American Composition and Rhetoric (Davidson)

Davidson, Donald. American Composition and Rhetoric. 4th edition. New York: Scribner’s, 1959.

I wouldn’t normally write a review on a college composition manual.  As the old adage notes, textbooks are where good writing goes to die.  But when the book in question is written by a Vanderbilt Fugitive and Southern Agrarian, one must sit up and take note.  Although most books that take a “little bit of everything” approach usually fail, this doesn’t.  Donald Davidson, speaking as a professor and teacher of students, does just this, but he does so in a way that gives us the best of everything.

I’m breaking with the standard review format and giving the reader gems from Davidson.  His comments on rhetorical style are just too good to present in any other way.

How to Write a Review

I. Approach to the subject: usually a paragraph relating to the book’s timeliness.

II. Presentation of the Subject Matter: present the basic ideas.

III. Critical estimate: Discuss excellencies and defects of the work. Refer to specifics.

The Sentence, or how to write with style

Verbals do not constitute predicates (161).

Rhetorical form: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines” (188).  This sentence is organized around two powerful word-groups: (1) a foolish consistency and (2) hobgoblin of little minds. Each contains a strong word (foolish and hobgoblin).  In other words, “Emerson put important words in important places” (189).

The above sentence would be ruined if the adjective were buried in a dependent clause.  When you shift the subject, the emphasis changes.

Rhetorical Analysis

It is the study of the points of a sentence. One such point is the “pivot” word. The emphatic points of a sentence are the beginning and end. In complex sentences pivot words s

Using the right phrase

A phrase in rhetoric isn’t always the same as a phrase in grammar (206). We are thinking more along the lines of combinations than of grammatical units. It will often be an important word and its modifiers.  Psalm 19 in the KJV is a perfect example (207).

“A world of disorderly notions, picked out of his books, crowded into his imagination; and now his head was full of nothing but enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, complaints, armours, and abundance of stuff and impossibilities; insomuch that all the fables and fantastic tales which he read, seemed to him now as the most authentic histories.”
–Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote.

Parallelism

“Like ideas require like expression” (214). It isn’t simply grammatical coordination.  It is also “consistency of form as well as equality of rank” (215). Parallelism “directs one’s attention to structural units.” Using too much parallelism, though, will make you seem too ornate and pretentious.

Types of Sentence Structure

Loose Sentence

It has a predicate early in the sequence of its sentence elements (219). The “thought” is complete long before the end. It ends with a modifier.

Charles had a habit of taking early morning walks, perhaps because his aunt had commended the birds, if not the worms, to his attention, or perhaps he just could not sleep late, anyway.

Its goal is to add qualifications after the assertion is made.  

Periodic Sentence

It withholds its predicate until the end, or near the end of the sentence. Its meaning is not complete until the end or close to the end.

How much of this morbid feeling sprant from an original disease of the mind, how much from real misfortune, how much from the nervousness of dissipation, how much was fanciful…it is impossible for us, and would probably have been impossible for the most intimate friends of Lord Byron, to decide.

It aims for the principle of suspension. If used sparingly and wisely, it can have a concentrated and sharp effect.

Balanced Sentence

It is similar to parallelism. “An acre in Middlesex is better than a principality in Utopia.”  It is good for expressing wit.

Combining Sentences in a paragraph

By grouping short sentences together in a paragraph one creates “distinctness of detail.” It gives a matter-of-fact feel (229).  Groups of longer sentences give a stately feel.

Key Idea: the structure of a sentence is far more important than its length (231). “Structure determines length,” and the complexity of one’s thought determines the structure.

Words

“Abstract terms like progress, tradition, fundamental values, social awareness, constructive, outstanding are often the refuge of writers who do not know what they want to say, yet wish somehow to be impressive and seem important” (271).

Abstract and general terms have a place, though.   Scientific and philosophical writing must usually be general (273).

However, being the woman of the town could be traumatic; it carried certain risks: diseases and possibly death.

Narrative and Fictional Writing, some notes.

“The point of view establishes the scale of the description, and this scale, once established, must not be violated” (293).

