|From: Joachim K||7/8/2021 9:02:02 AM|
|The Curious Case of the Socialite Who Sterilized Her Daughter|
Did Maryon Cooper Hewitt want to suppress “bad genes” or steal her child’s inheritance? Their battle over genetics and motherhood riveted the nation in 1936.
Audrey Clare Farley
The Swift and Merciless Execution of Corrine Sykes
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Bulbs flashed as the rouge- and fur-wearing socialite took the stand in a trial that would rivet the American public for the next several months. The image of the solemn-faced 22-year-old would appear in newspapers across the country. Some, like The New York Times, would print nearly 50 stories detailing the woman’s private life — her childhood, romantic relationships, drinking and spending habits, even the lingerie she was wearing. (It was imported from France.) It was January of 1936, and heiress Ann Cooper Hewitt was suing her mother in a San Francisco court for $500,000 (roughly $9 million today). The plaintiff claimed that her mother paid doctors to “unsex” her during an appendectomy in order to deprive her of an inheritance from her millionaire father’s estate. The defendant argued that she was merely protecting her daughter — and society — from the consequences of Ann becoming pregnant.
When Peter Cooper Hewitt died in 1921, the inventor and entrepreneur left two-thirds of his estate to Ann and one-third to Ann’s mother, his wife. But the will stipulated that Ann’s share reverted back to her mother if Ann died childless. Knowing this, Ann’s mother purportedly paid two doctors $9,000 each (about $165,000 today) to remove her daughter’s fallopian tubes along with her appendix when Ann presented at the hospital with stomach pains. This occurred merely months before the plaintiff’s 21st birthday, after which point Ann’s mother would have no further say in her medical care because Ann would no longer be a minor.
Ann’s mother insisted that she took this action because Ann was “feebleminded,” citing an intelligence test performed by a psychologist shortly before the procedure. A History Magazine story on the case by G.S. Payne reported that Ann could not answer questions such as “How long is the longest river in the United States?” and “What is the term of a U.S. president?” The defendant further claimed that her daughter was morally degenerate, referencing Ann’s addiction to masturbation, love letters between Ann and her chauffeur that contained the young lady’s pubic hairs, and Ann’s “erotic tendencies” with men ranging from bellhops to “Negro” train porters.
In response to these accusations, the plaintiff’s attorney swiftly called witnesses who could speak to Ann’s intelligence. “She writes fluently in French and can converse in Italian,” a physician affirmed via affidavit. “She has read books on Shakespeare, French history, Napoleon Bonaparte, Marie Antoinette, King Lear, Dante’s Inferno, and the works of Charles Dickens.” If there were any intellectual deficiencies, this witness wrote, they were due to Ann having been neglected by her mother for most of her childhood.
The young socialite developed this narrative on the stand. “I was locked up all the time,” Ann testified. “She never had any affection for me whatsoever. She would drink all night and drag me out at four in the morning to tell me if I’d die, she’d have all my money.” A nurse who cared for Ann after the operation corroborated her story, explaining that she’d been hired to look after a mental case but formed an entirely different opinion about the situation: “Half an hour after I saw the girl for the first time, I knew that here was no insane person. I observed three months of abuse of her by her mother. She was kept in pajamas upstairs. Her letters were censored. So were her telephone calls.” Ann’s attorney made a point to emphasize that Ann’s mother, Maryon Cooper Hewitt, known in Europe as the “greatest woman gambler in the world,” was a four-time divorcée. In court and when speaking with reporters, he referred to her by all of her married names: Mrs. Maryon Brugiere-Denning-Hewitt-d’Erlanger-McCarter. (Peter Cooper Hewitt, Maryon’s third spouse, was the only one she did not divorce, so she resumed her deceased husband’s name after her final marriage.)
As the spotlight moved from Ann’s “adrift” ways to her mother’s, it became clear to the public that both women were on trial for the same offense: being unqualified for motherhood. Wendy Kline, who wrote a chapter on the case in her book, Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom, explains that the public found nothing extraordinary about this focus, as 1930s society fixated on the ills of female sexuality and the importance of protecting maternal virtues during a time of social crisis. For Depression-era America, Kline writes, “the real problem was not financial but feminine.”
There was something else about this case that raised eyebrows: the unconventional use of sterilization. Ann appeared to have been sterilized because of environmental rather than genetic defects; she was the product of bad parenting, rather than bad genes. Furthermore, the involuntary procedure occurred in a private practice, rather than in an institutional setting. Ann was also wealthy, whereas the usual targets of sterilization (epileptic, intellectually disabled, and unemployed persons) were poor. If the court ruled in favor of Ann’s mother, these details could reinvigorate and redefine a flailing movement that embraced the practice of sterilization: eugenics.
