Dostoevsky and Nietzsche

Lecture 3, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche, of UGS 303, Ideas of the Twentieth Century, at the University of Texas at Austin, Fall 2013
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today we’re going to be talking about
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relativism and in two particular
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incarnations one person who is a
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proponent of relativism the other an
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ardent folk relativism these are two of
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the most important thinkers of the
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latter part of the 19th century stay in
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some way set up the problematic of the
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20th century their ideas have a huge
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impact on thinkers throughout the 20th
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century and so looking at the contrast
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between them I think can help us to
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understand the kinds of issues that
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people are wrestling with as the 20th
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century dawned before we get to those
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thinkers themselves let’s think about
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relativism all by itself I’ve been
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talking about these two level theories
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where there’s a manifest image of the
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world more or less as we find it and of
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ourselves as we find ourselves it’s one
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that’s characterized by a conception of
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ourselves as rational beings governed by
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some kind of moral law taking
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responsibility for actions because we
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see ourselves as causally responsible
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for those actions we see ourselves as
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doing things we are so we see ourselves
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as acting freely we think of ourselves
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as using practical reason figuring out
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what means to take in order to attain
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our goals however according to the
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scientific image we’re really just
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beings governed by causal laws that
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seems to be a completely value-free
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image it doesn’t make any sense to ask
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whether it’s basic laws or conditions
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are right or wrong and it looks as if
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things are either purely determined or
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at best determined to some degree and
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then affected with some degree of
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randomness well it’s easy for theories
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like that to lead to relevance where one
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looks at the manifest image the values
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that are expressed there the conceptions
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of rationality and you say look really
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that might be right only given a certain
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way in which things are working at the
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base level and so in content one to
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think that truth itself is relative to
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something or other now there are a lot
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of different forms of relativism you
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might think that what is true is
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relative to an individual person that
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certain things could be true for you but
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not true for me you might think things
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are relative to a society so what is
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true depends on a certain particular
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society and its concepts you might think
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it’s dependent on a culture or what some
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authors have referred to as
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interpretive community a community may
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be much smaller than a given society may
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be much larger than it that adopts a
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certain conceptual framework and so you
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can think of things as relative to a set
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of concepts that we use for
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understanding the world finally you
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might think of things as relative to a
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certain historical period a certain
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certain historical epic or era and that
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particular version as we’ll see you is
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called historicism but in any case the
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idea here is that things aren’t really
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universally and absolutely true they’re
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only true relative to something or other
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now certain things people often think
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are relative to individual people and
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it’s relatively uncontroversial that
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they are for example if I say mushrooms
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are yummy I think that’s true but you
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might disagree right you might hate
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mushrooms and so in fact when I was in
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elementary school I used to trade kids
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for mushrooms and for peas they would
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often serve peas and was like I love
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peas peas are awesome and so I have
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trade people deserts and rolls and other
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things like that to get pee so I do peas
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and then people say why don’t we use pee
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so I just get lots of free peas so I
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just have a big mound of peas I thought
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that was fantastic
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okay now I spill my guts about testing I
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love you but in any event up you know so
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peas are yummy mushrooms are yummy those
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things are true for be on the other end
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they might not be true for you or it
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might be that you love other kinds of
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things that I despise like what um those
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rubbery horrible things that calamari
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what yeah I don’t see a long eating like
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calamari to meet calamari are disgusting
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you might as well just eat rubber bands
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and so in any event things like that we
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certainly yeah all right this is yummy
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that’s not me that’s relative to an
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individual person we ordinarily think
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but there are lots of things we don’t
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think are relative to a given person or
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to a given society what are some things
