Lecture 3, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche, of UGS 303, Ideas of the Twentieth Century, at the University of Texas at Austin, Fall 201300:01today we’re going to be talking about00:04relativism and in two particular00:07incarnations one person who is a00:10proponent of relativism the other an00:12ardent folk relativism these are two of00:14the most important thinkers of the00:16latter part of the 19th century stay in00:18some way set up the problematic of the00:2020th century their ideas have a huge00:23impact on thinkers throughout the 20th00:25century and so looking at the contrast00:27between them I think can help us to00:28understand the kinds of issues that00:30people are wrestling with as the 20th00:32century dawned before we get to those00:34thinkers themselves let’s think about00:36relativism all by itself I’ve been00:38talking about these two level theories00:39where there’s a manifest image of the00:42world more or less as we find it and of00:44ourselves as we find ourselves it’s one00:46that’s characterized by a conception of00:48ourselves as rational beings governed by00:50some kind of moral law taking00:52responsibility for actions because we00:54see ourselves as causally responsible00:56for those actions we see ourselves as00:58doing things we are so we see ourselves01:00as acting freely we think of ourselves01:03as using practical reason figuring out01:05what means to take in order to attain01:07our goals however according to the01:09scientific image we’re really just01:11beings governed by causal laws that01:13seems to be a completely value-free01:15image it doesn’t make any sense to ask01:17whether it’s basic laws or conditions01:19are right or wrong and it looks as if01:20things are either purely determined or01:22at best determined to some degree and01:25then affected with some degree of01:26randomness well it’s easy for theories01:30like that to lead to relevance where one01:32looks at the manifest image the values01:34that are expressed there the conceptions01:35of rationality and you say look really01:38that might be right only given a certain01:41way in which things are working at the01:43base level and so in content one to01:45think that truth itself is relative to01:48something or other now there are a lot01:50of different forms of relativism you01:51might think that what is true is01:53relative to an individual person that01:55certain things could be true for you but01:57not true for me you might think things01:59are relative to a society so what is02:01true depends on a certain particular02:03society and its concepts you might think02:06it’s dependent on a culture or what some02:09authors have referred to as02:10interpretive community a community may02:12be much smaller than a given society may02:15be much larger than it that adopts a02:17certain conceptual framework and so you02:19can think of things as relative to a set02:21of concepts that we use for02:22understanding the world finally you02:24might think of things as relative to a02:26certain historical period a certain02:29certain historical epic or era and that02:31particular version as we’ll see you is02:33called historicism but in any case the02:35idea here is that things aren’t really02:37universally and absolutely true they’re02:40only true relative to something or other02:42now certain things people often think02:45are relative to individual people and02:48it’s relatively uncontroversial that02:50they are for example if I say mushrooms02:52are yummy I think that’s true but you02:56might disagree right you might hate02:57mushrooms and so in fact when I was in03:01elementary school I used to trade kids03:03for mushrooms and for peas they would03:05often serve peas and was like I love03:07peas peas are awesome and so I have03:10trade people deserts and rolls and other03:12things like that to get pee so I do peas03:13and then people say why don’t we use pee03:15so I just get lots of free peas so I03:17just have a big mound of peas I thought03:19that was fantastic03:20okay now I spill my guts about testing I03:23love you but in any event up you know so03:27peas are yummy mushrooms are yummy those03:29things are true for be on the other end03:30they might not be true for you or it03:32might be that you love other kinds of03:34things that I despise like what um those03:37rubbery horrible things that calamari03:42what yeah I don’t see a long eating like03:44calamari to meet calamari are disgusting03:47you might as well just eat rubber bands03:49and so in any event things like that we03:52certainly yeah all right this is yummy03:54that’s not me that’s relative to an03:56individual person we ordinarily think03:58but there are lots of things we don’t04:00think are relative to a given person or04:02to a given society what are some things04:04that are candidates for real absolute04:05truth not dependent on you or me not04:08dependent on a historical era not04:11dependent on a particular set of04:13concepts or a certain culture or its04:15framework one of the things that might04:17be absolute truth yeah good the law of04:21gravitation you might think that’s04:22something that’s really true at all04:23times that04:24places it’s not like what gravity is04:26true for you but it’s not true for me I04:27just find myself rising into the air I04:29put glue on my shoes right it’s not like04:32that no it applies across the board or04:34at least we ordinarily think so yeah04:36mathematics good two plus two is four04:39that’s something it seems to be true no04:41matter who you are it’s not like well04:42two plus two is four in Austin but the04:44closer you get to Waco the more it04:46starts shading on no it’s not like that04:49right it’s true all over the place other04:51cabinets yeah good the laws of physics04:55in general it’s not just gravitation04:57force is mass times acceleration for04:59example that seems to be true across the05:01board right we don’t say well you know05:03forces now mass times acceleration but05:05if you go back to the 19th century it05:06was something else05:07no we tend to think that’s something05:09that applies at all times and places in05:11all cultures in all historical epochs05:13are there other things yeah you saw oh05:16you sucks we’ve talked about that one05:18that might be although already kept05:23thing a counterexample oh yeah okay I05:30think therefore I am that’s when we05:31talked about earlier too and that’s05:33something you might take to be universal05:35as we mentioned it’s really not05:36necessarily true at all times in all05:38places but every time I can say it right05:41every time it’s thought or uttered it’s05:42true05:43so the relativist has a tough row to hoe05:45the relatives has to say look I’m not05:47just talking about things like peas or05:49yummy I’m talking about all of that05:51everything truth itself is relative and05:54that’s something that at least doesn’t05:56seem to be true in our common sense05:58appreciation of the world so what kinds06:00of arguments to relativists give what06:02can they say ultimately this position06:04goes back to the thought of Derek Hale06:07who wrote at the beginning of the 19th06:09century he’s very influential and we06:11would read him if his writing was06:13intelligible but it’s very very06:16difficult in any case he lays out a06:19series of arguments that increasingly06:21tempered evil toward relativism06:23throughout the later part of the 19th06:24century and then the 20th century now06:26what are some of these arguments the06:29first is that he rejects what he refers06:31to and later authors like Sellars06:33referred to as the myth of the Gibbon he06:35calls it in medias06:36he says there is no such thing as06:38immediacy there is no such thing that is06:40simply given to us an experience now06:43what does he mean by that06:44well cut earlier had drawn a sharp line06:47between sensibility and understanding06:49between what we perceive and then the06:51concepts we use to analyze what we06:53perceive you might say what am i06:54proceeding right now well a classroom06:57full of people and so you could06:58characterize that maybe in terms of07:01things that have concepts in them like a07:03classroom full of people right I’m using07:05concepts classroom people but I might07:07think look I could characterize this in07:10a way that has nothing to do with that I07:11might just for example take a photograph07:13and then I could say here’s what I’m07:15looking at here’s what I’m perceiving07:16and that would be something that seems07:18to be free of concepts however Hegel07:21says there isn’t such a sharp line to be07:24drawn when I perceive all