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The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought by Marilynne Robinson (1998) – The Irish Times

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Marilynne Robinson occasionally comes close to denouncing the entire project of modern thought. Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Marilynne Robinson belongs to a rare and attractive category of thinker: the contrarian of high moral seriousness. That is, her contrarianism stems not from congenital misanthropy, but from the union of a fertile system of values with an instinctual mistrust for consensus.

I became interested in Robinson not through her much-loved novels, but through her recent essay collection What Are We Doing Here? Reading her felt faintly transgressive, in that one is not accustomed to modern intellectuals writing at full tilt from the starting point of an unabashed belief in God.

When Robinson writes about religion, it really does seem a more coherent stance towards existence than whatever is meant by atheism: religion has its origins in the human intuition that reality is rooted in a profounder matrix of Being than sense and experience make known to us in the ordinary course of things. By theology I mean the attempts to realise in some degree the vastness and atmospheres of this matrix of Being.

Robinsons earlier collection, The Death of Adam, reappraises certain historical figures and schools of thought around whom our views are so cosily consensual that we have long ceased thinking about them: a campaign of revisionism, because contemporary discourse feels to me empty and false.

What could be more countercultural than a spirited bid to rehabilitate John Calvin, that scarecrow-signifier of religious gloom and Christian self-hatred? My heart is with the Puritans, Robinson admits with an air of dignified mischief, while taking pains to distinguish the genuine, self-effacing morality she admires from mere priggishness (signs by which they make themselves recognisable to others and to themselves as virtuous).

Decrying the societal and ecological carcinogen of free-market economics, Robinson traces the brutal anti-values underpinning them to the more or less explicit calls to exterminate the weak found in Nietzsche and Darwin. Occasionally she comes close to denouncing the entire project of modern thought itself. In going after such big game, an author could make herself ridiculous; Robinsons patent sanity and earthed, life-loving conservatism make me trust her.

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The Twilight Zone | Issue 135 – Philosophy Now

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I sought great human beings. I never found anything but the apes of their ideal. Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Everything began to spin and I found myself sitting on the ground: I laughed so hard I cried. Sartre, The Wall

I walk up to the bar and I order a beer. The bartender recognizes me and brings the usual. Then he quietly says, We have some unusual guests. Slowly turn to look at the table behind you. Im impatient and turn my head immediately. One of them has a huge mustache and dark, focused eyes. The other is smoking a pipe and has a lazy eye that seems to be looking at me rather than his drinking partner. The pub is relatively quiet this afternoon, so I can also overhear snippets of their exchange. Its highlighted with terms like nothingness, eternal recurrence, bad faith, useless passion, and bermensch.

I cant believe my eyes or ears. It looks like them. It sounds like what they might talk about. But theyre supposed to be dead. I ask the bartender whats going on. Suddenly, the bartender lights up a cigarette, leans over the bar, and quietly mutters, You just walked into a bar whose happy hour is now called The Twilight Zone.

The original Twilight Zone was an American television show that lasted only five years. Despite its brief span, from 1959 to 1964, many critics rank it among the ten most important and influential TV shows of all time.

A creation of Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone was indeed both revolutionary and prophetic. Television audiences entertained by bland game shows and suburban sitcoms had never seen anything like it. In their living rooms they were introduced to erotic robots, aliens feasting on humans, lost souls in another time or space, machines dictating the actions of people, obsolete individuals sentenced to death, insidious tricks devised by the grim reaper or by Satan. The audiences were dared to think and let their imaginations wonder.

Controversies introduced by The Twilight Zone with wit and surprise remain with us. Writers still use the phrase twilight zone when alluding to odd machinations of institutions or political forums or unexplained happenings. Its legacy has lasted generations and continually inspires further creative work, such as Black Mirror. And although Lester Hunt, Noel Coward, and Mark Dawidziak have presented illuminating philosophical approaches to Rod Serlings visions, they neglected some core existentialist themes illuminated as well as mocked in Twilight Zone episodes. I want to make up for that deficit a little here.

Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre, two stalwarts of the existentialist tradition, often developed their ideas without recourse to other mainstream philosophers, instead addressing the insights of novelists, poets, artists and musicians. Sartre clearly believed that Flaubert and de Sade have as much to teach us about human ideals and depravity as do Hegel or Plato. For Nietzsche, the early Christian Fathers, classic playwrights, or contemporary Darwinists, provoked important questions about human destiny and the improvement or corruption of a species. Perhaps we can deploy Serlings speculations, and imagine Nietzsche and Sartre in a 2020 pub addressing the twists and turns of The Twilight Zone.

Nietzsche is often associated with calling for a superman or overman each an awkward translation of his term bermensch. As the term appears in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885), it evokes the sense that humanity is a work in progress or regress and great people are needed to overcome our present failings. Zarathustras translator Walter Kaufmann himself emphasized that ber is less an adjective then a sense of overcoming: the idea is of humans creating new ways of being, individually and socially. In his widely reprinted public lecture, Existentialism is a Humanism (1946), Sartre focuses on freedom. Humans choose their projects and purposes rather than have them defined for them by God, genetics, or social circumstances. Humans are, in Sartres words, self-surpassing man is the heart and center of his [own] transcendence.

The bartender inexplicably switches the big screen to a Twilight Zone episode, Obsolete Man. The penetrating eyes of both Nietzsche and Sartre are captivated by Meredith Burgess, the wonderful actor who plays Mr Wordsworth, the obsolete man. Why is he obsolete? He reads everything he can get his hands on, be it novels, magazines, or the Bible. In this character we see a joyful freedom and a liberated soul. But in the story it is precisely these qualities that render him obsolete and destined for immediate execution. His freedom is antithetical to the State, which plans on a more conforming and controlled form of man. You can imagine Nietzsche and Sartre watching this and saying to one another: in this episode, you and I would undoubtedly be rendered obsolete. We would have had our heads chopped off, as we would have been condemned by the State. This is the oppositive of freedom, transcendence, overcoming. (Thought experiment: Would Nietzsche and Sartre find humor in this absurd possibility, or bemoan it?)

It must be a Twilight Zone binge at the pub, as the episode To Serve Man appears on the screen immediately afterwards. The patrons suddenly see aliens descend upon the Earth. The radio stations put listeners at high alert, the military readies its forces, and everyone is fearful. The alien Kanamits resemble human beings, except they are nine feet tall, have large heads, and communicate telepathically. One Kanamit peacefully approaches the earthlings to assure them he means no harm. The aliens are here to provide peace, food, and an end to human conflict. All they ask of earthlings is trust. Sure enough, humans soon have all the pleasures of life and the comforts of leisure. The Kanamits casually invite people to visit their planet for an even better life. Scores of humans eagerly line up to depart, while two language experts arduously translate a Kanamit book. One uncovers the books title, To Serve Man; but soon learns that the book (spoiler alert!) is a cook book. The humans are being fattened up so they can embellish the diets of their alien hosts. This is one interpretation of the idea of overcoming human beings.

Wrapping up his best-known play, No Exit (1944), Sartre concludes with one of the most memorable lines in existentialist literature. The play involves three characters who are dead but unsure where they are, other than being in the same room. They see no angels and hear no harps, nor do they feel the heat of raging fires or smell brimstone. Eventually, however, the gaze or look they cast upon one another becomes unbearable. The alternate to heaven is not Satans nefarious den, Sartre concludes: Hell is other people.

Nietzsche, who is quite familiar with Protestant ministers and the Church Fathers treatises on heaven and hell his father had been a Lutheran pastor reminds Sartre that the early Christian writer Tertullians essay On Spectacles highlights how early Christians were mocked for their heresy against the pagan gods, but says Christians would get the last laugh. As Nietzsche explains it in On the Genealogy of Morals (1887), Tertullian envisions a heaven where Christians delight in watching the persecuting pagans now suffering eternal damnation (Tertullian was possibly making a satirical point about those who get pleasure out of watching others suffer).

