Wednesday, November 11, 2009

LOL! Leftist philosophers tie themselves into a knot

Philosophy is a rather vague term used to cover a lot of loose thinking. I belong to the tradition called Anglo-Saxon empiricism, though some of the most notable exponents of Anglo-Saxon empiricism were not Anglo-Saxon. Ludwig Wittgenstein, for instance, was an Austrian Jew. Anglo-Saxon empiricists restrict their task to something quite akin to science. They look for order and regularity in discourse and try to clear up what people are saying and implying when they say certain kinds of things. And that is, of course, no easy task.

Such thinking was once dominant in Anglo-Saxon philosophy schools but the great expansion of tertiary education in recent decades has meant that many less rigorous thinkers have been employed as philosophers, some even being third-rate enough to find enlightenment in the words of an obsolete economist called Karl Marx. So philosophy schools are now replete with people who seem to think they are being profound when they say: "There is no such thing as right and wrong" or "There are many realities". To an Anglo-Saxon empiricist, such statements are simply confused.

Such confused thinking is usually described (rather fancifully) these days as "postmodernism" but for historical purposes it is probably best subsumed under the broad category of "existentialism" -- and there were many prominent existentialist thinkers in the first half of the 20th century, particularly in Germany. And many existentialist thinkers at that time were sympathetic to National Socialism (Nazism), just as their counterparts today are solidly in favour of all sorts of Leftist thinking. So existentialist thinking and Leftism have always been intimately associated among many who call themselves philosophers. And it should therefore be no surprise that prewar existentialists sound very profound to existentialists today.

The Nazi connection is however embarrassing. Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, DeMan and others sound very good and wise and profound to Leftist philosophers today so how do you cope with the Nazi connection? Easy: In the traditional Leftist way of dealing with all inconvenient facts -- by ignoring it.

One of the holier of today's existentialists has however recently upset the applecart by pointing out that the great god Heidegger was a Nazi and calling for all Heidegger's thinking to be denounced and renounced. Leftists are not letting go of such an inspiring (to them) figure as Heidegger, however. What Heidegger says is central to what they say, so to denounce Heidegger would be to denounce most of their own thinking. And there the matter rests at the moment. A small excerpt from a NYT story about the matter below. That Nazi thinking is one subset of socialist thinking is, of course, never acknowledged:
For decades the German philosopher Martin Heidegger has been the subject of passionate debate. His critique of Western thought and technology has penetrated deeply into architecture, psychology and literary theory and inspired some of the most influential intellectual movements of the 20th century. Yet he was also a fervent Nazi.

Now a soon-to-be published book in English has revived the long-running debate about whether the man can be separated from his philosophy. Drawing on new evidence, the author, Emmanuel Faye, argues fascist and racist ideas are so woven into the fabric of Heidegger’s theories that they no longer deserve to be called philosophy. As a result Mr. Faye declares, Heidegger’s works and the many fields built on them need to be re-examined lest they spread sinister ideas as dangerous to modern thought as “the Nazi movement was to the physical existence of the exterminated peoples.”

First published in France in 2005, the book, “Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,” calls on philosophy professors to treat Heidegger’s writings like hate speech. Libraries, too, should stop classifying Heidegger’s collected works (which have been sanitized and abridged by his family) as philosophy and instead include them under the history of Nazism. These measures would function as a warning label, like a skull-and-crossbones on a bottle of poison, to prevent the careless spread of his most odious ideas, which Mr. Faye lists as the exaltation of the state over the individual, the impossibility of morality, anti-humanism and racial purity.

The book is the most radical attack yet on Heidegger (1889-1976) and would upend the philosophical field’s treatment of his work in the United States, and even more so in France, where Heidegger has frequently been required reading for an advanced degree. Mr. Faye, an associate professor at the University of Paris, Nanterre, not only wants to drum Heidegger from the ranks of philosophers, he wants to challenge his colleagues to rethink the very purpose of philosophy and its relationship to ethics.

At the same time scholars in disciplines as far flung as poetry and psychoanalysis would be obliged to reconsider their use of Heidegger’s ideas. Although Mr. Faye talks about the close connection between Heidegger and current right-wing extremist politics, left-wing intellectuals have more frequently been inspired by his ideas. Existentialism and postmodernism as well as attendant attacks on colonialism, atomic weapons, ecological ruin and universal notions of morality are all based on his critique of the Western cultural tradition and reason.

I go into some detail about the confusions of "postmodernist" thinking here


An inadvertent admission

In January of 2009, President Obama sent Valerie Jarrett to represent him at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Her speech was supposed to be on “The New US Agenda.” However, she spent half the speech talking about who Barack Obama is. (Side note: so half of the US agenda is the President himself?) And the one thing the audience understands clearly about Barack Obama after her speech can be summed up in one word: Chicago.

