Yes, students do often say this, but there’s a reason for it. They’re failing, from mere lack of experience, to realize the difference in time and intellectual investment between reading a book, or, in the case cited here, reading about someone’s career (which they have just done) and writing a book, or making a career (which they have not done).
I’ve often gotten this from students who are reading Joyce’s Ulysses. I try to remind them that he was an immensely brilliant man who spent seven years writing the book. A great many things might occur to you when you spend seven years working on a book, especially if you’re immensely brilliant. And if that doesn’t convince them I show them the Linati schema.
The protagonists of post-Enlightenment relativism and perspectivism claim that if the Enlightenment conceptions of truth and rationality cannot be sustained, theirs is the only possible alternative.
Post-Enlightenment relativism and perspectivism are thus the negative counterpart of the Enlightenment, its inverted mirror-image. Where the Enlightenment invoked the arguments of Kant or Bentham, such post-Enlightenment theorists invoke Nietzsche’s attacks upon Kant and Bentham. It is therefore not surprising that what was invisible to the thinkers of the Enlightenment should be equally invisible to those post-modernist relativists and perspectivists who take themselves to be the enemies of the Enlightenment, while in fact being to a large and unacknowledged degree its heirs. Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?
One of the people I interviewed for the story was Rev. Robert Seymour, who had been Smith’s pastor at the Binkley Baptist Church since 1958, when he first arrived in Chapel Hill. Seymour told me a story about how upset Smith was to learn that Chapel Hill’s restaurants were still segregated. He and Seymour came up with an idea: Smith would walk into a restaurant with a black member of the church.
“You have to remember,” Reverend Seymour said. “Back then, he wasn’t Dean Smith. He was an assistant coach. Nothing more.”
Smith agreed and went to a restaurant where management knew him. He and his companion sat down and were served. That was the beginning of desegregation in Chapel Hill.
When I circled back to Smith and asked him to tell me more about that night, he shot me an angry look. “Who told you about that?” he asked.
“Reverend Seymour,” I said.
“I wish he hadn’t done that.”
“Why? You should be proud of doing something like that.”
He leaned forward in his chair and in a very quiet voice said something I’ve never forgotten: “You should never be proud of doing what’s right. You should just do what’s right.” Memories of Dean Smith linger, even as his memory sadly fails him
“The subway sounds quite brutal,” Murphy tells the Journal. “There’s a missing opportunity at the turnstile.” Rather than having the subway’s turnstiles release a shrill beep every time they receive payment, Murphy would like them to each release one of many pleasant tones that, during busy moments, would coalesce into a grand harmony. Murphy’s vision would have every station in the city set to a different key, and he thinks now could be the time to turn it into a reality.
“‘This is not a big deal!’ you cry. ‘There are way bigger problems in New York!’ you yell. You’re pretty much totally right,” Murphy writes on a website for the project, which he’s calling Subway Symphony. “But this one is so infuriating because, quite simply, it would be really cheap and easy to change. And I think it would be really lovely, honestly.” Hear LCD Soundsystem’s frontman turn the subway into a symphony
Paine has won.
But he has won largely because conservatives have lost heart. With some notable exceptions, most people who call themselves conservative in the present day have little sense of what it might mean to adopt gratitude and appreciation as a mode of orientation toward our experience. Instead, like everyone else, we are concerned with efficiency, problem-solving, and changing the world. We may have qualms about technology, but we no longer resist it. We might wish in the abstract that government policies could be less purposive and more nomocratic, but usually we give up on the rule of law as an ideal and promote policies that encourage our own favored outcomes.
In short, much of modern conservatism provides a vision of a good life that differs little from that advocated by the most energetic progressives. The ends might be different, but the means are the same.
A substantive alternative would require a much more radical reorientation of the modern soul. Elizabeth Corey