Skip to comments.Pillars of the Postmodern Age (link list)
Posted on 07/07/2002 8:03:58 PM PDT by polemikos
Machiavelli, the inventor of "the new morality";
The most amazing thing about this brutal philosophy is that it won the modern mind, though only by watering down or covering up its darker aspects
Kant, the subjectivizer of Truth;
He gave impetus to the turn from the objective to the subjective, including the redefinition of truth itself as subjective. The consequences have been catastrophic.
Nietzsche, the self-proclaimed Anti-Christ;
Nietzsche, the insane inventor of the "superman" was not only the favorite philosopher of Nazi Germany, he is the favorite philosopher of hell.
Freud, the founder of the sexual revolution;
Freud constantly assumes that our wants are needs or rights; that no one can be expected to live without gratifying them; or to suppress them is psychologically unhealthy.
Marx, the false Moses for the masses;
Marx embraced atheism and communism, yet Marxism retains all the major structural and emotional factors of biblical religion, promising to deliver people from slavery.
Sartre, the apostle of absurdity.
Tough-minded honesty combined with fundamental errors led to repellant conclusions like the meaninglessness of life, the arbitrariness of values and the impossibility of love.
A 6-part series posted by JMJ333
I hear that sentiment echoed here quite a bit.
My blindness again as I skipped over your nice little summation. I will proof read one of these days. ;)
Nietzsche was not a Nazi. His sister took control of his estate when he was old and sick, and she was a Nazi, she was the one who used him to support Hitler. But Nietzsche was not, he even said Germany should never harm its Jews, because any people who had suffered so much must be extraordinary. Does that sound like a "Nazi" to you?
This is where you come in, Torie. Always room for a pedagogue.
by Roger Kimball
Philosophy need not trouble itself about ordinary ideas. G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Nature
He described what he knew best or had heard most, and felt he had described the universe. George Santayana, on Hegel
Philosophers are hardly ever cynical manipulators of their readers minds. They do not produce delusions in others, without first being subject to them themselves. David Stove, Idealism: a Victorian Horror-story (Part One)
Hegel, Bertrand Russell observed, is the hardest to understand of the great philosophers. Hegel would not have liked very much that Russell had to say about his philosophy in A History of Western Philosophy (1945). Russells exposition is a classic in the library of philosophical demolition, much despised by Hegels admirers for its vulgar insistence on common sense. (Best line: that Hegels philosophy illustrates an important truth, namely, that the worse your logic, the more interesting the consequences to which it gives rise.) But I am not at all sure that Hegel would have disagreed with Russells comment about the difficulty of understanding him. He knew he was difficult. He was always going on about the labor of the negative, the superficiality of mere common sense, and the long, strenuous effort that genuinely scientific (i.e., Hegelian) philosophy required. It is even said that on his deathbed Hegel declared that there was only one man who had understood himand he had misunderstood him.
I first came across that mot in Søren Kierkegaards Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846), another anti-Hegelian salvo, quite different from Russells. Neither Kierkegaard nor his editors supply a source for the observation, and Terry Pinkard, in his new biography of Hegel,  sniffily describes it as an apocryphal story, emblematic of the anti-Hegelian reaction that quickly set in after the philosophers death in 1831.
I was sorry to learn that. Like many people who have soldiered through a fair number of Hegels books, I was both awed and depressed by their glittering opacity. With the possible exception of Heidegger, Hegel is far and away the most difficult great philosopher I have ever studied. There was much that I did not understand. I secretly suspected that no onenot even my teachersreally understood him, and it was nice to have that prejudice supported from the masters own lips...
From The New Criterion Vol. 19, No. 1, September 2000
©2000 The New Criterion
Nietzsche is always good for abuse, and misreading. Freud by no means favored unleashing the id, and in fact feared it. Like Hobbs, he percieved the beast that lay within the human psyche that needed to be tamed. Dennis Prager likes Freud, so do I.