The term “eugenics,” which translates to “well-born” from Greek, originated with English intellectual Sir Francis Galton. In his 1869 book Hereditary Genius, Galton drew on Gregor Mendel’s insights on the reproductive patterns of peas to advocate a selective breeding program among humans. Galton wanted to ensure that the characteristics he associated with the upper classes, such as superior intelligence, were passed down. Galton’s theories significantly shaped policies in the United States, as Edwin Black’s volume, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, demonstrates. According to Black, the Englishman’s ideas inspired Charles Davenport, a prominent American biologist, to establish the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York in 1910. Davenport appointed Harry Laughlin as the first director, and the two hired field workers to collect family pedigrees from the public. These workers were especially eager to identify “defective” traits, such as poverty, intellectual disability, and criminality. With the support of philanthropic organizations, such as the Carnegie Institution, and certain government offices, such as the Department of Agriculture, the ERO campaigned for stringent immigration restrictions and helped to pass legislation in 28 states authorizing the sterilization of persons deemed to be “unfit.” Over 64,000 individuals went under the knife as a result of these laws.
An anti-forced sterilization poster by the artist Rachael Romero, 1953. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
One of them was Carrie Buck, an impoverished woman in rural Virginia who conceived a baby out of wedlock. Authorities used this fact to claim that she, like her mother, was promiscuous. (Buck claimed to have been raped.) After Buck was sent to an epileptic colony and sterilized against her will, a lawyer representing Buck sued the medical authorities acting on behalf of the state. (He was collaborating with the defense to test the legality of the new legislation.) In 1927, the case, Buck v. Bell, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the ruling of the Virginia courts. Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously opined, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind …. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
But by the time Ann Cooper Hewitt’s trial commenced in 1936, the “science” behind eugenics was proving to be rather shoddy. In her chapter on the case, Kline explains that both genetic researchers and biologists were beginning to realize that the inheritance of positive or negative traits extended well beyond one generation. A prominent biologist at Johns Hopkins noted that even if all of the “feebleminded” persons in the country were sterilized, it could take 68 generations to decrease the proportion of those traits in the population. This was because “normal” people could be carriers of the trait. Colleagues elaborated on this criticism, claiming that it was impossible to identify potential carriers of “bad genes” and that eugenicists completely disregarded the role of the environment in the development of traits.
The rise of the Nazi party in Europe delivered another blow to the eugenics movement. In 1933, under the new leadership of Adolf Hitler, the Nazis implemented a eugenic sterilization program that impacted more than 350,000 individuals. At first, leading eugenicists in the United States were thrilled to see what the Nazis had accomplished using their own programs as blueprints. Some, like Joseph DeJarnette of Virginia’s Western State Hospital, were even a little envious to observe, “The Germans are beating us at our own game.” But eugenicists soon realized that Hitler’s persecution of the Jews could seriously undermine support for sterilization in the United States. While the full horror of Hitler’s plans had not been made known to the world, the dictator had already become extremely unpopular among Americans. For the first time, eugenicists second-guessed their rhetoric of “racial integrity” and “race betterment,” thinking it better to find a new idiom with which to describe the noble work of the movement. The Cooper Hewitt case provided that idiom.
* * *
In February of 1936, an ambulance was called to the Plaza Hotel in New York City, where a guest registered under the name “Mrs. Jane Merritt” was found unconscious. It appeared that the woman had consumed an overdose of a sleeping potion. While convalescing in the hospital, she was charged with the crime of attempted suicide. But this was not the extent of her legal troubles; there was a police warrant for her arrest in California, where she awaited a criminal trial. The woman was Ann’s mother, Mrs. Maryon Cooper Hewitt.
A newspaper report about Maryon Cooper Hewitt’s attempted suicide, February 29, 1936. Photo courtesy of The Owensboro Messenger Archives.
Shortly after Ann had filed her civil suit, the San Francisco prosecutor charged Cooper Hewitt and the two doctors responsible for Ann’s salpingectomy with the felony of mayhem, a criminal charge reserved for cases involving the act of disabling or disfiguring an individual. The two physicians were arrested and released on bail while they awaited the trial. Mrs. Cooper Hewitt filed an affidavit asserting her innocence and then fled to the East Coast, where she tried to end her life. For the next several months, her physician ordered her to stay in a New Jersey sanitarium. When she recovered from the psychiatric event, he informed authorities in California that his patient was still “in a very serious condition,” explaining that she had heart and intestinal troubles aggravated by pneumonia. The criminal case against the doctors in California would have to continue without her testimony, he said.
And so it did. The doctors’ attorney prepared his defense by corresponding extensively with Paul Popenoe, secretary of the Human Betterment Foundation and founder of the Southern California branch of the American Eugenics Society. Once he had a firm grasp on the eugenic arguments in favor of Ann’s sterilization, he called experts to articulate those talking points. These experts insisted that it mattered little whether Ann’s abnormalities were genetic, as she was certain to make an unfit mother. They also claimed that her nurse’s testimony counted for nothing, as only physicians were qualified to detect feeblemindedness. The testimony lasted only six days before the judge, convinced of Ann’s promiscuity and the wisdom of her doctors, dismissed the charges against the doctors. He justified his decision on the grounds that Ann was a minor at the time of her sterilization, implying that the surgery had been performed legally with parental consent.
