Saturday, October 18, 2003

WHO WILLS THE ENDS ... At OxBlog David links to this quiz, which tells you what your foreign policy position is (hmm. I wonder if OxDem could take a leaf from this book ...)
Fun stuff. I wish I could finish it. But for too many of the questions I agreed with more than one -- and in some cases, three out of four -- of the possible statements. Which I suppose comes as no surprise to anyone. (Based on the descriptions at the end, though, I'd say I'd probably best be characterized) as a liberal-internationalist-realist.)
And, from that position, a quick response to David's post. David declares that he believes that support for promoting and defending democracy should guide foreign policy; this I agree with. He also notes that both liberal internationalists and neo-cons share this goal; this, also seems to me to be true -- and no doubt explains why I find it possible both to make common cause with, and to engage in fruitful discussion with, my neo-con friends; we share basic moral commitments and aspirations and goals.
But where I disagree with David -- and this is I think at the heart of much of my disagreement with my neo-con friends -- is when he seems to suggest that this shared commitment to the end of democracy is more important than the means that we adopt in pursuit of this goal. David doesn't come out and say this exactly, but that's the feeling I get; he seems to wave disputes about means away as of secondary importance.
Now, I don't mean to dispute the importance of deciding on and committing oneself to the proper ends. Our choice of ends often does make a tremendous difference in terms of what policies we adopt and how we wind up affecting the world. Making the promotion and defense of democracy our end rules out pursuing courses of action that violate democratic principles or undermine truly democratic regimes. This is important to do, and its something the US must do, and has failed to do all too often in the past. On this, I think David and I fully agree, and this stems from our agreement on the proper ends of foreign policy.
But means matter. They matter morally, and they matter tremendously in practical terms. It is upon the selection of means that success or failure depends; and it is in employing certain means that human lives are saved or destroyed.
This is what I think liberals and realists, in their different ways, recognize -- and what some neo-cons (and I think that David, at least in his views on foreign policy, is a neo-con -- and, it is important to add, a particularly intelligent and morally upstanding one) often fail to; and it's what I think often leads to my own disagreements with my neo-con friends. Certain means are disastrous, even though they seem appealing; certain means are unacceptable, even though they offer us a chance to reach our goals. Machiavelli and Rousseau may have asserted that the ends justify the means, and that once one has decided on the ends, one must accept whatever means conduce to those ends. But, first of all, what means conduce to the desired ends is hard to know, and sometimes unknowable; and it is in the practical, uncertain decision about what means will work that the true challenge and crux of political action and political morality often lies. And, secondly, Machiavelli and Rousseau have, to my mind, often been disastrous teachers in this respect; far wiser have been those who remind us that evil means corrupt and devour noble ends, that certain things are never acceptable, and that we must always act out of a sense of care and responsibility for the often unforeseable and uncontrollable consequences of our actions, rather than marching forwards with our eyes riveted on our shining ultimate ends as our feet trample men and nations underfoot.

THIS sounds like a fascinating book, which I might like to read.
One key point that the review doesn't mention the book addressing is whether bartenders should drink or not. On the one hand, doing so does tend to dull one's edges; and bartenders need to be sharp, and quick.
On the other hand, I like a bartender who drinks. Otherwise I feel like I'm being poisoned.

GIFT OF THE JEWS?: THe first thing that strikes one about the Malaysian Prime Minister's recent comments (I'm not linking to them -- sorry -- but surely articles on them aren't difficult to find?) is, of course, the worrying 'Jews rule the world' vision that they reflect -- and the positive reception with which they met from the leaders of the Islamic world. And its naturaly on this that most people have been focussing.
But there's also an interesting historical claim going on here. The Jews, we are told,
"invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others."
Now, first of all, this wouldn't seem to me to be such a bad thing. With the exception of communism (admittedly, that's a pretty big exception), all of the things mentioned in this sentence are really quite good things. If the Jewish people could take full credit for them, it'd be, well, a proud moment for us.
Unfortunately, it's not really true. It IS true that Jews made an important contribution to the development and rise of socialism; and by the early 20th century an awful lot of the most important socialist leaders in Europe and America were indeed Jewish. But socialism wasn't invented by Jews. If you look at the first modern thinkers to set forth socialist theories -- Owen, Fourier, Saint-Simon, Sismondi, Cabet, etc. -- you don't find any Jews. Now, sadly, the claim about Communism is somewhat stronger, since the father of what's now called Communism was, of course, Karl Marx, who was born to Jewish parents though he wasn't raised a Jew and was famously anti-Semitic. And one of the fore-fathers of Communism, and an important early socialist thinker, was Moses Hess, who would later undergo a transformation and become the forefather of Zionism as well (so, there you go, all you conspiracy buffs out there. For a sensitive and sympathetic picture of the idealistic Hess, see Isaiah Berlin's lovely essay, reprinted in his Against the Current). However, other important precursors to Communism -- Blanqui and Babeuf -- were French, as were just about all the important socialist thinkers prior to m1848.
Democracy, it's generally agreed, was invented by the ancient Greeks. Athens, not Jerusalem. The theory of modern democracy developed over time, and its practice emerged gradually and to some extent unintentionally. Of the thinkers involved most were non-Jewish, and none of the countries that gave rise to democracy were controlled by Jews (though they did tend to be somewhat more liberal in their treatment of the Jews). As for human rights, the idea goes back quiet a ways and also developed over time. But the most important early thinkers to talk about modern human rights were, again, non-Jews -- Locke, for instance, and the authors of the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. So far as I know, the first Jew to significantly affect the theory and practice of human rights was Raphael Lemkin, the of the concept of the crime of genocide and lobbied tirelessly to get an international convention against genocide passed (it's understandable how a Polish Jew working in the mid-20th century would come up with that idea).
Now, there is one exception to the overwhelmingly non-Jewish history of liberal, democratic human-rights theory: as a certain former teacher of mine has argued, Spinoza was one of the first political philosophers to embrace something like democracy (although this itself is disputable, since Spinoza's theory of sovereignty often seems to resemble that of the very un-democratic Hobbes). Still, it's not at all clear that Spinoza was particularly influential in the development and diffusion of these ideas.
Most of these ideas were associated with, and did achieve either a first or an early, and certainly one of their strongest, articulations in the writings of, the thinkers of what's now often refered to as the Enlightenment. Now, the Enlightenment was, in my view (a disputed one), on balance certainly a good thing for the Jews; and it has duly been regarded by some as a Jewish (or Masonic; take your pick. Though there's actually some evidence for the Masonic theory; not so the Jewish one) plot.
But, as many scholars have argued over the past half-century, many thinkers of the Enlightenment evinced a distinct hostility to Judaism, and in some cases, such as that of Voltaire, to Jews generally. Arthur Hertzberg's classic work on the Jews and the French Enlightenment is, I think, rather over-blown in its suggestion that the Enlightenment was anti-semitic, and the source for modern, secular, racial anti-semitism; while Hertzberg is excellent on the sociology of the Jews in France in the 18th century, his account of the thought of the Enlightenment strikes me as grossly unfair to the philosophes, and his tracing of these ideas to Nazism seems to me to overlook too many epochal shifts in thinking (such as, for instance, the rise of the idea of race) for which the Enlightenment bore no responsibility, and which most thinkers of the Enlightenment would likely have deplored (though it is difficult to know, and certainly there are some Enlightenment thinkers who displayed pretty virulent racism, as some of Kant's writings painfully show). But even what promises to be a more measured and accurat account -- Adam Sutcliffe's Judaism and Enlightenment (which I haven't yet read, though I've seen some of Sutcliffe's earlier articles on the issue; see the review here) --presents a picture of much of the Enlightenment as anti-Semitic. (For a more varied and positive estimation of the Enlightenment's track record, see Ole Peter Grell and Roy Porter, ed.s, Toleration in Enlightenment Europe, and especially the chapters by Sylvana Tomaselli, suggesting that the Enlightenment wasn't so tolerante; Robert Wokler, suggesting that it was fundamentally tolerant; and Jonathan I. Israel, suggesting that it contained at least two distinct strands, one which advocated limited, and the other radical, toleration (and for an expansion on this theme, see Israel's book Radical Enlightenment, which focusses on -- guess who? -- Spinoza, and no doubt is what the Malaysian PM was referring to.)
So, I'm sorry to say that many of the fathers of liberalism, democracy, and human rights weren't in fact Jews -- indeed, many of them quite disliked Jews. That they could still recognize, and in some cases fight for, the claim of Jews to equal human rights and freedom from oppression is therefore all the more noble and admirable. It is an example of honesty and humanity from which, I fear, much of the modern Muslim world has much to learn -- and from which it is devoutly to be hoped that they will allow themselves to learn, and soon.

