Sunday, November 29, 2009

Week Eleven: Postmodernism and Globalism

Osborne: 161-182
Robinson: 155-173
Supplemental Reading:
Oxford: 363-378
Notes in progress (miscellaneous and incomplete):
From Allan Bloom. The Closing of the American Mind. 1987.
Part I - Students
" [As a result of the sixties] the very distinction between educated and uneducated in America had been leveled, that even the pitiful remnant of it expressed in the opposition between highbrow and lowbrow had been annihilated. The real product was homogenized persons... Freedom had been restricted in a most effective way--by the impoverishment of alternatives" (319).
Part II - Nihilism, American Style: From Socrates’ Apology to Heidegger’s Rektoratsrede
Nothing that was not known to or experienced by those who constitute the enormous majority--which is ultimately the only authority in America--had any reality. Catering to democracy's most dangerous and vulgar temptations was the function of the famous 'critical philosophy.'. . . [T]his fatal progress was accompanied by all the abstract substitutes for thought [which are the legacy of Rousseau, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and (to a lesser extent) Hegel]. They provided an artificial substitute for intellectual stimulation and confirmed that there was only one way to be" (320).
Rousseau's Radicalization and the German University
Late-Enlightement: ". . . man could be understood by his historical origins . . . moral and political standards could be derived from the historical traditions of the various nations, to replace the failed standards of natural right and law; and that the study of high culture, particularly that of Greece, would provide the models for modern achievement; that a proper understanding of religion might provide a faith proof against critical reason" (301).
"However, the very condition of this exhilaration in the human sciences . . . created problems at the outset and in the long run undermined the confidence of the practitioners" (301).
"Joined to the health and expansiveness of natural science was the recognition that humane learning had itself failed to generate moral and political standards."
Rousseau: "After [Rousseau], community, virtue, compassion, enthusiasm, the beautiful and the sublime, an even imagination, that banished faculty, had their innings against modern philosophy and science" (299).
"Aristotle's human sciences are part of the science of nature, and his knowledge of man is connected to and in harmony with his knowledge of the stars, bodies in motion, and animals other than man. This is not the case with sciences after Rousseau, which depend on the existence of a realm entirely different from nature. Their study is not part of the study of nature, and the two kinds of study have little to do with one another" (300-1).
Goethe: "Action has primacy over contemplation, deed over speech. The act of the creator, not preceded and controlled by thought, is the first thing. The scholar with his reason misunderstands the origin because he lacks the vital force that lies behind the order of things. . . [In the social realm, the realm of freedom, [t]he hidden premise of the realm of freedom is that action has primacy over thought" (303). "The scholar is an objective reasoner, the poet a subjective creator" (307).
Weber: "It is values rather than reasons that found and sustain communities" (305).
Rousseau: "'Ancient statesmen spoke endlessly of morals and virtue; ours speak only of commerce and money'" (304)."Men of the Enlightenment looked down on the Greek thinkers because they thought them wrong. Romantics respected them because their truth or falsity became a matter of indifference" (306). Rousseau's observations and convictions gave birth to the idea of culture. It was to the study of Greece or Sparta or Athens as models of culture that Rousseau's reflection led. The motive for this study--which flourished particularly in Germany, where Rousseau's influence was most strongly felt . . . was to understand culture, with a view to the founding of a German culture" (305).
But the Greek philosophers were left out of the study of Greek culture, which instead emphasized poets, who are "culture founders." Reading the poets in this limited sense, and in ignoring the skepticism of Greek philosophy, Rousseau's "discovery of Greek 'culture' was contrary to Greek philosophy" (305).
Historical consciousness: Poets and thinkers have to be understood within their own cultural context. In is wrong and naive to believe that great thinkers are to be understood individually and in the same way at all times. Poetry and philosophy is merely an expression of these poets' and philosophers' culture, from which they are inseparable. Their value or interest for the continental idealists lies in the degree to which their work created and formed their culture, the ways in which their work created and formed their culture, and, for Hegel, the ways in which their contribution illustrates the principles of historical process.