This did not mean that Mrs. Cooper Hewitt was absolved of the charges brought against her. But Ann decided not to testify against her mother and to settle the civil suit for $150,000. She may have felt sympathy for her kin, weariness with legal proceedings, or the desire to escape public scrutiny. Since the New Year, she had been excoriated by the press, as these verses about her printed in The New York Daily Mirror suggest:
I’m only a sterilized heiress,
A butt for the laughter of rubes,
I’m comely and rich
But a venomous bitch-
My mother ran off with my tubes.
Oh, fie on you, mother, you bastard,
Come back with my feminine toys,
Restore my abdomen,
And make me a woman,
I want to go out with the boys.
The caricature expressed by this journalist was by no means universally accepted. Many sympathized with the woman who had testified, “I had no dolls when I was little, and I’ll have no children when I’m old.” That year, Ann received thousands of supportive letters, including many marriage proposals.
Without Ann’s testimony, the prosecutor in San Francisco had no choice but to drop the charges against Maryon. Even with her legal troubles resolved, Ann’s mother never fully recovered from her attempted suicide and illness — nor from her fall from the upper echelons of society. Just a few years later, she died in her Manhattan apartment from an apparent cerebral hemorrhage. The attendance at her funeral was as slight as The New York Times’s few lines covering the event, Payne writes. But among those in attendance was Ann, who would also marry five times and then die at an even younger age (40 years old). As she wept at her mother’s graveside, Ann suggested to the public she was, if not a fit mother, at least a forgiving daughter.
Unfortunately for other young women in America, one’s capacity for motherhood was still all that mattered when it came to certain civil liberties. And thanks to the Cooper Hewitt case, the burden of proof to demonstrate a woman’s unfitness for motherhood was even lower than it had been when “defective” genes were the focus. Previously, eugenicists had to produce evidence of disease or degeneracy based on one’s family tree or intelligence tests (although both of these rubrics were skewed). Now they only needed to establish that a woman had a morally bankrupt mother; it followed that she would become one herself.
With this shift in emphasis from heredity to maternal care, eugenicists admitted that family pathology was not an exclusive problem of the poorer classes; it could result from any woman’s desertion of domestic duties. Decisions related to sterilization, therefore, needed to be made on a case-by-case basis. Eugenicists insisted that this policy distinguished American efforts from the heinous goings-on abroad. Nonetheless, authorities like Popenoe and his colleagues at the Human Betterment Foundation focused their attention on poor and minority classes. Over the next four decades, 20,000 women in California (and hundreds of thousands around the country) underwent the procedure that Ann unknowingly received. The majority were black, Puerto Rican and indigenous persons.
Physicians often recorded these procedures as “voluntary.” They claimed that women were motivated by a sense of responsibility to climb on the table, citing widespread support for sterilization. Kline explains that, following the sensational case in California, the public no longer regarded motherhood as a woman’s right, but instead as a responsibility to be exercised by a certain few and avoided by others. This is suggested by the fact that, despite widespread coverage of the Cooper Hewitt case, there were neither protests against the judge’s dismissal of the doctors’ charges nor public uprisings about sterilization in general. Kline also cites a Fortune magazine survey conducted in 1937 demonstrating that 66 percent of readers favored compulsory sterilization while only 15 percent opposed the practice. The Great Depression and the Second World War reinforced these attitudes, as these national crises convinced Americans of the need for a citizenry with discipline, industry, and other virtues believed to be cultivated in a good home.
An anti-sterilization protest, circa 1971. Photo courtesy of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, via UCLA Hammer Museum.
In 1979, California formally repealed laws authorizing sterilization in the state, but the practice has continued illegally. In 2013, a state audit found that between 2006 and 2010, 144 women in the prison system underwent a bilateral tubal ligation under conditions of missing or dubious consent. In some cases, the sterilizations even took place without individuals’ knowledge. Targeted inmates shared a profile: They typically tested below a high school level of reading proficiency, had been pregnant five or more times, and were between 26 and 40 years of age.
In recent years, there have been many reports of court-ordered sterilizations across the country, including that of a 21-year old West Virginia mother whose tubes were tied as a term of her probation for marijuana possession. In 2015, news broke that prosecutors in Nashville, Tennessee, stipulated birth control in plea deals with certain defendants. More recently, a judge in that state issued a standing order promising women a 30-day sentence reduction in exchange for a birth control implant. (He also offered men a sentence reduction in exchange for a vasectomy.) He explained his order by saying, “I hope to encourage [the inmates] to take personal responsibility and give them a chance, when they do get out, not to be burdened with children.” He added, “This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves.” Just like Mrs. Cooper Hewitt and the eugenic authorities of her day, he insisted that the measures were protective, rather than punitive.
Such comments suggest that the environmental logic of eugenics continues to inform social and clinical practices. (So does the hereditary logic of eugenics, as suggested by some efforts to restrict the reproductive rights of disabled and chronically ill women, who are believed not necessarily to make “bad” choices but to have “bad” genes.) Though largely unknown today, the Cooper Hewitt case helped to form that logic. The trial in San Francisco shaped public attitudes about the dangers of domestic environments in which an ideal mother is lacking. It set a legal precedent that it is a woman’s moral responsibility to surrender her biological capacities for the good of society.