GREAT (?) MINDS ... I found myself telling a muddled version of the joke David Adesnik relates here last night, vis a vis the same topic -- and to two fellow-bloggers (who naturally already knew it), no less.

WHAT'S SO BAD ABOUT BUSH? Michael Kinsley explains. Link via Matt Yglesias.

META-MOMENT: And now for today's moment of self-reflexivity (or, as some would have it, navel-gazing):
So, in my second to most recent post, I mention Michael Walzer's idea of 'immanent criticism', and note that I find it compelling but also have some reservations. Then, in my next post after that, I essentially practice immanent criticism of/within the Democratic party.
Well, maybe there IS something to this immanent criticism idea.
Yet again, I find myself being Walzerian without even realizing it (or meaning to be).

D-PRESSING: So I've been looking over the roll-call for the votes on US funding for the reconstruction of Iraq in the House and Senate. It;s one of the weirder, and more disturbing, moments of my political life. Sure, I was critical of a lot of the anti-war rhetoric embraced by the Left, and allowed myself to at least entertain the possibility and hope that a Bush-led war on Saddam Hussein might actually do more good than harm. But I still felt like my usual political loyalties held up, and that I could still basically respect most of the politicians who I normally respect.
Now, though, I find myself siding with a bunch of people I dislike and distrust, and in some cases despise -- Bush, Cheney, Lott, Delay, Santorum -- and against not only my congressman and both of my senators (all of whom I broadly approve of, and one of whom, Frank Lautenberg, I actually like), as well as nearly all of those members of the senate to whom I'm generally well desposed (at least Lugar, Chafee, and Biden voted against imposing debt on Iraq, so that I don't absolutely dislike ALL of the people who I think voted the right way). Indeed, looking down the list, I began to wonder if there weren't some sort of trick here, and I was actually wrong in my position.
Well, maybe there is, but I don't see it. I don't see how imposing a huge debt on a people who spent decades under the kleptomaniacal and homicidal thumb of a despot we supported, whom we then attacked, whose electricity and water and medical service and police protection we've disrupted, and whose society we've thrown into a chaos -- I don't see how forcing such people to pay us back for investing to rebuild their country, which is both vital to our own interest and a moral, humanitarian imperative, is just, or savvy, or even barely respectable. The people of Iraq shouldn't owe us anything; it is we who owe them. And while our debt to them can never be repaid, we can at least go some way in making up for past injustice and neglect and betrayal by being generous in our help to this long-suffering people.
And, as I've said before, I expect the Dems to recognize this. We (though on days like this I wonder about using the term 'we') are supposed to be the party of generosity; that at least is what we pride ourselves on. We're supposed to be the party that favours more international aid, and debt relief to nations that need and deserve it, and intelligent internationalism. We're supposed to be that party that opposes selfishness and pettiness and shortsightedness.
It seems to me that those who've voted to lend rather than give money to Iraq have betrayed, and undercut, the best traditions and ideals of the party. They are not fit heirs to the proud tradition of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
Anyone who cares about the future of the region, and the future of the US's standing in the world -- and anyone who cares about the people of Iraq -- should be outraged, and should make their outrage known to those who have voted for so mean a policy.
(Oh, and also, all of those partisans of the Democratic Party who are in the habit of condemning all Republicans tout court as selfish and mean-spirited: you guys have much less of a leg to stand on after today.)
UPDATE: Well, the Dems seem to have taken leave of their senses, but the blogosphere rallies on behalf of sanity (what sort of weird alternative universe have we fallen into here? Or has it always been like this, and I didn't notice?); see the very nifty compendum, as well as the rightly outraged and pungent post, here.

