It is fun to play the public intellectual and drop the names of authors whose works one has never read with care. And it is very easy to get out beyond one's depth. At the moment I am thinking of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, and to a lesser extent, Rod Dreher. Their commentarial confidence is sometimes out of proportion to their competence. Gottfried, praising and drawing upon Gordon, here lays into Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism.
He also targets Dinesh D'Souza and Dennis Prager:
Perhaps one of the most ludicrous examples of the conservative movement’s recent attempt at being sophisticated was an exchange of equally uninformed views by talk show host Dennis Prager and Dinesh D’Souza, on the subject of the fascist worldview. The question was whether one could prove that fascism was a leftist ideology by examining the thought of Mussolini’s court philosopher Giovanni Gentile (1875-1944). Gentile defined the “fascist idea” in his political writings while serving as minister of education in fascist Italy. He was also not incidentally one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century; and in works like General Theory of the Spirit as Pure Act, adapts the thought of Hegel to his own theory of evolving national identity. It would be hard to summarize Gentile’s thought in a few pithy sentences; and, not surprisingly, the Canadian historian of philosophy H.S. Harris devotes a book of many hundreds of pages trying to explain his complex philosophical speculation.
Hey, but that’s no big deal for such priests of the GOP church as Prager and D’Souza. They zoom to the heart of Gentile’s neo-Hegelian worldview in thirty seconds and state with absolute certainty that he was a “leftist.” We have to assume that Prager, D’Souza and the rest of their crowd know this intuitively, inasmuch they give no indication of having ever read a word of Gentile’s thought, perhaps outside of a few phrases that they extracted from his Doctrine of Fascism. Their judgment also clashes with that of almost all scholars of Gentile’s work, from across the political spectrum, who view him, as I do in my study of fascism, as the most distinguished intellectual of the revolutionary right.
That's the scholar talking. I agree. But let me say a word in defense of Prager & Co. They reach people. They have influence. Who has heard of Paul Gottfried? Me and five other guys. I exaggerate, but in the direction of an important truth.
Or take Limbaugh. One day he demonstrated his ignorance of the concept of negative rights. But so what given that politics is a practical game the purpose of which is to defeat opponents and remove them from power?
And then there is the much-hated Trump. You say he has the vocabulary of a 13-year-0ld? That he is obnoxious and unpresidential? I agree. But he defeated ISIS. (And accomplished a dozen other important things in his first year in office.) Did Obama defeat ISIS? Would Hillary have? Of course not. She couldn't bring herself to utter the words 'radical Islamic terrorist.'
Skholiast at Speculum Criticum sends a friendly greeting that I have shortened a bit:
Like the recent correspondent you quote in your Christmas post, I've been reading you a long time -- I guess ten years now -- and I read you from across the political divide. Possibly I am further "left," or "radical," or whatever, than that reader -- I know I don't think of myself as "liberal," anyway. But when my liberal acquaintances get irritated with me, it's as likely to be because I've cited Burke, or Robert George, as Marx or Cornell West . . .
I'm closer to apolitical (duly acknowledging the dangers and possible incoherence of such a stance). Sure, you and I would have plenty to argue about -- and we would argue because the differences matter -- but I like to think we'd walk away still respectful, if shaking our heads. . . . Still, I read you for a lot more than curmudgeonly politics. It's for your critiques of scientism, your sane openness to mystery (does the [desert] landscape reinforce that?), and above all your study-everything-join-nothing stance, which has always resonated with me.
I share your love of -- and I think your reasons for loving -- Kerouac. And there's no other blogger from whom I'm more likely to learn a new name to track down. (For a long time, you were the only philosophy blogger I'd ever read who had cited [Erich] Pry[z]wara.)
You are right (I am afraid) that 2018 will bring more acrimony, not less, to politics . . . . My real concern is simply that philosophy itself remain possible (though *arguably* philosophy must seek justice & so must remain politically -- & socially -- "engaged," this is not obvious). Some regimes, and some social climates, are better than others for the possibility of philosophy. I am fairly persuaded that the acrimony doesn't help, but who knows? Perhaps philosophy is threatened more, in a different sense, when it is easier for it to fly under the radar w/o giving "offense." In any case I hope that real thinkers will always be able to recognize each other.
My concern too is that "philosophy itself remain possible." I would prefer to let the world and its violent nonsense go to hell while cultivating my garden in peace. Unfortunately, my garden and stoa are in the world and exposed to its threats. My concern, of course, is not just with my petty life, but with the noble tradition of which I am privileged to be a part, adding a footnote here and there, doing my small bit in transmitting our culture. In the great words of Goethe:
Was du ererbt von deinen Vätern hast, erwirb es, um es zu besitzen!
What from your fathers you received as heir,
Acquire if you would possess it. (Faust, Part I, Night, lines 684-685, tr. W. Kaufmann)
The idea is that what one has been lucky enough to inherit, one must actively appropriate, i.e., make one's own by hard work, if one is really to possess it. The German infinitive erwerben has not merely the meaning of 'earn' or 'acquire' but also the meaning of aneignen, appropriate, make one's own.
Unfortunately the schools and universities of today have become leftist seminaries more devoted to the eradication of the high culture of the West than its transmission and dissemination. These leftist seed beds have become hot houses of political correctness.
The two main threats, as I have explained many times, are from the Left and from Islam. They work in synergy, whether wittingly or unwittingly.
So politics, which has too little to do with truth and too much to do with power, cannot be ignored. This world is not ultimately real, but it is no illusion either, pace some sophists of the New Age, and so some battling within it, ideological or otherwise, cannot be avoided. But philosophy is not battling, nor is it ideology. There is no place in philosophy for polemics, though polemics has its place.