Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Okay, I Really Can’t Help Myself

with 7 comments

But just so you know I’m paying attention.

The following:


“The purpose of a liberal education is to form free men… It also means that you have control of your actions, your passions, your tastes–that you can exercise self control in a world of almost infinite choice.”


is NOT a claim about the value of a liberal eduction.

It’s a statement of fact–this is what a liberal education is designed to do.  This is what was meant by that designated purpose.

It gives no indication at all–or any claim to know–whether it actually works. 

Although it’s rather clearer when you don’t cut out what’s in the ellipses. 

And this:

>>>The idea was to get your mind in shape to do difficult intellectual work in the world, both in the conduct and management of your own life and in your governance of your family and society.”<<<

is ALSO NOT a claim for a liberal education.

Note the form:  “the idea WAS–”

In other words, all it is, again, is a report on what, historically, a liberal education was designed to do.

And it gives you no idea whether I agree with it or not. 

Reporting something is not the same thing as agreeing with it, adopting it or proposing it.

And the real post is right under this one.

Written by janeh

September 27th, 2011 at 10:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses to 'Okay, I Really Can’t Help Myself'

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  1. Won’t wash. The time to say “the liberal education was traditionally promoted for this reason, but I’m not satisfied that the reason is sound” would have been last week or the week before. Starting with the traditional reason, and giving no other, creates a reasonable presumption that you agree with the reason. When I want “well, I may have given that impression, but that wasn’t exactly what I said” I’ll start listening to Congressional hearings or Presidential debates.


    27 Sep 11 at 4:20 pm

  2. Well, what can I say?

    I disagree.

    I REALLY disagree.

    This is, I think, one of my biggest annoyance in modern argument.

    It is a perfectly valid rhetorical device to state the history before you go on to your own views of the same topic.

    And doing so while running around screeching that no! no! YOU didn’t agree with this is to make your exposition INVALID, because it unfairly prejudices the reader against what he’s about to read.

    And in this case, I actually telegraphed the whole thing–wrote a post in which I explained what I was going to do and how I was going to do it.

    Nothing in what I wrote gave any indication whatsoever of what thought about any of the claims in the tradition, and the presumption of my agreement with any of it was an invalid conclusion from the evidence offered.

    The best you can say is that you couldn’t tell how I stood.

    This is the offshoot of the unstated corallary that nobody can make a coherent exposition of any point of view unless they buy it wholesale–so that even just trying to understand a position brands you immediately as it’s advocate.

    One of the first exercises I was aasked to do a freshman college class was to take a position I violently and absolutely disagreed with–I chose the practice of expelling girls from high school for getting pregnant but not expelling the boys who got them that way; what the hell, I was eighteen–and make the case FOR it in a comprehensive and compelling way.

    When I make arguments like this, I’m very careful about how I say what I say.

    If I haven’t said I agree with it, you have no way of knowing if I do or not, and no assumption that I MUST agree with it is valid.


    27 Sep 11 at 4:50 pm

  3. RE-reading the entire series of blogs, I can see that as valid. For myself, if I were reporting a claim without wishing to commit myself one way or the other, I would distance myself from it rhetorically, but I understandn teh objection to doing so. My apologies.


    27 Sep 11 at 7:05 pm

  4. Jane, I can recall you telling me way back in the day that I was extremely annoying, or some synonym, to iscuss something with. I probably was, albeit unintentionally.

    But I can hardly have been as obtuse as the present tag team, and I wait with increasing impatience for you to actually get past pettifogging interjections to deliver the thesis that you’ve been trying to develop these past several weeks now. Suffice it to say that I agree with you that you have never said that you necessarily agree with the detailed arguments of the ancients, but simply that it is important (I would say essential) that we know where they have been and where we are coming from. How else do we avoid continuously reinventing the wheel every alternative generation?

    I wonder if it might help prevent you being diverted into irrelevance if you were simply write a cohesive essay on the topic off-line, and drop the finished product into the blog when it’s done to your satisfaction and then throw the thing open to discussion. In the meantime, feed the monkeys
    peanuts. :-)


    27 Sep 11 at 7:26 pm

  5. I’m with Jane & Mique (and Robert?) on this one. I realized long ago that all you have to do to understand what Jane is saying is to read carefully what she actually writes, and avoid jumping to conclusions about whether or not she agrees with the position she is describing.

    It drives me crazy, too, in other places and times, when I merely explain how some claim makes perfect sense if you look at the assumptions it’s based on and get accused of buying the claim, lock, stock and barrel.


    28 Sep 11 at 7:01 am

  6. Jane doesn’t even believe everything she writes in her books, whether she seems like an advocate of the position or not.

    You get used to it. In the meantime, I’m reading carefully, though not contributing much. Wondering about all the heat being generated…real, or illusory?


    28 Sep 11 at 1:20 pm

  7. In the light of recent developments here in Oz, this link is apt:


    Note Delingpole’s reference to Milton’s “Milton’s Areopagitica”. I think this is a case where it is demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that a widespread working knowledge of the history of our culture and philosophy is essential for our freedoms. God Bless America and the First Amendment – a shining beacon for us all.

    Poor fellow, my Country. Ward Churchill should apply for political asylum. He’ll thrive here.


    29 Sep 11 at 4:43 am

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