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that are candidates for real absolute
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truth not dependent on you or me not
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dependent on a historical era not
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dependent on a particular set of
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concepts or a certain culture or its
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framework one of the things that might
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be absolute truth yeah good the law of
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gravitation you might think that’s
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something that’s really true at all
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times that
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places it’s not like what gravity is
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true for you but it’s not true for me I
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just find myself rising into the air I
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put glue on my shoes right it’s not like
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that no it applies across the board or
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at least we ordinarily think so yeah
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mathematics good two plus two is four
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that’s something it seems to be true no
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matter who you are it’s not like well
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two plus two is four in Austin but the
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closer you get to Waco the more it
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starts shading on no it’s not like that
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right it’s true all over the place other
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cabinets yeah good the laws of physics
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in general it’s not just gravitation
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force is mass times acceleration for
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example that seems to be true across the
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board right we don’t say well you know
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forces now mass times acceleration but
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if you go back to the 19th century it
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was something else
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no we tend to think that’s something
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that applies at all times and places in
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all cultures in all historical epochs
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are there other things yeah you saw oh
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you sucks we’ve talked about that one
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that might be although already kept
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thing a counterexample oh yeah okay I
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think therefore I am that’s when we
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talked about earlier too and that’s
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something you might take to be universal
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as we mentioned it’s really not
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necessarily true at all times in all
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places but every time I can say it right
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every time it’s thought or uttered it’s
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true
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so the relativist has a tough row to hoe
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the relatives has to say look I’m not
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just talking about things like peas or
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yummy I’m talking about all of that
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everything truth itself is relative and
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that’s something that at least doesn’t
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seem to be true in our common sense
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appreciation of the world so what kinds
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of arguments to relativists give what
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can they say ultimately this position
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goes back to the thought of Derek Hale
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who wrote at the beginning of the 19th
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century he’s very influential and we
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would read him if his writing was
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intelligible but it’s very very
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difficult in any case he lays out a
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series of arguments that increasingly
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tempered evil toward relativism
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throughout the later part of the 19th
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century and then the 20th century now
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what are some of these arguments the
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first is that he rejects what he refers
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to and later authors like Sellars
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referred to as the myth of the Gibbon he
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calls it in medias
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he says there is no such thing as
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immediacy there is no such thing that is
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simply given to us an experience now
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what does he mean by that
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well cut earlier had drawn a sharp line
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between sensibility and understanding
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between what we perceive and then the
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concepts we use to analyze what we
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perceive you might say what am i
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proceeding right now well a classroom
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full of people and so you could
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characterize that maybe in terms of
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things that have concepts in them like a
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classroom full of people right I’m using
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concepts classroom people but I might
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think look I could characterize this in
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a way that has nothing to do with that I
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might just for example take a photograph
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and then I could say here’s what I’m
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looking at here’s what I’m perceiving
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and that would be something that seems
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to be free of concepts however Hegel
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says there isn’t such a sharp line to be
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drawn when I perceive all of you I don’t
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just see this swirling mass I don’t just
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see a bunch of pixels or something like
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that it’s not just a bunch of rods and
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cones on the retina being activated my
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mind immediately sorts things into
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objects I see people I see desks and
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tables I see a camera I see a variety of
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things in front of me and I immediately
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categorize those in terms of concepts I
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have so this claim is there really isn’t
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a sharp line between sensation and
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cognition in sensing the world in
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perceiving the world
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I am already categorizing it he says
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I’ve already classifying things using
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concepts so there’s a sense in which
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people who have totally different sense
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of concepts actually perceive things
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differently they see things differently
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because one is seen let’s say just