On writing short stories: “a naive or unconscious echoing of the method of the folk tale–as in the use of a rigid plot, generalized narrative, stereotyped characters, forced ending–is a certain mark of the novice, and is sure to bring failure” (353).

The prose idiom: must be learned by “close examination of good stories.” It “achieves its results more through suggestion than through explicit statement” (360). The sentences need to be mainly straightforward and direct.

Research

Davidson almost convinced me to use notecards in research.

Literary Criticism

The main point in good style is to get the author’s point across.  Good style is more than good grammar, though rarely less (490).

Informal Essays

They get their unity by “observing a rule of balance.”  This unity is often a “harmony of effect” (495). As Dr Johnson notes, “familiar, but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious.”

The text ends with a brief review of grammar.  Some highlights:

When a noun modifies a gerund, it takes the possessive case (547). This does not apply if there is a clause or phrase intervening between it and the gerund (565).

Because-clauses.  Avoid constructions like the following:

The reason why he refused to sign the petition was because he considered it mere propaganda.”

The clause following was is a predicate complement.  It cannot be used as an adverbial clause.  Instead, it should read:

He refused to sign the petition because he considered it mere propaganda.

The because-clause is now modifying refused.

Odd Rules

“The intensive very, when used with a past participle, cannot be alone in formal discourse, but is correct only when used with the adverb much” (617).

Avoid the “and which” error.  “Two or more phrases or two or more clauses can be coordinated, but not a phrase and a clause” (622).

Absolute phrases = nominative absolutes (651).

“My notes taken, I left the library.”

Secondary Sources on Richard M. Weaver

This website tipped me to key secondary articles on Richard M. Weaver’s rhetoric. I’m going to link to the actual article or to the host site.

Bradford, M. E. The Agrarianism of Richard Weaver: Beginnings and Completion.

Haskel, Robert and Hauser, Gerald. “Rhetorical Structure: Truth and Method in Weaver’s Epistemology,” The Quarterly Journal of Speech. October 1978:233-248.

Johannesen, Richard L., “Richard M. Weaver On Standards For Ethical Rhetoric,” Central States Speech Journal.

Benedict Option (Dreher)

Dreher, Rod.  Benedict Option.

I see myself as a friendly critic of Rod Dreher.  I think he consistently makes good points, but I also think he is really good at riding the wave of crucial opinions, even if they happen to be correct.  It’s hard to review this book.  Do you remember that episode of “Arrested Development” where Gob gets hired as a consultant to a rival company?  He was supposed to supply good ideas for the company. Having no clue what he was doing, he got his brother Michael to give him ideas.  Michael gave him around thirty ideas.  Gob presented them all at once.  That’s kind of how this book is.  I am going to focus primarily on his views of “intentional communities” and “education.”

He begins by noting that Big Business will side with the sexual revolution over conservative morality every single time. We’ll come back to this point, as it ties in with his criticisms of the GOP.  What Dreher doesn’t realize is that the types of people who have always pointed this out were populists and nationalists. They also voted for Trump.

This next part of the book approaches dangerous waters.  This happens whenever someone attempts a genealogical explanation of the current ills.  In other words, the problem with x today can be traced back to y’s influence over 600 years ago.  Whatever good points he might make, this is almost impossible to prove.  For Dreher, as for Radical Orthodoxy and Brad Gregory, the problem is nominalism.   I agree that nominalism is a problem.  But to trace the loss of realism as creating the Renaissance, Reformation, and all the way to the sexual revolution today is impossible to prove. So far, Dreher’s book is an updated version of Francis Schaeffer, and parts of it are quite good.

Is the Benedict Option saying we should live in intentional communities where we won’t be persecuted?  Not exactly, though Dreher makes clear that he doesn’t rule it out.  On one hand, he notes that you don’t have to move to the hinterlands to “Be the Benedict Option.”  Local communities need skilled workers in jobs that are rewarding, if difficult, and don’t force one to violate his convictions.  On the other hand, one suspects Dreher wants more than that.  He rightly points out that Christians who live in communities that are close to the local church are more close-knit communities that can help one another in trouble.  Very true.

