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Comments by Wade McKenzie

On “Being Charlie – Updated

Okay--this reminds me of the comment you made over at the "Will's Affront" thread, the one that began: "Maybe, I'm lucky I don't speak pig-latin". I've been meaning to return to that comment.

Precisely because that comment featured examples that I thought were lewd, I was initially alienated by it. Upon further reflection, I became intrigued by it.

What I came to see in that comment was the recognition of a pattern that is at least similar to the so-called Hegelian dialectic. Now, I'm a perfect layman in this as in all things, but--to the extent I understand it, or at least think I do--the dialectic goes something like this: A/-A/-(-A).

In the context of that comment, I came to see that you were suggesting that phenomena like the gay "cruising" scene, replete with bathhouse orgies, occupied something like the middle term of that process. As in:

1) Traditional sexual morality

2) -(Traditional sexual morality)

Which might lead to:

3 -(-Traditional sexual morality)

Similarly, one might wonder about ancient or classical sexual morality giving rise to its "negation": Christian sexual morality. Which might eventuate in a modern sexual morality in which the proverbial twain shall meet.

Anyway--assuming that I've read you correctly or am even in the ball park--I do think that's an interesting prospect.

I know you're hard-pressed for time, but I would indeed be interested in hearing more about this--whether in the context of the Charlie Hebdo affair or anything else.



Still don't understand what the sentence means, but that does sound like an interesting book. I'll add it to my list.


“the gaze fixed squarely on consummate negativity delineates the mirror-image of its opposite.”

What does this mean?

On “Book List

I've long been interested in your suggestions for further reading, so I'm glad you've added this book list to the website. A few of them I've already read, a few others I've long intended to read, and I'll give careful consideration to reading the rest in time to come.

I'm naturally intrigued by the classics or "great books" which you include. I'm especially curious as to your inclusion of Hume's Treatise. I don't have any particular take on it--just curious.

A couple of technical considerations--and forgive me if I'm telling you anything you already know:

1) Are you aware that the version of Hegel's Philosophy of History which you've included would appear to be the introduction only? I can't help but think that you would like prospective readers to read the entire survey of world-history which Hegel renders in that work. (Btw, I recently had occasion myself to read the Sibree translation of the Philosophy of History--I enjoyed it very much and plan on re-reading it soon.)

2) If you scroll down to the comments beneath your selection of the Philosophy of Right, there's a comment by a fellow named Alan White. He lauds the Cambridge translation but points out that the editors do not take Hegel's dialectical logic seriously. He asks prospective readers to consider giving his own translation of Hegel's Philosophy of Right a look. I only mention this because, to fail to situate the Philosophy of Right within Hegel's "logic" does strike me as a defective interpretation.

In closing, I found the following extract from a reader comment below the Kahn book on liberalism to be interesting; and I realize that it is, in some sense anyway, consonant with your own perspective--as well as mine:

What becomes evident is that a purely rational life is simply not possible. This is partly due to the fact that reason cannot demand the ultimate sacrifice from people. Family, religion and the state can all demand sacrifice and do so on continuous basis, but reason stops just short of this demand of ultimate sacrifice.

On ““A” rarely if ever equals “A” only

I appreciate you mentioning the Averroes. Since you did, I took the trouble to look it up online and--surprisingly--I managed to find a pdf. I don't know that I can read it anytime soon, but I do intend to read it eventually.

It does seem to me that you are committing yourself to saying something like the following:

~The God who reveals the Koran is the God who does not reveal the Koran.

~The God who is triune is the God who is not triune.


These statements seem to me to be contradictions--perhaps they strike you as paradoxes and you can render an account of their ultimate "coherence".


But seriously, MacLeod, do you really suppose that the trinity is a "secondary" commitment of Christians--or that the Koran is a "secondary" commitment of Muslims, etc.?

Admittedly, I'm simply overwhelmed by the breathtaking sweep of your massive erudition--imagine you being so knowledgeable in the history of Islamic theology, as well as the theology of Tom Paine!--but something just doesn't feel right about this.

Nevertheless, I do want to say--in all sincerity--that you've given me much to ponder and I do appreciate you taking the trouble to reply to my comments.


