Defending the Con

When a con-man is found out, his first defenders are almost inevitably his victims. No one wants to admit to themselves that they are gullible, that they’ve been conned, that they’ve been fooled. It takes a mountain of evidence to break down a person’s ego, and even then you will find defenders among their victims.

There are some institutions out there that are particularly attractive to con-men—to sociopaths generally—and the most attractive institution of them all is elected office. Especially in a government that has power over the economy. When you hand governments a great deal of power over people’s lives and reward politicians for sociopathic behaviors, you should expect to find a great many sociopaths there. Worse, even those who aren’t sociopaths will act like sociopaths because of the incentive structures of elected office.

Of course, many will deny that we primarily elect sociopaths or those who are willing to act like sociopaths to keep office (and power). These are the victims of the con-man defending the con-man. The real problem is that you’ve been fooled all your life, and it’s too embarrassing and shameful to admit you’ve been fooled all your life by a much of sociopaths using you for their own self-aggrandizement.

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Interdisciplinary Education for an Interdisciplinary World

Part of the problem with education is students do not know what relevance many topics they study have for them.

I remember throughout grade and high school that I thought math to be utterly unimportant and irrelevant to anything I was ever going to do. And throughout most of my early years I had wanted to be a scientist. How could teachers have allowed me to think that math was not important? I did not really learn math was important until I took chemistry in high school. It was only then that I truly understood fractions for the first time.

And, even though I loved to read, I thought literature pointless (it did not help that in high schools they seem to go out of their way to find the most boring literature available –- I learned how wonderful literature was in college, when we were made to read books and stories that were actually interesting). Literature had nothing to do with biology, after all, and that was what I was going to go into. This attitude is not unique to me or to high school –- it prevails in most students, and through college.

It was only later, after I had decided to pursue literature and especially after I started working on my Ph.D. that I began to see how interconnected everything was. For my dissertation, I was able to use my biology (after all, I wrote a dissertation titled Evolutionary Aesthetics), and I further discovered that it would have been a much, much, much better dissertation if I had known a great deal more math (fractal geometry and statistics in particular) and had learned to program (I actually needed to learn how to program much, much earlier than my Ph.D. dissertation, for my first attempt at grad school, but after I dropped out of my Master’s in biology, I didn’t think I needed to learn the programming I had needed to learn to finish my Master’s thesis–wrong again!).

I learned as I progressed through grad school that I actually needed many more tools from many more disciplines to do the work I wanted to do. For my dissertation, I needed to know social psychology, evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, economics, linguistics, neurobiology, molecular biology, mathematics, chaos theory and fractal geometry, programming, literature, and philosophy. And I didn’t know the math or programming I needed. I found a programmer, fortunately, but even then it would have been much better if I could have done it, and I couldn’t do the math I needed to do certain analyses to more definitively prove my thesis.

The disciplinary approach to teaching is breaking down. Students are siphoned into what they enjoy, and these same students then ignore everything else, complaining about anything that intrudes on the one thing they want to learn. This kind of hyper-specialized education is fine if all you want to produce is worker bees. But if you want creative thinkers, those who can come up with new things –- the kind of people who will make more wealth and produce more value in and for the world –- then disciplinary-only educations will not work.

What we need is a truly interdisciplinary education. We need interdisciplinary thinking, interdisciplinary classes, and interdisciplinary education. Only an interdisciplinary education will allow students to see how disciplines are interrelated. Only an interdisciplinary education will create interdisciplinary thinkers who can create more value in and for the world. We need chemists who love Bach, biologists who love Goethe, businessmen who love Aristotle. We need philosophers who love biology and business and artists who love physics and economics. Only with an interdisciplinary education will we have people who think this way, across the disciplines, through the disciplines, complexifying their thought so new things can be thought. What would the world be like if our politicians actually knew and understood the economics of Ludwig von Mises, the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, the plays of Sophocles, the linguistics of Chomsky and Pinker, the novels of Kafka, chaos theory, systems theory, evolutionary theory, the poetry of William Blake, and ancient Greek history? Could interdisciplinary thinking finally give the country great statesmen instead of demagogues? Could an interdisciplinary education create more ethical businessmen, since they would understand that there is not a conflict between ethical action and profit? Imagine a businessman who knew the value of a dollar, of his workers, and of a van Gogh. Imagine what an interdisciplinary education would do for teachers. Wouldn’t it make them – teachers? How can teachers teach when they know nothing? Teachers more than anyone should be interdisciplinary. They should know and understand the reason for having an interdisciplinary education, to understand and know the connections between the disciplines, and be able to help their students understand the importance of all the disciplines for understanding any one of the disciplines.

What is interdisciplinarity? It is not multidisciplinarity, where we have just a hodgepodge. It is not having students doing writing exercises in math class, or quadratic equations in literature class. That does not show students how the disciplines are interrelated. To have an interdisciplinary education, students need to know the value of each of the disciplines, how they relate to each other, the history of the disciplines. Students do not know how modern science arose out of natural philosophy and religion. Misunderstandings of ideas such as entropy make people reject evolution on the argument that more complexity could not arise in an entropic universe, where everything is becoming more random (this is, incidentally, not quite what entropy is about). We need to teach students about systems and complexity and information, so they can see how all disciplines relate to one another. This will give students an interdisciplinary education. And they will need an interdisciplinary education if they want to have an edge in this increasingly interdisciplinary world.

Enemies

Several years ago I went to a talk at the Dallas Philosopher’s Forum, and the speaker spoke about enemies — why we make them, and why we keep them. Around that time I also finished reading Lee Harris’ “Civilization and Its Enemies,” which talks about the existence of enemies, and the consequences for a society that denies their existence (in short: they don’t last long). The speaker at the DPF was a psychologist, and claimed that making enemies was learned, and had no biological context at all. This both ignores the fact that all social animals treat members of the same species, but different groups, as enemies, as well as ignores the fact that if the idea of having enemies is merely learned, then it begs the question of how such an idea could have come about in the first place. The only explanation could be that it just came out of nothing at all, or perhaps that it comes about when people got together into groups. Of course, this accepts the completely discredited anthropological theories of Rousseau — but his ideas are unfortunately still believed by most liberals, either overtly or implicitly.

Enemies came about when the first creature defended its territory against another. This goes as far back at least to the lobe-finned fish, from which evolved all the land vertebrates — amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Modern-day male gobies are brightly colored in order to advertise to other gobies that they are healthy, in order to avoid a fight with other male gobies. But when you have two equally-matched gobies, you will get a fight. But the bright colors — and the dances of the gobies — are much more often used in a ritualistic manner, to avoid violence. This prevents the gobies from getting hurt, while maintaining their territories. And when used with females, it allows the females access to the males so that breeding can occur. Thus, this ritual both avoids violence, and allows for breeding. It is no coincidence that the colors and the dances of the gobies are beautiful.

