In the meantime, do trees exist?: Last Friday, we found Paul Krugman's column semi-discouraging. He ended the piece like this:
KRUGMAN (5/19/17): In a perverse way, we should count ourselves lucky that Trump is as terrible as he is. Think of what it has taken to get us to this point—his Twitter addiction, his bizarre loyalty to Flynn and affection for Putin, the raw exploitation of his office to enrich his family, the business dealings, whatever they were, he's evidently trying to cover up by refusing to release his taxes."Think of what it has taken to get us to this point," Krugman said. His chronology took us all the way back to maybe last week.
The point is that given the character of the Republican Party, we'd be well on the way to autocracy if the man in the White House had even slightly more self-control. Trump may have done himself in; but it can still happen here.
It has taken a lot more than Trumpistry and its discontents to get us to this point. For one example of what we mean, consider this timely news report from the next day's Times.
The Times was reporting a recent firestorm within the realm of academic philosophy. The firestorm surrounds a little-read paper about a touchy topic by Assistant Professor Tuvel.
The basic question raised by Tuvel was poorly explained by the Times. That said, our idealistic young analysts all howled in pain at this point:
SCHUESSLER (5/20/17): [U]nderneath the hyper-charged war of words lies a wonkier but no less significant battle over philosophical method.According to Professor Bettcher, normal procedure is fine when you consider normal philosophical questions. But not for something like this!
''In terms of quality, it's a very normal paper,'' Justin Weinberg, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina and the editor of Daily Nous, a philosophy news website, said in an interview. ''But some people will say that's part of the problem.''
Ms. Tuvel's paper is squarely in the tradition of analytic philosophy, an approach that focuses on clarifying concepts and that relies on blunt logical analysis and sometimes outlandish-seeming hypotheticals and analogies. (Do justifications for eating meat also support cannibalism? Are unwanted fetuses akin to rapists?) But it's an approach, some of her detractors say, that is unsuited to the subject at hand.
''That's fine when you are looking at abstract metaphysical questions,'' like ''whether trees exist, or things that exist in the past exist in the present,'' said one of the signers of the open letter, Talia Mae Bettcher, a professor of philosophy at California State University, Los Angeles. ''But when you start philosophizing about racial oppression or trans oppression or other contemporary social issues, different methodologies need to be employed.''
Sad. According to Professor Bettcher, a normal philosophical question might go something like this:
Normal philosophical questions:Maybe Professor Bettcher was kidding. More probably, she wasn't. Assistant Professor Tuvel's approach would be fine when examining questions like that!
1) Do trees exist?
2) Do things that exist [sic] in the past exist in the present?
Readers, do trees exist? As our academic elites have been pondering such questions, the society which hands them their sacks of money each month has spent the past thirty years slouching toward Trumplehem.
The intellectual/journalistic descent started long before Trump. As this headlong descent occurred, the professors were asking if trees exist.
Krugman wrote as if our current situation started with Trump. Increasingly, our long-time unquestioned MVP has been sliding toward the only dumbness large enough to match the dumbness of Trumpism itself. We refer to the disabling dumbness of Trump hate, which is the latest way we liberals, and our failed elites, have arranged to malfunction.
We're on our way back to our sprawling campus. Full services resume tomorrow. At some point, we expect to return to this topic, and to Jim Holt's book from 2012, one of that year's ten best.
Meanwhile, do trees exist? Three decades after Rush went national, the professors still aren't sure.
For that reason, they haven't moved on. Such roads have all led to Trump.
Just for the record: "Things that exist in the past?" We're assuming that wasn't a typo.