Beginnings and endings
Ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca / samanyam etat pasubhir naranam
dharmo hi tesam adhiko viseso / dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah
Hunger, sleep, fear and sex are common to men and animals
What distinguishes men from animals is the knowledge of right and wrong
(Bhagwadgita; Translated by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, 1948, 1971, p 79)
Lao-Tzu (601-531 BC): When a nation is filled with strife, then do patriots flourish
Zhuang Zhi: (370-287 BC) Everyone knows the usefulness of what is useful, but few know the usefulness of what is useless
Plato: (Euthyphro; circa 395 BCE)
Socrates: And what do you say of piety, Euthyphro? Is not piety, according to your definition, loved by all the gods?
Socrates: Because it is pious or holy, or for some other reason?
Euthyphro: No, that is the reason.
Socrates: It is loved because it is holy, not
holy because it is loved?
Epicurus (341–270 BC)
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able, and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
Denis Diderot (1713-1784): Under despotism the people, embittered by their lengthy sorrows, will miss no opportunity to re-appropriate their rights. But since there is neither goal nor plan, slavery relapses in an instant into anarchy. Within the heart of this general tumult there can be heard but one cry: “Freedom!” But how can this valuable thing be secured? Nobody knows. And soon the people are divided into various factions, eaten up with contradictory interests...
After a short while there are only two factions within the state; they distinguish themselves by two names, under which all necessarily have to include themselves: “Royalist” and “Antiroyalist.” This is the moment of violent commotion. The moment of plotting and conspiracy... In this, royalism serves as a subterfuge as much as antiroyalism. Both are masks for ambition and covetousness. The nation now is merely an entity dependent upon a collection of criminals and corrupt persons.
In this situation only one man and a suitable moment are needed for an entirely unexpected result to emerge. If the moment comes, the man emerges... He speaks to the people, who until this moment believe themselves all: You are nothing. And they say: We are nothing. And he speaks to them: I am the Lord. And they speak as if out of one mouth: You are the Lord. And he says to them: Here are the conditions according to which I am prepared to subject you. And they say: We accept them... What will succeed this revolution? No one knows.. (written in 1774, cited in Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past, p 24)
G.W.F. Hegel: This is the hallmark of the sublime and absolute destiny of man - that he knows what good and evil are, and that it is his will which chooses either the one or the other. In short, he can be held responsible, for good as well as for evil, and not just this or that particular circumstance and for everything around him and within him, but also for the good and evil which are inherent in his individual freedom. Only the animal can be described as totally innocent.’ (Introduction to the lectures on the philosophy of world history, 1830 (CUP, 1975; p 90-91)
Sigmund Freud: (t)he primitive mind is, in the fullest meaning of the word, imperishable: Thoughts for the Times on War and Death (1915)
Christopher Colmo: Theoretical contemplation satisfies our eros given the way we are built. Philosophy is good not because the truth is what it is but because we are what we are. The truth is good because we love it. (Consider Plato's Euthyphro, where we are asked whether the gods love what is pious because it is pious, or alternatively, whether something is pious only because the gods love it.) Reason and Revelation in the Thought of Leo Strauss; Interpretation, Fall 1990, Vol. 18, No. 1; p 155
Leo Strauss: It was (Heidegger’s) contempt for these permanencies (such as the distinction between the noble and the base) that led the most radical historicist in 1933 to submit to, or rather to welcome, as a dispensation of fate, the verdict of the least wise and least moderate part of his nation while it was in its least wise and least moderate mood, and at the same time to speak of wisdom and moderation. The biggest event of 1933 would rather seem to have proved, if such proof was necessary, that man cannot abandon the question of the good society, and that he cannot free himself from the responsibility for answering it by deferring to History or to any other power different from his own reason.’ What is Political Philosophy, p 27
Men are constantly attracted and deluded by two opposite charms: the charm of competence which is engendered by mathematics and everything akin to mathematics, and the charm of humble awe, which is engendered by meditation on the human soul and its experiences. Philosophy is characterized by the gentle, if firm, refusal to succumb to either charm. (ibid, 40)
Michael Sprinkler on Erich Heller: Modern philosophy frequently has made the fantastic distinction between the life of the mind and life in the world, but always at a frightful cost to itself and to the world. It is this entirely artificial distinction that Erich Heller wishes to expose in all its falsity when he reminds us, contrary to a certain tradition of apology among some of Heidegger's American interpreters, that it was precisely in the name of thinking and philosophy that Heidegger supported the accession to power of Hitler and the Nazis...
