Chapter Two: The Counter-Enlightenment Attack on Reason [mp3] [YouTube] [72 minutes]
Enlightenment reason, liberalism, and science [mp3] [YouTube]
The beginnings of the Counter-Enlightenment [mp3] [YouTube]
Kant’s skeptical conclusion [mp3] [YouTube]
Kant’s problematic from empiricism and rationalism [mp3] [YouTube]
Kant’s essential argument [mp3] [YouTube]
Identifying Kant’s key assumptions [mp3] [YouTube]
Why Kant is the turning point [mp3] [YouTube]
After Kant: reality or reason but not both [mp3] [YouTube]
Metaphysical solutions to Kant: from Hegel to Nietzsche [mp3] [YouTube]
Dialectic and saving religion [mp3] [YouTube]
Hegel’s contribution to postmodernism [mp3] [YouTube]
Epistemological solutions to Kant: irrationalism from Kierkegaard to Nietzsche [mp3] [YouTube]
Summary of irrationalist themes [mp3] [YouTube]
Chapter One: What Postmodernism Is [mp3] [YouTube] [38 minutes]
Chapter Three: The Twentieth-Century Collapse of Reason [mp3] [YouTube]
Chapter Four: The Climate of Collectivism [mp3] [YouTube]
Chapter Five: The Crisis of Socialism [mp3] [YouTube]
Chapter Six: Postmodern Strategy [mp3] [YouTube]
Here is a simplified flowchart, developed for my business ethics courses, reflecting my understanding of subprime mortgages’ contribution to the crisis.
Let me emphasize that this is only about the subprime contribution of the overall crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac enabled much spillover into non-subprime mortgage sectors, government-set capital requirements and other regulations enabled the AAA ratings of mortgage-based securities that encouraged speculators, and there were plenty of imprudent and unscrupulous characters in the private sector too.
How is this for an oath of allegiance to one’s monarch?
“We, who are as good as you, swear to you, who are no better than us, to accept you as our king and sovereign lord, provided you observe all our liberties and laws — but if not, not.”
I’ve been reading Robert Hughes’s 2004 Barcelona: The Great Enchantress. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the capital of the Catalan province, which has traditionally asserted a great deal of independence from the central authorities in Madrid.
The Catalans, as far back as the late medieval era, were among the first to re-establish democratic and republican political institutions. By the late 1200s, Barcelona was governed by a committee of seven individuals with varying powers along with a council of approximately one hundred citizens from all walks of life, as Hughes puts it, coopers, textile traders, “cobblers and bakers as well as bankers and the upper mercantile orders.”
Barcelona, with its excellent port and location on the Mediterranean, became a wealthy trading center and in keeping with its nascent democratic-republican polity developed a plucky spirit of independence. While it was not able to escape entirely the centralizing powers that aggrandized the authority of the monarch in Madrid, it was able to submit with some self-respecting grace, as the wonderful oath above indicates.
In keeping with that spirit of liberty, wealth, and self-assertiveness, Barcelona also developed an impressive arts and architecture culture, as the soaring Santa Maria del Mar cathedral, begun in the 1300s, indicates.
Posted 3 years, 8 months ago at 8:38 am. 2 comments
Part 8. Conclusion: Nazi and Anti-Nazi Philosophies
40. Hindsight and future resolve
We know from historical hindsight that it took a world war to defeat the Nazis. Tens of millions of human beings died in that war. Actual human beings who lived, loved, cried, had dreams—and then were killed. Millions of others had their lives damaged and disrupted seriously. Over and above all that, the economic and cultural costs—the wrecking of people’s homes and possessions, the destruction of works of art, the obliteration of historical artifacts, and so on—those costs are incalculable.
The Nazis lost that war, but it was a close call, and there is no guarantee that it will not happen again.
And this is why it is important that we understand what really motivated National Socialism. By the 1930s, the Nazis had the entire political and economic muscle of Germany at their disposal—but more important than that, they had intellectual muscle behind them and they had a set of philosophical ideals that motivated and energized millions of people. That intellectual and idealistic power more than anything made the Nazis an awesome force to be reckoned with.