I am very wary of intentional communities.  It just seems like post-evangelicals are LARPing. The potential for abuse is high. By saying that I am not saying that makes intentional communities wrong.  I am simply pointing out a built-in weakness.  According to theory, proper church government models and civil government models have built-in checks to accountability (at least they did before the 2020 election).  Intentional communities are vague on that point, though some usually subscribe to a vague, if sometimes legalistic, church covenant.

Dreher is certainly aware of that.  In 2015 he wrote a fine article criticizing and calling attention to the sexual abuse scandals in Moscow, ID.  He noted that he had once considered Moscow a viable example of a Benedict Option community.  Moscow, ID is indeed a clear example, but for darker reasons.

All of that, regardless of the pros and cons of such a position, is meant to carry water for something else:  Christian education.  I think this is the most controversial, albeit interesting, part of the book.  Like many conservatives, Dreher calls attention to the failing public schools, both morally and academically.  Nothing new there.  What about private schools?  Dreher is just as hard on them.  Private schools do not provide a specifically Christian education and are more often country clubs for rich people’s kids.  The morals might not be as bad as public schooling, but they are getting there.  

Well, what about specifically Christian education?  That’s still not good enough for Dreher.  He points out–with some justification–that Christian education is simply the standard subjects with “Jesus on top.” He has a point there.  How do you “Christianly” teach the Pythagorean theorem?  You can say you are “doing it for the glory of God,” but the formula didn’t change.

Well, what about homeschooling?  He likes the idea.  The problem, though, and this is a legitimate point, is that homeschooling isn’t for every student, it requires a certain level of discipline from the parent, and it requires both a two parent household and the ability to live on a single income.

Therefore, the only possible alternative left is the classical education model.  There is a lot I like about the classical model, yet I don’t share the “it will save Western Civilization” mindset.  Classical models begin–some, anyway–with the proper mindset to education.  We shouldn’t ask of an education, “What can I do with it?”  Rather, we should be aware of the inevitable question, “What will this education do to me?”  Further, I like how in the humanities the classical model is better able to integrate Jesus and the Western tradition.  Classical models correctly see education as transmitting virtue and wisdom.

In terms of history, writing, and literature the classical model is superb, far excelling the others.  However, I have seen from personal experience, from a noted classical school, that when students get into some public and charter schools they are years behind in math.  Granted, this probably depends more on student and teacher.  I just see classical models as stronger on the humanities that STEM.

And that raises another issue: several key advantages of the classical model can be accomplished on one’s own.  With a good library you can read the exact same classics.  Bloom’s or Cambridge Companions can provide scholarly interaction with these sources.  You can learn Latin on your own with youtube helps.  Wheelock’s and many Catholic sources have great Latin helps.  You don’t need a specific school for that.  

That raises another point.  As is the case with seminary professors and Hebrew, how many of the students continue to read and translate Latin?  Unless they continue it, what was the point?  Sure, it gives them better verbal skills on tests and an entry into the Romance languages.  But even in those languages, do they continue?

I like much about the classical model.  I just have my reserves.  I think its strengths often can be found elsewhere.

I understand how this book is popular.  Dreher is a very good writer and he put his finger on numerous key problems.  I think part of my frustration with the book is that he comes across as sloganeering and doesn’t always develop and analyze his own points.  For example, he correctly notes that many Christian schools (and worldview talk in general) simply do the curriculum but say “It’s Jesus’s Curriculum,” which actually does nothing to change the pedagogy.  That said, he doesn’t always explain how the Benedict Option integrates math and science in a Jesus-worldview without doing the same thing.  

Elsewhere, he makes many good points about the coming crisis that Christians will have to face, and how we might have to seek employment in ways that require us to work with our hands.  To be honest, I like Dreher’s vision a lot more than the standard gentrification models of The Gospel Coalition.  If read with a very critical eye, this book will get one thinking about possible future models of Christian existence.

Georgics (Virgil)

This is an easy, pastoral treatise, marking an early agrarianism.

Georgics 1 and 3: life is hard

Georgics 2 and 4: life is easy.

According to John Dryden, the books move from dead matter, to the beginnings of life (book 2), to animal life, and then, not with men, but with bees. 

