"Don’t forget as you watch the TV that the fires of Belsen burn in the TV tubes every night. Don’t forget that the structural principles of our society are as barbaric in their structure as they ever were. Perhaps more so... perhaps more so. We have to remember we are talking at a historical moment when most folks want to nuke somebody again and why not!"
- Rick Roderick, 108 Philosophy and Post-Modern Culture
After these three are through with our intellectual culture: Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, no-one can believe. No-one. It’s like childhood’s end for our culture. You follow me. It’s childhood’s end. You know how you can believe something when you are a child… and it’s not like you can’t come to believe it again when you are sixty… you may be cynical about it again until you are sixty… but these critiques mark childhood’s end in regard to finding meaning within that religious framework. I mean, Paul Ricouer has a beautiful phrase for it. He says, ah, the positive significance of these, ah, criticisms I have mentioned is what they have in common… and that’s their iconoclasm. The fight against the gods of men. That’s very interesting. In other words, their iconoclasm is their fight against the gods we have created so far. And that is what they have in common.
He goes on to say: this atheism that we have just discussed… this attack on the god, or the gods of men… is not of the kind that some contemporary philosopher is going to get up and dispute. Because this has to do with the very things that form the consciousness of the person would be willing to dispute it. In other words, you’ll never know, after Marx and Nietzsche and Freud whether your argument is an argument or a symptom. You follow me? We won’t know whether you have got a good argument or a bad symptom. You just… there’s no way… that’s the problem of finding your, you know, real self here.
And ah, Ricouer himself is a Christian, and so he says the following: “A Marxist critique of ideology, a Nietzschean critique of ressentiment and a Freudian critique of infantile distress, are hereafter the views through which any kind of mediation of faith must pass”. Now, does that mean that every ordinary religious person has to know these writers and stuff? No… these suspicions have become widespread in our culture. We don’t need anymore, in a way, to be instructed in them, because they permeate our culture. This is what conservatives complain about, in a way, they go: “Well, you know, every time you see a Christian on TV; he is either out for money, or he really hates people, or it’s some sexual thing.” Where does that come from? See, the cultural critique of these people has insinuated itself everywhere.
So, the first thing you think when someone comes on a little too strong with religion, is you start running through the “Masters of Suspicion”, going: “What does he want? My billfold? What kind of… is he on some bizarre sexual trip? Is this another Jimmy Swaggart thing? What kind of power trip is it for him?”. You know… I mean, we have got guys some of these guys in Dallas now who just get on TV and say “Give me money because God says for you to give me money. You give me money, and you’ll get some money back. Not from me, but from God.” He’ll keep God’s money. And You’ll get money from God. And that’s a nice… deal… between him and… God. It’s a wonderful… advantage.
Okay, now, the reason I have spent so much time on these “Masters of Suspicion” – the title of the first lecture – “Masters of Suspicion”… these were critiques that were developed in 19th and end of the 20th century. They have become a common possession of our culture, and they have cut off one of the reservoirs within we might find a coherent meaning for our life. One of the reservoirs being religious faith. Not entirely. It’s not like we can’t go back and have it. It’s that we must have under the mark of complexity… follow me? Under the mark of insecurity. Under the mark of confusion about it. It’s not that you can’t… it’s just under those… marks.