MORE ON IDEOLOGY, COMMUNITARIANISM, ETC.: I'm still letting my ideas on Russell Arben Fox's response to my earlier post regarding communitarianism (and many other things, but Russell focusses mainly on my comments on communitarianism) ferment. In the meantime, I see that Brett Marston has also responded to my post (needless to say, I regard evoking posts in response from two such fine bloggers as Brett and Russell as one of the greatest honours, and greatest contributions to the blogosphere, of my otherwise far from illustrious career as a blogger.) Brett provides a good, clear post explaining what he regards as Michael Walzer's most important significant contribution to contemporary political theory -- the pluralistic conception of distributive justice outlined in Spheres of Justice (to find out what Walzer's theory is, you'll have to go over to Brett's site).
I agree with Brett's view that Walzer's plurslistic theory of justice is probably his most important contribution to political theory, and it's certainly the one I find most attractive and easy to agree with; as I said, to the extent that Walzer, and Miller, are pluralists, I basically agree with them (Walzer's distinction between thick and thin morality I find generally convincing, but have a few reservations about; his idea of 'immanent criticism' I find a bit more problematic, though I can go along with it to some extent; I generally like his writings on just war theory, but really don't know enough about the subject). I also agree with Brett that Walzer doesn't fall into the trap of having an overly simplistic, monolithic, consensus-assuming view of societies, and I didn't mean to suggest otherwise; while I do think that some communitarians fall into the trap of either regarding societies as less deeply conflict-ridden and morally pluralistic than they are, and others wish societies to be less conflict ridden and morally pluralistic than I think they should and often necessarily will be (I tend to think that Alasdair Macintyre falls into the second, in my view, error, despite the brilliance of much of his work), I think that Walzer, so far as my reading of him goes, does avoid those traps.
So, I pretty much agree with all that Brett says about Walzer, as well as his (very Berlinian) conclusion. Just wanted to make sure that's clear, and that no-one thinks that I'm bashing one of my favourite political theorists.

BERNARD WILLIAMS: Via Volokh, check out this lovely, and well-deserved, eulogy for Bernard Williams, by Martha Nussbaum. It's a good reminder to those who knew, and explanation to those who didn't, why Williams was such a special and important philosopher.

Friday, October 17, 2003

CONSPIRACY? PHEH! It takes a special sort of genius to combine incisive criticism of Arik Sharon's sanguinary blundering with a sometimes hilarious satire of Jews-running-the-world conspiracy theories (the justaposition of Isaiah Berlin with the Sopranos particularly delighted me, of course; ah, if only the exlixir DID work -- I've a few questions I wish I could put to old Sir Isaiah ...). David Aaronovitch has such genius.
And then, of course, you're reminded that there are actually people like this, and it all seems less funny.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

MORE ON IDEOLOGY, POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, AND CONSISTENCY: Russell Arben Fox has written a thoughtful and thought-provoking response to my post commenting on the discussion of different political ideologies/philosophies begun by John Holbo.
I'm going to have to mull over what Russell says some more before responding, which I'll try to do over the next couple of days; in the meantime, you should check out his post, as well as this earlier one. The latter, as well as John Holbo's original post, has got me thinking further about charges of inconsistency against those generally labeled conservatives and liberals in contemporary America. I'm not sure that such charges are really fair.
Now, if we simply phrase the question as ‘should personal behaviour be regulated by the government’, it would seem that both sides are guilty of inconsistency here. However, I don’t think they’re necessarily guilty of incoherence; I think one can make perfectly reasonable arguments to defend both prima facie inconsistent positions, and I think both positions are coherent when viewed in light of certain philosophies about human nature and society that go beyond the libertarian—communitarian/authoritarian spectrum. And I tend to think that a more differentiated and multifaceted position than ‘authority good, license bad’ or ‘liberty good, regulation bad’ is actually a desirable and positive thing (I say, as someone who is guilty of such ‘inconsistency’ – though I of course think that I’m perfectly consistent within the terms of my own beliefs)
First, take the maligned conservative (please!) (Ah, Henny Yougnman, how we miss you.) – the person who believes in economic laissez-faire but also in moral regulation. Now, it seems to me a perfectly coherent position – though one I disagree with – to say, ‘look, the economic system that will produce the best results is a free market system; such a system will not lead to chaos or injustice, but will give rise to prosperity and ‘spontaneous order’ (thank you, Freddy Hayek!) Such a system is good, furthermore, because it creates order without violating individual freedom, and respects the value of private property rights.’ Ok, so far, so good, or at least straight-forward. Now, our conservative adds – and in doing so, shows a certain amount of sophistication, rather than want of it ‘but, look, for the market to work, we need people who will act well – who will think rationally, who will police themselves, who will not behave in such a way as to overthrow the order of society on which the ability to act as a free economic agent ultimately rests. Locke was right: we enter into society in order to be able to safeguard our property rights. But in order to do that, we need to have a community that is sufficiently strong and cohesive to do this. And so we need to use the public order to produce citizens who will behave well – we need, in other words, to instill morality in people.’ (This is more or less the position that Russell Arben Fox endorses, except that in his case the aim is social justice or equality, whereas here the aim is economic liberty) Now, it becomes a question of what morality to instill, and how to instill it. It does seem to me rather bizarre to argue that, in order to protect public order, respect for property rights, social cohesion, etc., one needs to keep gay people from marrying. But one can see how, in principle at least, one could support both economic laissez-faire, and some level of social/moral regulation.
(Another, simpler argument is that economic freedoms are more important than certain social, cultural, and sexual ones; or that certain sorts of economic injustice are less serious offenses than violation of god’s law, or what have you. I find these arguments rather less convincing, since they’re based on a purely a priori assertion of what’s more important among different values – and one which happens to be the opposite of my own a priori stance towards the relative importance of values. But, again, it’s not incoherent)
What about the redistributionist liberal? Again, we can have a simple assertion of a priori priorities: personal freedom in the sexual, social, and political sphere is simply more important than liberty in the economic sphere. Or, with greater sophistication, we can say that individual liberty is always important and should always have priority, but that it should be limited by the Millian ‘harm principle’ – when the exercise of liberty is harmful to others, it may be restricted. The left-liberal will then argue for applying this principle mainly to economic actions by arguing that while having sex with a consenting adult member of your own sex in your bedroom – and, indeed, doing so under the name of marriage, with your adopted kids in the next room, and while receiving full partner’s benefits from your employers – doesn’t hurt anyone, paying your workers less than they can live on, or laying waste to the environment in order to acquire materials or manufacture products, or hording money that you’ve made rather than putting it back into the economy, does harm people. These are, of course, easier examples, and this argument won’t always work to justify the redistributionist liberal’s preferred policies and goals. So the redistributionist liberal will ultimately, I think, need to be something of a pluralist, and point to the importance of advancing goals other than liberty, such as equality and material well-being and a decent life for all, even while holding that non-harm-causing liberty should take priority.
The redistributionist liberal can also appeal to Locke, and say that the government exists only to further earthly, material goals, not to promote a particular set of beliefs about God or morality (though it may regulate morality insofar as the promotion of earthly goals demands it, i.e. both punishing people for theft or breach of promise, and propagating the view that theft and breach of promise are bad things that people shouldn’t do). Economic regulation, which aims at promoting the earthly/material goal of welfare, is thus allowable; moral regulation, unless it’s really necessary to protecting basic earthly interests and rights, isn’t the business of government at all.
Finally, the redistributionist liberal can take a position nearly opposite to the conservative laissez-fairist position sketched above, by saying ‘People know best how to live their own lives, and for people to live well and decently it is necessary that they be allowed to decide how to live. However, while people naturally can and should have control over their lives, they don’t have control over the material conditions in which they live; many will be the victims of unjust circumstances, and will need help overcoming them. Furthermore, to live a decent life, one must be left to choose the best mode of life for oneself; but one needs more than just negative freedom. One also needs certain material resources that are the conditions for positive freedom; without these, one will not be able to live well or decently, one may become a victim of illness or despair, or turn to crime and depravity, etc.’ Again, arguable – but perfectly coherent and not, I think, without merit.