"it was not the private person Martin Heidegger but unmistakably the author of Being and Time who accepted in 1933 the office of Rector of Freiburg University, prematurely vacated by a scholar thought to be less fit to lead the academic revolution, the Gleichschaltung, that the new rulers demanded. Unmistakably the author of Being and Time, for again and again, in speeches, pronouncements, and official letters he verbally behaved as if with the arrival of Hitler Being had unexpectedly and triumphantly returned to Time, choosing as its vessel the German nation in the manner of Jehovah's once electing the Jews"... Michael Sprinkler, The Tragic Vision: Erich Heller and the Critique of Modernism; Salmagundi, No. 52/53 (1981)
George Orwell: We have got to admit that if Fascism is everywhere advancing, this is largely the fault of Socialists themselves. Partly it is due to the mistaken Communist tactic of sabotaging democracy, i.e. sawing off the branch you are sitting on; but still more to the fact that Socialists have, so to speak, presented their case wrong side foremost. They have never made it sufficiently clear that the essential aims of Socialism are justice and liberty. With their eyes glued to economic facts, they have proceeded on the assumption that man has no soul, and explicitly or implicitly they have set up the goal of a materialistic Utopia. As a result Fascism has been able to play upon every instinct that revolts against hedonism and a cheap conception of ‘progress’. From The Road to Wigan Pier, (1937) ch 12
Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.. 1984
Hannah Arendt on Heidegger: In his political behavior, in any case, Heidegger has provided us with more than ample warning that we should take him seriously. [As is well known, he entered the Nazi Party in a very sensational way in 1933-an act which made him stand out pretty much by himself among colleagues of the same calibre. Further, in his capacity as rector of Freiburg University, he forbade Husserl, his teacher and friend, whose lecture chair he had inherited, to enter the faculty, because Husserl was a jew. Finally, it has been rumored that he has placed himself at the disposal of the French occupational authorities for the re-education of the German people.]
In view of the truly comic aspect of this development and in view of the no less genuinely abysmal state of political thought in German universities, one is tempted simply to dismiss the whole business. What speaks against such a dismissal is, among other things, that this entire mode of behavior has such exact parallels in German Romanticism that one can hardly believe them to result from the sheer coincidence of a purely personal failure of character. Heidegger is really (let us hope) the last Romantic - an immensely talented Friedrich Schlegel or Adam Muller, as it were, whose complete lack of responsibility is attributable to a spiritual playfulness that stems in part from delusions of genius and in part from despair. (What is Existential Philosophy? (1946) in Essays in Understanding (1994); p 187
Leo Strauss: A social science that cannot speak of tyranny with the same confidence with which medicine speaks, for example, of cancer, cannot understand social phenomena as what they are. It is therefore not scientific. Present day social science finds itself in this condition. Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero, in On Tyranny, (1948, 2000, p 177)
Philosophy as such is nothing but genuine awareness of the problems, i.e., of the fundamental and comprehensive problems. It is impossible to think about these problems without becoming inclined toward a solution, toward one or the other of the very few typical solutions. Yet as long as there is no wisdom but only quest for wisdom, the evidence of all solutions is necessarily smaller than the evidence of the problems. Therefore the philosopher ceases to be a philosopher at the moment at which the “subjective certainty” of a solution becomes stronger than his awareness of the problematic character of that solution. At that moment the sectarian is born. The danger of succumbing to the attraction of solutions is essential to philosophy which, without incurring this danger, would degenerate into playing with the problems. But the philosopher does not necessarily succumb to this danger, as is shown by Socrates, who never belonged to a sect and never founded one… (ibid, p 196)
Hannah Arendt to Mary McCarthy: The chief fallacy is to believe that Truth is a result which comes at the end of a thought process. Truth, on the contrary, is always the beginning of thought.. Thinking starts after an experience of Truth has struck home, so to speak. The difference between philosophers and other people is that the former refuse to let go, but not that they are the only receptacles of Truth.. Truth, in other words, is not in thought, but... it is the condition for the possibility of thinking. It is both beginning and a priori.” Carol Brightman, ed., Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy 1949-1975
C.S. Lewis: The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How (would it be) if you saw through the garden too. It is no use trying 'to see through' first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To see through all things is the same as not to see. Abolition of Man, (1943) p 40