There is an “eternal bond” put upon the world by “Nature’s hand” (I:60).  Like Hesiod, Virgil hints at a primordial community of men.

Book IV ends with suggestions of a Roman golden age.

Barbarians in the Saddle: Biography of Richard Weaver

Scotchie, Joseph.  Barbarians in the Saddle: An Intellectual Biography of Richard M. Weaver.  Transaction Publishers: New Brunswick, NJ, 1997.

There aren’t many biographies of that late agrarian man of letters, Richard M. Weaver.  While this isn’t a traditional intellectual biography (and so the title is misleading), it is a fine survey of Weaver’s thought.  It ends by examining the evolution of late 20th century American conservatism.

Weaver saw the encroaching welfare state (which in its industrial form he terms “Megalopolis”) as a direct threat to the natural rhythms of man’s life.  The Old South, on the other hand, provided Weaver with a foil against which to attack Megalopolis. For Weaver, the Old South was “an aristocracy of achievement” and the last nonmaterialist civilization.  We will examine that claim at the end. 

Strictly speaking, I think Weaver’s claim is a half-truth.  On the other hand, it does provide him with a counter on how to live against such a technocracy that we face.  Weaver wanted a society where “manners, morals, and codes of conduct mattered more than mere moneymaking” (Scotchie 17). The heart of this was aristocracy. Men aren’t equal in talent, intelligence, or strength.  Some will always rise to the top.  There are social distinctions (and even today’s democracy hasn’t fully erased them).

The aristocrat has the responsibility of maintaining the order in society while the yeoman is able to enjoy the stability.  Of most importance, it was the Civil War that showed the dynamic relationship between aristocrat and yeoman: “the aristocrat and yeoman farmer lived, fought, and died together” (29).  The yeoman didn’t scorn the leader in the field.  He took pride “as a fighting man in Lee’s Army or riding with Old Jack.  That the aristocrat was in the field, leading his charges into battle, only increased the yeoman’s respect for the idea of a hierarchy” (30).

Weaver’s most famous book was Ideas Have Consequences.  The consequence he feared was that the total state might finish the job that total war started (43).  This isn’t simply statism–any libertarian might make that critique.  Rather, it is the totalization of industrial life that turns man into an abstraction (ever heard of “human resources”?). 

Against this, Weaver sought to cultivate a humane rhetoric. This is a view that “presents us with a proper view of man and a pleasing vision of culture” (62). Rhetoric is a cultural cipher that allows us to see the “poetry, songs, religion and codes of conduct that shape” culture (64).

The ultimate opposite to Weaver’s vision of Agrarianism is not urbanism or even industrialism per se, but Gnosticism. The Gnostic cuts off man from any roots of place, tradition, memory–these three summarize Weaver’s vision of hierarchy and aristocracy.  Such a society doesn’t have to become static, for as Weaver was fond of saying, “things are and are becoming” (131).

Was Weaver correct about the Old South? In some ways. Let’s leave slavery aside for the moment, for the question is not the morality of slavery, nor does it concern over what causes the war was fault. Weaver is asking, rather, did the South possess an aristocracy that embodied chivalry and an anti-materialist culture? I say yes to the first two claims and “kind of” to the last one.

In Defense of Tradition (Richard Weaver)

Weaver, Richard M. In Defense of Tradition: Collected Shorter Writings of Richard M Weaver, 1929-1963. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2000.

Richard Weaver’s legend was already secure when he wrote his brilliantly-titled Ideas Have Consequences. In this collection of essays we see Weaver the teacher, the professor. It’s hard to say how modern American Conservatism would have emerged had it not been for Weaver.  In a sense, Weaver may have passed the baton to Russell Kirk, from whom National Review took it (and likely ruined it).

Section 1 highlights with Weaver’s key essay “Up from Liberalism,” wherein he describes his movement from a young college socialist (but I repeat myself) to a mature agrarian conservative.