I saw Steve Sachs earlier today -- which was a pleasure, as always -- and he mentioned that he's returned to posting recently. He has, indeed! You should go check out the site of one of the blogosphere's more nuanced and temperate thinkers, and especially his particularly fine posts on the unfair onus placed on diaspora Jews for the misdeeds of Israel (or, as it were, the use of the misdeeds of Israel as an excuse for anti-Semitism) and his discussion of delusion and political evil on the Korean Peninsula.

You know, it's not often that I'm in a position to say that I'm both disappointed with the Dems and impressed and pleased by George Bush. But, with the Bush Administration pushing for more aid for reconstructing Iraq, and some Dems opposing it, it looks like I find myself in that position.
And you know, I hate being in that position.
I think Josh Chafetz is right: the Dems should in this case be ashamed of themselves. It seems to me that they're putting partisan politics ahead of a serious humanitarian mission. And that's not OK.
I'm particularly disappointed because the two candidates for the Democratic nomination I was leaning towards the most -- Kerry and Edwards -- are both among those promising to vote against the aid package. I, unlike Josh, would still probably vote for either against George Bush; but now I'd have some major misgivings about voting for either one of them for anything.
And it's also becoming harder and harder to support a contender for the nomination other than Joe Lieberman. Again, not a position I like being in.
Come on, guys. Being a liberal Democrat shouldn't require that one favour cutting and running in Iraq. Bashing Bush for his actions in undertaking the war and messing up the peace may or may not be justified and right; but abandoning the Iraqi people now that we have gotten ourselves and them into this dangerous situation --that's just irresponsible, and selfish, and wrong.
And, damnit, I expect my party to recognize that.

WOW. This is really pretty fragrantly offensive (link courtesy of Chris at Crooked Timber) column -- which nevertheless does make a decent point -- current rape law does tend to be slanted in the direction of the alleged victim's rights, and can be used vindicitively against innocent people. But any sensible argument for this view is largely drowned out by passages like this:
"In the past, any woman crying rape under such factual circumstances would have had to show feeble-mindedness to warrant society's protection. Going voluntarily up to a stranger's room for intercourse or its preliminaries, and expecting a man to behave as a light switch that can be turned off at will, may be technically her right, but it is both biologically and logically mad."
Well, first of all, the important point is that it IS her right -- and not just 'technically'. If I go up to a man who's waving a knife threateningly and tell him to stop being such an idiot, my being stabbed would be a logically forseeable result, of which I would or should have been aware. But I still think that such a stabbing constitutes assault, if not murder, and that I have a right not to be stabbed/killed as much as if I had been minding my own business, and the stabber is at fault.
And, you know, even in such a situation, guys can stop themselves from having sex with women who say know and put up a fight. Not happily or comfortably perhaps, but they can, and they should, and if they don't they're criminals. This reminds me of the time when I was going for a walk with my father -- well before I hit puberty and so was capable of raping anyone -- and for some reason or other my father (always a gentle and principled but unpuritanical man) decided it was a good time to make sure I knew how to behave with women. I vividly remember to this day his instructing me that even if a woman stipped buck naked and started to be physically affectionate and seemed to be asking for more, if at any point she said 'no' I was to desist from anything I might be doing immediately. He was pretty forceful about it, as the fact that I still remember this attests. And I've believed in that principle of behaviour ever since. I like to think I'd live by it if the occassion came up, and if I didn't I'd be pretty consumed with guilt and self-hatred and unconsolable remorse. And I think that anyone who can't recognize that lesson is guilty of more than poor judgment or youthful hotbloodedness.
ALSO: Eugene Volokh has what seems to me a reasonable and thoughtful post exploring the serious issues that Amiel treats in so unthoughtful and off-putting a matter; well done. Eugene is in turn responding to an exchange between Gregg Easterbrook and Dahlia Lithwick, in which Gregg makes, in my opinion, a pretty flimsy and risible suggestion (which unfortunately marrs what begins as a thoughtful and compelling post) and Dahlia, to, I'm sure, no-one's surprise, disposes of it decisively (though she does leave out one argument against Easterbrook's suggestion that I think is important. This is that Gregg's suggested replacement for 'no' -- 'this is rape' -- while certainly unambiguous, is also somewhat harder to say. I mean, think of it: in such situations one's often dealing with a pretty confused, fast-moving, (to the victim) scary situation. I tend to think that articulating 'this is rape' takes more concerted thought and composure than simply saying -- or yelling -- no (another point that neither side addresses: the tone and volume of voice is important, as well as what's actually said). I do think that 'this is rape' -- or just 'rape!', which may be somewhat easier to get out -- is less open to ambiguity than 'no', and might be preferable. But I think 'no' should be clear enough; and if it isn't, the problem, as Dahlia suggests, isn't in the our words, but in ourselves.
(On the other hand, Gregg does have a great ranty post explaining why Quentin Tarantino just isn't so great. I tend to be sympathetic to his point, though I don't know Tarantino's oeuvre well enough to make any assertions about it.)

