The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

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Empathetically Correct, Part 2

  A July piece in theNew York Times written by three psychology professors made the case for leftist empathy. The authors objected to an argument made by a fellow psychologist,  Paul Bloom, who denigrated empathy as a “parochial, narrow-minded emotion” that “will have to yield to reason if humanity is to survive”. Apparently, Mr. Bloom is one who believes that empathy in the Angelina Jolie save-a-continent sense is a source of “moral failure.” The authors retort : “While we concede that the exercise of empathy is, in practice, often far too limited in scope, we dispute the idea that this shortcoming is inherent,...

1

Making War on the War on the War Against Christmas

Everyone these days seems to have some complaint against the Christmas holiday.  You’ve heard them all by now, Muslims and Jews whining about “inclusiveness,” downtown storeowners complaining about the chainstores in the malls, and chainstores complaining about Amazon.   Small wonder people are so depressed this time of year.  Not only is the sun disappearing—and who knows if the global warmingists will ever let it return?—but everyone and his Buddhist brother has some ax to grind. The late Herbert W. Armstrong of the Worldwide Whacky Church of G-d Knows What used to do an annual radio broadcast denouncing Christmas.  Crazy...

0

Cicero, De Officiis: On Justice

Cicero divides the pursuit of duty into five  aspects, and, although much of Book I is taken up in explaining the division, he conveniently restates it near the beginning of II (ch. iii), where he proposes five principles.  Two are concerned with what is right and proper; two with convenience; one with the possible conflict between what is morally right and what is convenient or useful.  Book I is concerned, generally, with the morally right, and specifically with the four virtues of wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance–simple terms in English, but quite complex, both in reality and in Cicero’s treatment....

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Wednesday’s Child: Planet of the Apes

  Gentle reader may remember that I was in London last week in aid of a friend charged with racism for calling a Negro cabdriver an ape.  Fine arguments marshaled by the defense came to naught once the female judge had had a good look at the defendant’s shoes. These were polished to a high shine, and clean shoes are, as the defendant ought to have known at his age, a telltale sign of racist attitudes in white males.  He was found guilty and fined. Lest my reader think I am being facetious, I draw his attention to this post’s...

1

Empathetically Correct

    The outrage over Donald Trump’s remarks in recent weeks  has not only been hysterical and pitiful; it has, on a very fundamental level, exposed one of the most pernicious pillars of post-Christian psychobabble in the modern West: namely, the extolling and promotion of “empathy” as a moral guidepost. The response to Trump may have been the most clear example to date of how this very clever trick from the evil one has created a nasty cultural infection in America and Europe. It is a form of Christian heresy, perhaps not as overt as Luther’s challenge to the Church in...

5

Properties of Blood I.2: Love and Hate, Part D

The Everlasting Paleolithic Man Since Descartes, moral and political philosophers have tended to turn away from ordinary human experience and drawn up moral codes and political schemes that seem more like Aristophanes’ Nephelococcygia (Land of the Cuckoos-in-the-Clouds) than any human polity.  Classical liberals wanted to eliminate or attenuate formal social classes, established religion, and irrational bonds of kinship; Marxists would abolish property and economic distinction; more recent radicals want to banish sexual differences and to subject the family to governmental control.  The goal of all these projectors was a rationally designed society controlled by the state and based on principles...

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Reading for the Movies 3:  Lavender Blue

Twenty years before Rascal (1963), one of the true masterpieces of American children’s literature–heck, of American literature, period–Sterling North gave us Midnight and Jeremiah, a beautifully illustrated (by Kurt Wiese; I’m trying to figure out the media, guessing pastel crayon and brush and ink on textured paper) novella that I suppose would be called a “chapter book” for young readers in today’s market. It’s a honey of a story, about an orphaned little boy in rural southern Indiana, circa 1903, who persuades his grandmother to let him bottle-raise a black lamb rejected by its dam.  The boy is Jeremiah Kincaid,...

1

Annals of Trebizond IV, Facts and Fictions

The long reign of Alexios III  (1349-90) marks the beginning of the end of the Empire of Trebizond.   Alexios, as the result of a palace coup,  came to the throne as a boy of 11, and his youth and inexperience were an invitation to challenges of every sort:  warlords in the provinces, his own counselors and bureaucrats, and even from within the church.  The Trapezuntine elite was dominated by factions loyal either to Constantinople or to the more locally centered provincial aristocracy.  The feud between the Genoese and Venetians broke out again, when the latter were once again granted...

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Wednesday’s Child: Letter from London

  A funny story, this, but it also kind of makes you want to cry, a perfect combination for a Wednesday’s child broadside– especially in Advent, with its heritage of Dickensian, bittersweet tales of moral instruction. I am in London this week to help out a friend who got himself in trouble. A few months ago, returning from a dinner party in a state of more than slight inebriation, he hailed a black cab – you know the kind, the retro thingie with a doorframe high enough to accommodate a man wearing a top hat, the legendary vehicle that makes...

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Climate Change: A Frank Conversation, Part One

The recent global summit on climate change—inevitably described as “historic”—was discussed and analyzed all over the media-sphere, by bloggers read only by their mothers and friends (if they have any) and  by the the most swollen talking heads on television.  Everyone was interviewed, profiled, and analyzed.  One important participant—an observer really—who escaped their attention was an obscure Italian political analyst, whose work has been studied without understanding for many years.  I had a chance to sit down with this great skeptic, and interview him on condition of anonymity.  Let’s just call him Nick O.  Before the conversation was over, we were...