Such smart commentary. Too much to dig into in a comment, but I did riff a little over on Notes on your thesis about the liberal arts not necessarily serving the average person. What I didn't say there is that this argument looks so different when you take the high risk financial investments out of higher education. If liberal arts education (often synonymous with the humanities or "pure" academic disciplines) isn't synonymous with a lifetime of debt, if it is instead a conversation that one can dip in and out of with minimal financial risk, I think it can still represent a public good. But there is no clear ROI on the liberal arts, and moral arguments for it really can't be made when financial oppression is part of the bargain. Embrace self-realization only to live a life of indentured servitude to your student loans? Not so much.


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Beautiful writing!

If you'll allow me to digress, while reading this newsletter, I thought about something that came through on my Notes feed yesterday. It was by a writer I try to avoid, who documents internet subculture, but I fell for the clickbait, which hinged on this paragraph:

"For the bimbo, she leans into broadly acceptable expressions of contemporary womahood, while distancing herself from the responsibilities (and cultural baggage) endemic to them. As I noted above, Chlapecka isn’t just hyperfeminine. And if we take her at her word that this is who she really is, then perhaps she is a female-to-female transsexual."

I find this logic simultaneously tortured, head-scratching, and unworkable. But if it's absurd to look at gender this way, the outlines of this argument applies to the author of the piece: she (and her fellow class of writers, from various publications and political or cultural movements) want the intellectual authority of being a writer without the responsibility and work required to be a writer. They are "writers" posing as writers.

And I feel this decay is taking place all over our culture, that ambitious people no longer feel the need to truly study the great books any longer. And this is a big loss, and I'm not sure how we can fix it

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Great piece.

I wonder if what you know when you get to the point you underscore in your final paragraph is not even that the truth is good in and of itself but that past a certain point of knowledge about the world through these books and ideas, seeking more truth is inevitable. The apple has been eaten; the gates of the garden of ignorance are shut. Past that point, to refuse further investigation is the equivalent of cutting your own limbs off, it's self-maiming. Because the one thing I've really come to feel is that if truth is a good in and of itself past that point, it is also a good that can be painful; I cannot promise anyone that seeking truth will make them happy, free or powerful.

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Really good essay, I enjoy even if I don't agree with the digs at Christianity throughout. Myself I struggle a lot with the conflicting ideas that "no, this should be for everyone" vs. "do I think this because I'm however slightly above average and I've surrounded myself with people at a similar level?" which isn't helped by the fact that I was also raised pickling in a version of the late 20th century aspirational middle class idea that you'd read all the great books, get a liberal arts education, and be improved as a citizen and as a subject.

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