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Ch. 1 - The Way We Live Now: Just Us Folks 
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Post Ch. 1 - The Way We Live Now: Just Us Folks
Ch. 1 - The Way We Live Now: Just Us Folks

Please use this thread for discussing Chapter 1. 8)



Tue Feb 26, 2008 2:19 am
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So who has started to read Chapter 1?


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Sun Mar 09, 2008 1:12 am
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There are some things that really get under Jacoby's skin, aren't there?One of them is folksiness. Another is the media, including the internet. I will not make the mistake, if I ever meet her, of saying "laughed all the way to the bank." That seems to get her dander up in particular. Look, I'm not saying I don't personally agree with her views, but she seems to be sharing pet peeves too much here. I am not convinced from her treatment that America now is more anti-intellectual than historically. I do agree that during the last eight years this has been the case at the top of our government, but that does not justify her sweeping claims. She targets fundamentalist religion for much of the trouble, and that is all right, but she did not also indict anti-intellectualism on the far left, in the form of academic fadishness and disregard of cultural heritage. She rounds up the usual suspects, only.
I'm enjoying the book, by the way.



Wed Mar 12, 2008 7:10 pm
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"I will not make the mistake, if I ever meet her, of saying 'laughed all the way to the bank.' "

Indeed, Jacoby does get nit-picky at times, as if not one word in such a phrase may be altered over the course of several decades? On the first page of Chapter 1, she's already complaining about the use of "folks" instead of "people" or "ladies and gentlemen". The use of "folks" is "an exclusionary and inclusionary signal". On page 6 she's on about the substitution of "troop" and "troops" for "soldier" and "soldiers". But doesn't she risk getting into other trouble as in Marines are never called soldiers, they're always Marines? Jacoby makes some interesting points, labels and words do matter, but I can't go along with some of this hand-wringing. (Oh dear, should that have been hyphenated? ;-) )



Tue Apr 01, 2008 8:01 pm
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Post Vocabulary!
I enjoy a book that sends me to the dictionary once in a while, but not too often. This book drops a few tidbits here and there...

Vulpine p. 11

Prelapsarian p. 29

Traduced p. 31


Which words caught your attention? Add to the list...



Tue Apr 01, 2008 8:08 pm
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Post Unreason anti-intellectualism anti-rational
So what does Jacoby mean by the terms unreason, anti-intellectualism, and the anti-rational? Thought I'd start off by posting a few quotes and fragments for folks (ooops) to chew on...

"It is possible, of course, that the avenues of choice are being closed, and that the culture of the future will be dominated by single-minded men of one persuasion or another."
Richard Hofstadter, p. xi introduction

"The public was right: Kennedy was no intellectual, if an intellectual is, to borrow Hofstadter's definition, someone who 'in some sense lives for ideas - which means he has a sense of dedication to the life of the mind which is very much like a religious commitment.' "
p. xiii introduction

..."the chronic American belief that there exists an opposition between reality and mind and that one must enlist oneself in the party of reality."
Lionel Trilling p. xiv introduction

"Kennedy spoke and wrote frequently ... of the need for American society to abandon its parochial twentieth-century image of an inevitable division between thought and action and return to an eighteenth-century model in which learning and a philosophical bent were thought to enhance political leadership."
p. xiv introduction

"Our anti-intellectualism is, in fact, older than our national identity..."
Hofstadter p. xv introduction

"America's idealization of the self-made man - one who succeeds by his own wit and industriousness without advantages conferred by either a privileged family background or formal eduction - did not easily accommodate respect for those who devoted their lives to teaching and learning."
p. xv introduction

"One important element of the resurgent anti-intellectualism in American life is the popular equation of intellectualism with a liberalism at odds with traditional American values."
p. xviii introduction

"The unwillingness to give a hearing to contradictory viewpoints, or to imagine that one might learn anything from an ideological or cultural opponent, represents a departure from the best side of American popular and elite intellectual traditions.

...In today's America, intellectuals and nonintellectuals alike, whether on the left or right, tend to tune out any voice that is not an echo. This obduracy is both a manifestation of mental laziness and the essence of anti-intellectualism.

If, as I will argue in this book, America is now ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism, and anti-intellectualism..."
p. xix - xx introduction



Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:12 am
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Hello, Landroid,
I just wanted to say that your approach to discussing the book makes me regret that I abandoned it. Well, actually I had to return it due to another library patron requesting it. But you are off to a good start.

I think that once the problems that the author herself causes by her inconsistencies and emotionalism are sorted out, there could be a solider ground for discussion. Your examples point out her tendency to appear to contradict herself. J.F. Kennedy was no intellectual, she says, but in another mention of him, she says he often advocated for Americans to be more...intellectual. She frames our overall failure as one of anti-intellectualism, but then indicts both intellectuals and non- for not being intellectual. She usually upholds a class or type of people she calls intellectual, but sometimes intellectuals are the bad guys, too. Confusing.

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If, as I will argue in this book, America is now ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism, and anti-intellectualism...

