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GG: Morality

Dear Gouldians,

	Responding belatedly to Mary Jo's comments, I would just like to
repeat (briefly, I promise) a point that I made in my comment about GG's
view of Shostakovich.  More out of vanity, I guess, I was a little
disappointed that no one responded to my sense that Gould's view of
Shostakovich rested on an implicit assumption of his own moral superiority
that seemed to me to be both smug and ill-informed.  Mary Jo is surely
right to want to figure out the role of "morality" in Gould's thinking,
and I don't want to say that Gould's sense of being "moral" was a sham:
what makes him a very special artist is precisely his sense that there is
a vitally important moral dimension to the creative (or re-creative)

	Maybe I've been too influenced by Friedrich's view of Gould, but
it's hard not to read some of Gould's "moral" prescriptions as elaborate
justifications for his defensive strategies in dealing with life.  Gould
was uncomfortable dealing with people and preferred to mediate his contact
with them through technology.  That was a brilliant and liberating
strategy for him to deal with his anxieties, and I by no means wish to
criticize him for it (would that we all could deal with our anxieties in a
way that enabled us to tap our creativity so fully!).  But Gould's
elevation of technology to a transcendent moral instrument seems very
problematic.  Technology is a vessel: it is neither moral nor immoral in
itself.  The Internet and Web are remarkable things, and open new
possibilities for us, and Gould would have loved them, I think. But they
will never solve our moral dilemmas; they will merely reflect our moral
problems.  When I read the excited claims that the Web will usher in the
New Jerusalem, I am irresistibly reminded of all the ecstatic predictions
in the late 1940's of what a wonderful world television was going to
create.  And, gee, that sure turned out well, didn't it?

	(Sorry to sound so cynical!)

	Bob Kunath

On Thu, 2 May 1996, Mary Jo Watts wrote:

> How might this imply to the Internet, for example?  Are GG's ideas about
> technology too centered on LPs, telephones, and T.V.'s to mean anything about
> cyberspace?  Can the World Wide Web analyse and dissect?  Can the WWW
> idealize impressions?  Can you build a Web site that has in its very
> structure, a Gouldian morality?  
> I don't thing that many of us believe that 'the camera does not lie'
> anymore, (especially after the Rodney King trial in the US).  But is the
> passiveness of a CNN camera pointed at starving children morally
> parallel to the passiveness of a tape deck recording a pianist?  Is is
> as dangerous to be a passive listener as it is to be a passive looker?
> I'm trying to get at what GG means by the term "moral."  Later in the
> same article he says that a war such as the Gulf war, fought with
> technology is slightly less objectional to a war of hand-to-hand
> combat.  
> Comments?
> Mary Jo