What we can learn from this is that enemies came first, and then the ability to deflect enemies through ritual came later. It also shows that the concept of an enemy has its origins in or most ancient of ancestors. But the ability to avoid violence among enemies also evolved only shortly after. Only when we acknowledge these facts will we be able to do something about the problem.

The ancient Greeks understood that ritual was needed in order to create great cities and cultures. How else can you get over 100,000 people to live together, except you create some sorts of bonds among them beyond those of the family? Thus, the Greeks creates athletics — competition — in order to maintain order. By deflecting the need to have an enemy onto a ritual scapegoat — an opposing player or team from the one you are rooting for — you both fulfill our need to have an enemy, while deflecting that need into something less destructive, and in fact downright productive. The Greeks too invented the Olympics, maintaining peaceful competition among the city-states.

Here in the United States, sports manages to do the same thing. If you live in Dallas, you can support the Dallas sports teams. Thus, if Dallas plays, say, Pittsburgh, in football, then the Dallas fan can ritualistically hate Pittsburgh, the enemy. But when the game is over, the hatred is over too. The hatred occurred in a safe play space, and is appropriate only within that play-space of the watching of the game. Before the game, or when the game is over, nobody from Dallas is hating Pittsburgh, or fighting with people who are. Thus, a country of almost 300 million people is able to live together, cooperating and competing with each other. Now, this is still not a perfect system — it works very well in the U.S., but it is not uncommon for English soccer fans as a game to yell to German soccer fans that it was they, the British, who won the war. And soccer fans are infamous for getting into fights with fans of the opposing team. This is a general breakdown of the ritual system, and needs to be repaired to make sure it continues to perform its proper function. But still, World Cup Soccer and the Olympics have helped to maintain a certain level of peace among nations. We may find that hard to believe, with what has happened in the West in the 20th Century, and even now with the War on Terror, but the fact of the matter is that as a percentage of deaths in the West by war, the West is a far, far less violent place than any tribal situation — tribes in South America and New Guinea typically lose 40-60% of their young men a year to war. The West only lost 2% of the same population throughout the 20th century. This is in no small part due to the civilizing effects of athletics.

The worst thing that could happen, then, would be for our sports to become politicized. For when sports becomes politicized, the unifying ritual itself breaks down. Indeed, the politicization of sports in any way should be considered the canary in the coalmine–if and when it happens, the society is in danger of increasing political violence.

Why So Much Sexual Harassment?

Is there really more sexual harassment happening now than in the past? That seems very unlikely. We see murder, rape, and other violent crimes going down over the long-run, and with ever-increasing awareness of sexual harassment and more widespread feminist attitudes, it’s likely sexual harassment has been following the same pattern.

Which doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Men shouldn’t be treating women as mere means to reach the ends of their sexual desires. Treating people as means to an end is the worst kind of dehumanization. But people with power are used to treating people that way, and when you combine that with the high priority most men give sex, you have a formula for the creation of institutional sexual abuse in places like Hollywood and government.

The reason you are hearing so much about sexual harassment–and worse–from Hollywood executives and politicians is that these people have a great deal of power over other people. A Hollywood career means fame, fortune, and a bigger voice for your favorite causes. An actress could easily justify making millions, having a long-term career, and doing much good in the world in exchange for a single night with someone like Harvey Weinstein. And, obviously, many women did. It’s likely that Weinstein discovered that there were women willing to sleep with him to get a part, and then, realizing he could get women to sleep with him to get a part, he starting expecting it. It’s not much of a leap from expecting it in the sense of expecting actresses to sleep with him to get a part to expecting women to sleep with him whenever he demanded it. Which leads to the rape accusations.

Politicians are typically the kind of people who want to have control over other people. Why else would they be attracted to that kind of power position? More, people who are attracted to power positions simply for the power are also more likely to do underhanded things to get that power–certainly more so than someone who may think they ought to run for office because they sincerely want to accomplish certain things. Such do-gooders don’t stand a change against a plotting sociopath. Which is why legislatures are full of sociopaths–likely at overwhelmingly higher percentages than one finds in the general population. Such people are also likely to abuse their positions. Since they love to control people, and they expect that people should and ought to be controlled by them, this will extend to their sex lives. Since they interact with the world almost exclusively through coercion (legislation), they think all interactions ought to be through coercion–when this extends to sex, that’s sexual harassment and rape.

The purge of sexual harassers at these levels of power is a good thing. It’s likely a pressure-release on the increasing resentment our society is feeling towards the powerful. With ever-increasing regulations (don’t believe the lies of “deregualtion”), ever-increasingly powerful and intrusive bureaucracies in practically every aspect of life (making us all feel powerless), and ever-increasing self-righteous politically correct preaching from people in Hollywood, politicians, and government-schools-brainwashed college children, it’s not surprising that people are feeling increasing resentment and are lashing out more and more. President Trump is a result of that lashing-out, a “two can play at this game” reaction, handing the Left the mirror image of themselves, as perceived by the general population.

This purge of the powerful isn’t over. Black Lives Matter has brought our attention to the systematic abuses of African-Americans by the powerful (through the police), and now we are seeing the degree to which there has been systematic abuses of women by the powerful as well. The problem is that few are recognizing that these powerful are big-government supporters of every stripe (don’t fool yourself that the Republicans favor small government–they’re almost as bad at the Democrats on many things, and worse than them on others).

Those who run our biggest cities where African-Americans are most abused are big-government supporters whose rhetoric almost always puts them on the side of African-Americans (never mind their policies have actively destroyed African’ American families and lives and jobs). And those who have proven to be most abusive toward women (or men, in some cases like Kevin Spacey) have often been those most vocal about being on the side of women and feminism. Everyone in Hollywood knew about Weistein, yet nobody was feminist enough to do anything about it.

I don’t suppose anyone should be surprised at the hypocrisy of the powerful. That’s one of their ways to get and maintain their power. But we need to stop making excuses for those in “our tribe” who are behaving badly. When you make excuses for someone’s abusive behavior toward those weaker than them–especially a politician–just because you agree with a few of their political positions, you are showing your (complete lack of) character.

A Brief History of Western Ideas from an Emergent Complexity Perspective

I. Introduction

Complex systems theory shows that the more elements there are in a given system, the more complex the system’s behavior. New rules evolve that govern the behavior of the system, helping to coordinate activities and make the system work in a better and more complex manner. Further, when complex systems contain different hierarchical levels, such systems act in even more complex ways – fluid hierarchies increase complexity of behavior, while rigid hierarchies and flattened hierarchies decrease the complexity of a system’s behavior. This is true in quantum systems giving rise to chemical/Newtonian physical systems, to chemical systems giving rise to life, to neurons in the brain giving rise to thought and intelligence in animals, including humans, and even to the interactions of human societies.

