Debussy, Chicken Piccata, and Racist Beethoven

by Daniel A. Kaufman


One of my favorite Debussy compositions, played exquisitely.

Outstanding talk by Brian Leiter on the “Hermeneutics of Suspicion.”

Two fantastically simple recipes that I have made recently, and which are excellent.


Chicken Piccata

Oliver Traldi’s Very Polite Evisceration of Kate Manne’s Latest Effort in Polemics Masquerading as Philosophy.

I have little use for IQ or for evolutionary psych/etc., but the idea of “Bell Curve Leftism” and the way it suggests alternative Left/Right paradigms is fascinating. [Behind a Paywall]

A measured and reasonable take on the public meltdown over “Cuties.”

In case you thought Vox was anything other than an execrable exercise in Woke Apologetics, its essay/podcast on how Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is racist should clear things up.


10 responses to “Debussy, Chicken Piccata, and Racist Beethoven”

  1. Peter Smith

    Ah, someone talks sense about Marx.
    But what Marx did not get right was the revolutionary impact of the company on society. The idea of the company is so ingrained in everyday consciousness that we have lost sight of quite a revolutionary change it was to the way society is organized. Is this a good thing? It is an extraordinarily effective innovation but its moral implications are very troubling.

    The book “The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea” describes this nicely and is well worth the read. Below is the Amazon blurb:

    With apologies to Hegel, Marx, and Lenin, the basic unit of modern society is neither the state, nor the commune, nor the party; it is the company. From this bold premise, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge chart the rise of one of history’s great catalysts for good and evil.

    In a “fast-paced and well-written” work (Forbes), the authors reveal how innovations such as limitations on liability have permitted companies to rival religions and even states in importance, governing the flow of wealth and controlling human affairs–all while being largely exempt from the rules that govern our lives.

    The Company is that rare, remarkable book that fills a major gap we scarcely knew existed. With it, we are better able to make sense of the past four centuries, as well as the events of today.

  2. Peter Smith

    The basic unit of society was the family. This was a moral unit because it is based on the premise of care. Today the family unit is rivalled by, and some would say, supplanted by the company as the basic unit of societal organization. The problem is that the company does not have a moral personality. It is a machine, devoid of moral concept and motivated only by utility, rather than care, as was the case with family. The machine has attractive decals strategically placed on its exterior by marketing people, but under the surface you will only find the mechanisms of utility.

    Now you might say it is peopled by moral staff and therefore it must have a moral personality. Not so. Enter the machine and you will find that only ambition is rewarded and only the desire for power motivates. The company is a hothouse for the forced breeding of ambition and desire for power. In this hothouse normal moral concerns are quickly eroded and discarded. We gladly sacrifice the weak on the altar of profit. We happily deceive, deny and exploit without any moral qualms because the company machine lacks any kind of moral personality. I say this because I have been there, in the corridors and hallways of management. I was an enthusiastic participant in what I have described.

    As far as I am concerned, the greatest challenge today is to find a way of giving the company machine a moral personality. No-one has succeeded and there are no ideas about how this might be done. But if we don’t do this we face a bleak future where the state becomes the servant of the company. And this is why the lobby community is a healthy growth industry. Your elected representative will pocket your vote while on the way to a company paid junket in Hawaii. Guess who he listens to?

  3. DW

    At the end of that Brian Leiter video, Youtube autoplayed the Sophia video you did with Leiter on Marx and the Frankfurt school in the summer of 2018. At the end, you suggested that he come back on to talk about the “masters of suspicion”. Leiter seemed interested in talking about Nietzsche in particular. Do you think he still might want to do that?

    I watch Kat Rosenfield and Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s Bloggingheads show, but sometimes it seems to suffer from being unfocused and jumping around. But when they dive deeper into something, it gets much better. So the episode they did with Leigh Stein about her book “Self Care” was one of their best. And their recent show on “Cuties” was also very good.

  4. DW

    Been awhile since you did one of these roundups. I wanted to report that I made the beet soup from last winter. It was good. I had imagined that I would make it on a damp chilly day, but we had six weeks in the middle of our wet season with no rain at all. So I made the soup on a warm windy February day and contemplated how bad the coming fire season would be. Very bad, it turns out.

