Monday, November 30, 2009

Trying to Understand Faye trying to understand Heidegger

I continue to find it difficult to take Emmanuel Faye seriously.  The preface to his Heidegger, The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy astonished me, and I have yet to recover.  He writes,
            “We have not yet grasped the full significance of the propagation of Nazism and Hitlerism in the domain of thought and ideas – that mounting tidal wave that sweeps up minds, dominates them, possesses them, and eventually overcomes all resistance  Against it, the military victory was but the winning of a first battle – a vital one, to be sure, and a costly one for humanity, since it took a world war.  Today, a different battle, more protracted and sinister, is unfolding: a contest in which the future of the human race is at stake.  It calls for a heightened awareness in all areas of though, from philosophy to law and history.”
            I would love to go ahead and quote Faye explaining what that means, but he doesn’t tell us – at least not as far as I’ve read – and I confess I have not been as dogged about reading Faye as I have some other books about Heidegger I’ve had at hand.   I just finished Wolin’s Heidegger’s Children, and thought I should get back to Faye, but what the heck is he talking about?   Does he imagine that Heidegger’s influence is so strong that the mere reading of Being and Time will turn us into Nazis?  Does he imagine that anything else Heidegger wrote would turn anyone into a Nazi?
            One of the interesting facts of Wolin’s Heidegger’s Children is that none of the four, neither Arendt, Lowith, Jonas or Marcuse knew Heidegger was interested in National Socialism until he joined the Nazi party.  They were all caught by surprise, even though they had studied with him for years.  So if these four formidable philosophers can have studied with Heidegger for years, presumably reading all his works, and not be aware of their relationship to National Socialism, how can we lesser English-speaking folk years later, with only poor translations at hand, understand Being and Time well enough to be able to transform ourselves into Nazis?
            Faye, of course, is French and not English.  Perhaps the French are more susceptible to Heidegger’s Nazi-favoring philosophy.  After all, they did succumb to something like that during the Vichy period – not Heidegger’s teaching most likely – I find no evidence that the French understood him any better than we who speak English, but something more overtly Fascist.

            The Nazis used the term Gleichschaltung to describe the thing Faye seems to be attributing to Heidegger; which means “forcing into line.”  It is the principle you might expect in any totalitarian form of government and the Nazis were very good at it.  But Heidegger wasn’t.  He did try however.  On page 186 of Wolin’s book Wolin tells us that “Heidegger . . . advocates a type of intellectual Gleichschaltung.  As a long-standing critic of academic freedom and the separation of science from broader existential concerns, in the Nazi revolution Heidegger saw an unprecedented opportunity to reintegrate knowledge with Volk and ‘state,’ thereby compelling it to serve a set of higher ontological goals.” 
            Unfortunately for Heidegger’s Nazi reputation, his colleagues and perhaps his students as well were not willing to be forced into line.  Heidegger reported to the after-war query into his Nazi involvement that he gave up his rectorate in 1934 because of disagreement with the Nazi party.  Hugo Ott disputes that, telling us that Heidegger lost his post because he was not effective enough in forcing the university into line.  And if he couldn’t force those easily-forced Germans into line; what hope can he have of influence us free-thinking English-speaking Volk?

            I confess that when I first read Faye’s preface I thought he was going to relate Heidegger’s fascism in some way to the current Islamist threat: “Today a different battle, more protracted and sinister, is unfolding: a contest in which the future of the human race is at stake.  It calls for a heightened awareness in all areas of thought, from philosophy to law and history.”  That is interesting, I thought.  I would not have expected Faye to be so concerned about the Islamist threat.  But, his “more protracted and sinister” battle is with Heidegger’s ideas! 
            Sigh. . .

Undernourished: U.S compared to the Russian Federation

A reader sent me the above articles.  Yes, I quite agree.  We consider those poor who would rate as being much better off if they lived elsewhere. 
If all of Russia could somehow be moved to the U.S., I wonder how much of it would be rated below our “poverty level.” 