A parable.-- In the year 2115, the Grand Caliph of the revived Islamic Empire summoned a conference of Islamic, Jewish and Christian theologians to be held in the capital of the Empire, Washington D.C. He instructed them to see if they couldn't find their way to a common first principle, in the hope of lessening religious tensions within the Empire and promoting greater unity thereby. Unfortunately, the theologians persisted in their divisive particularism--perhaps out of a fundamental misunderstanding of just what a "first principle" is.

The Islamic theologians insisted that the God who reveals the Koran and whose prophet is Mohammed simply can't be the one who didn't reveal the Koran and whose prophet isn't Mohammed.

The Jewish theologians insisted that the God who revealed the Torah just as it is in its present form simply couldn't be the God who didn't reveal the Torah just as it is in its present form.

The Christian theologians insisted that the God whose unity is tri-unity simply can't be the God whose unity isn't tri-unity.

The conference was at an impasse and the tension was palpable.

Then a little deist twerp came along--a proponent of rational religion--and said, "Hey fellas, you just need to read Tom Paine's Age of Reason--that'll set ya straight. It's really just common sense!"

The Grand Caliph instructed the conferees to study this book by Tom Paine. Afterward, they reported experiencing deep enlightenment. The particularisms dissolved and religious strife quickly faded away.

The Empire--now under the sway of the thought of its definitive theologian, Tom Paine--was eventually re-named the Unitarian Empire and gradually reverted back to the character of the former United States of America. The citizenry, no longer riven by theological divisions, spent their days in an endless round of sex, drugs--and football and basketball. And they all lived happily ever after.

On “Being Charlie – Updated

CKM: I suppose you're anticipating that I have an unpleasantly offensive take on the Charlie Hebdo massacre--and indeed I do, but I guess I'll hold off on it for the time being.

I did, however, want to aver that I at least like the way you're "framing" the issue--as the contrariety (or perhaps, in your view, the complementarity) of reverence and irreverence.

Now, if I might recur to the distinction between the noble and the base: Is reverence noble or base? Is irreverence noble or base? Is Charlie Hebdo noble or base?

I realize there are a multitude of possible answers to these questions--I'd be interested in hearing yours.

On ““A” rarely if ever equals “A” only

Those doctrinal positions differentiating the three Abrahamic faiths from each other are not first principles, WM, as you even seem to acknowledge before going on to treat them as though they may be. The copula (is) is not a statement of equivalence: The particular statement “God is the revelator…”, etc.

My point was that God is the first principle, full stop. But Allah, the first principle of Islam, is the revelator of the Koran. Yahweh, the first principle of Judaism, is the revelator of the Torah which the Koran asserts to be corrupted and adulterated in its present form. This means, beyond all controversy, that the first principle of Judaism is incompatible with and contradicts the first principle of Islam and vice versa--yet you boldly assert that they are "the same first principles."[emphasis yours]

I asked you to explain what you meant by this strange and forced assertion--I didn't ask you for "further explication on Cohen’s approach to the prophetic sources"--but rather what you could possibly mean by asserting, without argument, that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are grounded in the same first principle, the same God, when the theologians of those faiths tend, apparently with excellent reason, vigorously to deny this.

I also contended that if Cohen believed Judaism to be collapsible into Christianity, Islam and Tom Paine, then his study of the Torah was either antiquarian or nihilistic (in the sense of "decisionist") but in no way serious or genuine.

I specifically asked you not to assert merely the truth of deism. Instead, you assert the truth of deism and tell me the burden of proof is on me to disprove deism vis a vis Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But it isn't possible, in my view, to disprove deism because deism is rhetoric, not philosophy. The best I could do would be to mount a rhetorical reply wherein I try to make deism the object of scorn--even as your own (largely rhetorical) reply is suffused with scorn for me.

(I'm not complaining about that last fact, just pointing out that your reply is rhetorical and not theological.)


"A” is defined only ever by a “B,” a “C,” a “D” and so on, backwards and forwards, to first principles, which, as it happens, in the case of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, are the same first principles.

This is a strong formulation. Let me emphasize that.

the same first principles [emphasis yours]

By “first principles” in reference to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, you can mean only one thing: God.

Now, in Christianity, God is the trinal unity of Father, Son and Spirit--which Jewish and Islamic theologians (including, presumably, Hermann Cohen) vigorously deny.

In Islam, God is the revelator of the Koran--which Jewish and Christian theologians (including, presumably, Hermann Cohen) vigorously deny.