Transcript: In the final lecture on the The Self Under Siege, we will discuss the work of Jean Baudrillard, a French social theorist… actually that is now a misnomer since one of Baudrillard’s theses is the disappearance of the social. Baudrillard is perhaps the most important theorist that can be characterised as “post-modern”. I have spent a lot of time, in fact, in a previous lecture series discussing the postmodern. I am going to give a very brief characterisation of it and then discuss Baudrillard’s relationship to it. The self under siege in modernity has always presumed that there was a self to be under siege, but in the view of Baudrillard society has reached a point at which it has literally been overcome by its technology and the new and important issues aren’t about things like the non-believer or the non-offender, but about the non-person. View Full Article »
Transcript: In this lecture we are going to do something that from the viewpoint of many people is just simply outrageous. We are going to move from two figures who at least have some things in common, and that’s Foucault and Habermas, both of whom deal with the problems of what I call modernity, and I hope that word hasn’t thrown you too bad, its not such an abstract word. It means the processes by which factories were instituted based on the division of labour and the processes by which institutions came to be rationalised, rule governed across the whole terrain of our social life with few exceptions. That’s the process I have been referring to as modernity, and far from being abstract it’s a part of our everyday life. View Full Article »
Transcript: In our last lecture we discussed Habermas and I think that we left out at least one thing I need to begin with before I proceed with Foucault and that’s Habermas’ view of the self as a thoroughly social being, that is; the interaction of the natural world, the social world and the inner world of human, as it were, suffering, sympathy; a subject entwined in desire. Those are the three dimensions to subjectivity that Habermas discusses and he sees each one as challenged in the late 20th Century; so I wanted to add that to maintain our subject under siege theme. View Full Article »
Transcript: Okay, this is the fourth lecture and we are going to pick things up a little bit here because we have a philosopher who I came in contact with in college through pamphlets and so this is someone I really enjoy, and I hope that you will get something out of this lecture. I am going to talk about Herbert Marcuse. Again, like Sartre, we are talking about an intellectual who becomes a pop cultural figure. I mean this is a very rare thing for a German philosopher to have their picture on the cover of Life magazine, but this happens with Herbert Marcuse in the sixties. The reason it does… and this time I will go into the theory. In the case of Sartre there are so many periods and stuff to follow out that it’s difficult, but with Marcuse there are a series of guiding themes that we can follow that I think will explain why Marcuse was the philosopher of the 1960’s, and I also want to explain more than that. View Full Article »
[No video available for this take. Transcribed from the cassette version of the lecture.]
Transcript: In this third lecture I would like to discuss a figure that is in one sense a paradigmatic intellectual of the 20th Century – certainly one of the most famous intellectuals; a person who many of you know not only as a philosopher but also as a writer and a dramatist – and that’s Sartre the famous French philosopher. Sartre is best known I suppose in the United States for his literary works and I can recommend them. They are, as it were, foundational in our culture for the, sort of, existential experience and I have in mind his novel “Nausea” which is a nice existential phrase; it gets you off in the right direction. View Full Article »
Transcript: In this third lecture I want to discuss one of the most famous intellectuals of the 20th Century, one of the few intellectuals to actually become a kind of international star, and that’s Jean Paul Sartre, a French philosopher from my decade, my period, the sixties, but whose career lasted longer than that and started before that and in many ways whose journey as both an intellectual and an activist marks out a certain search for meaning in the 20th Century in his own life. In other words, his own life story is interesting in that regard apart from the works that he wrote. View Full Article »
Transcript: Our second lecture will be on Heidegger and the Rejection of Humanism. Many of you may know Heidegger by reputation and I think that it’s always nice in a course in the self in the 20th Century to present at least one lecture by a thinker who is extremely profound and raises the issue of the self in the modern era and also happens to be a Fascist. And again – I always have to put in these disclaimers – this is not an endorsement of Fascism, but… but in a way I almost regret that I had to start with that snotty remark, because Heidegger’s account of finding meaning in the 20th Century is one of the most profound and powerful that we get in the 20th Century. Before I proceed to it, I’d like to say a few brief summary remarks about the rather scattered out first lecture. View Full Article »
