An essay, "Knowing and Doing History," by Ted Keller, was sent to me without any explanation. It was not appropriate material for the Proceedings of the Friesian School, so it is not given here; but my reaction to it, and my inquiry about its author, is expressed in the first posting below. Subsequently, to save space, only my replies to Professor Keller are given, since I have quoted his exchanges in their entirety in my texts.
Professor Keller's views turned out to be a very excellent example of Moralistic Relativism. His theory seems to be that a true relativist would never commit any crimes, or at least totalitarian political crimes: "Now, there is no way anyone, including self-styled Marxists, could adhere to such a vision while dogmatically suppressing the ideas of others and they haven't done so." So if anyone commits such crimes, they have to be absolutists. As I point out here, and in "Relativism", a true relativist can do anything and doesn't have to respect the views of anyone. All is permitted, as no deed can be "absolutely" wrong. So if Keller's "relativism" rules out certain behaviors, it must contain a certain moral principle, which cannot be "relatively" true.
In characteristic leftist, and moralistic relativist, fashion, this emerges with a vengeance when it comes to chastising the United States for its anti-communism. "Bad" communism, like Stalin and Mao, is dismissed as an absolutism that is really the equivalent of, and no better than, capitalism ("state capitalism"). Nevertheless, the efforts of the United States to resist such communism, from Stalin onwards, were misconceived, moralistic, and reprehensible. The mass murders and tyranny of such "bad" communism are ignored and all the deaths and evils of, for instance, the war in Southeast Asia, are blamed on America. Of course, Keller may have shared the faith of many leftists that communists like Ho, Castro, the Sandinistas, and the Salvadoran leftist guerrillas were "true" communists who would not simply impose "state capitalism." No sensible person could believe that of Ho or Castro, or of the Sandinistas after they came to power, but perhaps Keller only believed it of the Salvadorans, since he seemed particular exercised about the crimes of the rightist Salvadoran government and its death squads.
It is always interesting to see a "relativist" rise in great moral indignation above the political necessity of cooperating with the lesser of two evils, while scrupulously avoiding acknowledgement of the magnitude of the greater of the evils. It gives us a precise case of Paul Hollander and Paul Craig Roberts' views of the moral perfection demanded by the left for their own society and of their moral scepticism or relativism directed at the actions of others. Keller even gives us the amazing "we made them do it" defense of the auto-genocide of the Khmer Rouge: They wouldn't have been so mean if we hadn't been mean to them first. Somehow I don't think these arguments would ever be applied to anti-fascism as well as to anti-communism.
I have not included subsequent e-mail from Ted Keller because I think it is really terrible stuff, I have not wanted to devote the time to deal with it, and the purpose of these postings is to not to provide a forum for those who are uninterested in the Project of the Friesian School. It was also very long winded (just this file, responding to his previous comments, was already 69.2K).
A friend of Keller, who says that "Ted Keller's remarks on that page have been taken out of context," posted his subsequent e-mails at http://www.chezdd.com/keller.html. This domain now (2007) seems to have disappeared. I do not believe that Keller's remarks were taken out of context because they are included in their entirety, except for the original essay, which I had no reason to post.
I have already addressed independently what is wrong with relativism and, in defense of capitalism, what is wrong with Marxism. There was no point in rehashing what Mr. Keller had to say. The only reason his remarks are addressed here is that they form such a classic example of moralistic relativism.
KNOWING AND DOING HISTORY, Ted Keller, [etc.]
I don't know why I was sent the above entitled essay, what its source is (are you Ted Keller?), or what I am supposed to do with it. It seems like a typical deconstructionist nihilism, fully conformable to the Foucault quote with which it begins, another recycling of Marxist "power relationships" theory, a source of easily applicable fascist principles. Very dismal, albeit trendy, stuff
Dear Professor Keller,
Thank you for your response. My comments will follow in the text.
At 02:06 PM 8/17/97 -0700, you wrote:
To answer your questions: Yes, I'm Ted Keller, and Prisma is my email name. A retired univ. prof. of International Relations, I wrote "Knowing and Doing History" in 1991 and occasionally send it off to people I think might be sufficiently turned on or off by it to find it stimulating. Curious about the current state of the Absolutism vs. Relativism debate, I searched "relativism" via Excite yesterday and your's was one of several names which stood out.
I agree with your identifying relativism as consistent with Marxism. While on sabbatical leave in 1983-84 I wrote a book entitled MARX'S TRUTH AND ITS CONSEQUENCES in which I argued (convincingly in my opinion) that unless Marx's axioms are interpreted relativistically they don't constitute a theory (i.e., a set of deductively connected tenets). With rare exceptions, self-described Marxists have vehemently disagreed. As you're undoubtedly aware, Western Marxists, like those in Russia, China, Eastern Europe, etc., have invariably given Marx's analyses absolutistic interpretations. Whereas anti-Marxists have contended Marxism will lead one away from "the truth," the Marxists have insisted "the truth" about matters socio-economic-political can only be discerned if one utilizes Marxist constructs. In short, the debate between eastern and western theorists hasn't been a metaphysical-epistemological one. It has concerned only how one goes about finding absolute truth, not whether it exists.
A central thesis of MARX'S TRUTH AND ITS CONSEQUENCES was that what I call "Scientific Absolutism" is the metaphysical and epistemological expression of industrial-elite society, just as Religious Absolutism was the idea manifestation of the agricultural-elite (feudal) productive order. Proposing the industrial-elite order of production is approaching its final hour I concluded:
Marxist absolutism would see iself as the expression of an industrial-proletarian, communist society. Since such a society would represent the "end of history," this gives all the "superstructure" or expressions of that society an absolute status.
The paradox of Marxism comes not from such a theory, but from the idea that Marx or other Marxists can KNOW about that society now. They are not in the "subject position" of that society and so are historically not positioned to have the "consciousness" of that society. Marx's subject position was as a freeloader on his friends and relatives.
Maxism thus becomes caught in the relativism that its epistemology applies to anything that is not the consciousness produced by a communist society. As I point out in my essay, that is not a problem for Hegel, since Hegel himself was in the subject position of Absolute Knowledge; but it is a problem for Marx. Marx insensibly makes the objectivist assumption that knowledge can exist independently of external conditions, although this contradicts his own theory. This is the characteristic paradox of relativistic epistemologies.
Your own views appear to respond to this, not by accounting for Marx's objective knowledge, but by COMPLETELY relativizing the epistemology. That would eliminate the "end of history" as an absolute standpoint, would erase Marxism's claim to be the science of history, and would really end his aspiration to be a theory of something like communism. It does not eliminate the paradox of relativistic epistemology, which now applies more strongly to your theory than it did to either Hegel's or Marx's historicism.
