In his On Grammatology, Derrida shows that there is a binary opposition between speech and writing—with speech being central and natural, and writing being marginal and unnatural. People have been writing for thousands of years, but the tradition of thought from ancient times to modernity favors speech, or the spoken word, over writing. The “logos,” which the ancients regarded as the hidden principle in the universe, is a voice or a word—it’s a sort of super-word or a god. When we speak, the sounds that we create are closer to the super-word or god, but our writing is marked by an absence, the absence of the godly sound. Derrida’s target is Saussure’s linguistics. Saussure has asserted that his linguistics is free of the viewpoints related to god, but Derrida tries to show that Saussure privileges speech because he accepts the pre-scientific assumption that speech is closer to the inner meaning, or the logos, and the super-word and god.
Saturday, May 30, 2020
The wrongdoer in politics is often the entity that has left something undone, not always the one that has done something. The liberals commit a wrong by doing something, while the conservatives commit a wrong by leaving something undone. Thus the liberals are the people of political action, while the conservatives are the people of political inaction. This gives the liberals an advantage in the politics. But the conservatives were not always the people of political inaction—they became a passive force after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, when they became convinced that with the destruction the Soviet regime, they had already played their world historical role, and that from now on there would not be any challenge to their worldview. The conservatives didn’t realize that the challenge would come from the liberals who, in the post-Soviet world, would find new ways of keeping leftism alive.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:38:00 PM
Friday, May 29, 2020
Robert Nozick was not a libertarian. He has never claimed that he was. In the Preface to his 1974 book Anarchy, State, and Utopia, he is lukewarm about libertarianism. He writes: “With reluctance, I found myself becoming convinced of (as they are now often called) libertarian views, due to various considerations and arguments.”
He has based his arguments on the claims about rights (mainly property rights), but his treatment of rights is weak. He starts with a situation in which people are living in a so-called “state of nature,” which is a mythical concept. In his later work, he has admitted that he had developed some doubts about earlier view on rights. One of his intentions in writing the book was to refute the libertarian thinker Murray Rothbard, but Nozick never took his argument with the libertarians forward. After the publication of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, he dissociated himself from the book and did not respond to the criticisms of it. His writing work after 1974 is unrelated to libertarianism.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia became influential in libertarian circles, because Nozick was a high profile professor of philosophy and because some libertarians saw him as the libertarian answer to John Rawls.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:03:00 PM
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Postmodernism is leftwing, but in his 1981 book After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre talks about a form of postmodernism in which there is an emphasis on traditions. MacIntyre’s traditions perform a role similar to the “scientific paradigms,” which Thomas Kuhn has described. The traditions include a worldview or conceptual scheme, and a history through time, as it’s understood by a community with its distinctive way of life and social norms. The traditions are not only rational but serve as the context in which rationality can be determined. All reasoning is conducted in some sort of tradition.
The traditions can be judged according to the criteria of rationality, One tradition is more rational than another if it can explain the success and failure of the other tradition better than the other tradition itself can. MacIntyre shows that instead of being an escape from tradition, modernity is itself a tradition.
According to MacIntyre, Modernity’s rejection of traditions is incoherent, and there is a need for a right-wing postmodernism. The problem of modern moral philosophy is that it neglects the notions of character and virtue and that leads to skepticism. Modernity’s focus is on what makes an act right or wrong rather than on what makes a person good or evil. Macintyre says that to learn rational ethics we have to go beyond modernity and study the Aristotelian and religious traditions which focus on the formation of character and the development of virtue.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:46:00 PM
Sunday, May 24, 2020
The liberals think vertically. The conservatives think horizontally. Vertical thinking encourages the liberals to take a top-down approach for solving mankind’s problems. They entrust the fate of their society into the hands of revolutionary leaders, experts, and technocrats who promise to obliterate the old systems and create a utopia where safety, happiness, and purposefulness are available to all. Horizontal thinking encourages the conservatives to take a bottom-up approach and look around themselves for solutions. Their approach is pragmatic, in the sense that they desire solutions which have a track record of having worked in the past. They revere history and traditions as a compendium of experiences which can serve as a guide for future action. Between liberal utopianism and conservative pragmatism there is no scope for a compromise.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 5:54:00 PM
Friday, May 22, 2020
The search for a logos, or original presence, is the oldest in the history of philosophy. The Hindu thinkers believed that the logos is in the Trinity of godheads. The Platonic and Aristotelian thinkers found their logos in Plato’s forms. Augustine and his followers found it in the Christian Trinity. Till the modern period, philosophy has been dominated by systems which are logocentric, or which hold that meaning emanates from some sort of logos. For Descartes, cogito is the logos. For Kant, the logos gets internalized in the form of the absolute self or transcendental ego. For Hegel, the logos is the idea or spirit. Logocentrism is generally expressed in the form of binaries in which one term is more privileged than the other: for instance, the Platonic Form is more privileged than the real object or idea which the Form represents. There are several other binaries: soul versus body; theory versus practice; mental versus physical; conscious versus unconscious; rational versus emotional. In these binaries, the term that is closer to the eternal, and has the ability to remain unchanging, is more privileged.
