On Truth and PowerI’m grading papers for a new seminar I taught this past semester on Truth and Politics. It was one of the most exciting courses I’ve taught in a few years, with simply fantastic students who brought incredible passion and curiosity to perhaps the burning question of our moment. Structured around a close reading of Friedrich Nietzsche’s short but brilliant “How The True World Became a Fable," the students came to understand what Nietzsche means when he says that “truth is a lie,” or “truth is a woman,” or “truth is a fable.” Plato invented truth because of a distrust of opinion. Confronted with the trial and death of Socrates, Plato was convinced that political opinion in a democracy was dangerous, unstable, and irrational. What was needed was training of the best, those able to see beyond the shadows and deceptions of the human world, those who could step out of the cave of human affairs and focus their attention on the supersensual truths of the ideas. These philosophers claimed to know the rational truth, and from this they claimed the right to rule as philosopher kings. The question of the course became simply: If truth is a lie, is it a lie we should cherish and protect?
Literally UnmentionableRoger Berkowitz
Professor David Bleich of the University of Rochester has been suspended from teaching because he spoke aloud the n-word while reading from a short story.
The Catherine ProjectRoger Berkowitz
Scott Samuelson reports on his experience teaching the humanities for free with the Catherine Project, named for “Catherine of Alexandria, the scholar who refuted the crusty academics who’d been hired to refute her—and then suffered an ancient form of cancellation.”
Hard to TakeRoger Berkowitz
Robert Zaretsky looks back to Arendt’s account of the trial of Adolf Eichmann to help make sense of our own failures in thinking through the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.
Arendt’s Anti-RacismRoger Berkowitz
Connor Grubaugh argues that Hannah Arendt’s often-maligned essay “Reflections on Little Rock” offers clues to overcoming new clashes between what he calls “race-conscious and colorblind” advocates in anti-racist movements today.
Building a Race-Conscious University One Administrator at a TimeRoger Berkowitz
Jonathan Kay reports on a conference of academic administrators in Canada. There was, Kay writes, barely a mention of Covid, virtual education, or the financial crisis facing many Canadian universities. Instead, the "centerpiece" of the meeting was a report titled Building a Race-Conscious Institution: A Guide and Toolkit for University Leaders Enacting Anti-Racist Organizational Change.
Justus RosenbergRoger Berkowitz
My colleague Justus Rosenberg died last week at the age of 100. Aside from teaching literature, Justus was known for the stories he would tell about his experiences during WWII, which included working with Varian Fry to help save many Jewish writers, artists, and intellectuals, including Hannah Arendt.
To Make Analogies is to Be HumanRoger Berkowitz
John Pavlus interviews Melanie Mitchell, an AI scientist at the Santa Fe Institute. Mitchell is above all concerned with the way human intelligence depends on making analogies. She explains that analogy-making is central because it is key to the human capacity for abstract thinking.
When State Schools Emphasize the StateRoger Berkowitz
It has been a busy month for the Academic Freedom Alliance. This time it is not a professor falling afoul of a group think from the left, but three professors being censored from expressing their professional opinions because those opinions run afoul of the Florida Governor.
When Society is Not a Relation Among PersonsRoger Berkowitz
It is craziness to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory, as many states have done. But it is also bad pedagogy to make children feel guilty about the color of their skin or their religion. David Bromwich on how the parents of all races are rebelling against essentialist antiracist discourse in schools.