For some women impacted, the social and psychological consequences of sterilization cut deeper than the physical wounds. The humorist who rhymed about Cooper Hewitt in The New York Daily Mirror suggested this when he concluded his poem:
Oh, fie on you, mother, courthouse and ruling
I want my twin bubbles of jest,
Take away my hot flashes,
And menopause rashes,
And let me feel weight on my chest.
While intended to satirize what the author perceived to be Ann’s hypersexuality, these verses bespeak a sad reality for many sterilized women. Often, the prospect of heterosexual romance and intimacy (and economic stability, by extension) are extinguished during the procedure, as many men are uninterested in partners who cannot bear their children. (It is conceivable that some of Ann’s marriages failed for the reason that they were not fruitful.) Their bodies carved, women become as unwanted as their offspring.
Audrey Farley is writing a book on Ann Cooper Hewitt. Her work has appeared or will soon appear in The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Washington Post, Longreads, Public Books, Lady Science, and Marginalia Review of Books, where she is a contributing editor.
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|To: Joachim K who wrote (7163)||7/10/2021 6:49:09 AM|
|From: Tom Clarke|
| The Enduring Appeal of the Stoics |
Posted on 21st June 2021 by Antigone in Philosophy, The Classical Tradition
The Meditations of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 121–80) is consistently one of the best-selling philosophy books, ancient or modern. Countless readers continue to find inspiration from his notebook jottings. At the same time, this is not a book that is often taken seriously by modern philosophers. This is even the case with modern specialists in ancient philosophy. After all, how can Marcus’ notebook jottings compare with the depth and sophistication of work like Aristotle’s Metaphysics?
The error in that kind of negative assessment is that it implicitly assumes that Marcus was trying to do the same thing as Aristotle, and then failing miserably. But he wasn’t. Marcus’ aim was quite different. So, what was Marcus doing? His book Meditations is a collection of notes and reflections written to himself. It is comprised of comments on events in his own life, quotations from texts he was reading, and – most importantly of all – constant reminders of how he ought to act and what he ought to think about things happening to him.
On meeting a rude and angry person, Marcus tells himself not to respond in kind but instead to remember that they are a fellow human being who is evidently going through a difficult time (Med. 2.1). The appropriate response, then, is sympathy rather than indignation. Marcus repeats ideas like these to himself again and again. The goal is to digest them so that they become second nature. As he puts it himself, his aim is to dye his soul a new colour, and to do this thoroughly one has to dip the cloth in the dye multiples times, so to speak (Med. 5.16).
Bust of Marcus Aurelius, AD 170s (Musée des Antiques, Toulouse, France).
What are the core ideas that Marcus repeats most often? As we’ve just seen, one of the most common is that other people – including anti-social ones – are fellow human beings whom we should always work with rather than against. Closely related to this is the idea that we are all parts of a single community and, as parts, we benefit whenever the community does. Consequently, we should prioritize working for the benefit of the community over our narrow self-interest, knowing that by doing so we shall benefit both ourselves and others.
Alongside these broadly ethical ideas, Marcus also reminds himself about Nature and his place within it. Nature is ultimately a process of continual change and everything within it is merely a transient gathering-together of matter. Marcus also reminds himself often that his life is just a brief moment in the history of the universe and his body little more than a speck of sand within the wider cosmos.
These constant reminders of the brevity and transience of human life lead Marcus also to reflect on his future reputation. As a figure in the public eye, who was likely to be remembered by future historians, he reminds himself not to be overly concerned by what others will think of him and instead to focus on acting the best he can in the present moment.
The constant repetition of these key themes throughout the Meditations has sometimes been judged as a stylistic weakness. But Marcus was never trying to write fine literary prose; his aim was something far more ambitious, namely transforming himself into a better human being.
Title-page of the first printed edition of the Meditations, in which a clunky Latin translation precedes Marcus’ original and inimitable Greek (G. Xylander, Zurich, 1559): the full book can be browsed here.
Marcus was a Stoic. His goal was to live his life according to the principles of Stoicism, but it was never his aim to lay out in detail what those Stoic principles were. After all, he was writing to himself, and he already knew them. Instead, the notes we get are often brief nods and hints – enough to remind himself of the ideas he wanted to keep in mind.
In order to understand the Meditations fully, then, we need to know quite a bit about earlier Stoic philosophy. Stoicism was already centuries old by the time Marcus was writing. The school was founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium – whose statue opens this article – at some time around 300 BC, and it flourished there over the next two centuries. The texts of the early Stoics active in Athens are more or less all lost and the earliest accounts we have of Stoic philosophy were written by the Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero in the first century BC.
In the following century another Roman, Seneca the Younger, embraced Stoicism and outlined its core ideas in a series of letters and essays. Just a few decades later, a slave in Rome called Epictetus managed to gain his freedom and went on to set up a school of philosophy in Greece. Epictetus would become an important influence on Marcus.
Epictetus and his crutch: the frontispiece (engraved by Michael Burghers) to the Christ Church edition of his Enchiridion, or “Essential handbook” (Oxford, 1715).
