The English rock band Uriah Heep were almost superstars in the U.S. and U.K. in the early-to-mid-1970s ("Easy Livin'," "Stealin'"), before fading away (by 1979, when I saw them, they were reduced to being the opening act for Jethro Tull), though they were huge superstars and remain quite popular in Norway, Finland, Germany, and Japan, among other countries. This was the "classic" line-up with David Byron on vocals (before he drank himself to death), Ken Hensley (on slide guitar) and Mick Box (the other guitarist, and the only continuing member of the band), doing a song from a 1971 album.
NYT obituaries are often more informative about the ideology of imperialism and the American ruling class than they are about their subjects, and the obituary of Castro does not disappoint in that regard; the very first paragraph (the revealing parts in bold):
Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday.
Last I looked, Cuba was a sovereign nation not under U.S. control, so what can it possibly mean for the leader of that nation to "defy" the U.S., unless of course one assumes that a sovereign nation close to the U.S. must do the bidding of the U.S. as it had done under the fascist Batista. Even more remarkably, it is Castro whose agency is credited with bringing "the world to the brink of nuclear war," not the "best and the brightest" of the imperial power whose self-serving provocations actually created the crisis.
If Castro had been a student of Marx, he would, shortly after overthrowing the fascist Batista, have created a social democracy, with robust private markets to fuel the development of productive forces in his underdeveloped nation and combined that with a generous welfare state to promote and protect human well-being. He tried to do the latter, but could only sustain it with support from the Soviet Union (since the U.S. economic blockade deprived Cuba of it primary trading partner), which ended when the latter did. As Marx had observed, communism "presuppose[s] a great increase in productive power, a high degree of development," which only capitalism can produce; this is, he said, "an absolutely necessary practical premise because without it want is merely made general, and with destitution the struggle for necessities and all the old filthy business would necessarily be reproduced," as, indeed, it was tragically in "communist" Cuba.
UPDATE: Roger Albin (Michigan) writes:
The NYT obit doesn’t mention what was likely Castro’s greatest achievement- the important role played by the Cubans in the demise of apartheid. Cuban military action, which included battles with the South African Defense Force, prevented the apartheid regime from maintaining a cordon sanitaire around South Africa. This was a major factor in the De Klerk regime’s decision to seek some kind of accommodation. Since our lazy media are committed to the facile view of the end of apartheid as an example of non-violent change, this will not be mentioned in any descriptions of Castro’s life. Mandela knew better. Shortly after his release from prison, he visited Havana to express gratitude to Castro.
The book was Gellner's scathing attack on ordinary language philosophy, Words and Things (1959), which included criticism of Ryle. Bertrand Russell, who had written a preface for the book, wrote to The Times protesting Ryle's decision, which sparked many letters in reply, including from Ryle. They are all collected here. The series culminates with an editorial about the dispute:
I'm on vacation in Turkey for a couple of days. I tried to read your blog from here, but it has been banned by the government.
Congratulations! I guess this means that it is really influential! I asked a friend to translate the text on the attached screenshot; it seems that the Turkish government is using the same type of firewall as the government of China.
It may be that Turkey is doing what China did a number of years ago, namely, blocking all "typepad" accounts. Comments are open if anyone has insight.
And here's the screen shot the philosopher in Turkey sent:
Various readers have sent this silly list of anti-American, anti-free speech faculty, or something like that. We've seen these lists before, and they fade away fairly quickly because, "Who cares?" The organizers of this one are especially stupid: when it first appeared, they had both my colleagues Eric Posner and Judge Richard Posner on the list--Eric for noting that private schools can regulate student speech, and maybe some schools should since their students are children; and Richard...well, there are so many possible reasons. But now they're gone from the list, I guess someone told the ding-dongs that, "Those guys are on the right," or something like that. Here's what I suggest: ignore it. It's a badge of honor to be on it, of course, but it's just a publicity stunt by pathetic right-wingers. And if you can't ignore it, self-nominate!
