jacques barzun (1907-2012)


Unlike many of his colleagues, Professor Barzun showed little interest in taking overtly political positions. This was partly because he became a university administrator and had to stand above the fray, and partly because he approached the world with a detached civility and a sardonic skepticism about intellectual life. “The intellectuals’ chief cause of anguish,” he wrote in “The House of Intellect” (1959), “are one another’s works.” If Mr. Barzun kept the political issues of the day at arm’s length, he nonetheless developed a reputation as a cultural conservative after the student protests at Columbia in the late 1960s. He later argued that the “peoples of the West” had “offered the world a set of ideas and institutions not found earlier or elsewhere.”

more from Edward Rothstein at the NY Times here.