Her book turns out to be a shopping basket with all this thrown in. In reply to your question, I think that we might be able to reach agreement about meanings for rationalism, intellectualism, etc., but I'm inclined to think that these meanings are not to be found in a coherent form in her book.

If Jacoby's book is not a success (merely my opinion), nonetheless there can be value in examining where good authors (I certainly have a different view of the author's book Freethinkers) appear to go astray.
Will



Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:46 am
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I don't think her statements on Kennedy are as much of a contradiction as you claim. Kennedy was intellectual-like, if you will, in that he read many books and actually wrote a few. But he was not an intellectual in Hofstadter's definition - he lived for political action, not strictly a life of the mind. I don't know whether he was more open to opposing arguments than current politicians, but that could be another factor in his favor.



Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:02 pm
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What are some of the causes "for the resurgent anti-intellectualism of the past twenty years"?

"First and foremost among the vectors of anti-intellectualism are the mass media." p. 10

If we over-simplify intellectualism into reading lots of books, perhaps writing books, and debating all sides of an argument in a rational manner, then yes, passively absorbing infotainment is certainly at odds with that behavior. Mass media "subordinates both the written and spoken word to visual images" and fills "time - a huge amount of time - that used to be occupied by engagement with the written word."

In the introduction, Jacoby describes "a public in thrall to the serpent promising effortless enjoyment from the fruit of the tree of infotainment."

DUH!

:idea: How much is our society losing in this bargain? Or, being more fully entertained than previous generations, are we actually happier and therefore better off?



Last edited by LanDroid on Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:23 pm
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Post Fundies again
"The second major spur to anti-intellectualism during the past forty years has been the resurgence of fundamentalist religion." p. 17

Heh, well it would be very difficult to generate controversy regarding that statement on this board. :whistle:



Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:30 pm
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Of course, JFK's most famous book, Profiles in Courage, was written not by him but ghosted, by Pierre Salinger, wasn't it? Perhaps you're right that being a politician effectively excludes one's also being an intellectual, but I have the impression that Jacoby expects the two to go together, ideally.



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I picked out a few other "vectors of anti-intellectualism" that Jacoby doesn't enumerate specifically.

"...credentialed 'experts' who, especially after the Second World War, increasingly dominated business, government, and education, and were frequently viewed as enemies of the common sense that is supposedly the special virtue of ordinary people". p. xvi

"The denigration of fairness has infected both political and intellectual life and has now produced a culture in which disproportionate influence is exercized by the loud and relentless voices of single-minded men and women of one persuasion or another." p. xvi

"The perfect storm* over evolution is a perfect example of the new anti-intellectualism in action, because it owes its existence not only to a renewed fundamentalism but to the widespread failings of American public education and the scientific illiteracy of much of the media." p. 22

* Jacoby stumbles into someone else's pet peeve - I recall someone complaining about being so sick of "perfect storm this, perfect storm that, why is every controversy a perfect bloody storm?" :razz2:



Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:58 pm
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Good for you to "catch" her (all in good fun) in her own sort of mindless use of an impressive-sounding phrase. I do this too, I'm sure. A couple of my peeves, though, are "oxymoron" when the sense is simply that of contradiction, and "begs the question," when the speaker is trying to say that the question needs to be asked.

Sorry I don't have the book anymore. I can try to get it back. The context of the quotations would be important. I can't tell what her viewpoint is in the first quote: agreeing that the credentialed experts are anti-intellectual, or chiding the public for being so stuck on common sense.

I couldn't disagree with her in the second passage, though the connection with anti-intellectualism doesn't jump out at me, or with the third, certainly. Anti-evolution is anti-intellectual, clearly enough as I understand "intellectual."



Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:33 am
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LanDroid wrote:
What are some of the causes "for the resurgent anti-intellectualism of the past twenty years"?

"First and foremost among the vectors of anti-intellectualism are the mass media." p. 10

If we over-simplify intellectualism into reading lots of books, perhaps writing books, and debating all sides of an argument in a rational manner, then yes, passively absorbing infotainment is certainly at odds with that behavior.


I have not started reading yet...

I can see the Mass Media lending to an increase in anti-intellectualism in that it feeds the masses info, but info it chooses to highlight and in the terms beneficial to ratings. This assuages the everyday person's desire to 'know' what is happening in the world and thus may preclude them from really looking into the issues. Mass Media is a quick fix of parasitic sound bites that imparts a semblence of knowledge in the host organism.

This 'begs the question': What can we do about it? (Just a tongue in cheek comment there DWill!!)


Mr. P.



Fri Apr 04, 2008 12:55 pm
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DWill wrote:
Quote:
Of course, JFK's most famous book, Profiles in Courage, was written not by him but ghosted, by Pierre Salinger, wasn't it? Perhaps you're right that being a politician effectively excludes one's also being an intellectual, but I have the impression that Jacoby expects the two to go together, ideally


Vaclav Havel is President of Czechoslovakia.

Arpad Gonz is President of Hungary.

Andre Malraux was Minister of Culture in France from 1959 to 1969.


And in the US....?


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Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:07 pm
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