The only way to survive such shitty times, if you ask me, is to write and read big, fat books, you know? And I’m writing now another book on Hegelian dialectics, subjectivity, ontology, quantum physics and so on. That’s the only way to survive. Like Lenin. I will use his example. You know what Lenin did, in 1915, when World War I exploded? He went to Switzerland and started to read Hegel.
. . . the abandonment of metaphysics involves more than the redefinition of the nature of rational inquiry in accordance with the tenets of modern scientific methodology this redefinition itself makes matters of value and validity mere matters of opinion.
I'd be willing to bet that the notion of the end of time is more common today in the secular world than in the Christian. The Christian world makes it the object of meditation, but acts as if it may be projected into a dimension not measured by calendars. The secular world pretends to ignore the end of time, but is fundamentally obsessed by it. This is not a paradox, but a repetition of what transpired in the first thousand years of history.... I will remind readers that the idea of the end of time comes out of one of the most ambiguous passages of John's text, chapter 20...This approach, which isn't only Augustine's but also the Church Fathers' as a whole, casts History as a journey forward—a notion alien to the pagan world. Even Hegel and Marx are indebted to this fundamental idea, which Pierre Teilhard de Chardin pursued.Christianity invented History, and it is in fact a modern incarnation of the Antichrist that denounces History as a disease. It's possible that secular historicism has understood history as infinitely perfectible—so that tomorrow we improve upon today, always and without reservation... But the entire secular world is not of the ideological view that through history we understand how to look at the regression and folly of history itself. There is, nonetheless, an originally Christian view of history whenever the signpost of Hope on this road is followed. The simple knowledge of how to judge history and its horrors is fundamentally Christian, whether the speaker is Emmanuel Mounier on tragic optimism or Gramsci on pessimism of reason and optimism of will.
Since we are not yet fully comfortable with the idea that people from the next village are as human as ourselves, it is presumptuous in the extreme to suppose we could ever look at sociable, tool-making creatures who arose from other evolutionary paths and see not beasts but brothers, not rivals by fellow pilgrims journeying to the shrine of intelligence. Yet that is what I see, or yearn to see. The difference between raman and varelse is not in the creature judged but in the creature judging, and when we declare an alien species to be raman, it does not mean that they have passed a threshold of moral maturity. It means that we have.
I felt that the metal of my spirit, like a bar of iron that is softened and bent by a persistent flame, was being gradually softened and bent by the troubles that oppressed it. In spite of myself, I was conscious of a feeling of envy for those who did not suffer from such troubles, for the wealthy and the privileged; and this envy, I observed, was accompanied—still against my will—by a feeling of bitterness towards them, which, in turn, did not limit its aim to particular persons or situations, but, as if by an uncontrollable bias, tended to assume the general, abstract character of a whole conception of life. In fact, during those difficult days, I came very gradually to feel that my irritation and my intolerance of poverty were turning into a revolt against injustice, and not only against the injustice which struck at me personally but the injustice from which so many others like me suffered. I was quite aware of this almost imperceptible transformation of my subjective resentments into objective reflections and states of mind, owing to the bent of my thoughts which led always and irresistibly in the same direction: owing also to my conversation, which, without my intending it, alway harped upon the same subject. I also noticed in myself a growing sympathy for those political parties which proclaimed their struggle against the evils and infamies of the society to which, in the end I had attributed the troubles that beset me—a society which, as I thought, in reference to myself, allowed its best sons to languish and protected its worst ones. Usually, and in the simpler, less cultivated people, this process occurs without their knowing it, in the dark depths of consciousness where, by a kind of mysterious alchemy, egoism is transmuted into altruism, hatred into love, fear into courage; but to me, accustomed as I was to observing and studying myself, the whole thing was clear and visible, as though I were watching it happen in someone else; and yet I was aware the whole time that I was being swayed by material subjective factors, that I was transforming purely personal motives into universal reasons.
[Jürgen Habermas' obituary to friend and philosopher, Richard Rorty]One small autobiographical piece by Rorty bears the title 'Wild Orchids and Trotsky.' In it, Rorty describes how as a youth he ambled around the blooming hillside in north-west New Jersey, and breathed in the stunning odour of the orchids. Around the same time he discovered a fascinating book at the home of his leftist parents, defending Leon Trotsky against Stalin. This was the origin of the vision that the young Rorty took with him to college: philosophy is there to reconcile the celestial beauty of orchids with Trotsky's dream of justice on earth. Nothing is sacred to Rorty the ironist. Asked at the end of his life about the 'holy', the strict atheist answered with words reminiscent of the young Hegel: 'My sense of the holy is bound up with the hope that some day my remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which love is pretty much the only law.
As Karl Marx once noted: 'Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.' William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes trial was a tragedy. The creationists and intelligent design theorists are a farce.
Not curiosity, not vanity, not the consideration of expediency, not duty and conscientiousness, but an unquenchable, unhappy thirst that brooks no compromise leads us to truth.
This meaning-argument is of a very different kind from the arguments I have been speaking about so far. The premise entails the conclusion all right, but it is so astoundingly false that it defies criticism, at first, by the simple method of taking the reader's breath away. This was a method which the neo-Hegelian idealists later perfected: reasoning from a sudden and violent solecism. Say or imply, for example, that in English “value” means the same as “individuality.” You can be miles down the track of your argument before they get their breath back. This method is not only physiologically but ethologically sound. Of course it should never be used first. You need first to earn the respect of your readers, by some good reasoning, penetrating observations, or the like: then apply the violent solecism. Tell them, for example, that when we say of something that it is a prime number, we mean that it was born out of wedlock. You cannot go wrong this way. Decent philosophers will be so disconcerted by this, that they will never do the one thing they should do: simply say, “That is NOT what ‘prime number’ means!” Instead, they will always begin … [by] casting about for an excuse for someone’s saying what you said, or a half-excuse, or a one-eighth excuse; nor is there any danger that they will search in vain.