Friday, May 31, 2002

Incidentally, the date, the eve of Bastille Day, is perhaps not inappropriate, as Bernard Roy, the founding moderator of the event, was inspired by Marc Sautet's cabinet de philosophie, which met at the Café des Phares on the Place de la Bastille. For more on this, see Roy's Philosophical Value of Coffee-House Debates.

Cafe Philo does not exhaust the public philosophy scene in New York. Every Tuesday evening, starting at 6:45, Evan Sinclair hosts a Socrates Cafe at Sony Plaza, 550 Madison Avenue. His inspiration is Chris Phillips, a former student of Matthew Lipman, whose post-doctoral training in philosophy for children I was privileged to attend early in 1990. Phillips' Society for Philosophical Inquiry boasts Lipman on its Board of Advisors, along with Robert Coles and Jacob Needleman, whose Heart of Philosophy is a book I wish everyone I know would read.

And once a month Lou Marinoff, author of Plato, Not Prozac leads a spirited discussion at the Barnes and Nobles on Sixth Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets.
Interesting discussion of beauty last night at New York's Cafe Philo, meeting at the Bamiyan Restaurant on 26th and Third. As before the meal was pleasantly priced, though a single appetizer would have satisfied my immediate hunger, and I have sated my curiosity about garlic noodles in yogurt sauce, and will most likely not order it again.

These philosophy discussions are held over dinner on alternate Thursday evenings, and are open to the general public. The crowd they attract is somewhat middle aged, with about equal numbers of older and younger folks, and as interested in listening and responding to each other as in sounding off, a pleasant change from other gatherings of the sort. The next topic, for June 13: How do we decide?

Thursday, May 30, 2002

From the pictures I have seen, it was not a flag draped stretcher that was carried out this morning, but a flag draped girder. Maybe there were both.

Mike and Liz at NYC Bloggers have begun a registry of the blogs of Gotham grouped by the nearest subway station. So far, 13 in the Bronx, 45 in Queens, 157 in Manhattan, 130 in Brooklyn, and 5 on Staten Island have announced themselves there. There are 28 on the Upper West Side, 10 of them at my own stop, Broadway and 72nd Street.

I have started a Blog Between the Worlds for the patrons and friends of Sophia's Pub at the same location -- I mean between the worlds, not at 72nd and Broadway. I hope that the emerging blog culture will prove less geeky than the wikiwiki culture. Certainly it will have the advantage over my Yahoo groups, that you don't need an ID to read, only to post, and the whole ID business is much less onerous than at Yahoo, or... don't even get me off on the subject of Swiki. I hope many of the folks on the First Hour list will join us there as well, though I am inviting a certain number of people who would run the other way at the first signs of anything devout.

Right about now, a few blocks from here, a stretcher, empty except for an American flag, will be carried ceremonially from the World Trade Center site as a symbol of the thousands whose mortal flesh mingled with the elements on September 11 without leaving behind any identifiable remains. I feel no need to be there, having watched the North Tower collapse quickly into dust from a few blocks away.

By that time, I now understand, nearly everyone still alive had been evacuated; the greatest loss of life had occurred when the South Tower, the second hit, fell quite soon thereafter, as I stood on a bridge sixteen stories above the atrium of my own office tower, covering the windows with a brown pall of debris. But it was as I was walking homeward as rapidly as I could after descending innumerable stairs, turning back to see the spectacular collapse, that I was struck by the overwhelming weight of human lives extinguished.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Yesterday the last steel girder was taken away from the World Trade Center site; there will be a solemn commemoration service tomorrow. A week from Friday the Messaging Software Division of... never mind which Wall Street bank... will move back to Barclay Street. I have been back twice, to secure things from my old cubicle, box some for the move from the thirteenth floor to the twelfth, carry some here to Broad Street opposite the Stock Exchange, throw many papers away. The atrium has been cleaned up and the windows which gave such an impressive view of the Towers are covered by an American flag fifteen stories high.

When I was first moved out of the cube, but locked in the building with five thousand other technologists, I was lucky to have an email account outside the Bank. I found my way to a terminal and sent out the following:

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 06:31:41 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Frank Palmer Purcell"
Subject: I am all right

The North side of 101 Barclay has been evacuated. I am sending this from the printer room. It is not safe to leave the building yet.

I could see the fires raging in both towers, and a tiny body falling.

The claim that I was all right was somewhat premature, to say the least... but the details can be read on my 9/11 page.

Sunday, May 26, 2002

"Did Sherrard consider "Western Civilization" as heretical? I don't see how an abstraction can be accused of heresy."

How like a Westerner (never mind that I'm one myself) to assume that only the individual is really real, and that that which he participates in is mere abstraction! From a Traditional point of view, which I may not be able to represent very well because it is not fully my own, this assumption is not merely intellectual error or spiritual blindness, but enthrallment to a very particular Spirit of Lies, to whom the Papacy opened the Roman Church in the time of St. Photios, which eventualted in the demonic practice of autonomous sciences of nature, and the equally demonic pretention to individual human rights.

