Friday, August 18, 2017

Straight Swap: Lynching Memorial for Confederate Memorial in Danville

In Danville, Kentucky, where I live, there is a Confederate monument in the park between my church and my college.  It is supposedly of a local resident, but is looks like a generic Robert E. Lee-type officer.  It was erected in 1910 -- not in the aftermath of the Civil War, but at the height of Jim Crow.  My favorite part is the caption on the back - What They Were, The Whole World Knows.

Heh, heh.  I'll buy that.

Which is why the monument should come down.

I learned this week that a black man was lynched in Danville in 1866.  He was killed by a mob of Danvillians right in this same park.

The Equal Justice Initiative is making a memorial pillar for each lynching victim, to be erected near Montgomery Alabama.  One excellent feature of their plan is that an identical pillar be erected in the place where the lynching took place.

I propose a straight swap.  Take down the Confederate memorial in Danville, and erect a lynching memorial in the same spot.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Mundanity of Virtue

I went to the “Post-Bourdieusian Theory” session at the American Sociological Association annual meeting yesterday.  Mustafa Emirbayer was the respondent.  In talking about a paper unpacking the idea of talent, he cited Dan Chambliss’ article about swimmers.  I know Dan as a Yale Ph.D. and fellow small-college professor, but I had never read this article.  I mistakenly thought it was about swimming.  But Emirbayer praised it as one of the ten best sociology articles ever written. So I downloaded it and read it just now.

His title is “The Mundanity of Excellence.”  He says, in conclusion:

“But of course there is no secret; there is only the doing of all those little things, each one done correctly, time and again, until excellence in every detail becomes a firmly ingrained habit, an ordinary part of one’s everyday life.”

It struck me that this is what critical realists should say about the virtues.  They are habits of action.  They are mundane in themselves.  The excellence of virtue comes from their being habitual in a person, and in a social institution. Just about anyone could learn to be virtuous.  Why relatively few do is an important empirical question.  But is it not because we lack a talent for virtue.

I think there is an important way forward here.