The economic theories of Karl Marx and his disciples continue to be anthologized in books of literary theory and criticism and taught in humanities classrooms to the exclusion of other, competing economic paradigms. Marxism is collectivist, predictable, monolithic, impersonal, linear, reductive — in short, wholly inadequate as an instrument for good in an era when we know better than to reduce the variety of human experience to simplistic formulae. A person’s creative and intellectual energies are never completely the products of culture or class. People are rational agents who choose between different courses of action based on their reason, knowledge, and experience. A person’s choices affect lives, circumstances, and communities. Even literary scholars who reject pure Marxism are still motivated by it, because nearly all economic literary theory derives from Marxism or advocates for vast economic interventionism as a solution to social problems.
Such interventionism, however, has a track-record of mass murder, war, taxation, colonization, pollution, imprisonment, espionage, and enslavement — things most scholars of imaginative literature deplore. Yet most scholars of imaginative literature remain interventionists. Literature and Liberty offers these scholars an alternative economic paradigm, one that over the course of human history has eliminated more generic bads than any other system. It argues that free market or libertarian literary theory is more humane than any variety of Marxism or interventionism. Just as Marxist historiography can be identified in the use of structuralism and materialist literary theory, so should free-market libertarianism be identifiable in all sorts of literary theory. Literature and Liberty disrupts the near monopolistic control of economic ideas in literary studies and offers a new mode of thinking for those who believe that arts and literature should play a role in discussions about law, politics, government, and economics. Drawing from authors as wide-ranging as Emerson, Shakespeare, E.M. Forster, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Henry Hazlitt, and Mark Twain, Literature and Liberty is a significant contribution to libertarianism and literary studies.
Archive for the ‘Emerson’ Category
Harold Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence is of a piece with pragmatism as it is manifested in Richard Poirier’s account of poetic influence whereby a poet or writer struggles to overcome the powerful precedent of his or her forerunners. Poirier goes to great lengths to demonstrate how Emerson’s “superfluity” has to do with Emerson’s anxiety about articulating the phenomenal world in ways that are new. Like Emerson, Holmes distorts and recasts precedents. Holmes uses the common law canon much as Emerson uses the literary canon, and vice versa.
Bloom and Poirier are Darwinians, as were most of the classical pragmatists, on the issue of revision and adaptation of forms to fit new social and cultural environments. Bloom seems to suggest that there are perennial themes and tropes in the work of great poets over time, but that it is the new and creative ways in which these existing categories are expressed that make them great. The anxiety is in finding new articulation for previously established content and methods. The poet, then, is like the judge according Holmes: someone who must rely on precedent even as he carves out new spaces for critical inquiry.
Emerson is a milestone figure for Poirier because Emerson struggles with “linguistic skepticism.” Emerson’s anxiety about expressing new ideas in old forms led him to embrace rhetorical superfluity as a means of compensating for the limitations of his own mind and historical moment. Emerson was skeptical about the ability of the word or language to summon forth the meanings in his head or the sensations that he felt. For Poirier, Emerson established what Joan Richardson calls an “aesthetic outpost” against which later writers like Robert Frost or Wallace Stevens wrote. Emerson facilitated continuity with the past while generating his own tropes on which later American writers would themselves trope. All of this revision and adaptation had to do with a distinctly American tradition of writing that attempted to break free of the confines of European traditions and express the attitudes and possibilities created by the New World. Holmes himself turned away from European jurisprudence and embraced philosophical pragmatism, which led to such interpretive tendencies as judicial restraint, deference to state legislatures, rejection of abstractions, and analysis of actual experiences tested and tried in both the economic marketplace and the marketplace of ideas.
What links Bloom, Poirier, and Holmes is Emerson.
American literary history, even before C.S. Peirce named “pragmatism” as a philosophy, validates much of what pragmatism has to offer. Joan Richardson speaks of “frontier instances” whereby certain writers become aesthetic outposts from which we can trace continuities of thought and artistic representation. She treats literature as a life form that must adapt to its environment; similarly, Richard Poirier looks to a tradition of linguistic skepticism in American literature to show the role that artistic influence and troping have had on American culture. Long before Richardson and Poirier, George Santayana exercised his own literary flair in his celebratory, summative essays about American culture and experience. If American literary history can undergo operations of tracing and mapping, it might be because—as Richardson, Poirier, and Santayana have suggested—the unfolding and development of an American literary canon have been processes of evolution. Literary texts and movements have shown a tendency toward growth that is responsive to the natural and changing circumstances of the time.