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shapes another is seeing people and
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that’s a fundamental difference so he
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argues that our perception of the world
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is concept Laden even the most basic
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levels there is no level he thinks we’re
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we’re just perceiving things before we
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get to conceptually analyzing it or
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before we think wait what am I seeing
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now there’s an obvious argument on the
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other side wait sometimes I do right
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sometimes I perceive something and I
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don’t know what to think about it so I
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looked at a scene I say what is that or
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I look at a Jackson Pollock painting and
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I say what is that my father for years
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had what a lot of people thought was a
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print of a Jackson Pollock painting
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behind his desk in his office at work in
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fact the painter in the bill
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had just had this table and he had
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spilled paint on it over the years and
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finally decided to get a new table
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my father said kind of that tabletop
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hung on the wall people thought it was a
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Jackson Pollock never Oh
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and so you might say yeah you know what
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is that well it might just be drips of
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paint maybe it’s something else in any
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case you might think I can look at it
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and analyze it pet it in terms of well
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yeah I don’t want to see analyze it even
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I can just tell you what I is I’m seeing
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before I have any idea of how to
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categorize what I’m seeing but Hegel
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says no even the most basic levels my
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concepts are already involved so he says
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the concepts we have shaped the way we
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perceive the world but of course what we
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perceived is the world so it follows
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that our concepts shape what the world
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is there is no way to really separate
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the world as it is from the world as it
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seems to us there’s no sharp separation
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between two terms the comp use
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appearances and things in themselves
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yeah to go from the way we perceive the
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world to that is the way the world is
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because you may not receive there as
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being any gravity but there still is
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gravity I feel that he makes a couple
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jumps oh that don’t have any sort of
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logic to just what he wants me to be
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okay good yes how good is this as an
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argument actually Hegel is advancing it
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kind of as an argument
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um I say kind of as an argument because
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sometimes I think he’s giving you
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arguments sometimes I think he’s really
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trying to get you to undergo a Gestalt
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shift he’s trying to say you’ve been
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seeing the world this way I want you to
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see it this world way think about it
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this way instead and the arguments don’t
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actually leave much of anywhere if we go
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carefully here we can say well all right
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there’s the first sort of argument that
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really we can’t perceive things in a
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family of concepts the concepts do shape
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what we proceed and we can ask whether
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that’s true or false right is that true
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or is it false that’s a complicated sort
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of question um you might think it’s sort
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of obviously false because we can after
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all take photographs and say there
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that’s what I’m seeing um on the other
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hand you might think well if you analyze
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what the brain is doing maybe there
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really isn’t a very
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it may be the moment information is
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transferred from the retina for example
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my conceptual apparatus and parts of the
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brain that involved that are already
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operating on and so from that point of
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view it seems like a complicated neuro
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physiological problem whether these are
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different components in the brain or
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whether they get all mixed up and it’s
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not obvious which way it goes one would
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really have to know a lot about the
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brain and how it works to be able to
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tell that there is some evidence that
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actually these things are at certain
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levels intertwined a good example is a
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kind of case where people show words
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that denote colors like the word orange
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but it’s in blue and they ask you to
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read it aloud okay and they keep doing
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this there’s the word read re D but it’s
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in green and so on and it freaks people
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out they find it hard to do that’s some
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evidence that perception and cognition
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are kind of mixed up together at some
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level but in the end you’re right as an
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argument that’s not much of an argument
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would really have to get into the
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neurophysiology I understand how this
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works but now let’s look at this step
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suppose it’s true that the concepts we
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have shaped the way we perceive the
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world does it follow that there’s no
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difference between the world as it is in
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the world as we perceive it well it
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doesn’t seem to pong right that is to
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say I might say and in fact here’s the
