If, Don Miguel, you want to focus on the task at hand and explain clearly what you are and aren't doing, then maybe you can help me figure out what's going wrong.

that would normally happen if you're trying to log in under someone else's name... if you're logging in normally, you should be able to provide the correct password (the one I e-mailed to you, unless you've changed it), then be set...

Dude, why can't you log in and join the discussion where it's actually taking place? Log In with your user name and password at the menu near the top or at the link in the footer.

Don't understand. Haven't had the old book review section for a very long time.

put it on my list. Now, is it more "saggy" or more "masterful"?

So much worse than that... no one can stand to think about it for very long...

Looks interesting. You read it?

Not a Godwin if the context is something dangerously other than condemning someone for their Nazi-likeness. Different kind of violation.

But anyway I think you grok the Strauss-Scott parallel, and there are a lot of people burdened with doctorates and major publications and thousands and thousands of Tweeps who wouldn't.

Strauss and Kojève were excellent playmates for each other... a little... but disagreed in fundamental ways... Kojève withdrew, published realtively little, seemed to have ended up rather depressed and isolated. Strauss had a lot of interesting playmates - or a circle of admiring students - who went on to be held responsible by elite opinion for a mass murderous criminal atrocity of a foreign policy botch.

I think the rule is that whichever playmates you have, those are the right ones for you at that time.

No, I'm sadly not sure at all that we can avoid ending up as Nazis just by erring on the side of pacifist politics. In a mass democracy as Germany was before the Nazis finally eradicated it, there were very likely people whom you might have expected to err on the side of pacifist poiltics, and who thought they were erring on the side of pacifist politics, when they looked away from, or failed to resist, or even supported while holding their noses, or foolishly or mistakenly supported the Nazis. The "mistake" you made in supporting Obama may not have been a very different mistake in the final analysis. You have your individualized, self-conscious identity, and would never give the order for a drone strike or a drone strike program that would kill a lot of innocent people in the process of killing mid-level Al Qaedas, but you voted for someone who can and does give that order, and who, if you were listening closely and critically, pretty much said he was going to. Maybe you did hear him saying that, but quickly made the calculation overall that he'd still be a lot better than McCain, would move the country in a better if imperfect direction - but that means that the only difference between his ordering the civilian-killing drone strike and your voting for him or rooting for him or hoping for him and encouraging others to hope is proximity to the decision, not moral willingess to choose the lesser of two evils, to withstand the deaths of innocents in the interest of moving the richest and most powerful country in the world in a better, probably more life-saving and -affirming direction, or maybe really just moving along with the rest of the human herd in the direction it cannot help but go anyway.

But to resume the prior dialogue, or at least to attempt to sort it out, I don't think the argument regarding the continuum of violence, and the relationship of the extreme case to the normal experience, is easy or trivial, and my point in raising it again, was not to aim for a dialectical reversal, but to clarify the terms of a possible discussion, and to examine the idea of the eventual inversion of the pacificist project within any truly "political" context.

I don't take offense at any of this. I find it very interesting. Gives me something to think about as I go about other business. The only things I find distressing are the sense of being misunderstood and the possibility of my offending or repelling you, or of putting you in a position to act with a wrong idea about me. I was also disappointed that you glossed over the Strauss response to Schmitt, even after I compared it to your response, and that you instead preferred to associate me with Schmittism. Perhaps I deserve to be associated with Schmitt now, in light of all the time I spent on the Schmitty side of the street, and maybe if you appreciated more what "Strauss" stands for in contemporary political chit-chat you would have found the association more interesting (and appalling, at least initially). Instead, you swooped in and did the quasi-Strauss thing on me, without acknowledging my (more important, my discussion's) rhetorical self-inoculation against it.

This isn't primarily a personal thing: For me, it made for an unnecessary digression, a loss to the potential for the discussion. What I was trying to suggest, and maybe I should have been more self-abasing about it, is that the fault in Schmitt (and potentially in Hegel, Marx, and many others, but only potentially - I consider this yet to be demonstrated) would have been the prejudiced insistence on the primacy of violence. (However, the individual who enters politics as a pacifist may be doing the same thing.)

Strauss I think correctly suggests that Schmitt's discourse turns into mere polemic (merely political language, language as instrument of violence) at just that moment - fails to approach the philosophical, and, to put things crudely, that's why Carl ended up a Nazi instead of watching the baby like a good dog, and, maybe, by a process of extension, that could have something to do with why Heidegger also ended up a Nazi, but, finally, might also explain why any insistence on turning to those historical-biographical facts would on some level also repeat the same error, and all this might have something to do with the Marxist cases, too.