Richardson begins A Natural History of Pragmatism with 17th century Puritan ministers and then quickly moves to Jonathan Edwards. Edwards is representative of the Calvinist notion of limited disclosure, the idea, in other words, that God reveals his divinity to us through the shapes, forms, and outlines he provides to us in the phenomenal world. From this idea (and others like it) began the uniquely American insistence on the value of nature and the physical universe to thought and the spiritual or psychological realm. As Americans sought to make themselves culturally and intellectually independent from Europe, both in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they used the New World landscapes and vastly unexplored (by Europeans at least) terrains as objects of their fascination and as sources of inspiration. Even figures like Jefferson insisted upon the scientific study of the natural world in order to authorize theories about law and politics, which he wished to distinguish from European ways. Jefferson, like William Bartram, another naturalist, lionized Natives as being more in tune with nature and hence more “lawful” in the sense that their communal governments were in keeping with the laws of nature. However problematic we may consider these romanticized depictions today, we should at least say of them that they inspired further attention to sustained observation of nature as a critical component of what was intended to be a new way of thinking divorced from the Old World of Europe.
Santayana says that when orthodoxy recedes, speculation flourishes, and accordingly it is no surprise that as Puritanism solidified into an orthodoxy of the kind against which it once defined itself, there was a resistance among artists and writers and thinkers. Emerson, for one, adapted the thinking of the Calvinists while maintaining their commitment to the natural world as a means for realizing higher truths. Instead of God revealing himself to man through the forms of the natural world, God, according to Emerson, was realized within the person with a poetical sense, who was inspired by the natural world to discover the divinity within himself. To become one and to see all—that is, to become a “transparent eyeball”—was something of a religious experience for Emerson. Read the rest of this entry »
The transcendental idealism of Emerson and Thoreau found its most illuminating expression and drew its most ardent followers before the Civil War would temper the spirits of many Americans. Emerson and Thoreau both advocated for removing oneself from the constraints of society and for realizing an inner drive and power for epistemological, spiritual, and political purposes. This individualism had more credence in New England than it did in the Southern states, and it is therefore not surprising that 19th century slave narratives would seek to appropriate that discourse of individualism in order to explain and condemn the realities of slavery. Slavery could be cast as a symptom of the collective mindset, an evil that clearly could be seen as such if only individuals would separate themselves from conformity with the social unit and prevailing ideology.
Frederick Douglass, in both Narrative of the Life and his later work My Bondage and My Freedom, reveals that his childhood in slavery was relatively relaxed compared to that of other slaves, yet as he moved from master to master and was denied education—that is, as he grew into a man—the regulation of his body became harsher and more violent. Douglass, who, as a lecturer, impressed upon his listeners a sense of rugged masculinity, uses his narratives to show how an individual can stand up to an entire institution. In both narratives he vividly depicts his battle with Mr. Covey, a vicious overseer who was determined to train Douglass into docile submission by means of overwhelming violence. It is an inner will as much as brute strength that brings about Douglass’s triumph over Covey, and it is Douglass’s determination to read and to learn that allows him to circumvent white law to achieve the literacy that made both of these works possible.
As an anti-slavery advocate in the North, having attained his freedom, Douglass expressed his individualism in a variety of ways, not least of which in his insistence to remain independent of William Lloyd Garrison and other abolitionists with whom Douglass had, as it were, a falling out. Douglass also articulated a desire for blacks to embrace the ideal of personal responsibility and to look to their own personhood as a means for pulling themselves out of their unfortunate condition. His enabling rhetoric was intended to be inspirational and to imitate the rhetoric and values of New England whites, without whose support neither he nor other slaves could mobilize political action. Other authors of slave narratives such as William Wells Brown (who, it should be mentioned, had a falling out with Douglass) employ similar tactics and strategies regarding the appeal to individualism. Brown also promoted himself as a masculine figure who realized his autonomy and drew strength from his own will to deliver himself from bondage.
