Joseph Epstein makes a great observation in an essay about Alfred Kinsey:
Social science is vulnerable to an examination of the lives of its investigators in a way that pure science is not. Newton’s religiosity in no way invalidates the theory of gravity, nor does Einstein’s rather soft liberalism vitiate the theory of relativity. But in the social sciences, “every idea,” as Nietzsche somewhere says, “has its autobiography,” and that autobiography can sometimes disqualify the ideas themselves.
This truth is in the background of Paul Johnson’s entertaining Intellectuals, and it informs E. Michael Jones’ splendid Degenerate Moderns.
This truth is also one of the reasons I abandoned a bold Albert Jay Nock project (which might still be completed, but in abbreviated form). Nock vehemently insisted that a writer’s private life was absolutely irrelevant to what he wrote. I read his arguments for this position. I contemplated his arguments. And ultimately, I couldn’t buy into arguments. From my last set of notes on this point:
What would he say about Seneca’s observations in Letter VI? Seneca said it’s necessary to live with a man to see if his philosophy bears out in his everyday life. This strikes me as highly anti-Nockian. Nock thought a man’s life has no importance on the validity of this thought. . . I think his and Seneca’s positions are going to be hard to reconcile.
If you’re curious: That point alone didn’t cause me to abandon Nock (whom I still greatly admire). Two other points arose that made me say, “Three strikes and you’re out.” One, he thought marriage was enslaving and generally an evil; he endorsed a kind of sexual libertinism, it seemed to me. In this, he merely followed a pretty long line of anarchic thinkers, but it’s not a type of anarchism I endorse, since my anarchism is (paradoxically, I suppose) “informed” (used in its technical sense, not an arrogant sense) by the natural law. Two, he acted on his thoughts about marriage and abandoned his wife and kids (though the parameters of this “abandonment” were never known; one of his sons seems to have grown up with affection for his father, so it’s really hard to say). There is also a second “intellectual reason” I abandoned the Nock project, but I can’t remember it right now.
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