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The Blooms, the Bard and great books

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In part one of this column yesterday, we started discussing Allan Bloom and Harold Bloom and their writings. In his book ‘The Closing of the American Mind’ (1987), Allan Bloom attacks what he calls ‘empty, baseless instinct’, and promotes ‘prejudices’ that are ‘visions about the way things are’.

“The mind that has no prejudices at the outset is empty”. I am tempted to reproduce the following lines from page 42: “Openness, as currently conceived, is a way of making surrender to whatever is most powerful, or worship of vulgar success, look principled. It is historicism’s ruse to remove all resistance to history, which in our day means public opinion, a day when public opinion already rules.” As an aside, those readers who want to read in Urdu a better collection of articles on historicism and neo-historicism should collect a marvellous book, ‘Nau tareekhiyat’ (Neo-historicism) compiled by Dr Naseem Abbas Ahmer of the University of Sargodha.

In part one of ‘The Closing of the American Mind’, Allan Bloom discusses the student as The Clean Slate, and tries to prove how new books, music, and even relationships engender dull and lazy minds. He promotes convention and tradition by saying, “…it is clear to me now that nature needs the cooperation of convention…to found the political order that is the condition of his natural completeness…I fear that spiritual entropy or an evaporation of the soul’s boiling blood is taking place…” (Page 51). He continues to lament the “gradual stilling of the old political and religious echoes” in students.

In the chapter titled ‘Books’, he promotes the idea of Great Books of Western thought that have been devalued as a source of wisdom. Allan thinks that without an understanding of important older texts, modern students lack any reference point with which they can think. To him, new images and languages of analysis enthral the young and persuade them that their petty rebelliousness is authentic politics. He was also dismayed at the “parental loss of control over the children’s moral education at a time when no one else is seriously........

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