own form of governance and view of the human good, do not serve as a deterrent to virtuous citizenship, but in some cases serves as a boon for good citizenship. Most people believe in national identity and attachment to it as both inevitable and desirable. Few and far between are cosmopolitans—at least outside of the halls of liberal academia—who bemoan particularistic and provincial attachment to nation, state, or local space. “For the vast majority of human beings,” Leon Kass writes, “life…is lived parochially and locally, embedded in a web of human relations, institutions, culture, and mores that define us and—whether we know it or not—give shape, character, and meaning to our lives.” This idea of citizenship and its connection to community is alive and well. Read the rest of this entry »
In a previous post, I discussed intellectual decline and Cato’s famous essay, “On Old Age,” in which he offers some remedies. Recent findings by the World Health Organization, indicating that levels of dementia around the world will increase three-fold in the next forty years, especially in developed countries where detection is weak and life expectancy high, warrants a revisiting of this subject. That is why this article in The New York Times caught my attention; psychologists for the Midlife in the United States project, or MIDUS for short, find that a rigorous college education may delay the brain’s aging by up to a decade. Read the rest of this entry »
After publishing Postwar in 2005, a tour de force of European history since World War II, winning the Arthur Ross Book Award for best book in international affairs and numerous other awards, Tony Judt prepared to write an ambitious intellectual and cultural history of Twentieth Century social thought. A professor of European History at New York University, founder and director of the Erich Maria Remarque Institute at NYU, frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, and public intellectual, Judt’s plan for his next book mothballed, as personal history intervened in the form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. By late 2008, Judt no longer had use of his hands; two years later, he passed away. Read the rest of this entry »
PBS’ new installment of The American Experience: the Presidents, a biography of 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, feels more like a drama than history. Clinton paints a picture of a highly improbable president, born famously into impoverished circumstances in Hope, Arkansas, with a father who died before his birth and an alcoholic stepfather who beat his mother in front of the children. Consequently, Clinton threw all of his efforts into his studies, laboring to redeem and rescue his family, and substituting a broken home life for an ersatz, popular persona at school. Such a stratagem recurs throughout Clinton’s life: when situations become tough, Clinton pretends as though they are not happening.
This article in the New York Times caught my eye. Shrinking unemployment numbers—now at 8.3% nationally—are a product of improved private sector hiring, but also of young people dropping out of the workforce in droves, some of them seeking refuge in graduate school. Yet, women find themselves more likely to enroll in graduate school and certificate/training programs than are their male counterparts. Are women more ambitious than their male counterparts of today? There exist now—for the first time in three decades—more young women in school than in the work force. The article summarizes the trend as follows: “Though young women in their late teens and early 20’s view today’s economic lull as an opportunity to upgrade their skills, their male counterparts are more likely to take whatever job they can find.” Read the rest of this entry »
Now that it is summer time, my reading schedule is in full swing—and Levi’s books were in my queue for a while. Born in Turin, Levi trained as a chemist before joining an anti-Fascist resistance movement. In early 1944, the Nazis captured and imprisoned Levi at Auschwitz where he witnessed the horrors of the German Lager. Under normal circumstances, the Germans would spare political prisoners the fate of Auschwitz’s concentrationary system, instead placing them in better-fed, better-kept gaols with their fellow ‘conspirators.’ But Levi was Jewish. Read the rest of this entry »
A new theory of cognitive and behavioral science, called the argumentative theory of reasoning, asserts that discourse and discursive reason evolved in human beings for no other purpose than to win debates. “It [reason] was a purely social phenomenon. It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us.” The argumentative theory is the brainchild of French cognitive social scientists, stirring intriguing discussion and abhorred dissent among academics of all stripes—philosophers, political scientists, educators, and psychologists alike. Read the rest of this entry »