1. Undermining of democratic institutions. (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Conservative Supreme Court for a generation or more. loses to Undermining of democratic institutions. by 175–168
3. Emboldening of racists and bigots. loses to Undermining of democratic institutions. by 187–157, loses to Conservative Supreme Court for a generation or more. by 203–140
4. Persecution (legal and/or political) of Muslim-Americans. loses to Undermining of democratic institutions. by 208–124, loses to Emboldening of racists and bigots. by 205–113
5. Systematic corruption of government. loses to Undermining of democratic institutions. by 199–136, loses to Persecution (legal and/or political) of Muslim-Americans. by 167–163
6. Abridgment of freedom of the press. loses to Undermining of democratic institutions. by 231–94, loses to Systematic corruption of government. by 183–144
7. Financial crisis results from mismanagement and/or erratic behavior. loses to Undermining of democratic institutions. by 227–107, loses to Abridgment of freedom of the press. by 176–148
8. Tax and other giveaways to the rich and corporations. loses to Undermining of democratic institutions. by 221–126, loses to Financial crisis results from mismanagement and/or erratic behavior. by 169–164
9. Abridgment of freedom of speech. loses to Undermining of democratic institutions. by 241–83, loses to Tax and other giveaways to the rich and corporations. by 181–156
10. Persecution (legal and/or political) of Hispanics. loses to Undermining of democratic institutions. by 229–107, loses to Abridgment of freedom of speech. by 156–152
Most of these were probably on my "top ten" as well, and certainly #1 and #4 were in my top five (I think Hispanic citizens are at risk too, but Muslim-Americans are quite directly in the crosshairs of some of the more venal characters surrounding Trump). But I'm impressed by the optimism of my readers, since my #1 fear was annihilation of civilization in a nuclear holocaust--but that's just my sunny disposition at work, I guess. I am less worried about the Supreme Court: the super-legislature has a limited jurisdiction, and the damage it can do is usually short-lived, and remediable elsewhere.
Thoughts from readers? You're welcome to explain your own votes, note omissions from the survey, elaborate on your concerns etc.
This is very significant, and could actually help restore democracy to the United States (both parties gerrymander, but the Republicans have been more aggressive about it). (The theory of the case was developed and argued by one of my colleagues.) It is only because of gerrymandering that the Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives.
Will they pay attention? God knows, but it can't hurt to vote down the most wicked stuff. So vote! (And try to vote for some things as highly important: e.g., repealing the TPP agreement, improving veterans' healthcare, no more "regime-change" in foreign policy etc.)
The ad and details about the post. Next year's Fellow will teach the Law & Philosophy Workshop with Martha Nussbaum on the "'Environment and Animal Rights' (including, e.g., philosophical discussions of the moral status of nonhuman animals and the philosophical basis for claims involving them, the ethics of climate change, the ethical basis for valuing ecosystems, and the upshot of all of this for both domestic and international law)." This year's Fellow is Max Etchemendy, and recent Fellows also include Amanda Greene, Sarah Conly, and Justin Coates.
UPDATE: A couple of readers note the absence of climate change from the list, which was an error of omission. I don't think it's the most serious issue, but I wish I had remembered to include it. I'll open a discussion of the results on Wednesday, so readers can mention other omissions.
You know we're falling through the looking-glass when the "blowhard and buffoon" Alan Dershowitz (as one of my liberal, Jewish and very pro-Israel colleagues called him) is cautioning people to be cautious about charges of anti-Semitism. This is a good takedown of Dershowitz's nonsense. All that said, I'm sure that if Bannon is an anti-Semite, he's kept it well under wraps, given the influence of Trump's son-in-law, an orthodox Jew. Bannon is a much bigger threat to Muslims in America than to Jews.
This seems like a plausible analysis. Shorter version: left-wing Jews are traitors to their race, Bannon admires a state defined by race/ethnicity (plus it's a good place to send the Jews when the time comes...).
Grand Funk, the unpolished American version of Black Sabbath, was, once upon a time not at all obscure, selling out Shea Stadium in New York some 45 years ago more quickly than the Beatles had six years earlier. But it was downhill from there, as they churned out saccharine pop hits in the early and mid-1970s, abandoning the rock 'n' roll Rausch that made them a sensation in 1969-1971. This is representative:
This seems like a sober and accurate analysis, and echoes some of what Mearsheimer observed. Perhaps the most important observation is that he has actually been consistent over several decades in his thinking about certain issues related to foreign policy. The author is right that a total withdrawal of the U.S. from the world stage would cause great instability, political and economic, but a partial withdrawal (e.g., stop threatening Russia over Ukraine, stop trying to move NATO to Russia's border) would probably be salutary.
Unsurprisingly, some philosophy teachers think so, but that's just self-serving nonsense. Anyone who spends a little time studying philosophers under Nazism, including all the Kantians who came out for National Socialism, will realize right away that, to quote Nietzsche, philosophers "are all advocates who do not want to be called by that name, and for the most part even wily spokesmen for their prejudices which they baptize 'truths'" (Beyond Good and Evil, sec. 5)
(Thanks to Michael Swanson for the pointer.)
UPDATE: You can get a sense of the irrelevance of philosophers by looking at how some are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic as a putative "response." I have a radical suggestion: how about philosophy teachers design their curriculum and syllabi with an eye to making sure students master the subject-matter? Altering the curriculum because of Trump is as pointless as altering it to pander to this or that supposed constituency.
ANOTHER: One adult philosopher has some more concrete suggestions (see Prof. Wolff's blog generally for others, as well as sensible analysis and commentary).
