In _Time in the Ditch, _John McCumber explores the effect of McCarthyism on American philosophy in the 1940s and 1950s. The possibility that the political pressures of the McCarthy era might have skewed the development of the discipline has rarely been addressed in the subsequent half century. Why was silence maintained for so long? And what happens, McCumber asks, when political events and pressures go beyond interfering with individual careers to influence the nature of a discipline itself?
This fascinating study reveals the extensive influence of Cold War politics on academia, philosophical inquiry, and the course of intellectual history. From the rise of popular novels that championed the heroism of the individual to the proliferation of abstract art as a counter to socialist realism, the years of the Cold War had a profound impact on American intellectual life. As John McCumber shows in this fascinating account, philosophy, too, was hit hard by the Red Scare. Detailing the immense political (...) pressures that reshaped philosophy departments in midcentury America, he shows how the path of American philosophy was altered to follow a political agenda. McCumber begins with the story of Max Otto, whose appointment to the UCLA Philosophy Department in 1947 was met with widespread protest charging him as an atheist. Drawing on Otto’s case, McCumber details the conservative efforts that, by 1960, had all but banished existentialism and pragmatism—not to mention Marxism—from philosophy departments across the country. These paradigms were replaced with what McCumber calls Cold War philosophy, ideas that valorized scientific objectivity and free markets and which downplayed the anti-theistic implications of modern thought. As McCumber shows, the effects of this trend can still be seen at American universities today. (shrink)
From the perspective of a contemporary German reader, one consideration is particularly important from the start. Illumination of the political conduct of Martin Heidegger cannot and should not serve the purpose of a global depreciation of his thought. As a personality of recent history, Heidegger comes, like every other such personality, under the judgment of the historian. In Farias’ book as well, actions and courses of conduct are presented that suggest a detached evaluation of Heidegger’s character. But in general, as (...) members of a later generation who cannot know how we would have acted under conditions of a political dictatorship, we do well to refrain from moral judgments on actions and omissions from the Nazi era. Karl Jaspers, a friend and contemporary of Heidegger, was in a different position. In a report that the denazification committee of the University of Freiburg at the end of 1945, he passed judgment on Heidegger’s “mode of thinking”: it seemed to him “in its essence unfree, dictatorial, uncommunicative.”7 This judgment is itself no less informative about Jaspers than about Heidegger. In making evaluations of this sort Jaspers, as can be seen from his book on Friedrich Schelling, was guided by the strict maxim that whatever truth a philosophical doctrine contains must be mirrored in the mentality and lifestyle of the philosopher. This rigorous conception of the unity of work and person seems to me inadequate to the autonomy of thought and, indeed, to the general history of the reception and influence of philosophical thought. I do not mean by this to deny all internal connection between philosophical works and the biographical contexts from which they come—or to limit the responsibility attached to an author, who during his lifetime can always react to unintended consequences of his utterances. 7. Ott, “Martin Heidegger und der Nationalsozialismus,” p. 65. Jürgen Habermas is professor of philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. His most recent books include the two-volume work Theory of Communicative Action and The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures . John McCumber is an associate professor of philosophy at Northwestern University. He is the author of Poetic Interaction: Language, Freedom, Reason. (shrink)
A short introduction to an endless task -- Hegel and his project -- Hegel contra Kant on philosophical critique and the limits of knowledge -- Transcendental versus linguistic idealism -- The nature and development of will -- Hegel's critique of Kant's moral theory.
“Die Gewohnheit” is given as title for two paragraphs in the section of the 1830 Philosophy of Mind on “Subjective Spirit,” but the word itself occurs in only one of them. A more cursory treatment of the topic is thus formally impossible, and Hegel seems to follow what he calls the tendency, in “scientific” treatments of Spirit, either to speak condescendingly of habit or to pass it over altogether. But Hegel does not share the grounds for that tendency, which according (...) to him are two: Either the view is taken that habits are despicable, or the discovery is made that their nature is hard to understand. Hegel argues explicitly against the former, and difficulty of comprehension presumably held no terrors for the author of the Logic. Indeed, the category of habit does appear at some of the Hegelian system’s important joints - in the move from Nature to Spirit, and in Hegel’s general account of historical transition. After a brief account of “Subjective Spirit’s” treatment of habit I will examine some of these joints, in the hope that the very simplicity of Hegel’s account of habit enables it to highlight more general traits of his systematic procedure. (shrink)
From scientific revolutions to Boston AA : philosophy and the speaking of matter -- What is the history of philosophy? -- Aristotle, oppression, and metaphysics -- Modernism in philosophy : fulfillment and subversion in Kant -- The malleability of reason : Hegel's return to Heracleitus -- The fragility of reason : earth, art, and politics in Heidegger -- Dialectics, thermodynamics, and the end of critique -- Critical practice and public goods : the role of philosophy.
