12 Comments
May 25, 2023Liked by becca rothfeld

I'm saying we shouldn't do intellectual history!

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Lol, that is one solution!

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Jun 2, 2023Liked by becca rothfeld

My undergrad thesis supervisor, a Descartes scholar, would complain that "people will blame Descartes for anything and everything!" For philosophers, it's one's disfavoured view in phil of mind or epistemology--but I recall reading a right-wing evangelical author even blaming Descartes for tolerance and multiculturalism, lol. I would suggest that this move--identifying a single thinker as the Source of the Bad, a scapegoat for all the perceived intellectual ills of one's society in a fuzzy historical narrative--is deeply tempting because (1) it makes for a cleaner and more manageable psychodrama ("it's Aristotle or Descartes or Marx or Derrida or Foucault or Confucius who's to blame!") and (2) it allows you to avoid the trouble of explaining how the thinker's view V actually entails worldview W. I'm no Descartes scholar, but I bet it would be a challenge, to say the least, to actually derive "the modern condition" from "the Cogito." (Even if you can reason from the Cogito to mechanistic causation, you still need an independent normative principle--for Descartes in the Discourse on the Method, "the law which obliges us to do all in our power to secure the general welfare of mankind"--to argue further that we should become "the lords and masters of nature.")

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totally. psychodrama is a really good word for it--it makes everything more manageable, intellectually, and shrinks it all to human scale.

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Jun 6, 2023·edited Jun 6, 2023

Generally speaking intellectuals try to be propagandists for the most powerful currents they see forming around them. Especially noticeable today

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When I see the word "sweep" I reach for my revolver. (Unless the subject is baseball, in which case I remain calm, usually.) Why writers go mad when writing about the history of philosophy remains mysterious. Nothing "sweeps" unless you don't bother to read the contrarian reviews.

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Isn't this just a way of saying you don't like Heidegger or the continental tradition descended from him?

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No, I love heidegger!

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Sorry, but your remarks about Descartes are simply trivial chatter. In spite of your PhD you don't seem to know very much about Descartes, Cartesianism, or philosophy. Jonas, as a professional philosopher, takes for granted an understanding of modern thought which is just over your head. Or you pretend a shallowness that panders to the readership of a daily leftist paper. Descartes is still the clear founder of an ever more dominating train of thought that deifies the authoritarianism of scientific 'consensus.'

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Sorry, but “the clear founder of an ever more dominating train of thought that deifies the authoritarianism of scientific 'consensus’” is just a string of buzzwords. What does that mean? You think Descartes caused scientific consensus to form? that Mark Zuckerberg is reading the Meditations all day? That Descartes gives you bad vibes? Sure, maybe there is some connection, but what is it? What does “clear leader” mean?

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May 26, 2023·edited May 26, 2023

"Clear *founder*" means Chapter One of any history of modern philosophy textbook. The term 'cause' is something of a sledge hammer in historical argument, but if Descartes hadn't put it together as effectively as he did, as philosopher with the added clout of being a genius mathematician and physicist (and brilliant ballistics engineer), it's not at all clear that the course of history would have been the same. He nailed the importance of science to warfare and political aggression. The cult of Descartes was powerful and widespread; every subsequent philosopher of importance had to react to his ideas. Young men who were 'Cartesian' were distinguished for kicking their dogs.

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History of modern philosophy, that is.

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