Saturday, November 28, 2009

My favorite conservative

Theodore Dalrymple (“The Architect as Totalitarian,” City Journal, Autumn 2009) uses some very strong language (ugly, appalling, prone to “ahumanity” and “mad egotism”) to covey his disgust of Le Corbusier’s totalitarian mindset. Intriguingly, he suggests that the much hyped architect might have suffered from Asperger’s syndrome: perhaps “he knew that people talked, walked, slept, and ate, but had no idea that anything went on in their heads, or what it might be, and consequently treated them as if they were mere things.” He was also obsessed with reinforced concrete and believed that “the masonry wall no longer has a right to exist.” There has been much debate around this issue recently, with many commentators arguing that the special gifts many autistic individuals have – and even their generally peculiar attitudes – need to be appreciated, not denigrated in the popular mind. I hope high-functioning mildly autistic people can get all the care and sympathy available from their families and strangers; yet I do find it problematic that ideas developed by solipsistic nerds (like “Nash’s equilibrium” and the inhumanely crude assumptions behind much of game theory) have come to dominate the social sciences, and to be used as “scientific” justification for tragically misdirected economic and social policies.