EMIGRE JEWISH POLITICAL THEORISTS RULING THE WORLD CONSPIRACY THEORIES: No, it's not (for once) about Strauss and his students. This time, it's the Frankfurt School, and the conspiracy-mongers are a bunch of far-right the-South-will-rise-again-ers, as Jacob Levy details.
Jacob wonders how the hell the CCC fastened on the Frankfurt School as the targets of their crackpot investigations. Well, several things. First, there's something to what they say, however wild and venomous: the Frankfurt School has been tremendously influential in the academy, and a lot of the left-leaning theory that the good folks at the CCC cringe in horror at has indeed been influenced by Critical Theory (whether this is a good or a bad thing -- and how bad it is if it's bad -- is another matter; I think that any balanced and reasonable observer will acknowledge that at least some members of the Frankfurt School have raised valuable questions, even if one isn't sympathetic to the School as a whole).
Another motivation, though, I suspect, has to do with the fact that the members of the Frankfurt School were not only Leftist, but foreign and ... Jewish.
Man. All of these emigre Jewish political conspiracy theories. And here am I -- a Jewish scholar of political thought residing in a nation of which I'm not a citizen -- and I got bupkus to show for it. Life's so unfair sometimes.

A STIRRING PLEA FOR CIVILITY: Josh Chafetz has a great post scolding -- in the most civil, thoughtful, mature of ways -- those on the blogosphere who are in the habit of demonizing and/or ridiculing their opponents. Yet more evidence of why Josh (with whom I disagree on a good many things) is both my valued friend, and one of the most effective and admirable voices in the blogosphere, of any ideological camp.
Oh, also, in response to the Matthew Yglesias query which set off the snarkiness to which Josh is responding, I'd point out that (as Matt and the rest of the gang at TAPPED well know, or should), Josh Chafetz is under 35, a conservative (at least on foreign policy and some domestic policy), a journalist of sorts (at least by the Weekly Standard's standards), and really smart. I therefore don't see why the question was necessary.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

MUSIC NOTE: While I think they're a good band, I've never quite understood why Wilco have been met with such rapturous reviews by many -- though admittedly I haven't heard their most recent album. Mainly, though, their music has just never captured me the way that Jeff Tweedy's previous band, Uncle Tupelo, did. I just re-listened to 'Watch Me Fall', and was reminded of this all over again. Good stuff.

PRODUCTIVITY: Pages worth of blogging written today: 6
Pages worth of graduate work written today: 1
This is not good. Stop me before I blog again.