Stanley Rosen: If there is no human nature that remains constant within historical change, and so defines the perspectives of individual readers as perspectives upon a common humanity, then reading is impossible.... If the contingent is intelligible, that is, if it is amenable to judgement, then the basis of intelligibility or judgement cannot itself be contingent. It is true that the wise decision under present circumstances may be foolish under other circumstances, but the wisdom of the decision under present circumstances is not arbitrary. To judge is to understand, not to create ex nihilo... Hermeneutics as Politics (1987), p 146, 149
Every account that we give of the “meaning” of a Platonic text is incomplete, and corresponds to some perspective or another. This is not because the truth is perspectival or radically historical, but because it always exhibits itself in a determinate manner. I agree with Strauss that we can find the truth within a given determination. But there is no end to the number of determinate appearances of truth. Differently stated, there are truths, not the truth... Essays in Philosophy (Ancient) (2013) p. 57
If there is a fusion of horizons it depends upon something independent of the fusion itself, namely, upon some understanding of the nature of the work we are attempting to appropriate. And this condition carries with it the requirement that works of art have some nature or being that is independent of how we appropriate them. There must be something to appropriate or there will be no interpretations.... Interpretation is the act of restating a commonly accessible truth which we have antecedently understood in a local representation of our own. The restatement of truth does not transform its universality but allows it to function within a modified context. Interpretation, or the transfer of universality from one local representation to another, is the process by which we arrive at an understanding of the universal significance of locality in human life. Without this understanding, the local is meaningless, and history is reduced to rubbish.” (Metaphysics in Ordinary Language, (1999), p 201
Bernard Yack: But Fustel de Coulanges’s efforts have no more broken the spell of Rousseau's rhetoric than Volney's. Demonstrations of historical inaccuracy, however well documented, rarely have much effect on the longing to escape modern limitations that the Rousseauian perspective on classical antiquity inspires. Critics like Volney and Fustel de Coulanges assume that a false reconstruction of the past sours the Rousseauian's appreciation of the present, when it is more often the case that it is an analysis of the present that produces the need to distort the past The Longing for Total Revolution; p 79
Yakub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi (died ca 870 AD): We should not be ashamed to acknowledge truth and to assimilate it from whatever source it comes to us, even if it is brought to us by former generations and foreign peoples. For him who seeks the truth there is nothing of higher value than truth itself; it never cheapens or debases him who reaches for it but ennobles and honours him. (cited in Karen Armstrong, History of God, p. 172
Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832): How could I write songs of hatred when I felt no hate? And, between ourselves, I never hated the French, although I thanked God when we were rid of them. How could I, to whom the only significant things are civilization and barbarism, hate a nation which is among the most cultivated in the world, and to which I owe a great part of my own culture? In any case this business of hatred between nations is a curious thing. You will always find it more powerful and barbarous on the lowest levels of civilization. But there exists a level at which it wholly disappears, and where one stands, so to speak, above the nations, and feels the weal or woe of a neighbouring people as though it were one's own’: Will Durant (1967); The Story of Civilization Volume 10: Rousseau and Revolution; Ch 24; p 607
Christopher Colmo: Philosophy does not refute religion by attempting to achieve a secular wisdom. Rather philosophy is the sympathetic but incorruptible judge of the failure of all attempts at wisdom, sacred or profane: Reason and Revelation in the Thought of Leo Strauss (1990)
Mark Lilla: An ideology gives people the illusion of understanding more than they do: Afterword to The Reckless Mind
Leo Strauss: If nihilism is the rejection of the principles of civilisation as such, and if civilisation is based on recognition of the fact that the subject of civilisation is man as man, every interpretation of science and morals in terms of races, or of nations, or of cultures, is strictly speaking nihilistic. Whoever accepts the idea of a Nordic or German or Faustic science, e.g., rejects eo ipso the idea of science. Different ‘cultures’ may have produced different types of ‘science’; but only one of them can be true, can be science. The nihilist implication of the nationalist interpretation of science in particular can be described somewhat differently in the following terms.
