It’s always entertaining to visit Bizarro World, a place where a mediocrity like C. S. Lewis is revered as a deep thinker, where “natural law” is viewed as a serious philosophical and legal theory, and where a 3rd rate college like Hillsdale is spoken of with reverence.
In today’s visit, let us read this piece by one Nathan Schlueter, an academic so forgettable that I have already forgotten how to spell his last name. Prof. Schlueter is under the delusion that Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind is not only an important book, it’s so important that 30 years after its publication, it merits an entire symposium.
I read The Closing of the American Mind back in 2000, after someone recommended it to me. It was, to put it simply, a disaster. Bloom was a professor at the University of Chicago; we overlapped teaching there for a few years. At the time, focused on my own research, my only knowledge of him was the unflattering stories about him that I had heard from students.
It was apparent from nearly the first page of Closing that Bloom was a deeply troubled individual. His book, ostensibly a critique of higher education, was so clearly a rant based on Bloom’s own intellectual and sexual insecurities that I found it almost painful to read. I wrote the following review for amazon back then, and here it is again, cleaned up a little:
This is not just a bad book. It is a sick one.
Bloom’s obsessions are clear on almost every page: sex and rock music. Although clothed in a pretentious philosophical language, his objections betray what’s really on his mind: he feels left out. The sexual revolution of the Sixties passed him by, and like the child whose playmates decide he’s not good enough to get into the game, he retaliates by labelling everything about his opponents evil.
The poet Philip Larkin had Bloom’s number when he wrote in his poem, Annus Mirabilis:
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me)-
Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.
Like many neo-conservatives, Bloom doesn’t really understand the principle of free speech. He says it “has given way to freedom of expression, in which the obscene gesture enjoys the same protected status as demonstrative discourse.” In other words, freedom of speech should only apply to the stuff that Bloom approves of. (He also doesn’t apparently know that the Canadian constitution guarantees “freedom of expression”, precisely to avoid arbitrary Bloom-style distinctions.)
Like many professors in the humanities, he is deeply distrustful of science. And so he continues to push thinkers like Plato as essential to understanding the world, displaying no comprehension of the intellectual revolution brought by, for example, Charles Darwin. Is it still fruitful to read the Greeks? Certainly. But to pretend that we have learned nothing in 2000 years, that the insights of science play no part in an informed understanding of the world, is to play the part of the small child who insists, contrary to all evidence, that there is really is a Santa Claus.
Ultimately, this books tells us not about the mind of Americans, but rather the small, sanctimonious, and quite closed mind of one university professor named Allan Bloom.
It is no surprise at all that this Bloom Symposium is being published by Robert George’s Witherspoon Institute, the very same place that funded and guided the Regnerus study on gay parents, a laughable piece of scholarship that just so happened to confirm Robert George’s own negative view of homosexuality.
These folks have very closed minds, and their natural habitat is a setting where their prejudices can be confirmed and clothed in academic respectability.