So I’ve gotten a ton of (two) complaints about not posting this week.

Why don’t you say anything about the Zimmerman verdict? I don’t have any special knowledge or deep opinion. I’ll tentatively say I agree with Jimmy Carter, who sensibly said the verdict was a reasonable response to the actual evidence and the standard presented by the prosecution. I’ll add the jury was initially divided and it seems to have been a tough decision. But I think the most sensible Americans are muting the TV when coverage of the outcome lingers on.

On immigration, listen, as Mr. Ceaser said, to Pete . . .

ON Obamacare, evidence mounts that it won’t work. Unions are getting ticked off that it will probably wreck their great employer-based deals. They’re figuring out they were duped. Nobody on either side will tell the truth that employer-based health coverage is toast.

But I’ve actually been working on higher education, liberal education, and all that. Here’s a brief excerpt, which challenges, of course, Allan Bloom’s narrative of the 50s.

It’s also a response to the interesting but annoying article by Lee Siegel in the WSJ
on the crisis of the humanities’ collapse:

The study of literature for credit became common as the 20the century rolled on. It was, in part, compensatory, to make up for the declining quality of educated leisure and for a waning of religious authority. The search for meaning in a bourgeois world, as part of higher education, became focused on the genres of novels, poetry, and plays.

There was, as Siegel suggest, a kind of “existentialist” moment that begin after World War II and persisted through the part of the Sixties. The focus on one’s personal destiny in a world distorted by technology and ideology—a world that produced unprecedented mass slaughter—privileged literature over other forms of “communication.” Insofar as philosophy was existential—and so obsessed with Camus, Heidegger, and Sartre, even it seemed more like literature than a technical or “theoretical” discipline. The goal was to save reflection on the truthfully irreducible situation of the particular person from the clutches of theory.

The predicament of the person born to trouble—or at least a brush with absurdity—is what novels are about. And it’s the insufficiency of philosophic prose to display that predicament that explains why Sartre, Camus, and Walker Percy, for philosophic reasons, wrote novels. It is close, at least, to why Plato wrote dialogues and why St. Augustine wrote his Confessions .

As the great critic Lionel Trilling pointed out, it might have been near-ridiculous to teach books that should make us radically discontent with our ordinary lives in the newly standardized format of American higher education in the 1950s. And it increasingly became doubly ridiculous to have those books taught by careerist professors with the souls without spirit and heart of specialized scholars.

It might be triply ridiculous to expect administrators, bureaucrats, and other certifiers of competencies to be able to understand—much less articulate—a credible defense of “the humanities.”

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