Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dangerous Minds

A trip down intellectual memory lane.

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Chiam Perleman---Jurgen Habermas

I noticed a visitor to the blog from Romania. In looking up the page he came in on I noticed it was a Google search for Jurgemn Habermas, through which he found an entry for ths blog here: "You Bring the Torches and Gasoline, I'll Bring the Popcorn." I was lamenting the fac that some group drew up a list of dangerious books. That fanned the famles of my anti-right wing detector and I had to sound off about it. I dont' remember what I said about Habermas.

Habermas was (or is) a great thinker, the youngest and last of the famous "Frankfort school" which was the brains behind the new left in the 1960's. I met him once. I sat next to him, grined like an idiot and told myself "think of something to ask him you fool" while my friend conducted the "Fred and Jurgen show" in front of our seminar class. My friend impressed him to no end.He was delighted to find such a lively mind in Texas. I impressed him as a grining idiot. Habermas's name is forever linked with that of Herbert Marcuse becasue of their mutual association with the Frankfort school. For a nice little website explaining about the Franfort school and what it's members were about, .see this

The kind of thinking the Frankfort school did was called "critical theory." That was the area in which my old academic Journal, Negations was aimed. There is also a link form critical theory to certain thinkers not connected to left wing politics. This is because Hobermas was so copmlete a thiker he even developed a thoery of human communication as a subset of his political theory. This involed the ideas of a group of thinkers who developed something called "the New Rehtoric." Cheif among these expositors are the English posativistStephen Tolouminand the Bergian Judicial thinkerChiam Perelman. At one time I considered (as an undergraduate stuyding Perleman for a big term paper) going to graduate as a student of Perelman's. The New Rhetoric was in the Early 60's and it was laregely aimed at (among other things) exploring a kind of logic called "non formal logic" which Perleman cliamed to find in Aristotle. This would have been an alternative to formal logic and statistical thinking with it's emphasis upon empirical science. Non formal logic was to be used in judging areas such as ethics where hard statistics could not determine the outcome.

Toulmin and Perleman are fairly obscure, they are graduate school material. Mostly they have been forgotten (more Perelman than Toulmin--he always had a bigger name in America). They had nothing to do with Marxism, but I suppose according to the kind of thinking that makes lists of dangerous books we would have to include them by association. The list fo dangerous ideas can't stop with the actual commission of dangerous ideas, we have to root out all aspects of dangerous thinking even if it si only by association. Speaking of that, the House Un American Activities Committee never did get around to examining those Mary Popins books. Boy were they sorry becasue just the next decade Julie Andrews pulled off a real coup de 'tat with it.As far as I can tell the New Rhetoric and the Frankfort school are pretty much footnotes in history of ideas classes. I think we are missing something vital in not continuing to explore that path.

Read about Perleman's Ideas here

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