Principally because The New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier (since fired) dared to question scientism, we took an interest, of course. See “A Darwinist mob goes after a serious philosopher” and “The New Republic collapse: Even the keynote speaker cancelled her subscription.”
Leon Wieseltier presided over his own preserve at TNR—very much part of the magazine, but as a semi-autonomous principality. I recall attending, 15 years ago, some of the Thursday editorial meetings, where writers reported on their continuing labors and the staff blocked out forthcoming issues. Wieseltier would sit at the far end of a long table, along with other editors and staff members connected to the back of the book, facing the rest of the magazine’s editors, contributing to the conversation, sometimes with edgy humor; and there was never a hint that anyone would interfere with his pages.
Wieseltier’s section had a political soul that could not be defined by the reigning spectrum of left and right. It was liberal, but not in the sense that the New Deal was liberal, or the Great Society, or any permutation and combination of liberal politics since then. It was more philosophical than that, yet it was also oppositional and even insurgent, which made it exciting—an enemy to the politics of identity, to historical determinism of every kind, and, more recently, to scientism. The presiding shades included, above all, two of his teachers, Lionel Trilling and Sir Isaiah Berlin.
The comments are a sight, and some tell us a lot about what went wrong. When culture goes Darwin, it sure goes.
Free advice: Subscribe to whatever Wieseltier now runs, unimpeded.
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