Why would someone like Weaver be interested in socialism?  Aside from youthful naivete, it seems he was looking for an organic connection among humanity that doesn’t reduce men to capital (ever heard of the phrase “Human Resources?”  It should chill you). Of course, socialism can’t deliver, mainly because academic socialists don’t know how humanity acts.  Weaver tells a funny story from college:

“I remember how shocked I was when a member of this group suggested that we provide at our public rallies one of the ‘hillbilly bands’ which are often used to draw crowds and provide entertainments….I have since realized that the member was far more practically astute than I: the hillbilly music would undoubtedly have fetched more [people] than the austere exposition of the country’s ills” (34-35).

Change “socialist” to “intellectual conservative today” and the point stands. As socialism bankrupted Weaver began to see that society could be ordered around “the Agrarian ideal of the individual in contact with the rhythms of nature, of the small-property holding, and of the society of pluralistic organization” (37).

From this Weaver would later take his stand (no pun intended) on the idea of “substance” or “the nature of things,” yet he would not do so in the way of scholasticism which endlessly multiplied speculations and abstractions.  He notes that it is “the intent of the radical to defy all substance, or to press it into forms conceived in his mind alone” (41).

The ideological Marxist (both then and now, but much more efficiently now), knew that the best way to silence conservatives is to accuse society of “prejudice.”  What the Christ-hater meant is that any differentiation in society meant an ideological violence.  The form of the fallacy used, argumentum ad ignorantium, “seeks to take advantage of an opponent by confusing what is abstractly possible with what is really possible” (92-93).

Reviewing T. S. Eliot, Weaver examines what is and isn’t culture.  We never get an analytical definition, but Weaver does offer some fascinating, if only tantalizing, clues.  A culture is an image through which our “being” comes through.  It’s often regional in focus (think of the oxymoron international culture).  As such, “Cornbread or blueberry pie is more indicative of culture than is a multi-million dollar art gallery which is the creation of some philanthropist” (150).

In line with his Ideas Have Consequences, Weaver assumes philosophical realism, yet his defense of essences is never center-stage, and so never belabored.  He reminds us that “names are indexes to essences” (235), and essences are what form “permanent things” (against which the modern world is in full attack).

From the middle of the book onward, Weaver engages in various book reviews dealing with literature, history, and the South.  Whether they are two pages or twenty, they are a model in concise thinking.

As he ends, he reminds us what it is to be a conservative (and what most popular conservatives have lost today). We defend the essences of permanent things.  There is a hierarchical structure in the universe (albeit closer to aristocracy than today’s crude religious patriarchy).

Teaching How to Think

Since Weaver was a professor of English composition, this section (228ff) could yield some valuable insights.  Given that Weaver was a gifted prose artist, and given that he taught students how to write and think (rhetoric, in other words), what advice does he offer us today?  The section is too good and too long for any adequate review.  The reader is encouraged to digest Weaver’s The Ethics of Rhetoric.

Observations

Weaver wasn’t a shrill alarmist bemoaning how Communists are taking over the universities.  They certainly are, but the issues are deeper.  Conservatives are just as guilty (if only by incompetence rather than malice). Weaver notes of curricula that students learn “a fair introduction to the history–but not the substance–of literature and philosophy” (Weaver 34).  Let’s remain on this point.  I knew a lot of history in college and in seminary I thought I knew a fair amount of theology, but I never once had a teacher engage in a socratic dialogue concerning the meaning of essence, etc.  

* Original sin puts the breaks on “democratic reasoning.” “Democracy finds it difficult ever to say that man is wrong if he does things in large majorities” (44).

* Liberal education is designed to make free men.  It cultivates virtue and such virtue is “assimilated and grows into character through exercise, which means freedom of action in a world in which not all things are good” (198-199).

Key Insights

The technocracy (ruled today by the cult of Experts) makes it hard to be a person.   “Man is an organism, not a mechanism; and the mechanical pacing of his life does harm to his human responses, which naturally follow a kind of free rhythm” (75).

* “To divinize an institution is to make it eventually an idol, and an idol always demands tribute” (153).

* “Wisdom is never taught directly; indoctrination often backfires; propaganda ends by drawing contempt upon itself” (227).

* “Future teaches got trained not in what they were going to teach, but in how they should teach it, and that, I repeat, is a very limited curriculum” (223).

