Driving Blind: Foucault, Nietzsche, and Dotcom


Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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116 Responses

  1. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    The Jones piece was confusing in that he basically says to ignore several of the rules that he (purportedly) recommends following.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Aw, man. And here I was writing a post about Robin’s essay.

    Well. I wrote a title for it, anyway: “The Death Of God, Morality, And Telling Other People How To Live”

    For my part, I only consider Nietzsche a father of my libertarianism insofar as he helps me question the morality of the moralists screaming that I should act in this way rather than that way. Since I’ve concluded that the moralists, whether they be Dobsonite or Post-Christian fans of Social Justice, don’t really have a leg to stand on, I’ve concluded that I probably shouldn’t be telling others how to live… except, of course, to tell them to stop telling others how to live.

    There isn’t a God, there isn’t an objective morality, your precious matters of morality are little more than culturally instilled matters of taste, your taboos shouldn’t dictate how I ought to live… and, neither should mine dictate your life.

    That’s Libertarianism in a nutshell for me. The “Liberty” follows from it sinking in that, yep, I was lied to about morality my whole life… and deciding that I’m not going to lie to anybody else about it either.

    It’s not some convoluted relationship between the Austrians and Nietzsche and anti-Socialist Thought. It’s the knowledge that I do not have the right to force you to live in accordance with my taboos.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jaybird says:

      I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I do get the sense that the first four or so pages have been just so much smoke to obscure that one last sentence of yours.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        If I were really digging for someone to blame, I’d blame Libertarianism on Voltaire before I’d blame it on Nietzsche.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I do get the sense that the first four or so pages have been just so much smoke to obscure that one last sentence of yours.

        Even if that’s right, if I had to choose one to allow to keep existing and another to cast out of existence, I’d keep Robin’s essay and junk Jaybird’s solipsistic comment.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      In a sense, Nietzsche is a father of virtually every movement of 20th century Western philosophical movement except Anglo-American analytic philosophy (and its early German forebears).Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

        I don’t know that I see him as a Father. I see him kinda like Marx. He’s an absolutely fearless historian. He’s as insightful as he is vicious in his criticism. When it comes to the “therefore, you should do the following…” parts, his book is best closed and put back on the shelf.

        His descriptions are a candle in the darkness.
        His prescriptions are a forest fire.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

          You can probably guess that I disagree, which is not to say that I agree with Nietzsche’s prescriptions, to the extent that he has far-reaching ones that go beyond the critical. However, I’m someone who’s entire way of thinking was altered by the two thinkers mentioned in the title of this post, as well as one other whose name banishes comments to the spam box.Report

          • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

            There’s someone who CANNOT be mentioned? How about an anagram or something?Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

              One of, if not the first banned commenter was an old Positive Liberty regular who went by a philosopher’s name. An anagram:

              He Dire EggReport

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                Coulda sworn you and I had already discussed He Dire Eg. Maybe we just discussed some Hedireggian thoughts. In just a sec, am uh gonna test your claim.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                We’ve probably discussed the thoughts, but I don’t know if we’ve discussed him specifically.

                I thought about telling the story of how, over the course of 1 semester as an undergrad, my entire intellectual world got flipped, turned upside down because of those three, but it would probably bore the hell out of anyone who might have made it past the opening sentence and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air reference. Plus, it would be kinda long. Long + boring = reconsider writing.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

            Foucault always struck me as giving an extended domestic analogy. But, then again, I’m a white heterosexual male. I probably would have thought that.

            I should go back and read him again now that I’ve slowed down a little…Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

              Think of Foucault as a cynical Nietzsche, who comes after the two most destructive periods in the history of the human species, who has read books on history that extend beyond the 4th century BCE, and whose perspectivism has a significantly more sophisticated treatment of concepts and discursive formations. Oh, and he looks like Uncle Fester.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Chris says:

                If I had to list the five intellectuals who best explain who I am, Foucault would certainly be among them. Perhaps:


              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                If you worked that list into a post, I would definitely love to read it, not only because I think it would provide interesting insight into your world view, but also because it’s a list with Foucault and Dennett, two people who may have never appeared on a list together before (except maybe a list of philosophers whose names begin with letters between A and G).Report

    • Avatar Shazbot4 in reply to Jaybird says:

      Hey Jaybird,

      1. This is a pretty gross misreading and oversimplification of Nietzsche’s moral philosophy, along the lines that Rand thoroughly misreads him. Nietzsche does have an account of morality. He isn’t some kind of simple ethical egoist either.

      “Nietzsche is not a critic of all “morality.” He explicitly embraces, for example, the idea of a “higher morality” which would inform the lives of “higher men” (Schacht 1983: 466-469), and, in so doing, he employs the same German word — Moral, sometimes Moralität — for both what he attacks and what he praises. Moreover, Nietzsche aims to offer a revaluation of existing values in a manner that appears, itself, to involve appeal to broadly “moral” standards of some sort. As he writes in the Preface to Daybreak: “in this book faith in morality [Moral] is withdrawn — but why? Out of morality [Moralität]! Or what else should we call that which informs it — and us?….[T]here is no doubt that a ‘thou shalt’ [du sollst] speaks to us too” (D 4). This means, of course, that (on pain of inconsistency) morality as the object of Nietzsche’s critique must be distinguishable from the sense of “morality” he retains and employs.”

      Also, it is wrong to tie what Nietzsche says about morality to closely to anything about political philosophy.

      ” Although Nietzsche’s illiberal attitudes (for example, about human equality) are apparent, there are no grounds for ascribing to him a political philosophy, since he has no systematic (or even partly systematic) views about the nature of state and society. As an esoteric moralist, Nietzsche aims at freeing higher human beings from their false consciousness about morality (their false belief that this morality is good for them), not at a transformation of society at large.”


      2. If there isn’t an objective morality, in your view (forget about Nietzsche) why is it the case that I shouldn’t violate others’ rights? Why should we have a minimal state?

      If you say the answer lies in the social contract, that we should rationally agree not to violate rights, why not say that is what morality is: the social contract.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Shazbot4 says:

        1. I know he did. However, I’ve never met any of these “higher men” he spoke about. Am I finally in the presence of one?

        In the absence of that, I’m stuck with something akin to his morality that tells him to shut up about morality. In that same way, I’m not going to give my morality to you. However: if you start bleating about your morality and how other people should live in accordance with it, I’m going to have to succumb to the temptation to tell you that I can’t tell the difference between you and Doctor Dobson.

        2. why is it the case that I shouldn’t violate others’ rights?

        Because in the same way that I am an individual that shouldn’t have my rights violated, I realize that you are one too. In the same way that I shouldn’t be forced to live according to your neo-Victorian morality in Progressive Clothing, I realize that you shouldn’t be forced to live according to mine.

        I am an individual moral agent living in a universe without either morality or great men. So are you. You should leave me alone. You should leave other people alone. I’ll leave you alone.Report

        • Avatar Shazbot4 in reply to Jaybird says:

          “In the same way that I shouldn’t be forced to live according to your neo-Victorian morality in Progressive Clothing, I realize that you shouldn’t be forced to live according to mine.”

          I agree with this sentiment in general. (Though I don’t think it justifies a robust libertarianism at all.)