The core Stoic doctrine that shaped Marcus’s outlook on life was the claim that the only thing that truly matters if one wants to live a good life is a virtuous character. At one point Marcus says:
If you can find anything in human life better than justice, truthfulness, moderation, and courage… turn to it with all your heart and enjoy the supreme good that you have found. (Med. 3.6)
By contrast, everything else – money, power, fame, posthumous reputation – are mere ‘indifferents’ for the Stoics. These things might be preferable to their opposites, but they don’t directly contribute to living a good life. The standard Stoic view is that some of these ‘indifferent’ things, such as health and wealth, have a real positive value, while their opposites, sickness and poverty, have a real negative value. By nature, we pursue health and wealth because these things are vital for our physical survival. They enable us to live, even if it is only a virtuous character that enables us to live well. Marcus was no doubt well aware of this, but in the Meditations he often puts this subtlety to one side, insisting on virtue alone as the only thing that matters. In doing so, he was following what we might call the hard-line view of Epictetus, whose works had inspired Marcus at an early age.
Marcus Aurelius distributing bread to the people, Joseph-Marie Vien, 1765 (Musée des beaux-arts, Marseille, France).
Marcus also took from Epictetus the idea that we ought to focus our attention on what we can control and not waste time agonizing over what we cannot. One thing that both of them insist is that we have no control over what others think about us:
You have been told that someone speaks badly about you. This is what you have been told; you have not been told that you are harmed. (Med. 8.49)
This introduces another theme, also taken from Epictetus, namely that when we get upset it is not due to things but to our judgements about those things. The value judgements that we make produce the emotions that we experience – we desire things that we judge to be good and fear things that we judge to be bad. So, by paying attention to our judgements we can alter the sorts of emotions we experience:
If you suffer distress because of some external cause, it is not the thing itself that troubles you but your judgement about it, and it is within your power to cancel that judgement at any moment. (Med. 8.47)
Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, c. AD 175 (Capitoline Museums, Rome, Italy).
Marcus was also influenced by the early Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 540–480 BC), who was a regular point of reference for the Stoics. Heraclitus was famous for claiming that everything is in a continual process of change, unstable from one moment to the next. Marcus reflects on this often, and he quotes from Heraclitus a number of times, in the process preserving fragments that would otherwise be lost.
This Heraclitean idea of perpetual change is primarily a statement about the natural world, and so part of physical theory, but Marcus reflects on what we might call its existential consequences. Death, he often says, is merely a natural process of change. The insults and, indeed, praise of other people is of no consequence when set against the backdrop of ever-changing Nature. As Marcus puts it,
Of man’s life, his time is a point, his substance flowing, his perception faint, the constitution of his body decaying, his soul a spinning wheel, his fortune hard to predict, and his fame doubtful; that is to say, all the things of the body are a river, the things of the soul dream and delusion, life is a war and a journey in a foreign land, and afterwards oblivion. (Med. 2.17)
The Last Words of Marcus Aurelius, Eugène Delacroix, 1844 (Musée des beaux-arts, Lyon, France).
It is comments like this that continue to hit home with readers of the Meditations today. You don’t need to know anything about Stoic physics and its debts to Heraclitus to be able to appreciate the force of what Marcus is saying. Countless people continue to draw benefit from this ancient Stoic text – enough to keep it near the top of the best-seller lists today.
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|To: Tom Clarke who wrote (7165)||7/10/2021 9:21:41 AM|
|From: Joachim K|
| The Stoics vs Ayn Rand|
A reader recently sent me a link to an article on Stoicism published by the Ayn Rand Institute… I know, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s true. The article in question is actually the transcript of a lecture made available through the ARI’s campus branch, and it is the quintessential mischaracterization of Stoicism. As such, it is well worth examining in some detail.
[Full disclosure: I have a very low opinion of Ayn Rand and her Objectivist “philosophy,” as can be seen here, here, here, and here. So take the following with a grain of salt. I am not an unbiased observer in this case!]
The author of this inane piece on Stoicism is one Leonard Peikoff, described on the ARI’s web site as “Ayn Rand’s foremost student and today’s leading expert on Objectivism.” Peikoff begins by telling his students “I’ll mention the names [of the major Stoic philosophers], but I won’t bother you with the dates or the spellings because very few people have ever heard of them” and immediately proceeds to make a first major mistake, presenting later (Roman) Stoic philosophy as “more Platonist, more this world vs. another world, the soul vs. the body, and more emphasizing immortality.” He gets that from what appears to be a very superficial reading of Epictetus and a smattering of Marcus — the only two Stoic authors he cites, very few times (no Seneca, at all, not to mention the non-Stoic commentaries by Cicero and Diogenes Laertius).
The biggest whopper, arguably, comes in section 2 of the lecture, entitled “Achieving apathy.” Peikoff there makes the most elementary mistake, equating the Greek apatheia with the English apathy, and adding for good measure the wholly gratuitous “clarification” that the Stoics meant to achieve “salvation” through their philosophy (he does this because he wants to establish a strong link to Christianity, and eventually to Kant, one of the Objectivists’ nemeses).