Claire Graves, Don Beck, and Christopher Cowan theorize that both human thought and human societies develop in a particular way, and in a hierarchical fashion. If we start with animal survivalism, we move into tribalism, and from tribalism into a heroic culture (i.e. Achilles, and the Greek and Roman gods), from heroic culture into aristocratic/theocratic culture, from aristocratic culture to capitalist/scientific culture, from scientific culture into statist culture, and even now a move from all of these into ideas of world confederacy, and even into more complex, more holistic ideas. Thought also follows these patterns: mere survivalism leading to tribalistic thinking leading to conquering, heroic leaders leading to belief in order, law, regulations, and discipline to build character (typically “religious” thinking) leading to belief in the virtue of competition and progress and knowledge leading to egalitarian thinking leading to time-bound, hierarchical, pluralistic thinking leading to holistic thinking. The thinking always precedes the social development, but the thinking itself cannot jump levels any more than can societies, or than biology can leap suddenly out of quantum physics, skipping the chemical level. In other words, to move from tribalism to a culture led by heroic conquering leaders, we have to have people who begin to think in the new way while the culture itself remains in the old form of organization. It is this phenomenon I wish to investigate here, so we can understand why different thinkers were thinking as they were, and what value they have for the present day, and in the future.

We have to recognize, too, that each culture contains elements of the levels below, including people who continue to think this way. The first thing that we should note is that to say a culture or a person is in one of the lower levels is not to say that it or they are inferior to a higher level. We need the lower levels to help hold up the higher levels – this is how nested hierarchies such as emergent reality and evolving cultures can exist at all. If we take capitalist, scientific culture, for example, we can see that it can and should continue to have religious elements to it, that it will continue to have heroic people, such as athletes, in it, and that it will continue to have tribalistic elements in it –- primarily as families, friends and clubs. This is most important to point out to those levels that most tend toward communitarian thinking, including tribalism, religious thinking, and secular egalitarian statism, which evolve in reaction to the more individualistic levels (heroic, capitalist/scientific), since the heroic and the capitalist levels consider the communitarian levels below them to still be important. Further, higher level communitarian thinking also tends to reject lower level communitarian thinking -– secular egalitarian thinking tends to consider religious thinking as ignorant and something that is best done away with (consider the French attitude toward religion now, starting with the French Revolution). In the worst cases, communitarian thinking is racist and exclusionary -– tribes exclude other tribes, religions exclude other religions, communists must eliminate all non-communists or anyone else who does not fit into the world they are trying to create. So it is important that we be aware of this danger, and do what we can to avoid and prevent it.

Overall, the communitarian forms of thinking and social organization tend to be, regardless of the level of complexity, community-minded and, thus, order-oriented, interested in stability, ethics, faith and truth, are fundamentally religious in outlook, centralized and rigidly hierarchical (today, bureaucratic), and have a belief that time is circular, or eternal, and that it will become this way at the end of history, where all progress will end. The individualistic forms of thinking and social organization tend to be, regardless of the level of complexity, individualistic, libertarian, able to deal with change and chaos, pragmatic, fact- and science-oriented, decentralized, and embracing of time and change, having a fundamental belief in some sort of continual progress. As stated above, the communitarians tend to dislike the individualists, but the individualists tend to work to protect the immediately lower level of communitarian thinking and society, while seeing emergent levels of communitarianism as a threat.

We need to move beyond this way of thinking, and into more complex ways of thinking. The way to do this is to understand all the levels, what their values are, and integrate them. That will get us into the next level of thinking and social organization. And from there, we must next understand everything as being part of a single, dynamic system – more than just pluralist, but unified as well, with unity in its variety. In doing so, we must not forget that lower levels simply cannot understand the ideas of higher levels -– for example, someone who is a religious thinker would find egalitarian thinking, especially late egalitarian thinking, like postmodernism, to be completely incomprehensible –- confusing nonsense in the extreme. To get such a person to the level of the postmoderns, one would have to get that person to first be thinking as a capitalist/scientific thinker, and then move the person into early egalitarian thinking before moving them into postmodernism. Part of the role of the integrationist and holistic thinkers is to help to move all people and cultures into more complex levels, and to integrate the elements of lower complexity into an even more complex whole.

II. The Levels and their Thinkers

All of this is necessary in order to understand the evolution of thought and the history of ideas in their proper context –- past and present. It seems that tribalism is associated with pre-literate times, and that the first writing evolved during heroic culture – the oldest story we have is Gilgamesh, and it is a story of heroism. With Homer, we have a heroic thinker in a heroic time. Achilles is an archetypical hero of this sort.

The movement from heroic culture into the next level begins in the Greek culture with the pre-Socratics, who are beginning to think in more orderly, purposeful ways while living in heroic culture -– this is typically seen as the beginnings of the movement from archaic into median culture. We have with the Greek tragedies an art form designed to move Greek culture safely and non-violently into the next level –- each tragedy starts with a heroic individual who must be destroyed in order for a new level of organization to come into being. The Greek tragedies are art forms that indicate that the culture is going through an emergence into a new level of complexity. Tragedies are how a culture gets safely initiated into a new level of complexity. This is why Nietzsche identified tragedy as being simultaneously Dionysian and Apollonian –- Socrates in Plato’s Phaedrus identifies Dionysus as the god associated with the madness of initiation and Apollo as the god associated with the madness of prophesy -– and Greek tragedies aided in the initiation ritual into a new level of complexity of thinking while prophesying what that new level would be like. Sophocles prophesies the emergence of the emergent median way of Greek thinking, while Shakespeare prophesies the emergence of the scientific/capitalist age to come, though he was writing during a time when Medieval/religious thinking was still going strong. After the initiation into the new level of thinking in ancient Greece, we get both Plato and Aristotle arising as the greatest thinkers within this level of complexity.

But emergence into new levels of complexity is not certain. In the West, we get a backward movement with the rise of the Romans –- the Roman Republic and Empire was a heroic culture, and was exemplified by people such as Julius Caesar (consider how similar in character he is to Achilles). With the rise of Christianity, we see the Roman Empire moving into the next level –- Jesus was a religious thinker during a heroic time. The Christian Romans and Christian medieval Europe was clearly organized in a rigid religious hierarchy, with the hierarchical Catholic Church and the hierarchical forms of government in serfdom, monarchy, and aristocracy, all supported by the Church. The Christian thinkers St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas found such a strong connection with Plato and Aristotle, respectively, because they recognized in them thinkers on the same level of complexity.