Deepening divisions separate today's philosophers, first, from the culture at large; then, from each other; and finally, from philosophy itself. Though these divisions tend to coalesce publicly as debates over the Enlightenment, their roots lie much deeper. Overcoming them thus requires a confrontation with the whole of Western philosophy. Only when we uncover the strange heritage of Aristotle's metaphysics, as reworked, for example, by Descartes and Kant, can we understand contemporary philosophy's inability to dialogue with women, people of color, LGBTs, (...) and other minority groups. Only when we have understood that inability can we see how the thought of Hegel and Heidegger contains the seeds of a remedy. And only when armed with such a remedy can philosophy rise to the challenges posed by thinkers such as David Foster Wallace and Abraham Lincoln. The book's interpretations of these figures and others past and present are as scrupulous as its conclusions will be controversial. The result contributes to the most important question confronting us today: does reason itself have a future? (shrink)
"Time and Philosophy" presents a detailed survey of continental thought through an historical account of its key texts. The common theme taken up in each text is how philosophical thought should respond to time. Looking at the development of continental philosophy in both Europe and America, the philosophers discussed range from Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Arendt, Adorno and Horkheimer, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Foucault, Derrida, to the most influential thinkers of today, Agamben, Badiou, Butler and Ranciere. Throughout, the concern (...) is to elucidate the primary texts for readers coming to them for the first time. But, beyond this, "Time and Philosophy" aims to reveal the philosophical rigour which underpins and connects the history of continental thought. (shrink)
It has been claimed, out of admiration for the great thinker, that his political errors have nothing to do with his philosophy. If only we could be content with that! Wholly unnoticed was how damaging such a “defense” of so important a thinker really is. And how could it be made consistent with the fact that the same man, in the fifties, saw and said things about the industrial revolution and technology that today are still truly astonishing for their foresight?In (...) any case: no surprise should be expected from those of us who, for fifty years, have reflected on what dismayed us in those days and separated us from Heidegger for many years: no surprise when we hear that in 1933—and for years previous, and for how long after?—he “believed” in Hitler. But Heidegger was also no mere opportunist. If we wish to dignify his political engagement by calling it a “standpoint,” it would be far better to call it a political “illusion,” which had notably little to do with political reality. If Heidegger later, in the face of all realities, would again dream his dream from those days, the dream of a “people’s religion” [Volksreligion], the later version would embrace his deep disappointment over the actual course of affairs. But he continued guarding that dream—and kept silent about it. Earlier, in 1933 and 1934, he thought he was following his dream, and fulfilling his deepest philosophical mission, when he tried to revolutionize the university from the ground up. It was for that that he did everything that horrified us at that time. For him the sole issue was to break the political influence of the church and the tenacity of academic bossdom. Even Ernst Jünger’s vision of “the worker” [der Arbeiter] was given a place beside his own ideas about overcoming the metaphysical tradition via the reawakening of Being. Later, as is known, Heidegger wandered all the way to his radical talk of the end of philosophy. That was his “revolution.” Hans-Georg Gadamer is professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg. His books include Truth and Method, Philosophical Hermeneutics, The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy, and The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays. John McCumber, associate professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, is the author of Poetic Interaction: Language, Freedom, Reason. (shrink)
Well-documented, brilliant, definitely a major contribution to philosophy!" —Choice In this compelling work, John McCumber unfolds a history of Western metaphysics that is also a history of the legitimation of oppression.