          To restate, you think I should treat others the way I would want to be treated ( A version of The Christian Golden Rule). I want my rights respected and for others not to tell me what to do. So I should respect the rights of others in return. Actually, this isn’t Nietzsche’s way of thinking about things, but rather Kant’s (who could’ve very well been a libertarian). Kant’s “means-ends formulation” of the categorical imperative says it is always wrong, universally, to treat others as a means to an end. It is always wrong to force someone to bring about what you perceive as good ends and to take away their ability to do what they have rationally chosen to do. To prevent them from doing what they choose to do is treating them in a way (taking away their choice) that no rational human being wants to be treated.

          But Nietzsche very, very, very much does not agree with this Kantian sentiment. (He calls Kant a “sneaky Christian.”) It is this Kantian, Christian sentiment that is “neo-Victorian morality.” It is, according to Nietzsche, a bias, a result of a sort of watered down Christian culture that has no real grounding. It is slave morality. (Even though x is better than you in power and intelligence and can take your stuff, he shouldn’t, according to your Christian, neo-Victorian rules, because X should be ashamed that he thinks he deserves something that he wouldn’t want taken from him if he were you.)

          You are the moralist that Nietzsche is attacking. He is not your ally at all, but rather a profoundly radical philosopher.

          Also, Nietzsche’s attack on the concept of free will may undermine libertarian accounts of responsibility.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Shazbot4 says:

            No, you don’t understand. It’s not the golden rule at all.

            I am not saying that “Well, I’m treating you the way that you should treat me, so you should treat me the way that I’m treating you.”

            It’s that I know that I have no jurisdiction over you… and I know that you have no jurisdiction over me.

            Are you asking why you shouldn’t violate the jurisdiction of others? Why you shouldn’t rape? Why you shouldn’t murder?Report

            • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Jaybird says:

              Why shouldn’t you act as if you have jurisdiction over me. “Jurisdiction” here means you have no legitimate right to treat me as you would not want to be treated with respect to rights.

              But a skeptic about traditional ways of thinking morally would ask, “Why shouldn’t I treat you however I feel like? i have power over you, so I have jurisdiction over you? Why should I think that I don’t have jurisdiction over you just because you don’t have jurisdiction over me?”

              Without some belief in facts about normativity (oughts), you Jaybird, can’t assert that it is a fact that I ought not violate your rights.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                And yet I just have.

                So you must be wrong.

                Now you can either crow about how it is not a fact that you shouldn’t rape women or you can wonder if you’ve missed something that is equally missed by high school church youth groups when they discuss how one of their classmates is rumored to be an atheist.Report

        • Avatar Shazbot4 in reply to Jaybird says:

          I also think it is a little odd to say Nietzsche wouldn’t have been a progressive.

          If anything, Nietzsche says that we need to overcome the old Christian, Kantian (and Jaybirdian) slave morality in order to progress to something new and better. (He seems willing to admit that slave morality of Christians is, in some sense, an evolution over master morality.)

          The Randians think this new morality will be very egoistic and look like old master morality. But there is no reason to think that Nietzsche thought that or that it is true that the overman would be a self-centered Randian or a libertarian.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Shazbot4 says:

            It seems a little odd to say that you agree with Castro’s reasons for kidnapping those women.

            Wait, you didn’t say that? Would only someone who either misunderstood your point or, worse, was twisting it say something like that?Report

            • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Jaybird says:

              My cat’s breath smells like cat food.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                No, you don’t get to pull that here. Quote me as saying what it seems a little odd for me to say or agree that I didn’t, in fact, say that.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Jaybird says:

                Dude, when you bring up weird stuff that doesn’t clearly specify how you disagree with my claims, kr what your argument is, where what you say is opaque, I will do say irrelevant, weird stuff back.

                If you want to say, “I did not mean to say that Nietzsche was…” that’s fine. But you didn’t do that. You pulled out some supposedly cute rhetoric that obscured whatever you wanted to say.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Huh. So you not only didn’t quote where I said that but point out that I should say that “I did not mean to say…”

                Perhaps your cat’s breath does smell like cat food.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Shazbot4 says:

            If we’re going to call Nietzsche a “progressive,” then we will have divorced that term from any connection to either the political context of the beginning of the last century or the political context of the beginning of this century, because he was not a progressive, or a proto-progressive, in either of those senses.

            In his early writing, he wasn’t a progressive in any sense. He was so conservative that, to him, the progressive who ruined society was Socrates. Socrates ( 469 Bfishin’C – 399 Bfishin’C)! In his later writings, he was an anti-democratic, inegalitarian who thought that the “people” would just fish everything up by creating a society that favored their petty needs over the needs of the few great creative men who justified the existence of society (and all of those “people” who wanted to fish it up). His idea of a perfect society was an aristocracy of the creators (in an artistic sense, not in a the Vanderbilts and Carnegies sense). But he did want to move beyond the moribund moral and intellectual life of late Christian Europe, so I suppose he did want to “progress.”Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

              I read an essay a few years back (googling: by Posner, of all people) that argued that Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was the American Nietzsche.

              Now, I don’t necessarily agree with that (I loathe OWH Jr, and… something… something that isn’t loathing… Nietzsche), but I can see how someone might make the argument without being groundless.Report

            • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Chris says:

              I think this is a misreading again. Socrates gets a lot of negative language thrown at him. So too the priest, but these people represent an improvement.

              Slave morality represents a sickness in society. So too does Socrates valuing of reason above all else. But these are instances of what Nietzsche calls a kind of “sickness as with pregnancy.” There is a sickness and a going against what is natural. (Reactive will to power going against active will to power.)

              In other words, these are inversions of a prior order that is unnatural and sick (like pregnancy is a sickness), but that contain the seed of something new. Socrates, for example, represents is an evolution forward and that is Nietzsche’s ultimate value.

              Nietzsche does not think master morality or old ways of thinking are better than the new ways, like slave morality. He is not a conservative or someone who wants to go back to how things were.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                That is what Nietzsche values is a constant overcoming of what was prior. Thay is what the overman represents.

                Some argue (Hurka, I think, and maybe Leiter) that this makes Nietzsche an ascriber to the moral theory called “perfectionism.” That might be overly simple, but it isn’t that far off, IMO.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                I think you forgot part of the sentence that came before the one mentioning Socrates. That, or if you don’t think Socrates was the villain of The Birth of Tragedy and Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, you and I read very different translations of those works.

                Also, if you think the Ubermensch is central to Nietzsche’s mature philosophy, or that Zarathustra remains committed to something future, you need to reread the Part III.

                I am not a Nietzsche scholar (obviously), but I’m not a fan of Leiter’s Nietzsche. I suppose that SEP article that you’re relying on is a good resource, but (and a Leiter sockpuppet will be here any moment), there are probably better ways to read Nietzsche than the way Leiter does. Also, I read Hurka’s chapter in the Leiter and Sinhababu edited book. It seems pretty weak to me, but again, I’m not a Nietszche scholar.Report

            • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

              This one thinks y’all are attributing a greater unity and coherency to Nietzsche’s work than is perhaps justified. Chris is right about most, but not all, of Progressivism and its American political descendants up to the present day being mostly alien to the main thrust of Nietzsche’s work, and he certainly seemed unsympathetic, to say the least, to typical features of the industrial era, but a transvaluation of values and becoming a bridge to the Overman implies intentional movement to something new and away from the present-made-past, or progress. There is also something of a tradition of discovering the true “good” Nietzsche – the pacifist, the multi-culturalist, the anti-nationalist, etc. – amidst the travesty that was made of him.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Heh, this is a good point too. There’s enough ground to say that there are three or four Nietzsches. (Or six or ten or…)Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jaybird says:

                I was going to say that Nietzsche always seemed to be a man who had a penchant for deconstructing things, but he never really figured out what he would build if he got around to it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

                His eye eventually turned inward and he, apparently, deconstructed himself. I was in awe of that until I got married.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                Have you ever read Nietzsche’s letters written in the weeks after he went coo coo for coco puffs? He started signing letters as “Dionysus” or “the crucified one.” I find them haunting, and beautiful, and sad. They used to be on the Nietzsche Channel in English, but now appear to be there only in German. However, here are some excerpts:

                To Princess Ariadne, My Beloved [Chris – He means Cosima Wagner].

