From Guernica: Bernard Henri Levy Interview On Anti-Semitism And Fascism

Full post and brief written interview here.

Henri-Levy has done some pretty deep thinking, mostly within leftist intellectual traditions, but also seems to attempt to question the core ideas of those traditions:

“I hate competition of victimhood. But I also hate the idea of a big, huge, and empty concept of suffering…”

A deep moral and (maturing political) realist who’s also anti-religious (typically left, at least he doesn’t advocate enforcement of Godlessness).

I agree that there’s danger in identity-victimhood politics.  It can cultivate many vices under its loftier idealism.  Yet, for my part, I believe that an intellectually honest, reasonable conservative (conservare) position already acknowledges much of this danger:

“You had fascism in Japan. You had fascism in Europe. You had fascism in people like Lindberg in America. You had fascism in Latin America and in the Arab world.”

Well…yes.   It doesn’t go away, and you can likely make a deep metaphysical theories about how it is a part of each of us and extend them around the globe with moral courage as Henri-Levy has done.   However, I don’t think the conservative position need devolve into caricatured support of fascist tendencies.  I can easily see how identity-politics might inflame fascist tendencies (if you accept Henrei-Levy’s defintion of fascism.


Which brings me to the next point: 

“And one of the reasons I am so much in favor of [Senator Barack] Obama is that his election might be, will be—because I think he will be elected—a real end to this tide of competition of victimhood, and especially on the specific ground of the two communities, Jews and African Americans, who were so close in the 1960s”

…”The Obama election would reconstitute the grand alliance.”

What is he smoking?  The grand alliance?  No wonder his book American Vertigo seemed so tone-deaf when dealing with its potential subject:  America.   Even the American left found it lacking.


I appreciate the support that some in the French republic extended to African Americans (jazz musicians, writers, James Baldwin…for example) who were cast beneath our moral concern, and held there, sadly, by even the laws.  There are hardly words for such injustice, yet I see no easy recourse from it.     

In fact, if I were one of the millions of relatively poor and marginalized Muslims on the outsides of Paris, languishing with little hope of a future, my fascist tendencies (expressed within or without the Koran) would lIkely be bubbling up.  And while the depths of moral courage, wisdom and insight an Henri-Levy provided (if I got the chance to read him) might spur me on to independent thought, those depths would leave a lot untouched. 

Addition:  Reader-emailed evidence for the American black-jewish leftist alliance on Bloggingheads with Joshua Cohen  engaging in genuine moral concern and genuie academic apologetics.  Obama has chosen Rahm Emmanuel to likely be the White House Chief Of Staff, and of course from the Kentucky Fried Movie, Cleopatra Swartz.  Thank you readers…I think.

At this point, we’re probably helping Henri-Levy make his. Identity politics! 

I thought Henri-Levy had transcended them…oh wait…never mind.

See AlsoTim Kavanaugh At Reason: Every Man A Derrida

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From Bloggingheads: Mark Schroeder On His Book ‘Slaves Of The Passions’

Full diavlog here.

Schroeder, on the thinking of David Hume, seems to be making the case that our passions have a lot to do with our reason(s), and ought to have to do with our reasons.  This seems to be part of a larger trend of Humean influence lately. (I’m not sure that its many practitioners have successfully addressed that problems Hume does, but rather are using Hume to address current problems.)

Schroeder, in part, seems to want to carve out free will enough for our reasoning to recognize its debt and interconnectedness to those passions. 

Wilkinson asks a good question of Schroeder:  How would this theory of moral reasoning broaden itself to, say, explain the natural world?

Schroeder’s response (following Hume) is that science has objective truths about the world and moral facts, but that there’s nothing extra-moral about them. 

A Newton or an Einstein, say, wasn’t tapping into the starry firmament, nor a Platonic world of Forms, nor the mind of God to discover the laws of the natural world…they applied their reason to direct experience and observation.  They certainly don’t need to read the musty transcendentalism of Kant or others to do their work (nor does any scientist, for that matter).  

Yet, isn’t Schroeder left with the difficult task of explaining how it is that science has objective truths about the world…and reasons for our moral facts? 

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From National Geographic: The Giant Crystal Caves Of Naica

In a Mexican zinc mine, gypsum crystals over 30 feet long have been found.  They need temperatures over 120F and submersion in water to grow, so it’s a rare find.  One would deduce that such conditions existed for a long time in this particular cave.

The Giant Crystal Project Site here.

More on gypsum here (a key ingredient in plaster and drywall as well as chalk, so it’s likely all around you), a brief youtube video here of its molecular structure.

Brief note:  It’s not the end of the world, National Geographic, so please just focus on the science part of your mission, and let me think for myself and maintain my cherished skepticism:  The National Geographic-Marching To The Eco-Drumbeat

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From Nigel Warburton’s Virtual Philosopher: Machiavelli Is Always Relevant

Full post here, which is brief.

You’ll encounter extremely profound and highly practical advice for those who find themselves in power.   I’ve heard it argued that he was quite moral (I’m not entirely convinced), in that he encouraged wise rule by compiling such insight all in one place.  (see the previous post on justice and Thrasymachus).  

Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy’s Machiavelli entry, which begins with an argument as to why it’s necessary to include him.

Niccolo Machiavelli by Crashworks

by Crashworks

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From The City Journal: The Roar Of Justice-Philosopher Raymond Geuss, An Idealist In Realist’s Clothing

Full article here.

Well, the City Journal’s pretty far out on the right (sometimes a little nutty, resuscitating compassionate conservatism?), so you likely know where you’ll end before you begin.

What it seems Kirsch defends are forms of transcendentalism (i.e. Plato’s World Of Forms, or the possibility of knowledge beyond experience) against Raymond Geuss’s idealism, neo-Marxism and Leninism (as Kirsch has him: narrow-mindedly analyzing who has the power and the means of production).