Civilisation is inseparable from learning, from the desire to learn from anyone who can teach us something worthwhile. The nationalist interpretation of science or philosophy implies that we cannot really learn anything worthwhile from people who do not belong to our nation or our culture. The few Greeks whom we usually have in mind when we speak of the Greeks, were distinguished from the barbarians, so to speak exclusively by their willingness to learn even from barbarians; whereas the barbarian, the non-Greek barbarian as well as the Greek barbarian, believes that all his questions are solved by, or on the basis of, his ancestral tradition. German Nihilism 1941
Max Weber: What is the meaning of science as a vocation, now after all these
former illusions, the ‘way to true being,’ the ‘way to true art,’ the ‘way to
true nature,’ the ‘way to true God,’ the ‘way to true happiness,’ have been
dispelled? Tolstoi has given the simplest answer, with the words: ‘Science
is meaningless because it gives no answer, the only question important for us:
“what shall we do and how shall we live?” That science does not give
an answer to this is indisputable. The only question that remains is the sense
in which science gives ‘no’ answer, and whether or not science might yet be of
some use to the one who puts the question correctly. (Science as a Vocation,
speech at Munich University, 1917)
Simone Weil on violence: The man who is the possessor of force seems to walk through a non-resistant element; in the human substance that surrounds him nothing has the power to interpose, between the impulse and the act, the tiny interval that is reflection: The Iliad, or the Poem of Force; 1940
Mary Catherine Bateson: The timing of death, like the ending of a story, gives a changed meaning to what preceded it: With a Daughter's Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson (1984)
Stanley Rosen: The crux of the matter is not one's attitude toward science and technology, and certainly not whether one is a “liberal” or “conservative” in the debased and largely mindless sense in which these terms are used today. Instead, it is our conception of reason, and specifically of the connection between reason and the good. Those who define the good as the powerful, whether they be positivists or existentialists, at once deprive themselves of the capacity to distinguish between good and evil, and so they cannot speak rationally of the goodness of reason. Nihilism: A Philosophical Essay, 1969, p. 110
Is there available in our ordinary experience an icon of what Socrates means by the ‘vision’ or ‘prophecy’ of the good? I believe that there is - the good man. A good man, as we observe him within our daily lives, is not ‘useful for…’ in the same sense that tools, food, acts, even just and beautiful things exhibit utility. Entirely apart from the happiness which may justly accrue to the good man because of his consciousness that he is good, there is a certain fulfillment, completion or perfection which shines forth from such a man, and which we too admire, even perhaps without envy or desire, because of its splendor.. (ibid) p 172
Alexandre Koyre neither the totalitarian states nor their parties are secret societies in the precise sense of the term... they operate in public and make a· great play for publicity. Which amounts to just this: they conspire in broad daylight. The Political Function of the Modern Lie (1945)
Leszek Kolakowski: The devil decided to go back to the old notion of politics based on truth - as opposed to contract or consensus. He invented ideological states, that is to say, states whose legitimacy is grounded in the fact that their owners are owners of truth. If you oppose such a state or its system, you are an enemy of truth. The father of the lie employed the idea of truth as his powerful weapon. Truth by definition is universal, not tied to any particular nation or state. A nation or a state is not just a nation or a state, trying to assert its particular interest, to defend itself, to expand, to conquer new territories, to build an empire and so on. It is a carrier of universal truth, as in the old days of the crusades...