                It is a mere prejudice that I am a human being. Yet I have often enough dwelled among human beings and I know the things human beings experience, from the lowest to the highest. Among the Hindus I was Buddha, in Greece Dionysus–Alexander and Caesar were incarnations of me, as well as the poet of Shakespeare, Lord Bacon. Most recently I was Voltaire and Napoleon, perhaps also Richard Wagner … However, I now come as Dionysus victorious, who will prepare a great festival on Earth … Not as though I had much time … The heavens rejoice to see me here … I also hung on the cross …

                In other letter:

                What is unpleasant and a strain on my modesty is that in fact I am every name in history; and as for the children I have brought into the world, I ponder with some misgiving the possibility that not everyone who enters the “kingdom of God” also comes from God.

                “I am every name in history” is one of my favorite things ever. So is this:

                I go everywhere in my student coat, now and then slap someone on the back, and say:siamo contenti? son dio, ho fatto questa caricatura. [“Is everything alright? I am God, this farce is my creation.”

                Also, I recommend this, even if it’s not the most… textual or complete reading. I enjoyed it immensely.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Oh, yeah. I devoured his letters when I was in my 20s. I haven’t read them for a long time, though.

                The argument I got into with myself was whether he was being funny and creating handles for himself when he signed other names to his letters (HE FORESAW THE INTERNET, MAN!!!!) or whether he was doing the Phillip K Dick disassociation thing and trying to put his new attempt to rebuild himself into words.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jaybird says:

                I enjoyed this comment immensely.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Right, a sort of perspectivism and the sort of genealogy and the “deconstruction” that goes with it were Nietzsche’s gift to the 20th century Left.

                Also, speaking to the Nietzsche of Leiter that Shaz is relying on here, like Jaybird says, there is no one Nietzsche. The early Nietzsche was pretty consistent, an iconoclastic aestheticism while making googly eyes at Schopenhauer and Wagner. Once he breaks with Schopenhauer, he breaks with systematicity, and spends the rest of his sane life throwing out ideas (performing a sort of “gay science”?), often mutually incompatible ideas, with a grounding in a lot of what was going on in European thought at the time. This, if not anti-systematic approach, at least asystematic approach, makes the sort of Nietzsche Leiter wants difficult to see. Not surprisingly, Leiter often says that seeing inconsistencies in Nietzsche is poor reading, but whatever.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Chris says:

                The “Intro to Political Philosophy” prof said something that I agreed with early on in the Hegel readings… that I’ll paraphrase as “Hegel was the last guy who really tried to tie the whole thing together”.

                Everybody after Hegel had probably figured out somewhere in the back of their noodles that there was a problem that kept recurring in all of these philosophical frameworks, but they really weren’t sure of what it was.

                Until Cantor and Heisenberg took the notion of certainty out back and shot it, anyway.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Patrick says:

                The roll of Nietzsche in this is important, though. Hegel wasn’t really the last — Schopenhauer, who was 18 years younger than Hegel, was also a systematizer, even if not to Hegel’s extent (which is sort of like saying that a blue whale isn’t big because super novas are big). There were still relatively minor systematic philosophers after that, like Brentano, who were really influential on the 20th century but also still stuck in the 18th century. But Nietzsche wasn’t just asystematic, the genealogical method he employed, and the critique of the relation of philosophy to the motivations of philosophers, makes systems problematic in themselves.

                There’s another 20th century philosopher whose name automatically sends a comment into the spam folder. He didn’t make it any easier to justify building systems (starts with wit, ends with a beer mug). And the scientism that’s dominated Anglo-American philosophy since the first part of the 20th century is also anti-system by nature.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Chris says:

                I confess to my embarrassment I haven’t read Schopenhauer. 94.5% of my philosophy is self-excavated.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                I definitely recommend Schopenhauer. He’s mean (he pushed his elderly landlady down a flight of stairs, and he was known for picking fights in the local beer hall by telling people they were stupid, which he also did in his published works), he was a misogynist even for his time (do not read this), and a first class narcissist, but his philosophical system is really quite something, and he has a sense of humor to go with it (his fabulous “prize essay” on the freedom of the will, he labeled himself because it didn’t win). And the aesthetics are basically tailor made for the 1960s.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                wait a sec, is there another proscribed philosopher in addition to Mr Egg?

                Without delving very far into the argument, I think we’re dealing with presumptions about what Hegel said or would have said or must have said about certainty, or could have meant by the true being a system of the truth. In brief, he was directly writing against a pre-philosophic notion of what a “final philosophy” or “philosophical system” might do or say or be like, and to say “he was the last to try to tie the whole thing together” would be close to his own understanding of what he was doing, or his prediction about the philosophic project being completed or finally readied for completion “in principle” in his time.

                As for Nietzsche, his “philosophical biographer” (Julian Young convincingly portrays Nietzsche’s last great project as a failed and ill-conceived, arguably somewhat amateurish attempt to produce a systematic philosophy without benefit of a truly systematic confrontation with prior philosophers. Young casts some doubt on whether it’s really sensible to view Nietzsche as a philosopher at all, rather than as a brilliant literary performer who among other things was physically incapable of, as it were, doing philosophy. In Young’s depiction, Nietzsche also comes across as strongly influenced by Schopenhauer, and as having somewhat uncritically retained Schopenhauer’s bitterly dismissive anti-Hegelian position long after he had dropped Schopenhauer’s other commitments.

                Potentially a long discussion.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                CK, you undoubtedly know Hegel better than me, but I don’t think viewing Hegel as a very systematic philosopher, or his philosophy as a system, is that far out there. That’s certainly how his contemporaries in the German academy saw him, and since he basically ran the place, he could easily have correct them. It’s also how Schelling (and via Schelling, Kierkegaard) and Schopenhauer saw him. And I admit to getting my sense of Hegel as much from them as from Hegel himself.

                Nietzsche, of course, probably hadn’t read Hegel himself, so his view of Hegel was mostly from Schopenhauer and a few others. I do not, however, think it’s right to see an attempt at a system in Nietzsche. Now, it may be the case that, had Nietzsche not gone insane, he would have developed a more systematic philosophy. His notes and letters in the year or two prior to his insanity seem to suggest that he was thinking about one centered around will to power, but his published works, in which he was very careful to say exactly what he wanted to say exactly how he wanted to say it (working and reworking every sentence), he is decidedly not a systematizer, and I think we have to read the Nietzsche we have, not the one we might have had.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                Just to be clear Chris, I’m not denying that Hegel deserves to be considered a if not the systematic philosopher. It’s just that within his system, “system” itself takes on a specific meaning, and we find that any notion of “asystematicity,” to the precise extent it can be said to constitute a notion, will be understood, to the precise extent it can be said to be understood, as a system of that asystematicity.