"Time alone will test the hypotheses that Scientific Absolutism and the industrial-elite productive order are nearing exhaustion. If wrong, they shall continue to express the experience of few individuals, remaining eccentric propositions. If correct, critical analyses of the industrial-elite system and relativistic critiques of Scientific Absolutism will grow in number, as will studies describing a link between the two. In the latter event, applying Relativized Marxism leads to further predictions about probable reactions.
Making predictions about the future IS "scientific absolutism." The problem with Marxism was that it has NEVER been willing to accept the discipline of falsification. The Marxist "high tide of prophecy," in Karl Popper's phrase, was perfectly willing to kill people by the millions rather than accept that "wreckers," spies, or some diabolical conspiracy were not responsible for the failure of Marxist economics. "Relativized Marxism" would have NO predictions to make since it could not be a claim that there REALLY ARE necessary regularities to history. If you make a scientific prediction, it is because you have a theory about the laws of nature, which are part of the structure of reality. That posed no problem for Marx himself, but trying to "save" Marxism by turning it into a theory that the laws of nature are themselves merely "socially constructed" makes the whole project senseless.
According to that paradigm, just because their metaphsics is ceasing to be the experienced truth for people who must be made to accept it, representatives of an exhausted productive order are powerless to defend themselves with empirical observations. Feudal-elites did not do so. Unable to counter their opponents' theses with arguments which had material references for those they wished to convince, they pragmatically failed to understand them. Confident their own truths were forever, they attempted to deny their enemies the right to speak. Scientific Absolutist ideas were defined as blaphemous, sins against the feudalists' highest power, God. However painful they might find it, many Scientific Absolutists would probably move in the same direction. Since observer-independent truth is the Absolutists' highest authority, one would expect attempts at suppressing Relativists to be made in its name. Relativism would doubtlessly be characterized as an assault against rationality itself, an effort to take the world back to the Dark Ages of unreason. Having defined the threatening metaphysics as anti-rational, Absolutists could then reassure themselves there was no point in trying to meet it with rational arguments of their own. The idealism of such an undertaking--the identification of thought as the source of history's direction--would loudly declare its reactionary thrust."
While I've seen few indications that we've moved very far in the predicted direction, your reference to relativism as "trendy" suggests I may be wrong.
As for relativism encouraging fascistic conclusions, why you think that's so is puzzling. Hitler was a hard-nosed absolutist, who believed, as he argued in MEIN KAMPF, that he was engaged in peeling a distorting Jewish-originated film from people's eyes and bringing them THE truth.
But Hitler was no philosopher and gave no intellectual respectability to Fascism. That it got from philosophers like Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. Heidegger, indeed, is the perfect relativistic philosopher of Fascism, as he recognized and honestly acted upon himself. The self-deception or bad faith of the deconstructionists and "post-modernists" who constitute the vanguard of contemporary relativism is that they do not or can not translate their obvious intellectual dependence on Heidegger into an acknowledement of the totalitarian nature of their own project. If truth, indeed, is just a matter of POWER, as Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Foucault can all agree, then actual power is actually self-justifying, and no mere intellectual objections to it, whether in the name of truth or justice, have any meaning. The mere powerless individual, who to Socrates or Kant may actually be alone in seeing the Truth, becomes a mere meaningless "abstraction" to all sub-Hegelian theories.
Another aspect of his comes from the Japanese connection: the aestheticism and anti-intellectualism of D.T. Suzuki's Zen Buddhism was, at the time, perfectly conformable to the ideology of Japan's German allies. Thus, Eugen Herrigel, the author of the classic Zen in the Art of Archery, returned to Germany to find spiritual fulfillment in National Socialism.
All the fascist-leaning right-wingers I've known have been equally absolutistic. If you or someone you're aware of has given persuasive arguments in defense of the thesis that relativism and fascism are compatible I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know where I might find them.
How this all works is covered in my essay "The Fallacies of Moralism and Moral Aestheticism," at http://www.friesian.com/poly-1b.htm, which includes some quoted discussion from Paul Hollander's The Survial of the Adversary Culture, which makes much the same point. There are similar idea's in Paul Johnson's Modern Times.
I would be interested in the degree of intellectual sophistication in the "fascist-leaning right-wingers" you have known. The Fascism of Mussolini or Franco was absolutist in the sense that it came to terms with Catholicism and other conservative tendencies in Italy and Spain. But the 20th Century would not have been the century of Terror that it has been if Mussolini and Franco were the worst that we had to contend with. To break through the inhibitions of traditional morality and begin slaughtering millions: only Hitler and communists like Lenin, Stalin, etc. had the amoral gusto to do that--to "shatter," using Heidegger's term, the silly scruples of bourgeois morality (a terminology that both Hitler and Lenin could use) into the mass murder of class and/or race enemies.
The continuing totalitarian project of contemporary relativists is evident in the "politically correct" speech codes for colleges and the workplace, which now tend to be forumulated as "sexual harassment" and "hate speech" laws. According to the Mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown, opposing "affirmative action" is the "hate speech" of racists. The relativistic rhetoric of "multiculturalism," etc., becomes the means for enforcing political conformity: obviously an application of an absolutist morality. But that is the paradox of what I call "relativistic moralism," and it is of a piece with the basic paradox of relativism: for relativism to be true, it actually must be the TRUE, in an absolute, not a relative, sense. That truth can then be enforced by ANY MEANS NECESSARY.
So I would recommend to your attention the LOGICAL issue in my essay about relativism, the paradox of self-referential inconsistency.
Dear Professor Keller,
I don't have time to respond to your entire letter right now, but your last paragraph particularly caught my attention, so I'll say something about it.
At 10:38 AM 8/23/97 -0700, you wrote:
In your Aug. 19th letter you point to Martin Heidegger and Neitzsche as illustrating the connection between relativism and fascism. You're really reaching here.
Heidegger did go along with a degree of enthusiasm...
!!!! His blackballing of his own doctoral students, and his infamous speech on appointment as Rector, add up to considerably more than "a degree.."
at the outset, then fell silent when he saw where the movement was leading.
Why he feel silent is a good question. Since he was still talking about the value of National Socialism in press interviews in the Seventies, and never fixed up his praise of the movement in postwar editions of Introduction to Metaphysics, it does not appear that the activities of the Nazis were themselves disillusioning. He was always willing to accept "terrible" deeds in order to "uncover" more of Being.