November 1916: Earlier Nodes

This part is complicated.  He interrupts his narrative to explain some of the history that led to the problems.  There was an initial attempt to liberalize (in the good sense of the word) land ownership and put decision-making back into the hands, if not of the people, then of heads of landowning-areas. The problem is that Russian liberalism, like all liberalism, found itself caught between traditionalism and communism (59).

Solzhenitsyn points out that the liberals, while not being revolutionaries, ran interference for them (until the moment the revolutionaries hanged them.  Like weak Christians today, they engage left, punch right.

This is what I try to tell virtue signalers on both Left and Right.  You want to appease the mob and show them how virtuous you are.  The revolutionaries will dialogue with you until the moment they cut your throat.

This leads to the Russian idea of the zemstvo. It is a “social union of a given district” (60). At its best it provided a social shield between the lower class and other classes.  Tsar Aleksandr II sought to empower the zemstvos and give them more autonomy.  This would have functioned as a pressure valve on society, allowing the legitimate criticisms of the monarchy, that it didn’t allow for representation, to find its voice in the land.  As as result, “we might have had, with the monarchy intact, a self-governing society, ethical in complexion, and free of party politics.”

It was never to be.  Later tsars considered zemstvo “networking” to be revolutionary activity, and so cut their own legs out from under themselves. The socialist outsiders soon moved in. Solzhenitsyn here introduces one of his heroes, Shipov.  Shipov came up with a brilliant networking system that would have staved of socialism, if it were to be realized (69). Rural districts elect county “zemstvo assemblies,” which elect provincial assemblies, and the provinces an all-Russian assembly

Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)

Tolstoy, Leo.  Anna Karenina. Trans. Constance Garnett.

Sin will find you out.  Without directly saying it, Tolstoy reiterates the theme found in Plato’s Gorgias: wrongdoing is its own punishment.  Sin has a reflex action upon the will.  Anna’s adultery creates a situation from which she cannot escape.  Even when those whom she’s wronged are willing to provide a way out, she finds she cannot take it.

The main character, however, is not Anna.  It is Levin.  Levin is Tolstoy’s alter-ego.  Levin begins as what can only be described as a proto-Any Randian.  He even identifies “the mainspring of all our actions” as self-interest (Tolstoy 280). He matures into an anarcho-agrarian.  

Side point: while converts to Russian Orthodoxy boast of Holy Russia’s Christian heritage, Tolstoy paints a different picture.  Levin was an average Russian who hadn’t taken Communion in nine years.  He didn’t even believe in God.  

Anna wants “love,” which she thinks she isn’t getting from her cold marriage to Karenin. Levin has to learn about himself through a series of “successful failures,” both in love and in farming.

Here is the challenge Anna represents to the modern world.  We can all grant that she is a whore.  She broke her marriage vows.  Anna, however, defined love as “zest” or “passion.”  If the zest isn’t there, then love isn’t.  This isn’t all that different from some religious groups defining their love for God in terms of the intensity of their affections.  You can’t say Anna’s definition of love is wrong if you share the same premise with her.

Love is not how hard I feel about something.  Love is a commitment to will the good of the other.

Tolstoy gives us a brilliant analysis of St Petersburg culture. St. Petersburg was the New York of Russia.  Moscow was slightly more conservative and traditional. Even though St Petersburg society is utterly decadent, there is a veneer of traditional morality.  If Anna goes through with it, she can never integrate into polite society again.  While Petersburg may eschew traditional morality, no one wants to hobnob with whores.

Tolstoy doesn’t explore the religious angle as intensely as Dostoevsky, though that is the point upon which the book ends.  Nonetheless, Tolstoy notes that today’s freethinkers lack the power of earlier ones.  How much truer is that today!  He notes, “In former days the freethinker was a man who had been brought up in ideas of religion, law, and morality, and only through conflict and struggle became a freethinker; but now there has sprung up a new type of born freethinker who grows up….in ideas of negation in everything….

“In old times, you see, a man who wanted to educate himself would have begun to study all the classics and theologians and tragedians and historians and philosophers, and what mental work came his way.  But in our day he goes straight for the literature of negation” (532).

Tolstoy was a genius.  No doubt about it.  Excusing his own hypocritical life, he might have given us the finest novel of all time.