                Since we’re “all the way over to the right” on this sub-thread, and since I have actually written at some length on this question from a pro-Hegelian perspective, I’ll do what I’m normally loathe to do and link to an old post of my own: http://zombiecontentions.com/2011/01/02/almost-everyone-vs-the-whole-thing/Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                CK, that’s awesome. Thanks for linking it.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Marx’s rebellion, which Strauss examines in some detail, appears initially to be of a wholly different character than either Nietzsche’s or Strauss’s own: Marx never underrated Hegel, but thought him in need of fundamental correction. Yet the substitution of “proletariat” for “universal subject,” whatever its uses or justifications, came with a nearly remainderless displacement of Hegel’s vision of the state – thought too close to the existent Prussian state – in favor of utopian abstractions. Future tyrants improvised a new content in place of what had been subtracted, stitching together bits of Marx with progressively larger pieces of power politics, eventually producing Hegelian culture-states emptied of Hegelian premises, totalized structures that tended to persist long after whatever sanity and functionality “withered away.” Meanwhile, the implacable critics of Marx have tended to blame Hegel, too, insisting that the children of Marx must have been carrying a gene inherited from his philosophical father.

                This will almost certainly be the best thing I will read all day.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                Thanks for saying so, Chris. Though the piece is old in blog-years, I’d be grateful for your criticisms or suggestions if any happen to occur to you.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                I can’t imagine I will have any criticisms or suggestions, but I do have a (perhaps naive) question):

                Your reading of Hegel is a very universal one. That is, under your reading, Hegel encompasses and, if not explains, certainly describes any intellectual activity as part of the process of the self-knowledge or understanding of the Spirit or “universal subject” or however it’s most accurately characterized in Hegelian terms. How, then, does one begin a critique of the Hegelian philosophy or the Hegelian system, since any critique one could offer would, the moment it is offered, become part of that philosophy or system.

                In my area of cognitive psychology, there are several competing categories of models of how concepts and categories are represented at the computational and algorithmic levels of analysis. One of these categories of models is called Exemplar Theory (the tiny Wikipedia article on this is awful, but you can learn something about it here). Exemplar theory argues that we represent categories as a bunch of experienced instances, or exemplars, and we determine whether a new instance is a member of the category by comparing it to these past instances. Some exemplar models (particularly early ones) did this, computationally, by storing every exemplar ever experienced, and comparing new instances to every stored exemplar. The problem with this is that the model uses every single possible piece of information to categorize instances, and therefore by (logical) necessity performs better than other models of categorization (the most common type of competing computationalist model, prototype theory, stores some sort of central tendency of the experienced exemplars, rather than the exemplars themselves, so it loses information by definition). This made it very difficult to properly evaluate these models, because the usual methods for doing so – comparing their accuracy in modeling and predicting performance on relevant tasks – were not useful. The exemplar model will always do better because it has more information, but encompassing more information shouldn’t be what determines whether a model of a particular cognitive ability is better than other models. I worry that something analogous could be said of Hegel, not in determining whether he’s “better” than other philosophers, but in evaluating him critically. How do you critique an idea that, the moment you begin your critique, has already encompassed it as another exemplar in its representation of the whole?Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                A perfect question (https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2013/05/driving-blind-foucault-nietzsche-and-dotcom/#comment-541603 )! It might take me a while to come up with a reply that didn’t read as smart-assery and that applies directly to your cognitive-psychological example. I have faith that the task would be achievable, presuming a free afternoon or a few. I’ll stick to generalities for now, trusting in your patience.

                “How do you critique an idea that, the moment you begin your critique, has already encompassed it as another exemplar in its representation of the whole?”: The smart-ass but supportable answer is: “You don’t”: That’s what you get when you encounter the final philosophy whose truth is the system of that truth, since, as you say, critique is anticipated or pre-encompassed. Being susceptible to critique would in this sense equate with “not being final” (or absolutely true). You are saying “criticize this critique nonsensically, in a manner that presumes the absurdity of criticism.” This problem is the same problem we encountered when we were discussing God concepts. The idea of God is equivalent to or simply is the idea of the true account, and the true account precludes alternative accounts. We might prefer, for whatever reason, perhaps because we are brought up to respect pluralism and absolutely believe in relativism, that every account allow for alternative accounts, but in this context the preference operates as a prejudice that, if adopted, precludes an offering of the one answer that would be true in the same sense. You’re asking the theologian, or the philosopher, or the onto-theological blog-commenter, etc., to presume the possible falseness of the one true account, when the one true account is or would be the account that cannot be possibly false and demonstrates the falsehood of all alternative accounts: “Presume that what you presume cannot be true is true.” I cannot, not really. I can at most pretend to do so, or dissemble in one way or another. We can, however, freely criticize particular accounts and uses made, including Hegel’s, of final philosophy or absolute knowledge.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Hmmm… my thought was, the way you criticize the final philosophy is with satire, mocking, and many of the other tools Nietzsche employed. I wonder how much more successful a Nietzsche who had read Hegel would have been.

                Or you write Either/Or.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, that notion (https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2013/05/driving-blind-foucault-nietzsche-and-dotcom/#comment-541717 ) supports the claim against Nietzsche from Young: “Satire, mocking, and many of the other tools Nietzsche employed” are literary or rhetorical devices, and as such would not touch philosophy on its own terms. At most, they would represent attacks on Hegel (or any other philosopher) as stylist or possibly as political actor, under a criticizable assumption that the philosopher can or should aim to produce pleasure or excitement or serve some particular political end. In Hegel’s words (preface to Philosophy of Right), from the perspective of “science” as he used the term, such criticism would constitute “merely… subjective postscript and random assertion,” to be treated with “indifference.” So the Schopenhauerian indictment of Hegel on charges of “brain rotting obscurity and cheap optimism” may or may not be valid where protection from brain rot and optimism vs pessimism are paramount concerns, but it is a presumptuous attack, a refusal of philosophy or science, not a philosophical indictment or any kind of philosophical statement at all – like attacking E=mc^2 with satire and mockery, rather than with physics. The same might apply to Kierkegaard, who perhaps also ought to be taken, as a great essayist and aphorist, whose work intermittently overlapped with or might be useful to philosophy.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                (Of course, Hegel’s word for “science” would have been “Wissenschaft”: If mockery and satire contribute to Wissenschaft, it’s by “other means.”)Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                I don’t agree with Young, generally, but I am willing to consider Nietzsche something other than a philosopher in the tradition of Plato (he certainly considered himself something else, thinking that what he was doing was something that hadn’t been done since Socrates ruined everything). If I remember correctly, this is not only the way that Rorty reads Nietzsche as well, but also the way that Rorty says we should do philosophy now, and to some extent it is what philosophy became after Nietzsche (with (T)He Dire Egg, Derrida, etc.).

                And there’s another sense in which Nietzsche might be considered a philosopher in a Hegelian sense. You mention that Hegel was doing Wissenschaft. Nietzsche of course wrote a book that he titled Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, with the idea being that ideas, values, and concepts are playfully offered as something like hypotheses, and tested in life. If the final philosophy has been written, then all that is left is to try out ideas, and one might as well do it playfully. Laughter slays the spirit of gravity.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Patrick says:

                Can you identify the work or works where Rorty does this bad evil thing?