The devil, as the medieval theologians used to say, is simia dei, an ape of God. By inventing the ideological states he produced a caricatural imitation of theocracy. In fact the new order was to be much more thorough and complete than any Christian state of old, as it dispensed with any distinction between secular and religious authorities, concentrating instead both spiritual and physical power in one place; and the devil gave it not only all the instruments of coercion and education but the entire wealth of the nation as well, including the nation itself. Theocracy, or rather aleteiocracy, the rule of truth, had, at a certain moment, achieved an almost perfect form. [Chapter 15: Politics and the Devil From Modernity on Endless Trial; pp 189]
What philosophy is about is not Truth… The cultural role of philosophy is not to deliver truth but to build the spirit of truth, and this means never to let the inquisitive energy of mind go to sleep, never to stop questioning what appears to be obvious and definitive, always to defy the seemingly intact resources of common sense, always to suspect that there might be "another side" in what we take for granted, and never to allow us to forget that there are questions that lie beyond the legitimate horizon of science and are nonetheless crucially important to the survival of humanity.. All the most traditional worries of philosophers - how to tell good from evil, true from false, real from unreal, being from nothingness, just from unjust... man from animal, mind from body... - all of them boil down to the quest for meaning; and they presuppose that in dissecting such questions we may employ the instruments of reason, even if the ultimate outcome is the dismissal of reason... Philosophers neither sow nor harvest, they only move the soil. They do not discover truth; but they are needed to keep the energy of mind alive... (ibid, p 135)
Stanley Rosen: When philosophy is transformed into nationalism, wisdom itself becomes an ideology, and instead of a homogenous world state, we arrive at a perpetual state of global war: (Essays in Modern Philosophy, 2013, p 112)
it is hard to see how Heidegger, despite his distinction between Geschichte and Historie, (history as lived vs history as an object of inquiry) makes it possible for man to take a responsible stand toward history. One must seriously question the adequacy of the resolute acceptance of tradition - i.e., what happens - as a criterion for human conduct. An ontology which cannot assist man in his struggle to preserve himself from his own actions runs the risk of Nihilism, which I regard as the consequence of the claustrophobia of complete immanentism masquerading as freedom. (The Quarrel Between Poetry and Philosophy, p 147)
Wherever philosophy renounces the authority of reason to choose ends or values in a way not vitiated by passion or history, by the urgency of the flesh or the transience of taste, a vacuum is created in our lives that must necessarily be filled by unreasonable, and indeed by insane or absurd, ideologies. In sum, if it is true that ours is an age of nihilism, the cause lies in the fact that what we regard as progress in our understanding of "how to be reasonable' ' is actually retrogression or decay…. I am not suggesting that reason has nothing to do with counting and inferring, or that it is entirely independent of history. The problem is to do justice to the richness and complexity of man's rational nature, to avoid a denatured conception of reason…
When courage and justice are sundered from wisdom and moderation, they cannot serve as the basis for a rational political philosophy, but give birth to ideology instead...The severance of the heart from the head, whether directed by the head or the heart, leads neither to integrity nor resolve, but only to a meaningless death. Philosophy and Ideology: Reflections on Heidegger; Social Research, Vol. 35, No. 2 (1968), p. 261-2; 285
Vassily Grossman (1905-1964):
Whenever we see the dawn of an eternal good... whenever we see this dawn,
the blood of children and old people is always shed... Human history is
not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought
by a great evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But
if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil
will never conquer: Life and Fate, (1960) 2011, pp 390-394
A. J. P. Taylor: In the state of nature which Hobbes imagined, violence was the only law, and life was 'nasty, brutish and short'. Though individuals never lived in this state of nature, the Great Powers of Europe have always done so." (The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918)
Hannah Arendt: totalitarian solutions may well survive the fall of totalitarian regimes in the form of strong temptations which will come up whenever it seems impossible to alleviate political, social, or economic misery in a manner worthy of man… It may even be that the true predicaments of our time will assume their authentic form – though not necessarily the cruelest – only when totalitarianism has become a thing of the past. The Origins of Totalitarianism (1948) p 592-593