Harriet Jacobs’s narrative couches individualism in more ambiguous terms. She gives herself the name Linda Brent in the narrative, which is addressed explicitly to the “women of the North.” Her narrative is replete with apostrophes to these women readers and, therefore, with signals and coded references meant to gain sympathy and provoke anger at the institution of slavery. When Linda’s master attempts to take her in as his sex slave, she goes so far as to have an affair with a white man, Mr. Sands, as a form of resistance. Knowing the decorum of her audience and the precariousness of her status as a freed slave, Linda repeatedly acknowledges the sinfulness of her act but stresses, too, that she cannot be held to the same standards as white women, who enjoy the freedom to make moral choices. In a system of slavery, Linda suggests, there are no moral choices because one is reduced to selecting between one bad act or another. Like Douglass, Linda finds freedom in the North, and, like Douglass, she spends time in England, where, she indicates, freedom flourishes, at least in relation to the United States. Jacobs’s narrative can be taken as an urgent statement on the agency of slaves in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and the image of the strong woman that she cultivates (not just in herself but in the person of her grandmother) resonates as a powerful trope that others would pick up on. Read the rest of this entry »
The following essay originally appeared here at Mises Daily.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is politically elusive. He’s so elusive that thinkers from various schools and with various agendas have appropriated his ideas to validate some activity or another. Harold Bloom once wrote, “In the United States, we continue to have Emersonians of the Left (the post-Pragmatist Richard Rorty) and of the Right (a swarm of libertarian Republicans, who exalt President Bush the Second).” We’ll have to excuse Bloom’s ignorance of political movements and signifiers — libertarians who exalt President Bush, really? — and focus instead on Bloom’s point that Emerson’s influence is evident in a wide array of contemporary thinkers and causes.
Bloom is right that what “matters most about Emerson is that he is the theologian of the American religion of Self-Reliance.” Indeed, the essay “Self-Reliance” remains the most cited of Emerson’s works, and American politicians and intellectuals selectively recycle ideas of self-reliance in the service of often disparate goals.
Emerson doesn’t use the term “individualism” in “Self-Reliance,” which was published in 1841, when the term “individualism” was just beginning to gain traction. Tocqueville unintentionally popularized the signifier “individualism” with the publication of Democracy in America. He used a French term that had no counterpart in English. Translators of Tocqueville labored over this French term because its signification wasn’t part of the English lexicon. Emerson’s first mention of “individualism” was not until 1843.
It is clear, though, that Emerson’s notion of self-reliance was tied to what later would be called “individualism.” Emerson’s individualism was so radical that it bordered on self-deification. Only through personal will could one realize the majesty of God. Nature for Emerson was like the handwriting of God, and individuals with a poetical sense — those who had the desire and capability to “read” nature — could understand nature’s universal, divine teachings.
Lakes, streams, meadows, forests — these and other phenomena were, according to Emerson, sources of mental and spiritual pleasure or unity. They were what allowed one to become “part and parcel with God,” if only one had or could become a “transparent eyeball.” “Nothing at last is sacred,” Emerson said, “but the integrity of your own mind.” That’s because a person’s intellect translates shapes and forms into spiritual insights.
We cannot judge Emerson exclusively on the basis of his actions. Emerson didn’t always seem self-reliant or individualistic. His politics, to the extent that they are knowable, could not be called libertarian. We’re better off judging Emerson on the basis of his words, which could be called libertarian, even if they endow individualism with a religiosity that would make some people uncomfortable.
Emerson suggests in “Self-Reliance” that the spontaneous expression of thought or feeling is more in keeping with personal will, and hence with the natural world as constituted by human faculties, than that which is passively assumed or accepted as right or good, or that which conforms to social norms. Emerson’s individualism or self-reliance exalted human intuition, which precedes reflection, and it privileged the will over the intellect. Feeling and sensation are antecedent to reason, and Emerson believed that they registered moral truths more important than anything cognition could summon forth.
Emerson’s transcendentalism was, as George Santayana pointed out in 1911, a method conducive to the 19-century American mindset. As a relatively new nation seeking to define itself, America was split between two mentalities, or two sources of what Santayana called the “genteel tradition”: Calvinism and transcendentalism.
The American philosophical tradition somehow managed to reconcile these seeming dualities. On the one hand, Calvinism taught that the self was bad, that man was depraved by nature and saved only by the grace of God. On the other hand, transcendentalism taught that the self was good, that man was equipped with creative faculties that could divine the presence of God in the world. The Calvinist distrusted impulses and urges as sprung from an inner evil. The transcendentalist trusted impulses and urges as moral intuition preceding society’s baseless judgments and prevailing conventions.
What these two philosophies had in common was an abiding awareness of sensation and perception: a belief that the human mind registers external data in meaningful and potentially spiritual ways. The Calvinist notion of limited disclosure — that God reveals his glory through the natural world — played into the transcendentalists’ conviction that the natural world supplied instruments for piecing together divinity.
