Re: My Name Is Carnac

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This should be interesting. In a train-wreck kind of way, I mean.


Posted by: fontana labs | Link to this comment | 10-10-03 2:27 PM
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Leiter is a famously clueless academic who writes endless pieces about the dangers of Straussians, and of letting philosophy departments slip outside of the analytic mainstream. He is tolerated because he provides a ranking of philosophy departments that please many powerful people. They like Leiter because he keeps philosophy fairly pointless: a fine mix of sterile analysis and not-too-leftwing, but-certainly-not-rightwing opinion. Such individuals are 'conservative' in the vulgar sense: they are quite happy with the way the ship is sailing, and simply want to avoid trouble in their lifetime. They console themselves that quicker 'progress' is not possible, as dumb white America would rebel; but that, if they can just keep things on track, a 'browning' of America will occur that will eventually allow for the socialist paradise of which they have long dreamt.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-03 3:58 AM
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You're not going to force me to defend Leiter, are you? The only one of your charges for which I've seen evidence is that Leiter tries to keep philosophy from slipping outside the analytic mainstream, and for that, I think Leiter would have a respectable response. The rest of what you say assumes a knowledge of people's motives that I don't think is available to us. If I'm going to criticize Leiter for making unsubstantiated and nasty remarks, I can't really let the people in this thread do it too.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-11-03 10:06 AM
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Well, I don't think that that post is fishing zeh, ehm, mirky waters of "motivations." It's just an assessment of results.

One can safely assume that the hostility Leiter expresses -- not only for Strauss but for his epigones -- has to do with Strauss representing something so thoroughly antithetical to smug (and if Leiter isn't smug, I don't know what is) notions about "progress" (historicism-positivism, of which Strauss's scholarship is utterly devastating). Leiter's attempted "smack-downs" of Strauss and of prominent Straussians (i.e. Harvey Mansfield, in particular) as representing work "sloppy, intellectually substandard and lacking in clarity" is, if not laughable misrepresentation in the extreme such as to almost induce sympathy for the hapless bloke, then certainly of such monumental horseshit calumny such as to reveal his never having spent an iota of sustained thought contemplating Strauss (or Mansfield, or Seth Benardete, his most formidable students). His utterances rise nary above that of rank slander. I can fairly deliver myself of such thoughts (what you would mistake as "motivations") about jackass Leiter since his own "man" Nietzsche is one of the most intransigently poetic (certainly non "analytic") thinkers to have ever existed. A salient proof for which is that Leiter, in his _Nietzsche on Morality_, smugly dismisses any considered judgment of Nietzsche's notion of the Last Man, and thereby dismisses any grasp of Nietzsche's most profound work, _Zarathustra_. If anyone is familiar with the fourth book of _Zarathustra_ (which, of course cannot be understood without grasping the work as a whole), one will see that Leiter is precisely the type of smug, despicable *jack-ass worshipper* for whom Nietzsche had nothing but the most unfettered contempt.

The problem with Leiter & Co. with respect to their cheap denigrations of Strauss resides in their penchant -- their longing, and hence their own jack-ass worshipping -- for an "analytic" philosophy that will allow them to reduce reality to a representable and quantifiable idea or concept, to tidy everything up with pencil dick explanations. Analytic philosophy is consumed with reducing the world to a method by which to explain away what it thinks are logical problems, i.e, to make philosophy a modern science. Their problem is that the most advanced studies in physics and mathematics continue to expose the limits of such methods. Hence the recent turn to new-found "naturalism."

But philosophy is not science, and philosophy cannot rightly be judged by scientific standards. Science can't even judge itself -- it cannot even answer the queston "why scienc" -- which is why philosophy is necessary still today. And I'll hazard to say, that because philosophy cannot be reduced to a science, this dashes the hopes and dreams of many and will therefore not be accepted, because "they" see no way to then distinguish philosophy from poetry and myth. This is why they are also given to talk of useless scholasticism. Which is a bit paradoxical, considering they view the value of something as basically indeterminate. This is a prominent theme in Strauss and a central preoccupation with one of Strauss's best students, Stanley Rosen: the relation between philosophy and poetry.

And to close, I should say that what MOST gets people's ire about Strauss -- going back even, and especially, to the time when he published his views -- is the doctrine of esotericism. Now, why did Strauss "spill the beans" about esotericism?

