Thursday, December 02, 2004

Posner's attitude

In a New Yorker profile of Posner, he takes the following view:
Half a dozen times a year, Posner and Charlene will have people over for dinner - often the Chicago economist William Landes, Posner's best friend, and his wife - but, on the whole, Posner prefers to avoid social life. "People don't say interesting things," he says. 'A lot of socializing is just dull - I'd rather read a book. I have a friend, an economist who's Swedish, and he told me that Sweden has terrible television, so people there spend their time visiting each other. But that's worse, because when you watch television you get some information, you even get some moral instruction, you learn to be nice to single mothers or what have you, but socializing, particularly family - well, that is deadly. When you're just talking with your friends about trivia, what's the point?"
It's hard to tell whether he seriously meant that television teaches you to be "nice to single mothers" while family life is "deadly." I suspect that he was joking.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not suspect that he was joking, or at least if he was, then the joke was half-true. Later in the article, Posner is shown to take a not-so-favorable view of his parents. He views them as being good parents when he was a child, but he thinks that they tried to use the medical field to live past their time, and thinks people should "choose their time of exit." He seems to not care that they have passed, and his view that talk about "trivia" is pointless fits in with what he says in the rest of the article. Families often talk about "chit-chat," and this is apparently the kind of talk that Posner would consider "deadly." So what I suspect is that Posner, while a successful judge, has lost touch with reality, and considers ideas more important than people. My opinion is that he considers ideas more important because ideas last, while (individual) people don't.

He certainly seems to take a very animalistic, materialistic view of human beings. This is seen throughout the article, as when he says that a human with the mental capacity of a "chipmunk" should basically be "put down," although we might keep a real chipmunk, since it is cute, furry little creature. But in humans, says Posner, we expect a higher functionality, so we should let humans die who have regressed to such low points. Whether or not his point is true, his view is interesting that when a human is "on the level of a chipmunk," that person basically isn't human anymore (Posner said that his mother "wasn't human" when she reached that point), but instead is a chipmunk minus the cuteness.

Just because his academic skills may be par excellance does not mean that his personality is to be emulated. You seem to want to justify his error in his view of social life, but why not let it slide that he is not a perfect man? He is great in the introverted part of his life, and miserable in the extroverted part.

Stuart, you may well admire him for his prolific work in the legal and cultural analysis fields. But Posner probably really does think that talking about "trivia" (which happens frequently in family life) is deadly. That view doesn't lessen his greatness in any other area, but it does mean that you shouldn't try to idolize him, as you seem wont to do with your defense of his acidic statement toward "socializing, particularly family." You would do better to admire his good points while admitting his faults -- to yourself and (if you must mention his personal life on your blog) to the world. Don't be starry-eyed about him, for goodness sake.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's got my sympathy; You're in the mood for a good discussion of the feasiblity of using epioxide bonds to construct molecular circuitry on a graphitic substrate, and all your relations want to talk about is Aunt Tilly's gall bladder surgery... Not that they really want to discuss the SURGERY, mind you. They all put down their forks and glare at you if you start getting into details. ;)

Nobody is THAT productive if they're into chit-chat.

8:27 AM  
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