Showing posts from January, 2014

Schopenhauer on Hegel: "A flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan."

There's nothing like a good insult or two, and if you're looking for insults in philosophy, you need look no further than Arthur Schopenhauer's comments on his German contemporary, the much more popular and successful Friedrich Hegel.  Schopenhauer suggested as a motto of Hegel’s philosophy some words of Shakespeare: ‘s uch stuff as madmen tongue and brain not’. He added : " Hegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense. This nonsense has been noisily proclaimed as immortal wisdom by mercenary followers and readily accepted as such by all fools, who thus joined into as perfect a chorus of admiration as had ever been heard before. The extensive field of spiritual influence with which Hegel was furnished by those in power has enabled him to ac

On land

We don’t talk about land much. We don’t talk about it enough. For the whole of human history and indeed the history of the natural world, land has been fought over, often to the death. But now, in our world, land is treated as a commodity to be bought and sold. For the most part its principal value is monetary value. Any meaning attached to land, place and property is subject to market values. This way of treating the land is probably unique to our ‘Western’ civilisation that has now gone global and is impinging upon all aspects of life on our planet. It is often assumed to be a neutral way, but this is not the case. Every way has values, and our way’s principle value is money. This value elbows out other values which attach different meanings to the land, for example those of ‘native’ tribes in the Americas who venerate the earth, in Britain with common land which became subject to ‘ Enclosures ’, and nowadays with the socialised provision of housing under relentl

A note on ignorance from Kant

Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is a hugely impressive (but fiendishly difficult) treatment of our knowledge and ignorance. One of its more clear and plainly-written segments comes in a Note to a section entitled: ‘ The Transcendental Ideal ’. In this, Kant writes: “ The investigations and calculations of astronomers have taught us much that is wonderful; but the most important lesson we have received from them is the discovery of the abyss of our ignorance in relation to the universe – an ignorance, the magnitude of which reason, without the information thus derived, could never have conceived. This discovery of our deficiencies must produce a great change in the determination of the aims of human reason.” There is a crucial point here for all of us, that the deficiencies in our claims to knowledge are as much if not more important than all our achievements. Too often we assume that our knowledge is all-pervading or at least at some point in the futu

On the Political – immigration and Chantal Mouffe’s challenge to liberal orthodoxy

I’ve found myself blathering on about immigration rather too much for my own liking lately, but it is probably the issue which best demonstrates a conceit at the core of current liberal-left politics in Britain. We have reached a point which feels like a crescendo in the ‘debate’ on immigration, at least in terms of attention being paid, following BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson’s BBC2 programme last night, entitled ' The Truth About Immigration '. Yet the response of mainstream liberal-left publications and their writers to this heightening of discussion and awareness has been almost universal: that we shouldn’t be having the debate at all . It is a revealing viewpoint, and offers a nice opportunity to look at the arguments of Chantal Mouffe on how liberal politics seeks to crush what she calls ‘the political’ in favour of a sort of self-styled ‘rational consensus’. Let’s have a look at some of the arguments for suppression first. First up is Stephen B