Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Square One

An anon very helpfully told me where I've gone wrong.

If you (and the bloggers on your blog roll) ever attempted to read any political philosophy before "fixing" it, you would save a whole lot of time spent reinventing the wheel.

I got a little bit of a chuckle out of this, because I've heard that I've read too much, taken too much of a theoretical approach, and come off as too bookish and not nearly as practical, experiential, and worldly as I should be. It's interesting, how we appear to others.

The fact is that I've read quite a bit of political philosophy. Printed out Marx from the middle school library, actually, and went from there. I have a lot of the liberal reading list, I know more about Rand than I care to, and I'm fairly adequate in historical and international movements, too. So why don't I hash that out here? Why do I reinvent the wheel?

Why, for the same reason I don't build my understanding of metaphysics using the Bible or Koran or the Vedas. Political philosophy is not only about received wisdom, and in fact, sometimes received wisdom is nothing of the sort. Political philosophy, like spiritual understanding, can be something developed on one's own.

Even if I agree with political philosophy that has already been written, I must know why I agree. I must do my own work, my own proofs, and come to my own results. I can do this, and have done this, while reading manifestos and essays. I'm rather good at working alongside a thinker as I read. But there is only so far this can go. Sometimes I need my own place of repose, my own meandering gibberish where I figure out where I stand.

This is why this weblog exists. I can quibble about "the greats" if I like, but I don't. It's tiresome and priestly and boring. So here, I talk about what I think. And I respond to what other people think. All are equal, all are welcome, all speak for themselves. I don't need to pass along the "for the Constitution tells me so" shit or go back through my undergraduate reading list unless there is something particularly pertinent or pithy.

And, to be nasty, I look at capitalism and I see the Congo. I look at Marxism and I see despots. I look at liberal democracy and I see raped Vietnamese women. I look at conservatism and I see lebensraum and Manifest Destiny. I look at anarchism and I see futility. I look at libertarianism and I see privilege confused for principle. I see the world's ideologies, like its faiths, and I see ugliness, ruin, waste, and error. I pick from their corpses and I go back to work.

I am tired of looking for the right book, Anon, just like I'm tired of waiting for a banner under which to march or a god for whom to preach. I am tired of inferior intermediaries and disappointing entertainments. In my fiction, in my beliefs, in my philosophy, and in so many other places in my life, I reclaim my right to build my own. If Mr. Rawls has had the same idea as me, that is lovely. Maybe I'll pick him up again sometime. In the meantime, I am not defeated because I share my path with a million others. In basics, it is pleasant to have company.


  1. This is a great post. Once the academic trap is sprung all you get are people talking at each other about footnotes. My opinion is that it's constructive to reference other writers, but only in moderation. If your anonymous commentator wants to read footnotes, he or she ought to be doing that in the academy, not in blogs. If his or her intention was to insult you, I believe you have more than sufficiently acquitted yourself.

    Finally, your penultimate paragraph deserves its own response, which I may do on my blog...

  2. Agree with Abonilox. It is a pleasure to be in this company.

  3. I pick from their corpses and I go back to work.

    How dare you imagine that your noggin can process signs images ideas and constructs with as much facility as, say, Louis Proyect.

    How dare you.

    Meanwhile, you've got my vote.

  4. Thank you all.

    Karl, LP can be alright. We all need Marxist professors now and again. Or maybe I've read too much Heinlein lately and am becoming desensitized to patronizing professor characters. What was with that guy and author-stand-ins?

    Jack and Abon, you are both very kind. I'll watch your site as always, Abonilox, though I need to start commenting around here more. Hard enough to say something.

    Anyway, people are weird. I am too academic for the yokels and too coarse, somehow, for the real polished degreeheads. Fuck them. I'm well-rounded.