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Work in progress (3)

An embarrassment of riches in recent work to announce….

(1) Carrie-Ann has just published a six page review in The Journal of Value Inquiry of Aeon J. Skoble’s Deleting the State: An Argument about Government (Open Court, 2008). The online version was published on Tuesday, but is only accessible for now to those with online access to the journal via a university library (unless you want to pay $40 for a book review).  Here’s the last paragraph, which involves a very Objectivist inversion of Albert Jay Nock‘s description of the state:

Although it ultimately does not make a persuasive case for anarchism or offer a definitive critique of libertarianism, Deleting the State raises many important conceptual and moral issues involved in political philosophy’s most fundamental question, namely, “Why have a state?” This book should rouse limited-state theorists from their slumbers, for there is much work yet to be done in making the case that limited state is not a “necessary evil,” but a positive good.

She almost sounds like she’s describing “Our Friend, the State.” (Well, she doesn’t put it that way, but I might.) Skoble’s book was also the subject of a discussion note by Stephen Kershnar in the fall 2011 issue of Reason Papers. The two critiques of Skoble are very different, and are usefully compared and contrasted (after you’ve read Skoble’s book!).

(2) As just about everyone knows, liberal arts education is under attack nowadays, at least in the United States, in part because it costs so much, and in part because (given the first problem) people no longer regard it as having a defensible rationale. The critique is very old (in a way it stretches back to the ancient sophists), but in my view it began in its most recent incarnation with the publication of Charles Murray’s book, Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality (Three Rivers Press, 2007). I read Murray’s book very closely when it came out, and was in the middle of writing a review of it when the journal for which I was writing the review (Democratiya) closed shop for lack of funds (oh, the irony). Like so much of Murray’s work, Real Education is a frustrating combination of insight and claptrap, but the claptrap in it has for several years been exploited to argue for the pointlessness of a liberal arts education. In this 7 minute promotional video for Marymount Manhattan College, Carrie-Ann takes heartfelt issue with such claims. Yes, I know it’s mere vulgar advertising, but then (as Leonard Peikoff memorably put it), so was “Philosophy: Who Needs It.”

Peter Saint-Andre's Tao of Roark

Peter Saint-Andre’s Tao of Roark

(3) I missed this when it happened, but this past May, my friend Peter Saint-Andre published The Tao of Roark: Variations on a Theme from Ayn Rand.  (There’s a free version of it at his website, but the preceding link goes to the paperback book version for sale.) Peter, the ultimate way-out-of-the-movement-quasi-Objectivist, has a unique take on Objectivism that has to be experienced…to be experienced. Back in the day, Peter and I used to shoot the Objectivist breeze in the coffeeshops of Princeton, NJ, where he tried to convince me (decades before I realized that he was right) that the Objectivist movement was a pointless and essentially unhealthy enterprise, and that I ought to balance my Roark-derived Stoic predilections with a dash of equally Roarkian Epicureanism. I eventually tried both of his claims on for size, and they both ended up making a hell of a lot of sense. Peter came at Objectivism in a refreshingly unorthodox way (and still does): I left every one of those encounters with food for thought, and I think I see aspects of our conversations here and in Peter’s other written work. Read him–I don’t think you’ll go hungry, either.

Irfan

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