“I think knowing Chicago is essential to knowing America and our new President,” she told them. Chicago was the city where he got his start as a community organizer. And since, she claimed, all that most of the audience (at the World Economic Forum, no less) knew about Chicago was Oprah and Michael Jordan, she proceeded to tell them that it is the heartland of America, with a hardworking, pragmatic populace. She neglected to mention that it is also infamous for its widespread culture of political corruption.

She passed over the fact that in the past 30 years 79 local officials have been convicted of corruption. That would have sounded awkward given her claim that “Chicago was a natural for the president.”

The panegyric continued, “In so many ways, he embodies those timeless values that sum up the spirit of the city.” For example, the persistent tradition of machine and thug politics (mostly extinct elsewhere in the country) in the midst of which the President got his start in politics, evident in his electoral tactics: prior to the 2008 presidential election, the only election in which his opponents were not either thrown off the ballot because Obama’s campaign challenged their required signatures, or hit by scandals from sealed divorce records, was his 2000 primary challenge against Democrat Bobby Rush (which resulted in a resounding defeat for the President). Or perhaps his espousal of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, a book the author dedicated to Lucifer, aka, Satan and the Devil.

Thank you, Mrs Jarrett. Your admission, ahem, insight has been illuminating.




The full speech recently given in NYC to the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu can be found here. He covers a lot of ground and does it well.

Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan: "President Barack Obama is nearing a decision to add tens of thousands more forces to Afghanistan, though not quite the 40,000 sought by his top general there, as Pentagon planners work to make room for the influx. Administration officials told The Associated Press on Monday the deployment would most likely begin in January with a mission to stiffen the defense of 10 key cities and towns. An Army brigade that had been training for deployment to Iraq that month may be the vanguard. The brigade, based at Fort Drum in upstate New York, has been told it will not go to Iraq as planned but has been given no new mission yet."

Make banks small enough to fail: "An unusual alliance of conservatives and liberals is pushing to break up or downsize banks deemed "too big to fail," rather than create a new regulatory regime led by the Federal Reserve to try to keep them from getting into trouble again. Public anger toward bailouts and the central bank's role in rescuing big institutions like American International Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. are fueling growing opposition to the Fed-led oversight plan advocated by the Treasury Department and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat. In Europe, regulators are moving to break up megabanks like ING Group, KBC and Lloyds that became government wards after last year's global financial meltdown. An increasing number of legislators, political activists and financial specialists in the U.S. want to move in the same direction for troubled institutions such as Citigroup and Bank of America."

Officials: US Army told of Hasan’s contacts with al Qaeda: "U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan was attempting to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News. According to the officials, the Army was informed of Hasan’s contact, but it is unclear what, if anything, the Army did in response. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said that he requested the CIA and other intelligence agencies brief the committee on what was known, if anything, about Hasan by the U.S. intelligence community, only to be refused.”

Framed for child porn by a PC virus?: "Of all the sinister things that Internet viruses do, this might be the worst: They can make you an unsuspecting collector of child pornography. Heinous pictures and videos can be deposited on computers by viruses — the malicious programs better known for swiping your credit card numbers. In this twist, it’s your reputation that’s stolen. Pedophiles can exploit virus-infected PCs to remotely store and view their stash without fear they’ll get caught. Pranksters or someone trying to frame you can tap viruses to make it appear that you surf illegal Websites. Whatever the motivation, you get child porn on your computer — and might not realize it until police knock at your door.”

She’s back!: "Ayn Rand, the Russian-born novelist and philosopher, died in 1982. But in this Bush-Obama season of fantastical government growth and encroachment into all areas of human activity, Rand has become a Banquo’s ghost at the banquet of politics, an antistate spirit haunting politicians and commentators who thought her free-market worldview was safely buried by the fall 2008 financial collapse. Signs of the Rand revival abound. The surprisingly large anti-government Tea Party protests have been chock-a-block with signs such as ‘Atlas Is Shrugging’ and ‘The name is Galt. John Galt.’ Sales of Rand’s classic Atlas Shrugged have soared in 2009, above a level that was already extremely impressive for a 1,000-page, critically unloved, 52-year-old novel. Two major publishing houses brought out new biographies of Rand almost simultaneously this fall. And after decades of Hollywood development limbo, Atlas Shrugged may finally be hitting the screen soon in the form of a cable mini-series starring Charlize Theron.”

The two Americas: "Could Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards actually be right about something? Not where to go to get a haircut, mind you, I mean about there being two Americas. There is the vibrant America … and the stagnant one. There is the America of ever-increasing wealth, innovation, creativity, new products and services. Choices galore. And there is the politician’s America: The regulated America, the subsidized America, the earmarked America. The failing America.”

Big Brother is getting bigger: "In George Orwell’s classic ‘1984,’ Big Brother was the personification of Big Government. He was always there to protect citizens and to steer them in the ‘right’ direction ‘for their own good.’ To maintain the status quo (i.e. government as the ultimate authority), Orwell’s Big Brother did everything from rewriting history and redefining language to engaging in constant prophylactic surveillance of citizens on the streets and in their homes. In the world of ‘1984,’ thorough records were kept on each and every citizen, and paranoia and fear alone ensured that Big Brother’s control was absolute even when his technological eyes might randomly be turned elsewhere.”