Since the Nazis weren't smart enough to understand Heidegger, and they tended to treat him as a useful idiot, his disillusionment, such as it was, probably came from their lack of enthusiasm for him, rather than the other way around. Nevertheless, Peter Gay details the influence that Heidegger had in his good book Weimer Republic [sic actually, "Weimar Culture"], Outsider as Insider.
As for Neitzsche, if you've read him you know that when he spoke of a superman he wasn't referring to a specific race but to what he believed was the capacity of the species to transcend its present condition.
The race talk didn't matter when Nietzsche really DID mean that the species was going to "transcend" MORALITY. That is the bottom line.
Don't forget that Neitzsche broke with his sister because she married an anti-semite, and it was Neitzsche who described Richard Wagner's operas as inherently reactionary, oppressive and inhumane. Of course Neitzsche was conveniently dead and could be pragmatically interpreted at will by the Nazis, just as Marx has been by Marxists.
I don't doubt that Nietzsche would have repudiated the Nazis had he been alive, but by then the damage was done anyway. Not Nietzsche's preferences, but his PRINCIPLES, are are at issue. And Nietzsche's principles were a contempt for traditional ideas about morality: "beyond good and evil." Nor was Nietzsche all that innocent of anti-Semitic statements that could very easily be taken out of context (if that was even necessary).
No, I think that problem is that when Exististentialists say "Without God, all is permitted," or when relativists say that nothing is really objectively or absolutely true, especially in ethics, they (or you) have no reason to express shock or surprise when someone actually takes them at their word and is willing to do anything, especially in the pursuit of POWER.
The sort of tacit, gentlemanly agreements about means and ends that people like you may want to maintain only elicit contempt from those who have learned the lessons of Nietzsche and Heidegger all too well. If Thomas Mann was finally able to see that point, to see the vistas of crime and terror that had been opened up by Nietzsche's "immoralism," I don't know why you can't. You are free to interpret Nietzsche in some innocent and inoffensive way, but I doubt that Nietzsche himself would enjoy being so neutered.
I will get back to you when I can.
Dear Professor Keller,
Most of my comments begin several paragraphs down. In general, you seem to claim that relativists are nice people and absolutists are criminals. I guess that makes Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, and Martin Luther King criminals, and Friedrich Nietzsche a nice Christian gentleman. My view is that criminals can be either absolutists or relativists, but that a relativist cannot consistently claim that anything is really right or wrong, good or evil. Which makes it all the easier to be a self-justifying relativistic criminal, since no moral principle ever really need be defended.
At 10:38 AM 8/23/97 -0700, you wrote:
I'll respond to "The Fallacies of Moralism and Moral Aestheticism." Hopefully, you'll want to continue our exchange, in which case I'll take up your letter of August 19th.
Judging by your essay our agreements are more numerous than our disagreements. However, the latter are of much greater substance.
We're certainly in agreement respecting the harmful consequences of what you label "moralism," "anaesthesia" and "anhedonia." To the following arguments made in "The Fallacies" I can only say "Amen":
* Moralizing "involves having too much morality. . . . .obligation and duty comes to dominate ethics. All ethical goods are morally absolutized. . . . The aesthetic dignity of individuals--the variety of their personal character, preferences, and self-fulfillment--is lost; and all ethical or aesthetic rules are transformed."
* "Anaesthesia and anhedonia most easily occur in systems of religious or political moralism, where all valuation and obligation are bent towards religious or political ends, no independent forms of evaluation can be allowed . . . "
* For leaders of self-styled "Marxist" nations, Marxism has not merely been a "philosophy of intense moral indignation but a "secular religion.
* "Socialists generally seek "to abolish the present in favor of some better future--always taking it for granted that there is a better future." (Doris Lessing.) [Leon Trotsky's secretary made the same argument before taking his own life. Gravely ill with tuberculosis, Stalin denied him permission to go to Western Europe for treatment. Believing himself a burden on friends engaged in a struggle with Stalin which proved fatal for most of them, he shot himself. In a suicide letter he observed that upon recognizing their mortality most people identify with something larger than themselves. For those who are religious the something larger is a hereafter. "For us," he concluded, "it's creating a world of greater justice and compassion."]
I'm also with you when you side with Camille Paglia in opposition to Naomi Wolff et al.
That said, our reasoning differs greatly at key junctures and we reach very different conclusions regarding WHEN and WHY "moralising," "anaesthesia" and "anhedonia" occur. You consider them products of Relativism, Marxism and atheism. I heartily disagree.
[I forgot to say in my original reply, but should note here, that this is already a misunderstanding, since moralism and its forms vary independently of absolutism and relativism--they can occur with both. Keller has taken it to somehow only be a phenomenon of relativism, which seems like a serious oversight considering the category of "religious moralism."]
Let's start with Relativism. You write: "Moral aestheticism, relativism are used to defend what is favored by a political writer. . . . On the other hand, moralism, absolutism, and dogmatism are used to attack what is not favored by a political writer." Now, if you mean the individuals you have in mind are tolerant relativists when discussing things they like, then change into dogmatic absolutists when talking about things they oppose, I'm likely to agree where most people are concerned. However, in saying this you don't show a link between moralizing and relativism. To the contrary, you draw a connection between moralizing and absolutism, which, I believe, is exactly what you should do. In my estimation, "dogmatic relativism" is an oxymoronic concept. Bear with me and I'll explain.
The point was that relativism could not be MAINTAINED, which means that relativists necessarily slip over into absolutism--logically required by their own sense of the objectivity and absolute truth of relativism itself. There being nothing wrong with absolutism per se, there is plenty wrong with an unreflective absolutism which cannot contain itself and is expressed in moralistic terms.
I notice that, after this point, your letter, which ostensively is about my essay on Moralism and Moral Aestheticism, never says anything about them again. We are back to the "Scientific Absolutism" and Marxism business of your first email.
According to Scientific Absolutism the universe is made up of objects and events whose forms are observer-independent. An observer discovers (or fails to discover) given forms. He in no way creates them. It is precisely this paradigmatic assumption which relativistic thinkers from Marx, to William James, to Karl Mannheim, to modern quantum physicists have so thoroughly rejected.
And they are wrong, and you are misunderstanding quantum physics: although the observer and objects are interdependent in quantum mechanics, the Laws of Nature are just as absolute as they ever were, if not more so. While empirical objects may not be independent of the observer (a point already made by Kant, without a hint of relativism), the Laws of Nature definitely are. Unless you have some new theory in physics yourself.
Nor is "scientific absolutism" the issue here. Moral claims have nothing to do with science, a point already made, again, by Kant.
Gary Zukov outlined the relativists' paradigm in his book THE DANCING WU LI MASTERS, writing:The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics says that what we perceive to be physical reality is actually our cognitive construction of it. . . .
