Skip to comments.“The Closing of the American Mind” at 20
Posted on 11/02/2007 2:56:53 PM PDT by Aristotelian
It has now been twenty years since the late Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind, his bestselling broadside against the ideas and conceptions that animate the contemporary university. The general theme of Blooms book is encapsulated in the subtitle: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Todays Students. . . .
The Closing of the American Mind has been interpreted as one of those influential salvos in the cultural wars of recent decades between reformers and traditionalists on the campus and between conservatives and liberals in the society at large. . . .
Bloom claimed that the West faces an intellectual crisis because no one any longer can make a principled defense of its institutions or way of life. This is most evident in the university, which has reformed itself according to the ideas of openness, tolerance, relativism, and diversityall of which claim that no political principles, institutions, or way of life can be affirmed as being superior to any others. This is the near-universal view among students and faculty at our leading institutions of higher learning. The tragedy here, according to Bloom, is that relativism has extinguished the real motive behind all education, which is the search for the good life. If all ideas and ideals are equal, there is little point in searching for the best ones. . . .
For Bloom, the great question was whether a political order founded on principles believed to be true here and everywhere (as expounded in the Declaration of Independence) can survive when they are no longer believed to be true or when they have been reinterpreted in the form of vague notions like openness and tolerance. . . .
(Excerpt) Read more at newcriterion.com:81 ...
It is worth noting, to quote Piereson, that Bloom singled out for blame a "philosophical doctrine that arose in Germany in the nineteenth century which asserts that the culture and institutions of any society are entirely man-made and lack any objective anchors in nature, truth, or God. The most important figure here (according to Bloom) was Nietzsche, known for his doctrine of nihilism and his attack on Christianity as a religion for the weak."
The acceptance of moral relativism and the embrace of nihilism go hand in hand with a rejection of theism. In the absence of God's moral authority, anything can be rationalized. Thus it is, for instance, that college campuses become islands of intellectual discussion that oppose freedom of speech, preferring instead to allow only authorized speech that reflects a liberal political predisposition. Anything that challenges this ethos is prohibited. It's bizarre. Universities, thought to be centers of learning where "anything goes," now permit only "right thinking" and permissible speech. It is a philosophy that has turned the notion of academic freedom on its head.
The media, for its part, believes in being non-judgmental, even though this view is itself an opinion an opinion that stands in stark opposition to moral absolutism. To be non-judgmental is to be judgmental, in fact.
The academically led assault on God, morality and tradition explains the vulgarization of our culture. Popular entertainment, which was once witty and clever, is now mostly profane. Womens fashion, which used to be glamorous and elegant, today celebrates indecency and lewdness. In everything from children's sports to education, merit and achievement are frowned upon and success has become a dirty word.
The question is whether America as we used to know it can survive this assault on values and tradition. Humanity has an innate (dare I say, God-given) sense of right and wrong. We come with a conscience. This, to my mind, is cause for optimism. It would suggest the craft will be righted before it capsizes. It will, however, take a generational response akin to the baby boom-inspired cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s a societal response that embraces a values-based, theistic philosophy of life.
bump for later.
B T T T
Even Socrates, a Pagan who was fairly secular in his refutations, claimed to have been doing “God’s” work.
Today, the quintessential nihilist is Mrs. Clinton, who embodies Nietzsche’s Will to Power. A product of elite universities, her message has no meaning.
Yes, exactly. I think that your analysis is spot on, and well-stated.
Yet, it was one of the opening salvos in the counterattack of the Right in the culture war, and still repays reading.
Hillery's city is built on coercion, regulation and avarice.
In dropping the Bible and other western lit from the curriculum the students won’t even know what “Shining City on the Hill” means.
I read it. It, along with studying Commerce Clause jurisprudence in law school, was enough to snap me out of a phase/haze of liberalism that I went through during my college days. A terrific book. Some pages have so much highlighting it looks like I used spray paint on it.
That really hasn't been eliminated. They just teach all the negative stuff that they can find.
I bought this book, again, to read on my two month vacation. It’s on my nightstand...I think I’ll start it tonight.
I heard Bloom promoting the book on a radio show at the time.
So very true. We haven't watched a sit-com in years because they just got so coarse and vulgar.