Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Plato meets Huxley

Today's quotes are from  Adam Swift, Professor of Political Theory, Univ. of Warwick, who is upset that unequal outcomes ("social injustice") may result from how parents raise their kids, and like all those who profess a field that ends with the word "Theory" immediately thinks of what he and Plato will allow others to do.

'One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.'

‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.*

‘Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods,’

'I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.'

There's more at the link. He thinks there could be more than two parents**, and they need not be the biological parents.***

There is some reaction to the article here and here
________________
(*) Yes. They realized they needed a way of thinking about what they wanted. Professors of Theory never simply want something or realize something. What they really need is an editor.
(*) Yes. "Allow" parents to do for their children. The jackboots are always there.
(**) But he thinks that ten parents is pushing it. That's too much like being raised by a committee. He does not say where between two and ten he would draw the line. Nor does he say how he would deal with the tragedy of the commons should children be held in common.
(***) He doesn't mean the latter as an emergency measure dealing with exigent circumstances like orphans or child abuse. He means that the biological production of a child should be decoupled from the parenting of that child.

15 comments:

  1. I first read this as Pluto meets Huxley. That works as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You mean the Disney snub on Cerberus, or you mean the Classic Lord of Cerberus?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mickey Mouse's dog is named after the planet, discovered shortly before his creation. He has nothing whatsoever to do with Cerberus.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. You here presume Disney didn't know Classics.

      Wrong. See Fantasia.

      He knew very well that Cerberus was the dog of Pluto, whom the Greeks called Hades ... so calling a dog Pluto was perhaps a bit of a snub on both.

      Or was he forgetful? He could have been and thought only on the planet, I would not totally bet on it.

      Delete
    4. I don't presume anything, I know why Pluto was named—I see no reason to think that that explanation, universally accepted, was a lie. You're the one assuming motives for which you have precisely zero evidence.

      Delete
    5. Also, Pluto is Greek too. "Plouton" (the wealthy) was one of the titles of Haides the Unseen because, as Chthonic Zeus and ruler of the underworld, all buried treasures were in his domain. His other two major titles were Pankoites the Hospitable One—because all are welcomed to his halls—and Agesilaos the Leader-away of People.

      Delete
  3. I was not saying the universally accepted explanation is per se a lie.

    I was saying it may not have been the whole truth. Artists have a way of making allusions point to more than one thing. If Hades/Pluto hadn't had a dog, Disney would hardly have called of all things a dog Pluto - except, as said, by being forgetful. A possibility I cannot rule out.

    Ploutos may be Greek too, but the Greeks who called him so also called him Hades (not transscribing an iota subscriptum, though in upper case it would be ΑΙΔΗΣ).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But you weren't calling it an allusion. You were calling it a snub.

      It is possible that Pluto is a reference to Hades, except of course that one would name the dog Cerberus if that were the intent, and then there's the question of why, precisely, Walt Disney would identify Mickey Mouse with Chthonic Zeus. But, even swallowing the Titanotylopus that Pluto is somehow a classical-mythology reference, there is still precisely no evidence that he is intended as a "snub" on Hades.

      The idea that Walt Disney—the man who, for the life of him, never understood why Donald Duck was more popular than Mickey Mouse—would construct some elaborate, James Joyce-esque satire on Greek mythology through Mickey Mouse's dog is simply ludicrous; it's like saying something in G. K. Chesterton is social-Darwinist allegory or that Also Sprach Zarathustra is a Christian fable in the C. S. Lewis mold.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. It's not as elaborate as that.

      1) a dog could obviously be called Cerberus - the dog of Pluto
      2) BUT [not yet so called] Pluto, the dog of Mickey Mouse would be very much of a snub on the terror of Cerberus (who would deny that if Cerberus had seen himself portraied as Pluto, he would have been insulted because Pluto was not terrible enough?)
      3) hence, let's call the dog Pluto instead (so as to appear to play on the planet, and the guys who haven't seen Fantasia don't know how much I know of Greek Myth, hahaha).

      I don't consider this scenario VERY farfetched.

      And being out of touch with people's reactions, as your example of MM and DD seems to indicate, doesn't mean being out of touch with an artistry that has plenty of - discretely hidden - room for allusions on the Classic realms of art.

      If he had openly shown his fandom for Classic Myth and Romantic paintings from Germanies and Scandinavia (who knows how many paintings of Hitler he might have bought, if Hitler had stayed a painter?) he would have been treated as a snob, and from a certain time on even been suspected of being a Nazi.

      Delete
    4. No, the reason he couldn't understand why people liked Donald better than Mickey was he thought Donald was a jerk, and Mickey was nicer. That is, he was not out of touch with people's reactions—he just had an absolutely straightforward interpretation of the two characters, and therefore, though he knew full well how people were reacting, simply thought they were crazy for doing so.

      That's just one of a million examples of how Walt Disney didn't have a subtle bone in his body.

      By all indications the "Classic Myth" stuff in Fantasia could've been acquired by cramming up on it the week before key-frame animation started. As for Romantic paintings...every art-student in Disney's day knew the Romantics from soup to nuts. So what?