In Judaism, God is the revelator of the Torah. Presumably, Hermann Cohen wouldn’t deny this. Christians don’t deny it either, but they insist that the written Torah has been infinitely superseded by the living Torah who is Jesus Christ. There is a sense in which Muslims too don’t deny that God revealed the Torah--but, as you know, they vigorously maintain that the Torah Hermann Cohen studied was a Torah that had been adulterated by men. Hence, in Islam, the God who revealed the original, authentic Torah is the God who revealed the Koran--which Jewish and Christian theologians (including, presumably, Hermann Cohen) vigorously deny--but I repeat myself.

Though I know nothing about Hermann Cohen--I wouldn’t mind reading him someday--I’ve made a few presumptions about him here, because it just wouldn’t make much sense for him to be a faithful student and devotee of the Torah if the Torah could simply be collapsed into the New Testament into the Koran into the Critique of Pure Reason into Charlie Hebdo (that is the logical progression, ultimately--isn't it, MacLeod?). And let’s not forget Leo Strauss’ warning (which, if memory serves, occurs in the preface to Natural Right and History) that, if we study and remain faithful to something simply because it is our tradition, then that’s nihilism. So, presumably, Cohen didn’t study the Torah just for the reason that he was himself a Jew by heritage and descent, but rather because he thought it was true. Or is it possible that the religion of reason is indeed nihilistic?

Now the reason I’ve conducted this mini-survey is not at all to enlighten you about the differences between the three great monotheistic faiths--I know that you know more about these things than I ever will--but, instead, to try to make questionable your assertion that the three faiths are grounded in the same first principles. The three faiths themselves deny that they are grounded in the same first principle--that is, God. They each make the explicit claim that the three faiths are not reverencing the same God, the same first principle--or better, each faith makes the explicit claim that the others aren't in fact reverencing God at all. I’m not sure what purpose is served by trying to collapse these three faiths into deism--or perhaps I am sure about the purpose, and that purpose strikes me as base and ignoble.

Anyway, I wanted to give you the opportunity to explain just what you mean by "the same first principles"--an explanation that I hope won't be a mere recourse to the necessity of deism. Deism, in my view, is a merely rhetorical--and not at all a theological or philosophical--doctrine.

I suppose, however, that you’ll tell me these things are oh-so-complicated and you just don’t have the time to explain them with anything like the thoroughness they require. Maybe you should consider making the time--perhaps by watching less football and basketball games.

On “Will’s Affront (An Untimely Post)

This is for you, MacLeod:

"So it is that decency and honesty in all things are awful crimes in the world, and I would strike my contemporaries as being wicked and ferocious, even if my only crime were that I was not as false and as treacherous as they are."

Rousseau, Reveries of the Solitary Walker [Second Walk]
(Goulbourne trans.)



So you’re a white supremacist, Wade?


“black brains” as an insult?

Roger that!

I don't like blacks, and I don't like gays--and I sho nuff don't like libertarians.





I assure you, I don't intend to make a habit of such profanity.

But, as I said, MacLeod--someone like you who delights in contemplating perverse phenomena with glib reserve, simply has no right to protest against such profanity.


Look, MacLeod, I don't intend to continue to pester you about this--but, despite your many virtues as a textual analyst, you seem to struggle a bit with the rhetorical dimensions thereof.

Surely, you couldn't have failed to miss that the real point of that exercise was to critique, in a roundabout and provocative way, bpsycho's silly claim that gays were "routinely" jailed and murdered in the United States in the past.

As to deletion with extreme prejudice--may I remind you that this very day you have made a rather blustery vow that you aren't going to be agitated by miscreancy like mine?


Maybe I’m lucky I don’t speak pig Latin.

Allow me to translate it for you, then.

oyischegay opskay=gentile brains

chwarzersay opskay=black brains

Now, something tells me that a man who--so politely, so pedantically--contemplates the gay "cruising" scene in 1970s San Francisco, or women being deliberately and publicly gang-raped in order to demonstrate the virtues of traditional sexual discipline, or Greeks and Romans having sex with teenage boys, simply isn't entitled to be perturbed about the words fuck, shit, or even nigger.




Sheez, CKM--did I not characterize it as a self-indulgent fantasy?



The days when people were routinely jailed or even murdered for simply exercising their sexual preference were terrible, and deserved to die out.

Homosexuals were never "routinely" jailed or murdered in the United States--that's a self-indulgent fantasy.