Nancy Pelosi: The General Custer of our time: "Speaker Pelsosi is the General Custer of our time. She is leading her troops to slaughter at the polls in 2010. The Speaker is vastly outnumbered by a majority of Americans do not want the healthcare reforms dictated by House Bill passed Saturday evening. According to a poll by Rasmussen Reports, 52% of Americans are opposed to the Democrats’ plans for healthcare reforms. A majority of Americans believe that the legislation will increase costs and will result in a lower standard of healthcare to boot. … Like Custer, Pelosi refuses to see what there is to be seen. The Democrats have manufactured a ‘crisis’ on healthcare when we have an honest to goodness national economic crisis they refuse to deal with.”

Hell, No! We won’t send our tax $$$ to China: "Taking candy from a baby: A consortium of Chinese and American companies goes to Washington and announces plans to build a $1.5 billion windmill farm in West Texas using $450 million in U.S. stimulus funds, which will create 2,330 jobs — 2,000 of them in China. The baby — Washington — doesn’t cry or whine or spit in the consortium’s face. That’s what’s really wrong with this story. So accustomed to being bought and sold, Washington simply begins processing forms so it can hand over your tax dollars to create jobs in a turbine factory in the city of Shenyang, China at a subsidy of $193,133 each. It’s like these bureaucrats live in Wonderland. Or an America where the unemployment rate isn’t 10.2 percent.”

The dead zone: The implicit marginal tax rate: "To say that antipoverty programs in the United States are perverted may be an understatement. When you take into account the loss of means-tested benefits (e.g., cash assistance, food stamps, housing subsidies, and health insurance), and the taxes that people pay on earned income, the return to working is essentially zero for those in the lower two quintiles of the income distribution. For many of the working poor, the implicit marginal tax rate is greater than 100 percent.”

Seven reasons why Congress should repeal, not fix, the death tax: "The House and Senate may soon begin debate on what to do with the federal estate tax. If Congress fails to act before January 1, 2010, current law calls for death taxes to disappear entirely for one year before returning in 2011 at a top rate of 55 percent and a $1 million exemption of taxable estate. The 2009 tax rate is 45 percent, and the exemption stands at $3.5 million per taxpayer. What should Congress do?”

Sued for success: "Computer chip maker Intel is back in court. On Wednesday, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the firm. The suit follows a record-shattering $1.5 billion antitrust fine levied on Intel by the European Union last May. Going after Intel might allow Cuomo to score political points — never mind the inconvenient fact that Advanced Micro Devices, Intel’s arch-rival, is building a massive new factory in New York — but this legal assault will only stymie innovation in the computer chip market.”

The control imperative: "That is why the easiest way to transform purely visual or informational control into physical control is to cede the task of creating the latter onto external forces, especially those working at the behest of an impersonal and de facto ownerless entity. No other institutions are better suited for such a cession than the institutions of representative democracy — their character allows an envious and greedy individual to merge his own envy and greed with that exhibited by millions of others, and then use it as the material to forge a redistributionist system by the hands of those who can no longer be called robbers hired by Mr. Lazybones to loot the resources of Mr. Diligent, but should be called the executors of the common will instead. As soon as this happens, all potential pangs of conscience and fears of ostracism disappear — acts of plunder and predation (henceforth known as acts of rectification) are no longer committed by any particular, individual person, but only by a vast, collective immaterial entity, whose corporeal representatives are to be regarded as tools of historical justice. The whole process is complemented by far-reaching ritualization of the actions of the abovementioned entity, as well as by the attendant series of semantic distortions, which make unequivocal identification of aggression, violence, coercion, theft and enslavement (let alone successful elimination of these phenomena) incomparably more difficult than it was before.”

The GOP’s civil “civil war”: "I have been thoroughly amused by all this talk about a ‘civil war’ within the Republican Party, supposedly due to divisive ‘conservative’ factions who, going rogue, are disturbing the Newtonian equilibrium of ‘mainstream’ party regulars. What balderdash. The present tension between conservative, moderate and liberal branches of the GOP, not to mention the differing relative priorities of the components of the Reaganite triad of economic, national security, and social conservatives, is at least as old as the struggle between the old Taft and Eisenhower struggle, and even more relevant to today’s discussion, Ronald Regan’s challenge to Gerald Ford, then a sitting president, albeit by appointment of the departing, defeated Richard Nixon. Reagan then followed up his defeat with a victory over George Bush, Senior, in 1980, another classic contest between conservative ‘insurgents’ and mainstream, blue-blood Republicans.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

Robert said...

From comments to the "GOP Civil War" story, I came across Clay's America which seemed to have some pretty good explanations of communalist thinking, and explanations of why they are so hostile to individualism and individualist thinking. Well worth a read.