Here is an interesting map that rates the world in terms of “calories per person per day.” Note that the U.S. is in the highest range: 3400 to 3800 calories per person per day.  The Russian Federation, on the other hand is a couple of categories further down the scale. 
The definition of being “undernourished” is as follows: Undernourished
Undernourished is defined as the proportion of the population below the minimum level of dietary energy (calorie) consumption.   According to these statistics and this definition, the Russian Federation is closer, on average, to being undernourished than the U.S.

RE: Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks becoming too tall?.

Matthew has left a new comment on your post "Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks becoming too tall?":

     While it is true that dogs of every size, shape and variety were used by numerous white 19th and 20th century lion hunters in southern and eastern africa, Van Rooyen's dogs did eventually emerge into a *relatively* unique and uniform type. If you look at photos of the dogs he kept in his final years, you will see an assemblage of Ridgebacks that look incredibly similar to many of the Ridgebacks we see today.
     With regard to Barnes, he was true dog man and his dogs were the real deal. Barnes pack was largely responsible for keeping a large group of men in venison on the trail.
     As it relates to size, a reading of the written histories and photos from the 1910's to the 1930's reveals numerous complaints by the uninformed that the Rhodesian Lion dogs "were too small" for the liking of those who wanted large and/or fearsome dogs. Most notably, the first ever written description of the breed, the "farmer George" account written by a vet who had been observing the working Ridgeback for over 20 years, describes 60 lb males. Also notable, those whites in Mashonaland who were, as a group, the Ridgeback owners most actively engaged in lion hunting with the breed, tended to keep and prefer smaller Ridgebacks. In fact the minimum height was introduced into the early standard to end-run many of the men with working ridgebacks in the north preferred ridgebacks that trended towards 24" at the withers! Hard to imagine now.

           Interesting comments, Matthew.  I don't recall having heard that about Barnes.  In regard to the complaints about Ridgebacks being too small, that must be weighed against the fact that the "small" Ridgebacks were doing their job against lions.
Is there a tendency, say, walking a dog in a lonely place late at night, to wish he were just a little bit, or perhaps a lot, bigger?  That human fear or wish may have little to do with the dogs ability to do his job.  In fact, here in the U.S. we seem to be opting for greater size while at the same time breeding for more gentleness and softness as though the larger size, without anything to back it up, is going to scare away the bogeyman. 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Alcoholism in the Russian Federation

Professor Kowalski responds to Michael Kuznetsov, or rather to my response to Michael Kuznetsov as follows:

-----Original Message-----
From: ludwik kowalski
Sent: Sunday, November 29, 2009 7:13 PM
To: Lawrence Helm
Subject: Re: Further on Russia and the Communist Dream.

Thank you for showing the data, Lawrence.

1) Russian people deserve better. They will find a way to improve 
deplorable conditions.  But this will take time.

2) This thread reminded me that one of the first things that Gorbachev 
wanted to change, shortly before the disintegration of USSR, was 
widespread alcoholism. But he failed. The targeted population should 
had consisted of young children, not those who were already addicted.

3) How does alcoholism in Russia compare with alcoholism in China? I 
suspect alcoholism significantly  contributes to the present 
deplorable situation.


Checking out Professor Kowalski’s assertion, I found the following:

Yes, that is something I failed to address.  A “Russia-is-better-than-America” enthusiast has much more debris and detritus to deal with than an American – and probably the American doesn’t really bother with such arguments knowing that in most respects, no nation compares favorably to it. 
In regard to alcoholism, here is an article entitled “Russian Alcoholism amoung [sic] Highest in World.”  The report relates the high alcoholism rate to a high homicide rate.
And here is a recent article:,,4920893,00.html  entitled Medvedev in battle against Russian 'national disaster': alcoholism.”   The article includes the following:

“New studies suggest that the average Russian consumes some 18 liters (4.75 gallons) of pure alcohol per year. This is double the amount the World Health Organization considers harmful to one's health.           
“Russia has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the world, and experts say this is a main reason for the relatively low life expectancy of Russians, especially Russian men. At present, a typical Russian man lives to the age of 57, which is three years lower than the retirement age.”