The Renaissance helped move Europe into the next level of complexity –- the capitalist/scientific level. We see in Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo some of the first, transitionary scientific thinkers. And the work of Machiavelli and Shakespeare both helped set the stage for capitalism and science. Newton and Descartes moved the West even more into this realm of complexity – and the height of such thinking occurs in people such as Voltaire, John Locke, Adam Smith, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, and the American Transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau. All material and scientific progress occurred precisely because this level of thinking and social organization arose. We also see the abolition of slavery for the first time in human history precisely during this time (it is no coincidence that slavery still exists in regions of the world that have yet to enter this level of complexity). The United States’ form of government is the exemplary of the form of government that arises in and through this way of thinking – which makes it all the more ironic that it was the last of the Western countries to abolish slavery. That is, until you realize that the American South was one of the last places in the West where religious/authority thinking remained (and still remains) strongest. Because the next level was forced on them, the South has taken over a century to recover and get caught up with the rest of the United States -– becoming scientific/capitalist just as the Northeast has become egalitarian in its world view. But the religious way of thinking is still strong -– which is why the creationism-evolution (and its latest variant, Intelligent Design) debate still goes strong in the United States, particularly in Southern and Midwestern states.

With Rousseau, we get the first of the egalitarian thinkers –- and it is his ideas that led, more than anyone else’s, to the French Revolution, which was the first example of the modern State (while it is true that the idea of independent nations arose with the Enlightenment, after the Renaissance, the peculiar institution of the modern State as typically found in Europe arose with the French Revolution). It was based on secularism and egalitarianism, and this example, along with the ideas of Marx, led to the rise of the Soviet Union and other communist states, which combined this way of thinking with religious/authority thinking, while tending to throw in a heroic leader for good measure. Nazi Germany was yet another example of this kind of state, though they combined it with tribalist ideas, leading to the atrocities of WWII. Of course, the Soviet Union’s avoidance of tribalism did not prevent them from killing even more people – the difference simply being that the U.S.S.R was more personal in its murders, while the Nazis liked to kill people in groups. But both are based on the same way of thinking, and were reactions against Enlightenment thinking. This helps us to understand why people who think this way tend to support communist and fascist dictatorships, and cannot see the difference between them and democratic republics (in an egalitarian world, all forms of government are equal –- equally bad, and equally good). Further, the tendency to see people of lower levels -– especially those still stuck in tribal or heroic thinking and societies –- as victims, and modern-day environmentalism are also based on this way of thinking, and the latter is distinguished by the idea of nature as unchanging –- notions of the eternal, the end of history, etc. being part of communitarian thinking, both religious and secular. This is why much secular communitarian thinking, like environmentalism and communism, closely resemble religious thinking. But these are not the only forms of egalitarian thinking. Darwin introduced an even more fundamental form of egalitarianism when he suggested that humans evolved from apes, and that all animals were fundamentally related to one another. Thus, humans and animals were put on the same plane of existence – and it is this that creationists object to. The hierarchy between humans and animals, placing humans in a place definitively above animals, was flattened by Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Among the more recent thinkers in this more recent egalitarian tradition include Heidegger (who was, not coincidentally, a Nazi), Sartre (a communist), and various Marxist and postmodern thinkers, including Derrida. Some of these latter, the postmoderns, have come in toward the end of egalitarian, statist thinking, and have thus begun the move into the next level of thinking. This is perhaps because they claim a great deal of influence from Nietzsche, who was perhaps the first thinker in this tradition, in reaction to the German State and socialism. Since most of the philosophers and theorists influenced by Nietzsche have in fact been egalitarian, statist thinkers, they have mostly misunderstood Nietzsche’s ideas. One can understand clearly levels below oneself, but there is difficulty in understanding levels above oneself, unless one is trying to move into that next level oneself. As for societal organization, since this next level of thinking is new, there seems to be but a few societies based on this thinking, including the present-day United States and Great Britain, having gone through a lot of statist thinking, while retaining the essential form of the previous level, making it possible to be more pluralistic and hierarchical and inclusive), with organizations like the U.N., the W.T.O., and the World Bank acting to coordinate the world’s governments in a very loose confederacy. Perhaps because the U.S. and Britain were more solidly democratic republics than other Western countries, which attempted to create egalitarian States, this new form of more complex thinking appears to be most common in these two places, and less so in continental Europe. It is all-inclusive, and considers all the lower levels to be important constituents of society as a whole. It believes that there is a basic human nature, and that humans can nonetheless adapt and evolve in extremely complex ways -– that we have instincts, but also highly plastic brains, which allow us to have highly complex ways of thinking. Further, this new level of thinking has so far occurred less often among philosophers, and more often among scientists, such as Victor Turner, E.O. Wilson, Steven Pinker, Jeff Hawkins, Benoit Mandelbrot, and Ilya Prigogine.

The next level, the holistic level, is very new, and includes very few thinkers in it – the only one I know of being the poet-philosopher Frederick Turner. We have yet to see what possible form of social organization will come out of such thinking. Even though we have learned that other communitarian forms of social and government organization have been dictatorial every time, it seems likely, since this is a much more complex level of thinking, that it will be some sort of world federalist democratic republican form of government, where individuals are encouraged to be communitarian thinkers, while the government does not get in the way of people self-organizing into communities of their choice.

III. Implications for Understanding Philosophy and Philosophers

As we can see, there can end up some overlap in thinkers. Just because an egalitarian, communitarian thinker comes along, that does not mean that capitalist/scientific thinkers go away – and most scientists and business people are in fact still thinking this way. And not just the average person, but philosophers and scholars as well. Most of the clergy of the Catholic Church are clearly thinkers in the religious tradition – as well they should be. The Pope should only be a religious thinker, and should not have moved into the capitalist/scientific way of thinking (even if his thinking begins to play on the borderlands, his thinking should mostly be firmly rooted in religious thinking). Do we really want a Pope who is interested in profit? And certainly we should not have a Pope who is a secular humanist. Yet, it has profited the Church considerably to integrate in scientific understandings of the universe, rather than continuing to oppose them. Thus, the Church performs its proper role in maintaining truly religious thinking – and in maintaining it in its best traditions, rather than its worst (which we should have learned from, and learned to avoid, by now).

I am certain, in making these identifications, that I have stepped on some toes regarding peoples’ favorite thinkers and philosophers. We do not like to think that Plato and Aristotle are less complex thinkers than some people are nowadays – or even are less complex thinkers than, say, Machiavelli. Such objections will undoubtedly be made, but they are made precisely because of two errors in thinking: 1) we project our own thinking on the thinkers of the past, and read our own complexities into those past thinkers, and 2) there are inevitably those who themselves think at the level of, say, Plato and Aristotle, and thus consider, say, Machiavelli, to be a highly complex thinker, precisely because their own thinking is only just now becoming as complex as Machiavelli’s was. For these people, someone like Derrida is for all intents and purposes incomprehensible in what they are trying to communicate.