Numerous episodes of The Twilight Zone reflect the theme of hell in the gaze of others. Considered to be among the best episodes, In The Eye of the Beholder eerily portrays shadows and voices in a hospital room. The patients face is wrapped in bandages while we hear her frightful anticipation of the results of the surgery. She was born with a disfigured face, and after ten unsuccessful operations, she has one more chance before she is exiled to an island of misfits. The doctors and nurses offer solace and hope. After twenty minutes into a thirty minute show, the bandages are unwrapped and viewers finally see a face the patient looking into a mirror. She shrieks. The surgery is again unsuccessful! Wait, we say to ourselves, the patient is undeniably beautiful. Then we catch a glimpse of the nurses and doctors. They all have distorted, pig-like faces (my apologies to pigs). In this remarkable twist, the patients hell has been the look of others whose standard of physical appeal is drastically different from ours.

The episode People Are Alike All Over relies on the notion that humanity is universally recognizable. An astronaut lands on Mars and finds natives who look just like him, and us. But this visitor, Serlings voice notes, has a very tiny undeveloped brain; comes from a primitive planet named Earth. The Martians calm his fears and welcome him, inviting him to a suburban-like house that resembles his own on Earth. The earthling is charmed by the natives thoughtful attention. Then he tries to walk out, but finds there are bars surrounding his house. It is a cage. He looks out and the natives are staring at him, as if hes an exotic creature belonging in a zoo.

A side note. When presenting these episodes to my students, I was surprised they were intrigued by how prophetic Rod Serling was. Since much of their lives are on social media, they claim that the looks of others can be just as condemning and perverse as those in No Exit or Eye of the Beholder.

Many philosophers have given thought to the nature(s) of time and space. Sartre addresses time as an aspect of human finitude, and sees consciousness as something that reaches into the past while anticipating an uncertain future. Nietzsches eternal recurrence was a brief but provocative thought experiment. He asks, what if a demon says you might have to live this life each pain and joy, each hope and despair innumerable more times, forever and ever? (The Gay Science, 341: The Greatest Weight)

The episode Escape Clause indulges this sort of existential test. A hypochondriac and self-absorbed man named Bedeker makes a deal with the Devil. He exchanges his soul for the promise that he will never die. Bedeker does all sorts of crazy things jumps in front of a train, drinks poison, and even murders his wife. Soon bored of the continual recurrence of things, Bedeker hopes that his next crime warrants an execution. Instead, he gets life imprisonment. This sense of eternal recurrence in jail horrifies him, and he seeks the grace of the Devil to help him to escape their original agreement (no spoiler alert here).

Judgment Night features a German passenger on a British ship during WW II. Carl Lanser, however, has no memory of who he is or why he is on the ship. Nevertheless, he warns the other passengers and the captain that in the early morning they will be attacked by an enemy submarine. No one heeds his warnings. Indeed, they believe he is a kook. Lanser then takes his binoculars and spots a German U-boat, catching sight of its commander Kapitan Carl Lanser, who is about to give the order to sink this ship full of innocent civilians. Lanser is both innocent passenger and U-boat commander; and the curse resulting from his decision is that this man will ride the ghost of that ship every night for eternity.

One of the most endearing episodes is Time Enough At Last. Henry Bemis is a bookish individual. He will read anything and everything, from plays and history to fiction and poetry, even the ingredients listed on food containers. He has little joy among other people the bank manager keeps threatening him, his wife mocks him while destroying his reading materials so he seeks momentary refuge by hiding in the banks vault to read without being disturbed. Suddenly, a huge shake occurs. When Bemis leaves the bank he sees that a nuclear exchange has eliminated humanity. He frets over endless loneliness and a solitary death; then he chances upon a destroyed library with thousands of books lying about. He experiences a childlike and joyous discovery that illuminates Nietzsches idea of the love of fate : Bemis is prepared to live this day like every other day, as he arranges his reading for the next year or more. Alas, not for long. He breaks his reading glasses. As the episode closes, we realize eternal recurrence also evokes another fundamental theme in existentialist thought: life is absurd, and not fair.

How much is still possible! So learn to laugh beyond yourselves, Nietzsche proclaims in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Introducing his anthology The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor (1987), John Morreall proposes three general theories for why we laugh. They are superiority, relief, and incongruity. First, we laugh at those who are beneath us or who have had a moral collapse as seen in jokes about people being stupid, or jokes about prominent persons or groups experiencing sudden misfortune due to their own vices. Or we laugh out of nervousness and excess energy, due to the transgression of social taboos. Or third, we are amused by an event or deed which clashes with our practical expectations or conventional outlooks and habits. The Twilight Zone seems closest to this third category (though it flirts with the other two categories as well). The stories play on our familiar beliefs and the rational approaches we take to surprising situations and ordinary routines. Not just invasions by Kanamits or nuclear bombs wiping out humanity, but walking to work, playing a saxophone, or shooting a game of pool, can be the quotidian occasion for a Twilight Zone story. Yet this account still overlooks a key existentialist concern: what is it that confronts our experiences and expectations to provoke such laughter?

It is ourselves. Rod Serling insisted that his renowned TV show was not about science fiction or futuristic scenes: it was, in his words, about human beings involved in extraordinary circumstance, in strange problems of their own or fates making. These problems of their own making can be seen in the range of human artifacts, from masks and computers to talking toys and slot machines, that befuddle and torment their creators. The role of fate is found in unexpected moments that seem to appear from nowhere. We laugh at them because we are the laughable animal. Watching a prisoner fall in love with a female-like robot, a computer becoming jealous of its operators affection for an office mate, a righteous husband succumbing to the forces of a one-armed bandit, sparks laughter not at the non-human elements or at those who supposedly are inferior to us: we laugh or despair because watching The Twilight Zone is like staring into a mirror.

As I thank the bartender and depart, I take one more glimpse at the unusual visitors and wonder about their existential response to these Twilight Zone tales: despair, or laughter, or both?

Alexander Hooke 2019

Alexander E. Hooke teaches philosophy at Stevenson University, USA. He is author of Philosophy Sketches: 700 Words at a Time (Apprentice House), Alphonso Lingis and Existential Genealogy (Zero Books) and co-editor of The Twilight Zone and Philosophy (Open Court).

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This is a difficult question as the worst philosopher is liable to be considered not a true philosopher at all!

It may be best to make clear the qualities of great philosophy, in order to shed light on the worst kind of philosophy, and consequently apply these weaknesses of thought to a specific individual, who then would seem the worst philosopher.

Firstly, they should lack the high standard of critical thinking marking great philosophy. The work of a poor philosopher is liable to consist of unclear and indistinct ideas, and obscure, confused, overly-abstracted arguments, making it difficult or impossible to understand and evaluate. This contrasts with great philosophy, which, although it may deal with complex ideas and themes, is always based upon distinct, clear ideas which are subsequently built upon. Philosophy should never be overly rhetorical, or full of unnecessary arguments, hyperbole and oversights. Furthermore, a great philosopher always recognises their influences, paying close attention to and acknowledging the ideas of their predecessors and contemporaries, even if contrary to their own viewpoint. The philosopher who thinks their philosophy wholly original is usually being dishonest and is almost certainly wrong. However, a great philosophers ideas must be highly original nevertheless; developing and expanding on existing ideas in a decidedly innovative and momentous way. Most philosophers will never be as original as, say, Ren Descartes; but the philosopher whose ideas consist wholly of a hotchpotch of other peoples or, worse, are derived from just one thinker is a bad one.

To summarise: the worst philosophers ideas would constitute the worst of philosophy: lacking in analysis, disordered, prone to exaggeration, unimaginative, unoriginal, hardly philosophy at all.

So, who is the worst philosopher? It is difficult to say, as there are so many poor ones from whom to choose, and the decision will reflect your own personal interests and perspectives. But I would suggest Ayn Rand (1905-1982), whose endorsements of ethical egotism and laissez-faire capitalism are formulated in the overused, hubristic and indolent arguments characteristic of the worst of what can, at a stretch, be called philosophy.

