Tag Archives: Critical Thinking

How it is.

“I don’t think, even as an author, that I have knowledge to give to readers. Philosophers might and scientists can. It’s possible for me to express something that you can agree or disagree with, but certainly you will have heard it before. So I don’t think the ‘what’ distinguishes a good novel from a bad one but rather the ‘how’—the aesthetic quality of the sensibility of the writer, his craft, his ability to create and communicate.

I don’t have a philosophy of life, or a need to organize its progression. My books are not constructed to ‘say anything.’ When I was at college, in every literary discussion there was always such an emphasis on ‘What does he say? What’s the message?’ Even then I felt that very few authors had anything to say. What was important to me was ‘What does it do?’ This refutes, of course, the idea that the message is the objective of a novel. In fact, any ‘message’ becomes part of the texture, stirred so much that it’s as negligible as a teaspoon of salt in a large stew. Think of the number of artists who have done still lifes—a view of a river or a vase of flowers . . . there is nothing about the choice of subject that is going to startle anybody. What will distinguish one still life from another is what the artist brings to it. To a certain extent that is true of the novelist.”

                                                                         –Joseph Heller

Tagged , ,

Masters

“However strong national armaments may be, they do not create military security for any nation nor do they guarantee the maintenance of peace.”

“There is no compromise possible between preparation for war, on the one hand, and preparation of a world society based on law and order on the other.”

                                                                                                   –Albert Einstein

Tagged , ,

Here do we go from where?

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when a cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainment, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”

                                                                                           –Neil Postman

Tagged , , ,

I will refuse.

“You get up on your little 21-inch screen, and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.

What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state — Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories and minimax solutions and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments just like we do.

We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business.

The world is a business, Mr. Beale! It has been since man crawled out of the slime, and our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there is no war or famine, oppression or brutality — one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.”

                                                                                  –from The Network

Tagged , ,

Servitor

“Finally, of course, I am very struck by the fact that once you introduce the system of the law as a device (the protection of the status quo by legal means), you finish up not with society against criminals but with two gangs: one called the police and the other called the criminals. The police wear a different kind of hat, but they have now become an army. I am, for instance, very unpleasantly struck by the fact that in my home state of California the policemen look as if they were soldiers. Policemen are not soldiers, they are guardians of the law. They are not in a campaign against crime.”

                                          –Jacob Bronowski, Silliman Memorial Lectures (1967)

Tagged , ,

Readers’ Advisory

“The mechanical devices that supposedly bring us together—television and the press, the telephone and the computer network—do so on a level and in a manner that are anything but nourishing to the spirit.” (Jacques Barzun)

“If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.” (Ernest Hemingway)

Tagged , ,

“The truth is, reading is always more important than writing.”

                                                          –Roberto Bolaño

Tagged , ,

Carry Me, Like a Child, To Riot

“I’m committed to the bitter passionate view that we live in a Byzantine period, an Alexandrian period, in which the commentator and the comment tower above the original. Saint-Beuve dies bitterly remarking, ‘No one will ever create a statue for a critic.’ Oh God, how wrong he was. Today we’re told there is critical theory, that criticism dominates—deconstruction, semiotics, post-structuralism, postmodernism. It is a very peculiar climate, summed up by that man of undoubted genius, Monsieur Derrida, when he says that every text is a ‘pretext.’ This is one of the most formidably erroneous, destructive, brilliantly trivial wordplays ever launched. Meaning what? That whatever the stature of the poem, it waits for the deconstructive commentator; it is the mere occasion of the exercise. That is to me ridiculous beyond words. Walter Benjamin said a book can wait a thousand years unread until the right reader happens to come along. Books are in no hurry. An act of creation is in no hurry; it reads us, it privileges us infinitely. The notion that it is the occasion for our cleverness fills me with baffled bitterness and anger. The notion that students today read second- and thirdhand criticism of criticism, and read less and less real literature, is absolutely the death of the normal naive and logical order of precedence.”

                                                                     –George Steiner

Tagged , , ,

Crowning

“Some fashions…flower once and then disappear, hopefully forever. Others swing in and out of style, as if fastened to the end of a pendulum. Two foibles of human life strongly promote this oscillatory mode. First, our need to create order in a complex world, begets our worst mental habit: dichotomy, or our tendency to reduce a truly intricate set of subtle shadings to a choice between two diametrically opposed alternatives (each with moral weight and therefore ripe for bombast and pontification, if not outright warfare): religion versus science, liberal versus conservative, plain versus fancy, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ versus the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata. Second, many deep questions about our loves and livelihood, and the fates of nations, truly have no answers—so we cycle the presumed alternatives of our dichotomies, one after the other, always hoping that, this time, we will find the nonexistent key to an elusive solution.”

                                                               –Stephen Jay Gould

Tagged , ,

Where Eagles Dare

“What does the radicalism of radical writers nowadays amount to? Most of it is hand-me-down bohemianism, sentimental populism, D. H. Lawrence-and-water, or imitation Sartre. For American writers radicalism is a question of honor. They must be radicals for the sake of their dignity. They see it as their function, and a noble function, to say Nay, and to bite not only the hand that feeds them (and feeds them with comic abundance, I might add) but almost any other hand held out to them. Their radicalism, however, is contentless. A genuine radicalism, which truly challenges authority, we need desperately. But a radicalism of posture is easy and banal. Radical criticism requires knowledge, not posture, not slogans, not rant. People who maintain their dignity as artists, in a small way, by being mischievous on television, simply delight the networks and the public. True radicalism requires homework—thought.”

                                                                    –Saul Bellow

Tagged , ,