I hated reading Kant in college. I will check up on him, but to suggest that he is inventor of destructive relativism simply isn't going to cut it.
Whatever one may say about Marx, one thing is clear: the Marxian God is dead. It simply doesn't have much influence anymore. That's why we all knash our teeth these days about Islam. We DO have a physcological need to find a devil in corporeal form to hate and fear pending our prior exit.
I don't know anything about Satre really. Teach me.
This story seems to work in Hegel's favor. But certain things MUST be understood about him. The most important: the excercise of power through manipulative negation. Satirist, humorists, and ironists beware!
Therefore I ask, isn't any philosophical doctrine exclusive by nature? Most often, are they not refutations or more finite redefinitions of previous widely-held beliefs?
It seems to me that philosophers from the onset of the scientific and industrial revolutions have erred in their failure to incorporate any allowance for any "divine" power that could not be "scientifically" proven. Though they may have overshot in their desires to provide a great new leap "forward" in understanding, does that necessarily mean that their contributions were not more positive than negative?
Propositional discourse has its perils. If genre theory is still the chess game of choice, Northrop Frye may have some answers. Although Walker Percy is always informative, Ralph Wood's Comedy of Redemption: Christian Faith and Comic Vision in Four American Novelists helps out with understanding the relevant ontology. I can recommend that as an antidote if the Hegel ride ever gets too dizzy.
He made some fantastic statements concerning post-modernists. In just his lifetime, Muggeridge witnessed Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and all the rest--fall and fail---yet the figure of Christ endures and triumphs.
In his own lifetime Jesus made no impact on history. This is something that I cannot but regard as a special dispensation on God's part, and, I like to think, yet another example of the ironical humour which informs so many of His purposes. To me, it seems highly appropriate that the most important figure in all history should thus escape the notice of memoirists, diarists, commentators, all the tribe of chroniclers who even then existed . . .
Of course. He created it to be scary. It was part of his production number. Had a long run to SRO crowds but ticket sales drop every year and soon it will be in the nostaligia aisles of your local antique/collectable mart next to the books on phrenology and leeching instruments.
The problem is that Nietzsche's theories of the "superman" can be read equally well two ways - one, as a call for individualism and independence in the face of conformity and submission, or, as Heidegger presented it, a call to authoritarianism. But the first reading is really the fairer reading, IMO, especially if you spend much time with it.
Might I suggest you substitute Heidegger for old Friedrich? Seeing as how he was essentially the official state philosopher for the Nazis and all ;)
Copyright (c) 2000 First Things 107 (November 2000): 52-55.
That Loveless Century
The Sexual Century. By Ethel Spector Person. Yale University Press. 387 pp. $35. Reviewed by Paul R. McHugh
In The Sexual Century, Ethel Spector Person, a New York psychoanalyst associated with Columbia University, presents a collection of her essays on sexual development and pathology written over the last twentyfive years. Here one finds Dr. Persons reflections on such topics as crossdressing, transsexualism, homosexuality, sexual fantasies, and the psychological differences between men and women.
Dr. Person employs all the standard, and now scientifically dubious, Freudian explanatory devices in her arguments, including castration anxiety, the oedipal complex, even penis envy. That, along with the typical Olympian style that Freudians are prone to employ evenor especiallywhen they are saying nothing different from what others have said before them, deprives this book of much sustaining interest. To make sex boring is difficult, but as many others have noted the Freudians, after a century of practice, have mastered the trick.
Two impressions occurred to me in reading these pages that reflect on the evolution and standing of Freudian thought and practice at the turn of the century. The first is that Dr. Persons study provides further evidence of the retreat of psychoanalysis from its initial and provocative claims to be the basic science of human nature. The second is to notice again the remarkablebut all too humantendency to claim credit but to avoid blame for actions one has championed. Dr. Person claims credit for her discipline in liberating us from repressive sexual moralism, but takes no responsibility for the deadly consequences of sexual liberation that we face today.
