Dr. Pangloss denies that he is Dr. Pangloss, and other conundrums. American Writer marvels!

Read these paragraphs and know the true nature of Dr Pangloss’ political/moral quietism! If not his political usefulness, to the apologists for the predations of The American National Security State. He is the anti-intellectual intellectual!

‘Intellectuals hate progress. Intellectuals who call themselves “progressive” really hate progress. It’s not that they hate the fruits of progress, mind you: most pundits, critics, and their bien-pensant readers use computers rather than quills and inkwells, and they prefer to have their surgery with anesthesia rather than without it. It’s the idea of progress that rankles the chattering class—the Enlightenment belief that by understanding the world we can improve the human condition.

An entire lexicon of abuse has grown up to express their scorn. If you think knowledge can help solve problems, then you have a “blind faith” and a “quasi-religious belief” in the “outmoded superstition” and “false promise” of the “myth” of the “onward march” of “inevitable progress.” You are a “cheerleader” for “vulgar American can-doism” with the “rah-rah” spirit of “boardroom ideology,” “Silicon Valley,” and the “Chamber of Commerce.” You are a practitioner of “Whig history,” a “naïve optimist,” a “Pollyanna,” and of course a “Pangloss,” a modern-day version of the philosopher in Voltaire’s Candide who asserts that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

Professor Pangloss, as it happens, is what we would now call a pessimist. A modern optimist believes that the world can be much, much better than it is today. Voltaire was satirizing not the Enlightenment hope for progress but its opposite, the religious rationalization for suffering called theodicy, according to which God had no choice but to allow epidemics and massacres because a world without them is metaphysically impossible.


Our reading of Voltaire’s  Dr. Pangloss is wrong, or so pronounces his contemporary incarnation. But more to the point of Pinker’s unbridled ‘optimism’, See Chomsky Responds to Steven Pinker on Violence:

See also Pinker, as a self -described Hobbesian , in reply to Chomsky as  Anarcho-Syndicalist romantic , as opposed to his own pragmatism, awash in man’s natural acquisitiveness, selfishness. Is the human being in a ‘State of Nature’ self-seeking or a co-operative collaborator?  If that isn’t overstating Pinker’s economically framed argument. The evolution of the family family and the tribe are examples of what? Noam Chomsky’s Misreading of Human Nature:

There is much more to consider in Dr. Pinker’s essay, my comments can serve as a beginning, to address the rampant anti-intellectualism of his polemic. His quietism is of the most pernicious and dangerous kind!

American Writer




About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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