of you I don’t07:26just see this swirling mass I don’t just07:28see a bunch of pixels or something like07:30that it’s not just a bunch of rods and07:32cones on the retina being activated my07:34mind immediately sorts things into07:36objects I see people I see desks and07:39tables I see a camera I see a variety of07:41things in front of me and I immediately07:43categorize those in terms of concepts I07:45have so this claim is there really isn’t07:48a sharp line between sensation and07:50cognition in sensing the world in07:53perceiving the world07:54I am already categorizing it he says07:56I’ve already classifying things using07:58concepts so there’s a sense in which07:59people who have totally different sense08:01of concepts actually perceive things08:04differently they see things differently08:06because one is seen let’s say just08:08shapes another is seeing people and08:10that’s a fundamental difference so he08:12argues that our perception of the world08:14is concept Laden even the most basic08:16levels there is no level he thinks we’re08:19we’re just perceiving things before we08:20get to conceptually analyzing it or08:22before we think wait what am I seeing08:24now there’s an obvious argument on the08:27other side wait sometimes I do right08:29sometimes I perceive something and I08:30don’t know what to think about it so I08:32looked at a scene I say what is that or08:34I look at a Jackson Pollock painting and08:36I say what is that my father for years08:40had what a lot of people thought was a08:42print of a Jackson Pollock painting08:43behind his desk in his office at work in08:47fact the painter in the bill08:49had just had this table and he had08:51spilled paint on it over the years and08:53finally decided to get a new table08:55my father said kind of that tabletop08:56hung on the wall people thought it was a08:58Jackson Pollock never Oh09:01and so you might say yeah you know what09:03is that well it might just be drips of09:04paint maybe it’s something else in any09:06case you might think I can look at it09:08and analyze it pet it in terms of well09:10yeah I don’t want to see analyze it even09:13I can just tell you what I is I’m seeing09:14before I have any idea of how to09:18categorize what I’m seeing but Hegel09:20says no even the most basic levels my09:22concepts are already involved so he says09:25the concepts we have shaped the way we09:27perceive the world but of course what we09:30perceived is the world so it follows09:32that our concepts shape what the world09:35is there is no way to really separate09:37the world as it is from the world as it09:40seems to us there’s no sharp separation09:42between two terms the comp use09:44appearances and things in themselves09:46yeah to go from the way we perceive the09:51world to that is the way the world is09:54because you may not receive there as09:56being any gravity but there still is09:58gravity I feel that he makes a couple10:00jumps oh that don’t have any sort of10:02logic to just what he wants me to be10:05okay good yes how good is this as an10:08argument actually Hegel is advancing it10:10kind of as an argument10:12um I say kind of as an argument because10:14sometimes I think he’s giving you10:16arguments sometimes I think he’s really10:17trying to get you to undergo a Gestalt10:20shift he’s trying to say you’ve been10:21seeing the world this way I want you to10:23see it this world way think about it10:24this way instead and the arguments don’t10:27actually leave much of anywhere if we go10:29carefully here we can say well all right10:31there’s the first sort of argument that10:33really we can’t perceive things in a10:35family of concepts the concepts do shape10:37what we proceed and we can ask whether10:39that’s true or false right is that true10:41or is it false that’s a complicated sort10:44of question um you might think it’s sort10:48of obviously false because we can after10:50all take photographs and say there10:51that’s what I’m seeing um on the other10:54hand you might think well if you analyze10:56what the brain is doing maybe there10:58really isn’t a very10:59it may be the moment information is11:02transferred from the retina for example11:04my conceptual apparatus and parts of the11:06brain that involved that are already11:08operating on and so from that point of11:10view it seems like a complicated neuro11:12physiological problem whether these are11:14different components in the brain or11:15whether they get all mixed up and it’s11:18not obvious which way it goes one would11:19really have to know a lot about the11:21brain and how it works to be able to11:23tell that there is some evidence that11:25actually these things are at certain11:27levels intertwined a good example is a11:29kind of case where people show words11:35that denote colors like the word orange11:38but it’s in blue and they ask you to11:41read it aloud okay and they keep doing11:44this there’s the word read re D but it’s11:46in green and so on and it freaks people11:48out they find it hard to do that’s some11:51evidence that perception and cognition11:52are kind of mixed up together at some11:54level but in the end you’re right as an11:56argument that’s not much of an argument11:58would really have to get into the12:00neurophysiology I understand how this12:01works but now let’s look at this step12:03suppose it’s true that the concepts we12:05have shaped the way we perceive the12:07world does it follow that there’s no12:10difference between the world as it is in12:12the world as we perceive it well it12:15doesn’t seem to pong right that is to12:18say I might say and in fact here’s the12:21skeptical argument that I think12:22underlies this position the skeptical12:24argument is this I can’t really tell to12:27what extent the way I’m perceiving the12:28world reflects the way the world really12:29is and to what extent it reflects the12:32contributions of my own cognitive12:34apparatus how much is what I’m seeing12:37really a matter of the way the world is12:39and how much of it is really being12:41contributed by my mind by my brain in12:44reconstructing data and then projecting12:46something that may or may not actually12:48reflect the way reality is well the12:51skeptics worried I can’t tell I can’t12:53tell what is really my own contribution12:55and what is really there in the world12:57and so they said the best thing to do is12:59to spend judgment who knows what the13:01world is really like Hegel is trying to13:03respond to that but he’s saying hey the13:05world is as I perceive it13:06he’s what is known as an idealist he13:09thinks everything in the world is mine13:11dependent the whole world it’s just a13:12projection of the mind so that’s the13:14underlying view that we’re going to be13:16getting to and that in a nutshell is his13:18argument for it he thinks that’s the13:19only way to avoid that skeptical13:21argument now most philosophers have13:23thought that can’t be righted but a13:26consistent theme in the course as we go13:28along will be precisely that question13:30the question of realism versus idealism13:33the realist says the world really is a13:36certain way we’ll talk about this much13:37more next week but the realist says the13:40world is a way a certain way13:41independently of how the mind goes13:43things are as they are independently of13:45what we think about and so there are at13:48least some mind independent facts the13:50idealist says no actually everything13:53depends on the mind and so there’s no13:54such thing as a mind-independent world a13:56mind independent fact Hegel is an13:59idealist so he’s trying to say actually14:01the only way I can beat the skeptic it14:03is to think appearances and things in14:05themselves are just the same forget14:07about the worlds it might be14:08independently of our ways of perceiving14:09it because actually there’s no such14:11thing the world is just what we can14:13struck through our minds now most people14:16think look there’s something deeply14:18wrong with that and so we’re going to be14:20considering the battle between the14:21realists an idealist throughout the 20th14:23century but it does become a major focus14:26and not just in philosophy but also in14:28literature in the arts to what extent is14:31the job of the artist for example to14:32reflect the way the world is and to what14:34extent is it just to project some idea14:36out of the world and it can become14:37reality just by being thought up by14:39being projected we’ll see all sorts of14:41people taking different attitudes about14:43that fight but I think your various oops14:45I’ve gone on too long the iPad says14:48bored now um but no I think it’s a