Patterico's Pontifications


A long-awaited essay

Filed under: General — See Dubya @ 3:07 am

Usually I’m supposed to finish reading something before I recommend it to you, gentle readers. But it’s late and I’m falling asleep and there’s no way I can do justice to the new piece by Lee Harris in Policy Review, a dense-looking article called “The Future of Tradition”. So I’m going to put it off till the weekend and report back to you then. You guys who are lazy layabouts with more time than callouses on your hands, go ahead and start commenting on the piece here if you like.

Oh. Who is this Lee Harris, you may ask, and why ought I to care?

Lee Harris wrote this in 2002. It’s one of the best expositions of the way terrorists think that I’ve read yet. He went on to write a book called Civilization and Its Enemies, which expanded on his idea of Fantasy Ideologies and how they oppose the modern liberal order. He also has a sporadic column at Tech Central Station.

But one of the neatest things about Lee Harris, I think, is his biography. This is apparently someone who got into Harvard div school and then…his life took a different path. Harris opened up and ran a window-tinting business in (I think it was ) Waycross, Georgia. He’s also a writer of speculative fiction, though unlike well-spoken anti-idiotarian sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card, Harris wrote some award-winning horror novels.

Interesting. Two writers of speculative fiction with a strong pro-America, anti-terrorist message? I thought these people were all degenerates and/or Communists. Well, these two must be anomalies…

(See-Dubya sits back, smirks, waits for Dafydd ab Hugh to stumble across this.)

Anyway. Harris knew a lot about evil, and he really found his voice after 9-11. Kinda like Eric Hoffer, the longshoreman-philosopher, Harris brings an unusual perspective to the rather sterile world of policy analysis. The man worked for a living, and didn’t depend on the government nor a university to pay his salary. Maybe a better analogue would be Victor Davis Hanson, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of visiting over a cup of coffee. I found Hanson every bit as smart as you would think, but also down to earth, full of common sense, and quite humble. When you consider he is a farmer as well as a scholar, and his wife works at the post office (come on: how many of your professors had wives who worked at the post office?) it suggests that these unusual lives produce unusual minds.

2 Responses to “A long-awaited essay”

  1. I won’t attempt an extensive commentary on the article, but let me mention a few preliminary reservations.

    The title, “The Future of Tradition”, seems rather too ambitious relative to the content of the article.

    The discussion of Hayek’s contributions to the subject does not include any references to spontaneous order, nor, for example, to volume one of Hayek’s “Law, Legislation, and Liberty”.

    In the section “The declarative fallacy”, Harris states:

    “What all the theories of tradition we have examined have in common is that each looks upon a tradition as a set of declarative sentences passing on information that may be evaluated as true or false, and that a tradition is rationally justifiable only to the degree that it is the means of conveying such a truth.”

    Such a statement seems inaccurate, particularly in view, for example, of Hayek’s discussions of results of human actions, but not of human designs, tacit knowledge, etc.

    JerryB (2e928c)

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