The totalitarian element in Marxism is as little the concept of class or classless society as the concept of race or race society, as such, is what made Nazism totalitarian. In both instances, the decisive element is the belief that history can be made, which teaches certain procedures by which one can bring about its end-and of course never does. The breaking of eggs in action never leads to anything more interesting than the breaking of eggs. The result is identical with the activity itself: it is a breaking, not an omelet.. Arendt, The ex-communists; in Essays in Understanding, 1930-1954; New York; (1954), 1994, p 396-7
Leo Strauss on Machiavelli: The recovery of ancient virtue consists of the re-imposition of the terror and fear that had made men good at the beginning. Machiavelli thus explains what his concern with the recovery of ancient modes and orders means fundamentally: men were good at the beginning, not because of innocence but because they were gripped by terror and fear-by the initial and radical terror and fear; at the beginning there is not Love but Terror; Machiavelli's wholly new teaching is based on this alleged insight (which anticipates Hobbes' doctrine of the state of nature). Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey; (eds) History of Political Philosophy; 1972; p 310. NB: Gandhi represented love; communalism represented terror. The foundation of India and Pakistan was the unstable mixture of the two: DS
Bruno Latour on Michel Serres: The mob in a state of crisis cannot agree on anything but on a victim, a scapegoat, a sacrifice. Beneath any boundary is buried a sacrificial victim.. (Serres) slowly realized that the sciences were not a way to limit violence but to fuel it. He decided to hear and to feel this terrible earth shaking tremor travelling from Hiroshima, the only date in history that he takes as a real turning-point; the earth has been shaking ever since. Thanatocraty: Serres’ word for the black triad made by scientists, politicians and industrialists: The Enlightenment without the Critique: A Word on Michel Serres' Philosophy (1987)
Iris Murdoch: Freedom, we find out, is not an inconsequential chucking of one’s weight about, it is the disciplined overcoming of self. Humility is not a peculiar habit of self-effacement, rather like having an inaudible voice, it is self-less respect for reality and one of the most difficult and central of all virtues... Existentialism, in both its Continental and its Anglo-Saxon versions, is an attempt to solve the problem without really facing it: to solve it by attributing to the individual an empty, lonely freedom, a freedom, if he wishes, to 'fly in the face of the facts'. What it pictures is indeed the fearful solitude of the individual marooned upon a tiny island in the middle of a sea of scientific facts, and morality escaping from science only by a wild leap of the will. But our situation is not like this.. Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good (1970)
Leszek Kolakowski: To reject the sacred is to reject our own limits. It is also to reject the idea of evil, for the sacred reveals itself through sin, imperfection, and evil; and evil, in turn, can be identified only through the sacred. To say that evil is contingent is to say that there is no evil, and therefore that we have no need of a sense that is already there, fixed and imposed on us whether we will it or not…If it is true that in order to make society more tolerable, we must believe that it can be improved, it is also true that there must always be people who think of the price paid for every step of what we call progress. The order of the sacred is also a sensitivity to evil.. , The revenge of the sacred in secular culture in Modernity on Endless trial.. p 73
Niels Bohr: “The fact that religions through the ages have spoken in images,
parables, and paradoxes means simply that there are no other ways of grasping
the reality to which they refer. But that does not mean that it is not a
genuine reality. And splitting this reality into an objective and a subjective
side won’t get us very far.” Niels Bohr on Subjective vs. Objective Reality
Karl Marx: Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo: Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1843)
Russell Jacoby: The arrogance of those who come later preens itself with the notion that the past is dead and gone. Few can resist introducing stock criticism of Freud - be it of the left or right -without the standard observation that Freud was a nineteenth-century Viennese. The endless repetition of such statements suggests the decline of critical thinking; the modem mind can no longer think thought, only can locate it in time and space. The activity of thinking decays to the passivity of classifying. Freud is explained away by positioning him in a nineteenth-century Vienna. Today, bred and fed on twentieth-century urbane and liberal feed, we have apparently left behind history itself and can view the past with the pleasure of knowing that we are no longer part of it.