The important thing we must remember is this: Plato is not a thinker. Aristotle is not a thinker. Machiavelli is not a thinker. They were thinkers. They were thinkers of their time, place, and complexity. This does not mean they do not have their values now, in our more complex times, because those levels of thinking still exist, are still relevant, are the base on which higher levels of complexity are built. Machiavelli could not have thought what he thought had Plato and Aristotle not thought what they thought. Machiavelli could not have moved us into a culture and society of capitalism and science from the Platonic/Aristotlean world view without this world view to move from. And each of these thinkers provide excellent basic models from which to build new, more complex self-similar levels. But we must not mistake any of these thinkers from the past for who they are not. They are not present-day thinkers, thinking in present-day complexities – they are thinkers from the past, thinking in their own levels of complexity. Oftentimes we forget this when we talk about them or read them. When we read them, we must remember that, and we must remember that we read into them, we don’t read them for what they meant at the times when they were writing. We interpret them over and over (individually and socially) into the present, making and keeping them relevant for today and the future. The same must be remembered of present-day thinkers. Should I be read in the future, you must remember not to mistake me for someone else. I am a thinker now; I will have been a thinker at some future time. And my thoughts will be relevant for the hierarchical level of thinking I am presently in, which will exist as a lower level in the nested hierarchy of some future level of complexity. I will seem relevant to future scholars who think at my present level of complexity; a mere source and spur of thinking for future thinkers, who will recognize too the relative simplicity of my thoughts compared to theirs, though it occurs as a spur to each higher level that is self-similar to my own.

There are a few things we must remember when considering the history of ideas in this way: 1) each higher level of complexity necessarily needs the lower levels on which to build and rest, while the lower levels do not need the higher levels in the least (this does not mean, however, that within a person, the lower levels are not affected by their own higher levels – family for a tribal thinker is different than family for religious thinker, which is different than family for a capitalist/scientific thinker, or even an egalitarian thinker, though the family unit remains at the same level of complexity-thinking for each) , 2) each level has its own values, benefits, and shortcomings, and 3) there is no upper limit of complexity. Let us consider these in order.

In this model, each of the levels must be traversed in order to reach upper levels. In this, Marx was correct in identifying different levels societies go through, and in realizing one must necessarily go through each lower level to reach upper levels. For example, countries like Germany and France have extensive welfare states that are based on the egalitarian world view. Since these welfare states were built on a solid foundation of capitalism, they have lasted quite a long time without extensive or severe human rights violations (though when Germany adopted a different version of this level in Nazism, they clearly did commit severe human rights violations, as has egalitarian France in is former colonies). If those welfare states are currently on the decline, as they indeed are, it is because those societies have for the most part rejected the levels below them – they are knocking the foundation out from under themselves. But this is a different problem from level-jumping. When the egalitarian/communitarian world view was imposed on an aristocratic society in Russia, we got Soviet-style communism, and thus a mixture of aristocracy and communitarianism, without a capitalist/scientific level (the Soviet rejection of science can be most clearly seen in their acceptance of Lysenko’s biological theories). Thus, a true egalitarian/communitarian society was not reached, while places like France and Germany came closest to accomplishing such a goal. However, one of the problems with each of these levels up to the egalitarian world view is that each also tries to reject the other levels, and the egalitarian world view seems most keen on getting rid of both the capitalist/scientific and religious world views (mostly just capitalism and religion, since it does have its own brand of science in systems science, relativism and probablistic science). When lower levels are rejected, the effect is, as said above, to try to kick the foundation out from under oneself. One of the benefits of those levels above the communitarian level is the recognition of the value of each of the levels, and even the holistic integration of them all. The reason we need the lower levels is the same reason we need lower levels of reality. Atoms give rise to chemicals which give rise to cells which give rise to complex organisms, one of which is humans, with our complex thinking. We can destroy cells without destroying chemicals, and we can destroy chemicals without destroying atoms, but we cannot destroy an atom while keeping the chemical around. The atom, though at the lowest level of complexity, is the vital foundation of each of the emergent levels above it. In the same way, the noosphere, the sphere of emergent human thought, contains the biosphere within it, since the biosphere can get along just fine without humans or human thought, while humans cannot get along without the biosphere (this idea is Ken Wilbur’s, from A Theory of Everything, 98). The relationship may in fact be a more complex feedback loop than even Wilbur admits, since one could also point out that other organisms that are clearly less complex than the biosphere as a whole could also be wiped out, without any real effect on the biosphere as a whole. The important thing here is that human thought is more complex than biology, including the entire biosphere. And more complex levels contain less complex levels, not vice versa. Thus, nature is a part of us even more than we are a part of nature. But I have gone through this to point out that levels of human complexity are also nested hierarchies, self-similar to the nested hierarchies of nature itself. Like atoms to molecules, the higher levels require the lower levels to exist at all.

Thus, we have to remember too that each level has its benefits –- as well as its shortcomings. The lowest level is the level of pure existence. We cannot deny our needs for food, drink, sleep, and sex if we are to survive as a species. But this is what animals do, and we are more than mere animals in our cognitive abilities and social organization. Thus, the first fully human level is tribal. This is the level of family and family ritual and, in the present day West, athletic teams. However, this level is fundamentally racist –- anything non-self is considered bad by those who stay in this level. The next level, the heroic, is associated with Homer’s heroes, the Greek and Roman gods, and Roman emperors. Here we also find athletic superstars. However, this level is extremely egocentric and can be very destructive (again, consider our athletic superstars). The next level is authoritarian and theocratic. What we now think of as religion -– exemplified by Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. –- with its emphasis on giving life meaning, direction, and purpose, and a world that is well-ordered by God. However, these codes are so strictly enforced that they result in things like the Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials. The backlash to such extreme measures gave rise to the next level, the capitalist/scientific level, which “seeks truth and meaning in individualistic terms” (Wilbur, 10), is rational, believes that the world is knowable through science, gave rise to immense material gains through capitalism, abolished slavery, and developed ideas of human rights. However, due to the fact that this level needed lots of resources, there was perceived exploitation of lower classes both within and without capitalist societies, and Newtonian physics was coming up against quite a few contradictions, both of which led to the next level. The egalitarian/communitarian level insists on the equality of all people, sees the world as a system, and encourages ecological thinking and pluralism. However, this level, even more than the rest, seems determined to destroy every level below it. This is in part due to its opposition to hierarchy and its extreme form of equality. As we can see, each of these levels comes with its own set of benefits –- benefits which we need to both acknowledge and embrace. We need stronger families, a healthy sense of self, lives with meaning, direction, and purpose, but with material well-being and a scientific understanding of the world and how its works, and respect for all people regardless of religion, race, or color. Family, heroism, religion, science, economic and ecological thinking, and pluralism all have their place. And should.

