notes dec 12 2007
December 12, 2007 § Leave a comment
I’ve just been re reading Steven Toulmin’s book Cosmopolis in which she says that the received opinion that the enlightenment occured at a time of increasing wealth and civility in Europe is just plain wrong. It was the period of the 30 years war, the assassination of Henry the fourth in France, who was a great mediator between the Catholics and protestants, bad weather, lots of unemployment, and terrible tensions in the whole of Europe as the nation states solidified into new structure is taking power away from the pope. The reaction of Descartes and Leibniz was to help create a project that could be seen as a minimal project without reference to culture, religion, the arts, history or anthropology but based instead on what was absolutely certain and beyond doubt.
Toulmin says that the earlier project of Shakespeare, Rabelais, Erasmus and in particular Montaigne, was rich in culture, local color, and detailed interests in the lives of real people: how they lived, how they thought, their actual concerns.
Toulmin says that this enlightenment project was a response to a crisis and basically stripped out the human from the philosophical and scientific discussion. We could have had the scientific developments of the enlightenment built in parallel with the humanistic and Enlightenment of the previous generation rather than being an opportunity to ostracize those achievements with a new language that once mechanical and cartesian.
The book is helpful in providing the background to my own thinking which has to do with the re humanization of science in terms of the reach of its subject matter the way it integrates the living concerns of the scientists, and the way it appeals to the public. I believe that science and the enlightenment are part of a new culture of thoughtful experimentation, tolerance, and a healthy minded approach to living. In its current form science is too much concerned with the world we inherited from god and the watchmaker and not enough concerned with that of the rest of what’s human: the world of love and poetry, war and wars alarms, the dramas of daily life, and the lessons of history and anthropology and primate studies.
On GarenWorld and the economy
On garden world and design. I started with the problems for which design is a solution. I think I have been fairly direct about what I think the problems are: environment, inequality, war, quality of life. Garden world starts with a belief that the promise of productivity after WWII was not realized. Instead we have a heart are working and less well distributed economy.
By vital and viable economy I mean one that can create jobs that are not exported, that is highly entrepreneurial, and responsive to local conditions. Strong environmental regulation would drive innovation. Resources available for local infrastructure and energy efficient remediation would lead to local jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. A new look at any urban, suburb and, war world habitat setting shows up are two new these for increasing the amount of plant life and the coherence of design throughout the community that would also create jobs, mitigate climate change (trees make great air conditioners) and raise the possibility of growing large quantities of food locally.
Some good news yesterday. My county is broke, and the state treasury is in bad shape. The county budget was calling for more jail space. The county commissioners yesterday throughout the proposed plan and said, look, doing what we have been doing is just not working. Let’s think of ways of RE managing the entire jails cycle. We need to help people not get arrested. We need to provide services between booking and trial. We need a much stronger reentry program. We need a different kind of filter at the front end so that people are not going to jail that don’t belong there. We need to spend the money on family support systems, not jail cells.
This is a major shift in this county. The sheriff said ” I was completely against this. It was just touchy feely. But I’ve done a complete turnaround and think it is the right direction to go and you have my complete support.”
This is a real shift of approach from the mechanical to the humane. It is forced by budget considerations, but the outcome is a good one I predict will lead to a shift in the way the county does its overall planning. I have ever seen the county commissioners warmer about their activity.
Garden world is certainly in part question of vision and tone. It is concerned with intent and the goal. As I said earlier ” nearly everybody wants to live in a blend of civilization and nature. Why don’t we use our wealth to go there?” In that context public education and public health really count because they are the empowerment of everyone for participation in a revitalized local and regional economy.
It is late in the game. My thinking is that the greatest points of resistance to garden world are the corporations which control a flow of money (and I include the financial institutions) and the problems of private property in land which are working so as to limit the possibilities of experimentation. Why should a very small number of people be able to arrange of the zoning on their land to a minimum of 25 acres per house? I have friends who are part of the effort and I do not wish them ill. The problems are going to be very difficult in a crowded world and narrow ownership.
I think I am clear that there is a problem to be solved, that a solution set is at hand, and resistance will be strong.
Bloomberg has an article that is vigorous on the economy but short on who benefits.FT.com – Comment & analysis – Comment – America must resist protectionism. The whole is worth reading an critiquing.
The new global economy holds enormous promise for fulfilling the American dream – that each of us can build a better life for our family. But capitalising on that promise requires courageous leadership. We had it in 1992 and we could use more of it now.
Seems to me what the dems need, but at the same time it does not address the inequity issues and basically is an assembly line speedup for most workers. Who will benefit? What is the relation to the environment? Does it differ from the Hamilton Project?