                Assuming that Hegel correctly discerned and more or less adequately explained the final philosophy, mockery and satire seem like only a couple of choices out of a wide range. We could also just sing “holy, holy, holy” for the final philosophy. Or we could fill out the outlines or decorate them or translate or test or repeat or explain or re-write or seek to augment and update the outlines or the initial statements, especially since so many people haven’t yet understood it or seem to have all sorts of odd ideas about it or its presumed implications. Hegel himself didn’t stop writing the moment he deduced that history and, same or nearly the same thing, philosophy had reached their ends in principle. He wrote, and re-wrote, and continued to speculate and revise, came up with a bunch more interesting things to say, and a bunch of other things that are hard (but not impossible!) to take seriously, supposedly said, “Only one man understood me, and he didn’t understand me,” then died – and it’s still commonly said that no one or hardly anyone understands him. I think that’s possibly true. It may be a feature of the final philosophy that it dwells always at the limits of our ability to express our understanding of it without rendering it as something other than it would be. It may account for this quality.

                We could also wonder where the anxiety originates about this type of finality. Why do we presume it’s a better thing to be “the one” who happened to be in the position to comprehend the outline or statement and interpret it at the moment it became available by the action of (all) history, than to be “a one” who happens to receive the outline and re-fashion it, taking into account developments, interpretations, and nuances that the one never imagined?Report

        • Avatar LWA in reply to Jaybird says:

          “You should leave me alone. You should leave other people alone.”
          Ever? Without exception? Under no circumstances?

          Probably not. Its an honest question here- most moral frameworks have simple declarations like this- “Thou shalt not kill”, “Do unto others”, etc.

          But then they go on to erect complex frameworks of tests and triggers that justify violating those precepts, to introduce the nuance and complexity that human interactions require.

          What would be a libertarian set of criteria and justifications for intervening in the affairs of others- to coerce, to harm, even to kill?

          Again, I’m genuinely curious.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LWA says:

            In general, the whole “it’s okay to interfere with people who are interfering with others” rule seems to work. You shouldn’t kill people, but if someone is trying to kill you, it’s only the weirdest societies that say that such would be wrong.

            If you’d like to get into “what about interfering with people who are interfering with people interfering with people who are interfering with people who are interfering with others? What about that? Can we shoot their dogs?”, yeah yeah. For the most part, the whole “leave people alone” covers stuff like “don’t steal”, “don’t rape”, “don’t kill”. If you’d like me to explain the circumstances under which rape is acceptable in a society that has held a vote on whether it’s okay to rape (the prison budget got another 1.2 million, after all), I’ll decline.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LWA says:

            Without exception? Under no circumstances?

            I will allow for husbands and wives to speak on the weekends, if it’s indoors.Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I also defend going to the movies.

    I think going to the movies is great and do believe in the communal experience. There is also something fun about being the only person in a movie on a weekday afternoon.

    Yet I hear a lot of people who find going to the movies to be horrible. I think the main problem is that movie theatres are no longer content on making a profit from the concessions and the tickets. Now they have to boom blast those horrible ads before each performance. I’ve solved this problem by seeing films at the Kabuki and Landmark Cinemas as much as possible. These are two chains geared towards adults and don’t show ads.

    Also a lot of people seem to think that a movie is only worth seeing on the big screen if it is a large spectacle extravaganza. This is not true. All film is worthy of the screen and some of my favorite movie going experiences are with movies without Special Effects.Report

    • Avatar dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

      the constant narration from the crowd helps a lot less outside of midnight movies but perhaps that is more of a new york thing? because it is rather awful.

      also the last movie i saw in the theatre that wasn’t a documentary was away we go, and dave eggaderz gave me ptsd so bad i’m afraid to even *think* cinematically. (i did kind of talk through that movie, but it was more pained whimpering) i keep watching king of new york on repeat to try and keep the park slope demons at bay but it is not working in the slightest.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to dhex says:

        Again, maybe people in Seattle are just nicer or I don’t go to movies where dumb teenagers go to (aside from the usual summer blockbuster stuff), but I’ve never run into these mythical “packs of teenagers texting and talking through a whole movie.”Report

        • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

          Me neither. And I have been to plenty of movies at big multiplexes in New York like dhex. Also big multiplexes in San Francisco.

          That being said the Kabuki is a revelation of a theatre. Tickets do not seem that more expensive (10 to 11 dollars plus a handling fee) but this gets 21 and over seating, real food, alcohol, comfy seating, and no ads beyond some stills for local businesses and a handful of previews. I believe the Alamo Drafthouse also has a similar but less arty vibe.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to dhex says:

        I am going to have to agree with Jesse. I don’t get the constant narration or peanut gallery from the crowd.

        There was one jerk during the Hobbit but that is all I can think of off the top of my head. This includes going to see a fair number of blockbusters at multiplexes. Not just indie art houses like Film Forum, Kabuki, BAM Rose Cinema, etc.Report

        • Avatar Kimsie in reply to NewDealer says:

          eh… it’s okay if you’re expecting it. If it’s in the culture, and everyone’s there to holler at the screen.
          (I may be biased, here…)Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to dhex says:

        When I went to watch the Hobbit, I had to deal with the constant narration from a group of teenagers.* Why can’t people watch movies with no commentary while giving the appropriate audible reaction at the appropriate time?

        *Although I understand that the idea that you should be silent during movies, plays, and musical performances is relatively recent.Report

  4. Avatar Chris says:

    I really like the Lambert article. For years now people have been talking about the surrendering of liberty to the state in response to irrational fears of terrorism, but I have never seen such a concentrated example of that surrendering — an major city shutting down, and its population voluntarily staying in doors when the state told them to, all because a single 19 year old kid was on the loose (one who had committed a horrible crime, of course, but still just a kid). I find this incredibly disturbing, and the analogy to plague cities and the absolute exercise of political power that they resulted in (but in the contemporary case, perhaps more than in the plague cities, a mostly voluntary submission to that power as well) helps illuminate some of the reasons why.Report

  5. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    The Lambert article is premised almost entirely on a judgmental and, though he directly denies it, paranoid conception of the social whole, of the police and administration as a power over and above a passive citizenry, rather than, as a popular-democratic conception insists, an expression and “organ” of the people. Instead of viewing the events as a “disturbing” “submission to power,” we can view them as an impressive collective assertion of power. What or where is the position that allows Lambert or any of us to look down upon the citizens or members of the society who peacefully and to no great harm choose to suspend “business as usual” in order to facilitate the arrest of a murderously anti-social individual without further loss of life? What are we supposed to prefer?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      Let me start by saying I definitely am not looking down on the people of Boston. I do not doubt that if this had happened in any other city in this country, and the police had done what they did in Boston, the people there, or hell here in Austin, would have behaved exactly as the people of Boston did. I’m not so sure, however, that the people of Boston, or the people of Austin, or Chicago, or L.A., or wherever, would have behaved the same on September 10, 2010. In fact, I suspect the police wouldn’t even have bothered trying what they did in Boston. But over the last 11 ½ years, the specter of some abstract conception of foreign (Islamic) terrorism has been built up to such proportions in our minds that we are willing to simply stay indoors indefinitely so that thousands, thousands, of law enforcement officials can search for one 19 year old kid. Now, let me repeat what I said in my last comment: this 19 year old kid committed a horrific crime, and his reaction to it certainly suggests a complete disregard for human life, and I am glad that he is off the streets, but this is an issue of proportion, or a complete lack thereof. And I do not think it is a coincidence that, as the manhunt was underway and the police were telling Bostonites in large swaths of Boston proper and the suburbs, that we were being told repeatedly that these were Chechens who had only been in the country for a year, when it turns out that they had been in the country for some time, the younger one, who was the only one still on the loose, since he was 9 years old (and he was now an American citizen). Contrast this with what happened in L.A. just a couple months earlier when a very clearly American man, formally trained in tactics and the use of firearms, went on a killing spree, resulting in a massive manhunt. The police may have shut down certain areas when they thought that the killer might have been in that specific, immediate area, but they weren’t shutting down large swaths of southern California, and if they had tried, I doubt it would have worked, because they couldn’t raise the specter of foreign terrorism to scare the people into submission.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

        Do you mean 9/10/*01*? I mean, certainly. But is there some reason we wouldn’t expect the events of the next day to change the country’s reaction to acts of violence, to acts of terrorism, and finally, unfortunately, to violent acts of terrorism by Muslims? It doesn’t make the last (or any) of those changes in public and official attitudes right, but just to be clear, are you saying anything more here than that the country’s and law enforcement agencies’ attitudes about those things were changed by 9/11? That seems like a rather well-established fact by this point.

