Loose Ends (1)

I stumble across lots of little items in my eclectic reading pile that don’t rise to the level of deserving a whole item on Power Line (especially when they are about metaphysics, my weekend hobby), but which might be worth a sentence or two in a grab bag of things. So I’m going to start a new recurrent series called “Loose Ends.” Though I’m sure many readers will think it should be called “Loose Screws” (as in my head).

Take John Dewey, for example. Yes, I know, this sound like a setup for a Henny Youngman joke: Take John Dewey. . . please! Because Dewey is either a crashing bore and/or a scoundrel most of the time. But once and a while he says something halfway interesting or worthwhile, believe it or not. In his early book (1916) German Philosophy and Politics, Dewey argues that this Nietzsche fellow won’t have much of any impact anywhere—certainly not America—but nonetheless has some interesting observations on the differences between 19th century German philosophy and the Anglo and French philosophical traditions. There’s also this sentence:

Outside of Germany, it would be hard to find an audience where an appeal for military preparedness would be reinforced by allusions to the Critique of Pure Reason.

Now that’s funny.

Meanwhile, someone will need to explain to me some day why the French produce so many thinkers like Jacques Ellul, Claude LeFort, Raymond Aron, Pascal Bruckner, Pierre Manent, Bernard Henri-Levy, etc., whose thought is so idiosyncratic and orthogonal to both Anglo-American and German social and philosophic currents, and why their writing style is so much more raucous and discursive. In any event, there’s this passage from early in the 1962 edition of Raymond Aron’s The Opium of the Intellectuals:

The fanatic, animated by hate, seems to me terrifying. A self-satisfied mankind fills me with horror.

To paraphrase an old Woody Allen joke: Terror and horror—let us hope we have the wisdom to choose wisely!

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