very14:51insightful point to say look there is a14:52kind of argument here for this but14:54there’s also a huge jump and it’s not at14:57all to your how we’re supposed to get14:58from babby but if it’s true to that15:00so we’ll be fighting throughout the term15:03I mean not you and I but the various15:05thinkers we read about will be fighting15:07about whether that kind of job makes15:08sense or whether it doesn’t15:11now Hegel has a supplementary argument15:14which is this idea about the social15:17character of thought he thinks human15:19thought is15:19essentially social why go because I15:22learn my concepts from the people around15:26me I learned it by learning my language15:28and I get that set of concepts in other15:30words by learning a certain language15:32that is taught to me by other people so15:34how did I learn English well I just grew15:37up in a household that spoke English15:39really some rough approximations there15:41too I grew up in Pittsburgh so it was15:44only a rough approximation we said all15:45sorts of weird things but anyway that’s15:48something that is crucial we’ve learned15:50our concepts from other people that’s15:52not to say we can’t then start doing15:54things ourselves to some extent but we15:56do it with the raw material thought15:57that’s given to us in a certain social15:59context he says so in learning our16:02language we learn basic categories of16:04thought and we learn them from other16:06people at a particular time in the16:08context of a particular society so what16:11call it an earlier philosophers16:13generally from as stemming from our very16:15nature as knowers and in that respect as16:17being universal as applying across the16:19board to all of us as beings who were16:21rational beings capable of knowledge16:22heygo sees as reflecting a specific16:25social background and again we’ve got a16:27contrast here between people who say16:29look there are certain things that are16:30just true about human nature no matter16:32what true about human perception true16:35about human cognition no matter what and16:38others say well it depends maybe people16:40in ancient China really perceive things16:41differently maybe they really thought16:43about things differently maybe they16:45reason differently and so on and so one16:47group is going to say look all of these16:49things stem from human nature that’s16:51pretty much constant over time at least16:53within local time maybe in geologic16:55evolutionary time it’s different16:57but others are going to say no no it can17:00change from place to place from decade17:02to decade and so what one group is going17:05to see is Universal another group will17:07see is variable and relative well one17:11last point then he calls his own view17:12historicism17:13he says philosophy is its own time17:15raised to the level of thought what any17:17thinker is doing is really just giving17:19you a picture of how things look at that17:21particular time from the point of view17:23of that particular society or culture17:25so he says philosophy combines the17:27fiight in the infant the relative and17:29the absolute he does think actually at17:32some level you can17:33absolute truth but it’s not at the level17:35of describing what the world is like17:37it’s describing the way these historical17:39progressions of thought go and so he17:41thinks he could actually give you laws17:43that are universal and absolute but one17:46level up they sort of meta laws but17:48we’ll get to that more in a moment well17:52the ancient relativist was protagonist17:56he was the person who introduced this17:58into Western philosophy and he said very18:00famously man is the measure of all18:01things of things we talk about they are18:03the things which are not that they are18:05not he meant by the way each individual18:08person not mankind although many18:10relatives have taken it that way but he18:12really meant no each individual person18:14is the measure of what is and what is18:17not so is it warm or cool in this room18:22depends right some of you might say18:24actually I’m kind of warm others might18:25say I know I think it’s cool well he18:27says yeah you’re the measure of that so18:29it might be warm for you and cool for18:31that person and that’s just the way it18:33is there’s no such thing as the way18:34things truly are so for tigris argue18:37well oh yes I repeat that I said we’re18:41going to concentrate on the thought of18:42two figures of the later 19th century18:45the first of them is Fyodor Dostoevsky18:47pictured there he is one of the greatest18:50Russian novelists indeed one of the18:51greatest novelists in any place in time18:55Friedrich Nietzsche who will be our18:57second thinker rated reading Gustav C18:59among the most beautiful strikes of19:01fortune in his life and so does this he19:03actually had a significant impact on19:05Nietzsche and we’ll see some specific19:07ways in which that’s true they do19:09however come to completely opposite19:11conclusions Dostoyevsky’s works were19:15banned in Russia after the communist19:17revolution they are great works are in19:21some ways the pride of Russian19:22literature in Russian culture but in19:24another way they were taken to be highly19:26subversive to Lenin and Stalin x’19:28paradigm why well does TF ski is a19:31concern what do I mean by a conservative19:33I mean somebody who believes in order19:36delivery what does that mean well they19:38believe in Liberty they believe in19:40freedom that is a fundamental pull it19:41in human value and so there should be19:44liberty for people to follow their own19:46conceptions of the good however that has19:49to take place within a framework of19:51order within a framework of the rule of19:53law for example in terms of formal19:55institutional structures but also in19:58terms of an informal structure of social20:00institutions and Ben Burke unknown in20:03conservative called these little20:04platoons so things like families20:06churches clubs other voluntary20:09organizations as well as more formal20:11institutions like universities companies20:13and so forth all create a kind of social20:16structure that is important to the20:18maintenance of social order so the idea20:20is roughly that liberty freedom is a20:22fundamental human value but not really a20:25sort of license in fact john locke20:26expresses this very nicely he says the20:28state of nature is a state liberty but20:30not a state of license and what he means20:32is liberty but I don’t just mean do20:35whatever you want I mean do whatever you20:37want within a certain structure that20:39keeps people from colliding with other20:41people and harming so that’s roughly20:44what will mean in this course anyway by20:46being a conservative and thus vfc20:48clearly is what he is not conservative20:51in another sense sometimes people use20:53that term just to mean don’t make any20:54changes where I keep things as they are20:56and that wasn’t his view at all in fact20:58he was a social reformer young when he21:00was young he was a socialist and a sort21:02of liberal utopian he was arrested by21:04the Tsar and sentenced to death he was21:06in front of a firing squad when suddenly21:08a note came from that is bizarre21:10commuting his sentence to four years21:11hard labor in Siberia that destroyed his21:14health and really for the rest of his21:15life he was sick most of the time as a21:17result of his experiences there suffered21:20greatly from malnutrition and other21:22kinds of problems he was chained the21:23entire four years when he wasn’t21:25actually physically working the only21:27thing he was permitted to read was the21:28New Testament which ended up having a21:30huge impact on his fall in any case he21:33did attack feudalism21:34he attacked Russian society at the time21:36he tried to break down barriers between21:38social classes and that sense was viewed21:41as an enemy of the Czar well what’s the21:45positive side he argues that21:47Christianity actually is essential to21:49ordered liberty and so what we get here21:50is an argue21:51in favor of religious values his version21:55is really Orthodox Christianity that is21:57to say the Russian Orthodox Church but I21:59think a lot of what he says applies just22:01a religion per se he thinks it is vital22:03that you have some basis for thinking22:06that people have dignity that people are22:08valued and in fact they are equally22:10valuable as children of God he thinks if22:12you don’t have that you’re in big22:14trouble22:14now as well see when we get to Nietzsche22:16he says no no you’re better off without22:18it22:18however the CFC is going to say that is22:22the