The problem for Santayana is that transcendentalism was just a method, a way of tapping into one’s poetical sense. What one did after that was unclear. Santayana thought that transcendentalism was the right method, but he felt that Emerson didn’t use that method to instruct us in practical living. Transcendentalism was a means to an end, but not an end itself.
According to Santayana, Emerson “had no system” because he merely “opened his eyes on the world every morning with a fresh sincerity, marking how things seemed to him then, or what they suggested to his spontaneous fancy.” Emerson did not seek to group all senses and impressions into a synthetic whole. Nor did he suggest a politics toward which senses and impressions ought to lead. Santayana stops short of accusing Emerson of advancing an “anything-goes” metaphysics. But Santayana does suggest that Emerson failed to advance a set of principles; instead, Emerson gave us a technique for arriving at a set of principles. Emerson provided transportation, but gave no direction. This shortcoming — if it is a shortcoming — might explain why Bloom speaks of the “paradox of Emerson’s influence,” namely, that “Peace Marchers and Bushians alike are Emerson’s heirs in his dialectics of power.”
For Emerson, human will is paramount. It moves the intellect to create. It is immediate, not mediate. In other words, it is the sense or subjectivity that is not yet processed by the human mind. We ought to trust the integrity of will and intuition and avoid the dictates and decorum of society.
“Society,” Emerson says, “everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.” Society corrupts the purity of the will by forcing individuals to second-guess their impulses and to look to others for moral guidance. Against this socialization, Emerson declares, “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”
Emerson’s nonconformist ethic opposed habits of thinking, which society influenced but did not determine. Emerson famously stated that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. What he meant, I think, is that humans ought to improve themselves by tapping into intuitive truths. Nature, with her figures, forms, and outlines, provides images that the individual can harness to create beauty and energize the self. Beauty therefore does not exist in the world; rather, the human mind makes beauty out of the externalities it has internalized. Beauty, accordingly, resides within us, but only after we create it.
Here we see something similar to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism stripped of its appeals to divinity. Rand believed that reality existed apart from the thinking subject, that the thinking subject employs reason and logic to make sense of experience and perception, and that the self or will is instrumental in generating meaning from the phenomenal world. Read the rest of this entry »
Last spring I learned that I had been assigned to teach a freshman writing course on sustainability. I don’t know much about sustainability, at least not in the currently popular sense of that term, and for many other reasons I was not thrilled about having to teach this course. So I decided to put a spin on the subject. What follows is an abridged version of my syllabus. I owe more than a little gratitude to John Hasnas for the sections called “The Classroom Experience,” “Present and Prepared Policy,” and “Ground Rules for Discussion.” He created these policies, and, with a few exceptions, the language from these policies is taken from a syllabus he provided during a workshop at a July 2011 Institute for Humane Studies conference on teaching and pedagogy.
Sustainability and American Communities
What is sustainability? You have registered for this course about sustainability, so presumably you have some notion of what sustainability means. The Oxford English Dictionary treats “sustainability” as a derivative of “sustainable,” which is defined as
- Capable of being borne or endured; supportable, bearable.
- Capable of being upheld or defended; maintainable.
- Capable of being maintained at a certain rate or level.
Recently, though, sustainability has become associated with ecology and the environment. The OED dates this development as beginning in 1980 and trending during the 1990s. The OED also defines “sustainability” in the ecological context as follows: “Of, relating to, or designating forms of human economic activity and culture that do not lead to environmental degradation, esp. avoiding the long-term depletion of natural resources.” With this definition in mind, we will examine landmark American authors and texts and discuss their relationship to sustainability. You will read William Bartram, Thomas Jefferson, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Whitman, Mark Twain, and others. Our readings will address nature, community, place, stewardship, husbandry, and other concepts related to sustainability. By the end of the course, you will have refined your understanding of sustainability through the study of literary texts.
I have designed this course to help you improve your reading, writing, and thinking skills. In this course, you will learn to write prose for general, academic, and professional audiences. ENGL 1120 is a writing course, not a lecture course. Plan to work on your writing every night. You will have writing assignments every week. Read the rest of this entry »
Writers on Holmes have forgotten just how influential poetry and literature were to him, and how powerfully literary his Supreme Court dissents really are. The son of the illustrious poet by the same name, young Holmes, or Wendell, fell in love with the heroic tales of Sir Walter Scott, and the “enthusiasm with which Holmes in boyhood lost himself in the world of Walter Scott did not diminish in maturity.” Wendell was able to marry his skepticism with his romanticism, and this marriage, however improbable, illuminated his appreciation for ideas past and present, old and new. “His aesthetic judgment,” says Mark DeWolfe Howe, author of the most definitive biography of Holmes and one of Holmes’s former law clerks, “was responsive to older modes of expression and earlier moods of feeling than those which were dominant at the fin de siècle and later, yet his mind found its principle nourishment in the thought of his own times, and was generally impatient of those who believe that yesterday’s insight is adequate for the needs of today.” Holmes transformed and adapted the ideas of his predecessors while transforming and adapting—one might say troping—milestone antecedents of aestheticism, most notably the works of Emerson. “[I]t is clear,” says Louis Menand, “that Holmes had adopted Emerson as his special inspiration.”