            I’m sure the Russian Federation has some good qualities – areas where the Russian Federation is superior to America, but I don’t think you hit upon them when you reference freedom to do what you like and the means to buy food. 
            If I understand Professor Kowalski’s tack, it is in the form of questioning why there are so many alcoholics in Russia if it is the superior nation that you imply.  That is not an issue that I ever considered before; so I’ll leave that up to him. 
            As for me, I view the Russian Federation as not recovered yet from the Communist experiment.  The Russian Federation hasn’t found its way yet, and it is much too soon to be saying, “hey look at us.”

Further on Russia and the Communist Dream.



Your continuation note follows.  I'll make a few comments below it.





Michael_Kuznetsov has left a new comment on your post "Russia and the Communist Dream":


I continue.


Just how funny was that story of the man in Fairfax County, Virginia, who got up early on Monday morning, October 19, and walked naked into his own kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee? The next significant thing that happened to 29-year-old Eric Williamson was the local cops arriving to charge him with indecent exposure.

It turns out that while he was brewing the coffee, a mother who was taking her seven-year-old son along a path beside Williamson's house espied the naked householder and called the local precinct, or more likely her husband, who turns out to be a cop.

"Yes, I wasn't wearing any clothes," Williamson said later, "but I was alone, in my own home and I just got out of bed. It was dark and I had no idea anyone was outside looking in at me."
The story ended up on TV, and in the opening rounds the newscasters and network blogs had merciless sport with the Fairfax police for their absurd behaviour. Hasn't a man the right to walk around his own home (or in this case rented accommodation) dressed according to his fancy? Answer, obvious to anyone familiar with relevant case law: absolutely not.

I'd say that if the cops keep it up, and some prosecutor scents opportunity, Williamson will be pretty lucky if they don't throw some cobbled-up indictment at him. Toss in a jailhouse snitch keen to make his own plea deal, a faked police line-up, maybe an artist's impression of the Fairfax Flasher, and Eric could end up losing his visitation rights and, if worst comes to worst, getting ten years in jail and being posted for life on some sex offender site.

You think we're living in the 21st century, in the clinical fantasy world of CSI? Wrong. So far as forensic evidence is concerned, we remain planted in the 17th century with trial by ordeal, such as when they killed women for being witches if they floated when thrown into a pond.,news-comment,news-politics,virginia-witch-hunt-the-naked-truth-about-american-sexual-prudery

These three shorts stories explain why I do repeat it over and over again: We Russians do not belong to the West.
Thank God!







Firstly I notice that what you offer in the way of an argument is "anecdotal."  Anecdotal evidence is considered by logicians among the weakest kind.  In fact if one uses it one is very likely to commit a "fallacy."  The fallacy could be illustrated as follows:  A man walks naked in his own house and is arrested; therefore all men who walk naked in their own houses will be arrested. 


You can see, I hope, that one incident doesn't make a principle.   You would need a greater "sampling" than a single incident to be able to establish a principle.  The writer of the Virginia article may have an ax to grind.  I have personally never heard of such a thing happening in California or any place else until you sent this article.


As to Americans having "food insecurity" - not having enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle," yes, we are enduring either a "recession" or a "depression," and many will be in that category. Notice that the article you posted doesn't say anyone is starving, just that they may not feel they are eating as well as they should. 


The root of the issue is that we in the West have free economies.  Liberal Democracies do not have socialistic control over the means of production.  Only Communism sought to do that.  Even National Socialism didn't seek that level of control.  And as long as you have the "market" free to rise and fall according to demand, then there will be times when you will have recessions or depressions.  These are unfortunate.  But Liberal Democracies (nor any other form of government) do not do well trying to run businesses or farming.  I can quote experiments conducted during the Stalinist period when many starved as a result of Soviet management of farming.


Also we read many anecdotes of individuals walking into Soviet stores to find the shelves bare or nearly so.   That has never been true in the America I am familiar with.  The shelves have always been full.  People can't always buy everything they would like, but they don't starve.