Jonathan Tipton, Preston, Lancashire

My first impulse is to stab a sacred cow: Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). He tended to work from a position of fancy and romanticism, thinking that he was more ready for action than he really was. The accusation of fantasy stands to reason, given how sickly he was: think his Will to Power and his ironically quoted-to-death epithet, What doesnt kill me makes me stronger. However, my adverse sentiment towards him has more to do with his many fans whom I have encountered on message boards: those basement bermenschen. Every time I encounter someone who tags their belief system with the prefix anarcho-, I think of Nietzsche, cringe, and start digging my trenches. It always feels like someone embracing the radical strictly for the sake of the radical. But perhaps this has more to do with the fact that, as easy as he is to read, Nietzsche is equally easy to misinterpret. The next logical choice, being a source of Nietzsches fancy, would be Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), for his Social Darwinism. But Spencer is too discredited to be worth wasting this opportunity to internationally air my contempt. Therefore I would turn towards a more recent expression of Spencers Social Darwinism: Ayn Rand . I do so because she has been a major influence on our social, economic, and political life; and she did so by appealing to the same fancy as Spencer and Nietzsche. Even worse, she attempted to drape that fancy in an erroneous appeal to the scientific method. As far as I can tell, her Objectivism consisted of talking about facts (something we can all agree exist), then translating this into questionable causal connections about general matters of the human condition. Her argument boiled down to: 1+1=2: so laissez faire Capitalism is the only means by which humans can achieve their full potential. Its as if were supposed to be so impressed by her getting the 1+1 part right that we should accept the latter claim as having the same status. We can achieve our true potential only by using our talents to make things better for everyone, not through the corporate servitude she promoted.

D.E. Tarkington, Bellevue, Nebraska

If by worst philosopher you mean the one whose ideas are furthest from the truth, a strong candidate must be Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753). His key notion was that nothing exists except insofar as it exists as an idea in some mind. I have never been able to make any sense of this. Some of his modern disciples (like Bob Berman and Robert Lanza in their book Biocentrism, 2010) do seem to hold that the Moons existence literally depends on people looking at it. Meantime, Berkeley posited that ultimately its in the mind of God that everything exists. Yet the mind of God does not exist.

If, however, by worst philosopher, you mean the most pernicious, thats surely Friedrich Nietzsche . Of course that does not refer to everything he wrote and others may have spouted worse vileness. In Nietzsches case, though, his perniciousness is leveraged by his outsized influence. Nothing so atrocious has been so widely read. My own humanist philosophy centers on the utilitarian concept of the greatest good for the greatest number. Its not a moral absolute, but a guideline: striving for more happiness and less suffering in the world. By this reckoning, every human life counts. Nietzsches thought is directly contrary: the greatest good for the greatest individuals, all others be damned, subservient to the ego of the heroic bermensch or Superman. Nietzsche had contempt for the mass of humanity. It is one thing to vaunt virtuous human qualities such as courage and strength; quite another to claim that only certain lives have value. How does one make that portentous differentiation? Nietzsches particular criteria are highly dubious. Indeed, one can argue that his bermensch is actually a criminal deserving punishment. Nobody should be allowed to condemn as worthless a whole class of human beings. Thats exactly what the Nazis did in their campaign of slaughter. Nietzsche, fittingly, was their pet philosopher.

I prefer the humanistic thinking of T.H. Huxley (1825-1895), who said our aim should be not to play out Darwinian survival of the fittest, but to fit more of us for survival.

Frank S. Robinson, Albany, New York

Judging philosophical ideas and thinkers as good and bad is an abyss even Nietzsche wouldnt be keen to stare into. The yardstick for separating good philosophical thinkers from bad isnt just sitting there waiting to be discovered. It certainly cant be based on right or wrong theories: how are Kantian ethics any truer than utilitarianism? Controversy cant be an indicator of quality, any more than cordiality. Judging philosophers seems like a lost cause until you discover those who threatened the very foundation of the discipline, and eventually, of knowledge, and Moritz Schlick (1882-1936), leader of the Vienna Circle, is a prime example. Responsible for the Logical Positivist movement, the group of philosophers he led attempted to curtail the criteria of what was considered meaningful, and hence worthy of pursuit. Surely an offense like this shouldnt be pardoned.

At the base of logical positivism was the Principle of Verification, which says that only ideas capable of empirical verification are worth contemplating, or indeed, meaningful. Although a seemingly noble attempt to make better use of human time and effort, such stern conditions of meaning not only invalidate centuries of quality work contributed by exceptional thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, or Kant, but also throw out entire branches of philosophy, such as theology, ethics, and metaphysics, as speculative trash. For any naturalists feeling smug here, however, the implications go far beyond philosophy, into science, where for instance, theories relating to quantum entanglement, dark matter, and M-theory would have to be thrown out if they cannot be shown to be empirically verifiable. Social sciences such as psychology and sociology would soon follow suit leaving a void in the very foundation of knowledge, to the point where observation and experimentation of any kind would become impossible. Fortunately, the theory proved to be self-contradictory, with the Principle of Verification itself being not quite empirically verifiable. This crucial drawback not only establishes the idea as a complete failure, but also establishes Moritz Schlick and his dour band of companions as narrow-minded and unimaginative thinkers.

Shail Thakker, Edgware, London

There he sat night after night, Enrobed in rustic country clothes, Dreaming by a German fire, In wooden hut, one man alone: A king upon an Alpine throne The greatest thinker ever known. Or was he? For though he wrote in gilded rose-tipped prose And probed the heart of Being, It was the cold, aloof, unfeeling being, himself Heidegger he chose. This man as the Nazi rector is more revealing: He did not deny, denounce, nor denigrate Historys most anti-life: And there his grand undoing lies Like an existential hunting knife. For its all too dark, and all too true As the voice from out the forest cries: Philosophy ends and thinking fails When the human in us dies.

Bianca Laleh, Totnes, Devon

Since philosophy is the love of wisdom, the worst philosopher would be the one whose philosophy resulted in the greatest folly, which may be measured by human hurt. There are, unfortunately, numerous candidates for this dubious distinction, but my vote is for Karl Marx (1818-1883). Marxs philosophy led to the totalitarian communist regimes of Russia, China, and other countries, and so to the mass killings of more people than even fascism. Then Russia and its satellite countries had to abandon it, and China has had to greatly modify it. Further, Marx claimed that his theories were scientific and thus capable of predictions, but his mistaken predictions were so numerous that there is not space in this little essay to list them.

The foundation of Marxs thought was his philosophy of history, and it was here he made his fatal error. Briefly, his theory was that the means of production of goods and services determined human history. History moves by an inexorable process that divides societies into classes that must struggle against one another. Marxs good news is that the process must end with no social classes, and peace and justice for all. This theory is a materialistic determinism: according to this view, our ideas do not influence the process. And by our ideas, I include all of our art, customs and manners, moral principles, religion, laws, political organization, and philosophy. In other words, according to Marx, our lives are a macabre dance where human agency is a delusion.

I believe the opposite is the case. Humans are born curious. The evolutionary advantage of curiosity is that it enables learning to adapt to the world; and in our case, to greatly change it for our benefit including our political and economic systems. In fact, after Marx, weve greatly changed capitalism, and accommodated within it some socialism. This is why Marxs predictions were wrong: he denied the efficacy of human agency in history. There was no place for it in his inexorable historical process. And there is no worse philosopher than one who believes that wisdom is impotent.

John Talley, Rutherfordton, North Carolina

I nominate John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) as the worst philosopher. One of his rare critics was the American economist Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993), who noted that while a small public library could be filled with books lavishly praising Keynes ideas, the number of critical works could be counted on one hand. Keynes magnum opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), is a convoluted thicket of supercilious jabs and straw-man arguments; I further nominate it for Worst Book Ever Written. I read it all though, and have no reason to doubt Hazlitts assertion, made in The Failure of the New Economics: An Analysis of the Keynesian Fallacies (1959), that he was unable to find in [that book] a single important doctrine that is both true and original.

Keynes insight was that in the fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper, Aesop had got things backward. It was the ant who was impoverishing the world by saving some of his earnings! The grasshopper, singing all summer and living from hand to mouth, was the more economically responsible citizen. Saving bad: spending good. This idea has now been accepted as gospel by almost all the economists and governments of the world.

Keyness popularity is based not on originality or on truth, but on his telling everyone what they want to hear: workers should spend everything they earn and never suffer a pay cut; governments should borrow money and print it too, in order to keep everyone at full employment. Keynes is less a philosopher than a guy who shows up with a bag of cocaine and says Lets party!