There's a fascinating discussion going on at John and Belle's blog concerning, initially, inconsistencies within modern American conservatism, but by this point also the nature of liberalism, libertarianism, and to some extent political ideologies generally.
I’m particularly delighted by the comments thread because it gets tremendously Oxford-centric, with John Gray (now at LSE) and David Miller occupying centre stage.
The discussion has gotten me thinking about the nature of different political philosophies or ideologies (the difference between the two deserves much discussion in itself, and the person to consult on that is another Oxford don , Michael Freeden. Since I haven’t actually entirely figured out what Freeden’s conceptually sophisticated definition of the term ideology means, though, I’ll proceed to use the term in my own fuzzier and simpler way. I take ideologies to refer to families of political philosophies which, in being associated with one another and with particular practical applications and goals, become both fuzzier and simpler – and, generally, cruder and more demanding. This is not necessarily to say that ideologies are bad, though. They’re useful, and are as intellectually unsatisfying [to me at least; not to ideologues] as usefulness demands. I would also say that while political philosophies properly called are directed as discovering the truth about political things, ideologies are directed at justifying certain political arrangements or commitments), such as libertarianism, conservatism, etc. – about which I have a few thoughts. It’s also gotten me thinking, as the above long parenthetical displays, about the nature of political ideologies, about which I also want to say more. And it’s gotten me thinking, what with talk of Gray and Miller, about my own ideological history. I’ll start with this last, ad hominem portion of my thoughts.
First, Gray. As Jacob Levy notes, Gray’s been all over the map ideologically and philosophically and politically, going from a Millian classical liberal to a Hayekian libertarian-conservative to an Oakeshottian liberal-conservative (becoming a philosopher of Thatcherism in the process) to a Berlinian liberal to a Berlinian ‘post-liberal’ to a communitarian (as such briefly becoming a philosopher of New Labour) to Green to, now, a post-humanist who, as D-squared notes, seems to have gone off the deep-end into nihilism (though I’m not sure if he’s TOTALLY nihilistic. He doesn’t seem to me to say that there are NO values, just nothing specially valuable about humans; but the biosphere as a whole seems to retain some value, albeit value with respect to itself rather than with respect to human beings.)
The thing that the comments don’t reflect is, Gray’s really brilliant. Sure, he has a tendency to ricochet from one extreme to another; sure, his latest pet mania, for the ‘Gaia thesis’, and talk of human beings as ‘homo rapiens’, just verges on the crazed. But one reason why he’s adopted and then abandoned so many positions, and been such a vocal and high-profile and influential exponent of many of them, is that he’s driven by a sort of intellectual extremism that can be a philosophical virtue, whatever absurdities it may sometimes lead to. Simply put, Gray thinks things through in a particularly passionate, exacting, uncompromising way, and follows the implications of his beliefs of the moment through to their conclusions. Now, any sensible person knows that you shouldn’t do such a thing; and any true philosopher knows that you should, but not let yourself get completely carried away by the line of your reasoning, lest you ignore a whole world of other considerations and wind up blind at Colonus. But Gray, in the process of his philosophical peregrinations, has contributed some very valuable insights. His work on Berlin, for instance, seems to me somewhat wrong-headed as an exposition of Berlin’s own views (which Gray partially acknowledges), but also gets certain parts of Berlin’s thought – the importance of choice, the insistence on the tragic nature of human moral life and opposition to theodicy, secular or religious – powerfully right. And while I don’t think pluralism does undermine liberalism as Gray claims, I think there is a genuine tension between the two, which he was the first to really insist upon, thus changing and, for a time, enriching the conversation about pluralism (as well as that about liberalism) (Now, I think, that particular strain of conversation has been largely, though not entirely, exhausted with the publication of George Crowder’s and Bill Galston’s more convincing responses to Gray). Still, even if you think Gray’s wrongheaded, and find his going to one extreme after another somewhat comical, you have to acknowledge what an important contribution to our thinking he’s made.
Now, as for David Miller. It’s interesting that his name should come up in this post, since I just started attending a political theory workshop that he convenes, and so just met the man, yesterday; the topic of the first session of the workshop I attended was a paper of his about immigration, and I’m currently in the process of reading a paper he’s working on, on Isaiah Berlin and nationalism.
I therefore am suddenly quite interested in discussions of Miller’s work – and somewhat wary of joining in them, since I both don’t know his work well, and am going to be having personal dealings with him. On the other hand, I have no problem saying about what work of his I do know more or less what I tried to say to his face about it (this will hopefully be more developed than what I did say; if not, god help you, dear reader.)
Also, warning: we’re about to get a bit political-theory-wonky here. Those who are uninterested in such things can skip the next paragraph or so. Or, actually, can skip this post. And the next. Hmmm….
I feel a bit ambivalent about Miller’s work as I know it thus far, for somewhat similar reasons as those that make me somewhat ambivalent about Michael Walzer’s philosophical work, which it seems to me Miller is close to (on the other hand, Walzer is probably my favourite living political theorist, even when I feel uneasy with parts of his thought; and Miller seems to me to improve on Walzer’s theory in one way, at least – in holding, if I understood him correctly, that a universal or ‘thin’ standard of basic human rights can’t be derived from looking for a cross-cultural consensus over the value of those rights, contra what Walzer sometimes claims. Instead, Miller suggested, the standard for judging a right to be basic and universal is that it should be possible to argue for it [I would emend this to defend and understand, though that's perhaps assumed] from within any culture, even if the right isn’t recognized within that culture’s practices and institutions. [I was quite pleased to hear Miller say something to this effect yesterday – I’m afraid I can’t confidently vouch for how accurately I’m representing what he said, so be forewarned not to attribute any views to him on my testimony alone – since Walzer’s position on this is very close to that of Berlin’s, and the particular argument or approach that Miller criticised is the part of Berlin’s defense of a liberal pluralism where I think Berlin goes most seriously wrong. If I ever do foolishly embark on normative theorising on my own part, I think I might like to try to salvage/reconstruct Berlin’s argument, drawing largely on insights from Judith Shklar; but Miller’s suggestion also seems to me helpful and worth pursuing.])
Anyway. It’s always somewhat dangerous to deal with these ideological labels to characterize people; everyone has their own unique, complex, integrated position, which can’t be perfectly captured, and is often obscured, by applying terms like ‘liberal’ ‘conservative’, etc. But I still think that my discomfort with Walzer and Miller can be characterized most simply and easily, and not inaccurately, by recourse to such labels. Essentially, I think it comes down to this: Miller and Walzer are both, to some degree, pluralists, at least as far as their theories of justice go (at least this is my understanding); they’re also both, to some degree, communitarians. To the extent that their theories are based on a pluralist position, I tend to be sympathetic; to the extent that they’re founded on communitarian ones, I tend to be wary.
Now, I’ve always been a bit uncertain about how far Walzer’s communitarianism goes, much less Miller’s, or about how far my own views can be reconciled with communitarianism. To the extent that communitarianism is about pointing out the importance in people’s lives and values and political arrangements of their membership of certain groups, of the sense of belonging and of shared beliefs – to the extent that it’s an attempt to restore an awareness of culture and history to a political theory grown overly abstract and universal – I think it’s a good thing And to the extent that it seeks to contribute to the development of a more nuanced, open, emotionally and culturally rich liberalism, I think it’s a good thing. And in much of what I’ve read of Miller’s work, it seems like he’s doing that – like his positions, if not liberal, can be reconciled with a basically liberal outlook.