foundation for you might say22:25enlightenment conceptions of humanity22:28and of human dignity and human liberty22:30and human equality all of that depends22:32on a certain kind of foundation and if22:34it’s not there then he sees that there22:37will be a major source of social trouble22:39in fact he saw Christianity at this time22:41as in decline and he thought that22:43presented a serious danger22:44precisely because without it there isn’t22:47any foundation for a belief in human22:48dignity or equality so we’re going to22:52look at one chapter of one of his22:54greatest novels The Brothers Karamazov22:57there’s a page of it if you want to read22:59it in the original ok this chapter is23:06known as the Grand Inquisitor chapter23:08and here’s the basic set Jesus comes23:10back to earth during the most intense23:12period of the Spanish Inquisition the23:14crowd recognizes and he starts23:16performing miracles he cures a blind man23:18he raises a girl from the dead23:20here’s a famous painting of Jesus23:22healing the blind man it’s the Spanish23:26Inquisition he’s going to meet the Grand23:28Inquisitor who burned a hundred people23:29at the stake that day is going to burn23:31100 more the next day um that’s pretty23:33depressing and in general this is fairly23:35depressing so I thought maybe you would23:37like to be cheered up about that here’s23:39a famous view of the Spanish Inquisition23:49okay24:22Spanish Inquisition a surprise oh yeah24:56okay well in any case Jesus comes back25:01okay so we have the second cup Jesus25:03comes and starts healing people and so25:05on to the Grand Inquisitor who is the25:07head of the church here in the head of25:08the Inquisition sees this and he arrests25:12him he takes him to prison and tells him25:14that he’s going to be burned at the25:16stake the next day and then the very25:17people clamored to see him today will25:19throw logs on the fire tomorrow so this25:23is a pretty bleak situation now why does25:26he do this25:26there’s by the way an artistic rendering25:28of and being questioned by the Grand25:30Inquisitor well the Grand Inquisitor25:34says look you’re nothing but trouble and25:37here’s why you gave the people freedom25:39freedom to believe or not to believe25:41have faith or reject it but that has25:45brought the people nothing but torment25:46that was nothing but trouble because it25:49put responsibility in people’s hands so25:52the Inquisitor says what the church has25:55done much better the church is taken25:57freedom away assigning to the Pope all25:59authority to determine the Word of God26:00and not even Jesus himself now has the26:03right to change everything so he said26:05look the church is taken away freedom26:07but for the sake of happiness26:08people are happier we tell them what to26:10do they do it they’re like happy sheep26:12and so the contrast throughout this is26:14really freedom versus happiness to what26:16extent should you interfere with26:18people’s freedom for the sake of26:19happiness and the structure of this26:21really has to do it mirrors the26:23structure of the three temptations in26:26the best pictured here or here and so26:29there are three parts of the story as it26:31evolves Jesus is there in the wilderness26:33and Satan comes up to him and offers him26:37three temptations the first temptation26:39is if you’re the Son of God tell these26:40stones to become bread well in dusty s26:43keys rendering this Ivan is the26:45character who’s telling the story and26:47Ivan thinks that this is an offer to26:48look here’s a way of making people have26:50feed people okay you have the power to26:52actually turn stones into bread and give26:54the people all the food they want and26:56all the food baby jesus answered it is26:59written man shall not live on bread27:01alone but on every word that comes from27:02the mouth of God27:04now the inquisitor says look hey you27:08gave people too much credit in the end27:10people are going to lay their freedom in27:12our feet and say to us make us your27:14slaves but feed us now in Ivan’s view27:17he’s the one telling the story that’s27:18what people want they want to be fed27:20they want to be taken care of they are27:22what freedom they don’t want choices27:24they don’t want responsibility they just27:26want to be like children a child comes27:29into the room it says I’m hungry give me27:31food if you say well you want food go27:34get a job we don’t say that to children27:36right but we might say that to adults27:39and so his thought is what most people27:41want to be my children they just want to27:43be fed they just want to be taken care27:44of them Cara27:45they don’t want freedom they don’t want27:46responsibility here’s an ancient27:50Egyptian text that actually makes this27:51point rather nicely called the27:53instruction of any a father is giving27:55his son advice about how to live goes on27:57and on giving his son all this advice27:58the son says well all your sayings are28:00excellent but doing them requires28:01virtues like your makeup I’d have to be28:04a good person I’d have to actually work28:05at this this would be a pain in the butt28:07and the father goes on and says look son28:10here’s what you’re supposed to do do28:12this do that and someone gives all the28:13sensible advice and finally the son says28:16look you my father you were wise and28:17strong of hand the infinite is what28:20his wishes for what nurses him looks at28:23you when he finds his speech he says28:25give me bread and Ivan is basically28:28saying that’s what people are like28:29they’re like the son in the story and by28:31the way it just ends there you can28:33imagine the father thing oh but that’s28:36how it is give me bread so I’m it as in28:39effect saying look people are like the28:40son in this story they’re not like the28:42father they want to be taken care of28:44there’s a saint give me bread oh there28:48is an Egyptian thing or people28:51harvesting wheat why is that there28:54because actually it’s not a trivial28:56point what’s the first thing people do28:58when they become friends what’s the29:00first thing when a romantic relationship29:01starts what do people do they feed the29:05other person right you go out to dinner29:06or something like that no that’s not29:09what so what you said I’m going to29:10really good um and so you know feeding29:14someone is an important way of taking29:15care of them of establishing a certain29:17kind of relationship well in any case I29:20even think people are like the Sun they29:21just want to be taken care of they want29:23to be sheep they want to be children29:25they don’t want to grow up and as you29:27can see I found many wonderful paintings29:29of sheep well here’s the second29:33temptation pick yourself Satan takes29:36Jesus up to the roof of the temple and29:37says throw yourself off the angels will29:39save you if you’re the son of God throw29:43yourself down from the top of the temple29:45it’s written the Angels will save you29:46Jesus says it’s also written don’t put29:47the Lord your God to the test well29:50here’s how the Grand Inquisitor takes29:52that he says look you did expect too29:54much it’s not just that people want to29:55be fed they want to be led you had a29:58chance to become a great religious29:59leader instead of being crucified you30:01could actually shown people that perform30:03these miracles right in front of the30:05Pharisees for example you could have30:07done this in such a way you’d been30:08acclaimed universally as a great leader30:10but you wanted love given freely you30:13didn’t want adoration from slaves who30:15were just impressed by miracles you30:17wanted people to make a free choice30:18you wanted too much it was too much to30:20ask and so he says look people are30:23really slaves they want to be told what30:25to do they don’t – please you’ll be30:27kinder to them if you have less respect30:29for them the third temptation Satan30:33offers all30:34kingdoms of the world in their splendor30:35in other words you could be a great30:37political leader you can establish30:39utopia on earth and Jesus says away from30:41me Satan30:42now the Inquisitor says that’s a good30:45painting away vermin30:48well by the way I want to decided I30:51would grow a beard and I did I looked30:54like Satan I imagined that I would look30:57like a fluffy teddy bear and I did my30:59awful it was very very me Oh afraid31:02myself and changed it off31:04well anyway – yeah the quiz that are31:08saying look you could have done this you31:09could have established a utopia on earth31:11why didn’t you do it because that’s what31:13the church is for me to do now