For my own part, I think life in a country that did routinely jail--or even kill--homosexuals would be infinitely preferable to life in contemporary libertarian America. But I suppose that, too, is a self-indulgent fantasy.



“Blather” strikes me as simply unfair.

Yes, it was very unfair and I owe you an apology. In fact, I would have apologized to you much sooner, but I've been completely away from the computer these past few days. Though I could render an account of the snap judgment that prompted me to write that misbegotten comment, it would only confirm the fact that I'm an intemperate fool--and I think you already know that. I'd like to retract both that comment and its smart-aleck successor in their entirety. I'm genuinely sorry and I do hope you'll please forgive me.

You have a rich, complex writing style that I like, admire and envy. I wouldn't want to say anything that would inhibit you from being yourself. Not because I'm philosophically committed to people being themselves--I'm not--but rather because I truly admire your self-expression. There is, of course, a temperamental difference that holds between the two of us. You seem to have the proper philosophic temperament, characterized by moderation and sobriety. Despite my affection for philosophy, my own temperament is more akin to that of the religious enthusiast or poetaster. I only mention this because I think the temperamental difference contributes to occasional friction between us. For example, that difference gives rise to differing—even opposed—political allegiances.

Which brings me back to the original topic of conversation. I really do think the point you're making about the obsolescence--due to the decline of monogamy and the ideal of feminine virtue--of the notion of "rape" is very interesting. Now, though I'm sympathetic to conservatism, I wouldn't describe myself as a conservative for the simple reason that I'm even more sympathetic to the so-called far right. I object not only to equality, but to liberty as well. Of course, there's a more traditional ideal of liberty which one finds in, say, Hegel or the New Testament. According to that ideal, liberty is the freedom to be a truly moral human being—one who is enslaved neither to an institution nor to sin and pleasure (e.g.--and pertinently--sexual promiscuity). But I don't think for even one second that the average American believes liberty means anything other than license or licentiousness--the freedom to sin to one's heart's content. Liberty in its classical sense is the province only of certain devotees of philosophy or religion. And so I consider American libertarianism to be execrable.

Nevertheless, I suppose I find myself--for the purposes of this discussion--in the position of the conservatives whom you reference in the original post, those who lament the passing of the ideals of monogamous marriage and virtuous femininity. I'm fond of saying that American society specializes in producing masculinized sluts and feminized cads--a perverse state of affairs, in my view. To take up once more the lewd example of the Swarthmore coed: American libertarians and progressives don’t seem at all perturbed by this picture of a slutty, degraded and degrading girl. All they care about is that she may have been “raped” because she didn’t sign a consent-to-be-fucked form before her caddish occasional lover fucked her for the umpteenth time. (And this gal is a student at an elite college who is liable to be taking her place among America’s ruling elite in years to come! God save us.) You seem to recognize such perversities--unlike the typical progressive--yet you appear to be at peace with this state of things. I, on the other hand, am revolted by it and that leads me at times to want to lash out and say to you: "What!?! You're just going to sit there in smug philosophic lucidity, at the end of history, while America becomes a gigantic shithole full of deluded flies and dungbeetles who fancy themselves to be human beings!?!” (HT: Zarathustra)

In closing, I just want to say that the reason I termed my initial comment an obvious farce is that it was characterized by a certain "exaggerated" quality--which you did indeed reference in your reply. Yet, you seemed to suppose that those exaggerations were un-self-conscious. You'll excuse my recourse to schwein-lateinisiertes Jiddisch (an unkosher combination, I admit)--but, while I'm undoubtedly an example of oyischegay opskay, I would devoutly hope I'm not an example of chwarzersay opskay. (Now, don't get your dander up, it's just a joke—offered, I assure you, in extremest dispassion.)


The days when people were routinely jailed or even murdered for simply exercising their sexual preference were terrible, and deserved to die out. The shift you lament is towards individual liberty, may we never turn around on this path.

Good grief!


Interestingly--though my comment was obviously a farce, as you indeed acknowledge--the overly polite, pedantic blather that is your reply makes it seem as if you are more or less in agreement with it.

Surely, your reply too was a parody?


What I find most interesting about the original post is the suggestion that "rape" may no longer be a meaningful notion. I'm not certain whether the intention of the piece was to persuade the reader to that effect or was rather meant to be something of an evocative provocation, but I must admit that it is coming close to having a persuasive effect upon me. That persuasion, in turn, invites speculation as to whether or not the term "woman" possesses any longer a meaningful significance.