Paul Vitols, North Vancouver, British Columbia

If this question Who is the worst philosopher? had not been prefaced with out of the famous thinkers of history, the logical answer might have been, whoever came up with this question, because, lacking a definition of terms, it is fundamentally meaningless. Does it mean, which philosopher do you or I most disagree with? That doesnt define who is the worst philosopher; merely which philosophers ideas you find most unconvincing. So followers of Ayn Rand will automatically nominate Karl Marx; and Marxists are likely to nominate Ayn Rand (or possibly Karl Popper). Or does it mean, which philosopher do you find most morally objectionable (never mind what you think about their ideas)? In that case the Nazi Martin Heidegger is likely to show up high on the list.

Still, in an attempt to answer both questions, I will offer two nominations. For muddled thinking, I would suggest Ren Descartes (1596-1650), simply because his physics the famous vortices is not only nonsense, but based on no scientific evidence. For his sheer hypocrisy, I propose Seneca the Younger (4BC-65AD), who preached stoicism while making a fortune and enjoying the luxury of Neros court and, I would argue, only relapsed into stoicism by committing suicide when he couldnt find any alternative.

Martin Jenkins, London

Those Who Turn Away

Talented thinkers through the ages: Some fail, and some fail to try. We focus on the former,

Yet no one asks the latter why. So who is the Worst Philosopher? My brother John is a candidate strong. And, no, I do not stereotype him, So please dont just say Im wrong.

A double first at Oxford, Laser physics is his thing. Science gives him answers: Philosophys praises he does not sing.

Yes, hes a Doctor of Philosophy, Although on him the irony is lost. He says rationality is his god. Philosophy? No return, theres only cost.

His advice helped win a Nobel, A successful professorial hit: Why sit and wait, When you can get on with it?

But thinking about thinking And taking the measure of measure? All best left to others; Those circles give no pleasure.

Science can help with consciousness And what is meant by life, But philosophy deserves distain: Who needs the angst and strife?

His dot-com career was fortunate, Though he treats this view with scorn. The internet needed fibre optics. Fast transmission, even if for porn

So the Worst Philosophers Are not the ones who try, But the ones who turn away And do nothing but decry.

Glen Reid, Royal Wootton Bassett

The next question is: What & Why Are Our Human Rights? Please give and justify your answer in less than 400 words. The prize is a semi-random book from our book mountain. Email the Editor. Subject lines should be marked Question of the Month, and must be received by 10th February 2020. If you want a chance of getting a book, please include your physical address. Submission is permission to reproduce your answer.

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General election time in Britain invariably means one thing: lots of Labour, Green and Lib Dem posters displayed outside peoples houses and in front windows but hardly any Conservative ones. In my 11 years living and travelling around Kent, I havent seen a single one. The last time I saw one was in the Holland Park area of West London in the early 1990s. If you live in a city centre, they are a rare species indeed. So where are the vote Tory placards?

Their absence has been the norm for decades now, especially since the Thatcherite 1980s. This was when Rik Mayalls character in the comedy The Young Ones popularised the notion that Tories were capitalist scum or fascists (even though the character was an imbecile, and actually a send-up of student radicals). By then it had become the popular consensus that Tories were selfish and money-obsessed and that to vote Labour was an act of supreme virtue and altruism. In the last election, I found myself in the affluent north London area of Crouch End. Nearly every house was festooned with a Labour poster. These were not houses that had any material interest in seeing a Labour; quite the reverse. But I bet it made them feel as one and feel good.

As Twitter has also paradoxically illustrated since, some left-wing people armed with an unshakeable sense of their own moral righteousness, can be quite nasty at times. There has always been that second thought that spiteful people with a grievance and who lack a sense of doubt might put a brick through a window bearing Conservative poster.

A few years ago,James Bartholomew of this magazine coined the term virtue signalling, to indicate people voicing an opinion, usually a left-wing one, and often without sincerity, to ingratiate yourself with your peers.

I like to think I got there first, at least in the context of British society, having written a short book in 2003 which described what I called conspicuous compassion. This phenomenon had shown its roots back in 1985 with Live Aid, where people successfully joined in something bigger than themselves, sung along with Status Quo and Queen.

The real watershed came in 1997. Like many people I found the public outpouring following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales unreal. There were signals that displays of emotion, combined with ostentatious, unconvincing and indeed menacing signs of compassion were becoming the order of the day. Show us you care!, some demanded of the Queen

The 1990s was the decade in which Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, playing the unctuous DJs Smashy n Nicey, would liked to boast: we do a lot of work for charidee but we dont like to talk about it.

In real life, ribbons for all manner of causes began to proliferate. Remembrance Day poppies got bigger and bigger and were sported earlier and earlier. Minutes silence began to be held for tragedies that were diminishing in gravity. Politicians like Tony Blair were apologising for historical sins, an act that cost them zero in emotional investment.

Anti-war marchers seemed less interested in actually stopping conflicts, but keener to brag about their personal distaste for them. Not in my name was their slogan. This was compassion inflation, mourning sickness. It was not the sign of a more caring society. It was the symptom of a cynical, atomised one that would seize any opportunity to bond with strangers.

Of course, neither virtue signalling or conspicuous compassion described something new. The ideas have their origins in Charles Darwins 1871 book, The Descent of Man, which describes how saying or doing the wrong thing is all part of the sexual selection game. Quite simply, you are not going to get a girlfriend at university if you declare yourself a Tory. Conversely, once you get to middle age you dont really care what anyones going to think of your political views.

By the new millennium I was reading a lot of Friedrich Nietzsche. One quote from Human, All Too Human convinced me he had predicted the future and that I had to write a book about the cranky old German: Observe how children weep and cry, so thatso that they will be pitied Thus the thirst for pity is a thirst for self-enjoyment, and at the expense of ones fellow man. Somehow his infamous loathing of compassion no longer seemed so perverse.

Patrick West is a columnist for Spiked and author ofGet Over Yourself: Nietzsche For Our Times(Societas, 2017)

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What happened to all the vote Tory signs? - Spectator.co.uk

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Reflecting on the Conditions of Justice – The New Leam

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(T)he character of exchange is the primary character of justice. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All Too Human

These reflections are not about this or that judgement, this or that dispute, and this or that historic moment. The day is relevant because a judgement has been made. But the concern is wider, because all judgements make their own mark (as digression, confirmation or violation) in relation to previous judgements, and may have a bearing upon judgements to come. The judge judges a case, or a dispute, within the limits and liberties of law. When we wait for a judge to pronounce judgement, what do we really wait for? To know, to see what he thinks of the case, or the dispute. The figure of the judge takes precedence when the judgement is being delivered. He weighs the facts of the case, and interprets it according to the logic of the law. We expect objectivity, reason, impartiality and clarity in his delivery of judgement. We forget history, we forget pre-judice, and we forget politics.

In other words, we forget the origins of justice, that mysterious and messy place where it comes from. It is not just a place back in time, but something that exists, persists the way the origins of all things exist and persist. For instance, if caste exists, or religious bigotry exists, its origins are also present today. These origins are not to be traced in some undated past. There is nothing ancient about them. Their genealogy can be traced in times much closer to ours. What is necessary to regard and find out is the principle of origins, where the law bares what it hides.

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The point is simple: The task of anyone studying the history of judgements, even of this judgement, or any judgement in the future, will learn from tracing its history back in the time suitable or proper to it, from where both external (historical, political) and internal (subjective, pre-judicial) elements that may (or may not) have a bearing on the judgement can be found. These elements are not traces but signs. Traces dont have a strong bearing on something as historic as judgements. Signs carry the marks of history and politics.So where do we look for the signs in a judgement? Simply: in its language. No judgement can be better or worse than the language it uses to pronounce it. Language carries the political and cultural marks of a judgement. It reveals what a judgement openly hides in its language: the historical and political condition of justice where it bares what it hides.

We must acknowledge that there is no conflict between faith and reason in politics. When faith acts upon its political interests, it uses reason to stamp its (illegal) authority. The question is also not history versus faith. It is how faith depends on history. We need to understand what faith is willing to lose of itself, in order to be political. In other words, we must ask what faith is willing to lack as faith in order to become a mask, a weapon, a slogan in history that symbolises the intention of conquest.History is not simply about facts and evidence. Archeological evidence as historical proof is not enough in political matters. The purely rationalist conception of history that divides the idea of history into binaries of religion and secular, faith and reason, does not take the political aspect of history into account. This division is not to the rationalists advantage as well, when the matter is political. Faith and reason are separate as categories, but not so separate in politics.