According to Derrida, the philosophers since Plato have devoted their metaphysics to the search for a higher reality which, while being untouched by materialism, gives meaning and purpose to the material world. He says that most philosophers, even the structuralists who try to avoid the logocentric approach, use the traditional terminology and its binaries. At times, they reverse the binaries, but they can’t avoid thinking in its terms. In his 1967 book, Of Grammatology, Derrida deconstructs the attempts to posit a center and establish a system of binaries. He tries to replace the logocentric approach with a free play of meaning. He argues that whenever we think that we have discovered the logos, or original presence, or center, we find that it points towards some other logos. Thus, the search for logos becomes never-ending, the search for meaning becomes never-ending, and there is a breakdown between the signifier (the word) and the signified (the meaning that the word refers to). Derrida saw deconstruction as a form of freedom from fixed truths or origins, and the guilt over absence of meaning.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:24:00 PM
Thursday, May 21, 2020
The man performed great austerities for several years. One day God became pleased by his piousness and appeared before him. God told the man to ask for a boon.
The man then asked that he be granted the opportunity to experience failure and unhappiness in every subsequent life.
God was surprised. He asked, “Why won’t you wish for success and happiness in every subsequent life?”
The man said that he wants to experience failure and unhappiness in every subsequent life because he desires to forever be a man of wisdom and faith. God smiled and granted the man the boon of failing and being unhappy in every life.
The irony is that wisdom and faith come to a man when he experiences great failure and unhappiness.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:51:00 PM
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Knowledge can be taught, but not wisdom. A wise man teaching wisdom to someone will sound foolish because wisdom cannot be expressed in words. Wisdom is something that you discover through your life’s experiences and learnings. Every man discovers his wisdom in his own way.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:16:00 PM
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
The book that I am presently reading, Baumgarten and Kant on Metaphysics, Edited by Courtney D. Fugate and John Hymers, is a collection of eleven essays on the relationship between the metaphysics of Baumgarten and the philosophy of Kant. Fugate and Hymers begin their Introduction to the book with these lines: “The relationship between Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (1714–62) and Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is as profound as any in the history of philosophy. In depth, it rivals such rightfully famous relationships as those between Socrates and Plato, between Aristotle and Aquinas, between Russell and Wittgenstein.” The editors note that Kant lectured on Baumgarten’s Metaphysica “from his first year of teaching in 1756 until his last in 1796, in total nearly fifty times over a span of four decades.” An examination of Kant’s personal copy of the Metaphysica suggests that Kant evolved many of his own views by constantly correcting and reworking Baumgarten’s ideas. Fugate and Hymers write: “Though physically a small book [Baumgarten’s Metaphysica], Kant’s miniature handwriting covers not only every bit of the pages interleaved, but also the text itself, the spaces between the lines, the margins, and even the gaps within the page ornaments. These notes, which in total amount to several times the length of the original book, provide a unique insight into how Kant evolved many of his own views through a constant correcting and reworking of Baumgarten’s ideas.”