Such was the belief of a dear and good man, sadly deluded, his delusion shared less by Orthodoxy in general than by his fellow Traditionalists, many of whom were converts from European occultism to Islam.

Friday, May 24, 2002

Ed MacDonald writes, "I don't think referring to the RusCath church as a 'denomination' is quite right. Makes us sound like Free-Will Baptists."

It does sound a bit grand for an outfit with no bishops, maybe ten priests, and a couple of hundred communicants. I was thinking of denomination in the sense of variety, as in, "There are three denominations of Russian Orthodox in New York, the OCA, the ROCA Synod, and the Patriarchal." and ourselves as a would-be fourth, I suppose. It's all right for Roman canon lawyers to call us a Church sui juris, but that is precisely what we are not. Our mandate from the Holy Father was to preserve the customs and traditions of Orthodoxy intact, except for any incidental accretions that might be contrary to the Faith, such as, I suppose, the veneration of St. Peter the Aleut. But on the whole we steer a middle course between the innovations of New Skete and the ossifications of Jordanville.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Shortly after I announced the ArisBlog on the First Hour list, I saw that Gerard had placed a link to it on his Blog page, under Catholic blogs. I found this a little embarassing, since I haven't called myself a Catholic (without further qualification) since I left the Roman Catholic Church three years ago.

Before Attila the Nun comes at me with her mil. spec. razor sharp steel ruler, let me hasten to add that I was received into the Russian Catholic Church sui juris by order of the late John, Cardinal O'Connor, acting on authority granted to him by Pope John Paul II. Like most members of my tiny denomination I prefer to think of myself as an Orthodox Christian in communion with Rome, but I do not insist on this, largely out of respect for my true blue Ortho friends who claim that they just haint no sech animule, though the Melkite Greek Catholic Church is a marvelous counterexample.

If you ask why I did what I did the way I did it, I can only say that I want to live the integral life of an Orthodox Christian, but I cannot in good conscience repudiate the graces I experienced in the half century of my life as a Roman Catholic, which indeed brought me to where I am now. Further, I am a product of modern Western civilization. Much as I revere the memory of Philip Sherrard, with whom I studied, all too briefly, in 1969, I cannot agree that it is heretical root and branch, particularly in its unique ideal of science and human dignity.

I have an email from John Zmirak, announcing that his latest column, reflecting on the problem of priestly paedophilia, is out. If, for whatever reason, you cannot avoid thinking about this sad, sad, matter, take a look at it. And if you are still interested in the intellectual history of the conservative movement, it sheds some light on the current preoccupations of one of the leading lights of the 1960s, long since assimilated by the establishment.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Today I find myself brooding over something in my inbox from Lew Rockwell, a reflection by Paul Gottfried on the dubious and dangerous legacy of Leo Strauss, a figure highly respected in the conservative movement of my youth, but whose thought I as a student of philosophy could never seem to get a handle on.

I might say the same about my own Straussian professor, Martin S. Dworkin, who was never known as a conservative, though his open anti-Communism made him a persona non grata at Teachers College after his best friend Larry Cremin became president and his courses were given to Maxine Greene, the queen of political correctness who had chaired the selection committee. At Cremin's funeral the eulogist remarked that his deepest convictions were hidden from all who knew him. It would seem paradoxical to say the same of Martin, whose scornful opinions were expressed with brutal tactlessness, yet his unwillingness to engage in any real dialogue about ultimate questions argued a profound inability to expose the premises of his thought to the light of discussion.

My dialogue with Martin Dworkin continues in a poem I began soon after I heard of his death a decade or so ago, and may never finish, and in a review of The Closing of the American Mind, which I will almost certainly not finish, or at least publish.

Leo Strauss was (or claimed to be) a Platonist, but one who held that what we normally think of as Plato's philosophy is merely a Golden Lie to be told by the Guardians, or would-be Guardians, to keep civilization going, and the lower orders in their places. This is perhaps why the Allan Bloom's beloved Western Civilization is something that simply doesn't exist between the end of the Roman Empire (in the West) and the (so-called) Enlightenment.

Charles Sanders Peirce, the fountainhead of American philosophy, proved to my satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of minds more learned and acute than mine, that the nominalism which has dominated official philosophy in the West since the days of Occam is absolutely fatal to the practice of science, which is one of the glories of our civilization. Just before I was born Richard Weaver showed to my (eventual) satisfaction, that it is equally fatal to all grace, decency, and polity.

I owe a great deal to Weaver, and to his great book Ideas Have Consequences, which I read the summer after my first year at Earlham. Without his eloquent defense of Platonic and Scholastic realism, I might well have dismissed the pragmatic mainstream of American philosophy, which presupposes it, as casually as professional intellectuals, including self-described philosophers, habitually do.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Well, my Blog has disappeared. Let's see if it comes back if I publish a new entry here.

Monday, May 20, 2002

What oddities? I thought you would never ask! The latest, well, almost the lastest, was a swiki, that is to say, a wikiwiki written in squeak. Is that geeky enough for you? Don't even ask.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Inspired by Gerard Serafin, I have decided to add a Blog to my collection of internet oddities. Having done so, I find I have not much to say, but may in the future.