we’re31:15trying to make people happy we’ve taken31:17over your role the church tells people31:19what to do it makes them happy it31:21doesn’t respect and it treats them like31:22children but that’s what they want and31:24so everything works out very well the31:26church even lets its children sin it31:29tells them it’s okay we’ll all be31:30forgiven in the end and so people were31:32happy to give up the freedom to be fed31:35they oh they’re even allowed to sin what31:37more could you want they’re happy31:38children no well yeah that makes31:42everyone happy the Grand Inquisitor says31:44well almost everyone31:45there are those who actually have to31:47leave the Sheep there the Shepherd’s31:49they are the ones who have to act freely31:51they’re the ones who take responsibility31:52they are the ones who suffer so that the31:55rest don’t have to so they’re going to31:57be thousands of millions of happy babes31:59notice children again and 100,00032:01sufferers who have taken upon themselves32:03the curse what curse the curse of the32:05knowledge of good and evil so here we32:08see dust yes keep recognizing what I32:09called last time the vision will be32:11anointed this idea that there are a few32:13people who are actually capable of32:15exercising leadership of taking32:17responsibility of making decisions for32:19everyone else and that we’ll all be32:20better off if just a few people lead all32:22the rest well with all that is good and32:25evil you might recognize that that’s32:27what constitutes the fall of man no32:31vision of Illinois here’s the idea some32:34people are going to fall they’re going32:35to have this knowledge they’re going to32:36have the responsibility leave the rest32:38it’s gotta be tough for them but then32:40the others can remain in the garden only32:41a few people to leave the garden the32:43rest can be happy sheep back there in32:45the garden will follow the rules up32:46there do what belted with that old32:48though remain a flock of sheep and so he32:50says really that would be for the best32:52well as we mentioned last time there is32:55a kind of problem here I called the32:57paradox of the other the vision cuts the33:00anointed ones the leaders those who33:01actually fall from the knowledge they33:03need to take responsibility and make33:05people happy what’s going to guide their33:07decisions actually the Sheep it turns33:09out are going to be the only ones who33:10have the norms well the values are33:12capable of evaluating what’s good and33:14bad they’re the only ones with the norms33:16that could help to guide them so we’ve33:18got kind of paradox and the way33:20Dostoyevsky understands this is that33:22those who pride themselves on having the33:24knowledge of good and evil actually are33:26in the least position good to understand33:28what they really are they’re the least33:30equipped to make decisions they’re the33:31least equipped to guide others so the33:33people who think hey I could be a33:35shepherd I know what’s going on I33:36understand the world says they’re the33:38last ones you should trust they are in33:40fact in the worst position right yeah33:42good why because they’ve cut themselves33:44off from these values the idea is that33:47the values are part of the manifest33:48image they said forget the manifest33:51image that’s the realm of the sheep33:52that’s illusion look at the underlying33:55reality but in that underlying reality33:57there aren’t any valleys and so all of a33:59sudden how do you make choices you want34:01to lead the Sheep where do you lead them34:03well gosh actually that’s a matter34:05that’s only defined in terms of that34:08manifest image and the signs ever given34:09to there’s no you know go to the physics34:12class and say but where where should the34:14rocket go now in practical terms we can34:17say we’re for shooting this at bars so34:18it should go to Mars but that’s a matter34:20of this the manifest image our Bulls our34:23purposes if you look just at the science34:25you say to a physicist well where should34:28Rockets go I mean in general just tell34:31me about rockets like what should Roger34:32Tribby and where should go we can ask34:35where what human beings are right it34:37ought to be and what we shall we should34:38live our lives but if we just say where34:40should Rockets go that doesn’t make any34:42sense there’s no way of an answer34:43in terms of the scientific image so his34:46point is that really well as CS Lewis34:49puts it later the leaders those34:51self-styled leaders becomes men without34:53chess they cut themselves off from34:55everything that might have given them34:56some ability to tell good from evil so34:59the very people who want to lead are35:01those least equipped to lead now he35:03thinks it’s vital to hold yourself35:05accountable to something outside35:06yourself to find an anchor outside35:07yourself and again that means you either35:10have to take yourself as defining values35:11or think that something else defines35:13values there’s no other way so in the35:16entity are you yourself or it’s35:17something outside you whether it’s God35:19or something else there’s going to be35:21something outside you to which you’re35:23accountable the Socialists he says35:26thinks it could be mankind Ted thinks35:28you could set up heaven on earth but he35:30says that doesn’t ultimately work why35:33well he thinks really in the end either35:37it’s yourself or God you might think the35:39universe is about you or you might think35:41it’s about something else35:42higher than you why isn’t mankind that35:46sort of intermediate thing well he says35:49here’s the problem today if you think35:51most people are sheep what respect do35:53you have for man you could think this if35:55you really thought mankind had dignity35:57and was worthy of respect but if you cut35:59yourself off from God he thinks you have36:01no grounds for thinking that and so he36:03sees this as collapsing basically you36:05say I care about mankind but wait a36:08minute why should I care about bad guys36:10if mankind isn’t important because of36:12something else then he thinks in the end36:14that slips back into just valuing36:17yourself because you’re very vision is36:19one that disrespects mankind the things36:22of people is nothing generally so it’s36:24built on disrespect and therefore he36:26thinks it will in the end crumble so36:28that’s his argument for this sort of36:29conclusion so in the end he says all of36:32this collapses into narcissism in the36:35end your values can be rooted only in36:37yourself you’ll have nothing to guide36:39your decisions by your own impulses and36:41your own desires and so that’s the36:45position Network36:47now yeah well there’s lots of images of36:50that oh well one more thing I better not36:53skip over there is a place in the novel36:55earlier where Ivan is saying if God is36:58dead then everything is permitted he37:01does think God is dead so he concludes37:03that everything is permitted in other37:05words that there are no rules there’s no37:06such thing as morality there’s no such37:08thing as now that he can do anything he37:10likes that really exemplifies this37:13collapse into narcissism if there isn’t37:15any external anchor Dostoevsky thinks37:17then we just become the centres of our37:19own universes and there is no value37:21outside of ourselves our own impulses37:23our own desires so in the end he says37:25we’re in the sacrificing part of37:28humanity for the sake of the rest37:29so the Inquisition he thinks is actually37:32the natural result of that line of37:34thinking that says we’re doing it for37:35the sake of mankind for the sake of37:37happiness he says look that ends in the37:39Inquisition that ends in the gulag 10037:43years well not quite 50 years before the37:45gulag actually came into existence he37:47sees that’s where that line of thinking37:48goes so anyway I’ll skip the rest and37:51let’s talk about Nietzsche Nietzsche is37:54inspired by this and inspired by this37:55idea of the death of God but instead of37:58being deeply disturbed by it he’s37:59excited by he thinks this is both38:01dangerous but also thrilling and that we38:03are in a position like it or not of38:05having to reconstruct our own values38:07from the resources of ourselves38:11Nietzsche is explicitly a historian he38:14thinks that truth is relative to a38:16historical period and he goes much38:18beyond Hegel in thinking that even at38:21some higher level this is true there’s38:23no such thing as some higher level where38:24we can see the march of history and38:26understand it in anything like absolute38:28terms so here is a way of getting