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skeptical argument that I think
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underlies this position the skeptical
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argument is this I can’t really tell to
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what extent the way I’m perceiving the
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world reflects the way the world really
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is and to what extent it reflects the
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contributions of my own cognitive
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apparatus how much is what I’m seeing
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really a matter of the way the world is
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and how much of it is really being
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contributed by my mind by my brain in
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reconstructing data and then projecting
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something that may or may not actually
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reflect the way reality is well the
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skeptics worried I can’t tell I can’t
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tell what is really my own contribution
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and what is really there in the world
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and so they said the best thing to do is
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to spend judgment who knows what the
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world is really like Hegel is trying to
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respond to that but he’s saying hey the
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world is as I perceive it
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he’s what is known as an idealist he
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thinks everything in the world is mine
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dependent the whole world it’s just a
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projection of the mind so that’s the
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underlying view that we’re going to be
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getting to and that in a nutshell is his
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argument for it he thinks that’s the
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only way to avoid that skeptical
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argument now most philosophers have
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thought that can’t be righted but a
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consistent theme in the course as we go
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along will be precisely that question
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the question of realism versus idealism
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the realist says the world really is a
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certain way we’ll talk about this much
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more next week but the realist says the
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world is a way a certain way
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independently of how the mind goes
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things are as they are independently of
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what we think about and so there are at
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least some mind independent facts the
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idealist says no actually everything
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depends on the mind and so there’s no
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such thing as a mind-independent world a
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mind independent fact Hegel is an
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idealist so he’s trying to say actually
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the only way I can beat the skeptic it
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is to think appearances and things in
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themselves are just the same forget
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about the worlds it might be
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independently of our ways of perceiving
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it because actually there’s no such
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thing the world is just what we can
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struck through our minds now most people
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think look there’s something deeply
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wrong with that and so we’re going to be
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considering the battle between the
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realists an idealist throughout the 20th
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century but it does become a major focus
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and not just in philosophy but also in
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literature in the arts to what extent is
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the job of the artist for example to
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reflect the way the world is and to what
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extent is it just to project some idea
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out of the world and it can become
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reality just by being thought up by
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being projected we’ll see all sorts of
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people taking different attitudes about
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that fight but I think your various oops
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I’ve gone on too long the iPad says
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bored now um but no I think it’s a very
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insightful point to say look there is a
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kind of argument here for this but
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there’s also a huge jump and it’s not at
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all to your how we’re supposed to get
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from babby but if it’s true to that
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so we’ll be fighting throughout the term
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I mean not you and I but the various
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thinkers we read about will be fighting
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about whether that kind of job makes
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sense or whether it doesn’t
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now Hegel has a supplementary argument
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which is this idea about the social
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character of thought he thinks human
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thought is
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essentially social why go because I
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learn my concepts from the people around
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me I learned it by learning my language
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and I get that set of concepts in other
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words by learning a certain language
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that is taught to me by other people so
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how did I learn English well I just grew
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up in a household that spoke English
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really some rough approximations there
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too I grew up in Pittsburgh so it was
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only a rough approximation we said all
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sorts of weird things but anyway that’s
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something that is crucial we’ve learned
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our concepts from other people that’s
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not to say we can’t then start doing
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things ourselves to some extent but we
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do it with the raw material thought
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that’s given to us in a certain social
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context he says so in learning our
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language we learn basic categories of
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thought and we learn them from other
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people at a particular time in the
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context of a particular society so what
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call it an earlier philosophers
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generally from as stemming from our very
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nature as knowers and in that respect as
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being universal as applying across the