 

 

On debates and dialogue

I’m fairly good on not blogging about the latest blow up on social media.  This post isn’t important in the grand scheme, though it may serve as the “Suburban Agrarian Manifesto.”  The other day some guy on Twitter asked about “Day Jyer” and should he debate him. I told him don’t worry about it.  Day Jyer has the same standard arguments against every position.  I said its better to focus on the original languages.   Day’s arguments don’t ever interact with the Hebrew or Greek in any real exegetical form.

Innocent enough, I suppose.  I didn’t think twice of it, so I logged off.  The next day Twitter exploded.  He then challenged me to a public debate.   I said no.  Let’s examine the terms of the word (good debating tip).  His view of “debate” means going to his (not yours) platform and “debating.”  What happens is that he talks over you, interrupts you, and insults you.  This, most gentle reader, is not a debate.

Please understand, in my criticisms of him I mean no disrespect to classic Eastern Orthodoxy.  I’ve learned much from them. They, for the most part, have disowned him. He even tried to get me to call Eastern Orthodox heretics.  I’m like, “Dude, I don’t even care.  Why are you so interested in me?”

When you think of a public debate, what do you think of?  Something like a Ciceronian forum, or the Bahnsen-Stein debate, or William Lane Craig.  Even the degenerate DNC debates look something like a real debating platform.

That’s not what Day Jyer has in mind.  He can’t yell over you in that format.  Case in point.  The Facebook Page Inspiring Philosophy was open to debating him.  They then asked him if he could promise not to insult people.  He got angry and started insulting them.  You can read it here.  Do read it. It’s hilarious.  Ask yourself: “Am I the kind of person that I simply cannot give a promise to not insult someone?”

That’s not the only reason for my turning him down. Another is I am an adult with adulting responsibilities.   I have a wife and a daughter.  They demand my full attention, and to them I gladly give it.  Why would I shove them aside to go get insulted by someone?

There is another reason, and this comes back to one of my earlier comments: languages.  I read Greek, Hebrew, and Latin every day.  I would link you to his comments, but he blocked me. He essentially acknowledged he didn’t know the languages and simply ridiculed us as “a group of sectarians and heretics who read the languages.” Gentle reader, would you really want to go “debate” someone like that?    Anyway, reading the languages demands much of my time.  Should I put these noble pursuits aside simply to entertain his howler monkeys at my expense?

That brings up another point: seeing that I am going to get insulted at the cost of my time and family, what exactly do I get out of it?  His disciples couldn’t answer that question.

Here are some of the screenshots.  I edited them for anonymity’s sake because I am a nice person or something.  Kind readers, are these not the remarks of someone is is unhinged?

 

Xenophon: memorabilia, oeconomicus, etc

Xenophon’s skill is in military history.  While he is good in Socratic dialogue, he never approaches Plato’s depth and power of analysis.  He is still a very good writer, though.

Memorabilia

Xenophon’s Socrates doesn’t have the depth of Plato’s, but there are some similarities.  Both are skilled interrogators and Xenophon does write with an easy style. His argument is that Socrates could not have been guilty of corrupting the youth or denying the gods.  He shows that the corrupt followers became corrupt after leaving Socrates’s company.

Given the Greeks’ reputation for sensual license, Socrates appears as the epitome of restraint.  He rebukes Critobulus’s advances towards Alcibiades’s slave boy, warning that it will unleash a danger Critobulus cannot control (I.3.8ff).

Xenophon also breaks with the Greek disdain over commerce.  He explains to Nicomachides, who wants to be a good general but was not chosen, that every quality a merchant has, a general must have.  He even tells him (in what can only be a break with the entire tradition), “Don’t look down on businessmen: (III.iv.12). There is a similar moving passage in the Oec.

While Xenophon largely exonerates Socrates on the point of morals, he almost paints him as a pick up artist at one point.  He goes to visit Theodote and asks her how she plans to make a living since men’s love is fickle. She doesn’t know, so he basically teaches her “Game Theory.”

The Oeconomicus

This is Xenophon’s agrarian treatise.  Mostly pretty good.