the38:32contrast Hegel as we’ve seen advocates a38:34historical relativism he thinks the38:36truth of the world relative to a time38:38and a place but who does claim to38:40uncover these absolute general and38:42dynamic meta-level laws he says look38:45thought does develop in certain ways the38:47way the Greeks for example precede the38:49world is different from the way that we38:50proceeded on the other hand I can tell38:53you a story about how thought progresses38:55and changes so he thinks that although38:57the truth of the world are relative to a38:59tie38:59place the truths of up thought he thinks39:02he can see from his Olympian height I39:04had described so we might describe it39:07this way there are all these theories we39:08have about the world they keep changing39:10and truth about the world is relative to39:13those on the other hand we can construct39:15theories about theories themselves ask39:17what is the nature of human knowledge39:19what is the nature of human history and39:21he thinks there we can actually come up39:23with some absolute theory some absolute39:25truths not about the world but about the39:27way we think about the world nietzsche39:30goes further oh yes there is this head39:34this idea of how is the logic progresses39:36we have a thesis then we realize it39:39doesn’t quite fit the facts we formulate39:40an antithesis and in the end it doesn’t39:42fit the facts either so if we synthesize39:45them into something new and then that39:46becomes a new thesis and it keeps39:47happening again and again on tables39:50picture of thought so that’s a very39:52quick picture of sort of what that39:53Universal progression looks like but39:57wait a minute what if thought doesn’t39:59change in rational law governed ways40:01what if there isn’t Absalom any absolute40:03way to characterize this progression of40:05thought that’s what Nietzsche thinks we40:08have theories about the world they keep40:09changing and truth about the world is40:11relative to those but actually our40:13theories of a theories keep changing too40:15and so even our thinking about thinking40:17even our thoughts about knowledge about40:19history those keep changing too was the40:21Greek conception of history the same as40:23the medieval conception was that the40:25same as our conception of history was40:27the Greek conception of the human mind40:29the same as a medieval conception or the40:31same as our consumption nature says no40:33in fact he starts out as a professor of40:35classics and so he’s concerned with that40:37contrast between his conception in the40:3919th century and ancient Greek40:41conceptions he says look it’s different40:43all the way down or all the way up if40:45you want to think of it that way it’s40:46not just that we had different physics40:47different theories of the world we had40:49different conceptions of humanity40:50different conceptions of knowledge40:52different conceptions of history so he40:55says we’re really forced to become a40:58relativist all the way through and in41:01fact he thinks that if we try to41:03understand how thought progresses will41:05not only be relevant we’ll recognize the41:07pattern is basically irrational he says41:10we don’t move from one conception41:12from one theory to another theory on the41:14basis of evidence reason we usually do41:16it on the basis of power and so history41:20is driven on his view by the will to41:21power but that’s an irrational force it41:24is not a rational one it’s not that we41:26formulate a hypothesis look at the41:27evidence say well that doesn’t quite41:28work out let’s think of the opposite41:30that’s Hegel’s picture Nietzsche says no41:32what happens is people in a theory and41:35eventually their students overthrow them41:37and say that’s nonsense41:38but that’s a power struggle that has41:40nothing to do with the reason so41:44Nietzsche starts from a kind of two41:46level theory he does say nearly all41:48philosophical problems once again raised41:50the same for its own form of question41:52they did 2,000 years ago how can41:54something develop from autonomy for41:56example reason from the unreasonable41:58feeling from the dead logic from the42:00illogical disinterested gaze from covens42:03wanting altruism premio is some truth42:05from error what does he mean she’s42:08speaking at the manifest image at that42:10level we talk about truth we talk about42:13reason we talk about feeling we talk42:15about beauty we think about helping42:18others however at that base level none42:20of that is really there there are just42:22particles moving around according to42:23laws there’s no reason there’s no42:25evidence there’s nothing like that42:27there’s no appreciation for beauty all42:28there is at that level is just particles42:30bouncing off one another how does all of42:32that arise from that sort of foundation42:36he says well it doesn’t happen42:38rationally it doesn’t happen according42:40to any discernible laws it’s ultimately42:42irrational and what we view as42:45remarkable glorious colors of the42:47intellect really arise from despised42:49materials in other words just purely the42:51interaction of these material particles42:54so in the end he says we have to be a42:56historian but philosophers automatically42:59think of man as an eternal being as if43:02Humanity is always the same this is it’s43:04not true actually everything that43:07philosophers say is true only of a43:08limited period of time so he ends up43:12being a relativist says there are no43:14eternal facts there are no absolute43:16truths well the world as we perceive it43:22he says after all it’s nothing like this43:24right we think of it as containing43:25value is containing people who were free43:27agents but even apart from that we see43:29it as consisting of objects but actually43:31says according to our really scientific43:33picture in the world it’s not consisting43:34of objects there are these fields they43:37interact in complicated ways somehow we43:39see continuous objects out of all of43:41that but it’s not clear that the worlds43:43anything like what we perceive the world43:45we know it he says is really nothing but43:47a bunch of errors and fantasies so what43:52does this mean about science well he43:53says it has to become plain it has to43:55develop new ways of seeing and interpret43:57in the world but doesn’t really progress43:59rationally the best thing that an44:01intellectual of any sort scientist a44:02humanist can do is think of new ways of44:05seeing the world the world after all he44:08says is just a projection that goes back44:10to that point I made earlier about44:11idealism but now something he’s picking44:14up from Dostoyevsky directly he says God44:17is dead okay this is his most famous44:20pronouncement really after Buddha was44:23dead his shadow was still shown for44:25centuries in a cave a tremendous shiver44:27inducing shadow God is dead but given44:30humans that they are there may be caves44:31for thousands of years in which a shadow44:33is show and we we still have to defeat44:35his shadow now what does he mean by this44:38claim God is dead44:42by the way this high magazine finally in44:48the 60s picked up of us it only took44:50them about 80 years to read philosophy44:53but anyway he tells a story he says if44:57you not heard the madman a little44:58lantern the bright morning random45:00article cried incessantly I’m looking45:01for God I’m looking for gone this is45:03just like the story where Diogenes runs45:05looking for an honest man okay so this45:08madman runs into the square of looking45:10for God there’s a painting of him doing45:12that so try this Scott to the west wall45:16run out there45:16lunchtime chop I’m looking for God45:18actually there are people saying I found45:19a beauty45:21but okay what happens in this story well45:25there are many who stood together they45:26start making fun of the guys he lost did45:28he wander off like a child or does he45:29keep himself hidden is he afraid of us45:31did he go to see that he emigrate well45:33they laughed and yelling disorder45:34Nietzsche who was by the way the son of45:37a Lutheran45:37master is here echoing Elijah taunting45:40the priests of Baal first Kings Elijah45:43says much of the same thing before even45:46has the pillar of fire start on Mount45:49Carmel and then drives them off and45:51kills them but anyway the madman jumps45:54into their midst and Pierceton with his45:56gaze where is God he cried I will tell45:58you we killed him you and I we are all46:01his murderers now at this point they46:04come back and the madman goes on god is46:07dead god remains dead and we killed