May 3, 2024

not that kind of constraint

I see some folks misunderstand my “limiting virtues” meditation as a version of “constraints help designers make creative choices.” It’s instructive, I guess, to see — either I didn’t explore the idea strongly enough, or readers don’t want to take seriously the much more (quietly) radical ideas in McPherson’s book: that limits on our existential choices are part of how we make our peace with life, that Tyler Harper’s “therapeutic libertarianism” — or what Christopher Lasch, by way of Adorno, called the “cult of authenticity” — is the default mode of so much contemporary socio-political discussion, and an active agent that deforms one’s character. Taking limits seriously is an enormous challenge, one that I assumed would come across in the piece. But then, it’s easier to domesticate constraints to the ones we pick and choose, cafeteria-style, for some modest stylistic innovation.