Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Random musings of a writer facing his deadline

It is an odd sort of masochism, this writing hobby. Note that I use the word "hobby" rather than "business." Though I generally don't agree with all of Dave Ramsey's pronouncements, I do agree with the definitional distinctions he makes between a hobby and a business. A business makes money. A hobby takes money. So far, writing is a hobby that is about to become even "hobbier".

My friend Keith Raffel, for whom writing has progressed from a hobby to a part time business, provided a gentle nudge for another posting. It is good to see that someone is actually reading this blog, though by my page views it would appear that there are far more readers than commenters.

(picture of David Hume at right) As to the writing, I have been struggling to find the intellectual underpinnings of John Calhoun's "slavery as a a positive good" speech in 1837, and am pleased to report that I have indeed found it, and in exactly the camp I thought it would be. Remember, I am countering Sam Harris' contention that "the most committed" Christians were responsible for creating and sustaining slavery. As to the origin of the African slave trade, it is clearly to be found in the pure greed of Portuguese, Spanish, and English traders. As to its defense once established, I have found the "smoking gun", if you will. Calhoun's position was a logical extension of the "rational" and "moral objectivist" philosophy articulated by the icon of the Enlightenment in Scotland, the philosopher David Hume. For the full argument, you'll have to read Letter to an Atheist, but suffice it to say that Mr. Hume's racism was exposed in his 1740 work Treatise on Human Nature.

So the intellectual torch on this issue passes from David Hume to James Tobin to Thomas Dew to John C. Calhoun, each writer becoming progressively more exultant on the superiority of the white race to the black, with Calhoun firmly pronouncing by 1837 that social organization would best be served indefinitely into the future with white masters and black slaves.

Set two tables for dinner. At one place Hume, Tobin, Dew, and Calhoun. At the other place the politically engaged Christians who worked on both sides of the Atlantic to end slavery -- Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce, John Fee, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. With whom would my nemesis Mr. Harris find commonality ?

That's right ! The defenders of slavery.

Isn't research wonderful ?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Indeed, research is wonderful, and you're doing a good job of it, too. Also remember that the philosophers weren't alone in being responsible for rationalizing slavery. I believe that you will probably be able to find a lot more of that early on, beginning back in the Renaissance. Science is to truth what religion is to faith--they are methodologies that are dependent upon those who use them; scientists have used scientific theory and religion has used the Bible to justify slavery; both are narratives written by the victors.

Just for the record, Michael, most writers aren't able to make writing their fulltime profession; only the very lucky ones are able to break through, and this often has little or nothing to do with talent, intelligence, or anything you can control; it is dependent upon editors whose control determines who gets published...PERIOD. No writer had even been a full-time writer until Pope, and he was only able to do it because he had nothing else he could do. It helped to be talented enough to write The Pastorals when he was 16, too, though! Keep the faith!