After a dig at the Cynics (“they were, in effect, the first hippies in the West”), he proceeds with yet another incredible statement, to the effect the Stoics were “of course similar to Epicurus in their overall thrust of their viewpoint,” a notion that anyone even superficially acquainted with Hellenistic philosophy will reject as ludicrous.
Here is a taste of just how incredibly wrong Peikoff gets the basics of Stoicism: “We must stop valuing friends; we must stop valuing even life, and some of them went so far as to recommend suicide on the grounds that nothing, including life, was a value.” He obviously simply does not understand the concept of “indifferents.” The Stoics valued friends and life very much, and certainly did not counsel easy suicide, but they thought that friends and even life itself ought to be given up if this is required to act morally, with virtue. Stoic suicide was a noble and extreme act, which Epictetus advised only when there was no alternative and one had lost any ability to contribute to society, for instance because of terminal illness.
Again, Peikoff: “What we must do, they said, is achieve utter insensibility … non-emotion. Emotions for them are a disease, an aberration, any emotion, emotion as such.” No, no, no. This is the stereotype of Stoicism that, although common, gets pretty much everything wrong about the philosophy. Stoics cultivated positive emotions (including love and a sense of justice), while aimed at rejecting — not giving “assent” to, in their terminology — negative, destructive emotions.
Part 3 of the lecture is a long yet superficial discussion of Stoic metaphysics. To be fair, the ancient Stoics themselves didn’t help here, with frequent talk of God and Zeus, especially in the later period. But as plenty of authors have pointed out, the Stoics identified God with Nature, the soul was material, and everything happens because of universal cause and effect. While the ancient Stoics certainly did hold to a teleological view of the universe, this was nothing like the Judeo-Christian-Muslim personal God with a plan.
Peikoff instead brings up the argument from design for the existence of God, which is pretty much irrelevant in this context, and then refers to the Objectivist idea that cosmic chaos is metaphysically impossible because, you know, natural law is “simply” a corollary of the logical principle of identity. As he puts it: “A is A is quite sufficient.” This, it should be clear to anyone with elementary training in logic or metaphysics, is nonsense on stilts (and would certainly come as a big surprise to theoretical physicists!).
Peikoff does at some point say that for the Stoics God is “within the universe” (it would be more accurate to say that God is the universe), but then he incredibly labels this “essentially the standard religious viewpoint.” I guess that must be why Spinoza, who held to a concept of God very similar to the Stoic one, got into so much trouble with religious authorities. Oh, no, wait…
The next bit deals with the Stoic idea of determinism. The Stoics were what by modern standards we would call compatibilists about free will, a position that definitely does not sit well with Objectivism. Again, Peikoff gets some of the fundamentals wrong. For instance he says that “the Stoics agreed with Epicurus that universal cause and effect means rigid determinism.” Uhm, no they didn’t. Indeed, that was one of the major differences between the two philosophies. While the Stoics were determinists, the Epicureans’ picture of the cosmos was one of chaos — which is why the Christian fathers were more sympathetic to Stoicism and did everything in their power to smear Epicureanism (which led to people still today thinking of Epicureans as simplistic hedonists who only value sex, drugs and rock ‘n ‘roll).
Peikoff then does a bit criticizing Stoic epistemology, and in particular their idea that the Sage (and only the Sage, who, remember is a fictional ideal, never a real person) can achieve certain knowledge about some matters that he is able to distinguish “clearly and distinctly.” The Stoics were justly and effectively criticized by the Skeptic Platonists, and did modify some of their thinking in response to such criticism. But Peikoff needs this part because he wants to link Stoicism with Descartes, who was famous for a similar notion of clear and distinct things about which one can be certain (his example, of course, was “cogito ergo sum”). I don’t have a problem with acknowledging Stoic influences on later philosophers, not just Descartes, but the above mentioned Kant as well. But since Objectivists have a bad opinion of the latter two, they also have a problem with Stoicism.
Perhaps the major issue that Peikoff has with the Stoics concerns their view of man (meaning humanity) and his place in the cosmos. For the Stoics we are parts of a universal machine, and we play a non-negotiable part in the general workings of the cosmos/Nature/God. Whether this part is the result of Providence or atoms — as Marcus says a number of times in the Meditations — doesn’t matter. It is what it is. But this is something that, again, Objectivism cannot possibly accept, since it requires a radical view of human freedom (hence the Objectivist’s scorn for determinism hinted at above).
Stoics did emphasize “duty,” another idea that is anathema to Objectivists, so much so that Peikoff labels the Stoic position “the antithesis of the Objectivist approach to morality … Stoics are one of the main sources of what Kant later took over and blew up into astronomic proportions.”
What so objectionable about the idea of duty toward practicing virtue and being helpful to fellow human beings? Well, remember that Objectivism is a philosophy based on self-enlightened egoism, according to which one does not have duties toward others, and where indeed the very concept of duty is inherently pernicious. Hence Peikoff’s invectives against both the Christians and Kant. But he allows some mitigating factor: “The Stoics, however, are not nearly as consistent or as corrupt as Kant. No Greek, however bad he became, ever dreamed of approaching the man-destroying evil later adopted and proclaimed by Kant and his followers.” Thank Zeus for that!