What I was thinking about as I was leaving the supermarket, though, had to do with the inevitable contradictions of a pacifist politics, and how they parallel the difficulties of the philosopher who might hope to remain secure from politics, or, if not secure, might cope with unavoidable entanglement in the political - the main subject of ON TYRANNY.

It's true that she was the only presidential candidate for either party going back for many years, if ever, that I found sexually attractive - despite what everyone always assumed about men who found Palin interesting - but in the end I'm not so sure that's a positive, so, small loss, very small loss.

You impute to me - repeatedly - a partiality to the one side because I refrain from embracing your side. That's a coercive, one might even say violent, approach. In your view, it's justifiable. You are absolutely sure that it's justified. That's how all violent people think - to the extent they think, the precise extent, no more no less, since violence is to thoughtfulness as war is to politics, the suspension of the condition that as such is the actuality, the determinant essence, of the condition.


The notion of a biologically determined truth (not the same as a valid description of biologically determined prejudices or affinities, etc.) is either a contradiction in terms or nihilism, possibly both. Either a logical conclusion is presumed attainable, or logic is irrevelant. If logic is irrelevant, then you have no way of showing, to anyone else or to yourself, that it is not your prejudice, possibly tied to the same malfunction that leads to believe you know and can know that your position is valid, that causes or compels you to maintain your position.

Put simply, you want to believe that your position is correct, and it's part of your position to discount anything that would deny you your heart's desire. You already know where you are going to end up.

How do you know that murder is wrong, that violence is a bad thing?

It's not an argument about the true nature of human beings, but about the nature of nature, that is of existence at all. (Whether Hegel's views are essentially in agreement with Schmitt's is a different question.) You can think of it this way: In a world in which everything that we today call war or physical violence was removed, expunged without a trace, from the affairs of humankind, then a grimace or a harsh word would be experienced as a mortal blow.

Or: You can't eliminate death without eliminating life. Or: You can't eliminate violence without eliminating the will.

The most you can achieve is to eliminate specific forms of violence, for a time, but the more rare you make it, the more valuable, in the political sense, those specific acts become. It's the problem with un-inventing nuclear weapons: The premium on cheating rises the closer to total elimination that you get. The one country that successfully maintained a secret stockpile would rule the world - or take over or reveal itself to be invulnerable at the moment of its choosing (calling its success actual proof of the superiority of its culture, morality, etc.). Knowing that, every other country would strive to keep a secret stockpile or latent capacity.

Or suppose you imagine a vast, harmonic renunciation of material wealth, comfort, security, consumption - of life itself - against any resort to violence to preserve and protect one's own possessions. The last holdouts would be in a position to realize that renunciation for the others in fact: That is, annihilate everyone who was in their way, enslave the others, and, for their own purposes, define that selfsame "renunciation of life" as the great immorality for them, for any would-be member of the master race. In a way that scenario merely repeats the master-slave dynamic that Hegel idealizes as the beginning of "history."

Not saying any of these things would actually happen: They are just different versions of the extreme and probably impossible "cases" that circumscribe and define the actual much messier and more complex real existence of human beings in time.

Schmitt seems to take pleasure in constructing similar scenarios specifically in relation to political pacifism. Considering where he ended up, there is tremendous, and I mean truly tremendous, irony in the scenarios he constructs, both as paranoid projections of what the militarism-fascism eventually did to the militarist-fascists, but also as prophetic rehearsals of contemporary war rationales.

Sorry, not a great philosopher. Maybe I could have been a decent philosopher, don't know. Not even sure that that would be a worthwhile activity, given the state of contemporary "philosophy." But that's just another version of my problem with everything and why my life has been such... what it has been. Finding anything in particular very worthwhile, I mean.

Not "partial to violence," but don't believe we're near having done away with it. Violence is inherent in life. Life itself for human beings is systematic violence, it's possessing or occupying an organic system, an organic system of systems, that lives off destruction, annihilation of living or once-living things, in the shadow of death until the shadow falls away. Since violence, including murderous violence, is an irreducible possibility of life on Earth, even up to the notional moment that it was completely extinguished it would remain, and even be magnified as, the critical and unique determinant of political life. This isn't my insight, but my rendering of one of Carl Schmitt's key insights, possibly the central one of THE CONCEPT OF THE POLITICAL - which is actually more a tract than a book, not long at all or terribly difficult to process, very worth reading if you take these questions seriously.

Strauss's critique of Schmitt's thinking (the Strauss essay is included in the edition of CONCEPT OF THE POLITICAL linked in the sidebar) doesn't attempt to attack this argument, but rather, almost Scott-like, puts into question Schmitt's orientation toward his own observations: Schmitt not only attacks pacifism, but gives away his own preferences or prejudices. In other words, Schmitt seems to take satisfaction in the conclusion that pacifism is hopeless, because a world in which pacifism could triumph would also be a world in which the political was reduced to idle entertainment, no longer serious, you might say no longer exciting, no longer risky, no longer on a continuum with war - the extreme case that, again, doesn't actually have to commence to continue to exert absolutely determinative influence on everything else.

