The Country is Frighteningly Polarized. This is Why, by Fareed Zakaria

An excellent piece by my favorite political commentator on the cultural and political polarization that’s driving America apart, and on ill-conceived attempts by both the left and right to quash free expression they don’t like.

Fareed Zakaria

Wednesday’s shooting at a congressional baseball practice was a ghastly example of the political polarization that is ripping this country apart. Political scientists have shown that Congress is more divided than at any time since the end of Reconstruction. I am struck not simply by the depth of partisanship these days, but increasingly also by its nature. People on the other side of the divide are not just wrong and to be argued with. They are immoral and must be muzzled or punished.

This is not about policy. The chasm between left and right during much of the Cold War was far wider than it is today on certain issues. Many on the left wanted to nationalize or substantially regulate whole industries; on the right, they openly advocated a total rollback of the New Deal. Compared with that, today’s economic divisions feel relatively small.

Partisanship today is more about identity…

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Happy Birthday, Morton White!

Morton White in 1981

Well, happy belated birthday, anyway. White was born on April 27, 1917, but I’m publishing this two days late because I had copied Wikipedia’s wrong date onto my list.

The world lost Morton White less than a year ago as I write this today, and I first learned of him through reading his obituary in The New York Times. As I read, I knew this is a man and an approach to philosophy I must learn more about. Being immersed in other projects, I learned little about him in the intervening eleven months. Happily, I was just reminded by going through my list of significant dates in the lives of the world’s great thinkers (by no means comprehensive!) I placed two of his books on hold at the San Francisco Public Library and will commence reading them on this 100th anniversary of his birth.

White was a philosopher and historian of ideas. According to the Institute for Advanced Studies, ‘he maintained that philosophy of science is not philosophy enough, thereby encouraging the examination of other aspects of civilized life—especially art, history, law, politics and religion—and their relations with science’. And as William Grimes put it for TNYT, his ‘innovative theory of “holistic pragmatism” showed the way toward a more socially engaged, interdisciplinary role for philosophy’.

I studied philosophy with great love and enthusiasm as an undergraduate, yet I found myself then as now just as curious about other disciplines, especially history and the arts, and have often felt that the lines dividing these areas of study are sometimes artificial and even impediments to understanding. Since then, I’ve been pursuing my studies in the broader history of ideas as well, informally for the past few years, formally at the University of Edinburgh starting this fall. No doubt, White has influenced the direction my studies in intellectual history will take in ways I’ll learn as I go along, and in many more ways than I’ll ever know.

Learn more about White and his fascinating ideas with me:

Holistic Pragmatism and the Philosophy of Culture‘ – chapter 1 of A Philosophy of Culture: The Scope of Holistic Pragmatism, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 2002, in which White summarizes what his holistic pragmatism is all about

Morton White, Philosopher of Holistic Pragmatism, Dies at 99‘ – Obituary for the New York Times by William Grimes, June 10, 2016

Morton White 1917–2016 – His memorial page at the Institute for Advanced Study website, June 08, 2016

And you can find his selected bibliography at Wikipedia

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

O.P. Recommends: The Great Arab-American Painter, Poet, and Philosopher Kahlil Gibran on Why Artists Make Art, by Maria Popova

Khalil Gibran, Autorretrato Con Musa, 1911, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Khalil Gibran, Autorretrato Con Musa, 1911, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

As happens so often, I’ve just discovered another wonderful thing because of the great Maria Popova of Brain Pickings. If there is only one website or blog you follow, I recommend that one be Brain Pickings. Literature, history, philosophy, art, poetry, children’s books, all of these and more are topics of discussion there, and the writing is beautiful.

This time, the discovery is the artist, writer, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran, and his take on a question I and I’m sure all other artists and writers ask ourselves from time the time: why we constantly feel the driving need to create things.

Popova writes:

The questions of why we humans create — why we paint caves and canvases, why we write novels and symphonies, why we make art at all — is so perennial that it might indeed fall within the scope of what Hannah Arendt considered the “unanswerable questions” central to the human experience. And yet some memorable answers have been given — answers like Pablo Neruda’s stirring childhood allegory of the hand through the fence.

Another exquisite answer comes from the great Arab-American artist, poet, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran (January 6, 1883–April 10, 1931) in Beloved Prophet (public library) — the collection of his almost unbearably beautiful love letters to and from Mary Haskell…

Read the article in full at Brain Pickings

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

O.P. Recommends: Delaware Artist Inspired by Philosophy and Music to Make Beautiful Artwork, by Brian Drouin

Moment in a Forest of Words, image credit Michael Krausz, used by permission

Moment in a Forest of Words, image credit Michael Krausz, used by permission

I just came across this great story about Michael Krausz, a professor of philosophy and an

‘..artist [who] weaves music, art, and philosophy together as one.

Swiss born Michael Krausz was destined for a life of music, the son of professional musicians, he later discovered philosophy and in a moment that changed his life he discovered his love of painting…’

Read Krausz’s story and watch the video by Brian Drouin. I think you’ll love what you see and hear.

You can learn more about Krautz at his Bryn Mawr faculty page as well.

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Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!