Teleological thinking is something humans commonly engage in. In fact, one could go so far as to identify it as one of the human universals. Thus, we should not be surprised if and when people use it with a model such as this. There is no highest level in this model. The holistic level, the highest level of thinking we currently have, is not the highest. Whatever the next level will look like will have to wait until the integrative and even the holistic levels become realized more in social organization. We cannot know exactly what it will look like, only that it will have a family resemblance to the other individualistic levels, since it comes after the communitarian level of holism. And there will be a communitarian level after it, etc. This is another reason why we should not mistake thinkers from the past for being more complex thinkers than they were. It is unlikely that a higher-level thinker will in fact mistake a lower-level thinker for thinking as he or she does, but there are those who may be on the same level as a past thinker, who may mistakenly think, just because he is in a more complex culture, that his thinking is also necessarily of the most complex form, and therefore think that a past thinker –- say, Plato, who is an aristocratic thinker –- is, say, a holistic thinker. This is particularly true among those who think that holism is necessarily the highest form of thinking possible (it is not –- it is only one more rung on the emergent ladder).

Thus, if we take the integrative and holistic approaches, we can begin to see the importance of knowing thinkers from each of the levels of complexity. Plato and Aristotle have their places in helping to give our lives meaning and direction, and to provide an ethical basis for action. They can inform the way we think these issues even today – since it is a level that is necessary for us to live meaningful, ethical lives. The next level, the capitalist/scientific level, allowed us to individualize those ethics, to consider the origins of ethics and the justification for them, and develop ideas of individual rights and personal responsibility. At the same time, the pluralism of the egalitarian level allows us to apply those ethics to more and more people in our ever-expanding tribe. This is admittedly a utilitarian approach to understanding the great thinkers of the past – but if we are honest with ourselves, we are already utilitarian with them, studying them to write essays and to develop our own philosophies for our own times. In the latter case, we have to know where we’ve been in order to know what’s already been done, and what still needs to be done. And for the integrationist and holistic world views, knowing each level is vital to understanding how each level should relate to each other, and be used to develop more complex levels of thinking and social organization. As we become more and more self-aware (the dictum to “know yourself” applied in a larger and larger sense), we will come to understand how important it is to integrate the levels and to appreciate and affirm each level for the benefits they bestow –- for both the development of new levels, and scholarship to understand each of the levels, particularly in how they relate to one another, and lead into new levels.

Another way we can come to understand these levels is suggested by Ken Wilbur: I-we-it-its. He talks about how we need to integrate all these aspects together –- but we can also come to understand each of the levels through these four aspects. The tribalist level contains none of these in any real sense. There is not yet a real sense of individual identity, or the difference between individual and group – and technology is very primitive, and is not seen as really separate from the tribe. With the development of heroic culture, we get “I” culture. With the development of the authoritarian culture of Plato and Aristotle, Christianity and Islam, we get “we” culture. With the development of capitalist/scientific culture, we get “it” culture. And with the development of egalitarian culture, we get “its” culture (with systems theory, etc.). Wilbur argues that I-we-it also corresponds to beauty(aesthetics)-ethics-truth. Thus we can begin to understand what is happening when Aristotle says ethics aims at to kalon, which can be translated as either “the beautiful” or “the good,” since Aristotle has an ethical “we” philosophy that is also strongly “I”. Also, we can begin to understand John Keats’ equation: “beauty is truth –- truth, beauty,” since Keats is an individualist living in scientific culture (romanticism was an attempt to recover aspects of heroic culture). And we can also begin, with more integrationist thinking, to understand that beauty, the good, and truth are all one and the same thing – and with the systems science of “its,” we can also begin to really understand for the first time how deeply embedded all of these are in time. And if we include the idea developed by J. T. Fraser of time as a nested hierarchy, we can begin to understand more and more deeply how everything is related.

IV. Conclusion

Obviously these ideas need to be further expanded -– but that is the topic of a full-length book, not an essay introducing the idea. With the idea of emergent complexity that contains the lower levels in a nested hierarchy, we can include too the I-we-it-its as well. We get a new idea of “I” when we move into the “we” of the authoritarian level, and a new idea of each as we move into both the “it” and “its” levels as well. And each of these aspects will change as we move into the intregrationist and holistic levels –- change, while at the same time containing their original meanings. The “I” investigated by Homer and Socrates influenced Freud, but the “I” developed by Freud is clearly of a different kind, emergent and more complex. And the “we” developed by Plato and Aristotle influenced Heidegger, but the “we” of Heidegger is clearly of a different kind as well –- influencing the “we” of postmodernism, including its worst aspects, such as political correctness. And while the ancient Greeks did have science and technology, it is clear that the science and technology of the scientific culture is of a different kind, emergent and more complex. And the highly complex systems science that has since developed and become more dominant had its origins in some of the thoughts of Goethe, and even Aristotle.

One might ask, “If Aristotle were alive today, would he still be an authority thinker?” Naturally, this is impossible to say. That may have been his natural disposition to such an extent that it would still be his disposition today. However, it is also just as likely that Aristotle, being the genius he was, and the most complex thinker of his day, would be among the most complex thinkers of today. There is nothing in Aristotle that makes him inherently incapable of our level of complex thinking –- what made him incapable of it was his living and thinking in the time and culture in which he actually lived. In fact, every person living today, no matter what level they may currently be in, can also think in each of these levels –- though if they are at a lower level, they would of course have to move through each level, in order. Level jumps in complexity of thought are just as impossible as atoms skipping molecules to create life.

Some Comments on Postmodernism

The exclusively digital approach to aesthetics, ethics, and politics is better known as postmodernism, pluralism, and multiculturalism (this last a strange kind of digital-collectivism, where everyone in a given society are the same digit). While this approach has been a necessary corrective to the analogical world view, if we take the digital view to its logical conclusion, and reject the analogical as a constituent part of the world, all it can do is create alienation—among different races, different cultures, between men and women, and, if we take Quine’s view that we never actually understand one another, among each and every individual. If we take what Quine says in a very limited way, he has a point, but an extreme view makes the mistake of thinking that if there is any noise—ambiguity—in communication, we cannot communicate; whereas information theory says we need noise if we are going to have any communication at all.

An analogical view may lead us to collectivism, including communism, but an exclusively digital view leads to the alienation found in postmodern radical individualism. The consequence of this digital world view is postmodernists telling us we cannot understand one another. Men cannot understand women, and vice versa. Different races and cultures cannot understand each other, we cannot understand anything that happened in the past, and there is the suggestion that we cannot really understand each other. The consequence of this is an increasing fragmentation of society, creating warring factions (men vs. women, minorities vs. majorities, secular vs. religion), and increasing distrust among people.