Yet little bears the imprint of the present historical period more than this fake historical consciousness: the argument that past thought is past because it is past is a transparent alibi for the present. To accuse such reasoning with its own logic, it is the contemporary form of relativism; debased sociology of knowledge seeks to avoid thought by mechanically matching it with specific social strata and historical eras. Its awareness of historical transformation ideologically stops short of itself; its own viewpoint is considered neutral and absolute truth, outside - not inside - history. Social Amnesia, (1975); Chapter 1, Social Amnesia and the new Ideologues
Leo Strauss: One may say that in his critique of Spinoza (Hermann) Cohen commits the typical mistake of the conservative, which consists in concealing the fact that the continuous and changing tradition which he cherishes so greatly would never have come into being through conservatism, or without discontinuities, revolutions, and sacrileges committed at the beginning of the cherished tradition and at least silently repeated in its course. Preface to Spinoza’s Critique of Religion; in Liberalism, Ancient and Modern, p 253
Waller R. Newell: Contrary to Heidegger’s absorption of all political motivations into “technology,” the Nazis did not carry out the Holocaust because they had developed the technology - they developed the technology because they wanted to carry out the Holocaust. One has to think through why... At bottom, it is hard to imagine a more fundamental lack of moderation than Heidegger’s equation - shared by Kojève - of democracy and totalitarianism on the grounds that the technological dynamo of modernization has swallowed up all such distinctions between better and worse regimes and rendered them naive.. Kojève’s Hegel, Hegel’s Hegel, and Strauss’s Hegel; in Timothy Burns & Bryan-Paul Frost; Philosophy, History, and Tyranny; 2016: pp 244-249
John Gray: The Right today likes to imagine that it is the voice of the past. In truth, its ranting radicalism and its decadent nostalgia tie it unmistakably and irrevocably to the chaos of the present… Few visions of the future have ever been so delusive as Herbert Marcuse’s or Michel Foucault’s perennially fashionable vision of perfected capitalist control of society. Late modern capitalism may incarcerate people in high-tech prisons and monitor them by video surveillance cameras at the work place… but it does not box them into an iron cage of bureaucracy or imprison them within a minute division of labour… It abandons them to a life of fragments and a proliferation of senseless choices… American Psycho is a truer approximation to the late modern condition than Kafka’s The Castle…Free markets are the most potent solvents of tradition at work in the world today. They set a premium on novelty and a discount on the past. They make of the future an infinite re-run of the present. The society they engender is antinomian and proletarian: False Dawn (2009), p 38
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri: Many of the concepts dear to postmodernists and post-colonialists find a perfect correspondence in the current ideology of corporate capital and the world market. The ideology of the world market has always been the anti-foundational and anti-essentialist discourse par excellence. Circulation, mobility, diversity, and mixture are its very conditions of possibility... Differences (of commodities, populations, cultures, and so forth) seem to multiply infinitely in the world market, which attacks nothing more violently than fixed boundaries: it overwhelms any binary division with its infinite multiplicities: Hardt and Negri Empire, p 150 (2000)
(One of postmodernism’s most subtle manoeuvres has been to present such tendencies as liberating and progressive - comment on the above citation, by David Hawkes, Ideology, p 11)
Bulle Shah (1680-1757):
pad pad oh hazaar kitaabaan / kadi apne aap nu padheya nahi
ja ja varde mandir maseeti / kade mann apne vich vadeyaa nahi
avein lardaa hai, shaitaan de naal bandeya / kadi nafz apne naal ladeya nahi
Aakhe peer Bulleh Shah aasmani pharna aeN / jehra man wich wasda unhoN pharya nahin
Dharamvir Bharati: That day the world descended into the age of darkness which has no end, and repeats itself over and over again. Every moment the Lord dies somewhere or the other every moment the darkness grows deeper and deeper. The age of darkness has seeped into our very souls. There is darkness, and there is Ashwatthama, and there is Sanjaya and there are the two old guards with the mentality of slaves and there is blind doubt, and a shameful sense of defeat.
And yet it is also true that like a small seed buried somewhere in the mind of man there is courage and a longing for freedom and the imagination to create something new. That seed is buried without exception in each of us and it grows from day to day in our lives as duty as an honor as freedom as virtuous conduct. It is this small seed that makes us fear half-truths and great wars and always saves the future of mankind from blind doubt slavery and defeat. Andha Yug (1953); Translated by Alok Bhalla (2005)
Andha Yug (1953); Translated by Alok Bhalla (2005); and brought to my attention by Tanya
The Almond Trees by Albert Camus
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