Section 7 of the lecture returns to “apathy” and the Stoic idea of acceptance, which is again badly mangled and misconstrued. Here is Peikoff’s summary of the Stoic take: “Do not burn with passion for the things you haven’t got. Do not feel anger, or rebellion, or protest, against the state of affairs you’re in, or the kind of world you’re in, or the social circumstances you’re in. Take the course of events as it comes; yield unprotestingly to whatever occurs.”
Again, no. The Stoics were constantly faced with this sort of retort, so much so that they had a name for it: the lazy argument. One can see where this caricature originates, of course. The famous Stoic metaphor of the dog leashed to a cart, who has the option of either struggling hopelessly and causing himself pain or go along with the ride and enjoy it, lends itself to the sort of superficial interpretation that Peikoff peddles. But I expected better from Rand’s “foremost student.” If one reads the Discourses, or the Meditations, or a number of essays by Seneca, instead of quote mining, one ought to understand that the Stoics were very much into changing things: those we know of were, after all, teachers, politicians, generals and emperors — hardly the sort of passive fellow who “takes the course of events as it comes; yield unprotestingly to whatever occurs.” On the contrary, the Stoic virtue of justice and the associated Discipline of Action are all about changing things for the better. At any rate, you know someone’s got it seriously wrong when one can write things like this: “the Stoic withdrawal from life is much greater than Epicurus’s.”
The big sin of the Stoics, from an Objectivist perspective, is of course their altruism, founded on the just mentioned Discipline of Action and their concept of cosmopolitanism. Incredibly, Peikoff manages to turn Stoic altruism into a perverse form of egoism: “Since they’re Stoics, they remain emotionally aloof, cold, uninvolved, apathetic; what then is their real interest in helping others? Well, the critics answer: to give the Stoic a chance to exercise his moral muscle; in effect, to do what’s duty and thus gain the selfish sense that he has been virtuous; so their real goal is selfish after all.” This is one of the most egregious examples of misrepresentation and rationalization I’ve encountered in a long time. Congratulations, Leonard!
Section 9 criticizes the Stoics for what Peikoff calls “the primacy of motive,” that is the idea that what is important is the motivations that move the moral agent, not the actual achievements of his actions. Again, the objection seems to stem from the influence that the Stoics have had on Christianity and the much hated Kant. But this objection can be raised against any form of virtue ethics, not just Stoicism, and at any rate misses the mark because certain outcomes rather than others were indeed preferred by the Stoics. They just acknowledged that their preferences aren’t binding on the universe as a whole.
The last section of the lecture finally manages to give the Stoics some credit, though with a very large caveat. They were the first Western philosophers to grasp the fundamental idea of the equality of all men. (Not exactly, since Stoic cosmopolitanism is derived from the Cynics, and even Plato articulated a significant sense of equality when he gave equal duties to men and women in his Republic. But who cares about historical accuracy when one has to score ideological points.)
What’s the caveat? That the ground for Stoic cosmopolitanism, according to Peikoff, was “supernatural.” Except, of course, that it wasn’t. First off, the Stoics simply did not hold to a concept of the supernatural: God is nature, the soul is made of matter, and cause and effect are universal. There are no miracles to be had in the Stoic view of the world. Second, the Stoics got the idea of equality the same way they got all their fundamental ideas, by “following nature,” meaning specifically by understanding human nature. For them, humans are social animals capable of rationality. From which it follows that we ought to deploy reason to live socially. As Seneca famously put it: “Adhibe rationem difficultatibus” (bring the mind to bear upon your problems).
But Peikoff will have none of that, contrasting instead the Stoics with the Sophists, and somehow managing to get the latter to come up on top. Since I don’t think very highly of sophistry, I guess I can rest my case here.
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|To: Joachim K who wrote (7166)||7/13/2021 9:52:04 PM|
|From: Tom Clarke|
|Famous republican’s Irish-language shopfront to be restored|
Restoration of signage at 55 Amiens Street to commemorate Tom Clarke and celebrate Irish language
Fri, Jul 9, 2021, 16:57
Tom Clarke’s tobacconist shop at number 55, Amiens Street in Dublin city.
An Irish-language shopfront, formerly owned by the famous Irish republican, Tom Clarke, is set to be restored.
Clarke, who played a pivotal role in the 1916 Easter Rising, operated a tobacconist at number 55, Amiens Street in Dublin city from 1908 to 1911.
After the Rising ended, Clarke was brought to Kilmainham Gaol and was later executed by firing squad, along with Pádraig Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh.
His former shop, which is currently derelict, will have its early 1900s signage restored, using €50,000 in funding from the Irish-language shopfront stream of the Historic Structures Fund (HSF).
Structural works will also be necessary to safeguard the building, and the gilded signwriting on the shop windows will be reinstated.