Classically educated at the best schools, Wendell was subject to his father’s elaborate discussions of aesthetics, which reinforced the “canons of taste with the heavier artillery of morals.” In addition to Scott, Wendell enjoyed reading Sylvanus Cobb, Charles Lamb’s Dramatic Poets, The Prometheus of Aeschylus, and Plato’s Dialogues. Wendell expressed a lifelong interest in art, and his drawings as a young man exhibit a “considerable talent.” He declared in his Address to the Harvard Alumni Association Class of 1861 that life “is painting a picture, not doing a sum.” He would later use art to clarify his philosophy to a friend: “But all the use of life is in specific solutions—which cannot be reached through generalities any more than a picture can be painted by knowing some rules of method. They are reached by insight, tact and specific knowledge.”
At Harvard College, Wendell began to apply his facility with language to oft-discussed publications in and around Cambridge. In 1858, the same year that Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. gifted five volumes of Emerson to Wendell, Wendell published an essay called “Books” in the Harvard undergraduate literary journal. Wendell celebrated Emerson in the piece, saying that Emerson had “set him on fire.” Menand calls this essay “an Emersonian tribute to Emerson.”
Holmes had always admired Emerson. Legend has it that, when still a boy, Holmes ran into Emerson on the street and said, in no uncertain terms, “If I do anything, I shall owe a great deal to you.” Holmes was more right than he probably knew.
Holmes, who never gave himself over to ontological (or deontological) ideas about law as an existent, material, absolute, or discoverable phenomenon, bloomed and blossomed out of Emersonian thought, which sought to “unsettle all things” and which offered a poetics of transition that was “not a set of ideas or concepts but rather a general attitude toward ideas and concepts.” Transition is not the same thing as transformation. Transition signifies a move between two clear states whereas transformation covers a broader and more fluent way of thinking about change. Holmes, although transitional, was also transformational. He revised American jurisprudence until it became something it previously was not. Feeding Holmes’s appetite for change was “dissatisfaction with all definite, definitive formulations, be they concepts, metaphors, or larger formal structures.” This dissatisfaction would seem to entail a rejection of truth, but Emerson and Holmes, unlike Rorty and the neopragmatists much later, did not explode “truth” as a meaningful category of discourse. Read the rest of this entry »
The following post first appeared here at Prometheus Unbound: A Libertarian Review of Fiction and Literature.
Perhaps the most important task of all would be to undertake studies in contemporary alternatives to Orientalism, to ask how one can study other cultures and peoples from a libertarian, or a nonrepressive and nonmanipulative, perspective.
When I asked Dr. Plauché what I should review for my first contribution to Prometheus Unbound, he suggested that I elaborate on my recent Libertarian Papers article: “The Oft-Ignored Mr. Turton: The Role of District Collector in A Passage to India.” Would I, he asked, be willing to present a trimmed-down version of my argument about the role of district collectors in colonial India, a role both clarified and complicated by E.M. Forster’s portrayal of Mr. Turton, the want-to-please-all character and the district collector in Forster’s most famous novel, A Passage to India. I agreed. And happily.
For those who haven’t read the novel, here, briefly, is a spoiler-free rundown of the plot. A young and not particularly attractive British lady, Adela Quested, travels to India with Mrs. Moore, whose son, Ronny, intends to marry Adela. Not long into the trip, Mrs. Moore meets Dr. Aziz, a Muslim physician, in a mosque, and instantly the two hit it off. Mr. Turton hosts a bridge party — a party meant to bridge relations between East and West — for Adela and Mrs. Moore. At the party, Adela meets Mr. Fielding, the local schoolmaster and a stock character of the Good British Liberal. Fielding invites Adela and Mrs. Moore to tea with him and Professor Godbole, a Brahman Hindu. Dr. Aziz joins the tea party and there offers to show Adela and Mrs. Moore the famous Marabar Caves.