Many postmodern theorists have observed that one of the features of modern Western culture is its increasing fragmentation and alienation, a favorite theme of many Marxists. But it is this alienating ideology that creates these conditions. And it is further ironic that some of these same critics are the very people making the problem worse. If we cannot understand one another, we are incapable of projecting ourselves into another’s situation. While this is literally true in a factual sense, it is in another sense not true at all. We can and do have empathy for others, basing that empathy on related experiences. While I may not understand perfectly an intellectual woman’s complaint that most men do not take her seriously as a thinker, I do understand the sting of not being taken seriously, especially when I know I know more about a subject than the person who is not taking me seriously as a thinker. Only if we can place ourselves in another person’s situation can we develop the empathy needed to be moral or to effect any sort of positive social change.

Studies show orangutans, a distant cousin to humans, can putting themselves into others’ minds. If food is placed out of reach of a caged orangutan, and a person is brought in with a bucket on his head and placed near the orangutan’s cage, without hesitation the orangutan will take the bucket off the person’s head and physically point the person in the direction of the food. The orangutan knows the person cannot see the food if he has a bucket on his head. How could the orangutan know this if it could not project itself into the mind of the person with the bucket on his head? This is a cognitive feature of the great apes, including humans, whose ability to do this developed even more with the advent of language. “One of the common ancestor species of all the living great apes and humans was the first in which individuals realized that others had viewpoints and knowledge different from their own, and could build up novel sequences of actions” (Richard W. Byrne, Tree of Origin, 169).

This ability is why were are capable of telling stories—including fiction. To say we cannot (or should not) do this is to say we are (or should be) cognitively less complex than the other great apes and place us on the cognitive level of monkeys. This attitude goes beyond being merely anti-human, to being anti-great ape. It is anti-language since “Evolution of language would be impossible in a species in which individuals could not imagine that other individuals know things that they do not know themselves” (Byrne, 172). The consequence of this anti-theory-of-mind view for literature has been the creation of a shallow sort of minimalism that avoids letting the reader know about anything more than the actions of the characters, on this theory that we cannot know what others think – so the author should not bother to tell us what his characters think, since he cannot even know. If they think at all.

Postmodernism creates social ruptures—it is anti-social in nature. It puts up barriers between men and women. Postmodernism’s radical individualism says there is an abyss of difference between men and women. The collectivism inherent in the Franco-German individualist tradition, whose egalitarian individualism attempts to eliminate all difference, suggests there is no difference between men and women. Specifically, women have been told they should be more like men. This has created an identity crisis in many women. They are told by their culture (which has been influenced by the pro-masculinizing gender feminists) they should be one thing, and by their biology and psychology they should be something else. I fear American women will soon face a tragic crisis, which can only be headed off if women are allowed by this culture to be women in the fullest sense, and not made into either men or relegated into some sort of submissive role, as we had in the past, and as we still find in many cultures around the world.

Postmodernism, far from being a solution to this crisis, only makes the problem worse. And gender feminism, by insisting that there are no fundamental behavioral differences between men and women, only reinforces the prejudice that differences are inherently bad and unequal. It is those feminists who perpetuate the belief that femininity is inferior. Despite what they think, it is not. American culture in particular is sorely lacking in femininity—not the cultural myths we once held about how women should act, but natural femininity, which can come about in a more inclusive, open culture – this lack is primarily the fault of the gender feminists, who insist that our genetic differences make no difference. This is creating the groundwork for a tragic situation, where women are pushed by culture to go beyond their own physis without even trying to understand their physis (vs. the myths of their physis). One hopes we learn the outcome through works of literature, including plays and film, rather than within society itself.

This anti-social element is found not only in relations among men and women, but among races and cultures too. I welcome the emphasis on multiculturalism, as it creates the potential for a much richer, more complex American (and world) culture, but the way postmodernism practices it creates a number of problems. What are we to do with a culture that practices clitorectomy? Or oppresses women? Or practices genocide? Are we to just consider these a legitimate part of the rich tapestry of humanity?

Postmodernism’s insistence that we cannot judge anyone—particularly other cultures—puts us in a serious dilemma in considering these situations. I think there are few who support genocide, but how can one come to say genocide is wrong if one does not make some sort of judgement, or insist there is some sort of universal we should be guided by? I asked Cynthia Haynes (a self-identified postmodernist) this question, and she told me the only thing she does not tolerate is intolerance. But isn’t the intolerance of intolerance itself a universalizing view? One assumes she (and other postmodernists) wishes everyone was intolerant of intolerance. But if one wishes for such an overarching view, one’s entire postmodern world view collapses (of course, the very fact that postmodernism is a world view and, thus, a grand narrative, makes it collapse, imploded by its own hypocrisy).

Postmodern multiculturalism will not work. But we should not return to a “melting pot” view either. Why not a mixture of the two, maintaining cultural identity while integrating everyone into, for example, the American (or, better, world) culture? This view presumes there are more than two societal levels—the individual and the culture/state—which goes against the Franco-German philosophical tradition leading to postmodernism. It is possible—I would say preferable—that there is more than just the individual and her culture. Why can’t a person be an individual, a member of a family (nuclear and extended), a member of a community, a subculture, an organization (if not several), including churches, clubs, schools, etc., an overarching culture, and a citizen of a state, a country, and the world? If there are this many levels between an individual and the government, the government’s power over that individual is weakened, and the influence of that government (and any who wish to influence that government, the culture of a country through the government, etc.), is greatly weakened—which may explain why many pro-statist postmodernists oppose this view.

Postmodernism’s anti-social view of humanity makes it anti-human. Humans are a social species, like all the great apes (even the apparently solitary orangutan will socialize when food is abundant), most monkeys, lions, elephants, dolphins, and wolves. Social species are different from and have more complex behavior than herd or schooling species, like antelope, sheep, or sardines, in that there is little to no bonding among the members of the herd. Individual members are less likely than social animals to aid unrelated or distantly related members of the herd. It seems postmodernists wish to make us act more like herd than social animals.

Review of Richard Wolin’s The Seduction of Unreason

With the notable exception of the rise of the alt.right, calling someone a “fascist” or a “Nazi” has become mostly meaningless. All you have to do is disagree with anything a leftist believes, and you are immediately slapped by them with one of those labels. However, this is not what Richard Wolin is doing in his book The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism.

In this book Wolin is looking at historical fascism, and the influence of fascism on much of what passes as philosophy nowadays. He identifies fascism with counter-enlightenment thinking. Since Wolin is clearly a scholar of Continental philosophy, Enlightenment philosophy is for him primarily that of Voltaire, Diderot, and the other thinkers of the French Enlightenment. The reaction to the Enlightenment came in several forms, from Romanticism to various forms of racism and nationalism. It is when the Nietzschean form of Romanticism (or, at least, sections taken out of context) were combined with ideas of racism and nationalism (one cannot really object on the grounds of reason that this is a contradiction, since Nietzsche both hated anti-Semites and nationalism, since the people who combined them were enemies of reason) that the various forms of fascism were born—the most commonly known being Italian fascism and Nazism. The author does an excellent reading of Nietzsche as the 20th century thinkers have misread him, noting only at the end of his chapter on Nietzsche that they were in fact misreading him.