him46:10how can we comfort ourselves the murders46:12of all murderers is it the size of the46:16to large for us don’t we have to become46:17gods just to appear worthy of it now46:21notice what he’s saying does this idea46:24of God dying make any sense46:25well I’m a classical conception No right46:27God is an eternal being this idea that46:29God cannot doesn’t really make any46:31classical sense but what he’s saying46:33really is look religion is dying God as46:36a force in human life as a force in46:38human culture is dying he sees a belief46:40in God in Europe as fading out and so46:43he’s looking forward to a few days46:45without religion actually it’s in that46:47respect much like Dostoyevsky’s vision46:50of a future without religion dusty fcc’s46:52christianity and decline in russia and46:54says that’s big trouble46:55Nietzsche says I see Germany God also46:59done religion as a diminishing force in47:02culture and now what does it mean don’t47:04we have to become gods just to be worthy47:07and that’s a classical idea of sin47:09actually we try to become God but he47:11says we may have no other choice so is47:13God dead well Nietzsche’s saying yes47:16here’s a poster I like God is dead47:19the titanium proves he is dead God in47:23any case Nietzsche says so what do I47:26believe in the final analysis that the47:28weights of all things have to be47:29determined afresh in other thing we have47:31to start over again figuring out what is47:33valuable what is right what is wrong47:34what is just what is unjust all of that47:37has to be rethought from the very47:38foundation tough and how do we do it47:41what does my conscience say he says you47:43are to become the person you are here’s47:45how you are to reconstruct it not on the47:47basis of a God47:48religion upside you from yourself and so47:51the chief virtue of people who follow in47:53each in the 20th century is authenticity47:55but first us DFT would answer that’s47:58back to that head back to narcissus next48:01week we look at a variety of other48:03things and on Wednesday your first paper48:04when we do
We get the term “postmodern,” at least in its current, philosophical sense, from the title of Jean-François Lyotard’s 1979 book, “The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.” It described the state of our era by building out Lyotard’s observations that society was becoming a “consumer society,” a “media society” and a “postindustrial society,” as postmodern theorist Fredric Jameson points out in his foreword to Lyotard’s book. Lyotard saw these large-scale shifts as game-changers for art, science and the broader question of how we know what we know. This was a diagnosis, not a political outcome that he and other postmodernist theorists agitated to bring about.Another thinker, Jean Baudrillard, developed the concept of the “simulacrum,” a copy without an original, that leads to the “hyperreal,” a collection of signs or images purporting to represent something that actually exists (such as photos of wartime combat) but ultimately portraying a wild distortion not drawn from reality... By the 1980s, conservative scholars like Allan Bloom — author of the influential “The Closing of the American Mind” — challenged postmodern theorists, not necessarily for their diagnosis of the postmodern condition but for accepting that condition as inevitable... Unlike so many of today’s critics, Bloom understood that postmodernism didn’t emerge simply from the pet theories of wayward English professors. Instead, he saw it as a cultural moment brought on by forces greater than the university... Bloom was particularly worried about students — as reflections of society at large — pursuing commercial interests above truth or wisdom. Describing what he saw as the insidious influence of pop music, Bloom lamented “parents’ loss of control over their children’s moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it.” He called the rock music industry “perfect capitalism, supplying to demand and helping create it,” with “all the moral dignity of drug trafficking.”.. Kimball called “Tenured Radicals,” in his 1990 polemic against the academic left. At the heart of this accusation is the tendency to treat postmodernism as a form of left-wing politics — with its own set of tenets — rather than as a broader cultural moment that left-wing academics diagnosed... it treats Lyotard and his fellows as proponents of a world where objective truth loses all value, rather than analysts who wanted to explain why this had already happened... If you’re going to claim that Trumpism and alt-right relativism are consequences of the academic left’s supposition about what was happening, you must demonstrate a causal link. But commentators looking to trace these roots play so fast and loose with causality that they could easily be called postmodernist themselves... It is certainly correct that today’s populist right employs relativistic arguments: For example, “identity politics” is bad when embraced by people of color, but “identitarianism” — white-nationalist identity politics — is good and necessary for white “survival.” But simply because this happens after postmodernism doesn’t mean it happens because of postmodernism.. figures such as “intelligent design” theorist Phillip Johnson and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich cite the influence of postmodernist theory on their projects. Yet, as McIntyre acknowledges — and documents extensively in his book — right-wing think tanks and corporate-backed fronts — like tobacco industry “research” — had already established an “alternative facts” program for the right, long before creative misinformation entrepreneurs came around... because reading postmodern theory is so notoriously difficult — partly because of how philosophical jargon gets translated, and partly because so much of the writing is abstruse and occasionally unclarifiable — an undergraduate (as in Cernovich’s case) or a layperson will almost inevitably come away with misreadings... Hannah Arendt’s 1951 “The Origins of Totalitarianism”: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction . . . and the distinction between true and false . . . no longer exist.”.. “The deliberate falsehood and the outright lie used as legitimate means to achieve political ends,” writes Arendt in her 1971 essay “Lying in Politics ,” “have been with us since the beginning of recorded history.”.. Fredric Jameson’s reflections on conspiracy theory (“the poor person’s cognitive mapping in the postmodern age”) aren’t what’s convincing people to believe that climate change is a hoax or that the Democratic Party has been running a pedophilia ring out of a Washington pizza parlor.
.. Likewise, the claim that the Trump-Russia investigation is — as Trump said on national television — a “made-up story,” an “excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election,” is not a postmodernist critique of the evidence the Mueller investigation has gathered. So it’s a massive category error to call Trump’s post-truth politics “postmodernist.” It’s just the say-anything chicanery of the old-fashioned sales pitch... it’s clear that the real enemy of truth is not postmodernism but propaganda, the active distortion of truth for political purposes.Trumpism practices this form of distortion on a daily basis. The postmodernist theorists we vilify did not cause this; they’ve actually given us a framework to understand precisely how falsehood can masquerade as truth.
“Conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God.”
.. When taken seriously, this definition demands a profound respect for the discernment of married couples and families,” the cardinal states. “Their decisions of conscience represent God’s personal guidance for the particularities of their lives. In other words, the voice of conscience — the voice of God … could very well affirm the necessity of living at some distance from the Church’s understanding of the ideal.” [Emphasis mine — RD]
.. Notice the highlighted part above. The voice of the individual’s conscience is the voice of God. The Church no longer teaches truth, but its own opinion of the “ideal.”
.. “The result is not relativism, or an arbitrary application of the doctrinal law, but an authentic receptivity to God’s self-revelation in the concrete realities of family life and to the work of the Holy Spirit in the consciences of the faithful,” states the cardinal.
.. Oh, please. The result is relativism, straight up.
Of all the errors made today by liberals—I use the term broadly—our most fundamental has been our underestimation of Trumpism as a philosophical movement.