Ahhh, actually no. Our interaction affects the nature of objects (mainly the wave/particle duality), but this has nothing to with our "cognitive construction." When a wave function collapses and an electron appears at a certain location, what we think about it is irrelevant. The location is only constrained by Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which is an equation.
this is not only different from the way we have looked at the world for three hundred years, it is opposite. The distinction between the 'in here' and the 'out there' upon which science was founded is becoming blurred.
Already "blurred" by Kant, rather less than 300 yeas ago.
This is a puzzling state of affairs.
Only for people unfamiliar with the history of philosophy.
Scientists, using the 'in here-out there' distinction have discovered the 'in here-out there' distinction may not exist!
It certainly exists in Quantum Mechanics, since "in here" is always a Classical and determinate universe, while "out there" can exist as the wave function sum of possibilities. In the Cophenhagen Interpretation, WE and our instruments, according to Bohr, are always Classical. Perhaps Gary Zukov missed that part.
What is 'out there' apparently depends, in a rigorous mathematical sense as well as a philosophical one, upon what we decide 'in here.'
Not on what we "decide," if your author is still talking about Quantum Mechanics rather than something else. On what we DO, e.g. observe certain things.
We call something nonsense if it does not agree with the rational edifices that we have carefully constructed. However, there is nothing intrinsically valuable about these edifices. In fact, they themselves often are replaced by more useful ones. When that happens, what was nonsensical from an old frame of reference can make sense from a new frame of reference, and the other way round.
This confuses the process of generating new theories with the principles of Quantum Mechanics. Quantum Mechanics, indeed, has repelled every attack launched against it since the 1930's. Thus, surprisingly, it has become quite a durable "rational edifice."
Like measurements of space and time,
Now we got Relativity involved? But measures of space and time are quite determinate, given one's frame of reference, and this was all introduced by Einstein to PRESERVE the invariability of the Laws of Nature.
the concept of nonsense (itself a type of measurement) is relative, and we always can be sure when we use it that from some other frame of reference it applies to us.
The "concept of nonsense" was confused with the concept of truth by the Logical Positivists, but if Zukov is using the Truths of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity as a basis for his argument, the absolute relativization of "sense" isn't quite the result.
Joseph Chilton Pearce (THE CRACK IN THE COSMIC EGG) described it:It used to be thought that the physical was a fixed entity 'out there.' . . .
By, I suppose, 19th century materialists. This hardly need be taken seriously.
Reality is not a fixed entity. It is a contingent interlocking of moving events.
I don't think even Aristotle would disagree with that, unless by "Reality" we mean immaterial entities, like abstract or transcendent objects. 19th century materialists who "used to think" their own naive thoughts, didn't have any use for those things anyway.
And events do not just happen to us. We are an integral part of every event. We enter into the shape of events, even as we long for an absolute in which to rest. . . .
Ah: The Velocity of Light! Ask Dr. Einstein.
We focus on the world through an esthetic....
Nietzschean moral aestheticism.
prism from which we can never be free except by exchanging prisms. We impose our categories on what we see in order to see. We see through the prism of our categories. . . . Whatever we see is what reality is for us, and there will never be, from here to eternity, any other kind of reality for us.
This has come a long way from physics. "Imposing our categories" has nothing to do with Quantum Mechanics. "Categories," of course, has a Kantian ring to it, as this kind of thing is always just a bastardized, relativized knock-off of Kant.
To the Scientific Absolutist proposition that objects and events/things have forms independent of our personal experiences and interests....
Even in Relativity and Quantum Mechanics "events/things" DO have forms independent of "our personal experiences," which is why scientific results are REPLICABLE. This all is to confuse the interaction of observation with objects, which can be repeated by anyone, with some kind of subjective internal experience that is "personal" and unique. Our "interests" have nothing to do with it. Very sloppy.
.....William James responded:We carve out stars in the heavens, and call them constellations, and the stars patiently suffer us to do so . . . We name the same constellations diversely . . . In all of these cases we humanly make an addition to some sensible reality, and that reality tolerates the addition. . . . . We break the flux of sensible reality into things . . . at our will.
Try doing this when you need to get your car fixed, or when you have a temperature of 105. The arbitrary Gestalt of a constellation is very different from just seeing things any way we want to.
We create the subjects of our true as of our false propositions.
Now, there is no way anyone, including self-styled Marxists, could adhere to such a vision while dogmatically suppressing the ideas of others and they haven't done so.
Again, the point is that relativism cannot be consistently maintained by anyone who actually has to claim something or do something. Relativism makes it all the easier to dogmatically suppress the ideas of others because it obviously cannot be ABSOLUTELY wrong to do so!
Lenin wrote an entire book (MATERIALISM AND EMPIRIO-CRITICISM) against Russian leftists who were interpreting Marx relativistically, contending:The "naive realism" of any healthy person who has not been an inmate of a lunatic asylum or a pupil of the idealist philosophers consists in the view that things, the environment, the world, exist independently of our sensation, of our consciousness, of our self and of man in general. . . . Outside us, and independently of us, there exist objects, things, bodies and . . . our perceptions are images of the external world.
When Lenin feels free to commit mass murders, it is because he is not bound by the scruples of "bourgeois morality." He relativizes such moral scruples out of existence for himself. His passage here is about material reality. No Marxist ever thought that MATTERS OF VALUE existed independently in the same way. But when we are talking about right and wrong, which is what is at issue here, it is moral objectivity that counts, not the independence of the external world.
You concluded your essay by remarking: "The irony of Marxism being a 'philosophy of intense moral indignation' is that Marx himself didn't believe it was about morality at all". Exactly!
Which is the problem. No morality. No crime. All is permitted.
Nor did Marx ever transform himself into an absolutist, though I'll concede the Marx of DAS CAPITAL occasionally said things which sounded rather absolutistic.
The morality of Communism will be absolute because that will be the "end of history" and its ideological "superstructure" will be permanent. Hence the frequent talk of "people's justice" in Communist regimes: which meant kangaroo courts, if even that, and murder. This is perfectly consistent with Marx.
Consider the difference between Marx's position on free speech and that of absolutistic Russian, Chinese, et. al. political leaders who have dogmatically controlled what was said about anything socio-economic or political.
