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There Is a Time to Polish Your Rifle and a Time to Fire

Stendhal, Sex, Classics, Jews

Today, just a few lessons from what I’ve been reading this week.


Intercourse and Intelligence. There’s a curvilinear relationship between IQ and having sex as a young adult: Students with high or low IQ are less likely to be sexually active compared to their average-IQ peers. Elite universities such as Princeton see lower rates of sexual activity among undergrads. Students in more intellectually demanding majors tend to remain virgins longer. The data seem to confirm Aldous Huxley's intuition that intellectuals find study more captivating than sex. Intelligence correlates with less sexual activity in marriage, also. Possibly testosterone is negatively correlated with IQ.


Is Classics’ Empire in Terminal Decline? I didn't realize how dire the situation was until I read this. Stark declines in enrollment, and now even the best Classics programs are dropping the language requirements—even at Ivies like Princeton and Stanford. Degrees in Classics fell from ~1,200 in 2013 —> 736 in 2020. A sad matter, but this article is honestly hilarious. The Onion could not do better:

  • "Mallory Monaco Caterine, a professor of practice at Tulane… says ‘the humanities’ should be encouraged for medical doctors because the US is a ‘nation whose scientists have developed multiple vaccines to end a deadly pandemic but can’t figure out how to convince enough people to take them.’”

  • "Howard [the preeminent Black university, which is shuttering its Classics program]… was recently forced to shut classes for several days because of an increasingly common problem in higher education and beyond: a ransomware attack." Language problems indeed!

I’m sorry but these people cannot be helped. Latin and Greek will be preserved and transmitted by pioneering individuals outside of the institutions, and they will raise the next elite. AI will help. They’re already doing it, as I discussed in Return to the Future of Classical Education.


Classicism in the Romantic Era III: Stendhal, the Classical Romantic. Stendhal presents a nuanced take on the classical tradition (not overly positive or negative). He eschewed direct classical influence and the learned allusions that his peers like Chateaubriand favored, focusing instead on a deeper study of history. He thought taste was contingent, not absolute. He rejected the idea that any works necessarily have timeless value. His anti-classicist stance, calling for an intelligent use of ancient precedents, and his efforts to articulate a new vision amidst the conservative backlash post-Napoleon resonate with my own view. As I’ve written before, in certain dimensions the Greeks sometimes seem to me like children compared to Augustine or Aquinas. Stendhal calls for courage among writers (akin to that required of soldiers) and mocks the idea of revisiting Greek beyond the age of 25, at which point, he says, “It’s not time to polish your rifle: it’s time to fire.”


The Making of Modern Zionism (2017). Zionism is paradoxical. Europe in the 19th century was the best place and time for the Jews since Exodus. The advent of Zionism was not so much a response to anti-Semitism as it was a response to the Enlightenment. The book proceeds through a series of biographical profiles. Theodore Herzl was shaped by European education and sought to address his own identity crisis through Zionism. Essentially through Public Relations he launches a marginal Jewish discussion topic to a central topic in world politics, with little wealth or social status to begin with. Herzl's failure to anticipate a nationalist response from the Arab population was the fatal blind-spot in the early Zionist vision.