Friday, October 29, 2021

Appreciation …

… On Jacques Barzun (1907-2012) [by Jamie Katz] - The Best American Poetry. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

In his work I am struck, not just by his erudition and elegant prose, but by his acknowledgement of fluidity, chance and human agency in culture and history. It is a liberating conception, giving weight to both daring leaps of individual genius and the smaller gestures and habits that form the tissue of society. He gives respect to our innermost selves, too. Speaking of Descartes and the split between rationalism on one side and impulse and intuition on the other, Barzun refuses to take sides: “The more science proves its worth, the harder it is for ‘nature’ or ‘the heart’ to feel free. Reason should guide — all moralists agree — but, as others point out, mind is not separate from heart. The astute Chinese have a character for heart-and-mind. They perceived that the urge to reason is itself a drive from the heart, which explains why rationalists are often fanatics

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