Modernity has demeaned faith by making instrumental rationality crucial for its public existence. What is understood as faith is the instrumental rationality of modern politics, masquerading as faith. If there is a conflict of interests between two groups, they will put faith and reason in each others service to argue their matter. The point about history is not simply to create conceptual binaries/distinctions and hierarchies, but to argue how to ethically reconstruct it. The point is to question the legitimacy of power. The law must take the law of history into account, where the idea of power rules over rationalist binaries.Nietzsche traces the origins of justice in a trade-off. Justice is exchange value. Of what? Power. Justice creates the myth (the original myth, if you like), that both parties are equal and the judgement matters to them both equally. Nietzsche calls this exchange of justice as proof of what is forgotten of the original purpose of justice. The judgement is supposed to make us forget our inequality. More crucially, all that is political and real peoples sorrows, struggles, sense of pride and humiliation are all made inconsequential. These are the irrationalities which we struggle for, when we struggle for justice.

To struggle for justice is not simply a struggle for the archeology of evidence. There is a truth apart from the evidence of history: the truth of being other, who is struggling for a false equality because s/he lacks power, who is struggling for a false fraternity, because it has been replaced by relations of interests. The other is the real truth of history that even justice falls short of addressing. Truth is always that excess that justice is forever trying (and failing) to impress, and to heal.

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee is the author ofLooking for the Nation:Towards Another Idea of India(Speaking Tiger, 2018). He frequently writes forThe Wire, and has contributed toThe New York Times, Al-Jazeera, Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, The Hindu, Outlook, Economic and Political Weekly,among other publications.

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Direct PM election is not a bad idea – The Times of Israel

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The recent trial balloons about changing the electoral system have been met with derision. But while its reasonable to suspect anything originating with the Likud spin machine, direct election of the prime minister is not a terrible idea.

It should be especially appealing to the center-left, which in the existing system faces a structural problem in leading a government that is truly its own, because that would require working with the Arab parties. Even though many in Israel do yearn for such a thing, theyre probably not in the majority and in any case such a government would struggle.

How would a Blue and White government dependent on the United Arab List (which I have on these pages in fact recommended) respond to provocations from Gaza, Hezbollah or Iran? Its easy to imagine Hamas testing Benny Gantz immediately upon his swearing-in with rockets, hoping his reaction would offend his Arab partners. Bringing down a government is not easy once its sworn in, but it would be hobbled if the Arabs swiftly bolted.

Of course, one might hope such a government would be focused on peace, not war. Even if that happened, any steps toward partition and accommodation with the Palestinians would be hysterically opposed by the right for lacking a Jewish majority. That is racist and undemocratic, but few would be surprised, and Israel does not lack for hooligans who could be incited by the right to violence.

Furthermore, the left in Israel and indeed all over the world does not have the same drive as the right.

It is typical that Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the corruption charges announced last week with an offensive against the legal system he presides over, accusing it of a coup detat despite having benefitted from an array of legal discounts. He is willing to burn down the house and can dupe many into thinking it patriotic.

This typifies the global right-wing populist movement these days, whose willingness to do anything to gain power is why its leaders are often quite rightly accused of vehiculating lies. They have what Nietzsche called the Will to Power (a term whose meaning is debated but which fits Netanyahu like a glove). The left is simply not as determined.

In Israel, the left cannot even devise a narrative to address the complication of its alliance with the Arabs. Its perfectionists and idealists are incapable of creative compromises and wily marketing.

Anyone needing a reminder received it today from Blue and White Knesset member Zvi Hauser who ruled out a government based on United Arab List support because its Knesset members supposedly do not embrace Israels self-definition as Jewish and democratic. You can call Hauser a right-wing fig leaf but he speaks for a much wider group that has trouble grappling with reality as it is.

To state the obvious, its no disgrace that the center-left has no majority without the Arabs. Get over it.

The right has no majority without the Haredim, currently holding more seats than the United Arab List. The Haredi parties are neither Zionist nor democratic. It also has no majority without religious fascists who are neither democratic nor humanist. The mainstream right (even emptied of the few decent leaders who somehow stuck around until a few years ago) currently has about 35 out of 120 seats worth of support on a good day and depends for any majority on forces that politely can be described as problematic. Can anyone imagine prominent Likudniks ruling them out?

This landscape is why the left is always yearning for a unity government with the Likud (but one that it somehow leads). Blue and White has taken this to new lows, practically insisting on it at the expense of other scenarios. One can understand a gesture an outreach to moderate members across the aisle. But what kind of potentially ruling party runs around begging its rival (and in this case a rival it views correctly as destructive to society) for support and partnership? It is bizarre, offensive and political foolish.

The Likud, sensing this pitiable weakness, is not likely to give in, even if it has one seat less by part count, as it does today.

Even in the wider sense, Israel faces an intense problem forming coherent governments, because the population is too fragmented for a majority that cuts across all the issues: the territories with their millions of Palestinians, the economy, the role of religion, and cultural and social matters.

Just as one example, nationalists who want to be on the right have needed to also align themselves with religious fanatics who oppose the study of math and refuse to allow a normal weekend to take place. That is because the right has in fact needed to be the right-religious bloc in order to get a majority. That was never going to be stable, and it led to Avigdor Libermans 2019 abandonment of Netanyahu with the resulting prospect of three elections within 12 months.

Governments are unlikely to enjoy widespread acceptance under such circumstances. This is more dangerous to the left than to the right, because the left these days tends to be less likely to revolt when it does not get its way. But even the left has a devil of a time coming to terms with the type of government that the system has foisted upon it. The whole thing is a crisis of legitimacy, of the sort that has led to revolutions, civil wars and the collapse of empires.

It mirrors whats going on in America. But there, for all the unhappiness and unfairness of the Electoral College, with its imposition of minoritarian governments, at least there is a clear winner. Israel could use one as well and that is what a direct election of the prime minister would offer. A decision by the public that is inarguable, even if it is absurd.

The procedure can be debated. How to define and limit powers? How to enable the prime minister to govern, when the party breakdown is likely to stay much the same (since party voting is more of a census than an election)? That was the problem with the last direct election effort, which foundered when prime ministers struggled to maintain a Knesset majority and gradually lost legitimacy.

One possibility is to not require a majority perhaps allowing a supermajority to remove the prime minister and dissolve the Knesset. Another is to grant the elected prime minister a large bloc of seats automatically, yielding a majority in most cases. Yet another is to introduce mandatory voting (meaning a penalty for not voting); that may have the effect of helping the left, which currently suffers due to the low voting rates among the Arabs (that have no equivalent, of course, on the Haredi side).

Whatever the details of the arrangement, it would avoid the current fiasco of no elected government.

And the left need not fret so much. Let it find a candidate as clever, focused, ruthless and charismatic as Netanyahu. That may be Gantz, and it may be someone else. One day justice will prevail, and Israel will leave most of the West Bank, and shake off the grip of religious fundamentalists. That day could come in March under the current system; but it is far more likely with a direct election.

Israels politics are in a state of intolerable dysfunction. It is time to drain the swamp.

Dan Perry, a media and tech innovator, was the Cairo-based Middle East Editor of the AP, and chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Israel. Previously he led AP in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. Follow him at: twitter.com/perry_dan http://www.linkedin.com/in/danperry1 http://www.instagram.com/danperry63 https://www.facebook.com/DanPerryWriter/

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I went to a convention for politics nerds and it filled me with dread, loathing, and existential terror – Business Insider

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captionOne of the many Trump impersonators at this years Politicon.sourceCourtesy of Abigail Bobo Photography

When Al Franken took the stage on a recent Saturday morning at Nashvilles Music City Center, he wore a crumpled suit without a tie. The top button of his shirt was undone. He looked out to a large, half-empty hall.

Franken began with a joke about the out-of-touchness of conservative New York Times opinion columnist David Brooks. It was an observation that might amuse a niche group of Twitter users and news junkies. Then he recounted a series of anecdotes from his nine years as a senator. Then came his impressions of his former colleagues Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell. Eventually, he started promoting his podcast.

I know that sounds pathetic, he said to the mostly silent, slightly restless audience.