I apologize for doing less philosophy-related blogging lately, but the gallows does indeed "concentrate" one's mind. I will return to pertinent philosophy-related news, though given the catastrophe in the U.S., I have less appetite for commenting on the ridiculous American Philosophical Association, the posturing, preening wankers in our "profession," my stalkers etc. What we are up against now is deadly serious and frightening, notwithstanding the fact that there is no reason to think most Americans support Trump. That hardly matters. What matters is that Trump and his fascist allies are, or are about to be, in power. But I realize that we may survive this, and that students and faculty are still looking for information relevant to planning their academic affairs, and other readers are looking for interesting philosophy-related material and the like, so I will resume relevant posting and I am committed to finish the academic year 2016-17 with philosophy-related blogging. I will continue to offer some political news and commentary as well, but not as frequent as since the electoral catastrophe. Thanks for reading.
Here's a subject on which philosophers and other scholars might actually be useful: the philosophy of Julius Evola, the uses to which it has been put, what it means that one of Trump's most important advisers has a strong, sympathetic interest in him and "traditionalism"? Links to resources welcome as well.
This transcript of a talk he gave to a conference at the Vatican from 2014 is revealing: he lashes out at "crony capitalism" and "Ayn Rand capitalism," but lauds "Judeo-Christian capitalism" that produced wealth that was broadly shared (it's unclear whether he notices it was broadly shared only because of agitation from the left that produced the social welfare state, progressive taxation and so on--indeed, I think it's fair to say he has no idea). He thinks the two big enemies are "securalism" and "Islamic jihadism." The latter is no surprise, the former is, and indicates that there's something much more sinister and nutty at work here. Consider this:
When Vladimir Putin, when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism; he’s got an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian fascism. A lot of people that are traditionalists are attracted to that.
One of the reasons is that they believe that at least Putin is standing up for traditional institutions, and he’s trying to do it in a form of nationalism — and I think that people, particularly in certain countries, want to see the sovereignty for their country, they want to see nationalism for their country. They don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union or they don’t believe in the centralized government in the United States. They’d rather see more of a states-based entity that the founders originally set up where freedoms were controlled at the local level.
MOVING TO FRONT: ORIGINALLY POSTED MAY 11, 2016--folks keep sending me this quote, which is circulating again
Jerry Dworkin calls my attention to this NYRB piece on Donald Chump, which includes this:
I recalled a remark that the philosopher Richard Rorty made back in 1997 about “the old industrialized democracies…heading into a Weimar-like period.” Citing evidence from “many writers on socioeconomic policy,” Rorty suggested that:
members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots….
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion…. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.
Let's hope Rorty sticks to his track record, and is wrong about this too.
Reader Michael Swanson sends along this interview with Chomsky post-election, which contains some useful perspective. However, I think he's wrong in treating climate change as the main issue; the sad truth is that most of the disastrous effects of climate change are already locked in, the only questions now are ones of timing and perhaps some of degree. Will four years of inaction or reverse action by the U.S. on climate change matter? I asked a colleague who is expert on climate change, and he gave me permission to share his take:
So after spending most of Wednesday in a fetal position, trying not to either vomit or cry, I am now going to be as optimistic as I think I can justify. So, with the possibility that I am whistling past a graveyard, here is the potential story, and I think this one is not that far off.
US emissions reductions in the electricity sector have not gone down because of federal actions. Instead, they have come down because (1) fracking has pushed gas prices so low that coal is not competitive – nobody builds a new coal plant now – and (2) state level renewable portfolio standards mandate wind and other renewables. Neither of those will change with the new administration and in fact, if Trump pushes fracking on federal lands, gas prices may go even lower. For this reason, repealing the CPP ["Clean Power Plan"] may have little or no effect on electric sector emissions. The biggest impact I see from repealing CPP is that some old coal plants stay open longer. Plus (and here I have no information), Trump might push nuclear which would be fantastic for emissions, particularly because we need nuclear as a base load if we are to ramp up wind and solar.
Transportation emissions are the other big sector that Obama regulated. He did this through the fleet MPG [miles pre gallon] standards. There may be some push to roll these back but we will see. Regardless, MPG continues to go up and the auto industry will likely continue to make internal combustion engines more efficient. Other transportation fuels such as electricity are a niche product. They will repeal the tax credit for electric cars, but I don’t see that as mattering very much in the short run. So maybe transportation emissions will stay flat.
This means that the US emissions profile may look pretty much the same under Trump as it would have under Clinton (leaving aside that she may have enacted new laws). Climate change is a very long term problem and modest changes in emissions in any four year period do not matter very much. It is the stock not the flow of carbon dioxide that determines the extent of climate change. Delaying reductions, however, will make it more expensive in the future to achieve the necessary reductions.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)