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board to all of us as beings who were
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rational beings capable of knowledge
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heygo sees as reflecting a specific
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social background and again we’ve got a
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contrast here between people who say
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look there are certain things that are
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just true about human nature no matter
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what true about human perception true
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about human cognition no matter what and
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others say well it depends maybe people
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in ancient China really perceive things
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differently maybe they really thought
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about things differently maybe they
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reason differently and so on and so one
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group is going to say look all of these
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things stem from human nature that’s
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pretty much constant over time at least
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within local time maybe in geologic
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evolutionary time it’s different
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but others are going to say no no it can
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change from place to place from decade
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to decade and so what one group is going
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to see is Universal another group will
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see is variable and relative well one
17:11
last point then he calls his own view
17:12
historicism
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he says philosophy is its own time
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raised to the level of thought what any
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thinker is doing is really just giving
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you a picture of how things look at that
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particular time from the point of view
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of that particular society or culture
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so he says philosophy combines the
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fiight in the infant the relative and
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the absolute he does think actually at
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some level you can
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absolute truth but it’s not at the level
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of describing what the world is like
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it’s describing the way these historical
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progressions of thought go and so he
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thinks he could actually give you laws
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that are universal and absolute but one
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level up they sort of meta laws but
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we’ll get to that more in a moment well
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the ancient relativist was protagonist
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he was the person who introduced this
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into Western philosophy and he said very
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famously man is the measure of all
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things of things we talk about they are
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the things which are not that they are
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not he meant by the way each individual
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person not mankind although many
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relatives have taken it that way but he
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really meant no each individual person
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is the measure of what is and what is
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not so is it warm or cool in this room
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depends right some of you might say
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actually I’m kind of warm others might
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say I know I think it’s cool well he
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says yeah you’re the measure of that so
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it might be warm for you and cool for
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that person and that’s just the way it
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is there’s no such thing as the way
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things truly are so for tigris argue
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well oh yes I repeat that I said we’re
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going to concentrate on the thought of
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two figures of the later 19th century
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the first of them is Fyodor Dostoevsky
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pictured there he is one of the greatest
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Russian novelists indeed one of the
18:51
greatest novelists in any place in time
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Friedrich Nietzsche who will be our
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second thinker rated reading Gustav C
18:59
among the most beautiful strikes of
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fortune in his life and so does this he
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actually had a significant impact on
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Nietzsche and we’ll see some specific
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ways in which that’s true they do
19:09
however come to completely opposite
19:11
conclusions Dostoyevsky’s works were
19:15
banned in Russia after the communist
19:17
revolution they are great works are in
19:21
some ways the pride of Russian
19:22
literature in Russian culture but in
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another way they were taken to be highly
19:26
subversive to Lenin and Stalin x’
19:28
paradigm why well does TF ski is a
19:31
concern what do I mean by a conservative
19:33
I mean somebody who believes in order
19:36
delivery what does that mean well they
19:38
believe in Liberty they believe in
19:40
freedom that is a fundamental pull it
19:41
in human value and so there should be
19:44
liberty for people to follow their own
19:46
conceptions of the good however that has
19:49
to take place within a framework of
19:51
order within a framework of the rule of
19:53
law for example in terms of formal
19:55
institutional structures but also in
19:58
terms of an informal structure of social
20:00
institutions and Ben Burke unknown in
20:03
conservative called these little
20:04
platoons so things like families
20:06
churches clubs other voluntary
20:09
organizations as well as more formal
20:11
institutions like universities companies
20:13
and so forth all create a kind of social
20:16
structure that is important to the
20:18
maintenance of social order so the idea
20:20
is roughly that liberty freedom is a
20:22
fundamental human value but not really a
20:25
sort of license in fact john locke
20:26
expresses this very nicely he says the
20:28
state of nature is a state liberty but
20:30
not a state of license and what he means
20:32
is liberty but I don’t just mean do
20:35
whatever you want I mean do whatever you
20:37
want within a certain structure that
20:39
keeps people from colliding with other
20:41
people and harming so that’s roughly
20:44
what will mean in this course anyway by
20:46
being a conservative and thus vfc
20:48
clearly is what he is not conservative
20:51
in another sense sometimes people use
20:53
that term just to mean don’t make any
20:54
changes where I keep things as they are
20:56
and that wasn’t his view at all in fact
20:58
he was a social reformer young when he
21:00
was young he was a socialist and a sort
21:02
of liberal utopian he was arrested by
21:04
the Tsar and sentenced to death he was
21:06
in front of a firing squad when suddenly
21:08
a note came from that is bizarre
21:10
commuting his sentence to four years
21:11
hard labor in Siberia that destroyed his
21:14
health and really for the rest of his
21:15
life he was sick most of the time as a
21:17
result of his experiences there suffered
21:20
greatly from malnutrition and other
21:22
kinds of problems he was chained the
21:23
entire four years when he wasn’t
21:25
actually physically working the only
21:27
thing he was permitted to read was the
21:28
New Testament which ended up having a
21:30
huge impact on his fall in any case he
21:33
did attack feudalism
21:34
he attacked Russian society at the time
21:36
he tried to break down barriers between
21:38
social classes and that sense was viewed
21:41
as an enemy of the Czar well what’s the
21:45
positive side he argues that
21:47
Christianity actually is essential to
21:49
ordered liberty and so what we get here
21:50
is an argue
21:51
in favor of religious values his version
21:55
