To me, the heart of her argument’s current value (assuming that we can all agree that women are not inherently inferior to men and don’t need to be told that anymore; though it is still almost certainly true the we do still need to be told) is an educational one (perhaps why she take special offense at the educational writings of Rousseau). Proper education leads to people of any gender becoming fully moral creatures. The failure to properly educate women leads to them lacking, in most cases, full moral agency. At the same time, the rearing of children, who we want to be grow into moral creatures, is left to them, so shouldn’t we educate them properly so that they can raise the next generation of moral agents? Read more
You can see Jefferson’s regular topics and conceits clearly here. A chapter on religion is mainly about the religious freedom he so assiduously (and successfully; he wrote the statute) championed in Virginia. On education, it reflect the inadequacy of both the physical and curricular structure of William & Mary, then the state’s only college; arguments no doubt in support of his quest to establish the University of Virginia at the base of his mountain. You see Jefferson the amateur scientist (and a fascinating digression into some amateur archaeology that he undertook on a Native American burial mound.
On manufacturing, his disdain for large scale production is clear (despite the fact that very nearly his only profitable venture was a nail factory he built on his lands). It feels a little naive, to disdain creating finished goods here, beyond basic items, but it fits with his pastoral/agricultural republicanism. Like Socrates, he seems to think smaller polities are better.
On race… the less said the better. He was at a point where his views were evolving and not for the better. He is open to the idea that the native peoples could achieve a cultural status close to whites, but that “generosity” only reminds the modern reader of the anti-black racism running through his brain.
Takeaway quote (from the religion section):
It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.
And you know what? In this day, his vigorous, anthropological critique of religious oppression may seem commonsensical today, in the eighteenth century it was far more daring and outre.
Doesn’t make up for the racism, though.
Have you ever had one of those experiences where you agree with someone, but really wish you didn’t, because the person was so annoying?
That is how I felt about Through Nature to God.
How did I even come to this point? I was reading through a selected works of the great American philosopher, Josiah Royce, and came across some references to some other American philosophers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including… John Fiske. I decided, foolishly, to look for him and found Through Nature to God.
Whether it was the unsupported leaps, the leaning on poorly understood science (giving, though, some allowance for the fact that our understanding has grown since Fiske was writing), or the references to Herbert Spencer, which always, to me, at least, carry a pungent whiff of social darwinism.
He argues that the biological sciences, mostly, though not exclusively, evolution, argue for God. He does not make a particular argument for the Judeo-Christian God, but clearly for a theistic one.
While I do, personally, see God working, at a distance, through evolution, his strident tones and arch language make it all seem… icky.
The best thing I can say about it… it’s a short book.
Ice is considered a sort of lost classic and it didn’t disappoint. Technically science fiction in a post-apocalyptic mode, it takes place after an event (probably man made, but the unnamed protagonist honestly does not know for sure) results in a quickly creeping ice age enveloping the earth, constantly narrowing the band of habitable land and resulting in civil breakdown, wars for ever more scarce resources and the rise of local warlords.
The protagonist is obsessed with a girl with pale skin and nearly white hair who has known since she was a child. Abused in some way, she is drawn to abusive men. The protagonist, it is made clear, is probably no more than the best of a bad bunch.
The tone is stark and nameless (no names of people nor countries) and matched by the first person narration of a soldier for hire who is driven by his obsession/love/nostalgia for this mostly unattainable woman (partly because she is often kept by more violent and powerful men than he).
I hate to use this term, but I kept on thinking of this as Kafkaesque. The lack of definite names and quest for something close, but unattainable and also incomprehensible.
Great book. Really. Great.
While a respected public intellectual in his day (the early twentieth century), he’s certainly not someone anyone would recognize today as being a top tier epistemologist, metaphysician, nor thinker. Which would probably come as a surprise to Mr. Philip, who clearly felt that he had hit upon some excellent truths, whose veracity was easy to see once he’d made his thinly supported assertions clear.
I don’t really have much to add or say, I just thought that this was a wonderful and painfully elegiac piece of ‘scientific pastoral’ about the decay of coastal marshes.
On a related noted (in that it’s also a question of archaeology), some folks were tipped off on the location of a second Viking settlement in the New World by some photographs taken from outer space. Actually, I hadn’t realized we’d only found one Viking settlement. Honestly, because their presence in North America has been known for so long, I’d just assumed it was more widespread. And it might have been widespread, but this is the first evidence that were was more than one (semi-)permanent settlement.
The fine folks at DCist have compiled a list of the best used and independent bookstores in the District. Of course, with the closure of the downtown Barnes & Noble, there are only used and indie bookstores in DC: not a chain in sight. And I appreciate this list acknowledging the truly magnificent poetry selection at Bridge Street Books.
It’s an old argument and can frankly get boring, but it also has some merit. The sense of community created by people sitting on their stoops and front porches and interacting with their neighbors. While that’s hurt by the increase in apartment buildings and condos, our city frankly needs more and denser housing (it also needs a lot more affordable housing, but that’s another matter – but, in any case, more single family homes are almost certainly not the answer to the problem) But lest you think I’m some sort of grinch, I think this ‘mobile stoop’ is a great idea.