Under any dispensation of meanings or significances, I think I would have a hard time sympathizing with the Swarthmore coed--let alone in the contemporary dispensation, where all vestiges of traditional morality have been swept away only to be replaced by a vacuous and manipulative "ethics of consent". Like the very notion of "rape" itself, which is something of a spectral outline or silhouette of a distinction that was meaningful in a former epoch, we may soon find that "consent" too is nothing but a perverse mirage tormenting the minds of those dying of thirst.

The coed was "hooking up" with her partner for three months beforehand. That is to say, she is a "hooker". Hookers typically derive remuneration from the provision of their services, but it would seem that the Swarthmore coed preferred to "hook" for free. She might even be likened to a volunteer "comfort woman" doing her part to pacify the insistent drives of young male college students--that is, if the term "woman" is still a meaningful distinction.

As the original post implies, I sincerely doubt whether it is at all possible in this day and age to "rape" a "woman". Sex in our time has all the dignity and preciousness of passing gas. It is possible, I suppose, to make "rape" illegal and impermissible in the same way that it might be possible to make farting illegal and impermissible--but I don't think the one prohibition could be any more substantive than the other.

I mean, imagine if the latest campus inanity was to vilify farting and to protest against a "fart culture". Interestingly, since farting is a conduct overwhelmingly associated with the male of the species, any movement against an ostensible "fart culture" would serve essentially the same politically manipulative purpose that the campaign against "rape" serves. Nevertheless, like the current campaign against so-called rape, it would lack intellectual substantiveness--even if many poor lads were made to suffer onerous sanctions for the "crime" of passing gas.

But I suspect that "rape" is a notion that will soon go the way of "sodomy". Sodomy used to denote an unpardonable offense, a "crime" that dared not speak its name. Today, however, respected pundits like Andrew Sullivan openly write about the pleasure they derive from "sodomizing" other men and being "sodomized" by them in turn. Distinguished figures like President Obama urge the citizenry to celebrate "sodomy". Those who still oppose "sodomy" are increasingly thought of as retrograde villains, deserving of misfortune. It may be that, in time to come, respectable men will openly flaunt the pleasure to be derived from "raping" "women"--and "women" too will boast of the enjoyments of being "raped". Perhaps a future U.S. President will extol the virtues of "rape" and "rapists"--and vilify the reactionary holdouts who continue to oppose such wholesome activity.

(Throughout this comment, I have placed the term "woman" in quotation marks because, like "sodomy" or "rape", it seems to have only a nostalgic significance. In so far as "woman" denotes a specifically feminine type of human being, something distinct from a female brute or animal, it wouldn't appear any longer to be meaningful. Of course, it might still do service as signifying something that is formally human (in the sense of having the typical "human" appearance) and possessing the female genitalia (in the sense of that kind of genitalia which are passive in the sex-act). But just as no one in their right mind would be concerned about a barnyard hen being mounted by an aggressive rooster--or fretting about the lack of "consent" involved therein--it would seem anachronistic to be concerned today about analogous phenomena occurring in regard to "women".)

On “The Docket

CK: "The Docket"--I like this. It lets the reader know there are specific pieces forthcoming and whets his appetite for same. I enjoyed reading the brief excerpts.

Speaking of which, you write:
"The critique of neo-conservatism and of Reaganism, especially the right-libertarian critique from within conservatism, amounts to a critique of their shared Hegelianism."

I just happened to be browsing books on Amazon yesterday, when I came across the following title:

The Search for Historical Meaning: Hegel and the Postwar American Right, by Paul Gottfried

I can't vouch for the book, but according to the accompanying blurb, President Nixon praised it as his favorite read of 1987. That may or may not commend it to your attention, but it certainly commends it to mine.

On “Feet First on Reagan, Neo-Conservatism, and Hegel

The problem, Cervantes, is that it isn't a thought experiment.

You see, if MacLeod is right then the United States has adopted Hegelianism--or the Hegelian state project, as he terms it. Meanwhile, die Bundesrepublik--by virtue of being conquered by the Anglo-Saxons in the Second World War--is essentially indistinguishable from Anglo-Saxon progressive commercial liberalism, replete with multiculturalism, the oh-so-important objective of emancipating sexual fetishism, etc., etc.

An absurd world, indeed.

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