We have no trouble loathing Donald Trump the man. His temperament and political impulses are self-evidently those of an authoritarian, straight from the pages of Adorno or Hayek. Likewise, our criticism of his administration’s misguided policies has been ever at the ready.
.. Trumpism is well on the road to becoming a systematic program of ideas that will carefully refine its views through praxis and—allied with anti-liberal movements elsewhere in the world, especially in Russia—articulate a new, fundamental challenge to liberal thought for the twenty-first century.
.. History as
- heritage and nostalgia—#MAGA. History as
- reverence and fidelity—Straussianism and constitutional originalism. History as a
- philosophy of action—embodied in the novels of Trump’s intellectual precursor, Newt Gingrich. History as
- racial melancholy—Charlottesville. History as a resource of trans-historical Germanic mythology—the masculinist branches of the alt-right. History as
- conspiracy—Infowars, #fakenews, and the “rigged” political system. History as
- providence and decay—the implicit revival of Jacksonian-era romantic nationalism, with its narrative scaffolding of dwindling popular sovereignty.
.. Stephen Bannon’s philosophy of generational change, about which I’ve written elsewhere,
- a toxic blend of Toynbee and Jung—history as
- a cycle of apocalypse and renewal.
.. climate change denial grows logically from the core metaphysical commitments of contemporary populist nationalism in its confrontation with trans-Atlantic, cosmopolitan, individualist liberalism.
.. one might thus regard it as the distinctive form of anti-liberal historical thinking of our era.
.. it’s helpful to turn to the work of a thinker whose writings, it’s been suggested (and here), underwrite the movement’s “intellectual source code”: the German constitutional theorist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985).
.. On Schmitt’s view, liberal states are weak and vulnerable, subject to corrosion from within—through capture by private interest groups—and conquest from abroad.
.. a political community arises when its members coalesce around some aspect of their common existence. On this basis, they distinguish between their “friends” and “enemies,” the latter of whom they are ultimately prepared to fight and kill to defend their way of life.
.. A political community, that is, is created through an animating sense of common identity and existential threat
.. Schmitt believes that this pugilistic view of politics rings true as a conceptual matter, but he also regards drawing the friend-enemy distinction as a quasi-theological duty and part of what it means to be fully human.
.. Without the friend-enemy distinction, he argues, political life would vanish, and without it something essential to humanity would vanish
.. This gives Schmittianism, like the Bannon-affiliated elements of Trumpism, a family affinity to traditionalism in Russia
.. Enemies are regularly portrayed as ugly, for instance—a practice at which Trump personally excels.
.. But the object of a community’s political dissociation is made on the basis of criteria independent from judgments about good and evil, beauty and ugliness, or profit and loss.
.. the liberal effort to circumscribe national sovereignty within universalist legal and moral criteria increases the possibility of total war.
.. Trump acts in full accord with Schmitt in this respect by praising Vladimir Putin and embracing autocratic Russia as a potential friend while snubbing liberal nations of the trans-Atlantic alliance.
.. at the heart of Trump’s campaign was the promise to territorialize the friend-enemy distinction, namely to build a “great wall” along the border between the United States and Mexico
.. That spirit is one not simply of xenophobia or ethnocentrism, but also, and perhaps most of all, of shared laughter and good humor—a spirit, it’s essential for liberals to acknowledge, of warm community.
.. As Stephen Miller bracingly put the matter, in a statement nearly incomprehensible on liberal terms, “We’re going to build that wall, and we’re going to build it out of love.”
.. on Schmitt’s view, those nations that are strong enough to impose their own internal political homogeneity ought to ally with each other against nations and groups that undermine the territorialization of the friend-enemy distinction.
By this logic, it’s not Russia so much as violent Islamic extremism and cosmopolitan trans-Atlanticism that represent America’s true enemies—and, in fact, Russia can be an important ally against both.
.. Much like extreme conservative positions on gun control, climate change denial is based above all in anti-liberal metaphysical and identity commitments.
.. Although scientists have a forty-year track record of accurately predicting rising global temperatures, climate change deniers insist that such findings are the product of self-serving business elites and cunning foreign economic competitors who stand to gain if America reduces carbon emissions.
This sociological critique of scientific knowledge is a position not of evidentiary skepticism but rather of radical epistemological relativism. Deniers essentially challenge the Enlightenment position that the past is subject to objective understanding and that the world is amenable to rational human control.
This lends the popular culture of climate change denial a palpable spirit of historical fatalism.
.. climate change denial is animated by a vision of the future that, at bottom, is that of neo-tribalism.
.. It is destabilizing the territorial boundaries of the world through rising sea levels, altering the very land from which, in Schmitt’s view, the nomos of a people originally grows
.. it is undermining the spatial boundaries that Schmitt deems essential to sovereignty by putting the export of negative externalities at the center of global concern
.. Deniers interpret climate history in a way that obscures the existence of a global political community
.. In doing so, they not only embrace what I’ve called “the rule of the clan” at the level of the modern state, they also reject sotto voce the liberal ideals of universalism and individualism.
.. Trumpism draws together for our own time the core ideals of politics and the state that Carl Schmitt placed at the center of his philosophical vision. These include
- an animating community spirit that combines pugilism with love,
- an existential embrace of the friend-enemy distinction,
- a conception of state sovereignty as inviolable,
- the need to territorialize and homogenize the political community, and the rejection of the liberalist international order
—all in the service of a unified, common people.
Chief among them is Trump’s assault on truth, which takes a now-familiar form. First, assert and maintain a favorable lie. Second, attack and discredit sources of opposition. Third, declare victory based on power or applause.
So, Trump claimed that Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson’s account of his conversation with a Gold Star widow was “totally fabricated.” (Not true.) Wilson, after all, is “wacky.” (Not relevant.) And Trump won the interchange because Wilson is “killing the Democrat Party.” (We’ll see.)
The pattern is invariable. President Barack Obama is a Kenyan; the Mexican government deliberately dumps criminals across the border; “thousands and thousands” of people in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attacks ; Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s father consorted with Lee Harvey Oswald; vaccination schedules can be tied to autism; Obama was “wiretapping” Trump Tower during the presidential campaign; Obama asked British intelligence to spy on Trump; at least 3 million immigrants voted illegally in the 2016 election. Any source that disputes Trump is personally defamed or dismissed as “fake news.” And how is truth ultimately adjudicated? “The country believes me,” Trump said earlier this year. “Hey, I went to Kentucky two nights ago. We had 25,000 people.” Confronted by a reporter about his routine deceptions, Trump answered, “I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president and you’re not.”
.. Conservatives were supposed to be the protectors of objective truth from various forms of postmodernism. Now they generally defend our thoroughly post-truth president. Evidently we are all relativists now.
.. The problem is not just the constant lies. It is the dismissal of reason and objectivity as inherently elitist and partisan.
a pernicious form of tyranny: a tyranny over the mind... The alternative to reasoned discourse is the will to power... This is the frightening direction of Trumpism. It is the corruption that good men such as White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly are enabling.