Transcript: The course that I am about to present: “Philosophy in the 20th Century – The Self Under Siege” has been a difficult course for me to develop over the years, and it’s been a difficult subject matter for me because I have been trained in the classic tradition of philosophy, studied ancient philosophy, know many of the methods and taken all the required logic courses and so on. I have also done a lot of work in Continental Philosophy as well. It seems to me that the late 20th Century presents us with one great and overriding problem and that will be the focus of this course; and I had second thoughts about even calling it a course in philosophy because the most current philosophical attempts to understand both the self, society – our place in it and so on – have been what I will call “deflationary”. View Full Article »
Transcript: I’d like to wrap up my remarks about self creation, self invention, and the challenge of The Eternal Recurrence by saying that we need to remember that this has to do… that this has to do with what I mentioned later in the lecture: the love of fate. Loving the place you have found yourself in history. And sometimes that’s a difficult thing to do, and for me that’s a quite personal remark that has to do with my own self invention. To try to love the place I have found myself in history, like many other people now is… I find that difficult. Nietzsche on the other hand thought it might be difficult, but it was a challenge that we should attempt to meet. View Full Article »
Transcript: This lecture is on a very troubling thesis of Nietzsche’s: The Eternal Recurrence. Before I discuss Nietzsche’s idea of The Eternal Recurrence I want to do a little bit of what I promised that I would do last time when I recounted the parable of The Death of God, and that’s to interpret it a little bit more. One of the nice things about parables – and I am going to compare that parable to some other parables. One of the nice things about parables is that in a certain sense if one is to read them at all – engage in reading them at all – parables demand, require interpretation. They quite literally can’t mean what they say, quite literally. And if you notice in many traditions, the attempt to communicate through a parable is the attempt to communicate a truth that, as it were, could not possibly be communicated in another, sort of, more linear form without, as it were, the aid of a story. View Full Article »
Transcript: In this lecture I want to pick up on my discussion of “On the Genealogy of Morals” by Nietzsche and return our argument concerning the value of our values, the origins of our ethical judgements and so on, and look at the question of – as I stated in the opening lecture – the paradoxical situation that our morality may, oddly enough, have an immoral origin. And so this is the argument to which we will return. One of the points I didn’t make about the genealogical method in the last lecture, I want to make now and it’s very important. When we look genealogically at “The Greeks” as a type, or Christianity; Nietzsche uses a kind of typology where we don’t look for who speaks in a document, but for as it were, what motivates the speaker behind the document. View Full Article »
Transcript: Lecture two will attempt to answer one of the paradoxes I raised in the first lecture – and this will be a specific form of it – and that’s a rather famous charge in philosophy. In fact this is the charge of relativism and one of the things that professional philosophers do in order to display their professional credentials is to respond to the relativist and to the sceptic. Nietzsche has been accused of being a relativist. One form of this accusation is a kind of mislabelling – in my opinion it’s a mislabelling – of Nietzsche’s view about the function of truth and lie; he opposes that to true and false. Truth and lie; the function of that within philosophical discourse, he has an account of that we are going to discuss. View Full Article »
Transcript: Okay, ah, last time I may have dropped out of my West Texas mode for a moment and become a little too philosophical, so I am going to try to restate a few things from Nietzsche in a simple way, quickly, before I move on to some remarks about Kierkegaard. Ah, what I was trying to evoke in you was more the spirit of Nietzsche than the specific text. The spirit of Nietzsche is one of deep suspicion, and that suspicion is that power is intertwined with things that we normally like to think of, even today, as not being dependent on power, for example; truth, goodness, and so on. Nietzsche says they are. View Full Article »
Transcript: I have the daunting task of summarising 2000 years in two sentences, so I’ll avoid it, and hope that you saw the last tape. Which was basically… the movement so far is to present something like a traditional history of ideas but – if you’ve noticed – with little rejoinders along the way that suggest that that history of ideas is not innocent. Not as though it were being presented in the way that the National Association of Scholars would have you believe. Books being selected as though by very intelligent readers because they are the best books. That isn’t always wrong, but the story of the survival of books and the formations of canons clearly has other factors. View Full Article »
Transcript: Well in the last lecture I tried to just make a few suggestive remarks in order to get us off the ground about what might be called the Greek way of life, and different forms of human conduct of which only one I suggested and discussed, and that was the Socratic life of enquiry. And I didn’t mean by that life of enquiry an inactive life, an apolitical life or one unconcerned with the state or with other humans. But, in fact, I wanted to present it not as some academic debate, but as a life deeply immersed in your social situation, and to understand who you are and who your fellow citizens are. View Full Article »