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:11:00 PM
Monday, May 18, 2020
The digital revolution has turned man into a cyclops, who is missing one eye, the eye of wisdom. While teaching metaphysics, Immanuel Kant used to remind his students that learning metaphysics is not easy and that, “One who would seek pearls, must descend to the depths,” but the digital technologies hinder man from descending to the depths by making everything seem too easy on the surface itself. When information and facilities are available at the click of the mouse and a tap on the app, why should anyone descend to the depth or exercise his mind? In the digital age, wisdom is a vestigial attribute.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 5:29:00 PM
Saturday, May 16, 2020
Paradoxically, a free market economy can be created by exterminating a popular pro-democracy movement. The rise of China as a global economic powerhouse is the consequence of the Chinese government’s decision in 1989 to send troops armed with assault rifles and tanks to the Tiananmen Square and massacre thousands of pro-democracy protestors who had gathered there. The Tiananmen Square massacre put an end to all opposition to the communist regime, and China became a politically stable country. Having implemented free market reforms in 1979, China was receiving foreign investments for a decade, but after the massacre there was a great leap in the investments coming into the country—the big corporations prefer to invest in countries which are politically stable and have a business friendly regulatory system. China, after 1989, offered political stability and a business-friendly regulatory system, and it saw such massive rise in investments and trade that, by 2010, it overtook Japan as the world’s second-largest economy.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:45:00 PM
Saturday, May 9, 2020
I am taking a month long break from blogging. I will use the time that I spend online to do some extra reading and writing. When I am back online, I hope the pandemic related fears will have subsided and the lockdown of the world will have ended. But whether the lockdowns are lifted or continued, I think that the next five years will bring economic decline and political instability to most democratic nations. I would not be feeling this pessimistic if the downfall were the consequence of some natural calamity, like a meteor strike or a super-volcano. What we are presently witnessing is mankind rushing headlong to commit collective suicide. Nietzsche was right—the world cannot function without the barbarians who are capable of taking big risks and doing terrible things to achieve just goals. The democratic nations are in trouble because they are too liberal and effete. They have lost touch with their inner barbarian. But the next five years will bring them ample opportunities for rediscovering the barbarian who hides inside their skin.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:20:00 AM
Friday, May 8, 2020
Heidegger never accepted that he had erred by supporting the Nazis. He was convinced that Nazism had failed to achieve its philosophical objectives because it went astray. In a 1930s lecture, he said that he saw Fascism (or Nazism) as a countermovement to the problem of European nihilism which Nietzsche has described. By endorsing Hitler, Heidegger thought that he was endorsing a countermovement to nihilism and bringing Germany closer to the metaphysical realm of Nietzsche. He aspired to have with Hitler the kind of relationship that Plato had with Dionysius (the king of Syracuse). But after the Nazi regime’s fall, Heidegger complained that he felt let down by Hitler. On Heidegger’s dalliance with the Nazis, Karl Jaspers said, “Children who play at the wheel of world history are smashed to bits.”
Thursday, May 7, 2020
The modern liberal recognizes himself in his favorite apocalypse. With the advanced society in which he lives, he identifies just the material dimension of his existence. His spiritual dimension, or his soul, he discovers in the idea of an apocalyptic event, one that will swallow his society as a whole, ripping apart the entirety of his material existence and that of everyone else, leaving behind only their souls. Thus an apocalypse is a spiritual need for the liberal. If ideas like Global Warming, Climate Change, Ice Age, Ozone Layer Depletion, Acid Rain, and Virus Pandemic did not exist, he would feel lonely, lost, and traumatized. He would lose his spirituality and his soul.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:02:00 PM
Most cultures are grounded in the ideas of “chosen people” and “utopia,” but where do these ideas come from? The ancient philosophers and politicians were the inventors of these ideas. They invented the myth of chosen people and utopia to motivate their people into dedicating their lives to the cause of achieving certain political and cultural goals. Once people are convinced that they are god’s chosen ones, and that they are destined to reach the heavenly utopia, then they will make great efforts and face all kinds of risks and hardships for the achievement of any goal.
In modern times, the idea of chosen people and utopia has been used with devastating effect by the atheistic political movements. Lenin created his Soviet Empire on the backs of his followers who believed that they were the chosen people and that they would be the first to enter the Marxist utopia. Mao used a similar strategy in China, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and other communist leaders in their own country. The idea of chosen people and utopia has been used even by philosophical movements like Auguste Comte’s Positivism and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 8:00:00 AM
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
In her 1963 report on the trail fo Adolf Eichmann (Eichmann in Jerusalem), Hannah Arendt says that the holocaust was perpetrated through a new, modern type of murderer: the Schreibtischtäter or desk murderer. She doesn’t see a linkage between the holocaust and German history; the Nazi murders, to her, were a problem of modernity, having little to do with Germany’s past. Modernity, she asserts, empowered the Nazi Schreibtischtäter, who blindly obeyed orders, and without personally participating in the murders, sent millions to their death by merely putting his signature on the official documents that came before him. She presents Eichmann as the prototype of a Schreibtischtäter. The phenomena of Schreibtischtäter, in my opinion, is real, and it persists till this day. In our times, the liberal political establishment is in control of the army of Schreibtischtäter in several nations.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:29:00 PM
