There's a floating distraction in the contemporary world, life at a distance enabled by technology. I want people to commit at the level of their subjectivity. The idea of subjective commitment is at the core of ethics, something that divides the self from itself. I become an ethical self. I cannot meet that ideal, I cannot fulfill it, it divides me from myself and it makes me strive harder. This ideal subjective ethical drive is at the heart of an absolutely earnest, radical politics that insists that people will be able to engage with each other, and they're lifted from irony at that point.
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Being anthropologically respectful of all faiths means being committed to none, and being left to drift without an anchor for one's most deeply held beliefs. To have such an anchor means being committed to a specific community. The only way Obama can overcome his sense of detachment and resolve his mother's dilemma is through a commitment to Christianity.
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We live in a world that is dominated by science. And that's not a bad thing - not at all. But one of the problems with the scientific worldview is that it leads human beings to have an overwhelmingly theoretical relationship to the world. For example, I no longer accept my being in the world practically and then try to describe that or elucidate that; rather, I see the world theoretically as colors and objects and representations which are fed through my retina into the brain.
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When the animal becomes human, the effect is pleasingly benign and we laugh outloud, "Okay come clean now. This isn't really about hunting, is it?" But when the human becomes animal, the effect is disgusting, and if we laugh at all, then it is what Beckett calls the "mirthless laugh", which laughs at that which is unhappy.
I am opposing it with an idea of the history of philosophy as a history of philosophers, that is, a history of mortal, fragile and limited creatures like you and I. I am against the idea of clean, clearly distinct epochs in the history of philosophy or indeed in anything else. I think that history is always messy, contingent, plural and material. I am against the constant revenge of idealism in how we think about history.
If the denial of death is self-hatred, as it is to deny our freedom and live in fear of death (which is to say, to live in a form of bondage), then the acceptance and affirmation of death is indeed a form of self-love. But I'd want to make a distinction between a form of self-love which is essential to what it means to be human, and a narcissism of self-regard, like Rousseau's distinction between amour de soi and amour propre, self-love and pride.
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Philosophy is the art of dying.Philosophy is an activity that has always been concerned with how one seizes hold of one's mortality, and I see myself continuing a very ancient tradition that goes back to Socrates and Epicurus, which is that to be a philosopher is to try and learn how to die. In learning how to die, one learns how to live.
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If I had a religious experience, what I know for sure is that I would stop doing philosophy and would start doing religion, teaching classes in religion, preaching in a local church. That is fine and noble activity. But I do not feel entitled to engage in it. So for me philosophy is my fate.
So yes, I'm trying to think about the connections between politics and poetry. There's an awful lot you could say here.Poetics is a form of poesis, a form of production-construction, but there might be ways of conceiving of that in a much more interesting manner. That's what I'm thinking about at the moment.
The other side of my work is political disappointment - the realization that we are living in an unjust world. "Blood is being spilled in the merriest way, as if it was champagne," Dostoevsky says. That raises the problem of justice, what it might mean in an unjust world and whether there can be an ethics and a political practice that would be able to face and face down the injustice of the present. How might we begin to think about that?
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The yearning for the common good comes from the refusal to accept that perhaps Americans have very little in common apart from the elements of a sometimes successful civil religion based around a sentimental, indeed sometimes teary-eyed, attachment to the constitution and a belief in the quasi-divine wisdom of the founding fathers.
Melancholia for Freud is the relationship that the subject takes up with respect to itself from the position of what he calls conscience or what he later calls the super-ego. And that can be lacerated - if you think of the anorexic who sees themselves from the perspective of the image they have, of the image they have of themselves in the mirror which is false - that would be the super-ego. Super-ego is what generates depression and it is what has to be dealt with in psychoanalysis.
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Obama dreams of a society without power relations, without the agonism that constitutes political life. Against such a position one might assert that justice is always an agon, a conflict, and to refuse this assertion is to consign human beings to wallow in some emotional, fusional balm.
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