is really Orthodox Christianity that is
21:57
to say the Russian Orthodox Church but I
21:59
think a lot of what he says applies just
22:01
a religion per se he thinks it is vital
22:03
that you have some basis for thinking
22:06
that people have dignity that people are
22:08
valued and in fact they are equally
22:10
valuable as children of God he thinks if
22:12
you don’t have that you’re in big
22:14
trouble
22:14
now as well see when we get to Nietzsche
22:16
he says no no you’re better off without
22:18
it
22:18
however the CFC is going to say that is
22:22
the foundation for you might say
22:25
enlightenment conceptions of humanity
22:28
and of human dignity and human liberty
22:30
and human equality all of that depends
22:32
on a certain kind of foundation and if
22:34
it’s not there then he sees that there
22:37
will be a major source of social trouble
22:39
in fact he saw Christianity at this time
22:41
as in decline and he thought that
22:43
presented a serious danger
22:44
precisely because without it there isn’t
22:47
any foundation for a belief in human
22:48
dignity or equality so we’re going to
22:52
look at one chapter of one of his
22:54
greatest novels The Brothers Karamazov
22:57
there’s a page of it if you want to read
22:59
it in the original ok this chapter is
23:06
known as the Grand Inquisitor chapter
23:08
and here’s the basic set Jesus comes
23:10
back to earth during the most intense
23:12
period of the Spanish Inquisition the
23:14
crowd recognizes and he starts
23:16
performing miracles he cures a blind man
23:18
he raises a girl from the dead
23:20
here’s a famous painting of Jesus
23:22
healing the blind man it’s the Spanish
23:26
Inquisition he’s going to meet the Grand
23:28
Inquisitor who burned a hundred people
23:29
at the stake that day is going to burn
23:31
100 more the next day um that’s pretty
23:33
depressing and in general this is fairly
23:35
depressing so I thought maybe you would
23:37
like to be cheered up about that here’s
23:39
a famous view of the Spanish Inquisition
23:49
okay
24:22
Spanish Inquisition a surprise oh yeah
24:56
okay well in any case Jesus comes back
25:01
okay so we have the second cup Jesus
25:03
comes and starts healing people and so
25:05
on to the Grand Inquisitor who is the
25:07
head of the church here in the head of
25:08
the Inquisition sees this and he arrests
25:12
him he takes him to prison and tells him
25:14
that he’s going to be burned at the
25:16
stake the next day and then the very
25:17
people clamored to see him today will
25:19
throw logs on the fire tomorrow so this
25:23
is a pretty bleak situation now why does
25:26
he do this
25:26
there’s by the way an artistic rendering
25:28
of and being questioned by the Grand
25:30
Inquisitor well the Grand Inquisitor
25:34
says look you’re nothing but trouble and
25:37
here’s why you gave the people freedom
25:39
freedom to believe or not to believe
25:41
have faith or reject it but that has
25:45
brought the people nothing but torment
25:46
that was nothing but trouble because it
25:49
put responsibility in people’s hands so
25:52
the Inquisitor says what the church has
25:55
done much better the church is taken
25:57
freedom away assigning to the Pope all
25:59
authority to determine the Word of God
26:00
and not even Jesus himself now has the
26:03
right to change everything so he said
26:05
look the church is taken away freedom
26:07
but for the sake of happiness
26:08
people are happier we tell them what to
26:10
do they do it they’re like happy sheep
26:12
and so the contrast throughout this is
26:14
really freedom versus happiness to what
26:16
extent should you interfere with
26:18
people’s freedom for the sake of
26:19
happiness and the structure of this
26:21
really has to do it mirrors the
26:23
structure of the three temptations in
26:26
the best pictured here or here and so
26:29
there are three parts of the story as it
26:31
evolves Jesus is there in the wilderness
26:33
and Satan comes up to him and offers him
26:37
three temptations the first temptation
26:39
is if you’re the Son of God tell these
26:40
stones to become bread well in dusty s
26:43
keys rendering this Ivan is the
26:45
character who’s telling the story and
26:47
Ivan thinks that this is an offer to
26:48
look here’s a way of making people have
26:50
feed people okay you have the power to
26:52
actually turn stones into bread and give
26:54
the people all the food they want and
26:56
all the food baby jesus answered it is
26:59
written man shall not live on bread
27:01
alone but on every word that comes from
27:02
the mouth of God
27:04
now the inquisitor says look hey you
27:08
gave people too much credit in the end
27:10
people are going to lay their freedom in
27:12
our feet and say to us make us your
27:14
slaves but feed us now in Ivan’s view
27:17
he’s the one telling the story that’s
27:18
what people want they want to be fed
27:20
they want to be taken care of they are
27:22
what freedom they don’t want choices
27:24
they don’t want responsibility they just
27:26
want to be like children a child comes
27:29
into the room it says I’m hungry give me
27:31
food if you say well you want food go
27:34
get a job we don’t say that to children
27:36
right but we might say that to adults
27:39
and so his thought is what most people
27:41
want to be my children they just want to
27:43
be fed they just want to be taken care
27:44
of them Cara
27:45
they don’t want freedom they don’t want
27:46
responsibility here’s an ancient
27:50
Egyptian text that actually makes this
27:51
point rather nicely called the
27:53
instruction of any a father is giving
27:55
his son advice about how to live goes on
27:57
and on giving his son all this advice
27:58
the son says well all your sayings are
28:00
excellent but doing them requires
28:01
virtues like your makeup I’d have to be
28:04
a good person I’d have to actually work
28:05
at this this would be a pain in the butt
28:07
and the father goes on and says look son
28:10
here’s what you’re supposed to do do
28:12
this do that and someone gives all the
28:13
sensible advice and finally the son says
28:16
look you my father you were wise and
28:17
strong of hand the infinite is what
28:20
his wishes for what nurses him looks at
28:23
you when he finds his speech he says
28:25
give me bread and Ivan is basically
28:28
saying that’s what people are like
28:29
they’re like the son in the story and by
28:31
the way it just ends there you can
28:33
imagine the father thing oh but that’s
28:36
how it is give me bread so I’m it as in
28:39
effect saying look people are like the
28:40
son in this story they’re not like the
28:42
father they want to be taken care of
28:44
there’s a saint give me bread oh there
28:48
is an Egyptian thing or people
28:51
harvesting wheat why is that there
28:54
because actually it’s not a trivial
28:56
point what’s the first thing people do
28:58
when they become friends what’s the
29:00
first thing when a romantic relationship
29:01
starts what do people do they feed the
29:05
other person right you go out to dinner
29:06
or something like that no that’s not
29:09
what so what you said I’m going to
29:10
really good um and so you know feeding
29:14
someone is an important way of taking
29:15
care of them of establishing a certain
29:17
kind of relationship well in any case I
29:20
even think people are like the Sun they
29:21
just want to be taken care of they want
29:23
to be sheep they want to be children
29:25
they don’t want to grow up and as you
29:27
can see I found many wonderful paintings
29:29
of sheep well here’s the second
29:33
temptation pick yourself Satan takes
29:36
Jesus up to the roof of the temple and
29:37
says throw yourself off the angels will
29:39
save you if you’re the son of God throw
29:43
yourself down from the top of the temple
29:45
it’s written the Angels will save you
29:46
Jesus says it’s also written don’t put
29:47
the Lord your God to the test well
29:50
here’s how the Grand Inquisitor takes
29:52
that he says look you did expect too
29:54
much it’s not just that people want to
29:55
be fed they want to be led you had a
29:58
chance to become a great religious
29:59
leader instead of being crucified you
30:01
could actually shown people that perform
30:03
these miracles right in front of the
30:05
Pharisees for example you could have
30:07
done this in such a way you’d been
30:08
acclaimed universally as a great leader
30:10
but you wanted love given freely you
30:13
didn’t want adoration from slaves who
30:15
were just impressed by miracles you
30:17
wanted people to make a free choice
30:18
you wanted too much it was too much to
30:20
ask and so he says look people are
30:23
really slaves they want to be told what
30:25
to do they don’t – please you’ll be
30:27
kinder to them if you have less respect
30:29
for them the third temptation Satan
30:33
offers all
30:34
kingdoms of the world in their splendor
30:35
in other words you could be a great
30:37
political leader you can establish
30:39
utopia on earth and Jesus says away from
30:41
me Satan
30:42
now the Inquisitor says that’s a good
30:45
painting away vermin
30:48
well by the way I want to decided I
30:51
would grow a beard and I did I looked
30:54
like Satan I imagined that I would look
30:57
like a fluffy teddy bear and I did my
30:59
awful it was very very me Oh afraid
31:02
myself and changed it off
31:04
well anyway – yeah the quiz that are
31:08
saying look you could have done this you
31:09
could have established a utopia on earth
31:11
why didn’t you do it because that’s what
31:13
the church is for me to do now we’re
31:15
trying to make people happy we’ve taken
31:17
over your role the church tells people
31:19
what to do it makes them happy it
31:21
doesn’t respect and it treats them like
31:22
children but that’s what they want and
31:24
so everything works out very well the
31:26
church even lets its children sin it
31:29
tells them it’s okay we’ll all be
31:30
forgiven in the end and so people were
31:32
happy to give up the freedom to be fed
31:35
they oh they’re even allowed to sin what
31:37
more could you want they’re happy
31:38
children no well yeah that makes
31:42
everyone happy the Grand Inquisitor says
31:44
well almost everyone
31:45
there are those who actually have to