“When Tom Clarke had his shop here, it was illegal to have signage in the Irish language,” said Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Catherine Martin.
“The restoration of this signage under the HSF not only commemorates an important chapter of our history, but is a celebration of our language. I am very much looking forward to seeing this project come to fruition.”
The project will be overseen by Dublin City Council.
The HSF assists owners and custodians of historic and protected structures to safeguard them into the future.
In April, €3 million in funding was granted to 85 other projects under the scheme.
Applications to the fund are closed for this year, but it is hoping to run the shopfront stream again in 2022.
Details will be posted on the department’s website at a later date.
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|From: Joachim K||7/18/2021 10:40:29 AM|
|The Koran is banned in Angola and not popular in Slovakia. |
I am surprised a book from the 7th century is taken as a divine revelation and not a simple guide of popular maxims that enrich the common good such as “render unto Caesar” or “turn the other cheek”.
The Koran councils’ followers to kill as a lifestyle choice.
Every western history book portrays the Crusades as an offensive war, long before any Crusader ever made it to the Holy Land, Islam had penetrated as far north as France.
Moslims need to rewrite their book or better yet pick a different book, I would suggest Les Misérables a story with good morals and values.
Of course, Muslims would be incensed by my suggestion because they believe their book is divine revelation.
Muslims do not realize this revelation was written in a script that no longer exists with countless edits and revisions getting more bloodthirsty with every rewrite.
The most important reason to ban the book is it does not believe in separation of church and state and therefore incompatible with western values.
Islam has a lot in common with a fledgling new religion called "global warming" that is trying to combine a belief system with government legislation financed by citizen slaves.
I suppose if I had to pick between the two faiths I would follow Mohammed, the promises are good and the loot better.
Mohammed only requires I accept a magical being called Allah which is a lot easier to accept than faith based science.
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|To: Tom Clarke who wrote (7167)||7/20/2021 11:11:18 AM|
|From: Joachim K|
|The most disturbing liturgy ever’: Irish burglar gets highly charged send-off|
A screwdriver and a torch, tools of a nocturnal trade, carried to altar at funeral of Dean Maguire
Rory Carroll Ireland correspondent
Tue 20 Jul 2021 15.19 BST
Father Donal Roche called it the most disturbing funeral he has ever attended, a homage to a life of crime played like a scene from The Sopranos.
Dean Maguire, 29, an Irish burglar with more than 25 convictions, had died in fiery motorway crash and mourners decided to give a memorable farewell.
Some blocked off roads leading to St Mary’s Priory Catholic church in Tallaght, west Dublin, while throngs piled into the church, flouting Ireland’s Covid-19 rules.
A screwdriver and a torch, tools of a nocturnal trade, were carried to the altar.
A poster paid tribute in rhyme. “RIP Dean. You know the score, get on the floor, don’t be funny, give me the money.”
Mourners who made eulogies said Maguire would not be forgotten. “Sorry for the language, Father – rest in peace, you fucking legend,” said one woman.
The atmosphere was highly charged, said Roche, who tried in vain to control the numbers entering the church while a colleague officiated at the mass.
“It was the most disturbing liturgy I have ever been at. There was a sense of restlessness, and the priest officiating was up against it,” he told RTÉ. “I didn’t feel in that much danger … but I did wonder, am I going to get a belt here?”
Since details of the mass last Friday seeped into the media there has been a public outcry at the glorification of criminals during funerals.
Diarmuid Martin, a former archbishop of Dublin, previously vowed that churches would not host such displays. Roche said he had no warning about the tributes to Maguire. When he phoned the police he was told their presence would inflame the situation and that officers would come only if there was a criminal act.
Gardaí are investigating videos that appear to show the hearse and some accompanying cars speeding and jumping traffic lights.
Maguire, who was wanted by British police, died on 7 July along with Graham Taylor and Carl Freeman when the BMW they were travelling in crashed into a truck on the N7, leaving the truck driver injured.
They were driving the wrong way up the motorway after fleeing from police. The trio were reportedly part of the same burglary gang, with more than 200 convictions between them.
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|To: Joachim K who wrote (7170)||7/20/2021 2:12:55 PM|
|From: Tom Clarke|
|Another insight into contemporary Ireland. Sinn Fein leader speaks at an Eid festival in Dublin, having picketed a Catholic church a few weeks ago. This event has been allowed go ahead, while one of Ireland's most traditional Catholic pilgrimages to the shrine of Knock has been cancelled for Covid reasons.|
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|To: Joachim K who wrote (7168)||7/22/2021 6:09:06 AM|
|From: Tom Clarke|
|How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads |
by Daniel Cassidy
In a series of lively essays, this pioneering book proves that US slang has its strongest wellsprings in nineteenth-century Irish America. "Jazz" and "poker," "sucker" and "scam" all derive from Irish. While demonstrating this, Daniel Cassidy simultaneously traces the hidden history of how Ireland fashioned America, not just linguistically, but through the Irish gambling underworld, urban street gangs, and the powerful political machines that grew out of them. Cassidy uncovers a secret national heritage, long discounted by our WASP-dominated culture.
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