I'm in the midst of "The Closing of the American Mind" ... it is my 3rd or 4th reading, but it has been over a decade since the last, or I'm sure I would have blogged it, although it will be HARD to summarize since it covers the breadth and a good deal of depth of all of Western Thought ... Plato, Socrates, Hegel, Weber, Heidegger, Kant, Hobbes, Locke, Calvin, Rousseau. Marx, Nietzsche ... etc.
One of the fundamental things that must be understood is that "reason" is a TOOL that can be used to "rationally explain" most ANYTHING! What counts are "first principles" -- the "leap of faith" ... postulates that are not testable but taken as a priori FACT like "the universe is predictable and understandable" ... the basis for science.
The other thing that is hard to accept, but I find very true, is that it all comes back to God or it comes back to Nietzsche ... who unfortunately, although NOT intentionally, led to Hitler. If you "kill god", then you enable new "Supermen" -- creators of new myth. Men who are "beyond good and evil", but rather DEFINE the new "values" (morality) -- using the "will to power" (the scare quotes are around the statements of Nietzsche).
“There is in fact no way of thinking about the world, says Hitler, which allows us to see human beings as human beings. Any idea which allows us to see each other as human beings … come[s] from Jews,” Snyder told me in an interview. As Snyder sees it, Hitler believed the only way for the world to revert to its natural order—that of brutal racial competition—was to eradicate the Jews.
Hitler saw the idea of "man as man" -- "universals" to be a "Jewish idea" -- the idea of abstractions being "beyond nature". Hitler was a naturalist ... an ecologist. He believed "survival of the fittest" and that humans were NATURAL ... not "chosen", "specially created", etc.
There is in fact no way of thinking about the world, says Hitler, which allows us to see human beings as human beings. Any idea which allows us to see each other as human beings—whether it’s a social contract; whether it’s a legal contract; whether it’s working-class solidarity; whether it’s Christianity—all these ideas come from Jews. And so for people to be people, for people to return to their essence, for them to represent their race, as Hitler sees things, you have to strip away all those ideas. And the only way to strip away all those ideas is to eradicate the Jews. And if you eradicate the Jews, then the world snaps back into what Hitler sees as its primeval, correct state: Races struggles against each other, kill each other, starve each other to death, and try and take land.Hitler is very wrong of course ... the idea of the world as we see it being a "projection" of universals or "perfect forms" goes back to Plato ... but Augustine, in "City of God" synthesized the Judaeo / Christian vision with Plato ... Augustine realized that the God of the Bible was the reality of what Plato apprehended dimly.
He sees the Jews as being the thing which destroys the world, which infects the world. He uses the term “pestilence” in this sense—the Jews have infected the world. They’ve made the world not just impure in some kind of metaphorical sense—he really means it. And so the only way to purify the world—to make things go back to the way they’re supposed to be, to have a natural ecology, to go back to this struggle between races, which Hitler thinks is natural—the only way to do that is to physically eliminate the Jews.All our "big questions" of the day come back to "God or nature" -- Religion says God, ecology says nature. Hitler was an ecologist. One needed listen to an ecologist very long to hear that MAN is a "pestilence" -- Hitler was just a more selective ecologist. He felt that once the Jews were eliminated, nature would take it's course and the fittest would reign.
I worry a little bit now about, just very generally, that with the financial crisis; with the instability in the Middle East; with the Chinese economy tanking; with Russia breaking all the rules in Europe; and with people in Russia, in Europe, in North Africa more freely expressing anti-Semitic views—I worry a bit that we are tilting towards some kind of anti-globalization where the Jews, or somebody else, could become the explanation for why things are going wrong.Humans LOVE to have a scapegoat! The Jews, the 1%, "the right", Christians, etc
Once you abandon God ... or the idea of the "transcendent" if you just can't buy God, then you fall into what Nietzsche so courageously but tragically discovered -- the abyss. The utter meaninglessness of existence. Then you are DRIVEN -- to self destruction, or to "the will to power" ... the creation of brand new mythology that comes from outside of reason.
A quick glance at mythology -- be it Nazism, Islam, Marxism, Progressivism, Atheism, Scientism, Historicism ... or from the non-believer POV, Christianity will inform you that they are not all "equal".
You WILL pick one ... or perhaps you have a great "will to power" and will invent your own, but it is at least incumbent on any thinking person to know what they serve.
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