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So I’m sorry I haven’t time to say more about the great professors and students at the ISI conference.

I was going to explain how Dr. Pat Deneen was right to connect Bloom and Dewey on the proposition that the past—including devotion to God, country, and so forth—is dead to contemporary sophisticated Americans. For Dewey, that means we’re all about creativity, growth, and experimentation, whatever they are. For Bloom, that means that our choices seem to be philosophy or nothing—and philosophy is all about noticing that there’s no difference between particular human beings and particular leaves in terms of real significance. Bloom says that sophisticated young Americans are characterized by flatness of soul or being unmoved by love and death. Dewey, who wrote lots and lots and lots of pages, himself seemed so unmoved that he never said anything about the experiences of personal love and personal death. (For that reason, Dewey is much more boring than even Rawls.) Dewey, as Rorty sort of figured out, decided to put death to death by refusing to talk about it. Bloom counters by saying that philosophy is all about one’s own death infusing every moment of one’s thought. (And for that reason alone Bloom is not at all boring.) That might be thought to put the philosopher in a bad mood (see Nietzsche or Pascal or Woody Allen), but in the true philosopher’s case there’s the pleasurable compensation of insight. My own view (which is close to Pat’s and found in my POSTMODERNISM RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD) is that Dewey’s (Rorty is better) anti-erotic and anti-thanocentric pragmatism and Bloom’s hedonistic, thanocentric (Epicurean or non-activist) existentialism are two extremes that, if taken too seriously, cause us to miss present-tense personal reality. Personal eros remains everywhere. It seems more lame than it really is because it’s so inarticulate these days.

More later on that, not to mention on Jim Stoner’s great talk on science. Meanwhile, I’m off to Palo Alto (Stanford) to be a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution for a week (with Mark Blitz and Harvey Mansfield). Let me know if you’ll be in the area.

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