But there are some points where Miller, and Walzer, to say nothing of somewhat stronger communitarians, seem to me to go further, and to go places I can’t follow.
For one thing, I think that talk of shared values often over-estimates the level of consensus in any culture or society. This isn’t to say that some underlying consensus doesn’t exist. It’s to say, rather, that in certain cases the disagreements within a society are more significant, for political theory and practice, than the agreements (sometimes the opposite is true), and that shared values often give rise to vastly different interpretations. In many societies or cultures one has different camps who, appealing to the same shared values, interpret them in different ways, or draw different conclusions from them – and try to guide the society in the direction that their own views points to. One also – and here we get back to pluralism – also often has a number of values held in common by people in a given society which inherently conflict with one another. In either case, societies wind up being marked by moral conflict as much as by moral consensus, and the society’s shared values can’t provide a resolution of the conflict, nor can they adjudicate between different sides, nor can they even contain the conflict.
So, I tend to raise an eyebrow at appeals to shared values for those reasons. I also tend to worry about the tendency of communitarian appeals to shared values to let in a certain amount of what Tocqueville and Mill called the tyranny of the majority. This is a point that’s often been made in attacking communitarianism as being sort of crypto-authoritarian. I think this charge isn’t fair to Walzer, and I tend to doubt that it can be applied to Miller (Sandel’s work sometimes seems to me, from what little I know of it, a bit more prone to such charges), and I don’t want to push it. But it does relate to something that I do want to push a bit.
This is the question of whether communities themselves have rights, and whether these rights are equal to or of the same kind as those of individuals. By communities themselves, I mean that – the communities as entities, not as aggregates of individuals. It seems to me that political communities can sometimes abridge individual rights when upholding those rights would threaten the well-being of the members of that community in a suitably serious way, though it would have to be pretty serious. But I’m uncomfortable with the idea of a communal entity that is seen as having its own common, single interest, its own common, single good, and its own rights (and could thus impose binding obbligations on individuals) in the same way as an individual does. And there did seem to me places in the argument that Miller presented to us where he came close to this, I would say Rousseau-influenced, conception of the state or community (what struck me most was an analogy between immigration and marriage, where the state was likened to one partner in marriage).
This isn’t to say that the good of society as a whole, to the extent that such a thing can be identified – physical/political survival, public order, etc. – sometimes may take precedent over the interests of individuals. I just think we need to be very careful about not anthropomorphiszing the state or society.
And I do remain a liberal and an individualist, even if these commitments are tempered by pluralism; and to the extent that communitarianism does lead to a subordination of individual rights to communal good s, I tend to find it worrying.
[ADDENDUM: An interesting case, which raises problems for both liberals and communitarians, is that of the two girls in France who were expelled from school for wearing veils; see the discussion, with links, by Brett Marston here.]
Thinking about Gray’s ideological convolutions and the ideological/philosophical roots of my agreements and disagreements with the arguments I’ve read Miller make, as well as thinking about the meanings of and relationships between different ideologies such as conservatism, liberalism, libertarianism, etc., makes me reflect on my own ideological experiences and history. While I’ve no reason to believe it’d be of interest to anyone who doesn’t know me and find me interesting, it does, in addition to perhaps giving a better idea of the mind behind the writing on this blog, suggest to me that one’s philosophical commitments and ideological commitments needn’t always match up in a precise or necessary way (of course, I’ve always been particularly ambivalent and muddled in my thinking and commitments). The first political-philosophical position I can really remember taking was to be a Burkean/Arnoldian conservative (more Arnoldian at the time, as I hadn’t read Burke). This was followed by a period of pretty robust liberal individualism which I can in retrospect label Katebian, Emersonian raptures and all. Then came my encounter with Berlin’s liberalism and his version of anti-Utopian, ‘negative’ liberalism, within the bounds of which I’ve largely stuck since – though with a leavening of Shklar’s ‘liberalism of fear’ (which seems to me in general pretty reconcilable with Berlin’s position), Millian and Katebian liberal individualism, and with certain reservations introduced by exposure to Walzer’s and Taylor’s communitarianism and Strauss’s – whatever it is. Oh, and Kant and Weber fit in there somewhere too.
The thing is, throughout all of this, even during the early conservative phase, I’ve been more or less a liberal social democrat politically (what Ralf Dahrendorf has handily labeled a ‘social liberal’, as opposed to a classical liberal). It’s true that at some point reading Tocqueville made me rather more wary of centralized government than I had been before; but I’ve never been too tempted by libertarianism, or indeed classical liberalism, or neo-conservatism.
I tend to think that this is because there is a difference between one’s political philosophy, and the ideology one adopts, though they’re of course connected. And I think that, as I suggested above, there’s considerable philosophical diversity within any ideology, as well as considerable uncertainty and disagreement on practical political questions (this is especially true among liberals, it seems).
For this reason, it seems to me that one should try to avoid overly simplistic statements about – or feelings for – any ideology or political theory. Just about every ideology is going to have internal inconsistencies, and will also neglect important truths. And ideologies will also tend to overlap a good deal philosophically as well as practically.
Liberalism and libertarianism, to return to the discussion that set me off, provide a case in point. Both seem to me to span, as Jacob Levy rightly says, a number of different philosophical positions or justifications. Libertarianism does seem to me to emerge out of the larger tradition or family of liberalism, and to be pretty close to classical liberalism. And for this reason, despite what I suspect to be some pretty sharp differences about economic policy, a liberal like myself will often find himself in agreement with a libertarian like Jacob. (As for what liberalism means, I think that Russell Arben Fox’s invocation of Michael Walzer’s ‘adjectival’ definition of liberalism, in the comment stream, is spot-on (and another good example of how often I find, when coming up with a new thought, that Walzer’s already been there). I’d add that other terms can similarly be used in this adjectival way – a point made by the admirable, and to this discussion I think very helpful, article here that I linked to some time back.) All of these terms are useful; but all have to be used with an awareness of their limitations. And we must be careful to remember (as students of political theory such as yours truly can all too often forget) that these labels shouldn't take the place of analysis of particular positions and arguments; and that philosophical doctrines and positions are at best possible tools for making sense of reality; but they do not fully capture that reality, and should not be allowed to overwhelm it. Which is why I think one should try to learn from liberalism, conservatism, communitarianism, libertarianism, socialism, etc. etc., without becoming wholly tied to or blinded by any one position.
Ok; this post is getting longer without moving towards coherence, or any point really. I can blame this partly on the fact that, like John Holbo, I've got a bad cold (though he at least has the good sense to keep his posting light!); but it's also I fear a sign of my essentially gnostic turpitude (that one's for you, Reff). So I think it's best to cut it off now, before I go off further.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

