Otiose criticism

A drawback of the Internet is that it provides an easy platform for the uninformed and malformed to broadcast their opinions to the world-at-large. Such writers forget that they have a duty both to their subject and to their readers: the duty to be informed and to understand. Lacking a coherent understanding of tradition or western civilization, these authors tend merely to emote their subjective responses rather than artfully critique shortfallings. For criticism to be of any benefit to the reader, the critic must demonstrate both an understanding of the tradition in which a particular work stands as well as an understanding of the work itself. Anything less becomes a mere expression of the critic’s preferences at best, but more likely a misleading attack on a straw man of another writer’s work. T.S. Eliot makes this point in his essay “The Perfect Critic”:

The vast accumulations of knowledge—or at least of information . . . have been responsible for an equally vast ignorance. When there is so much to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same words are used with different meanings, when every one knows a little about a great many things, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not. And when we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts.

To illustrate this point, I turn to a lecture presented by Dr. Roger Scruton Continue reading Otiose criticism

Concerning My Fountain Pen

The Hipster Conservative is pleased to feature this piece from Tom Ward, who blogs at Commonplace Philosophy.

NOTE: Because of Amazon.com’s bullying tactics against publishers and the negative impact on authors, we have replaced Amazon.com links with links to the manufacturer’s product page.


We write less and have more pens than literate people of any previous age. Go see some study or other.

In big stores like Office Max and Staples it’s now difficult to buy just one pen at a time. 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 at a time is the norm. Our offices and junk drawers are teeming with them, and we use whichever is closest to hand, like squirrels gathering acorns. No one thinks waste is a good thing, but we justify our accumulation of pens in the names of bargain and convenience. It is supposed to be cheaper to buy in bulk, and it is supposed to be easier to write with a disposable pen than a traditional refillable pen.

Both suppositions are misguided, but I am somewhat sympathetic to them. Since high school I’ve been attracted to writing with fountain pens. I love ink wells and the smell of ink. I love the sound of the scratch of a nib on paper. With a fountain pen my script is more interesting and tidier. But it is inconvenient and messy to dip your pen every now and then in a pot of ink. It’s not an easily portable way to write: I have a wonderful large blue stain on the cloth lining of my briefcase from an ink bottle that opened, I suppose, as it rubbed against the contents of my briefcase and spilled its blue blue blood all over my things. And it’s annoying that, if any amount of ink is left in the nib when you finish writing, it’s liable to become viscous and make writing more difficult when you return to the page and dip your pen again.

In an attempt to fix both issues several years ago, I tried using disposable cartridges in my entry-level Waterman. These were a complete disappointment: the ink flowed unevenly and I still had to deal with a gooey nib. Eventually I lost heart and gave up, turning to highly efficient but lesser instruments.

As it turns out, however, I had given up too easily. Continue reading Concerning My Fountain Pen