Friday, July 11, 2008

Interview with John C. Wright - online at Sfsite.

Since it's summer, and most people seem to take a break from more serious reading I'm putting up a SF link. This is an interesting interview with novelist John C. Wright. (e.g. 'The Golden Age')

- While most sf writers seem hostile to Christianity, Wright is not. That alone makes him close to unique.

"Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe are masters of style, and I filch from them without a twinge of remorse. The men are brilliant. They are the only authors I enjoyed as a child whom I can still enjoy as an adult.

Of the two of them, I have a mild preference for Jack Vance. Gene Wolfe, in fact, is too brilliant for me: I cannot figure out his puzzles. The mysteries in Jack Vance, in contrast, are honest and fair, and the clues are there."

- I have to admit to the same thing myself. I enjoy reading Wolfe, but once I'm finished I usually say to myself, ''what was that?" (Especially so of some the short stories.)

- I sometimes wonder why I continue to read sf.... is it only because I loved it as a teenager? or something more? Maybe it's just good fun. I read 'Golden Age' after having been away from SF for a few years, and was blown away by it. (As we said in the ancient days of my youth.)

- Nick Gevers (who did the interview) is one of my favorite commentators on sf. Look for his interview with Gene Wolfe.

1. Ferocious Poet's Heart Commanding: An Interview With John C. Wright. (With Nick Gevers)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

George Mosse; - European cultural history, 1660-1870 - audio lectures online at Wisconsin (1982)

Quotes and comments;

1. Abstract for lecture 1. (of 36)
"In the opening lecture of “European Cultural History, 1660-1870,” George Mosse introduces his audience to the “invention of the people,” a radical construction that distinguishes the early modern period of European history from what he calls the “modern world.” Mosse specifically contextualizes the rise of the masses in the breakdown of the established political order and the collapse of the Christian worldview. This long-term conceptual transformation depersonalized traditional political culture, replacing it with the abstract notions of the people (das Volk), mass culture, and the nation. Out of this turmoil, Mosse argues, man began to search for meaning and belonging in new cultural norms and communities."

2. I've only listened to the first lecture but I thought it was superior for a lecture of its type. It hasn't been long since I listened to 'Birth of the Modern mind' (a series of lectures from The Teaching Company, by Alan Charles Kors, and I got more out this one lecture than I did the entire series by Kors.
- you won't likely find a more harsh critic of Christianity. (But it's all based on the fallacious idea we can have morality without God. If there is no God, all these criticisms are nothing but smoke. i.e. if all is matter in motion there is no truth, no justice, no goodness, no morality, etc. But this is something people like Mosse never will admit.)

3. Mosse claims it was Rousseau who invented the term 'the people'...

4. He talks about how the whole universe became depersonalized at this time.
- We see the flight into abstractionism.

5. "How can art and philosophy survive?' Goethe asks,
- i.e. in the day of the newspaper... people are abstracted... etc. (I take it meant that now artists would have to become entertainers, or compete with the entertainments of the day.)

6. He talks about how the speed of the railroads changed things. He mentions Victor Hugo saying that the flowers become nothing but blurs of color. He claims this led to Impressionism in art.

7. He talks of a student in participating in a protest sit-in, during the 1970's; 'why are you doing this?' "I don't know but it makes me feel like I belong."
- his point being that the loss of faith in Christianity led people to seek belonging in other areas. (i.e. than the C. church.) This being a modern example of what happened in the 1700's.

8. Racism is very much a bureaucratic 'invention' - with armies of clerks making note of every physical characteristic each person in a national state have...
- The idea individuals are the great racists is merely a defensive reaction to this truth. (i.e. it's bureaucrats and political hacks defending themselves.) People who have lost their 'religious' moorings seek out various other ways of finding 'identification.'
- Statist surveys are among the most evil activities of our day. They almost always lead to increased tyranny.

1. Mosse (Lachmann) is not a Christian.
2. After the decline of Christianity (among the intellectuals) came the idea 'nature' should be revered... and was to take the place of God.
3. I'm not quoting him exactly on racism.
4. I didn't think much of the series by Kors (which covers more or less the same period. Kors is one of those fellows who refuses to tell you where he's coming from. I don't like this kind of approach. Why should I listen to someone who won't be honest enough to tell me what his views are?
5. I don't know anything about Mosse, but found a link to these lectures at Jerry Pournelle's site. (So blame him if you don't like them.)
6. After lecture #3. (Pascal)
- it's all interesting... but nothing on earth is easier than criticizing others. (Most of these criticisms against 'Christianity' aren't really against C. but against the church establishment, the pope, individual Christians, etc. It doesn't matter who the elite are they will be criticized, institutions are always condemned, etc.) It always seems to me that the less one believes the more one critiques others. No one is a bigger critic than these secular types who can't really believe anything... except their own criticisms of course. (Or their own thoughts.) They mostly refuse to tell you what they themselves believe... for to do so would be to open themselves up to the same attack they so enjoy exacting on others.
- to use one standard to critique one group, but then refuse to use that same standard for other groups is simply hypocrisy; and this is what most academic criticism is.
- What great fun it is to mock and ridicule others... even if you have no basis for doing so. (i.e. if all is matter in motion all these critiques are meaningless... merely chemical reactions in the void.)
7. After lecture #4.
- he tells us the 'questioning mind' had never been central in human history. This is b.s. What was Socrates? what was Greek humanism? what was the serpent in the garden? This is not only false, but it's infantile.... a pathetic attempt to deceive sophmores. If man hadn't questioned we wouldn't have had the Fall; we wouldn't have had the great flood, we wouldn't have had the golden calf episode and all the countless false religions. One wonders how people can utter such absurdities... I assume it's because they have a belief their audience is totally clueless.
- Mosse says you can't have a critical mind with Christianity. This of course is the major pretense of Humanism. The reality is that it's only when one becomes critical that one sees the absurdity of Materialism... the absurdity of the false religions, and one turns to the Gospels. People like Mosse can only be apostles of the void if they never turn their criticisms onto materialism. Critical mind? What a joke. They wouldn't dare.
8. Mosse (Lachmann) was a great hypocrite, but at least he had the virtue of being interesting. (However important you think that is.)
- virtue is boring Mosse tells us... (and he hated babies and kindergartens.) This at least is an honest admission. The natural man always hates virtue, though he usually enjoys pretending to it.
9. Kors presents Pierre Bayle as a 'pious' Christian (humanists love heretics) while Mosse presents him as a radical enemy of Christianity. (Someone is playing games.)
10. The great joke in all this buffoonery is that if man is indeed merely the animal Mosse claims he is, all these criticisms are merely intellectual noise.