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Sunday, October 15, 2006

"One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards." - Oscar Wilde

***

Assuming I am not senile yet, I remember that in Secondary School (or was it JC? I forget) we got this really far-out reading where the most hilarious claim was that:

"Plato's teaching about music is, put simply, that rhythm and melody, accompanied by dance, are the barbarous expression of the soul. Barbarous, not animal.

... rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire--not love, not eros, but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored.

Young people know that rock music has the beat of sexual intercourse. That is why Ravel's Bolero is the one piece of classical music that is commonly known and liked by them."

I swear that at some point in the past I found the essay it was from online, but anyhow I was prompted to look for the full thing again today to reference to someone.

It seems it's from Allan Bloom's "The closing of the American mind : how higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today's students". Wikipedia's summary:

"He especially targets the "openness" of Relativism as leading paradoxically to the great "closing" referenced in the book's title.

The book's lengthy introduction delineates two kinds of "openness". One sort stimulates the student to pursue "the good" by discovering new aspects of goodness in other times and places than the West; this is the sort that Bloom apparently favors. The other sort misuses the study of other cultures to prove the dogmatic, a priori assumption that our culture is not the best and that we have no special claim on knowing the good.

Bloom criticizes the openness of cultural relativism, in which he claims:

"the point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all."


In line with Plato, whom he quotes periodically throughout the book, Bloom believes that it is incumbent on the individual to search for truth in order to have any hope of a higher life. He believes it is the unique obligation of the university to point students in this very direction.

Like Tocqueville and Nietzsche, Bloom asserts that democracy—by valuing the opinion of each citizen equally—is not an environment in which genius excels. It is therefore the university that needs to lead the lost art of living the good life.

Contemporary critical reaction to the book was politically polarised, but many of those hostile to Bloom's conclusions acknowledged the value of the book's recapitulation of the history of political philosophy." (Emphases mine)

It's in the NUS library too, so I really have no excuse not to read it.

(Maybe after I finish my travelogue. Hurr hurr.)

"When I was an undergrad like you I used to spend my holidays reading Karl Marx... Marx is very difficult to read. Most people read Karl Marx in jail... no one spends their holidays reading Karl Marx." - NUS Staff


"Openness used to be the virtue that permitted us to seek the good by using reason. It now means accepting everything and denying reason's power. The unrestrained and thoughtless pursuit of openness, without recognising the inherent political, social, or cultural problem of openness as the goal of nature, has rendered openness meaningless. Cultural relativism destroys both one's own and the good. Culture, hence, closedness, reigns supreme. Openess to closedness is what we teach."

Trying to prevent prejudices by "removing the authority of men's reason is to render ineffective the instrument that can correct their prejudices."

(Quotes from a review here)
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