        That said, IMO this treatment of Boston vis-a-vis L.A. (reasonably) activates a lot of (reasonable) prior opinions about those changes that you have, but doesn’t make any effort to deal with the particulars of the decision that Boston authorities made (had to make) under a great deal of time pressure that day. Those views, I think, might well withstand such a more detailed analysis of the particular considerations that drove the contrasting courses of action that each city/county/state/FBI consortium took in each respective situation (Boston, L.A.; other similar situations could be added to such an analysis), but I don’t think it’s sufficient to dispense with such situation-specific analysis before arriving at the kind of view you took here. In short, I think you’re taking a shortcut to the application of your interpretive frame on Boston’s actions here, where they’re at least due a hearing as to what the balance of considerations was that led to their decisions.

        I don’t blame you in thinking that there can be no reasonable explanation for what appears to be a totally disproportionate response. But I think it’s fair to at least let Boston authorities try to explain why they did what they did as a practical matter other than that the wanted person had committed what had been experienced by much of the city as an act of terrorism, that the person on the loose was thought to be Muslim, and that that meant they could readily get public acceptance for whatever they thought were the means that would be most expedient for apprehending him, however maximally disruptive and authoritarian. Maybe you’ve listened to and rejected such explanations, but you don’t give any account of it.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Just to be clear: I’m not saying that your basic take here isn’t reasonable, looking at the whole situation after the fact. It is completely reasonable. But just given the high emotions in the city and the rapidity of the events as they unfolded over Thursday night through Friday, I just think it’s fair to give the Boston authorities’ explanations a hearing – if they are forthcoming. If they aren’t (or if they are unconvincing), well then everyone is entitled to let his initial take harden into his more considered take.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

          I did mean 2001, thank you (typing pre-coffee is bad idea).

          And I don’t actually think that our attitude changed overnight, so while we might have behaved this way on September 11 or 12th, or maybe any day in the immediate days and weeks after September 11, because the fear from that Tuesday morning was still very much in our minds, I’m not sure that 6 months from then things would have been able to play out the way they did in Boston last month. Instead, I think 11 ½ years of being willing to sacrifice liberty in the service of protection from a nebulous concept (Islamic terrorism) has led us to a point where the police can shut down an entire city to look for one kid, and we just stay in doors without a word of protest or questioning whether it’s necessary. Now, I do not think that prior to September 11, 2001, so many thousands of police would have been involved in any manhunt like this, but my main point is not about the changes in law enforcement in the last 11 years, but in the changes in our willingness to sit back and let the state dictate our behavior, as a result of our fear of foreign terrorism even when its embodied in the person of a 19 year old sociopathic kid who didn’t even appear all that competent in law enforcement’s portrayal of him.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

            Now I admit I’m a little confused, but I think I understood what you are saying now to have been what you were saying all along.

            I guess, basically I think you might well be right, but I’m not sure. I’m not sure that if everything had happened the same way in Boston, except they had not been Muslim, that Boston’s authorities wouldn’t have done the same thing given the same tactical exact facts (other than the Muslim part) on Friday morning. And I’m not sure the people of Boston wouldn’t have complied – either in such a case where the perpetrators of the same act (same bomb; at the Marathon, etc.) was not Muslim, or even in such a situation in a world in which 9/11 had never happened. I’m just not sure. I’m just saying I’m willing to let Boston’s authorities try to tell me why what they did was necessitated by some practical aspect of the situation before concluding it was all about what you’re saying it was (and I suppose its people to explain why they complied).Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

              I can think of two other instances of bombings in the U.S., in the 90s, in which the ensuing manhunts looked very different. In one case, Oklahoma City, the act was on such a bigger scale, and certainly appeared so much more sophisticated, that if anything could justify the behavior of the state and the people of Boston, it would have. In the other case (Atlanta), there was a lot of confusion, both about precisely what had happened and who had done it, but the initial crime was very similar to what happened in Boston. I think that they serve as interesting comparisons, both since the specter of foreign terrorism was not yet hanging over our head, and since we knew pretty quickly that the perpetrators were Americans.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

                In those investigations were authorities ever dealing with identified suspects in those bombings who, since the bombings, had gotten into violent confrontations with police, hijacked cars, tried to rob ATMs, and killed a police officer – on the loose in a major American city (in a larger mega-corridor with rail links that would take them quickly out of town and into other major cities)?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

                No, that is true, though we have other cases were such things happened without the initial act (the bombing). L.A. is one such example, of course: killed civilians, had shoot outs, car jacked people, held people prisoner, etc.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

                I would submit the rail links to lots of other large cities make Boston different from L.A., and that that offers some initial justification for shutting down the public transport. Certainly what requires the highest bar for explanation is the shelter-in-place for the whole city. I’m skeptical, but I’m willing to hear the reason why it was necessary or “necessary.”

                My point is that different situations are different. Your point seems to rest on an assumption that different situations should be expected to be treated the same in important ways, absent particular reason why they legitimately should be treated differently. I’m saying that the difference here might well not be legitimately justified, but that they should be given the opportunity to tell us why the difference was justified before we assume that the difference was due to illegitimate reasons.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I’m actually cool with shutting down public transport in some situations. I mean, at the very least, it makes it more difficult for a person to transfer to another part of the city.

                My issue is with a.) the proportion of law enforcement’s response, and b.) the people’s willingness to just stay in doors throughout the city (and apparently away from windows) because the police told them to.

                I’d be willing to hear the police explain why they thought their response was proportional, though.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

        This issue was discussed a bit under Burt Likko’s reaction post, so excuse me if I repeat myself a little from then.

        First, the fact that other cities reacted to roughly similar events differently wouldn’t tell us that there is anything wrong with how the Bostonians reacted, or, for that matter, to put things in the paranoid form, how the authorities “ordered” those submissive Bostonians to react. Mr. Drew has pointed out some of the unique aspects of this situation, but, beyond the immediate possible practical considerations and uncertainties under time pressure, in comparison to Dorner in L.A., for instance, the Tsarnaevs had engaged in radically anti-social acts. The acts were taken and quite evidently intended to be radically anti-social, and terroristic, because they were attacks on the social-political whole, the undifferentiated collective as such. One Bostonian, or any person in Boston, was as good a victim as another Bostonian except as, on the Patriots Day bombing itself, the victim might (literally) stand as more representative of the whole. Why shouldn’t a populace that upholds itself positively in its collective identity respond “as one” to the attack on them in that same dimension? From what perspective is that response to be condemned? What is its political identity? Why can’t the rest of us look at the united reaction to the radically anti-social murderer as a proper or at worst perfectly symmetrical reaction, a restoration or healing of the positive, not merely richly valued but absolutely necessary identity violated by the attack on the popular celebration?

