Philosophy, Politics

Philosophers and Nationalism

Monday, 19th December 2016

From Dec. 19, 2016

Philosophers affect the world, not always in good ways. Apparently the “Kremlin-approved philosopher Alexander Dugin” is the custodian of the “Kremlin-approved nationalist philosophy”. I’ve seen various attempts at national philosophies, both official and unofficial, in various countries, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that works out well. And if you think about it, it’s antithetical to the philosophical impulse anyway. I mean, philosophy is about asking more interesting questions, not taking the given as given, not settling for the easy answer but inquiring further. To have a state or national or official philosophy undoes all of that. It says, we have settled on this point of view. This is the right way to see the world, and all other ways are wrong or at least inferior. All subsequent questions we ask about the world must follow these broad guidelines.

That looks more like religion than philosophy, because it’s basically what it is. It’s a system of belief. But for many people, the difference between a religious structure and a philosophical one is whether the supernatural is involved. That’s not the dividing line I would use, and it’s not the dividing line most religious studies scholars I know would use either.

Anyway, this particular attempt at a national philosophy, even if it is unofficial, is more dangerous than most. This “fourth political theory” (if something has a label it must be real and new) is an attempt to use Heidegger to justify Russian imperialism, just as Heidegger could be used, at least by some, to justify National Socialism in Germany. This says nothing about whether Heidegger is irrevocably tainted – after all, the Bible was used to justify both apartheid South Africa and liberation theology. But this is Heidegger at his worst, or rather, Heidegger misunderstood as an anti-modern, anti-technology, pro-medieval thinker.

So, short version: if you are ever asked to formulate a national philosophy (however one might define a “nation”), politely decline and back slowly out of the room. These things never go well.

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