Wolin spends each chapter covering different thinkers. But before we get to the ones he does cover, I think I should mention the one thinker he does not cover at all in his own chapter: Martin Heidegger. It may seem odd that Heidegger, who said that reason was an adversary to thought, was an actual member of the Nazi party, and who never recanted his Nazism nor apologized for what the Nazis did, should be left out, especially considering the fact that it is Heidegger’s ideas that have influenced postmodern thinking more than any others – including perhaps Nietzsche’s. However, Wolin is interested in exposing those we do not normally see as fascists. And besides, Heidegger’s associations with the Nazis are well documented—such as in Charles Bambach’s book Heidegger’s Roots.

So let us talk about those Wolin does talk about.

The first unexpected name to arise is Carl Jung. It may seem odd as first glance to include Jung, who was, after all, Freud’s handpicked successor at one time. However, Wolin shows several of Jung’s writings that were explicitly anti-Semitic. Further, Jung had a 10% quota on the number of Jewish psychologists who could join his Analytical Psychology Club of Zurich as regular members, only doing away with it in 1950. Jung also apparently thought of his famous ideas of the archetypes as being specifically Aryan in nature, and that Jews especially do not have them, or at least have them only weakly. The reason for this was that Jung saw the archetypes as essentially pagan in origin. Further, Wolin points out that “Jung eagerly cooperated with the Goring Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy, accepting the presidency of the Nazi-run General Medical Society for Psychotherapy and serving as editor for its journal, the Zentralblatt fur Psychotherapie” (74). The fact that Jung headed a Nazi society for psychotherapy and cooperated with Nazi psychological research should concern anybody. It’s no wonder he was considered for war crimes after World War II.
The next surprise – and even more surprising – is the case of Hans-Georg Gadamer, whose mentor was none other than Heidegger. Certainly, this association is hardly enough. Karl Jaspers was a friend of Heidegger, but did not join the Nazis in any way. But Gadamer apparently decided to associate himself with the Nazis just to further his career (which only raises the question of who should be condemned more – Heidegger for actually believing in Nazism, or Gadamer for using what the Nazis were doing to further his own career), by signing pro-Hitler petitions, voluntarily enrolling in a Nazi political reeducation camp, joining the National Socialist Teacher’s Association, and volunteering to give lectures in Nazi-held Paris in order to help convert the French intellectuals (who were not given any other choice but to attend). This is most damning when we consider the fact that one did not have to become a member of the Nazi party, or associate with them at all, to work in the universities.

Wolin begins his section on the French thinkers’ associations with fascism with a chapter titled “Left Fascism,” which deals with the ideas of Georges Bataille. Bataille, whose influences included Nietzsche and the Marquis de Sade, is considered by many to be the father of poststructuralism, out of which we get postmodernism. Bataille was closely associated with Left Fascism, which he identified as his ideology, and which seeked to unify fascism with an even stronger version of socialism. He was anti-reason, anti-civilization, anti-ethics, pro-violence, and promoted the most perverse, unreproductive sexuality (these things are not hidden or hinted at, but are explicitly stated by Bataille, or explicitly shown in his fictional works).

The next two figures Wolin covers are less clearly associated with fascism.
Maurice Blanchot was a writer, who wrote articles against what he called the “inhuman Declaration of the Rights of Man,” and who saw the “only solution to a dysfunctional republicanism” as a “fascist-type insurrection” (192). He also thought there was an “international conspiracy of communists, Jews, and capitalists” (Heidegger said that Germany was caught in the pincers of capitalism on one side, and communism on the other, both of which he said were metaphysically identical). His literary theories also became one of the cornerstones of poststructuralism – joining him with Bataille.
The most interesting person included in this work is Jacques Derrida, whose idea of deconstruction has led us into the postmodern era. Leaving aside Derrida’s attempts to deconstruct the Nazism of both Heidegger and Paul de Mann (to show they weren’t really all that fascist after all), and the fact that Derrida’s primary intellectual influences are Nietzsche and Heidegger, the connection to fascism seems, at first glance, weak. Certainly, Derrida is anti-reason. But for a long time, deconstruction was accused of being nonpolitical. Derrida’s response to this is what is interesting. He first responded by saying that deconstruction is in fact “hyper-political,” particularly in its critique of democracy. His attacks on natural law also undermine the very foundations of democracy, on which democracy is founded. He also opposed the ideas of Law and Justice, saying that “justice, as opposed to law, always pertains to the case at hand in its irreducible individuality” (234). While there may be something to this, this should not, as Derrida suggests, mean we should do away with law. What is most interesting is that Derrida gets this idea form the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, who proclaimed that “the exception is more interesting than the rule” in his book Political Theology. He wants justice that is not grounded in law – which means he wants the rule of man, not the rule of law. Another problem with dealing with justice through the lens of the exceptional is that what we end up with is crisis “justice,” which allows precisely for dictatorial decrees.

Wolin ends his book with a chapter on anti-Americanism, which he identifies precisely with anti-Enlightenment thinking. America is everything Europe was not: it has no racial foundations, the laws are based in reason rather than tradition, there is no nation to speak of, but rather federation with a fluid hierarchy (as opposed to the strict egalitarianism supported on the Continent, which has resulted in the periodic desire to eliminate those who will not fit into the egalitarian ideal state), it is a liberal capitalist state, individualistic, and free. Some of these things are still true. Wolin identifies current anti-Americanism in Europe with Heidegger’s, whose ideas on America were so purely intellectual, that they had no basis in reality. Certainly, Heidegger never traveled to America to learn anything about it. And because America is capitalist, and in Europe Jews are associated with capitalism, the anti-Semitism that still runs through Europe contributes to anti-Americanism. We see anti-Americanism in the present day, among postmodern thinkers such as Baudrillard, who claims that in America we believe in a “hyperreality” made up entirely of media-generated images, which have replaced reality. He sees America as a negative utopia. He has also expressed a great deal of joy over 9-11, and he is joined in this sentiment by Slavoj Zizek, who claimed in his book Welcome to the Desert of the Real that “America got what it fantasized about,” in our movies. In other words, we got what we had coming. Neither is concerned with morality in their commentaries—only with their interpretations of things. Which all too often have nothing to do with reality—and almost never have anything to do with reason. Anti-Enlightenment thought, which reached its worse manifestations in Nazi Germany, continue on in postmodern thought and its offspring in identity politics of literally every sort, right and left—but with Wolin, it is no longer unchecked or unchallenged.