        There is nothing “irrational” at all about this reaction, though its logic is different from, though parallel to and supplemented by, the “public safety” logic. The people become existent to themselves as a people in acts of public mutual presence to each other, like the Patriots Day events, a democratic festival of the sort that Rousseau might have dreamed up while attempting to close the gap between the ancient democratic ideal and the requirements of (for him nascent) modern mass democracy. The inability of certain types of implicitly anti-democratic discourse – broadly characterizable as right and left libertarian – to comprehend at worst impartially the means of self-realization or -restoration of the whole state, of the culture-state or popular state, helps to explain the uselessness and impotence of that discourse. The right and left libertarians are like the misogynist who hates women because they don’t generally, except for the deeply troubled ones, find him attractive.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          It seems to me that, with the exception of the bombing itself, the on-the-lamb behavior of Dorner and Tsarnaev was very similar, and what we knew about it as they were on the lamb was also very similar. To the extent that they are different, the behavior of the former seems more dangerous to the public at large than the behavior of the latter. I don’t think this similarity, and the direction of the potential differences, is easily overlooked simply because their initial crimes were different.

          I also admit that I have a hard time accepting the “what is done to one of us is done to all of us” reasoning. Now, I’m actually all for a more European-style communal culture in this country (you can see it, in some places, in small towns, but I’ve never been to a major American city where I felt the way I might feel hanging out in the commons in Perugia in the early evening), but this again seems to me like something different. I think the analogy, in the article that sparked this conversation, to the plague cities of Europe actually works quite well, and in fact your analysis confirms this. In those cities, the plague genuinely did affect all of them (it wasn’t just that they felt affected as members of the community in which something had happened), and people submitted to the quarantine and the exercise of power by the state because of this. What disturbs me, again, by the logic (I don’t think it was illogical, given the premises that Bostonians, and in fact all of us in post-9/11 America, are working with) employed by the state and the people who submitted to it, in Boston last month is that it was not the actual individual who allowed things to get to the point that they did, but the individual in combination with 11 years of building fear of foreign terrorism. Again, I think it is quite telling that the inaccurate information that the media was releasing, which they were getting from the same law enforcement agencies that were telling people to stay indoors, was that the two, and then one, object of this unprecedentedly large manhunt, were very foreign and very connected to existing pockets of Islamic terrorism (in Chechnya or Dagestan, places that many Americans had likely never heard of, but which were immediately associated with Islamic terrorism by the media and their law enforcement sources).Report

          • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

            One difference between our perspectives on this one, Chris, is that I don’t accept as a given that the reaction to 9/11 was disproportionate or can be judged objectively to have been so. On 9/12/01, if George W Bush had told the nation that the only way to prevent further 9/11s and worse was to use nuclear weapons, I’m not sure he wouldn’t have received majority support. I’m also not convinced that the response favored by President Al Gore or any other imaginable executive would have been significantly smaller. I think it quite possibly would have been much bigger: 250,00 troops to Afghanistan, systematic nationalized civil defense efforts tied to a top-down alternative energy policy, etc. The response we chose instead was in some senses relatively much more proportionate. I also think that the last 11 years can be more justly described, for instance if we turn to polling evidence, not as “building fear of foreign terrorism,” but as “dissipating fear of foreign terrorism.” The social hyper-awareness may still be latent, but latency isn’t the same as expression. If and when a new or worse 9/11 or other disruption occurs, the residual fear may be revealed as closer to the surface, or it may turn out that the reservoir has been depleted. It’s impossible to predict, and a lot will have to do with the particulars, with the actuality and related perception of the threat, and not merely its lethality. As for the connection of the Tsarnaevs to “Islamic terrorism,” I think it’s actually well-established, though that’s not at all to say there weren’t other major factors. It’s not to say that the Tsarnaevs are not also products of late capitalist neo-imperial America, especially since “Islamic terrorism” itself is a product of late capitalist neo-imperial America. Islamic terrorism may qualify as neo-imperial rent, and rent must be paid, though we naturally also try to keep the fees as low as possible, at least if we like where we’re living or prefer staying to the costs and risks of moving who-knows-where.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

              I want to leave aside whether the military response to 9/11, which also got us into Iraq, was proportional. I don’t think it was, but I recognize that I’m in an extreme minority when it comes to Afghanistan (one of the first things I thought after I watched, live on television, the second plane flying into the towers, was that this would mean war, and my horror at what was happening at that moment became augmented by a deep sadness at how many people would die, both American and foreign, in our response).

              Instead, I want to focus on the years afterwards. Eventually the fear became so deeply conditioned that it was no longer necessary to use meaningless colors to project a sense of abstract but imminent danger, and the resulting required submission to inconvenient and, at times, potentially dangerous losses of liberty or violations of privacy, became reflex. I’m willing to concede that on the surface, perhaps, our security theater has managed to do so on the surface our explicit fear has dissipated, but I suggest that this is only because the fear has become so internalized, the submission so reflexive, that all it takes is a few key words (as in the night and morning of the Tsarnaev manhunt) to bring the fear to the surface and activate the reflex.

              By the way, earlier this week I watched people stream off a bus over two stops because of the presence of a large group of loud and boisterous Arab youth, speaking, singing, and chanting in Arabic. Fear successfully dissipated.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                Whenever someone says “security theater,” I think of Artaud’s stern instruction to would-be playwrights that they focus less on what “should” happen to their characters than on what “must” happen to them. I also think this judgment has to do with whether you are judging the popular reaction, or what you observe of it, against an ideal or on the historical curve.

                Like you, I also knew when the second plane hit that there would be war, and that many more people would suffer and die. Didn’t everyone know that, including the terrorists? I also, incidentally, expected the then-existent Iraq/Saddam problem to be “solved,” most likely violently, in the process. (Again, didn’t everyone?) So far, it’s all been much less bad, less expensive in blood and treasure, than, if you had asked me at the time to predict, I would quite wrongly have guessed.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                I don’t mean to say that I’m the only one who realized war was inevitable. Simply pointing out that my dread of our reaction became one of my dominant responses to the horrors of that day. Unlike many of the people I knew, blood lust was not one of my responses. However, I understand that response. I’m not sure I fully understand what happened in Boston. Perhaps it is, as you say, because I don’t find that response attractive (though I am not, it should be said, a libertarian — to the point that I’ve been uncomfortable with using the word “liberty” during this discussion).Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    There was another insight that came to me last night in a dream, of all places.

    “Libertarian” is one of those states that is pretty much *NOT* a default state. (I tend to see the default states as “Republican”, “Democrat”, and “Cripes, I Don’t Freakin’ Care”.) If someone is a Libertarian, they probably converted to Libertarian from one of the defaults. (Which is not to say that everyone on one of the defaults started on the square they’re on… but that relatively few Libertarians as a percentage started out as Libertarian.)

    For a while there, in the US, anyway, atheism was not a default state. There were the various flavors of Christianity, a handful of flavors of Judaism, and a bunch of apathy that manifested itself as twice-a-year churchgoing. Out-And-Proud Atheism was something that people converted to. (This is much, much less true today than it used to be.)

