<= 2002.01.24

2002.01.26 =>

fruity organ

The first drafts of our theses are due 13 February. None of us realized this until yesterday. I'm going to have to return to the 1000-word-per-day workout and, man, I was just getting into sloth (which yes, some people pronounce "sloath").

Well, this certainly is depressing. Two thousand years trying to think our way out of the same box.

How can otherwise intelligent people be attracted to forms of politics that are patently tyrannical?
 
[...]
 
Heidegger's rejection of traditional Western notions of an essentially rational human nature... imply support for schemes of national regeneration unfettered by any concern for human rights... In 1933 he joined the Nazi Party...
 
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Schmitt has become attractive to some theorists on the political Left critical of liberal constitutional and legal restraints on democratic processes... a dark theological view: liberalism is not merely mistaken but sinful in its evasion of God's command to 'Fight thy enemy...'
 
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...Benjamin's early and continuing interest in the apocalyptic strain in traditional Jewish theology... translates into a messianic vision, according to which political and social problems are fated to be resolved by a sudden act of divinely sanctioned violence, transforming human life from its unsatisfactory present condition (shallow, materialist and legalist) into a redemptive and perfected future.
 
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Kojève's version of the apocalypse was his notion of 'the end of history,' derived from a reading of Hegel... Challenged by the conservative philosopher Leo Strauss to explain how this consummation would be possible without tyranny, Kojève replied that tyranny may have its uses, for the right purpose, in the right hands.
 
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As for Derrida... his deconstructionist philosophy, according to which no text or term can have a stable meaning, has left him with nothing to say politically... Derrida's recent turn to a notion of 'justice' which eludes any definition is rightly dismissed as bearing 'all the signs of intellectual desperation.'
 
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Are we to conclude, then, that (contrary to Plato's apparent advice in The Republic) efforts to think philosophically about politics are always either dangerous or (at best) futile, that philosophers should stay out of politics altogether and political leaders out of philosophy?

The article shies away from this stark-seeming conclusion, but I would venture that the answer is yes. The only reliable rudder for politics is intuition and pragmatism. I think that the examples above sufficiently demonstrate what happens when you try to construct a completely rationalist government from first principles: corpses, corpses, corpses. You cannot get a complete view of the system from inside the system, and that principle holds whether you're talking about set theory, the human mind, or liberal democracy. The Western model, riddled as it is with flaws, works because it works—deeper questioning only leads to tail-chasing, and this is incredibly dangerous. It is the height of narcissism for someone like Foucault to interpret society through the lens of his personal obsession with violence, and the height of irresponsibility for him to proclaim the interpretation that our society is a network of prisons when quite obviously it isn't—show me the government-engineered death of millions by famine over here. These philosophies are so removed from the actual world that they can completely ignore the obvious, and once you cross that barrier anything goes. And then we're in trouble.

 

<= 2002.01.24

2002.01.26 =>

up (2002.01)

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