In another universe, Franken might have used this appearance to reflect on the sexual-misconduct allegations against him, his resignation from the Senate, or his treatment of women. But he did not touch on any of that.

Thats because this was Politicon, an annual two-day conference that bills itself as the Comic-Con of politics.

As Franken spoke, I thought back to Nietzsches Beyond Good and Evil. Nietzsche writes, One begins to distrust very clever persons when they become embarrassed.

Franken has always been very clever. But that day, he seemed so incredibly embarrassed.

And no wonder. That hed even consider a gig at this event, its lineup crowded with mostly B-list, past-their-prime political celebrities, showed how far his star had fallen.

The weekend would see Fox News host Sean Hannity spar with James Carville, the one-time Democratic Svengali, who hasnt been relevant since the 90s. Former FBI director James Comey continued to overstay his 15 minutes of fame. Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Reince Priebus, a one-time cast member in Trumps Oval Office, went head to head before a crowd sparser than Frankens. A gaunt Ann Coulter ranted about immigrants with her more subdued counterpart, the one-time George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum of the Atlantic.

Fresher faces like Lauren Duca, the viral liberal talking head who popularized the idea that Trump is gaslighting America, participated in panels like The Future is Female and signed copies of her new book. Lefty pundits from The Young Turks took on Tomi Lahren and the wet-mouthed antisocialist diehard Trump supporter Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA. YouTube star Randy Rainbow, beloved by resistance moms for his musical parody videos (including a Trump-themed version of Despacito called Desperate Cheeto), sang his biggest hits and took audience questions.

Politicon, it soon emerged, was politics Twitter come to life, a physical embodiment of the most noxious Facebook spats blasted algorithmically across your Fox News-loving uncles feed. Pundits on the left and right took cheap shots at one another, trading the sort of barbs one hears every day on cable news.

The event was a tribute to political tribalism in the age of Trump, a place where team identity is everything. At Politicon, politics is understood not as a means by which to improve lives, but as blood sport. It left me empty, desperate for revelation.

Politicon does not pretend to be anything other than what it is: a colorful manifestation of politics as commercialized spectacle.

Rows of kiosks hawking political merchandise and booths promoting various podcasts and publications filled the giant, thinly populated hall.

A libertarian podcast called Good Morning Liberty advertised its website, BernieLies.com, and held a giveaway for a handgun. (Why not Warren lies? I inquired. Oh, we also have LizLies.com, host Charlie Thompson clarified.)

Lining the conference hall were posters of historical figures reimagined as pop-culture icons: George Washington sporting a Mike Tyson face tattoo, John F. Kennedy with a lip-shaped hickey on his cheek, a frowning Harriet Tubman wearing big headphones around her ears, Thomas Jefferson in red wayfarer sunglasses, and Benjamin Franklin as Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie. The images suggested what Politicon would have looked like in another era: In lieu of Al Franken attempting a comeback from some unnamed demise, wed have Thomas Jefferson skirting around his affair with Sally Hemings during his keynote address and a panel comprising slave owners and freemen debating abolition.

For all this, tickets start at just 50 bucks a day. (Unless you want access to the VIP lounge a curtained-off area where I saw people ordering alcoholic beverages well before noon. Thatll run you another $200.)

Of course Politicon is very much a creation of our current era, a congress of depravity bubbling forth from the Trump eras primordial muck. The inaugural Politicon, with a lineup that also included Ann Coulter, Clay Aiken, and James Carville, as well as Trevor Noah, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann, took place in October 2015, three months after Trump announced his candidacy. Ted Hamm, a film producer whose credits include Get Out, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, helped bankroll the first iteration.

According to a Politicon spokesperson, Hamm still funds a part of the event, but ticket sales and sponsorships are becoming a larger component of the financing required to produce the event every year. While Politicon does not release information on how much it pays speakers, one performer told me on background that they were paid $,7,500.

Past Politicons had been held in Los Angeles. But Simon Sidi, the middle-aged British founder of the event, said he wanted to move the convention to the heart of the country, and so to the American south it went. The chaos of the gathering made it a perfect fit for downtown Nashville, crowded with tourist-baiting honky-tonk bars, its roadways cluttered with tractors hauling party buses packed with drunk people decked out in Halloween costumes and cowboy hats.

Sidi, who once produced Kanye West concerts and American Idol, described himself as a political junkie.

I loved the whole subject [of politics], and I wanted to do something Id like to see, he said.

For the founder of a political convention, he seemed oddly bereft of a political ideology, or at least one he would share. Then again, he is a master of spectacle, a former concert producer with an acute sense of showmanship perhaps that, in itself, is its own ideology.

Politics and entertainment have been bedfellows for all time, he told another reporter. Were not the Aspen Ideas Festival, he added, referring to the annual center-right conference that brings together (mostly) members of the elite to chat about important ideas, ranging from politics and economics to art, in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. Were here for people who want to enjoy politics.

Were here for people who want to enjoy politics.

Like the latest Marvel movie, politics is a hollow entertainment product to be consumed.

Sidis professed lack of political ideology invites others to fill the space with theirs, and every corner of the Music City Center reeked of it. Dressed in their finest pro-Trump gear, a gaggle of skinny teenage boys, almost all them white, were dead ringers for Nicholas Sandmann, the teenager from Covington who went viral earlier this year after footage emerged of him wearing a MAGA hat while seeming to taunt a Native American demonstrator.

A lonely Bernie supporter munched on a pickle.

A man clad head to toe in Tulsi 2020 merch griped about the corrupt Democratic Party. A tall drag queen, calling herself Lady MAGA, was surrounded by attendees, lapping up the attention she was getting as the token queer conservative. An older woman wore a mini-dress patterned with the word TRUMP, while a man in a Star Wars shirt reimagining Bernie Sanders as a Jedi waited in line to meet The Young Turks Kyle Kulinski. He told me hed made it himself just for Politicon. In the center of the hall stood a pop-up called A House Divided, displaying large MAGA flags on one half of the booth, while the other side was stocked with attire branded with the logos for Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and other 2020 Democratic hopefuls.

While tensions between the Sanders diehards and the MAGA zealots never boiled over, the dynamic of the weekend was painfully oppositional. A website called WeHateLiberals.com, for example, sold shirts bearing messages like Ukrainians for Trump and a photoshopped picture of the president shaking hands with Ronald Reagan. On inspecting my black-rimmed glasses and skinny jeans, Eric Grinnell, the owner of the website accurately assessed I am a liberal and accused me of being a person with a microphone who traps you into soundbites they put in their articles. (Did I just fulfill his prophecy?)

Judging from the name of Grinnells website, he seemed to have molded his political identity in response to something he hates rather than something he supports. The things liberals say about us are very hateful, Grinnell explained, a claim further substantiated by his domain name. Were uneducated, were trash, were rednecks, we cling to our Bibles and our guns, were deplorable. At WeHateLiberals.com, were doing exactly the same thing. The underlying hostility was not only confined to the right-wingers. When I approached the Green Partys booth, I asked a bespectacled fellow wearing a Blue Lives Murder t-shirt what he made of the convention. It grosses me out, he said. Im a little triggered by seeing all these aspiring-school-shooter MAGA chuds.

But its not all so bad. Javier Perez, a 19-year-old Rutgers student and Sanders diehard, told me, We have met so many amazing Trump supporters, he said. Despite his support for Sanders. Perez donned a MATH cap in support of second-favorite candidate, Andrew Yang. He and his friends had hung out with a group of really great Republicans, he said. But Trump, he stressed, is one of the worst presidents of all time. At the same time, to paint all Trump supporters as Hillary did in the 2016 election, as deplorables and racists, is really a mischaracterization, he added.

Among the weekends marquee events was James Carvilles interview with former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Carville came ready for a fight, but Sanders was as tight-lipped as ever. News nowadays was just opinion writing, she complained; the crowd, resplendent in MAGA gear, gleefully ate up her claptrap. Carville, taking the bait, tried to goad her into naming journalists she believed to be enemies of the American people a dangerous game in a world where journalists regularly receive death threats just for doing their jobs. Luckily, she declined to indulge him. Is [Washington Post reporter] Robert Costa an enemy of the people? the Ragin Cajun asked. One woman, seated near me in the audience, answered with an enthusiastic Yes! Later, Carville told Sanders he wanted to have a real conversation. Then, in the same breath he asked her if she, like the president, believed Mitt Romney was human scum.