    There are a bunch of libertarians that are atheists. Talk to any group of atheists and ask them “who are your Fathers?” and Nietzsche is one of the names that will come up. The atheists in the group of libertarians will, most likely, not be different from the atheists who are staunch Republicans or the atheists who are staunch Democrats or the atheists who are staunch Cripes I Don’t Freakin Cares.

    If you talk to any group of atheists within the Democrats and ask “Who are your Fathers?”, I bet you that Nietzsche will come up about as often.

    It seems to me that the interesting question might be “why are there so many atheists among the Libertarians?” rather than “what is the relationship between Nietzsche, the Austrians, and Libertarianism?”

    I mean, if someone says to a Libertarian “if God is dead and we are free to do whatever we want, why *CAN’T* I impose my will on the weak???”, well, I’d point out that there are a bunch of people who said “God is dead and we are free to do whatever we want and I’m going to impose my will on the weak!” They didn’t become Libertarians, though. They went to different buildings to hang out. Nightclubs, probably. Make-out parties.

    Nietzsche won’t necessarily get you to Libertarianism. It’s just that the atheists (of a certain age or older) who ended up being Libertarian wandered through Nietzsche on their way to where they are… just as the atheists (of a certain age or older) everywhere else did. Insofar as Libertarians have more atheists, as a percentage, than Real Philosophies, it will have more people who see Nietzsche as a father.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      It seems to me that the interesting question might be “why are there so many atheists among the Libertarians?”

      I’m trying to think of some way to connect a potential answer to that question to this without sounding insulting either to libertarians or to non-libertarians.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

      Forget libertarianism for a second. You’re not dealing with the fact that there are compelling geographical, temporal, and historiographic reasons to investigate a relationship between Nietzsche and “the Austrians,” which is really mostly what Robin is up to. He wants to trace the history of free market ideology back through that story. The connection therefrom to libertarianism is, from what I can see, despite the appearance of the term in the title of the essay and a bit of half-hearted speculation about Nietzsche’s direct effect on people’s turn toward it in contemporary times, more or less incidental (and kind of a known commodity).

      So the connection from Nietzsche’s thought to your libertarianism is uncomplicated for you. Fine. That doesn’t mean there’s no story about Nietzsche, Viennese modernism, Austrian economics, and free market ideology to tell (which might be illuminating or might be tendentious).Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Forget libertarianism for a second.

        I did. I looked at atheism.

        The connection therefrom to libertarianism is, from what I can see, despite the appearance of the term in the title of the essay and a bit of half-hearted speculation about Nietzsche’s direct effect on people’s turn toward it in contemporary times, more or less incidental (and kind of a known commodity).

        I didn’t get to The Nation’s article via this post, though. I got there via the Crooked Timber post. The one titled “The Leopold and Loeb of Modern Libertarianism”? Yeah, that one.

        In that post, Corey Robin says “How many teenage boys, after all, have found their way into the free market via Nietzsche? None, one insider tells me; a lot, says another. My impression is that the latter is right, but good data is hard to come by.”

        That doesn’t mean there’s no story about Nietzsche, Viennese modernism, Austrian economics, and free market ideology to tell (which might be illuminating or might be tendentious).

        She’s free to tell it. But if she wishes to speculate on such things as “Might there not be more than the misguided enthusiasm of adolescents connecting Nietzsche to the modern movement for free markets?”, she’s going to have to put up with comments on different blogs entirely like the ones I’ve written above.

        And, sadly, so will you.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

          You didn’t forget libertarianism. Up top you said the relationship was entirely uncomplicated; here you’re furiously hedging that view. But you’re still addressing it.

          I acknowledge the quotes you mention. As I say, I take them as somewhat incidental; a jumping off point to a worthwhile inquiry. You’re perfectly welcome to jump all over that, but in the process you either do or don’t completely ignore the fact that, despite the fact that you think that the link between (your) libertarianism and Nietzsche is completely obvious and self-explanatory, there still might be quite a bit more to the question as a matter of intellectual history. (That’s why I called your comment above solipsistic – I don’t think it can be reasonably denied that it is that.)

          And who says I think I don’t have to put up with what you write here? I’m excited to see what you write here. It means I get to make you have to put up with what I write about what your write here.

          Also: Corey Robin is a she? I did not know that.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

            …Yeah, no. He’s not. He’s a he.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

            As I say, I take them as somewhat incidental; a jumping off point to a worthwhile inquiry.

            I kinda see them as similar to saying “how much do modern progressives have in common with the eugenicist left from the teens?” and then making a reference about how many women were raped and then spayed.

            Or, I suppose, asking about the relationship between the people who voted for Romney and the Dixiecrats.

            It’s deliberately risible. Now, I’m not saying “it’s risible and so, therefore, I’m offended! We need to shut down debate!” I’m saying “It’s risible and I’m going to friggin’ talk about it.”

            If you’d rather talk about the Nation piece, awesome. I look forward to reading your comment. I just don’t see why it’s incumbent on me to talk about that instead of talking about the incidental comments that put a thumb in my eye.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

              Okay, that’s fair I guess. (Though Robin seems to be saying that the connection between Nietzsche and libertarianism seems on the surface to be at best much more attenuated than the direct relation many young libertarians make it out to be – though of further examination there may be more to it as a matter of the concrete history of ideas, while the rightist move against the left is to force a connection between various now-discredited movements of a century ago and today’s left – that today’s left explicitly disavows. I’m not clear how those two things are all that similar, though I wouldn’t deny there’s some broad relation of type between the two moves as rhetorical ploys. If they’re related, though, it’s more through Robin’s larger project, not as much the offending quotes you point to, which actually dispute the connection.)

              I got the impression you were saying that the whole project is risible because the relationship between Nietzsche and libertarianism is just so obvious. If your problem is with just those quotes but you don’t have a problem with Robin’s more substantive project, then we’re all cool. (Though I’m not completely seeing how it’s such a thumb in your eye that someone would make the outlandish claim that your interpretation of Nietzsche is “misguided” (oh noes!). Isn’t that kind of what you sign up for when you decide to go down the road of interpreting Nietzsche? Isn’t calling other people’s interpretations misguided more or less what the field of Nietzsche studies, like, is? It takes some pretty thin skin to get you-know-what-hurt over having that particular bromide thrown at you when discussing Nietzsche interpretation. Dude’s pretty all over the place. We are to think that the idea “The idea ‘Nietzsche –> libertarianism’ is misguided” is some kind of over-the-line thumb-in-the-eye when it comes to it? Really?)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Dude. I’m a white male in the corner of the atheist libertarian internet. There are areas when I have skin so thick that you might reach the conclusion that I must have some high-functioning version of autism to have responded the way I did. And other areas where you’re stuck telling me that I should apply aloe vera to burned area when I respond with a “what the hell?” response.

                What can I tell ya? Nietzsche is my father. You want to tell me that he’s so fat that when he talk to himself, it long distance? Fine. Do that. Please don’t be surprised if I get all touchy in response.

                You talkin’ ’bout my pa.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                No, totally. I was going to come back and say – you didn’t like those quips; that’s your prerogatey, dude. Have a good weekend.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jaybird says:

          I love how the very first comment to that Crooked Timber post — the very first comment — is about whether we should shut down critical discussion of Nietzsche entirely.

          My those chickens don’t take long before they come home to roost.Report