Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Gobbets of the Day

One of the best dedicatory essays I read in a while (albeit almost half of the essay is a direct quote): "The Career of Leon Kass" by Harvey Flaumenhaft

[Leon Kass] is by rearing a moralist, by education a generalist, by training a physician and biochemist, by vocation a teacher-and student-of philosophical texts, and by choice a lover of serious conversation, who thinks best when sharing thoughts and speeches with another.
Also some of the passages in the essay are especially interesting in light of the two excellent films—Transcendence and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes—that came out recently:
In summer 1966, my closest friend had me read Rousseau's explosive Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, for which my Mississippi and Harvard experiences had prepared me. Rousseau argues that, pace the Enlightenment, progress in the arts and sciences necessarily produces luxury, corruption of morals, debasement of tastes, and eventually, loss of freedom. Soon after, I read Brave New World and C.S. Lewis's Abolition of Man. I acquired a new set of questions, more challenging than how genes are regulated: What is the relation between scientific or technological progress and the moral health of a community? How can we reap the benefits of technology without eroding our freedom and our dignity? Does the scientific account of nature and human nature tell the whole, or even the best, story about us? These questions have never left me.
Addendum: A theory of the allocation of a Nobelist’s time