A less highly anticipated event was trivia hour hosted by CNN political commentator Chris Cillizza. Cillizza built his brand by posing mundane questions like What if Donald Trump is just winging it? and ranking Anthony Scaramuccis quotes based on their levels of absolutely bananas-ness. Cillizza is the Platonic ideal of the Politicon speaker: more fixated on the spectacle of the news cycle than the weightiness of the news itself, a man with a totally apolitical approach to politics.

Cilizzas appearance triggered something inside of me, and for a short time, I gave into Politicon.

I teamed up with a libertarian couple to try and win the trivia contest. We tackled bracing questions like How many days was Anthony Scaramucci in office? (11) and What honor did Rudy Giuliani receive in 2001? (Times Person of the Year). For our efforts, we won second place. I was awarded a free Politicon tote bag, portable sippy cup, and T-shirt.

For a fleeting moment, as I laughed with the libertarians, I tricked myself into believing I belonged.

Cillizzas trivia hour was perhaps the most trivial episode in a weekend devoted to oppressive triviality. Descending into the Cilizza-verse acquiescing to the amorality of Politicon if only for a brief moment, can feel good. I suddenly saw how such rituals can bring Bernie Bros and MAGA nuts together, giving them a sense of belonging at a time when the internet has made that so scarce.

As I gleefully claimed my second-place trivia tournament prize, for a brief moment, I lapped up the dull, amoral wickedness of the Cillizza-verse.

But then I snapped the hell out of it.

I remembered this sort of identification, animated by antipathy, exacerbated by cable news and social-media algorithm is a false proxy for meaning.

My mind again wandered to Nietzsche. Nietzsche, who didnt care much for the Christian idea of evil, wrote in his list of aphorisms: The great epochs of our life are at the points when we gain courage to rebaptize our badness as the best in us.

Nietzsche, who didnt care much for the Christian idea of evil, wrote in his list of aphorisms: The great epochs of our life are at the points when we gain courage to rebaptize our badness as the best in us.

In that moment, when I was drunk on Cilizza, my badness rebaptized itself as goodness.

Id abandoned my judgment and focused only on the positive the inherent fun of trivia, or the interactions between the very much in love libertarian couple on my team. Id studied the tender way the husband kept resting his hand on his wifes leg.

My enjoyment then reminds me now of how I enjoy a John Wick movie: delighting in each violent murder Keanu Reeves commits because I dont allow myself to feel the weight of what it actually means to take a life.

Putting aside the nefariousness of the event, Id become one with the crowd. Id seen them not as political animals but as vulnerable humans just looking for a fun weekend.

The feeling hadnt lasted long, and I hurried out of the hall.

As I fled, I walked past a wall of needlework depicting Trumps most deranged quotes and I thought about parasites.

I recalled a National Geographic documentary about the Leucochloridium, a parasitic worm. It takes over the eyes of a snail, turning it into a horrifying, strangely beautiful zombie, with two semi-translucent tentacles patterned like precious minerals, pulsating out from its shell. The now possessed snail is doomed to follow the parasites will, the narrator intones. The parasite compels the snail to ascend towards the sunlight, where it becomes lunch for a bird who plucks out its eyes. Inside the birds stomach, the Leucochloridium multiplies, and when the bird eventually defecates it out onto the forest floor, the toxic feces becomes food for a new generation of snails, who are then infected by the parasite. The cycle continues.

For a time, my social-media presence on Twitter, especially defined my professional identity as a journalist. I was a bird breeding Leucochloridium, each tweet a parasite-tainted dropping, infecting my followers. I could have continued exploiting the ills of our world for sweet, sweet content, and inflating the inauthentic, bombastic persona I had cultivated. Instead, I made a tactical retreat into a more thoughtful, less reactive existence.

Politicon brought together the desperate snails in search of sustenance, only to become zombified.

Politicon brought together the desperate snails in search of sustenance, only to become zombified.

The birds, whose stomach breeds this mind-controlling parasite, were the headliners: the public figures, the media, politicians, millionaires, billionaires, famous actors, and any influencer who makes a living off of telling other people how to think.

The toxic bird droppings that contain these parasitic worms?

Its your Facebook feed. Its cable news. Its Twitter. Its Politicon.

Its poison, disguised as nourishment. Politicon echoed something critic William Deresiewicz had said in a speech: By looking at social media and the news you are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other peoples reality: for others, not yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice.

By Sunday night, the vendors were packing up their stalls. The hall, which had felt oversized and empty all weekend, looked sadder and hollower than ever. I missed Randy Rainbows performance, which Id planned to attend, since my boyfriends mother frequently sends him his videos.

Everyone was gearing up for the grand finale: Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, an organization that fights liberalism on college campuses, protesting safe spaces by wearing literal diapers, among other things, debating The Young Turks Kylie Kulinski, a rising leftist star. A uniformed policeman sipped on a pink smoothie while vigorously nodding along to Kirk as he rattled off numbers about black employment, which he said had risen under Trump. Kirks teeth, nubby and square, extended from his gums in perfect alignment, slanted inward, like stout little Chiclets, so tiny in his abyss of his moist mouth.

Even before the debate ended, I leapt out the door. Idly scrolling through my Twitter feed, a virtual Politicon, I waded through the damp early-evening air, surrounded by drunk, boisterous partiers in cowboy hats looking for an authentic Nashville experience.

One short weekend of political hell had me all different kinds of messed up.

What saved me, in part, was Abigail Bobo, a seminary student and local photographer who documented the event for this publication. Just before Politicon, she had been at a prayer group where they had talked about how valuable humans are, how valuable they are to God, and how much God loves to impact and affect our lives, she said. She noted the sharp contrast between that gathering and the convention, an event predicated on people picking each other apart over nothing. She recalled Psalms 133:1: Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! and then remarked, This is not unity. No one at Politicon, she felt, had been valued.

Her perspective as an outsider, as well as her raw earnestness, moved me. Abigail was largely a stranger to the animosity Politicon was selling, someone who found her identity, her guiding kindness, through religion and empathy, not anger and ideological sniping.

I just kept wanting to go to people and tell them their voice mattered, and that they were empowered to actually make changes instead of just talk about the changes that they dont just have to sit here and argue about it that they are a child of God,

I just kept wanting to go to people and tell them their voice mattered, and that they were empowered to actually make changes instead of just talk about the changes that they dont just have to sit here and argue about it that they are a child of God.

she told me.

As I walked out of the convention, my boyfriend, also a writer, sent me a poem that he had written, something he hadnt done in a while, just for me. It was the first time anybody had ever written a poem for me. He described touching me and the ease of our intimacy. The final lines asked me to come now, come home. My face turned beet red and suddenly I was weeping.

I read the poem over and over again, in the throes of catharsis. I reminded myself to value the quietness of existence, and the small, lovely moments in life that make me feel OK in an ugly world. A good life, I told myself, is talking about God with Abigail over mozzarella sticks and fried broccoli. There is good in a world that lives in opposition to evil, that isnt beyond it, and its writing a poem for someone you love. Its finding peace within your vulnerability, weeping in a Nashville hotel room; its yearning for the refuge of your lovers arms. Its having a home you want to return to, somewhere who makes you feel safe.

Politicon, and everything it represents, simply aint it.

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I went to a convention for politics nerds and it filled me with dread, loathing, and existential terror - Business Insider

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November 16th, 2019 at 3:46 pm

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Global Cold Chain Tracking and Monitoring Market Types, Key Players, Applications and Statistical Forecast to 2028 – Hitz Dairies

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The study report on Global Cold Chain Tracking and Monitoring Market delivers the market revenue predictions for each geographical region. In addition, the Cold Chain Tracking and Monitoring industry report also offers market insight on growth opportunities, disruptive technologies on the basis of innovative business models, several value-added services, and the competitive background of the market which can increase the market growth. The Cold Chain Tracking and Monitoring market report is designed with the forecast period to anticipate the market size of Cold Chain Tracking and Monitoring. In addition, the Cold Chain Tracking and Monitoring industry report analyzes the market size in terms of consumption & production and value. The report also splits the breakdown of the market status and forecast by region, application and key manufacturers (Sensitech, Inc., ORBCOMM, Testo, Rotronic, ELPRO-BUCHS AG, Emerson, Nietzsche Enterprise, NXP Semiconductors NV, Signatrol, Haier Biomedical)

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HardwareSoftware

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Global Cold Chain Tracking and Monitoring Market Types, Key Players, Applications and Statistical Forecast to 2028 - Hitz Dairies

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November 16th, 2019 at 3:46 pm

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Sunday ITV Racing Tips: Torcello can go well in Greatwood – Betting.betfair

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To be perfectly honest with you, only one race really gets the punting fires burning at Cheltenham on Sunday, and that is the Greatwood Hurdle at 15:00.