This book is devoted to the discussion of sex and its deviations and makes no attempt to employ psychoanalytic views to illuminate other aspects of human psychological constitution or social behavior. Freud and his followers made larger claims for their ideas. They asserted that our libidinous attitudes, drives, and conflicts explained everythingour fears and failures, of course, but also our false claims to rationality, especially as related to our creations, life choices, commitments, and character. Based on these opinions Freud saw himself as a new Copernicus and a conquistador from psychology. He preened himself as an authority in the humanities as well as in the clinic, a scientist whose understanding of sex, and of our tendencies to deny and repress its power, gave him the key to understanding human nature and made him a bearer of the cold light of fact to an ignorant and mythridden civilization.
No oneespecially no scientist of mental lifebelieves that anymore. The power of reasonand how that power can be a force for good even as it can be disrupted by disease or deflected by conflictsis evident to all. Our sexual natures are a part of us, but far from the fundamental part. We are both freer and more complex than classical psychoanalysis ever acknowledged.
Not even in the domain of therapy do psychoanalysts reign unchallenged any longer. Cognitive/be havioral therapy, specialty group therapies, behavior treatments, and psychopharmacology all have evidencebased authority in the treatments of anxiety, depression, alcohol/drug addiction, and psycho social demoralization.
The turn of a psychoanalyst such as Dr. Person towards the rare and esoteric sexual disorders is not an advance into new territory but a surrender of the main concerns of psychiatry to other investigators and clinicians. But even in this clinical culdesac Dr. Persons conceptual energy is as depleted as her ideas are shopworn.
This is especially disappointing if one seeks answers to practical questions that Dr. Persons long experience in the sex clinics might deliver. For example, even though their numbers are vanishingly few, a close study of patients with sexchange operations might demonstrate what outcomes constitute a success or failure of this lifethreatening operation. Such knowledge would help us decide about its application and utility. Yet Dr. Person apparently does not see this issue as interesting. She describes her experience with these patients by telling psychoanalytically inspired stories about them. But her final opinionanticipated by any reader accustomed to the fixed rails of Freudian thoughtseems at once trivial and untrue: if a patient has long believed that his gender of rearing was in error and really wants this surgical operation, he and/or she best have it. Dr. Persons distinctions between sex and genderthe one given by nature, the other constructed by cultureare straightforward. But they are the very ideas that lead most of us to recognize that surgical sexchange is nonsense, resting as it does on the preposterous assumption that ones biologic constitution is as much a malleable artifact as ones dress.
In three chapters on the correlation between sexual fantasies and sexual experiences, Dr. Person makes her only attempt at an evidencebased opinion. She demonstratesfrom questionnaires given to college studentsthat fantasies and experiences are highly correlated, and concludes from this that the experiences provoke the fantasies. But of course a correlation between observations does not demonstrate causality; the more likely explanation for Dr. Persons correlative data is that heightened sexual fantasies stimulate the search for sexual experiences. Yet she does not even discuss this possibility.
As one who has watched psychoanalysis evolve in America over the last half of the twentieth century, I find this book a paltry endproductstuck on sex and making crude errors over cause and correlation. Yet I find it hard to feel pity for Dr. Person: if she is surrendering the broad claims of psychoanalysis and turning essentially to sexology, then she has something else to answer for.
Dr. Person is not alone in claiming that Freudian psychoanalysis was a major force influencing sexual thought and practice in the twentieth century. But the title of her book, The Sexual Century, suggests that Dr. Person believes this influence to be wholly beneficial. She writes, Sexual liberation has . . . transformed the way [we] regard our bodies and live our sexual lives. . . . These changes in attitudes and behaviors are . . . the product of the ideology of selffulfillment coupled with medical advances that have made sex safer, less likely to have unwanted consequences. Even a casual reading of this statement provokes one to wonder how Dr. Person, given that she labors daily in a great American hospital, can ignore the awful results of the liberation she celebrates.