STRAUSS, STRAUSSIANISM, POSTMODERNISM: Henry at Crooked Timber has a post on Strauss, which has generated a long and often acrimonious comments stream, which I've just come across.
Henry's criticism seems to me far more substantive than those I've seen elsewhere in the blogosphere, though it does seem to be more a criticism of certain overly-reverent accounts of Strauss (by Steve Lenzer and Bill Kristol, in this case) and some of Strauss's readings than the core of Strauss's thought as a whole, which it seems to me Henry, by viewing Strauss as merely a spokesman for Western Cold War conservatism, doesn't really address. (Those who want to grapple with some of the implications of Strauss's thought would do well to leave the blogosphere and go out and find the writings of Strauss's student Stanley Rosen, and of Rosen's student Robert Pippin -- see Rosen's many books, but especially Hermeneutics as Politics, and Pippin's Modernism as a Philosophical Problem, as well as his recent article on Strauss in Political Theory. Oh, and I also recommend you dig out my mentor Steven Smith's attempt, also in Political Theory, from a few years back (2001 I think) to portray Strauss as a philosophical liberal, albeit a sort of strange one. I'm not sure if I agree with Steven, who in his emphasis on Strauss's skepticism -- which i agree is the really good and important thing about Strauss -- underestimates what I think are the more dogmatic and anti-egalitarian aspects of Strauss's work).
I'm somewhat sympathetic to Henry's attack on Strauss's, um, inventive approach to interpreting texts; but I think his dismissal is too sweeping. I don't think that Strauss got Plato 'right' (though, not knowing Ancient Greek and being a mere, and fairly obtuse, mortal, I can't be sure whether he did or not, or what it would mean to get Plato 'right'); but I think his readings of Plato are careful, brilliantly inventive and suggestive (and, in taking Plato's works seriously as DIALOGUES -- as works of literature which need to be read in a literary way, rather than as straight-forward exposition -- both part of an estimable tradition of Platonic scholarship, and far more sophisticated and forward-looking than most interpretations of Plato in the English-speaking world when Strauss was writing). I think it's true that Strauss sometimes poured the wine of his own ideas into the bottle of Plato's writings. But I think that in evaluating Strauss's work, we should, while deploring any (unintentional) mislabling of the wine, also consider its inherent quality; and I think Henry doesn't do full justice to it (he also doesn't address Strauss's writings on Hobbes, Spinoza, Maimonides, which seem to me to demand more serious attention and respect, even if they don't command acceptance).
As for the comments that follow: I cannot be sure, of course, but I don't see much evidence that many of the comments (there are exceptions) are based on a great familiarity with Strauss's writings -- they seem to me based more on the unsympathetic, exaggerated, and incomplete picture of Strauss presented by writings about Strauss on the blogosphere or in some of the more one-sided contributions to the literature on Strauss (such as Shadia Drury's enterprising but, I think, overly prosecutorial, and at times mildly ridiculous, books). There certainly are moments in Strauss worthy of parody (and the work of some Straussians does sometimes read like parody), but to take this as representative of or exhaustive of Strauss is I think invalid. And to condemn all Straussians as practicing such perverse and peculiar readings is, again, unfair and untrue, and reflective, I think, of ignorance.
This isn't to deny that there are some Straussians who do live up to the image presented by some of the comments. But I don't think that one can conclude that Strauss himself, or all of his students and admirers, are like this. To speak only from what first-hand knowledge I have: as I've mentioned before, I studied as an undergrad with Steven Smith, who's published several articles on Strauss, has written two books on Spinoza (one of them, Spinoza's Book of Life, about to be published by Yale University Press -- pre-order your copy today!), the first one at least deeply influenced by Strauss, and who studied with Strauss's colleague and (to use a Godfather analogy that Steven would, I hope, enjoy) capo di regime Joseph Cropsey. In short, Steven can pretty safely be identified as a Straussian (though someone once refered to him to me as a left-deviationist Straussian. But I don't know what the hell that means.) He also sometimes offered readings of certain authors in class that seemed to me to partake of allegedly Straussian perversity, though I generally found his interpretations provocative and worth thinking about even when I had a different impression of the text's meaning. I also found Steven to be a widely and inspiringly learned scholar, a sympathetic and generous teacher, and a humane and honourable human being, some of whose intellectual peculiarities seem to me a result not of perversity so much as a semi-mischevious, but also very serious, desire to provoke thought by challenging assumptions (I think that Steven isn't the only Straussian who occassionally makes seemingly risible suggestions in order to get students to re-examine certain issues and their assumptions about those issues). This isn't to deny that Steven is pretty strongly devoted to certain ideas, and can get pretty worked-up when they are challenged; nor is it to say that he's always wholly fair to those with whom he disagrees (are any of us? Not too many of us, in my experience -- especially in academia!) But his learning, his love for philosophy and genuine dedication to philosophical searching, his concern for others and especially for his students, including those with whom he disagrees about some fairly fundamental things (myself included) are all considerable, and admirable, and belie the caricature of Straussians presented by many. They also seem to me to reveal Steven as more genuinely liberal, and a truer lover of philosophy, than many of Strauss's self-avowedly liberal and 'philosophical' critics. I doubt that all Straussians are as good teachers as Steven is; but many are, and this is itself honourable, and perhaps explains the loyalty felt towards Strauss and many of his students by their students.
A final, more substantial, less ad hominem response to some of the comments (in trying to justify the above ad hominem argument, I can only appeal to the fact that most of the comments were ad hominem -- and were based in many cases less, I suspect, on personal experience than on ideologically-generated caricatures. I'd also, with ugly and unearned self-righteousness, point out that my argument is a nice ad hominem argument, as opposed to most of what one's seen in these discussions. Which doesn't make it any more intellectually sound, of course. But it makes me feel less ashamed than making a nasty ad hominem argument would make me feel -- or should make anyone feel.) Many of the commentators make, or try to make, the substantive point that Strauss is basically a lot like (read, in many cases, 'no better than') post-modernist literary theorists, who twist the texts they're interpreting to mean what they, the critics/theorists, want the texts to mean. Now, in practice, it may be that Straussian readings of texts are as unconvincing and perverse and do as much violence to the texts' meaning as post-modernist ones, though I think, again, that varies from Straussian to Straussian (some examples. While Strauss's own reading of Locke strikes me as pretty wrong-headed, the Straussian Locke scholar Michael Zuckert has recently published some very interesting work on Locke that takes off from Strauss's reading, but also improves on it; while I'm not sure that I find Zuckert's readings wholly plausible -- I don't know enough -- I think they're somewhat harder to dismiss than Strauss's. And, to take something I know a tiny bit more about, it seems to me that the writings of Strauss's student Victor Gourevitch on Rousseau can't be accused of preversity or sloppiness or obvious falsity; indeed, I think Gourevitch is one of the best and most convincing living students of Rousseau -- a view that is shared by others, who aren't Straussians at all. There are also the writings on Plato, Hegel, Nietzsche and Heidegger by the aforementioned Stanley Rosen, and Steven Smith's well-regarded book on Spinoza, and Mushin Mahdi and Ralph Lerner's work on Medieval Islamic philosophy, etc.) But to liken Strauss to the postmodernists is to overlook a sharp difference between their aims and self-conceptions. The post-modernists the commentors are I think refering to ('post-modernist' is, of course, a pretty baggy and vague label) argue, if I understand folks like Derrida aright, that there is no real or authoritative or correct meaning to a text; textual meaning is indeterminate, is a construct of the reader and/or the reader's socially-instilled prejudices. Texts and readings of texts alike have no truth value, no essential content. Strauss, if I understand him aright, and his disciples (or some of them), say the opposite. The Straussian approach to texts is based on the idea that (philosophical) texts are the expressions of a very definite, unique, well-worked-out individual mind, addressing itself to certain essential problems and seeking the true answers to these questions. It further holds that, just as there is a true, essential, unchanging meaning or message to the text, so there is a correct way to discover this message -- by peering at the text as closely as possible, by trying to fathom its structure and detect hints within of things not said, by comparing it to other texts and by taking the appearance of inconsistencies or seeming absurdities as a hint to look more closely -- and by assuming that you know less than, and are less smart than, the author. (The last bit, while not always followed in practice, is I think a very good idea.)
Now, one might think that this is all wrong-headed (as a sort of semi-historicist, I certainly do think some of it is); but postmodernism it isn't.
ADDENDUM: I've just reminded myself that Henry is a prof in the UToronto Poli Sci department, which is something of a hotbed of Straussianism. This obviously gives his remarks, if not on Strauss, on Straussians (or at least the ones in Toronto, who tend to be Bloom/Mansfield Straussians) a good deal of weight -- and makes his honest, substantive, no-holds-barred onslaught on Strauss both more understandable, and more admirable. (It also makes one hope that Henry will eventually raise his objections to Strauss with his Straussian colleagues, which, by his own account in the comments section, he has yet to do; yet surely there are few people so well-equiped to offer a warm defense of Strauss's classical scholarship (especially regarding Thucydides!) than Clifford Orwin and Tom Pangle?)
[Note: post somewhat revised after its initial posting]

JOSH CHAFETZ. THE MAN. THE MYTH. THE NON(CONFESSED)-STRAUSSIAN. Or something like that. The foregoing failed attempt at being cute shouldn't prevent you from going over and checking out the e-interview with the estimable Josh Chafetz at Crescat Sententia. Josh, as usual, says a lot of interesting and thoughtful things.
So go, get to know Josh Chafetz -- and learn why those of us who have already done so are so glad we did!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?