Category Archives: Socrates

Like a butterfly to an entomologist’s board

The essays of Simon Leys, writes Dalrymple,

often combine delicacy with irony—a combination that few writers, especially in our times of stridency and parti pris, achieve.

Dalrymple cites the opening of Leys’ An Introduction to Confucius:

If we consider humanity’s greatest teachers of wisdom—the Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Jesus—we are struck by a curious paradox: today, not one of them could obtain even the most modest of teaching posts in any of our universities.

Leys goes on to explain:

The reason is simple: their qualifications are insufficient—they have published nothing.

In two sentences, writes Dalrymple, Leys

has pinned, like a butterfly to an entomologist’s board, the bureaucratic sickness that has overtaken our institutions of higher learning (and not only those institutions). There is no madness more difficult to treat than that which believes itself sane, and there is no irrationality greater than that which believes itself perfect.

It is no surprise that Leys

retired early from his university chair because the university no longer bore any resemblance to what it had once been, and misled students and the rest of society into believing it still was. A community of scholars had become an organisation of foremen on a production line.

Slashing corporate tax is perfectly rational

One cannot say, writes Dalrymple,

that the past few months in Western civilisation have provided a model of reasoned debate worthy of imitation. We have reached the stage—the nadir—at which, if Donald Trump were to issue a decree to the effect that two and two made four, his opponents would shriek that they didn’t, they made five.

Of course Trump, says Dalrymple, is not

exactly blameless. When it comes to argumentation, he is no Socrates.

However, Trump’s proposal to cut tax on corporate profits to 15% from 35% is, Dalrymple notes,

perfectly rational. 15% of a lot is more than 100% of nothing.

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