I work in such a place and see it awash with the detritus of sexual liberation. I oversee the treatment of hundreds of patients afflicted with sexually transmitted diseasesmany wondering who betrayed them. The HIV virus is a diabolic life form. In the 1970s, when Dr. Person began her writings, no one could have predictedor even imaginedthe biocharacteristics that make it so lethal. But no longer can one offer the excuse of ignorance. The liberationist doctrine certainly helpedalong with such other changes in our world as consumerism and ready contraceptionto develop the hosts and environments within which the HIV virus flourishes.
The brightest and wealthiest of my HIVafflicted patients can hold out against its ravages by means of the most complicated of medical/pharmacologic regimens. But most poor patients with HIV are unable to afford or sustain these treatments, and we watch their progressive decline in a fashion one would not wish on anyonea worsening debilitative weakness, aggressive superimposed infections, dementia, apathy, and death.
In fact, the treatments we presently have (that carry, one should not fail to mention, their own toxic, potentially lethal, side effects) will sooner or latermostly soonerfail in their primary purpose as the virus mutates into a resistant form and erupts with new vengeance. I can present many stories about these patients, their impairments, and their fears for the future. Some of them were at one time counterparts of the fantasizing college students Dr. Person studied. But they are now tragic human beings who occasionally will mention to me how they never expectedor were warned aboutthe medical risks of their sexual behavior. A peculiar kind of blindness is required to work every day in a large American municipal hospital and still laud sexual liberation.
Psychoanalysis was one of the Big Ideas of the twentieth century. This book shows that it may soon join the other leading creeds from that loveless century, Marxism and Eugenics, in the sizable dustbin of history reserved for the doctrines of that time.
Paul R. McHugh, M.D., is the Henry Phipps Professor of Psychiatry and Director and PsychiatristinChief at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Maryland.
To say you are oversimplifying matters would be to ... oversimplify. Let me try to clear up at least some of the confusion, if at all possible, with a few admitedly oversimplified observations:
Two important factors in approaching Kant's critique of reason are that:
1) All throughout the Middle Ages, theological philosophy had been claiming that it was easy to prove the existence of God. And they didn't mean just give good reasons or strong arguments, but prove with mathematical certainty that God exists, such that even proclaimed atheists would have to believe.
2) Unfortunately, this mathematical proof proved illusive. Not only had refined logical analysis failed to support this assertion, but worse yet, the Scottish philosopher David Hume has successfully destroyed the very notion of necessity as it pertains to the natural world of cause and effect.
Thus Kant,as a Christian rationalist philosopher, was faced with the formidable task of re-founding both faith in God and a common-sense approach to the natural world on a new foundation. His key idea was what he termed 'transcendental aperception' -- a faculty inherent in human beings which (again to simplify) allows us to translate the chaotic, uncertain data of sense perceptions into orderly concepts. Since cause-and-effect could not be derived from the natural world, Kant had to show that it (along with mathematical reasoning) was an embedded concept, put there by God, and fundamental to human reasoning. Whether Kant was successful in this attempt is debatable, but what is absurd is to argue that Kant was trying to de-throne Reason. He wasn't, he was trying to re-establish its supremacy. Hume and the other British empiricists, by putting all their faith in 'nature' and none in God, had already de-throned Reason.
For those truely interested in this aspect of philosophy, another interesting solution was put forth by Bishop Berkeley (that's right, the one they named the city after). He accepted that the natural world didn't exist in its own right, but tried to demonstrate that the ideas that constitute what we perceive as physical reality are put before us by God himself, thus making nature even more real (because rooted in God's own mind) than if it actually existed in its own right. Berkeley was a true subjectivist, in distinction to Kant, who asserted the 'Ding an sich' (thing in itself). All Kant said was that, as mere humans, we don't directly perceive things as they are in themselves, but only second-hand. The former is reserved for God alone, yet reality is (indirectly) knowable by humans through reason and sense perception. The worst you can say about Kant is that he was a dualist.
That's it. Good night all.
Thanks. Fascinating stuff.