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“it is characteristic of political philosophers that they take a sombre view of the human situation: they deal in darkness”*…

 

757px-Eugène_Delacroix_-_La_liberté_guidant_le_peuple

Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (1830, Louvre), a painting created at a time when old and modern political philosophies came into violent conflict

* From Alan Jacobs, via his Snakes and Ladders newsletter:

For the last year or so, I’ve been reading a great deal of political philosophy, classic and modern. As I do so, I often find myself remembering this passage on Thomas Hobbes by Michael Oakeshott:

“And it is characteristic of political philosophers that they take a sombre view of the human situation: they deal in darkness. Human life in their writings appears, generally, not as a feast or even as a journey, but as a predicament; and the link between politics and eternity is the contribution the political order is conceived as making to the deliverance of mankind. Even those whose thought is most remote from violent contrasts of dark and light (Aristotle, for example) do not altogether avoid this disposition of mind. And some political philosophers may even be suspected of spreading darkness in order to make their light more acceptable. Man, so the varied formula runs, is the dupe of error, the slave of sin, of passion, of fear, of care, the enemy of himself or of others or of both … and the civil order appears as the whole or a part of the scheme of his salvation. The precise manner in which the predicament is conceived, the qualities of mind and imagination and the kinds of activity man can bring to the achievement of his own salvation, the exact nature and power of civil arrangements and institutions, the urgency, the method and the comprehensiveness of the deliverance — these are the singularities of each political philosophy. In them are reflected the intellectual achievements of the epoch or society, and the great and slowly mediated changes in intellectual habit and horizon that have overtaken our civilization. Every masterpiece of political philosophy springs from a new vision of the predicament; each is the glimpse of a deliverance or the suggestion of a remedy.”

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As we pursue perspective, we might send Bolshie birthday greetings to Rosa Luxemburg; she was born on this date in 1871.  A philosopher, economist, and anti-war activist, she was a defender of Karl Marx’s dialectical materialism and his conception of history, and a critic of neo-Kantian arguments in favor of social Darwinism– positions she articulated in The Accumulation of Capital and dozens of other books, articles, and pamphlets.  A fiercely independent thinker, she was pointed in her criticism of both the Leninist and the more moderate social democratic schools of socialist thought.

220px-Rosa_Luxemburg source

 

Written by LW

March 5, 2020 at 1:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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