1. So there were some fine comments in response to my course summary below.
2. First off, why not Nietzsche first?
3. To take Nietzsche seriously at all, we have to consider various respected descriptions about who we are these days. Bloom and Rorty don’t disagree on the facts—on flatness and niceness etc.—but disagree on how we should evaluate them. They’re bad for philosophy, Bloom says! But philosophy is a private fantasy that 99+% of the population doesn’t immerse themselves in (as Strauss himself says). So the claim of philosophy to be true depends on its effect on most people—and democracy, as Rorty says, should from that view be prior to philosophy. Rorty puts “the truth” and “death” in quotation marks (following Nietzsche) on behalf of life—meaning living as comfortably and securely as long as possible. Rorty and Bloom structure their “empirical observations” on the dogma that Nietzsche is right about the last man thing. Rorty affirms the last man as what’s best for us all, and Bloom’s objection to him is questionable because doesn’t care about what’s lost (apart from philosophy). (Scruton seems much better than Americans [even those on Berry’s farm] in appreciating what’s been lost. Most Straussians [such as Bloom] spend so much time dissing “culture” as a category that they don’t get around to talking enough about what it used to be like to be cultured or cultivated or classy. That’s one reason among many that we need Tocqueville [and other foreign aid] too.)
4. Our libertarians agree with Bloom and Rorty on the facts—except that our bohemian reveries depend on the virtues associated with productivity. People still have to work hard (and Bloom doesn’t deny that we’re still clever and disciplined in that way). But our libertarians too revel in a world without not strongly moved by love and death and the truth etc. And they disagree with Rorty only the details of “what works” these days. They want to be consumers of culture without being immersed in a culture, and they kind of admit that eventually that kind of consumer will sort of consume (like parasites) what’s great and good about culture.
5. Bloom understands our world (as does Rorty, ambiguously) as the end of history or the return to our (solitary, individualist) natures. But the problem with that thought, of course, is that Rousseau isn’t right about who we are by nature. (That’s why Darwinian conservatism is actually not unimportant; it describes better than Rousseau [although far from completely] who we are by nature.) Rorty is more right when he suggests that our world full of common security and private fantasies is an elaborate pragmatic construction or very, very far from nature. It’s a world, after all, where children are an intrusion and we’re insouciant, allegedly in the mode of Walt Whitman, about the homosexual/heterosexual distinction. I actually like Walt Whitman, but he knew very well he was no “natural man”; nor, in truth, did he think his way of life (which resembles Bloom’s in some ways) could be built on indifference.
More soon, I actually have a job. I realize I haven’t gotten anywhere near to an answer to the question posed in no. 2.