When Aziz and the women later set out to the caves — Fielding and Godbole are supposed to join, but they just miss the train — something goes terribly wrong. Adela offends Aziz, who ducks into a cave only to discover that Adela has gone missing. Aziz eventually sees Adela speaking to Fielding and another Englishwoman, both of whom have driven up together, but by the time he reaches Fielding the two women have left. Aziz heads back to Chandrapore (the fictional city where the novel is set) with Fielding, but when he arrives, he is arrested for sexually assaulting Adela. A trial ensues, and the novel becomes increasingly saturated with Brahman Hindu themes. (Forster is not the only Western writer to be intrigued by Brahman Hinduism. Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Blake, among many others, shared this fascination.) The arrest and trial call attention to the double-standards and arbitrariness of the British legal system in India.
Rule of law was the ideological currency of the British Raj, and Forster attempts to undercut this ideology using Brahman Hindu scenes and signifiers. Rule of law seeks to eliminate double-standards and arbitrariness, but it does the opposite in Chandrapore. Some jurisprudents think of rule of law as a fiction. John Hasnas calls rule of law a myth. Whatever its designation, rule of law is not an absolute reality outside discourse. Like everything, its meaning is constructed through language and cultural understanding. Rule of law is a phrase that validates increased governmental control over phenomena that government and its agents describe as needing control. When politicians and other officials lobby for consolidation or centralization of power, they often do so by invoking rule of law. Rule of law means nothing if not compulsion and coercion. It is merely an attractive packaging of those terms.
British administrators in India, as well as British commentators on Indian matters, adhered in large numbers to utilitarianism. Following in the footsteps of Jeremy Bentham, the founding father of utilitarianism, these administrators reduced legal and social policy to calculations about happiness and pleasure. Utilitarianism holds, in short, that actions are good if they maximize utility, which enhances the general welfare. Utilitarianism rejects first principles, most ethical schools, and natural law. Rather than couch their policymaking in terms of happiness and pleasure, British administrators in India, among other interested parties such as the East India Company, invoked rule of law. Rule of law manifested itself as a concerted British effort to discipline Indians into docile subjects accountable to a British sovereign and dependent upon a London-centered economy. The logic underpinning rule of law was that Indians were backward and therefore needed civilizing. The effects of rule of law were foreign occupation, increased bureaucratic networks across India, and imperial arrogance.
Murray Rothbard was highly critical of some utilitarians, but especially of Bentham (see here and here for Rothbard’s insights into the East India Company). In Classical Economics, he criticized Bentham’s opinions about fiat currency, inflationism, usury, maximum price controls on bread, and ad hoc empiricism. Bentham’s utilitarianism and rule of law mantras became justifications for British imperialism, and not just in India. A detailed study of Hasnas’s critique of rule of law in conjunction with Rothbard’s critique of Bentham could, in the context of colonial India, lead to an engaging and insightful study of imperialism generally. My article is not that ambitious. My article focuses exclusively on A Passage to India while attempting to synthesize Hasnas with Rothbard. Forster was no libertarian, but his motifs and metaphors seem to support the Hasnasian and Rothbardian take on rule of law rhetoric and utilitarianism, respectively. These motifs and metaphors are steeped in Brahman Hindu themes and philosophy. Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following piece about three weeks ago, while I was vacationing in Destin, Florida, with my family.
If we expect others to rely on our fairness and justice we must show that we rely on their fairness and justice.
My wife and I are on vacation in Florida. Yesterday morning, over a cup of coffee and a doughnut, sitting on the balcony and reading the newspaper amid sounds of seagulls and the grating roll of morning waves, I noted that one Michael Stone—a blind man, XTERRA champion, and 10-time Ironman triathlete who recently published a book, Eye Envy—will speak at the University of North Florida on August 13. I haven’t read Stone’s book, but it’s apparently a resource not only for those suffering from vision-loss, but also for those suffering from any degenerative disease.
Stone began to lose his sight in 2004. His blindness is a result of a rare disease called cone-rod dystrophy. Despite his handicap, he has accomplished amazing things, but not without the help of others. During races, for instance, Stone relies on guides, who, the newspaper explains, shout directions and warnings to him. I’ll never understand why God makes some people handicapped and others not, why some must rely on others, and some must be relied on. Like everyone, I have my theories. But they’re just theories. The important point, though, is that someday and for a time, everyone relies on someone or something and is relied on by someone or something. Read the rest of this entry »