31:47
leave the Sheep there the Shepherd’s
31:49
they are the ones who have to act freely
31:51
they’re the ones who take responsibility
31:52
they are the ones who suffer so that the
31:55
rest don’t have to so they’re going to
31:57
be thousands of millions of happy babes
31:59
notice children again and 100,000
32:01
sufferers who have taken upon themselves
32:03
the curse what curse the curse of the
32:05
knowledge of good and evil so here we
32:08
see dust yes keep recognizing what I
32:09
called last time the vision will be
32:11
anointed this idea that there are a few
32:13
people who are actually capable of
32:15
exercising leadership of taking
32:17
responsibility of making decisions for
32:19
everyone else and that we’ll all be
32:20
better off if just a few people lead all
32:22
the rest well with all that is good and
32:25
evil you might recognize that that’s
32:27
what constitutes the fall of man no
32:31
vision of Illinois here’s the idea some
32:34
people are going to fall they’re going
32:35
to have this knowledge they’re going to
32:36
have the responsibility leave the rest
32:38
it’s gotta be tough for them but then
32:40
the others can remain in the garden only
32:41
a few people to leave the garden the
32:43
rest can be happy sheep back there in
32:45
the garden will follow the rules up
32:46
there do what belted with that old
32:48
though remain a flock of sheep and so he
32:50
says really that would be for the best
32:52
well as we mentioned last time there is
32:55
a kind of problem here I called the
32:57
paradox of the other the vision cuts the
33:00
anointed ones the leaders those who
33:01
actually fall from the knowledge they
33:03
need to take responsibility and make
33:05
people happy what’s going to guide their
33:07
decisions actually the Sheep it turns
33:09
out are going to be the only ones who
33:10
have the norms well the values are
33:12
capable of evaluating what’s good and
33:14
bad they’re the only ones with the norms
33:16
that could help to guide them so we’ve
33:18
got kind of paradox and the way
33:20
Dostoyevsky understands this is that
33:22
those who pride themselves on having the
33:24
knowledge of good and evil actually are
33:26
in the least position good to understand
33:28
what they really are they’re the least
33:30
equipped to make decisions they’re the
33:31
least equipped to guide others so the
33:33
people who think hey I could be a
33:35
shepherd I know what’s going on I
33:36
understand the world says they’re the
33:38
last ones you should trust they are in
33:40
fact in the worst position right yeah
33:42
good why because they’ve cut themselves
33:44
off from these values the idea is that
33:47
the values are part of the manifest
33:48
image they said forget the manifest
33:51
image that’s the realm of the sheep
33:52
that’s illusion look at the underlying
33:55
reality but in that underlying reality
33:57
there aren’t any valleys and so all of a
33:59
sudden how do you make choices you want
34:01
to lead the Sheep where do you lead them
34:03
well gosh actually that’s a matter
34:05
that’s only defined in terms of that
34:08
manifest image and the signs ever given
34:09
to there’s no you know go to the physics
34:12
class and say but where where should the
34:14
rocket go now in practical terms we can
34:17
say we’re for shooting this at bars so
34:18
it should go to Mars but that’s a matter
34:20
of this the manifest image our Bulls our
34:23
purposes if you look just at the science
34:25
you say to a physicist well where should
34:28
Rockets go I mean in general just tell
34:31
me about rockets like what should Roger
34:32
Tribby and where should go we can ask
34:35
where what human beings are right it
34:37
ought to be and what we shall we should
34:38
live our lives but if we just say where
34:40
should Rockets go that doesn’t make any
34:42
sense there’s no way of an answer
34:43
in terms of the scientific image so his
34:46
point is that really well as CS Lewis
34:49
puts it later the leaders those
34:51
self-styled leaders becomes men without
34:53
chess they cut themselves off from
34:55
everything that might have given them
34:56
some ability to tell good from evil so
34:59
the very people who want to lead are
35:01
those least equipped to lead now he
35:03
thinks it’s vital to hold yourself
35:05
accountable to something outside
35:06
yourself to find an anchor outside
35:07
yourself and again that means you either
35:10
have to take yourself as defining values
35:11
or think that something else defines
35:13
values there’s no other way so in the
35:16
entity are you yourself or it’s
35:17
something outside you whether it’s God
35:19
or something else there’s going to be
35:21
something outside you to which you’re
35:23
accountable the Socialists he says
35:26
thinks it could be mankind Ted thinks
35:28
you could set up heaven on earth but he
35:30
says that doesn’t ultimately work why
35:33
well he thinks really in the end either
35:37
it’s yourself or God you might think the
35:39
universe is about you or you might think
35:41
it’s about something else
35:42
higher than you why isn’t mankind that
35:46
sort of intermediate thing well he says
35:49
here’s the problem today if you think
35:51
most people are sheep what respect do
35:53
you have for man you could think this if
35:55
you really thought mankind had dignity
35:57
and was worthy of respect but if you cut
35:59
yourself off from God he thinks you have
36:01
no grounds for thinking that and so he
36:03
sees this as collapsing basically you
36:05
say I care about mankind but wait a
36:08
minute why should I care about bad guys
36:10
if mankind isn’t important because of
36:12
something else then he thinks in the end
36:14
that slips back into just valuing
36:17
yourself because you’re very vision is
36:19
one that disrespects mankind the things
36:22
of people is nothing generally so it’s
36:24
built on disrespect and therefore he
36:26
thinks it will in the end crumble so
36:28
that’s his argument for this sort of
36:29
conclusion so in the end he says all of
36:32
this collapses into narcissism in the
36:35
end your values can be rooted only in
36:37
yourself you’ll have nothing to guide
36:39
your decisions by your own impulses and
36:41
your own desires and so that’s the
36:45
position Network
36:47
now yeah well there’s lots of images of
36:50
that oh well one more thing I better not
36:53
skip over there is a place in the novel
36:55
earlier where Ivan is saying if God is
36:58
dead then everything is permitted he
37:01
does think God is dead so he concludes
37:03
that everything is permitted in other
37:05
words that there are no rules there’s no
37:06
such thing as morality there’s no such
37:08
thing as now that he can do anything he
37:10
likes that really exemplifies this
37:13
collapse into narcissism if there isn’t
37:15
any external anchor Dostoevsky thinks
37:17
then we just become the centres of our
37:19
own universes and there is no value
37:21
outside of ourselves our own impulses
37:23
our own desires so in the end he says
37:25
we’re in the sacrificing part of
37:28
humanity for the sake of the rest
37:29
so the Inquisition he thinks is actually
37:32
the natural result of that line of
37:34
thinking that says we’re doing it for
37:35
the sake of mankind for the sake of
37:37
happiness he says look that ends in the
37:39
Inquisition that ends in the gulag 100
37:43
years well not quite 50 years before the
37:45
gulag actually came into existence he
37:47
sees that’s where that line of thinking
37:48
goes so anyway I’ll skip the rest and
37:51
let’s talk about Nietzsche Nietzsche is
37:54
inspired by this and inspired by this
37:55
idea of the death of God but instead of
37:58
being deeply disturbed by it he’s
37:59
excited by he thinks this is both
38:01
dangerous but also thrilling and that we
38:03
are in a position like it or not of
38:05
having to reconstruct our own values
38:07
from the resources of ourselves
38:11
Nietzsche is explicitly a historian he
38:14
thinks that truth is relative to a
38:16
historical period and he goes much
38:18
beyond Hegel in thinking that even at
38:21
some higher level this is true there’s
38:23
no such thing as some higher level where
38:24
we can see the march of history and
38:26
understand it in anything like absolute
38:28
terms so here is a way of getting the
38:32
contrast Hegel as we’ve seen advocates a
38:34
historical relativism he thinks the
38:36
truth of the world relative to a time
38:38
and a place but who does claim to
38:40
uncover these absolute general and
38:42
dynamic meta-level laws he says look
38:45
thought does develop in certain ways the
38:47
way the Greeks for example precede the
38:49
world is different from the way that we
38:50
proceeded on the other hand I can tell
38:53
you a story about how thought progresses
38:55
and changes so he thinks that although
38:57
the truth of the world are relative to a
38:59
tie
38:59
place the truths of up thought he thinks
39:02
he can see from his Olympian height I
39:04
had described so we might describe it
39:07
this way there are all these theories we
39:08
have about the world they keep changing
39:10
and truth about the world is relative to
39:13
those on the other hand we can construct
39:15
theories about theories themselves ask
39:17
what is the nature of human knowledge
39:19
what is the nature of human history and
39:21
he thinks there we can actually come up
39:23
with some absolute theory some absolute
39:25
truths not about the world but about the
39:27
way we think about the world nietzsche
39:30
goes further oh yes there is this head
39:34
this idea of how is the logic progresses
39:36
we have a thesis then we realize it
39:39
doesn’t quite fit the facts we formulate
39:40
an antithesis and in the end it doesn’t
39:42
fit the facts either so if we synthesize
39:45
them into something new and then that
39:46
becomes a new thesis and it keeps
39:47
happening again and again on tables
39:50
picture of thought so that’s a very
39:52
quick picture of sort of what that
39:53
Universal progression looks like but
39:57
wait a minute what if thought doesn’t
39:59
change in rational law governed ways
40:01
what if there isn’t Absalom any absolute
40:03
