We've received a few comments in response to David's post about Jacques Barzun, who died on October 25th at the age of 104. Here's an excerpt from a piece by our friend Jamie Katz, who had the honor of toasting Barzun on the occasion of his 100th birthday. Follow the link to read more about this extraordinary scholar.
In his work I am struck, not just by his erudition and elegant prose, but by his acknowledgement of fluidity, chance and human agency in culture and history. It is a liberating conception, giving weight to both daring leaps of individual genius and the smaller gestures and habits that form the tissue of society. He gives respect to our innermost selves, too. Speaking of Descartes and the split between rationalism on one side and impulse and intuition on the other, Barzun refuses to take sides: “The more science proves its worth, the harder it is for ‘nature’ or ‘the heart’ to feel free. Reason should guide — all moralists agree — but, as others point out, mind is not separate from heart. The astute Chinese have a character for heart-and-mind. They perceived that the urge to reason is itself a drive from the heart, which explains why rationalists are often fanatics.”