I am looking at The Riverside Anthology of Literature, which I find excellent. I wonder why literature is introduced so differently and – I think – so much better than philosophy. In the Riverside Anthology, in poetry, there are for each author a few selections, followed by either a summary statement from the poet or an appreciation from another poet. Sometimes there are treats: for Houseman, the editor includes poems about him and satires of his bleak stuff. For Hopkins, there’s an example of the Anglo-Saxon poetry that inspired him.
What’s striking is the variety and the light touch. It says, “Here are some interesting people about whom you might want to know more.” That kind of introduction is standard in English classes and rare in philosophy classes. Why does one have to wallow in Kant to encounter Kant?
Much could be learned by thinking among disciplines about the project of introducing.
We don’t think enough about dynasties as artifacts. If I want to change the world, my best hope is through the generations of my own children. We are all, like Abraham, parents of nations. One might privilege public action over parenting – the struggle to change structures, rules, relationships. But any action to change society is immediately subject to a thousand normalizing forces. The basic patterns absorb most efforts to change them, without changing much. What one needs for social change is an action that keeps acting, a smart action that adapts and regroups and reformulates itself over hundreds of years, with always the same idea in view. One needs, in short, a child, and then a family, and ultimately, a dynasty.
Some families know about creating dynasties, and they have developed the psychological tools for the job. Other families just get by. In public, we act as if dynasties were of the very first importance, choosing our ministers and professors and political leaders from dynastic clans. But we don’t talk about this, and the ethics of dynasty formation is still to be written.
The big things are always just at the edge of vision
I spent the last six weeks on a farm outside of Windom, Minnesota, helping to teach a class combining themes of good living, right livelihood, community, service, education and social change. I am not sure what we logically could have added. The students and teachers lived together in one big building on the farm/retreat center, doing their own cooking and cleaning, and being somewhat careful to make human relations in the course better than usual. I learned some things from this sojourn. I'll report, as they bubble up.