But also, the sort of government that can control the market and farming is the sort of government that strives to control the people.  At least that was true in the two famous 20th century experiments, Communism and Fascism.  Would we willingly put up with that level of control so that we won't starve – oh wait, they did starve under Communism. 


To move away from the anecdotal, here are some statistical comparisons we might discuss:


The Russian Federation:

Total population: 143,221,000

Gross national income per capita (PPP international $): 12,740

Life expectancy at birth m/f (years): 60/73

Healthy life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2003): 53/64

Probability of dying under five (per 1 000 live births): 13

Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population): 432/158

Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2006): 638

Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2006): 5.3

Figures are for 2006 unless indicated. Source: World Health Statistics 2008


The United States of America:


Total population: 302,841,000

Gross national income per capita (PPP international $): 44,070

Life expectancy at birth m/f (years): 75/80

Healthy life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2003): 67/71

Probability of dying under five (per 1 000 live births): 8

Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population): 137/80

Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2006): 6,714

Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2006): 15.3

Figures are for 2006 unless indicated. Source: World Health Statistics 2008




RE: on Russia and the Communist Dream.


Good to hear from you.  I'll post your note on my blog and also see that Professor Kowalski gets a copy.  I am interested in your point of view.

I'll post your second note and then comment a bit.


Michael Kuznetsov has left a new comment on your post "Russia and the Communist Dream":


As you know Prof. Ludwik Kowalski wrote a book about my country Russia.
He entitled it Hell on Earth.

Some 20 years ago, when 90 percent of us Russians were ardently pro-American, that book might have been a great success in Russia. But not now.

At present it is evident for us that real Hell on Earth is the West.

Below are a few short stories (out of a great lot I've collected) that prove my assertion:


USDA: Number of Americans going hungry increases
WASHINGTON November 17 2009

More than one in seven American households struggled to put enough food on the table in 2008, the highest rate since the Agriculture Department began tracking food security levels in 1995.

That's about 49 million people, or 14.6 percent of U.S. households. The numbers are a significant increase from 2007, when 11.1 percent of U.S. households suffered from what USDA classifies as "food insecurity" — not having enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle.


George Sodini, left behind a diary that makes everything as clear as can be – so clear, in fact, that the media is doing everything it can to avoid looking at what it really says. Because this massacre is really about the desperation and hate so common in America. You can't understand yesterday's health club massacre in Pennsylvania, leaving 3 women dead, 10 injured, and the male gunman with his brains blown out, without recognizing this misery and hate.

Most Americans' lives have grown worse over the past three decades: today, average American male workers earn less than they did in 1979 in inflation-adjusted dollars, while the top 400 richest Americans own more than the bottom 150 million Americans, a wealth gap only found in tinpot Third World kleptocracies, and not seen here since 1928. That alone is reason enough to hate.

Even Warren Buffet admitted it in a interview with the New York Times: "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." For some reason, only the rich have the courage to talk about it.

to be continued

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

National Socialism, Mighty Leaders, and the Holocaust

National Socialism, considered as a form of government, did not lead inexorably to the holocaust.  We have only to look at the brand of National Socialism that developed in Italy to see that.  The Italian National Socialists were not anti-Semitic.  In fact many Jews fled from Germany to Italy during Hitlers reign.

A form of National Socialism is developing in the Russian Federation today, but there is no reason that it should decide to slaughter the ethnic minorities in the Federation.  There is a segment that is proud of being 100% ethnic Russian, but the official policy is that Russia needs to be in a Federation and that all the other ethnicities in the Federation are officially equal to the Russian.

Also, Putin isnt a totalitarian dictator.  He could be if he wanted to be, perhaps, but he would have to buck some resistance and engage in a level of brutality that has a very bad name in modern Russia.  Russia, a Russian majority, wants an authoritarian government, and they want it to be socialistic in the Welfare-State sense.  They want it to be benign.  Russians want the government to take care of them, not run roughshod over them.  And in modern Russia that may work, for Russia has lost its passion.  It has no overriding plans to conquer or proselytize. 
And it wasnt just German National Socialism that was guilty of holocaust-type activities in World War II.  We know that Stalin did it as well, and we also know that the Japanese did it.  The common link here isnt National Socialism but Totalitarianism, and not just Totalitarianism but Totalitarian governments led by messianic leaders (Germany and Russia) or a messianic cause (Japan).