Nietzsche: "If we take 'historical consciousness' seriously there cannot be objectivity, and scholarship as we know it is simply a delusion, and a dangerous one, for objectivity undermines subjectivity . . . The discovery of culture and the folk-mind means that there cannot be universal principles of understanding, Reason is a myth that makes mythmaking [culture forming] impossible to comprehend" (307).
Nietzsche "coupled his taste for the [Greek] tragedies with something very new--a radical attack on Socrates, the founder of traditional rationalism [reason], which is the essence of the university" (307). "This was probably the first attack made by a philosopher on Socrates, and it was a violent one, continuing throughout Nietzsche's whole career . . . Nietzsche, and Heidegger following him, are the first modern thinkers to take Socrates . . . really seriously as an opponent, rather than as a cultural artifact. Socrates is alive and must be overcome . . . it is essential to recognize that this is the issue in Nietzsche" (307-308)
For Nietzsche and Heidegger, Socrates is in opposition because Socrates "destroyed the tragic sense of life, which initiated man's true situation amidst things and allowed for creative forming of life against the terror of existence, unendowed with and unguided by any pre-existing forms or patterns" (308).
For Nietzsche and Heidegger, "There cannot be, as Socrates believed, the pure mind, which is trans-historical. This belief is the fundamental premise and error of science...." (308).
"The scholar cannot understand the will to power, not a cause recognized by science.... The scholar neither has it [the will to power] nor does his method permit him to have it or see it. The scholar could never conquer the mind of man" (309).
"Nietzsche's war on the university led in two directions--either to an abandonment of the university by serious men, or to its reform to make it play a role in the creation of culture" (309).
Heidegger: Like Nietzsche, Heidegger sought an alternative for "Plato and Aristotle, which he . . . believed to be at the root of Christianity and modern science" (310). Heidegger turned to the pre-socratics in order to figure out what Plato was responding to. Not interested so much in the response, but rather in the cultural medium Plato lived in.
In Socrates Heidegger saw "the skeptical seeker after the way to knowledge by means of unaided reason" (311). So, whatever his method might have been is irrelevant; what is important was Socrates' activity of cultural production.
Heidegger's Rektoratsrede: Urged intellectual commitment to the Nazi movement, to what he described as "an emerging revelation of being, incarnated in a mass movement" (311).
"The university began in spirit from Socrates' contemptuous and insolent distancing of himself from the Athenian people, his refusal to accept any command from them to cease asking, 'what is justice? What is knowledge What is a god?' and hence doubting the common opinions about such questions, and in his serious game (in the Republic) of trying to impose the rule of philosophers on an unwilling people without respect to their 'culture'" (311). But it was Heidegger's project to "put philosophy at the service of German culture" (311)."The university may of come near to its death when Heidegger joined the German people" in their mass effort to fulfill the Nazi's vision of Germany's emerging position as the so-called Master Race.
"if I am right in believing that Heidegger's teachings are the most powerful intellectual force in our times, then the crisis of the German university, which everyone saw, is the crisis of the university everywhere" (311-12).
Our present educational problems cannot seriously be attributed to bad administrators, weakness of will, lack of discipline, lack of money, insufficient attention to the three R's, or any of the other common explanations that indicate things will be set aright if we professors would just pull up our socks. All these things are the result of a deeper lack of belief inthe university's vocation" (312).
"What happened to the universities in Germany in the thirties is what has happened and is happening everywhere. The essence of it all is not social, political, psychological, or economic, but philosophic. And, for those of us who wish to see, contemplation of Socrates is our most urgent task. This is properly an academic task" (312).
"I must reiterate that Rousseau, Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche are thinkers of the very highest order. This is, in fact, precisely my point. We must relearn what this means and also that there are others who belong in the same rank" (240).Who? (Goto page 325?)
Part III - The University
The Sixties:
"All the radicalism of the sixties was intended to hasten our movement in the directions in which we were already going, and never really to question these directions. It was an exercise in egalitarian self-satisfaction that wiped out the elements of the university curriculum that did not flatter our peculiar passions or tastes of the moment" (320).

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