The exchange on philosophy began on the question of Terry Eagleton’s Marxism, on which I poured some scorn. I had read Crazy John and the Bishop (on John Toland and Bishop Berkley) many years ago and I profoundly disagreed with him there. I have not read his current craze, Why Marx was Right but have ordered it from Amazon. An extract from a review might suggest problems:
Eagleton acknowledged in The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996) that Marxism “is no longer a living political reality and that prospects for socialism are currently remote.” However, in The Gatekeeper (2001), he argues that socialism has been defeated rather than invalidated, and that its very powerlessness shows that “the system it opposes is dangerously out of control.”
Why Marx Was Right by Terry Eagleton, Roger Caldwell is unconvinced by Terry Eagleton’s loyal support for Marx. http://philosophynow.org/issues/96/Why_Marx_Was_Right_by_Terry_Eagleton
I have not tackled the question of philosophy for some time but was quite shocked that some were suggesting that Friedrich Nietzsche was progressive in some way, that Adolph Hitler’s choice of him as his favourite philosopher was a big mistake and that he had some fundamental thing to teach us. He comes in a long line of philosophers who began life as a reaction to the Enlightenment.
“The irrationalists divided over whether religion is true—Schleiermacher and Kierkegaard being theists, and Schopenhauer and Nietzsche being atheists—but all shared a contempt for reason. All condemned reason as a totally artificial and limiting faculty, one that must be abandoned in the bold quest to embrace reality. Perhaps Kant had prohibited access to reality—but he had shown only that reason could not get us there. That left other options open to us: faith, feeling, and instinct.”
Stephen Hicks, Ph.D., Philosopher, http://www.stephenhicks.org/2010/02/16/irrationalism-from-kierkegaard-to-nietzsche-ep/
The list of irrationalists, fundamentally reactionary idealists and anti-Marxists include: Arthur Schopenhauer (“You can do what you will, but in any given moment of your life you can will only one definite thing and absolutely nothing other than that one thing.”), Friedrich Schelling and Henri Bergson, Friedrich Nietzsche, and, via Søren Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin and the existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.
We might speculate on the basis of much modern philosophy and its anti-Marxist bias if we look at Heidegger’s lover (physical and philosophical), Hannah Arendt (before and after the Holocaust), the famous author of The Evil of Banality (on Adolf Eichmann), Troubling new revelations about Arendt and Heidegger, By Ron Rosenbaum, Hannah Arendt:
Will we ever be able to think of Hannah Arendt in the same way again? Two new and damning critiques, one of Arendt and one of her longtime Nazi-sycophant lover, the philosopher Martin Heidegger, were published within 10 days of each other last month. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_spectator/2009/10/the_evil_of_banality.html
Here is the Heidegger quote:
“To the man of this unprecendented will, to our Führer Adolph Hitler – a threefold Sieg Heil!”
Heidegger and the Nazis, Jeff Collins, Icon Books, 2000.p.23
Finally let us look at Friedrich Nietzsche again. Here is the 21 year old Trotsky’s view of him, a fitting ideology for any fascist regime:
The social axis of his system (if it is permitted to offend Nietzsche’s writings with a term as vulgar in the eyes of their author as that of “system”) is the recognition of the privilege granted a few “chosen” to freely enjoy all the goods of existence. These happy chosen are not only exempted from productive labor, but also from the “labor” of domination. “It is for you to believe and serve (Dienstbarkeit)! Such is the destiny Zarathustra offers ordinary mortals in his ideal society, whose number is too great”(den Vielvuzielen). Above them is the caste of those who give orders, of guardians of the law, of warriors. At the summit is the king, “the highest image of the warrior, judge, and guardian of the law.” Compared to the “supermen” all of them are auxiliaries, they are employed in the “rude tasks of domination: they serve to transmit to the mass of slaves “the will of the legislators.” Finally, the highest caste is that of “masters, of “creators of values,” of “legislators,” of “supermen.” They inspire the activity of the entire social organism. They will play on earth the same role that God, according to the Christian faith, plays in the universe.
Thus even the “labor” of leadership falls not on superior beings, but only on the most elevated among the inferior. As concerns the “chosen,” the supermen,” freed of all social and moral obligations they lead a life full of adventure, happiness, and joy: “Given that I live, “ says Nietzsche, “ I want life to overflow, that it be in me and outside me as prodigal, as luxurious as possible.”
It is a question, above, of the cult of suffering – meaning physical suffering – which no devotion on the part of the slaves can spare the superman. As concerns the suffering tied to social disturbances, the superman, of course, must be absolutely freed from them. If there remains one mandatory task for the superman, (and this only for the superman im Werden – in the process of becoming) it is that of perfecting himself, which means the elimination of all that might resemble pity. The superman “falls if he allows himself to be dominated by feelings of pity, regret, and sympathy.” According to the former “table of values” pity is a virtue; Nietzsche considers it the greatest temptation and the most frightful danger. The “gravest sin” according to Zarathustra, the most horrible of misfortunes, is pity. If he feels anything for the unfortunate, if he is touched at the sight of sorrow, his destiny has come to an end: he is vanquished, his name must be crossed from the list of the caste of “masters.” “Everywhere, Zarathustra says, “there resounds the voice of those to whom it is indispensable that death be preached, or eternal life, [he says with an honest cynicism]; which of them is if of no importance to me as long as they disappear (dahinfahren) as quickly as possible.”
Leon Trotsky 1900, On the Philosophy of the Superman,