Strauss's books are all in print and readily available for people to spend time with such as to get at this question ('tis a safer rout than that of people's ill habit of rebarbative utterances of the man). However, the following offers something of a good protreptic toward grasping Strauss's concern with the issue:

"(On a historical note, it was pointed out that Strauss was not the first thinker to speak openly about esotericism. Maimonides did so at the outset of his Guide, and even before him the Islamic thinker Algazel spoke of this kind of writing; no previous thinker, however, had done so with such emphasis as Strauss.) It was suggested that the first and foremost reason for his doing so was a practical one: it was a necessary weapon against historicism, the most influential school of our time. If Strauss could show that all philosophers were in fact grappling with the same trans-historical questions--the 9 4 permanent problems"--then historicism would lose much of the evidence it was thought to possess; no longer would scholars be able to dismiss condescendingly the great philosophers of the past as the products of their times.

In revealing esotericism, what risks did Strauss take? Viewed in one light, Strauss could be certain that his disclosure would cause little public damage; for he knew that, at least at first, only very few would believe him. Yet Strauss certainly knew that by making esotericism public he was incurring some risk to himself: No aspect of Strauss's teaching evoked as much hostility or ridicule as did his claims about esotericism. It put a lever into the hands of his opponents who could portray him as an elitist and even as a cynical atheist. Two general reasons were suggested as to why this teaching aroused so much hatred. First, ordinary people do not like being lied to, nor do ordinary scholars; having failed even to suspect that they were being duped, the latter were especially resentful on this score. Second, and more importantly, people became very angry about esotericism's necessary implication of inequality: many resent the idea that there are truths not meant for all."


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-03 7:56 PM
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That above should read "permanent problems." The typography of "9 4" is a technical glitch, and, rest assured, carries no esoteric significance.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-03 8:03 PM
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Oh, and that line "dismisses any considered judgment of Nietzsche's notion of the Last Man" --- strike Last Man; should be the *Over Man*. My bad.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-03 10:24 PM
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I should also add that from Nietzsche's point of view, men such as Leiter -- priding themselves on their capacity for impersonal research, impersonal "rational norms" -- are mere intellectuals or scholars. Radically opposed to such purported "naturalists" as Leiter, Nietzsche asserts that nothing important in a genuine thinker is impersonal. (That such men as Leiter should ever be mistaken for thinkers is perhaps the chief sign of that democratic-socialist leveling which so nauseated Nietzsche). Leiter is one of many who are keen on "methodology," a method of segregating philosophy from personal or "empirical" issues. From a Nietzschean standpoint, this is an effort to domesticate Nietzsche, to make him presentable to the pseudo-liberal intellectuals who produce and are produced by that leveling -- this is, to people whose "bon sense" cannot seriously be touched by nihilism. Their pseudo-liberal love of humanitarianism and equality begs Zarathustra to transform them into Last Men rather than Supermen. For the Last Man is the product of their education. The pseudo-liberal instincts molding these "liberated" educators are Nietzsche's main contemporary enemies. Nietzsche would have reserved nothing but the harshest invective for such a man as Leiter. (What's really laughable is that Leiter thinks of himself as some kind of great thinker).


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-11-03 11:33 PM
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Gee, I hadn't thought Ogged's (quite cogent) point about BL's rhetorical instincts had anything to do with Leo Strauss! Let me chime in with the suggestion that BL and LS are *both* irritating/hilarious caricatures of their respective intellectual tendencies. If only Leo had blogged -- exposing his i/h intellectual perversity to the light of the medium's dailiness -- there might not have been Straussianism. May we hope for the same result in the present case? (I almost wrote, 'in the case of our Texas Rumsfeld?' -- remembering who it was who kept the Taliban at bay. At least BL, with Rummy, is on the right side of that issue.)


Posted by: Neither/Nor | Link to this comment | 10-12-03 5:15 PM
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Neither/Nor -- you don't realize that the "etiology" of ugly exchanges between Leiter and Cherniss can be traced back to the controversy over Strauss as its point of origin.

You should try a thorough, comprehensive reading of Strauss's works for yourself. And then you never make such uninformed and childish utterances about him.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-16-03 8:38 PM
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My dear anonymous monomaniac,

I'm well aware of said etiology. My point was that Ogged's point was not about Strauss, or specifically about Leiter's comments on Strauss.

Moreover: Are you aware that anyone who reads Leiter's blog knows that your first post is a cut'n'paste from a comment at the Claremont site that Leiter quoted several weeks ago as a mark of pride? You too might rethink your rhetorical tactics. You're playing right into his hands.

Finally: Your assumption that anyone who dislikes Strauss must not have read him itself reveals a characteristic Straussian perversity. One of the most irritating/hilarious things about Leiter is his love of 'But you're an ignoramous!' as a conversational gambit. I doubt that he learned this from Straussians, but the stylistic convergence is striking.

I say you are wrong, good sir or madam, and monomaniacally perverse. But I not call you ill read or generally uninformed. How could I know?

Mutatis mutandis, how could you?


Posted by: N/n | Link to this comment | 10-17-03 11:51 AM
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