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More Wisdom from Eisenhower

Ken Thomas notes the president's invocation of Eisenhower in last night's SOTU address.  It's worth mentioning Ike's Farewell Address in this context as well.  Last year I wrote a very short piece for the newsletter of our Masters in American History and Government program regarding how everyone remembers Ike's warning about the power of the "military-industrial complex," but ignores what he said about the danger posed by a "scentific-technological elite."  I'm pleased to see that Pat Deneen has addressed this, in far more depth and detail, in the current issue of the paleocon journal The American Conservative.  He writes:

No section of Eisenhower's address gives more compelling witness to this fear than his warning that the military-industrial-scientific complex's demands would require the transformation of the university. His prophecy--which has become history--not only portended the death knell of "free ideas," but the demise of the university's historic role in providing reflective cautions about the pursuit of forbidden knowledge. Instead, the academy has given itself over to forms of inquiry with the ultimate aim of overcoming human nature.

Read the whole thing, keeping in mind Heather Wilson's recent lament regarding the narrowness and superficiality of even today's best and brightest college students.

Categories > Education

Discussions - 1 Comment

I don't know. Deenen mentions "This Baconian confidence is given official sanction in Article 1" ( section 8) of the Constitution, requiring Congress to support “the progress of Science and useful Arts"....

If you are going to give Obama hard time on how he goes about funding science, it would be interesting to have some precision on just what Deenen means by "requiring Congress to support".

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

I think one of the clear ways to promote scientific research is to make an adjustment in patent law.

Also in terms of construction I don't think it is acurate to say that Article 1 section 8 "requires congress to support". After all it begins: "The Congress should have the power" To X, Y, Z.

Also it is interesting that while the progress of science (i.e. patent) only requires some protection (getting one is very difficult, and the duration is much shorter).

The protection of authors i.e. copyright is much longer...and very easy (all you need is a modicum of originality, and fixation.)

Thanks in part to Republicans and the Mickey Mouse Act (sonny bono) limited times might as well mean eternity minus a day (it can't actually mean this, but like the debt limit, congress can extend the limitation everytime an interest group (Disney) gets close to seeing one of its precious intellectual properties enter the public domain.)

I do agree with Deenen that the United States might be called a technological republic...but it really also is an administrative technological republic, and if he has read (he has probably much read more but not recently) as many legal cases as I have, he might find "liberty in law" ambiguous at best.

I am of the opinion that the law structures everything, and that copyright has its own sort of hidden metaphysics. But even if that last sentence was vague...I understand that you can take a state of the Union by a president because it is a work made for hire by a federal employee (constitutionally proscribed if not exactly in its current commercial form, thus not copyrightable), and basically tack unto it sentences with a modicum of creativity and if you have the right credentials market it as a copyrighted work. (Deenen owns the copyright on his article, or else it was a work made for hire owned by The American Conservative.)

In order to make it original you need a modicum of creativity...(and you need this for copyright)

This encourages a lot of sentences like this: "His prophecy--which has become history--not only portended the death knell of "free ideas," but the demise of the university's historic role in providing reflective cautions about the pursuit of forbidden knowledge."

The death knell of "free ideas"!

I can read english, but I can't tell you exactly what that means.

Now the "death knell of free ideas"....well to be clever that refers to congress extending copyright...(actually it is the true theme of Disney Toy Story 3...but I digress).

I know we have fair use defenses to copyright infringement, but if ideas were ever free...

Then we have this sentence: "Instead, the academy has given itself over to forms of inquiry with the ultimate aim of overcoming human nature."

Now the key words here seem to be "ultimate aim". "ultimate aim" is very tricky... it gets even more tricky when paired with "overcoming human nature."
It gets even more difficult when it isn't an individual with this aim, but a body "the academy".

Here is the difficulty, I might have the ultimate aim of persuing truth, or learning, thinking outloud, and convincing others that I am smart and they should like me and pay me. Likely on any given topic I can have an aggregate of interests.

Lets assume this is also true for the academy, but what then is the "ultimate aim" of this aggregate?

Lets take blogging, the blogosphere ( a body larger than the academy) Lets even assume that substantially this body desired to overcome human nature(whatever that means collectively).

In such a large group the ultimate aim would be lost, rather all that could exist would be a proximate cause, and the proximate cause of this manifestation is to drive the valuation of companies like Google(see reCaptcha owners) and Facebook, and Apple, maybe RIM if you use a blackberry....I mean one proximate cause of posting regularily on No Left turns is helping Google decode older font.

That is Craig Scalon may have one "ultimate aim", John Lewis another, Art Deco another...but one identifiable proximate cause is serving google.

I fairly often intend a considerable and problematic "ultimate aim" that is disjoined from my sense of foreseeability. (with enough miscommunication the aggregate foreseeability is to display the "art" of he who owns Times New Roman, and drive packets of information across the internet to boost the valuation of Nasdaq companies.)

I want to mean something, but my sense of proximate cause as a realist considers having an "ultimate aim", that stands beyond this something of a fools gambit in the aggregate.

I don't know that overcoming human nature, isn't part of human nature and that this sentiment isn't as meaningless as saying that michael jordan wasn't that naturally good he just worked really hard.

Why not shrug Bacon's famous saying and intone "nature to be commanded must be obeyed", and also "Nature must be obeyed." And we gain a sense of command by convincing ourselves that we will to do what we must, or that we only will that which it is forseable to see as an outcome of doing regardless of "ultimate aim" intentions?

That is efficiency would dictate a much shorter response for the foreseeable end of acting as an agent for Google in its quest to decode and enlarge the public domain...So I fight the tyranny of science by not intending an efficient response?

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