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Saturday, March 19, 2016

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Bill,

I understand your distinction, and I'm in agreement that there is no inconsistency, theoretically or performatively, concerning how you write about philosophy and politics on this blog.

Yet, I must ask: What's your opinion on discourse that seemingly blends both philosophy and politics? Is this what you mean by "philosophy-as-worldview"? I have a couple of examples in mind:

1) Christian apologetics: Apologist William Lane Craig, for example, is indeed a philosopher, and the Kalam cosmological argument requires knowledge of philosophy in its presentation and defense, which Craig clearly exhibits. However, is not apologetics also essentially political? It seems to me apologetics is employed to render the Christian worldview rational and turn back the advance of the militant New Atheists who are intent on driving Christians and Christian ideas from the public square as a matter of identity politics. And to combat this assault against us, we utilize philosophy, e.g., debunking the meme that atheism is a "mere lack of belief" or the scientism most members of the Cult of Gnu are tacitly committed. I can't cite the post or posts in which it occurs, but you posit on this blog roughly that one of the roles of philosophy is to expose bad philosophy. Surely then, demonstrating the New Atheists' and their acolytes' as piss-poor philosophers is a legitimate use of philosophy that might indeed require polemics for the sake of defending the body of Christ from encroaching secular totalitarianism.

2) Philosophy that is intended to catalyze social change or revolution: In this I refer to Marxism and its pernicious offspring, Critical Theory. As I understand him, Marx eschewed the label of philosopher -- as you oft repeat here: "The philosophers have variously interpreted the word; the point, however, is to change it." But in order to understand Marx, Gramsci, Lukacs, Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, one must understand dialectical materialism, which necessitates an understanding of Hegel and other philosophers who influenced Marx, e.g., Feuerbach and Nietzsche.

Therefore, how would you then characterize the theories of Marx and the Frankfurt School? Are they not philosophy? Perhaps, their tradition is not a closet in the room of social philosophy in the greater mansion, but a porch or deck that is still attached yet outside the domicile.

If this is so, then it appears philosophy and politics are wedded once again, especially because I see the traces of Critical Theory everywhere in politics. For instance, race baiters want to have a conversation about "systemic racism" and white power "structures." Are they not referring to what Marx deemed as society's superstructure, which is what critical theorist scrutinize as opposed to the means and modes of production that Marx emphasized? Does not "cultural oppression," according to critical race theorists ("critical" being another dead give away), refer to the notion that the values of personal and fiscal responsibility are considered good in society because it serves the interests of the white bourgeoisie and maintains their dominance over the black proletariat? Is this not a racial riff on the Gramscian concept of cultural hegemony?

The examples are legion, but the point is, don't we need to rely on and do philosophy in political discourse to expose the Marxism latent in mainstream politics? One paramount way to deal with Leftist obfuscation, in my opinion, is to make abstract distinctions, which is the essence of philosophy. But even more to the point of blending philosophy and politics, should we also not polemically hoist them on their own Critical petard and make them hold their Marxist theoretical baggage? After all, Marx is still somewhat a dirty four-letter word in the mainstream. If black campus imbeciles rail against "cultural appropriation" of tacos and yoga, we should retort that they are intellectually indebted to Frankfurt Jews, who otherwise would be considered white, and thusly they are the ones who should apologize for their "cultural appropriation," their unwitting plagiarism of white German Marxist ideas. The average social justice warrior is so enamored by their own righteousness, to be condemned as a Marxist, a "useful idiot," does more to shut them up than trying to purely reason with them. I don't see how this politics, this war by other means, can be successfully waged without transforming "fair mistress Philosophia" into a shield maiden.

I've waxed on enough.

Thanks,

Ben

Very good comments, Ben. Thanks.

I said "Subject to some qualifications, there is no place for polemics in philosophy proper." You are supplying some of the qualifications.

Ad (1). >>However, is not apologetics also essentially political?<<

I don't see that Christian apologetics is essentially political, but I'll grant that it is often political and that it is political at the present time. Suppose Christians are asked by honest inquirers to defend their views, honest inquirers who have no desire to suppress them. And let's also suppose that the Xians have no desire to impose any specifically Xian doctrines or practices on others. In such a situation apologetics would not be political.

There are branches of philosophy that have no political implications. The philosophy of set theory, for example. Much of ontology. What are the political implications of trope theory?

But if I give a strictly philosophical argument against the moral acceptability of abortion, that will have political implications if one also holds that some practices that are immoral ought to be illegal and that abortion is one of these practices. There needn't however be anything polemical about my strictly philosophical argument against abortion.

>> Surely then, demonstrating the New Atheists' and their acolytes' as piss-poor philosophers is a legitimate use of philosophy that might indeed require polemics for the sake of defending the body of Christ from encroaching secular totalitarianism.<<

Why must polemics enter into it? Someone who maintains that atheism is merely a lack of belief in God or gods maintains something that can be easily and calmly refuted.

Similarly, I can non-polemically argue that it is wrong for the state to force a baker to cater a same-sex 'marriage' event. Polemics comes into it when the wielders of state power refuse to be moved, or simply are not persuaded, by one's arguments. Then one is forced to fight to defend one's way of life. Polemics enters at this point verbally and perhaps also physically.