From Plato’s Republic, Kirsch raises Plato’s extensive discussion with Thrasymachus:

“When one looks at justice clearly, Thrasymachus insists, he finds that it’s nothing but the disguise worn by power: “I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.”’

There are likely many who think like Thrasymachus among us.  In fact, we have all probably found ourselves thinking like this at times…

However, Kirsch implies that Geuss is not even as consistent as Thrasymachus:

“The unjust is lord over the truly simple and just: he is the stronger, and his subjects do what is for his interest, and minister to his happiness, which is very far from being their own,” Thrasymachus says…

It follows that the only logical course for any human being is to try to be happily unjust, rather than simple—that is, stupid—and just.'”

Join in the game, or be a useless crank or a coward?  Bottle it all inside like Thrasymachus and then when you see Socrates discussing the idea in public, unleash all of your anger at such an idealistic fool?  Or maybe like Geuss, you put it all in your philosophical idealism and encourage others to overthrow a common enemy?  Kirsch ends with:

“The world of Thrasymachus is a war of all against all, in which the powerful will always win. If Geuss does not want to inhabit such a world—and who does?—he should acknowledge that the inquiry into the nature of justice, which has occupied philosophers from Socrates to Rawls, is not an ideological trick, but the necessary beginning of all attempts to make the world more just.”

Not a bad point, though I’m already sympathetic to the theme.


Just A Thought-Of course “justice” is not merely a code for “social justice” and the neo-marxists, feminists and postmodern American left.  Obviously, it’s a central concept to the church.  The origin of many of our laws comes from the moral thinking of the church and the assumption of transcendance (it comes from God, and God is outside of us).  These laws, in turn, protect many of our freedoms.

Here is a quote from John Locke that could be quite relevant to someone like, say, Dr. Martin Luther King…who obviously thought about the nature of justice quite often:

For wherever violence is used, and injury done, though by hands appointed to administer Justice, it is still violence and injury, however colour’d with the Name, Pretences, or Forms of Law, the end whereof being to protect and redress the innocent, by an unbiassed application of it, to all who are under it; wherever that is not bona fide done, War is made upon the Sufferers, who having no appeal on Earth to right them, they are left to the only remedy in such Cases, an appeal to Heaven.”

See Also:  Just because the law comes from a belief in a transcendant God doesn’t necessarily follow that one can’t be moral, law-abiding, and Godless:  Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

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Francis Fukuyama At The Times Online: The Damage To Brand USA Needs Repair

Full article here.

Maybe Fukuyama’s focusing on a more international audience here…

He further distances himself from the Bush administration’s failures and excesses in Iraq:

“Once Saddam Hussein was proved not to have weapons of mass destruction, the Bush Administration sought to justify the Iraq war by linking it to a broader “freedom agenda”; suddenly promotion of democracy was a chief weapon in the war against terrorism.”


“Guantanamo Bay and the hooded prisoner at Abu Ghraib have replaced the Statue of Liberty as symbols of America in the eyes of many non-Americans.”

How did we get here, if in fact we are here?  Because we found success in the great conservative, pragmatic movement of the Reagan-Thatcher years…which has since devolved into a musty set of articles of faith not suited to the times:

“The Reagan-Thatcher revolution caused a huge amount of pain as industries shrank or shut down. But it also laid the groundwork for three decades of growth…”

“Like all transformative movements, however, the revolution lost its way because it became an unimpeachable ideology,”

And we are still locked into that thinking.  Acutally, it seems like Fukuyama is distancing himself from current U.S. conservatism altogether…

“The biggest change that America must make is in its politics. The Reagan revolution broke the 50-year dominance of liberals and Democrats in US politics but what were once fresh ideas have hardened into dogmas. The ultimate test for the US model will be its capacity to reinvent itself.”

Linking deep thought and philosophy with current politics can be risky game, and Fukuyama’s one of the deeper thinkers and clearer, most pragmatic moral realists.

See Also:  Francis Fukuyama At The Washington Post: They Can Only Go So FarFrancis Fukuyama in The L.A. Times: China’s Powerful Weakness

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A Few Philosophical Works On Space-Time Reviewed At Notre-Dame

Carl Hoefer reviews Robert DiSalle’s Understanding Space-Time: The Philosophical Development of Physics from Newton to Einstein here, and Bradford Skow reviews Harvey Brown’s Physical Relativity: Space-time Structure from a Dynamical Perspective here.

DiSalle’s goals are very ambitious, and in broad terms they are threefold. He wants to (1) direct philosophers away from the canonical absolute/relational disputes, (2) reshape our understanding of the motivations, arguments, and achievements of the two giants of space-time physics (Newton and Einstein), and (3) refute, in passing, the Kuhnian view that the main paradigm changes in space-time physics are essentially arational and impossible to justify via non-circular arguments.

Newton’s and Einstein’s theories are:

“…frameworks established ‘for the interpretation of phenomena, not a kind of mechanism or hypothesis to explain them’

The framework of a framework?

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Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?

Not so much America in decline, Zakaria suggests, as an America closing itself off from what made it great and failing to recognize the rise of many other nations.  America may no longer have the ability to “be the director,” as he says.  The close of an era of American exceptionalism? 

As a globalist, there may be parts of his thinking and moral depth that don’t coincide with the interests of some parts of our society (perhaps the more militaristic, conservative and Christian conservative, insular and isolationist especially).  I’m not persuaded by all of his ideas.   However, he is a pragmatic, wide-ranging and independent voice and it’s often good to have him around.

Related On This SiteFrancis Fukuyama At The Washington Post: They Can Only Go So FarSo, Is America In Decline?Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

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