Marx wrote:Freedom is so very much the essence of man that even its opponents realize it, in that they fight its reality; they want to appropriate the most costly jewel, which they will not consider the jewel of human nature. No man fights against freedom; at most he fights against the freedom of others. Censorship is criticism as government monopoly; but doesn't criticism lose its rational character when it proceeds, not openly but secretly, not theoretically but practically; . . . when it wants to apply criticism but not to suffer it; . . . when, finally, it is so uncritical as to confuse individual with universal wisdom, dicta of power with dicta of reason, ink spots with sun spots, the crooked lines of the censor with mathematical constructions, and striking blows with striking arguments. Freedom of the press proceeds on the presumption of anticipating world history, sensing in advance the voice of the people which alone has hitherto judged which writer was "competent," which "incompetent."
You'll note Marx decried "confus/ing/ individual with universal wisdom," asserting the "voice of the people" alone is able to judge the competency of a writer. Since he believed idea and experience constitute a ˙ocunity˙ou for every individual, he could not have concluded otherwise.
One hopes that Marx would not have become as much of a hypocrite as his followers. However, I am not sure how an absolute, natural right to freedom of speech fits in with your relativism, or with the nature of Marx's system. Instead, Marxism contains all kinds of good reasons to abridge freedom of speech: the capitalist ownership of the press (which means it is NOT free), false consciousness (which means that we stand in need of re-education before our thoughts can be "really" free), the trumping of "political freedom" with "economic freedom," the class theory that can collectivize the "voice of the people" into the actions of very grim and very nasty individuals, and, of course, the absence of any moral foundation to rule out coercion or oppression in the name of the people, the revolution, the Dialectic, etc.
You seem to make the typical move of regarding relativism itself as implying a moral principle of tolerance: e.g. "their views are as good as yours, therefore you must tolerate them." This does not follow. If my views are to make everyone agree with me, then this would, indeed, be as good any anyone else's views. So there is no reason not to act on them.
Tolerance requires morality. Since Marxism abolished "bourgeois" morality in favor of that of a society that didn't exist yet, anything at all could be claimed as commensurate with its morality.
In a laudatory essay entitled "Karl Marx and the Classical Definition of Truth," written while he was a university professor in Poland, Leszek Kolakowski compared Marx with William James. At the time, Kolakowski obviously considered himself a relativist as well, observing:In abstract nothing prevents us from dissecting surrounding material into fragments constructed in a manner completely different from what we are used to . . .
Always much easier said than done, as with the people who think that an infinite number of scientific theories are possible to explain the same empirical or experimental facts: but they never seem to be the ones at the Nobel Prize presentations.
No division, not even the most fantastic as compared with what we are accustomed to, is theoretically less justified or less 'true' than the one we accept in actuality. . . .
What justifies our belief that the visual world of a fly, made up of light and dark spots of neutral colors, is less "authentic" or less "true" than ours,
If it is made up of light, spots, and colors, it certain sounds like our visual world.
except the fact that ours is better adapted to our needs? . . . In all the universe man cannot find a well so deep that, leaning over it, he does not discover at the bottom his own face.
In an introduction to the book in which the indicated essay was published (MARXISM AND BEYOND, Paladin Press, 1971), Kolakowski noted with puzzlement that although it was purely philosophical, this article disturbed Poland's political authorities more, had more to do with his being driven from the university, than all of the critical political tracts he had written combined. He should not have been puzzled. Portraying Marx as a relativist directly challenged the absolutistic interpretation being utilized by political authorities, an intepretation vital for justifying their telling others what was "really" true or false.
Since Marx was not a relativist, Kolaknowsi should hardly have been surprised to have been seen violating doctrinal orthodoxy.
Whereas Marx proposed idea and experience are a unity for EVERYONE, the Marxists decided this unity only exists between the consciousness and experience of classes.
The class struggle is Marx's own idea, and there is no denying that the experience of different classes is different. The unity of "idea and experience" therefore limits the "idea" to the CLASS consciousness of individuals. A truth directly accessible to every individual would have to be independent of experience, which you seem to wish to agree with Marx by denying. But in those those terms, the "Marxists" are perfectly faithful.
Ergo, individuals may make erroneous judgements;
Individuals express class interests, which are neither right nor wrong except in terms of the interest of the class that comes NEXT in history.
ergo, they need enlightened leaders to judge for them and to weed out/suppress "false" comprehensions which might otherwise lead them astray.
Marx's original theory did not need such leaders, since he thought that the requisite consciousness who arise spontaneously. When that evidently did not happen, it was necessary to propose the theory of "false consciousness" to explain why the working class wasn't pursuing their "true" interests. This all made Lenin's "vanguard of the revolution" the next step.
For Marx it was self-evident that to have full power over one's life requires having full power over over one's truth,
The separation of truth from social circumstances would seem to be an argument for absolute and objective truth. You don't seem to want to say that, and I gather that you want to purify such tendencies out of Marx.
an idea as unacceptable to Russian, East European, Chinese, etc. leaders as it is to their counterparts in the West. Prophets, as the old adage goes, must be forgiven their disciples.
They simply agreed with you that truth and knowledge are "socially constructed." They just wanted to be sure that individuals were proper members of the revolutionary society. Anything else, naturally, was a crime against the revolution.
WHY did Marxist political leaders make this epistemological transformation?
Because of the relativity of truth to the politically correct society.
Marx himself provides the answer. According to his theory individuals are held together in community out of an assumed desire to maintain their "social existence" (what we call their socio-economic status). If some members of society have an elite socio-economic existence, they will have to dominate society's consciousness in order to defend it. They do this reflexively, he proposed, automatically creating philosophies which justify their control. Moreover, since the preservation of their socio-economic existence is everyone's fundamental aim, so long as non-elites are being sustained they will internalize and act out an acceptance of the elite's comprehension. Not to do so would mean entering into conflict with the elite. Marx called the internalized utilitarian philosophical perspectives of communities their "spiritual quintessences," arguing they don't come under challenge until and unless a sub-community develops whose members' social existences can no longer be maintained within the established order. According to Marx, it was the arch-conservative impulse described which took our species from hunting and gathering productive communities, to semi-nomadic slave systems, to agricultural-elite (feudal) structures, to industrial-elite (capitalist) productive orders.
You've got that exactly backwards. No "arch-conservative impulse" can take society into new forms of organization. It is the new mode of production that doesn't fit into the old "spiritiual quintessences" that is a revolutionary force and brings about the future through the class that embodies it.
As Marx and many of his contemporaries noted, the "spiritual quintessence" of feudal productive orders east and west was that truth is absolute, comes from God, and arrives on earth via a nobility and clergy who have special access by virtue of their greater piety and faith: The ˙ocDivine Right of Kings˙ou found in feudal Europe, the "Mandate of Heaven" found in feudal China and Japan.
Marx went on to propose that Protestantism was the "spiritual quintessence" of industrial-elite society, and there I disagree. The Russian and Chinese revolutions involved the overthrow of feudal structures which were no longer able to socio-economically sustain a growing number and the erection of industrial-elite productive orders in their stead.
