"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, May 19, 2006

J.S. Mill's Birthday

Roger Scruton is right: we really do live in the world of John Stuart Mill. I'll admit to having mixed feelings about Mill. His defense of liberty and especially free speech is still better than most anything else out there, though its essential disconnect from Truth leaves it fatally vulnerable to those who would restrict both in the name of "progress." (Though Mill suggests in "On Liberty" that the protection of free speech will help move us toward Truth - which is, I think, true - it's not clear to me that Mill actually thinks we can ever arrive at said Truth - or that he thinks it would even be a good thing). He is, though, vastly preferable to the legions of students, faculty, and administrators on today's campuses who have no respect for liberty and see it, in fact, as merely a pretext for oppressive social constructs. (I was teaching Mill a few years ago and in our discussions of Mill's defense of free speech, I only had two students - out of seventy - defend free speech on campus. It was deeply depressing.)

So here's a cheer and a half for Mr. Mill.

8 comments:

Hunter Baker said...

I'm thinking that Mill was originally against the idea of public schooling because he didn't want to see an appalling sameness imposed on all the students. I'm also thinking he went the other way later in life, finding the public school a useful instrument.

One and half cheers. Max.

James Elliott said...

"I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it."
-John Stuart Mills

Hunter Baker said...

I yearn for the good old days when the lefties merely thought us stupid rather than evil.

Of course, there is some further clarification to be made. In Mill's day, a conservative was a different creature than what is labeled a conservative today. This is exactly why Karnick is so insistent on being called a classical liberal. Mill would not have had much complaint with Karnick (or me for that matter).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Although it's incorrect for some on the right to maintain that this here US of A was founded as a "Christian" nation, it's come to my attention that many of the products of our modern university system are under the impression that it was founded on secular humanism.

Since the reputed founder of secular humanism is John Stuart Mill, and he was born in 1806, this is one we can kick to the curb.

I've had similar thoughts to Mr. Simpson's proposition, that JSM is the founder of much about our western world as we know it, and a pale glimmer of the estimable Mr. Scruton's dismantling of him.

JSM, a successor of Hume, misses or ignores the fact that man does not live by bread alone, an observation made some 2000 or so years before by some guy who wrote what they call the Pentateuch.

"On Liberty" seems fine; the rest starts to get in over its head rather quickly.

Hunter Baker said...

The old "founded on secular humanism" thing can be kicked to the curb anyway. It's just not true and nobody who would claim to be a real scholar of the founding would claim it. The scholarly consensus is that the whole deal was largely a blend of Christian lite rationalist types and more hard core Christians with the Christian lite rationalists better represented in the elite and the harder core Christians providing more of the popular support.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Mill would not have had much complaint with Karnick (or me for that matter).

Of course, I'm the one he really would have adored. He had such a soft spot for the ladies.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I adore you. I'm a sucker for smart women. If I were single, or a dog(g), I'd be serenading outside your window at this moment, or with that sexy but long-nosed beast Baker in the bushes pumping me on what to say to win your heart.

Likely you'd call the cops to spirit me away, but I'd try.

...Christian lite rationalists better represented in the elite and the harder core Christians providing more of the popular support.

That very thought occurred to me this very afternoon, you sexy beast, HB. My reading of the proto-American elite is that they accepted Plato's "noble lie," that a belief in religion and gods and stuff would at least get the masses to conduct themselves with the civility a free society requires.

They did not, of course anticipate JSM, Nietzsche, and pomo philosophy, where the Christian foundations of the Enlightenment were discarded for the hollowness of reason and thereby materialism. All of which Roger Scruton makes clear.

We are now looking at the deconstruction of that nation, that society, that West. Reason alone has always been inadequate for the greater questions of life. The pomos think they're on to something new, but they're only following a dead end that wise men figured into the human equation ages ago.

Hunter Baker said...

Hey, take it easy on my beloved pomo. And by the way, Kathy is taken whether you are single or not!!!

I do recognize the appeal, being married to a woman who does not care much for the discussions we have here at TRC.