      You are spinning deranged conspiracy theories without a shred of evidence, and in open defiance of everything we know about the man in question, and his era, his country, and his culture.

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is you being a European and me being an American, and you telling me you have secret insights into the mindset of my countryman that any child from America could tell were a complete joke. Are you familiar with the popular mindset of the Depression era, in America? If you were, you would know how insane your assertions about Disney sound.

      This is basically a reverse "Yankee go home" situation.

      Delete
    5. PS. That's not what "snub" means. Unless you were saying that Disney meant to vindictively ostracize Hades?

      The word you were looking for is something more along the lines of "lampoon".

      Delete
  4. "you telling me you have secret insights"

    Nothing secret.

    Just as straightforward - or not so - interpreting as people do in lots of other contexts.

    "the reason he couldn't understand why people liked Donald better than Mickey was he thought Donald was a jerk, and Mickey was nicer. That is, he was not out of touch with people's reactions—he just had an absolutely straightforward interpretation of the two characters, and therefore, though he knew full well how people were reacting, simply thought they were crazy for doing so."

    If he thought Donald rather than Uncle Scrooge was a jerk, he was out of touch with normal morals. He was one of the highbrows who couldn't see the point of a song like "Hallelujah, I'm a bum, Hallelujah, bum again" ...

    That's not what "snub" means. Unless you were saying that Disney meant to vindictively ostracize Hades?

    Cerberus, not Hades.

    And snub includes in range of meaning "not buying a claim" - in a not too polite way.

    Lampoon would imply continuous such, while a snub can consist in one single act - like a naming. I think Belloc snubbed a certain painter gone politician when he named a cat "Hitler". And rightly so, as far as the politician is concerned.

    Ridicule is not polite, and at least once I recall seeing Pluto dreaming of or imagining Cerberus as a dog with three Pluto heads. So, imagining Cerberus in the shape of Pluto, dog of Mickey Mouse, is NOT polite to Cerberus.

    You are spinning deranged conspiracy theories without a shred of evidence

    I have given circumstantial evidence, not claiming they amounted to absolute proof.

    And even if you thought them extremely slim, "wild idea" would be LOTS better than "deranged conspiracy theories" - unless you were yourself reading sth beyond the surface of my words - as I was doing beyond merest surface of Disney's art.

    Saying Walt Disney was an illuminato, as I have heard some claim, in connexion with Fantasia, may amount to conspiracy theory, though I would be careful about a word like "deranged". But what I did with Disney was exactly what you did, in a less charitable way, with me : looking beyond the mere surface.

    For the record, he was a DeMolay and I think his brother went on from there to be a Shriner.

    This does not mean he was an illuminato trying to pervert us through subtle subliminal messages, nor that he wasn't. But it does mean it is simplistic to say of him there was no subtle bone in him.

    "Are you familiar with the popular mindset of the Depression era, in America? If you were, you would know how insane your assertions about Disney sound."

    Being taken to the heart by people with a mindset and having an identical one oneself is perhaps not identical. Disney's art could strike a note in the popular mindset of Depression era, but this does not mean Disney's mind was identical. Tolkien's mind was not identical to that of Green Wavers a few decades later - which you might perhaps be aware of.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just because Disney did not refuse the popularity in any way like what Tolkien partly did (partly, he didn't turn his back on fans!) doesn't mean he was really all that much closer to his adulators. It may even mean the reverse (which would bring us to conspiracy theories to discuss). But saying Disney's art "is not subtle" won't wash. I grew up with it AND with so much it was a calque on (Robin Hood by Disney vs Robin Hood by Howard Pyle, Sword in the Stone by Disney vs Sword in the Stone by T. H. White ... I came across the Italian translation of his take on A Christmas Carol - which is where he got name for Uncle Scrooge from in the first place - and saw the film based on Dickens many Christmases, same Italian fumetto I also read his take on I promessi sposi by Alessandro Manzoni), no, sorry, saying he was uncultured and bluff is basically saying you don't know his cultural resources. But he did MUCH to adapt them to a popular mindset, that much is sure.

      I suppose most people you know consider "My Little Pony" just a piece of pop culture. Have you seen the Centaurs in Fantasia? I have, thanks to youtube. So, author of My Little Pony made a subtle reference. Isn't that a surprise to some?

      No, he was a subtle man, Disney now, even if he didn't care to show it except to those who were at least just subtle enough not to think a thing unsubtle because it is pop culture.

      If Disney had ONLY been unsubtle, why would C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien have thought "all that came from his pen" vile? Not their reaction to Mr. and Mrs. Beaver or to Farmer Maggot? No, they thought him subtle in the wrong way. And after seeing parts of Fantasia, I tend to agree.

      Silenus in Fantasia is probably the reason why CSL (who unlike Disney is not a Puritan who sees any drunk man as so much dregs of humanity at best merely totally ridiculous and awkward*) showed a more dignified one in Prince Caspian.

      And "Chernobog" scene in Fantasia was hardly very Christian as an observation on the afterlife. Even of the damned.

      * That is a bit how Silenus comes off, and would also be the kind of attitude which sees Donald Duck as a jerk.

      Delete