The Russian and Chinese "revolutions" were attempts to by-pass the captitalistic mode of production of private property, which would have put all the revolutionaries out of their political jobs. Slavery to the state gave THEM ownership of everything. This all had more to do with self-interest and rent-seeking than with Marx's Marxism, although it was the only way that Marxism ever got fixed up to be put into practice.
Those who carried out that transformation and subsequently dominated the new industrial-elite orders have been atheists, not Protestants.
Which is why they were unable to reproduce the wealth and progress of capitalism. If you are arguing that Protestantism was not essential to capitalism because Russian and Chinese Communists were atheists, I think you have a very confused argument.
As argued, they have also been Scientific Absolutists.
As was Marx himself. So what? 19th century "scientific absolutists" produced wealth and freedom; 20th century communist "scientific absolutists" produced tyranny, poverty, and mass murder. What's the point?
Milovan Djilas (THE NEW CLASS) detailed the anti-feudal character of the Russian Revolution, describing the Bolsheviks as "both revolutionary in their opposition to the status quo and staunch and consistent in their support of the industrial transformation."
Of course, in their ignorant Utopianism they didn't understand what "the industrial transformation" required.
In practice, Djilas emphasized, "this meant a radical destruction of established ownership relations. No other party went so far in this respect. None was 'industrial' to that degree." Alvin Toffler has made the same argument respecting China's revolution and the role of the Chinese Communist Party.
So they got rid of feudalism. So what? They were out of their reckoning when it came to what came next.
By early 1918 the Bolsheviks were already acting to protect the USSR's nascent industrial-elites by moving against anarchists and others who argued for "equality now."
At this point, it is hard to tell whether you think this was good or bad, or why you are talking about it.
As late as June 1921, Lenin presented an elaborate defense of the changes being wrought, exhorting:The alternative (and this is the last possible and the only sensible policy) is not to try to prohibit or put the lock on the development of capitalism, but to try to direct it into the channels of state capitalism. This is economically possible, for state capitalism--in one form or another, to some degree or other--exists wherever the elements of free trade and capitalism in general exist. Can the Soviet state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, be combined, united with state capitalism? Are they compatible? Of course they are.
This is exactly what I argued in May 1918. I hope I proved it in May 1918. Nor is that all. I then proved [!!!] that state capitalism is a step forward compared with the small proprietor (both small-patriarchal and petty-bourgeois) element. Those who justapose or compare state capitalism only with socialism commit a host of mistakes, for in the present political and economic circumstances it is essential to compare state capitalism also with petty-bourgeois production. The whole problem--both theoretical and practical--is to find the correct methods of directing the inevitable (to a certain degree and for a certain time) development of capitalism into the channels of state capitalism; to determine what conditions to hedge it round with, how to insure the transformation of state capitalism into socialism in the near future. In order to approach the solution of this problem we must first of all picture to ourselves as distinctly as possible what state capitalism will be and can be in practice within our Soviet system, within the framework of our Soviet state.
At the time, Trotsky reflected only Lenin dared make such a statement. The new political leaders, dictators ˙ocin the name of˙ou the proletariat, were already justifying their control with the contention they represented socialism and communism, not the construction of a state capitalist society.
I missed that. It looks like you just quoted Lenin explaining "state capitalism" as the MEANS of attaining socialism and communism. Since he had taken over a society that was more feudal than capitalistic, he did have some explaining to do. And he actually had a country to run, which Trotsky never had to worry about. By 1921, "war communism" had failed disastrously, so Lenin had to come somewhat closer to reality than he, or Trotsky, had to do before. That would have meant, in orthodox Marxism, a capitalistic society. Lenin could have created the "political freedom" of the 1848 revolutions and then sent history merrily on its way. But couldn't all the "evils" of capitalism be avoided by the rational control of history? Couldn't a benign substitute for capitalism be found, without all the "exploitation"? Eureka! "State capitalism"!
Finding themselves socio-economically sustained,
i.e. terrorized by a Police State.
most Russians were automatically [!!!] going along.
For Russian, Chinese, et al. communists to describe themselves and their societies as socialist or communist was no less bizarre than it would be for me to declare myself a teetotaler and a vegetarian as I washed down a roast beef sandwich with a bottle of merlot.
Excuse me. I don't think they ever called their societies "communist." They simply defined their "state capitalism," where the means of production were owned by the state, as "socialism." Calling it "national socialism" would be just. But they were under no illusion that it was anything Marx had ever talked about. History had not gone Marx's way. Theirs at least was an honest theoretical adjustment, which was all they could do if not give up Marxism.
The gap between the top and bottom in Russia and China, even during China's Cultural Revolution, has been much greater than in most anti-communist Western nations.
No kidding. Tell that to the Democratic Party.
You claim self-described Marxists are more likely to become dogmatic moralizers.
Marx himself was a dogmatic moralizer, regardless of his theory. He never talked about Jews or capitalists as though they were well-meaning victims of history, or even heroes of history by overcoming feudalism and advancing the mode of production.
I see no material evidence whatsoever for that claim. When the Russians pronounced themselves socialists and communists the U.S. and other western nations did not laughingly remind them we are what we do, not what we say. Instead, with the same dogmatism, we went right along with this mind-boggling proposition.
Went along with it? What is THAT supposed to mean? What was "mind boggling" about them calling themselves socialists and communists (the latter meaning, of course, only that they were PURSUING communism)? We were supposed to dispute their Marxist bona fides? Why should anyone have waded into hair-splitting Marxist dogmatics with them, especially when there was no value in Marx in the first place?
You have very strange things to say.
Why? In 1917 Western nations were engaged in a World War over which of them would dominate and control which raw-material regions of the globe.
I don't think Germany was getting much in the way of resources from Tanganyika and Southwest Africa, or that Britain ever got much out them for having acquired them in the war. Neverthless, Germany had the second largest economy in the world by 1914, and could well have won WWI if the US, the largest economy in the world, had not stepped in. How Germany could have become so powerful without dominating the "raw-material regions of the globe" is a little mysterious, given the implications of what you say.
Another industrial-elite competitor was hardly going to be welcomed.
Ridiculous. No one was afraid of the Bosheviks becoming "another industrial-elite competitor." This is some Marxist conspiratorial view of history--as though the Soviet Union was ever going to be a great industrial power in any case. At the time, indeed, certain people would have hoped that the Russian Revolution would produce greater wealth for all than Capitalism, but I doubt that any political or economic "elites" in the West thought anything of the sort.