Poetic Interaction presents an original approach to the history of philosophy in order to elaborate a fresh theory that accounts for the place freedom in the Western philosophical tradition. In his thorough analysis of the aesthetic theories of Hegel, Heidegger, and Kant, John McCumber shows that the interactionist perspective recently put forth by Jürgen Habermas was in fact already present in some form in the German Enlightenment and in Heidegger's hermeneutic phenomenology. McCumber's historical placement of the interactionist perspective runs counter (...) to both Habermas's own views and to those of scholars who would locate the origin of these developments in American pragmatism. From the metaphysical approaches of Plato and Aristotle to the interactionist approaches of Habermas and Albrecht Wellmer, McCumber provides an original narrative of the history of philosophy that focuses on the ways that each thinker has formulated the relationships between language, truth, and freedom. Finally, McCumber presents his critical demarcation of various forms of freedom to reveal that the interactionist approach has to be expanded and enlarged to include all that is understood by "poetic interaction." For McCumber, freedom is inherently pluralistic. Poetic Interaction will be invaluable to political philosophers, historians of philosophy, philosophers of language, and scholars of legal criticism. (shrink)
A vast amount of attention has traditionally been paid to the relation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit to the system of “science” which complements it in his thought. Recently, Errol Harris has suggested that the Phenomenology is also related to “science” as we understand it today, and this view has been worked out in some detail by Paul Thagard. The approach seems of interest for the philosophy of science because of the increasing contemporary awareness that empirical science is not based (...) simply on “value-free” observations, but incorporates critical reflection on previous theories, and hence—like the Phenomenology—has an historical dimension. As I hope to show here, attention to the relation of the Phenomenology to natural science can also enhance our understanding of Hegel. (shrink)
That Hegel had an “epistemology” at all is only one of the preliminary points argued in this demanding, but extremely rewarding book. Rockmore argues that, though Hegel abandoned the traditional epistemological standpoint of an isolated subject seeking a foundation for knowledge, he was clearly concerned throughout his career with the more general issue of the justification of knowledge claims überhaupt. Moreover, Rockmore shows that Hegel’s views are strikingly relevant to contemporary philosophical debates, since justification in Hegel’s view is, as circular, (...) non-foundationalist: The initial point of a theory is not established in and for itself, but is “justified in terms of the explanatory capacity of the framework to which it gives rise”. (shrink)
This paper explores how an earlier stage of Hegel’s system structures later stages. Starting with the section on “substance” in the Logic, I argue that substance for Hegel is a “dialectical” or narrative structure, one whose nature is to unfold over time. In the Logic, substance unfolds into causality and reciprocity in turn. This established, I then show how this narrative structure can be found in Hegel’s treatments of three phases of objective spirit: marriage, family, and state. Objective spirit, I (...) argue, can make only the transition to causality. The final transition in the narrative structure, into reciprocity, is reserved for absolute spirit. This means that while the categories of both substance and reciprocity structure Hegel’s accounts of marriage, family, and state, they coexist uneasily. Only in art are they harmoniously brought together via a philosophically comprehended transition. (shrink)
The question of the ground of history, according to Gillespie, is the question of what history is. German Idealism’s attempt to construe history as a source of value was the “fullest and perhaps the most profound” attempt to answer this question, and culminated in Hegel’s vindication of history as a rational process. The twentieth century, with its wars and holocausts, has made it impossible to affirm history as a rational process or a source of value, and Heidegger’s account of history (...) as an increasing oblivion of the “truth of Being” recognizes this; in Gillespie’s view it prepares the way for a transcendence of history altogether. If we are either to affirm or transcend history, however, we must get clear on what it is — on its ground. Gillespie treats Hegel and Heidegger as offering contrasting approaches to such clarification. (shrink)
The ultimate purpose of Alan White’s careful and detailed confrontation of Hegel with Schelling is to rehabilitate first philosophy itself. In this effort, White argues two subtheses: that first philosophy is possible as “Hegelian transcendental ontology”; and that Hegel’s thought makes sense only as “transcendental ontology.” Defending Hegel against Schelling is crucial in two senses: first, Schelling’s Hegel-critique contains, “in at least rudimentary form, all of the fundamental criticisms that have ever been made” of Hegel ; second, because Schelling generally (...) takes Hegel’s thought to be theological, rather than ontological, in character, showing how he often misses Hegel’s point provides an opportunity to disengage fundamental features of an “ontological” reading of Hegel. (shrink)
Hegel's rejection of the Kantian thing-in-itself makes the "an sich" an ingredient in experience—that about a thing which is not yet present to us is what it is "an sich." Hegel bars thus any philosophical appeal to anything construed as atemporal, a path which I argue was also taken by Nietzsche, Foucault, Rorty, and Habermas. Unlike them, however, Hegel pursues a project of systematic philosophy, which now consists in showing how temporal things mutually support one another. The recent Continental philosophers (...) I discuss do not share this systematic conception; hence some of their most distinctive insights and problems. (shrink)
In Reshaping Reason, John McCumber breathes new life into American philosophy. Moving past the tired divide between "analytic" and "continental" camps, he proposes new directions to unite a discipline which has become more unfocused and invisible. McCumber recommends a new set of rational tools to enable philosophers and then puts these tools to work to redefine epistemology, ontology, and ethics. Reshaping Reason explores philosophy's achievements and failures in a cold light and paves the way for the discipline to become more (...) meaningful and relevant to society at large. (shrink)