1. Free Speech and College Campuses
The theme of this week is what happened at Middlebury College recently. It’s worth reflecting on for anyone who believes deeply in a free exchange of ideas on college campuses. I had a chance last year to spend a weekend in a small group that included Charles Murray. He is a serious scholar, very frustrated with the Republican Party, a passionate advocate of a Universal Basic Income, vociferously anti-Trump, and highly concerned about the “elite bubble” that has contributed to America “coming apart.” I’m sure I disagree with Murray on many, many things, but the caricatured portrayal of him by some students and teachers at Middlebury was painful and ill-conceived—some apparently came to their conclusions without even reading his work. He certainly ain’t Milo. But beyond Murray, too many liberal college campuses are struggling with the “liberal” part these days. And for those of us trying to overcome the increasing hyper-partisan polarization in our country, let’s just say this wasn’t the best moment for the spirit of that work.
Here are NYU scholar Jonathan Haidt and NY Times columnist Frank Bruni speaking about the issue on Charlie Rose. Lots of great points made in this one, but Bruni’s “helicopter parent producing a bubble-wrapped kid” might be one of the best.
2. Materialism Alone Cannot Explain the Riddle of Consciousness
Adam Frank is an astronomer who co-founded and contributed significantly to NPR’s popular blog Cosmos and Culture. Frank also had a book out a few years ago, About Time. It still sits on my bookshelf, unread. Though it always tempts me, I have not actually picked it up yet to seriously read it. Perhaps that’s my bad, because this careful reading of the latest discussion in the scientific community around quantum mechanics is an interesting and education overview of the subject. It has some nice phrases in it like his reference to the mood of physics as “today’s metaphysical sobriety” and this simple but true statement:
“It is as simple as it is undeniable: after more than a century of profound explorations into the subatomic world, our best theory for how matter behaves still tells us very little about what matter is.”
At the very least, Frank’s article is another argument for a certain spirit of metaphysical humility in science, at least when it comes to the nature of mind. I’m all for that. Oh, and for the record, anyone who believes in in the “Many-Worlds” hypothesis but still somehow thinks they are a sober materialist …I beg to differ.
3. Where did Steve Bannon get his worldview?
Steve Bannon loves The Fourth Turning. That is pretty much accepted truth at this point—widely reported. I first came across The Fourth Turning last year when a colleague on the Left was pushing the Institute for Cultural Evolution to look into it. Apparently, it’s popular on the Right as well. It’s a fascinating book, and while I’m not one for deterministic views of history or fully cyclical views, I do think cycles probably do occur (in the context of larger patterns of progressive change) and history is certainly influenced by demographics, which is what this “prophecy” is all about. So check it out, read it (below in a condensed form) but just don’t take it too seriously.
The author of The Fourth Turning in the Washington Post:
4. Are plans to give money to everyone are gaining ground?
Articles about UBI, or Universal Basic Income, are everywhere these days. Some like the idea because it’s a safety net without the endless bureaucracy. Some like it because it’s an answer to the fear of joblessness created by technological change. Some like it because they have idealistic, dreamy ideas about going beyond work. Some like it because, well, we need something and it’s better than the alternatives. Is a UBI in the American future? Do you think it should be?
Check out the latest on it from the Economist below:
Elon Musk here
Charles Murray on UBI here
Economist Deidre McCloskey here
And Jordan Greenhall (popular medium blogger and editor of Emergent Cutlure) on how to think about UBI from a “technological deflation” point of view here
5. Hegel Knew There Would be Days Like These
And finally, a little reminder that Hegel was a smart guy…