Monday, December 21, 2015

A view from the front row

For those that have not seen this, here is a view of Chomsky by Bev Stohl his long time personal assistant. For what it is worth, I recognize the person that Bev describes more or less the same way that she describes him.  It is not a view that is universally shared, though it is hardly unique (see here).

A long time ago I learned something that has proven to be invaluable (even if it is hard to implement). The unity of the virtues is a myth. What is that? It's the view that people who are virtuous are also smart and that the beautiful are also moral and kind and that the kind are also smart etc. In other words, the virtues come as a package. This view, a natural one I believe, comes with the corollary that one's friends are smart and kind and beautiful and that people whose views you don't agree with are lesser beings along some dimension. As I said, this is a myth, or so I believe. Smart people can be very unpleasant (if not worse) and nice people can be wrong (if not worse). For this reason I try to distinguish people's views from their personalities and try to evaluate them separately. But, like everyone else, I like it when those I admire intellectually are also people I admire personally. Chomsky is one such person. Bev's portrait accurately represents why.


  1. I second what you say at the end of your second paragraph.

    Other than that, I just wanted to point out that those lectures you discussed in the earlier post you linked to have just been published by Columbia ( A very nice overview and synthesis of his views on various issues; kind of like a slightly more general-audience-y New Horizons, with an added chapter on politics.

    1. The portrayal of Chomsky as somebody who behaves like a person with ordinary people also fits with what I hear from somebody who lived in Wellfleet (where he has/had a summer home); very different from most of the professorial summer people, according to her. Tho it is pretty clear that if you're working for him, you actually have to work.