Saturday, August 11, 2007

note taking/record keeping:

Religious fundamentalists view all questions through the lens of their simplistic moral philosophy. Libertarians and other market fundamentalists think moral philosophy pointless to discuss since all questions have been resolved already. The two fundamentalisms were born to mirror each other. But arguing with someone about the meaning of the words on a page whether that page is from the bible or the constitution leads eventually to conversation and compromise. it may take a while, even decades but it happens. Arguing with someone who claims to have reason on their side cuts off all contact.
Posner’s utilitarianism is more dangerous than the rantings of all but the most apocalyptic of our religious fanatics. Restrictive social roles can be and always are relaxed over time. Posner’s philosophy is anti-social, it has nowhere to go. And Cowen and Tabarrok are two of the most offensively unsophisticated minds that I have ever come across: offensive only in that they imagine themselves to be sophisticated, and dangerous in that as with Posner so many others agree with them.

I’m actually almost optimistic that a secularizing and modern Islam will bring a rigorously argumentative kick to this debate. Islam is or will be the new judaism in western intellectual life. Fundamentalist christianity is anti-intellectual by comparison.

“both libertarians and statists”
That’s the popular dichotomy but it’s not that useful; both assume a natural individualism that requires liberty or restraint. On the other hand anarchism, socialism and social democracy all assume the constitutive base of the social. That division is also the basis [I’ll make this brief since I say it all the time] of the division between Anglo American and “Continental” thought. The popularity of libertarianism in the/our academy says a lot about the unwillingness or inability of people to imagine themselves as products of their linguistic and political environment; Europeans and most other cultures take this for granted. American political intellectuals are so terrified of determinism that they refuse to see it as a category and refuse to recognize it. And our conservatism is absurdly contradictory, since it’s made of market liberals and religious reactionaries.
But in general Americans don’t see themselves as “Americans” though everyone else does That’s our problem. Libertarianism is just an extension of that logic.

I'll add here, since I'm reading and reading about Santayana: the American descriptions of his focus on individualism miss the point. His focus is on a European notion of the individual as a creature of the collective. The model of the scholar is of one who looks at others while seeing them as akin to himself, and who studies himself in them. The social "scientist" studies others as others, as foreign, again: contra argument as collective activity, contra craft and the art of judgment. The artist/poet even as individualist is the individual bound. The intellectual as autonomous is both a model of atomization and fallacy.

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