At the bookstore yesterday I read a chapter or two of Mark Bauerlein’s The Dumbest Generation, which is much livelier, forceful reading than his blog. His most important claim, that our unparalleled access to knowledge is coeval with a culture of decadence which allows the construction of entire worlds around our purely adolescent selves, has enormous ramifications for me. He makes this point: when surveys ask what the significance of 1776 was or what the 25th letter of the English alphabet is, and 90% of young adults, say, get that wrong, we have to consider how much effort it takes not to know such a thing.

The questions for this blog are as follows:

  • Can students be simply divided into those that want to learn and those that don’t? I actually don’t think Plato would countenance such a division: that would only account for the rational and appetitive elements, if we took the account of the soul in the Republic seriously. Seth Benardete, in his commentary on the Republic, is fond of the word “thumoeidetic” – thumos: “spiritedness,” “heart” & eidos: “image,” “form.”
  • Given that we have decided in the United States that populism is a good thing with no qualifications whatsoever – today my Dad said that one party rule by the Democrats would ensure a just, efficient government (my Dad watches/listens to 7 hours of news each day) – is it possible to work with the voters who voted for Obama in droves but couldn’t tell you which party controlled Congress at the time of the election? (this link is Republican as all hell)
  • What can be done on a practical level? Should I write an article on the Jonas Brothers and Nietzsche? Should anything be done at a practical level?

I feel that if I keep writing, something is bound to break through. The trick is to not dumb it down, not one bit: people need to be challenged, and that’s not the same thing as the competitiveness which drives us in school. Fighting hard for a grade on a piece of paper is not the same thing as wondering what Heidegger could mean by “Dasein” when he says it is “openness to being.”


  1. I hate to burst the bubble here, but, as I am sure you know by now, there can be no “openness to being.” There, I said it! Now let it stew around for a while and ferment.

  2. @ Josh – Literally, I’m incorrect. Thomas Sheehan writes here:

    “I follow Heidegger’s insistence that the Da of Dasein does not refer to a “there”, as well as his suggestions that Dasein not be translated as “being-here” or “being-there.” Rather, in keeping with Heidegger’s frequently repeated indications, I interpret

    * Da as “the open” (namely, for all forms of being or “is”)
    * Da-sein as “openness” (i.e., “being-the-open,” “being-open,” or “the open-that-we-are”).”

    So yeah. If I were more literal, I’d link the “open” and “being” more tightly.

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