If I were a Jew I might think that the killing of the Jews by the Nazis was worse than the killing of millions of political deviants by Stalin, or the millions of Chinese killed by the Japanese, but it seems more balanced to focused upon the evil of totalitarianism coupled with a Messianistic ruthlessness.  It isnt the Right Wing or Left Wing in Liberal Democracies that we have to worry about -- or even Racism as long as we dont abandon our Liberal Democracy for a totalitarian form of government and a dictator with a God complex.
Could European pogroms be engaged in the future?  Yeah, sure, but probably not against the Jews.  I can see them happening in Europe against Muslims.  There is a Messianic desire on the part of Islamists to conquer Europe.  Whether that desire is realistic, and whether most Muslims in Europe are consciously going along with that desire is debatable.  Also, any such pogrom is likely to come from the grass-roots levels and not officially from on-high.  Those on-high are politically correct in regard to those matters.

Obviously the Jews could be attacked in the Middle East.  Arab nations have regularly declared war upon Israel.  Israel is a small nation and its continued existence will probably remain precarious.  No doubt the Islamists would love a final solution to their Jewish problem, and it is prudent to see the parallels between Nazi and Islamist views about the Jews.  Those views are not supported by biology, history or anything in reality, but many Nazis prior to and during World War II believed them passionately, and many Islamist (and traditional) Muslims believe them passionately today.  So yes, something like the holocaust could occur against the Jews in the future --  but in the Middle East and not in Europe.  

Note that it was in the Middle East that a totalitarian dictator (Saddam Hussein) with a God complex arose He too ruthlessly killed his enemies.  He used WMDs against the Kurds in the North and the Shiites in the South.  His regime was a variation of National Socialism. 
Heidegger favored a benign form of National Socialism.  Wolin, very much a critic of Heidegger, writes on page 93 of Heideggers Children, Circa 1935, as Heideggers political radicalism began to wane. . . .   All of Heideggers critics must contend with that waning.  Heidegger was no longer an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazi form of National Socialism after 1935.  German National Socialism didnt develop as Heidegger hoped.
Heidegger scrambled around after the war to put the best face on his involvement with the Nazis during the 1933-35 period.  Many of the friends and associates he cut socially during that period cut him after 1945.  But some, especially Hannah Arendt (Wolin has a low opinion of her motives) came to his defense.

Did Heidegger learn his lesson?  Probably not.  Like the Marxists who long for a better Socialism he probably thought that some form of National Socialism would work better in Germany and Europe than Liberal-Democracy.  He undoubtedly came to understand that he had blundered by backing Hitler.  He believed a better leader could have been found. 

But where is the hero in the Thomas Carlyle sense? Could someone like Frederick the Great (in the Carlyle hagiographic sense) arise in these modern times?  Wikipedias comment about Carlyles work seems revealing: 

[Carlyles] last major work was the epic life of Frederick the Great (1858-1865). In this Carlyle tried to show how a heroic leader can forge a state, and help create a new moral culture for a nation. For Carlyle, Frederick epitomized the transition from the liberal Enlightenment ideals of the eighteenth century to a new modern culture of spiritual dynamism: embodied by Germany, its thought and its polity. The book is most famous for its vivid, arguably very biased, portrayal of Frederick's battles, in which Carlyle communicated his vision of almost overwhelming chaos mastered by leadership of genius. However, the effort involved in the writing of the book took its toll on Carlyle, who became increasingly depressed, and subject to various probably psychosomatic ailments. Its mixed reception also contributed to Carlyle's decreased literary output.