Strauss doesn't have to come out and say that this all explains how Schmitt, a brilliant and far-sighted man, could end up joining the Nazi movement, but the implication is clear. Instead, Strauss turns in a different direction, suggesting that what Schmitt's error or weakness reveals is that Schmitt's thought is enclosed within the modern tradition of liberal thought whose broad horizon is defined by Hobbes - who also thought that the possibility of lethal violence was the key determinant for political order, what politics inherently refers to both as justification and as means to its unique ends. So politics is in this sense the more or less tenuous suspension of violence under the threat of violence, and that is the true "concept of the political," and the only possible concept of the political given the inalterable nature of life: Put even more abstractly, life depends inalterably on death.

What I think Strauss - whom I'm beginning to consider, referencing his popular profile as crypto-neocon, a vastly misunderstood philosopher - may have wanted to put in the place of liberal thought so defined was a philosophy, which he identified with the ancients, that was already intimate enough with death in effect to set it aside, simply to presume its arbitrary presence in life, the fact that the gods at any moment could take out Milton's "dread shears." If, as a pagan, you're living with the prospect of instant, arbitrary, nonsensical death, it's pointless to philosophize about it. You'll never be able really to propitiate and predict the behavior of the gods, the immortals, because the immortals, being immortal, will never comprehend you. In that case, you can remain content as a philosopher thinking about a different, arguably just as inalterable and fundamental category: not life vs. death, or even freedom vs. its opposite, but the good.

And that's another reason why the Kojève-Strauss dialogue is so fascinating, and why, unable to find anything else worth reading, I'm re-reading ON TYRANNY these days, beginning with Kojève. Not sure where I'm going to go next.


Can't mind having someone on my side, willing to put my actions and statements in the best possible light, but I still have to say that I think you give me too much credit, and Robin too little.

"Magical thinking" may even be the opposite of Marx's error, if we can really presume the ability to judge it. The problem with the incessant and obligatory recitation of crimes carried out in the name of Marxism is that it induces us to perform a set of different but equivalent errors: especially assuming that criminals who hid responsibility or successfully shifted it onto others, were guiltless. Since you like movie references so much, think of the bad guys in DIE HARD: They pretended to be revolutionaries, but were just thieves - model capitalists in some ways. Third World Marxism-Leninism and Maoism, and other variants, may have little to do with mature Marxian analysis or with the revolutionary idea as understood by Hegel, Marx, Kojève, and others.

I've re-written that last sentence as a more conservative and specific claim. (The original was overcoded by an echo of one of the great sentences in critical theory, which I'm always finding some reason to bring up.) Still not completely satisfied with it... but it's just a blog post.

The "what to do" is of course the classic question, and the classic problem for Marx, and for the Left Hegelians vs God's Holy Dialectical Prophet. For Hegel, the owl of Minerva flies at dusk. By the time we "know now" what we should have "known then," it's by definition too late. But his solution, as elaborated and further thought through by Kojève, is the "cunning of history": That we seem to lack a clear guide to action, or anything we can call a solution, doesn't mean that the solution we ought to have chosen isn't working away anyway. It suggests a secular and even atheistic or post-theistic version of simple faith, and, interestingly to me (as I've commented before), leads the "faithful Hegelian" into the same dangerous territory that belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing God leads religious leaders, justifying Napoleon, or Stalin or Mao or Hitler or Capitalism in approximately the same way that a Pat Robertson justifies 9/11 or AIDs or sometimes the same historical/human-made disasters.

Marx's decision to turn Hegel upside-down, insist on applying and extending the dialectical method as a basis for political action couldn't have been more fateful. It risked and may even have required that those inspired by his work commit every conceivable mistake - and that too may exemplify the cunning of history. To me, the primary mistake has always seemed to have been the assumption that an application of the dialectical method should or could be simply homologous to the dialectical critical discourse.

How do you know that if you haven't read his book or paid much attention to him otherwise? I strongly suspect that the professor could teach you all sorts of wonderful things about "classical liberalism."

You don't know what you're talking about, Don Miguel. "Hatred for the 1%" is at most a secondary factor in this particular discussion, and, for now, mainly arises in the current Western/American political climate as a projection from the 1% and its spokespeople, though in the broad historical view it remains an inevitable and significant product of the system that produces a "1%."

You've read Robin's book? What makes you think he attempts or offers a "taxonomy"?