Now that I am a certified pessimist, I can empathize with Sigmund Freud’s discontents. I am talking about his final book Civilization and Its Discontents in which he pours out all his pessimism. He examines the senseless slaughter of the First World War and the Russian communist revolution, and his own financial difficulties, his stomach ailments, his fight with cancer and presents a bleak picture of mankind. Life, he notes, is not being possible without suffering and that there are three ways by which a man might try to alleviate his suffering: first, intoxication; second, seclusion, which might not work for most people because by nature we are gregarious creatures; third, sublimation, which entails giving vent to aggressive impulses in socially acceptable ways (sports or work). He rejects the religious idea that man should love his enemies and agrees with the saying, homo homini lupus (man is wolf to man). Man is naturally inclined to enslave other men and to destroy all those who cannot be enslaved.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:05:00 AM
Monday, May 4, 2020
The conservatives are stymied by the three impossibilities: first, the impossibility of deciding what is the national tradition; second, the impossibility of deciding what is to be done to preserve the tradition that they believe is national; third, the impossibility of making national progress while preserving the national tradition. But liberalism is itself a tradition. Leftism is itself a tradition. Fascism is itself a tradition. Modernity is itself a tradition. A conservative who wants to follow the traditions cannot avoid being a liberal, leftist, fascistic, and modernist because these are as much a part of his tradition, as his religion and culture is.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:20:00 PM
Nietzsche has called his approach to philosophy “philosophizing with a hammer.” He has claimed that his books are the “dynamite” and the “assassination attempts,” that he was a revolutionary, a destroyer of traditions, a man who lusted for radical social transformations, and that there is nothing conservative in him. The conservative dictum is to keep everything as it is. If the conservatives inherit a corrupt, incompetent, and cruel socialist system, they will ignore the corruption, incompetence, and cruelty, and preserve the socialist system because that for them becomes the embodiment of the national culture which must be conserved. There is no possibility of a conservative Nietzsche, and there is no possibility of major reform under a conservative government.
Sunday, May 3, 2020
Twenty-first century conservatism has the will to power, but it lacks the will to build a better world. The conservatives expect to find redemption and meaning in a government that is conservative in name only. They have no desire to fight for the implementation of conservative principles. The conservative mindset follows Walter Benjamin’s insight: “The work is the death of the intention.” For the conservatives, winning the election means the death of the conservative intention; once political power has been acquired, they forget about conservatism.
The right is fascistic, authoritarian, and imperial. Their focus is on winning elections and enjoying the perks of political office. They do nothing to safeguard the civil liberties, dignity, and economic interests of the people. The inability of the right to resist the move towards totalitarian leftism is linked to not only their obsession with winning elections but also to the weakness of their rightist agenda and their contempt for the concerns of the members of the public who hold a rightist worldview. The maxim from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov applies to the right: “We are all guilty of everything and everyone, towards everyone—and I more than all the others.” For the downfall of society, the right is more guilty than all others, more guilty than the left.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 7:06:00 AM
Saturday, May 2, 2020
When mankind is hiding in the trenches, it confirms its spiritual and moral bankruptcy, and is susceptible to the ideologies of hate and violence. In the twentieth century’s second decade, when millions of men were inside the trenches dug across Europe, Asia, and North Africa, fighting the First World War, they were simultaneously being indoctrinated in Nazism, Fascism, and Leninist Communism. At the end of the great war, they emerged from the trenches as the brutal warriors of ideology, brainwashed to unleash any devastation in the name of Nazism, Fascism, or Leninism. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, people are once again in trenches (lockdown), which run across homes and offices around the globe: What kind of indoctrination is happening to them? The global lockdown could prove to be a point of no return, a breeder of revolutionaries, who will, in the years to come, plow without mercy through the present and future.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:15:00 PM
Friday, May 1, 2020
Capitalism and communism are not antagonists—they are blood brothers. Both were born in the heart of the western civilization, in the years following the American and the French Revolutions of the eighteenth century. Since their birth, the two blood brothers have coexisted. They have marched hand in hand and transformed the culture and politics of several nations. There has never been a capitalist nation that is not rocked by communist movements, and there has never been a communist nation where a section of the population is not rooting for capitalism. All democratic governments are a compromise between capitalist and communist tendencies. The rise of capitalism is linked to the Industrial Revolution. The rise of communism is an outcome of the intellectual work and political activism of Marx and Engels, and their followers. Since the eighteenth century, the regulatory system in all nations has kept pace with their industrialization—when the first industrialist was building his industry, the first bureaucrat was writing his regulations, and the first communist revolutionary was arousing the working class.
Posted by Anoop Verma at 6:50:00 PM
The fervent supporter of a political leader is the man who does not understand his political agenda at all; the same is true of the fervent adherent of a philosopher—he does not understand the philosopher’s philosophy at all. Blind faith motivates the followers in both politics and philosophy.