    I’m not very familiar with capers, but since this chicken piccata looks so easy, I’ll give it a try.

    This has nothing to do with your two recipes, but is what I had for lunch today. Anybody with a waffle iron should make these brown-butter yeast waffles:

  5. Hi Peter

    When I was teaching business and organizational ethics in the 1990s, I came across an interesting text book (details not to hand) which took an historical approach and talked about the corporate entities of which you speak as “invaders” which have profoundly altered the basic social structures of our world. The “invasion” has continued apace, with the market capitalization of companies (especially in the tech sector) often exceeding the GDP of nation states.

    You talk about the state becoming the servant of the company. Even more sinister is the blurring of the distinction between big business and government. Big tech is a key part of the intelligence network, for example.

  6. s. wallerstein

    I agree that a dialogue with Leiter about Nietzsche would be very welcome.

  7. Both the Vox article and the Quillette response are a bit too overheated for my taste. Beethoven’s belonging to his historical context is no reason not to appreciate his music; and appreciating his music is no reason to deny his belonging to an historical context.

    Classical music of his era – indeed all the arts of the period during which the bourgeoisie overthrew the aristocracy, from the late 17th century to the early 20th – suffer from a conflict of class identity. When the bourgeoisie at last achieved social dominance, they had no culture of their own – the Bible, sermons and hymns were supposed to suffice. So of course presented with the problem of what pleasures to pursue in their newly acquired leisure time, they took as models the leisure pursuits of the aristocracy – what else could they do? Nonetheless, much of the arts, music, and literature of that era were intended for the aristocracy, or for the nouveau riche of the rising bourgeoisie. However ‘democratic’ its spirit, however pleasing to the untrained ear (and much of it is), Beethoven’s music is really intended for those who have had the wealth and leisure to study music. (We must remember here that the working person of today actually has as much leisure as the nouveau riche of the bourgeoisie in Beethoven’s era; but they also have access to new ‘mass culture’ forms of entertainment that Beethoven’s contemporaries could never have dreamt of.) Were there class biases, ethnic biases, social politics embedded in the art of that era? Sure. But proper discussion of these needs deeper study than journalistic snarking or worshipful anecdote can allow

  8. (Should anyone wonder about my own preferences, musically – I recently wrote essays on the Monkees and the Ramones; my favorite songwriter is Lou Reed. But my favorite composer is Debussy; so I thank you for that video.

    I am a child of my historical contexts; and it would help to remember that we all are. No reasoning, no dialectic, no first principles – neither religious, political, economic, scientific nor philosophical – can ever help us escape that.)

  9. Peter Smith

    Dan, your post is a kind of catch-all so I will take the liberty of smuggling in something else.
    The Secret Barrister, an anonymous junior Barrister in London, has written a fascinating account of how broken things are in the British justice system

    This may resonate with you since it mirrors, in some ways, the failings of philosophy in academia and the failings of the academic system in general. Something is going wrong in society right across the spectrum and the reasons are far from obvious.

  10. Peter Smith

    I am a child of my historical contexts; and it would help to remember that we all are. No reasoning, no dialectic, no first principles – neither religious, political, economic, scientific nor philosophical – can ever help us escape that.)

    I recognize the problem but I am far less sanguine about the outcome. We can loosen the bonds of our context by
    1) embracing curiosity. I am talking about voracious, all consuming curiosity that welcomes the new and challenging.
    2) embracing the other. By this I mean trying to genuinely recognise the other’s standpoint, not because you wish to rebut it or destroy it, but because you wish to understand it. This requires a genuine valuing of the other.
    3) embracing other perspectives. By this I mean recognising and understanding that multiple perspectives are possible. It is the conscious adoption of other perspectives. This is the multiple perspective taking popularised by de Bono in ‘Six Thinking Hats’.
    4) embracing renewal. We need to constantly renew ourselves, discarding old ideas, taking on newer and better ideas.
    5) embracing tolerance. We cannot agree about everything and no-one cannot be right about everything. The radical tolerance of goodwill bridges the disagreements and makes tolerable the mistakes.