History has taught us that the philosophy and ideals the Nazis stood for were and are false and terribly destructive, but we do not do ourselves any favors by writing the Nazis off as madmen or as an historical oddity that will never happen again. The Nazis stood for philosophical and political principles that appealed to millions—that attracted some of the best minds of their generation—and that still command the minds and hearts of people in all parts of the world.
And that means we must face the National Socialists’ philosophical and political ideals for what they actually are—we must understand them, know where they came from, and what intellectual and emotional power they have. Then and only then are we in a position to defeat them. We will be able to defeat them because we will understand their power and we will have more powerful arguments with which to fight back.
Arguing over philosophical and political ideals is often unpleasant. And the issues involved are often abstract, complicated, and emotionally difficult. But there are no shortcuts. Perhaps the best motivation for doing the hard work comes from reminding ourselves regularly and often how much more it costs to settle disputes by war.
We may not like that the Nazis had arguments and positions that many people find attractive. We might find it repulsive to take their arguments seriously. We might find it difficult to get inside their heads to see where they are coming from.
But we have a choice: We either fight those ideas in theory or we fight them in practice. We either fight them in the intellectual realm or we fight them on the battlefield. It might still come to fighting them on the battlefield—but that is always the most terrible option, the most expensive in every possible way, and the one we should avoid if there is any other way to defeat them.
So that means that defeating National Socialism intellectually is the strategy we should follow first. Defeating them intellectually means taking their positions seriously, understanding them, and knowing how to argue against them.
The second rule of politics is: Know your enemy. The first rule of politics is: Know yourself. Know what you stand for and why. Know what matters to you fundamentally and what you are willing to do to achieve it—and, when necessary, to fight to defend it.
That is a very large project, and that is why a culture’s philosophers and other intellectuals do important work—or, if they get it wrong, great damage.
As a beginning to that project, let me indicate a clear direction to start in.
In recoiling from what he saw as a flaccid nineteenth-century European culture, Nietzsche often called longingly for “some pack of blond beasts of prey, a conqueror and master race which, organized for war and with the ability to organize, unhesitatingly lays its terrible claws upon a populace.” And he spoke of “[t]he deep and icy mistrust the German still arouses today whenever he gets into a position of power is an echo of that inextinguishable horror with which Europe observed for centuries that raging of the Blond Germanic beast.” And again inspirationally about what one finds “at the bottom of all these noble races the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast, prowling about avidly in search of spoil and victory; this hidden core needs to erupt from time to time, the animal has to get out again and go back to the wilderness.”
What are we to make of these regular positive mentions of the “blond beast”? It is clear what the Nazis made of them—an endorsement by Nietzsche of the racial superiority of the German Aryan type.
But for those who have read the original Nietzsche, that interpretation clearly takes Nietzsche’s words out of context. In context, the “blond beast” that Nietzsche refers to is the lion, the great feline predator with the shaggy blond mane and the terrific roar. Nietzsche does believe that the Germans once, a long time ago, manifested the spirit of the lion—but they were not unique in that regard. The spirit and power of the lion have been manifested by peoples of many races.
To see this, let us put one of the quotations in full context. The quotation begins this way: “at the bottom of all these noble races the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast, prowling about avidly in search of spoil and victory; this hidden core needs to erupt from time to time, the animal has to get out again and go back to the wilderness …”
Now let us complete the sentence as Nietzsche wrote it: “the Roman, Arabian, Germanic, Japanese nobility, the Homeric heroes, the Scandinavian Vikings—they all shared this need.”
So Nietzsche clearly is using the lion analogically and comparing its predatory power to the predatory power that humans of many different racial types have manifested. Nietzsche here lists six different racial and ethnic groups, and the Germans are not special in that list. So while Nietzsche does endorse a strongly biological basis for cultures, he does not endorse racism of the sort that says any one race is biologically necessarily superior to any other.
This is a clear difference with the Nazis. The Nazis were racist and thought of the Germanic racial type as superior to all others the world over. Nietzsche disagreed.
This leads us directly to a second major point of difference.
[Update: The entire Nietzsche and the Nazis in hardcover and Kindle at Amazon.]