way to characterize this progression of
40:05
thought that’s what Nietzsche thinks we
40:08
have theories about the world they keep
40:09
changing and truth about the world is
40:11
relative to those but actually our
40:13
theories of a theories keep changing too
40:15
and so even our thinking about thinking
40:17
even our thoughts about knowledge about
40:19
history those keep changing too was the
40:21
Greek conception of history the same as
40:23
the medieval conception was that the
40:25
same as our conception of history was
40:27
the Greek conception of the human mind
40:29
the same as a medieval conception or the
40:31
same as our consumption nature says no
40:33
in fact he starts out as a professor of
40:35
classics and so he’s concerned with that
40:37
contrast between his conception in the
40:39
19th century and ancient Greek
40:41
conceptions he says look it’s different
40:43
all the way down or all the way up if
40:45
you want to think of it that way it’s
40:46
not just that we had different physics
40:47
different theories of the world we had
40:49
different conceptions of humanity
40:50
different conceptions of knowledge
40:52
different conceptions of history so he
40:55
says we’re really forced to become a
40:58
relativist all the way through and in
41:01
fact he thinks that if we try to
41:03
understand how thought progresses will
41:05
not only be relevant we’ll recognize the
41:07
pattern is basically irrational he says
41:10
we don’t move from one conception
41:12
from one theory to another theory on the
41:14
basis of evidence reason we usually do
41:16
it on the basis of power and so history
41:20
is driven on his view by the will to
41:21
power but that’s an irrational force it
41:24
is not a rational one it’s not that we
41:26
formulate a hypothesis look at the
41:27
evidence say well that doesn’t quite
41:28
work out let’s think of the opposite
41:30
that’s Hegel’s picture Nietzsche says no
41:32
what happens is people in a theory and
41:35
eventually their students overthrow them
41:37
and say that’s nonsense
41:38
but that’s a power struggle that has
41:40
nothing to do with the reason so
41:44
Nietzsche starts from a kind of two
41:46
level theory he does say nearly all
41:48
philosophical problems once again raised
41:50
the same for its own form of question
41:52
they did 2,000 years ago how can
41:54
something develop from autonomy for
41:56
example reason from the unreasonable
41:58
feeling from the dead logic from the
42:00
illogical disinterested gaze from covens
42:03
wanting altruism premio is some truth
42:05
from error what does he mean she’s
42:08
speaking at the manifest image at that
42:10
level we talk about truth we talk about
42:13
reason we talk about feeling we talk
42:15
about beauty we think about helping
42:18
others however at that base level none
42:20
of that is really there there are just
42:22
particles moving around according to
42:23
laws there’s no reason there’s no
42:25
evidence there’s nothing like that
42:27
there’s no appreciation for beauty all
42:28
there is at that level is just particles
42:30
bouncing off one another how does all of
42:32
that arise from that sort of foundation
42:36
he says well it doesn’t happen
42:38
rationally it doesn’t happen according
42:40
to any discernible laws it’s ultimately
42:42
irrational and what we view as
42:45
remarkable glorious colors of the
42:47
intellect really arise from despised
42:49
materials in other words just purely the
42:51
interaction of these material particles
42:54
so in the end he says we have to be a
42:56
historian but philosophers automatically
42:59
think of man as an eternal being as if
43:02
Humanity is always the same this is it’s
43:04
not true actually everything that
43:07
philosophers say is true only of a
43:08
limited period of time so he ends up
43:12
being a relativist says there are no
43:14
eternal facts there are no absolute
43:16
truths well the world as we perceive it
43:22
he says after all it’s nothing like this
43:24
right we think of it as containing
43:25
value is containing people who were free
43:27
agents but even apart from that we see
43:29
it as consisting of objects but actually
43:31
says according to our really scientific
43:33
picture in the world it’s not consisting
43:34
of objects there are these fields they
43:37
interact in complicated ways somehow we
43:39
see continuous objects out of all of
43:41
that but it’s not clear that the worlds
43:43
anything like what we perceive the world
43:45
we know it he says is really nothing but
43:47
a bunch of errors and fantasies so what
43:52
does this mean about science well he
43:53
says it has to become plain it has to
43:55
develop new ways of seeing and interpret
43:57
in the world but doesn’t really progress
43:59
rationally the best thing that an
44:01
intellectual of any sort scientist a
44:02
humanist can do is think of new ways of
44:05
seeing the world the world after all he
44:08
says is just a projection that goes back
44:10
to that point I made earlier about
44:11
idealism but now something he’s picking
44:14
up from Dostoyevsky directly he says God
44:17
is dead okay this is his most famous
44:20
pronouncement really after Buddha was
44:23
dead his shadow was still shown for
44:25
centuries in a cave a tremendous shiver
44:27
inducing shadow God is dead but given
44:30
humans that they are there may be caves
44:31
for thousands of years in which a shadow
44:33
is show and we we still have to defeat
44:35
his shadow now what does he mean by this
44:38
claim God is dead
44:42
by the way this high magazine finally in
44:48
the 60s picked up of us it only took
44:50
them about 80 years to read philosophy
44:53
but anyway he tells a story he says if
44:57
you not heard the madman a little
44:58
lantern the bright morning random
45:00
article cried incessantly I’m looking
45:01
for God I’m looking for gone this is
45:03
just like the story where Diogenes runs
45:05
looking for an honest man okay so this
45:08
madman runs into the square of looking
45:10
for God there’s a painting of him doing
45:12
that so try this Scott to the west wall
45:16
run out there
45:16
lunchtime chop I’m looking for God
45:18
actually there are people saying I found
45:19
a beauty
45:21
but okay what happens in this story well
45:25
there are many who stood together they
45:26
start making fun of the guys he lost did
45:28
he wander off like a child or does he
45:29
keep himself hidden is he afraid of us
45:31
did he go to see that he emigrate well
45:33
they laughed and yelling disorder
45:34
Nietzsche who was by the way the son of
45:37
a Lutheran
45:37
master is here echoing Elijah taunting
45:40
the priests of Baal first Kings Elijah
45:43
says much of the same thing before even
45:46
has the pillar of fire start on Mount
45:49
Carmel and then drives them off and
45:51
kills them but anyway the madman jumps
45:54
into their midst and Pierceton with his
45:56
gaze where is God he cried I will tell
45:58
you we killed him you and I we are all
46:01
his murderers now at this point they
46:04
come back and the madman goes on god is
46:07
dead god remains dead and we killed him
46:10
how can we comfort ourselves the murders
46:12
of all murderers is it the size of the
46:16
to large for us don’t we have to become
46:17
gods just to appear worthy of it now
46:21
notice what he’s saying does this idea
46:24
of God dying make any sense
46:25
well I’m a classical conception No right
46:27
God is an eternal being this idea that
46:29
God cannot doesn’t really make any
46:31
classical sense but what he’s saying
46:33
really is look religion is dying God as
46:36
a force in human life as a force in
46:38
human culture is dying he sees a belief
46:40
in God in Europe as fading out and so
46:43
he’s looking forward to a few days
46:45
without religion actually it’s in that
46:47
respect much like Dostoyevsky’s vision
46:50
of a future without religion dusty fcc’s
46:52
christianity and decline in russia and
46:54
says that’s big trouble
46:55
Nietzsche says I see Germany God also
46:59
done religion as a diminishing force in
47:02
culture and now what does it mean don’t
47:04
we have to become gods just to be worthy
47:07
and that’s a classical idea of sin
47:09
actually we try to become God but he
47:11
says we may have no other choice so is
47:13
God dead well Nietzsche’s saying yes
47:16
here’s a poster I like God is dead
47:19
the titanium proves he is dead God in
47:23
any case Nietzsche says so what do I
47:26
believe in the final analysis that the
47:28
weights of all things have to be
47:29
determined afresh in other thing we have
47:31
to start over again figuring out what is
47:33
valuable what is right what is wrong
47:34
what is just what is unjust all of that
47:37
has to be rethought from the very
47:38
foundation tough and how do we do it
47:41
what does my conscience say he says you
47:43
are to become the person you are here’s
47:45
how you are to reconstruct it not on the
47:47
basis of a God
47:48
religion upside you from yourself and so
47:51
the chief virtue of people who follow in
47:53
each in the 20th century is authenticity
47:55
but first us DFT would answer that’s
47:58
back to that head back to narcissus next
48:01
week we look at a variety of other
48:03
things and on Wednesday your first paper
48:04
when we do

Postmodernism didn’t cause Trump. It explains him.

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.

.. Jacques Derrida’s concept of “deconstruction” sought to understand language as a system capable of constantly hiding and deferring meaning, rather than a simple conduit for conveying it.
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.

Voice Of Conscience = Voice Of God

“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.

 

Climate Change Denial as the Historical Consciousness of Trumpism: Lessons from Carl Schmitt

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

  1. an animating community spirit that combines pugilism with love,
  2. an existential embrace of the friend-enemy distinction,
  3. a conception of state sovereignty as inviolable,
  4. 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.

 

How Trump broke conservatism

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.