When Rules Are Gone

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No society that disregards ethical finalities
can long postpone ignominious collapse.”

–Carl F. H. Henry

The Closing of the American Mind Revisited

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Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind . . . was a real sensation and a surprise bestseller.

. . . He said out loud what liberal elite culture could only regard as heresy: The supposed idealism of the 1960s was, in fact, a new barbarism. Whatever moral and spiritual seriousness the long tradition of American pragmatism had left intact in university life, the anti-culture of the left destroyed…

The result? Higher education has become, argued Bloom, the professional training of clever and sybaritic animals, who drink, vomit, and fornicate in the dorms by night while they posture critically and ironically by day. Bloom identified moral relativism as dogma that blessed what he called “the civilized reanimalization of man.” He saw a troubling, dangerous, and soulless apathy that pleasured itself prudently with passing satisfactions (“Always use condoms!” says the sign by the dispenser in the bathroom) but was moved by no desire to know good or evil, truth or falsehood, beauty or ugliness.

. . . students could master material with amazing speed. They could discuss brilliantly. They could write effective, well-researched papers. But they possessed an amazing ability to understand without being moved, to experience without judging, to self-consciously put forward their own convictions as mere opinions. On the whole, they seemed to have interior lives of Jell-O…

[It is] difficult to induce students to take a passionate and rational interest in fundamental questions. Students are either soulless creatures, or they recuse their souls from any contact with reason and argument. This phenomenon was what troubled Allan Bloom, and this is why he wrote The Closing of the American Mind.

–R. R. Reno,
http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2007/02/the-closing-of-the-american-mi