Later writings were generally short essays, often indicating the hardening of Carlyle's political positions. His notoriously racist essay "Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question" suggested that slavery should never have been abolished, or else replaced with serfdom. It had kept order, he argued, and forced work from people who would otherwise have been lazy and feckless. This – and Carlyle's support for the repressive measures of Governor Edward Eyre in Jamaica – further alienated him from his old liberal allies. Eyre had been accused of brutal lynchings while suppressing a rebellion. Carlyle set up a committee to defend Eyre, while Mill organised for his prosecution.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wolin on Arendt's Banality of Evil

Richard Wolin in his Heideggers Children, Hannah Arendt, Karl Lowith, Hans Jonas, and Herbert Marcuse, 2001, in addition to being a critic of Heidegger is a critic of Arendt. He doesnt believe that Arendt had the right focus in her Banality of Evil. On page 31 he writes, The problem was not just Hitler ofHitlerism, but the fact that a vast majority of Germans had consciously and willingly met their infamous Fuhrer halfway. Hitlers seizure of power was not some kind of unforeseeableindustrial accident or Betriebsunfall, as postwar Germans were fond of claiming, that befell the nation from outside and that left German traditions unscathed. Instead, the genocidal imperialism that the Nazis unleashed upon Europe represented the consummation of certain long-term trends of German history itself.

Beginning on page 58 he quotes Arendt to say The mob man, the end-result of thebourgeois, is an international phenomenon; and we would do well not to submit him to too many temptations in the blind faith that only the German mob-man is capable of such frightful deeds.

Wolin draws conclusions for her:Therefore, to punish the Germans collectively as a people, as some were inclined to do, would be misguided and senseless. Rather than being a specifically German crime, Nazi misdeeds were symptomatic of the ills of political modernity in general. They were of universal significance and, as such, could have happened anywhere. In fact, one of their distinguishing features was that they had been perpetrated neither by fanatics nor by sadists, but by normalbourgeois.. . The malefactors, she argued, were typical representatives of mass society. They were neither Bohemians, nor adventurers, nor heroes. Instead, they were family men in search of job security and career advancement.

Wolin then goes on to offer his objections to Arendts thesis: . . . the functionalist thesis, as articulated by Arendt and others, tells only part of the story. What it fails to explain is the specificity of this particular genocide. Why was it that the Nazis explicitly targeted European Jews for extermination? . . . It was not only the result of a brutal and impersonalmachinery of destruction; it was also the product of the proverbialpeculiarities of German history.

The main weakness of the functionalist approach is that it tends to underplay one of the most salient features of the Nazi rule: ideology specifically, the ideology of anti-Semitism. . . By emphasizing theuniversal constituents of the Final Solution at the expense of their specifically German qualities, she also managed to avoid implicating her country of origin . . . Margaret Canovan puts her finger on the problem when she observes:By understanding Nazism in terms not of its specifically German context but of modern developments likened to Stalinism as well, Arendt was putting herself in the ranks of many intellectuals of German culture who sought to connect Nazism with Western modernity, thereby deflecting blame from specifically German traditions.’”


In an earlier note I argued that it was more alarming to realize that what happened in Germany could happen in any nation than to see Germany, or parts of Germany, as being demonic. For if they are demonic then they are outside of us. We could never, or hardly ever (I take Wolin to be asserting), do what the Germans did. I also take Wolin to be placing the Nazi evil above the Stalinist evil because it was racist.

If Wolin were capable of removing his politically-correct blinders he might be able to see the similarities between Nazism and Stalinism. The danger is not in the demonic nature of the Germans but in the political form of government Arendt calls Totalitarianism.

Heidegger thought that a great spiritual leader could lead the Germans the correct technology-controlling path. Meanwhile, over in Moscow, the Russians thought that a great leader could lead them on the right path toward Communism. In both cases excesses, mass-murders, were engaged in for the good of the cause.

Wolin is wrong to want to demonize the Germans. He should instead criticize the idea that any leader is smart enough and knowledgeable enough to lead any nation in a good direction as a dictator. If he is an average dictator he will concentrate on preserving his power and the heck with the people. But if he is an idealistic dictator, subscribing to an ideology like National Socialism or Communism, then he may decide to purify the cause by putting enemies to death.

To imply that putting this enemy to death is more serious than putting that enemy to death misses one of Arendts point. And to imply that racism is intrinsically worthier of condemnation than totalitarianism misses another.