>>Therefore, how would you then characterize the theories of Marx and the Frankfurt School? Are they not philosophy? Perhaps, their tradition is not a closet in the room of social philosophy in the greater mansion, but a porch or deck that is still attached yet outside the domicile.<<

Very good question. Marxism is clearly a worldview or ideology in my sense: a system of action-guiding beliefs including beliefs about what ought to be done. It is in this sense a philosophy, one among many. But is it philosophy? Is it an attempt to get at the truth?

The Marxism of the 'cultural Marxists' is better described as anti-philosophy, as either indifferent to truth or dismissive of it altogether. Earlier Marxists thought they were doing science, a dialectical science of nature and society.

>>For instance, race baiters want to have a conversation about "systemic racism" and white power "structures." Are they not referring to what Marx deemed as society's superstructure, which is what critical theorist scrutinize as opposed to the means and modes of production that Marx emphasized? Does not "cultural oppression," according to critical race theorists ("critical" being another dead give away), refer to the notion that the values of personal and fiscal responsibility are considered good in society because it serves the interests of the white bourgeoisie and maintains their dominance over the black proletariat? <<

The idea is that morality, religion, philosophy, law and all such cultural products are nothing but bourgeois ideology whose sole function is to legitimate the capitalist status quo, keeping those in power in power.

So it is not really philosophy but a dressing-up in ideas of the will to power of certain groups who feel themselves to be oppressed. That is why they don't care whether their 'critical race theory' is true.

>>The examples are legion, but the point is, don't we need to rely on and do philosophy in political discourse to expose the Marxism latent in mainstream politics? One paramount way to deal with Leftist obfuscation, in my opinion, is to make abstract distinctions, which is the essence of philosophy.<<

Don't forget my distinctions. Political philosophy is not the same as political action. The first needn't be polemical and shouldn't be. Part of political philosophy is the critique of Marxism and its offshoots.

Your 'political discourse' is ambiguous. Do you mean discourse within political philosophy or discourse as part of political action?

Bill,

Thanks for answering and clarifying. I apologize for taking so long to respond, but I haven't had time this week to sit down and do so.

Anyway, you write: "The Marxism of the 'cultural Marxists' is better described as anti-philosophy, as either indifferent to truth or dismissive of it altogether. Earlier Marxists thought they were doing science, a dialectical science of nature and society."

But here's the rub, as I understand them, they presuppose truth even in their denial or indifference to it. And as much as the likes of Adorno likes to ululate against the "affirmability of being" because of the Holocaust, he and his compatriots are making an inference from the occurrence of the Holocaust to an ontological conclusion; on the contrary to the Frankfurt School, the transcendent truth seems to be out there for them even if--as you wryly have noted recently on this blog--"there is no God, and Marx is his prophet." Or perhaps more accurately, if we continue the Islamic parallel, Marx only holds a Jesus-like role in that he received only part of the transcendent revelation, and it is in fact they who are the final, greatest receivers of transcendent revelation like Muhammad. In other words, there is still no God, but it's the Frankfurt School, not Marx (Peace be upon him), who is his prophet.

They don't believe in "pie in the sky," but as I understand it, they believe it's at least possible for "pie on earth" to be baked and had by all. They seem to operate from the premise that people participate in their own oppression and are unable to see the truth of their own enslavement, being both blinded and subjugated by the likes of popular music, TV, cinema, social norms, etc. as it's true. They make positive arguments about these sort of things. So as much as they don't care for the truth, they seem to assume it in their own enterprise, and their philosophy-as-worldview seems rife with it.

So is this incoherence just typical continental sloppiness? Have I been too charitable in my interpretation of their views, projecting my own realist tendencies onto their anti-philosophy?

"So it is not really philosophy but a dressing-up in ideas of the will to power of certain groups who feel themselves to be oppressed. That is why they don't care whether their 'critical race theory' is true."

I've come to same conclusion based on just the sheer level of inconsistency in applying what they cite as objective justification when they argue, if they do so at all.

"Don't forget my distinctions. Political philosophy is not the same as political action. The first needn't be polemical and shouldn't be. Part of political philosophy is the critique of Marxism and its offshoots.

Your 'political discourse' is ambiguous. Do you mean discourse within political philosophy or discourse as part of political action?"

I mean discourse as part of political action, say an editorial or a public debate at a college. When I refer to making distinctions, I'm talking about, for instance, in regard to Leftist anger toward Georgia's religious freedom bill, separating the sexual orientation of a person (homosexual or heterosexual) with an action chosen by a person (getting married to the someone of the same sex). Agents of the Left refuse to grant this basic distinction, conflating a freely acted upon behavior as if it's an immutable characteristic intrinsic to personhood. That's why, in my mind, they need to be hit with both barrels, so to speak, for reliably being so willfully obtuse and threatening our way of life as Christians.

Anyway, the act of distinguishing between the two ontological categories of being and behavior here seems useful in diffusing, polemically or civilly, the charge of bigotry. Is philosophy not the art of making critical distinctions like the one so described? Can it not occur in discourse-as-political-action just perhaps without jargon such as "ontological"?

If I understand your qualifications in regard to my original questions, I think you and I are in agreement. It's been my experience that New Atheists and or Leftists are seldom this respectful or charitable in these sorts of affairs, and that's why resorting to polemics supplemented by the pertinent philosophical distinctions in discourse-as-political-action is permissible. It's not "pure" philosophy, but I still see philosophy--in knowledge and execution of it--as integral in fending off these totalitarian defilers of Western civilization and culture.

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