Simply to assert, as Hart very much seems to, that the truth of a religious tradition is utterly severable from every particular element of that tradition, that it is essentially irrelevant to the inquiry into religion what the mass of believers believe or say they believe or are asked to believe, is, for the atheist, bad faith: a mere changing of the subject if not a deception.
As for Heidegger, Schmitt, their defenders, and all those suspected of actual or parallel “sympathies,” they will, of course, be denied the protection we extend to the last great and very German, very Jewish philosopher-theologians of the pre-Zionist or Diasporetic Age. The thought of identifying oneself with the Nazis and fellow travelers will be the thought of leaving normal life in liberal-democratic societies behind. We remain defined morally – to ourselves, concretely – by the justice of the physical and ideological destruction of the perverted culture-state that Heidegger and Schmitt literally stood up for in public, and that privately they supported more in spirit than post-war apologetic exercises led some to hope.
1. Intro by way of a response to Mr. Halasz at the Crooked Timber thread: @239: The Wikipedia entry on Kahn is a good capsule summary. I often wonder why, given that he’s a distinguished professor at Yale (not some…
“…the odd paradox whereby Bakunin, the greatest anarchist of the nineteenth century, had to become in theory the theologian of the anti-theological and in practice the dictator of an anti-dictatorship.”
The notion of a non-existence of theological fact is the opposite of the atheist thought, which originates in, constitutes, and upholds a position on its own absolute theological facticity. The doubt as to the existence of theological fact at all would be the beginning of the agnostic or possibly the anismic, not the atheist, inquiry.
Nothing prevents those with a conservative outlook or temperament from remaining aware of dire and whole wide world-encompassing possibilities, even the possibility or perhaps the certainty of their own, or their community’s, or nation’s, or culture’s, or civilization’s eventual impossibilization, but any sensibly conservative regard for language, or any conservative understanding of the idea of a conservative understanding, does or ought to prevent its advocacy, with or without the yelling.
The inquiry into what we mean when we invoke the name of the deity would both determine and be determined by the result of the inquiry into what we mean when we refer to ourselves. They are nearly the same inquiry, or two different aspects of a single inquiry, which is at the same time an inquiry into inquiry – the possibility of inquiry at all and the point of inquiry at all.
The new identity replaces the old one, and, where it does not appear as an amalgam of contradictions and imitations, it puts dimly grasped and highly uncertain possibilities next to moral deprivation: self-realization as self-annihilation in the current epoch, which also cannot be understood except as a product – result as well as aftermath – of another equation in a parallel format.
In an “objective” if not necessarily “morally clear” accounting, the thousands killed and thousands more disfigured and terrified would receive many thousands of times greater concern. The child dismembered by a bomb blast, the soldier buried alive in a bunker, the prisoner merely sent off to some conventional Hell, and on and on, precisely as they become multiplied by thousands or millions and turned into numbers, all seem to command less outrage and concern than the captive in manacles.
If the subject of democracy - the demos, the mob - has proven itself, as always expected by those not taken in by the hustle, unworthy of respect or responsibility, then what basis do Berman, Scialabba, or any of the rest of us have for deeming whatever "Fahrenheit 451- or Blade Runner-style" authoritarian oligarchy to be "catastrophic"? Catastrophe becomes just another name for life on Earth as ever, and authoritarian oligarchy, with space set aside for the New Monks, looks like the best anyone ever could have expected. How else are we supposed to keep billions of ignorant, violent, etc., people from destroying themselves?
TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.
For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.
The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.
Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.
[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.