After World War II the U.S. became the most vociferously anti-Soviet Western nation. Why we did so is just as obvious. By the mid-1950s the U.S.S.R. had rebuilt much of its heavy industrial base and was looking for profitable relations with underdeveloped nations.
Just nonsense, again. The USSR was occupying Eastern Europe, rigging elections, imprisoning dissidents, etc. It was looking for "profitable relations" by conquest--the "underdeveloped nations" would come later, after decolonization. Nor did the Soviet Union ever have much of a "heavy industrial base." The United States was demobilizing in 1945-47, as after all previous wars, until the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia and the guerrilla war in Greece. Then Truman woke up to the threat of Soviet tyranny, about which Roosevelt had been criminally complacent.
Here I understand quite well what you are saying: Stalinist propaganda. Not good for some relativistic Marxist.
At the same moment, rapidly growing sub-communities within the latter were discovering they could no longer be socio-economically sustained by the existing agricultural/raw-material-elite productive orders and preparing revolutions. The U.S.S.R. offered a solution. It would help the anti-feudal revolutionaries win their battles, then sell them the heavy industrializing machineries required for establishing industrial-elite structures--in the name of socialism and communism, of course. By employing our moralizing and dogmatic anti-communist logic
Anti-communism meant oppossing mass murder, slavery, and tyranny. Your denigration of it reveals your own colors, your own dislike of capitalism--your own, indeed, moralizing and dogmatic dislike of capitalism.
to fight Soviet Third World incursions we defended our extensive Third World raw-material and agricultural interests.
More Marxist boilerplate
Our moralizing anti-communism also justified propping up our economy through the construction of a huge military-industrial complex.
War is the life of the state, sadly; but with the Berlin blockade and the North Koreans south of the 38th parallel, the war was thus initiated by the Soviets and their clients. Your moralizing AGAINST "anti-communism" simply reveals you as their friend and, indeed, client.
In order to reach your conclusion that Marxists, atheists and relativists are more inclined to become dogmatic moralizers you must keep your eyes averted from recent events in much of the world. Between 1979 and 1990 there were 50,000 death squad murders in El Salvador. Many of the individuals were brutally tortured before being killed. That was nearly 1 percent of El Salvador's population, and another 16 percent went into exile. Not a single individual was arrested for the killings.
Interesting. How many murders did the communist rebels and invaders perpetrate? Perhaps you don't know, or don't care. They were the good guys, to you, because they were communists (whether they should have properly called themselves that or not). Who started this nasty civil war? Did communist rebels never commit murders or make people disappear? Interesting, how the war in El Salvador suddenly ended when Communism collapsed and Nicaragua voted out the Sandinistas? Hadn't the Contras in Nicaragua been doing this nasty "death squad" business too, according to your good friends in the leftist press? My, my. How could the Nicaraguans then vote their friends and protectors, the Sandinistas, out of office? They even had a chance to bring them back and voted against them again, in the last year or so.
But your moral self-righteousness over the "death squads" is interesting when morality is only this relative thing, and there is no absolute truth. So I take it that "death squads" are evil in some absolute sense?
Consider how we might react if there were 2 million death squad killings in the U.S. and 40 million people fled, with no arrests.
We had 600,000 die in the Civil War, which was 2% of the population at the time. That was over some kind of moral issue, as I recall.
If you've read about this conflict you're aware that El Salvador's prolonged counter-revolution was both financed and directed by the U.S. While our government publically condemned the death squads, it was the CIA that set them up, provided the Salvadoran military with torture instruments and trained operatives in their use. At the height of the conflict American pilots flew over the Salvadoran countryside in planes equipped with infrared devices that identify assemblies of people from the heat of their bodies. This information was then relayed to the Pentagon, and two hours later an attack plan was sent to the Salvadoran Air Force. When the Salvadorans struck they flew U.S.-supplied Hughes 500 helicopters with night vision scopes and electronically operated Gatling guns able to riddle every square foot of a soccer field over and over, the 50-caliber bullets passing through trees as though they were cardboard.
Thank God we drew the line somewhere, after shamefully abandoning the Vietnamese and Cambodians to the tender mercies of the Communists. But you are simply repeating Communist propaganda here. That ship has sailed, friend. We were the good guys in Vietnam, and in Central America. Those Salvadoran refugees, I notice, tended to come HERE, not to a "friendly" place like Cuba or Nicaragua. I've had a number as students and have heard their stories.
You are a dupe of tyranny.
But I love your self-righteousness and the lie it gives to your "relativism."
The same struggle was going on elsewhere in Central and South America. In Guatemala 120,000 people were murdered during this period, 40,000 made to disappear and 1 million driven from their lands. In Argentina 20,000 were "disappeared." Many of them were drugged, flown out over the Pacific and pushed from the planes. You may have seen the "60 Minutes" interview of a guilt-ridden Argentine military officer who was involved. He told of a Catholic bishop who urged him and others not to feel guilty, consoling them that they were doing God's work.
So I take it that killing people is bad. Absolutely. OK. So lets add up the millions, in fact hundreds of millions, murdered by the Communists in the USSR, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, etc. R.J. Rummel has a number of fine books on this. Your moral outrage over Argentina, etc., although commendable for its acute perception of mostly fascist regimes, is suspect for its selectivity. You have picked out the small potatoes in relation to all the crimes of the century. What you ignore are the politically correct regimes for the left. The communist beam disappears in your eye, while the motes in the eyes of capitalism are outrages that cry out to Heaven. Give me a break. You are so transparent. And some "relativist."
Then, there was the moralizing and dogmatic "anti-Communist" war we waged in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Does our killing of 5 to 12 million in that conflict,(depending upon whose statistics you accept) really
Cf. Rummel. The Communists killed far more, even AFTER THE WAR, than the anti-communists ever did.
We also killed several million Germans and Japanese. This made Hitler and Tojo the good guys?
describe us as honorable when contrasted with those you villify?
Indeed. We were honorable. In an honorable cause. But I thought YOU were going to villify the so-called "communists" too? Oh. You must have forgotten that you were supposed to do that. Just can't keep up this objectivity can you?
Our treatment of Cambodia's "killing fields" has required an inordinate amount of dogmatic moralizing. To quote from an essay I wrote 7 years ago:As Johnson and Nixon escalated our attacks on the Vietnamese revolutionaries in the latter part of the
Excuse me. The Vietnamese murdering communists.
1960s and early 1970s the guerrillas sought sanctuary across the border in Cambodia and we began to pursue them. . . .
So I take it you think it was OK for the Vietnamese communists to use Cambodia and violate its neutrality, but that they should be safe and protected there from any action by us against them.
You are one of those people, 7 years ago or today, who is still an apologist for Communist tyranny and its wars.
When we started going in 85 percent of Cambodians worked the land and most others lived in small villages. Rice was the country's primary crop and it then produced enough to export. Unlike Vietnam, Cambodia had almost no industry. Phnom Penh, its capital, had only 200,000 inhabitants.
We very quickly revolutionized their situation. By bombing and rebombing the countryside we killed the water buffalo used as draft animals and made it increasingly impossible for Cambodians to farm. At the same time, we commenced sending servicemen to Phnom Penh for Rest and Relaxation, while shipping in huge quantities of Western manufacture, transistor radios and Tvs, sun glasses, shirts and dresses, motorbikes, watches, whiskey, the works. Young Cambodian men who couldn't survive on the land flocked to the capital to run shops or bars or black market operations and young women arrived by the thousands to work as bar girls, masseuses and prostitutes for our battle-weary, women-hungry soldiers. In only a few years time the population of Phnom Penh soared to over 2 million. Cambodia also became heavily dependent on the U.S. for food. Instead of producing rice for export, it now relied on the endless 100-lb sacks of that grain arriving on U.S. planes.
So I suppose the usual evils of a war economy in Phnom Penh mean we should have let the Vietnamese have their run of Cambodia. Pathetic stuff.
Then came the mid-1970s and our decision to end the war. Having reached that conclusion we carried out a final massive bombing of Cambodia's countryside and pulled out completely, all at once. When we left, the U.N. estimated Phnom Penh had enough food to survive at most a week. With most of their water buffalo dead, with virtually no rice or anything else planted and no more food-stuffs being flown in, the Cambodians confronted mass starvation.
Cutting off Cambodia without aid was the idea of your friends in Congress who just wanted to wash their hands of the war, having been persuaded by the likes of you that it was a bad business that we should never have been in, and that the Vietnamese and Cambodians would be better off in the loving arms of their own "revolutionaries," as you put it.
Naturally, they did exactly what people have historically done in their situation. The majority drew together, defined a minority as subhuman enemies, and kept themselves alive through wholesale slaughter. Anyone with glasses or a gold tooth or the ability to speak a foreign language was labelled a representative of evil capitalism and attacked.
This had already been done over and over again by Communists in Russia, China, and in North Vietnam itself after driving out the French. But according to Communist sympathizers like you, it is always our fault for making those nice people do those nasty mass murders.
Somewhere between 1 and 2 million Cambodians died and a couple million others were provided semi-starvation diets and used as slave labor to reestablish a rudimentary production of food. Having put the Cambodians in circumstances where a 'killing fields' outcome was inevitable, the U.S. then washed its hands of the whole affair, urging the world to 'Witness for yourselves how barbarously and inhuman communists behave.'
The U.S. then washed its hands at the urging of people like YOU, who did not at first want to believe in the murderous instincts of your treasured "revolutionaries." Then when the murders were undeniable, it had, of course, to be blamed on us. This is the kind of anti-Americanism called "blame America first."
But lets keep up that moral fervor. There's not much left of your "relativism" at this point.
And if those "killing fields" were so "inevitable," why wasn't the Left warning about a "bloodbath" at the time? Indeed, I remember nothing but derision from the Left when Nixon warned about a bloodbath.
Regarding your proposition that atheists are more prone to become dogmatic moralizers
Let's see here. I never said "more prome." I would say, "just as prone as anyone else." If you happen to be an atheist, I think you have demonstrated this quite well.
I offer you the Bosnian Serbs who lined Croats and Muslims up against walls and slaughtered them like sheep, including women, children and babies, who entered Muslim classrooms and massacred students in their seats, then went to church to ask, and from their religious authorities receive, God's sanction for what they had done.
Really. What do you think you are proving here? Do you think I have actually said that "religious" people don't commit crimes in the name of religion? Yet you have supposedly read my essay that includes discussion of "religious moralism." You better get straightened out about what I would say, and what you are saying. Surely you are not saying that atheists are LESS likely to commit mass murders than the religious?
I would, indeed, say that relativism provides a more convenient justification for murder than a system of morality in which there is something prima facie wrong about killing innocents.
Or consider the Zionists who literally dictate Israel's policy toward Palastinians. It is their proposition that God has directed Jews to reconquer the "Whole Land of Israel," including parts or all of Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq and Sinai. They argue God has also commanded them to rebuild his temple on the Temple Mount. Only when they have done these things they, reason, will humanity be saved. Many of their number conclude that killing Arabs to gain the land or rebuild the temple does the Arabs a favor, for they, too, shall be redeemed. The Zionists' god is as beastial and bloody as the god of Ayatollah Khomeini or the Islamic fundamentalists who now control Afghanistan, as a few heroic Israeli Jews have been declaring, many of them the children of Jews who suffered or died in the Holocaust.
Let's see again. I think Israel has done many evil things, but at least so far their massacres of Palestinians have been confined to a few dozens at a time. I think they properly fear that a hostile Arab ascendency over Israel would not be so constrainted. And I think they are right.
But this is not particularly relevant, again. People have always killed each other and have used their religion or ideology to justify it. In this century, however, the really vast murders have all been in the name of ideologies that owed little to traditional religion, mainly inspired by Marxism.
Then, there were the perpetrators of the Holocaust. While there's no evidence Hitler was particularly religious, in his opinion international capitalist-communist-Jews were the enemies of the human species and he used religious justifications for his battle against them. To quote from MEIN KAMPF:If, with the help of his Marxist creed, the Jew is victorious over the other peoples of the world, his crown will be the funeral wreath of humanity and this planet will, as it did thousands of years ago, move through the ether devoid of men. . . . Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.
As I have said before, Hitler was no philosopher and was not responsible either for the intellectual respectability that Fascism had, or for the actual historical influences on him, which were from, indeed, a Marxist collectivization of history and responsibility.
In your Aug. 19th letter you point to Martin Heidegger and Neitzsche as illustrating the connection between relativism and fascism. You're really reaching here. Heidegger did go along with a degree of enthusiasm at the outset, then fell silent when he saw where the movement was leading. As for Neitzsche, if you've read him you know that when he spoke of a superman he wasn't referring to a specific race but to what he believed was the capacity of the species to transcend its present condition. Don't forget that Neitzsche broke with his sister because she married an anti-semite, and it was Neitzsche who described Richard Wagner's operas as inherently reactionary, oppressive and inhumane. Of course Neitzsche was conveniently dead and could be pragmatically interpreted at will by the Nazis, just as Marx has been by Marxists.
I have already responsed to your desire to defend Heidegger and Nietzsche.