And in a further bout of truth, I really do think that the market has now landed on the right favourite in the shape of Monsieur Lecoq.

He is three-from-five since joining the stable from France, will love the ground and I think a 7lb rise for beating Le Prezien by a short-head in the Welsh Champion Hurdle, the pair 6 lengths clear, on his return is fair enough.

There must be more to come from this 5yo but the problem is that the ship has sailed as regards his price, so we have to look elsewhere.

Recent Flat form puts Torcello in the mix

Ascot winner Gumball has a leading chance on the clock and I like the way Quoi De Neuf shaped at Chepstow, but I have been chipping away at Torcello since earlier in the week and I have little hesitation in putting him up as the bet in the race at 16/1 each way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.

I got lucky with Nietzsche at a big price in this race last season and one of his part-owners was Dan Gilbert, who is solely responsible for paying the bills for Torcello.

And this has the look of a long-term plot to me.

Gilbert bought the 5yo for 33,000 in May and he has recaptured his best on the Flat in winning his last three starts, and he is now rated 88 in that sphere (he actually hit 91 when trained by Andrew Balding in 2017).

So if he can translate that ability to hurdles, then he must be a player here off a mark of just 127.

Granted, that is no more than fair on what he has actually achieved over hurdles, harsh even. His Tramore maiden hurdle win in 2018 worked out well enough but he failed to progress as expected in that department, it has to be said.

And I was expecting connections to put headgear on him here as he often looked in need of them over hurdles (he wore a hood when winning at Tramore, and has also been tried in cheek pieces).

But you can't question his attitude on the Flat of late, as he battled hard to land his hat-trick at Windsor by a short-head last month, and all of those three wins came on soft or heavy ground.

Maybe he has simply turned a corner again, so he will do for me at the prices.

Santos the right fav but he might just need the run

The rest of the Cheltenham card does little for my enthusiasm, as the other ITV races include a Cross Country race - this column does not "do" Cross Country, thanks - and a measly 13 runners cover the remaining three terrestrial contests, as classy as they are.

Not for me.

ITV viewers do have the Southern National at Fontwell to peruse though and Shanroe Santos looks a fair price at around the 5/1 mark.

He is just 1lb higher than when winning this race by 5 lengths last season, handles testing ground very well and he has had a wind op since we last saw him.

Everything looks set for a big run but his recent record suggests he may need a run to put him straight - he had a prep run before winning this race last season - and I fear a marathon slog here first-time-up could find him out.

No, just Torcello for me on the Sabbath. And they can leave out as many hurdles as they wish.

Good luck.

***

Check out the latest episode of our Racing...Only Bettor podcast, available in video format for the first time. In this week's show, we have an exclusive interview with Tiger Roll owner Eddie O'Leary...

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Sunday ITV Racing Tips: Torcello can go well in Greatwood - Betting.betfair

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Why the alt-right loves ancient Greece and Rome – Vox.com

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If you peruse the corners of the internet occupied by the alt-right, sometimes called the manosphere, youre likely to encounter a lot of references to ancient Greece and Rome.

Theres a fascination with Spartan culture and stoic philosophers and famous thinkers like Aristotle and Plato. The men who consume this stuff and yes, its almost exclusively men tend to believe two things: that ancient Greek and Roman culture are the basis of Western civilization and that these cultures are the exclusive achievements of white men.

But the idea isnt merely to celebrate these ancient cultures. The goal is to turn a phrase like Western civilization into code for white culture and to cement a narrative about history that glorifies patriarchy and undercuts cultural progressivism.

This, of course, isnt all that new. As I wrote back in 2018, the alt-right appropriates the philosopher Nietzsche in similar ways and for similar reasons. But the obsession with Greece and Rome seems to be more widespread, and perhaps even mainstream.

Donna Zuckerberg, editor-in-chief of Eidolon, an online Classics magazine, examines this trend in her book, Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age. I spoke to her recently about the appeal of ancient history to the alt-right, how its used to reinforce misogyny and racism, and why the field of Classics has a major problem on its hands.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

I think the best way to start is to have you explain why ancient Greece and Rome is so culturally significant to the alt-right.

Western civilization has, for the alt-right, become culturally acceptable code for white culture. So celebration of Western civilization is really a way to celebrate the cultural achievements of white men. They see ancient Greece and Rome as a starting point for this imagined idea of Western civilization, and later it evolves to include Christianity in the medieval period.

It gives them a unified cultural narrative to draw on.

So history is a device for glorifying masculinity and whiteness, both of which they take to be synonymous with Western civilization?

Exactly.

Part of whats so odd about the race dimension is that race as a category, or at least race as we think of it today, had almost no meaning in these ancient societies.

Right, ancient Greece and Rome were actually quite diverse and the concept of whiteness didnt have much meaning thousands of years ago. Race, as we know it, is a fairly recent category. But the far-right relies on this construct of Western civilization, which for them means white civilization and culture. So they craft a narrative that begins with Greece and Rome and then continues into the medieval period up through the emergence of modern Europe.

And what are the main themes you see beyond the usual white men are the most rational tropes? What specific conclusions are they drawing from history or what assumptions are they justifying?

They look to the ancient world for the confirmation of their pre-existing worldview, which is not necessarily easy to boil down to a few simple ideas the far-right, especially online, is intentionally malleable and difficult to pin down.

Most of its ideology depends on ideas taken from evolutionary psychology about normal, natural human behavior. So this includes ideas that men are naturally dominant and rational and women are emotional, along with a whole set of other ideas about gendered behavior (for example, the idea that women naturally want to marry up and thus are always looking for an alpha male).

But there are other ideas under this umbrella, too like tribalism, which they consider natural to human psychology and use to justify arguments for racism and against race mixing. They use whatever they can find to provide intellectual justification for these ideas, including history.

Theres also an obsession with cultural decline.

Why the obsession with decline?

The short answer is they want to predict what the future of America will look like, so they turn to these ancient cultures for patterns that reinforce their expectations. For instance, theres a strong belief that liberals are trying to create a chaotic multicultural society thats destined to fail; and the purity and patriarchy of ancient cultures, on their reading, is just a superior model, or at the very least, an argument in defense of their worldview.

Let me ask you this as a historian: Is there some validity to these arguments? In other words, are they projecting their own biases onto history or is their bias genuinely reflected back at them when they look at this history?

Both are true. On the one hand, their knowledge of ancient history and literature is often very shallow, and the scholar in me wants to interject by adding much more nuance and complexity to their awful interpretations.

But their analysis, in spite of being oversimplified and sometimes misleading, isnt necessarily fundamentally wrong. The fact is that many societies in classical antiquity were very patriarchal, and misogynistic ideas can be found in many canonical texts from ancient literature. So theyre not necessarily wrong to see, for example, misogyny in Ovids Ars Amatoria.

The question is how to interpret the text and how to decide what it means today.

Who are we talking about here? Is this mostly a marginalized internet phenomenon confined to incels and pick up artists or has this way of thinking, this way of interpreting history, become mainstream?

When I was writing Not All Dead White Men, I was looking primarily at online far-right communities. But Ive been surprised to see, in 2019, how much of the pushback against progressive Classical Studies has come not from the kind of people I studied, but from conservative and center-right intellectuals, who see progressive classicists as attacking the cultural heritage of Western civilization and trying to dismantle the canon.

It really has become a new skirmish in the culture wars.

But its also a problem for the actual discipline of Classics, right? There were reports of a racist incident at a Classics conference earlier this year, which speaks to how deep the rot goes.

Yes, absolutely. The incident you mention took place at the 2019 SCS in San Diego, the biggest Classics conference of the year. There was a lot of energy around progressive, antiracist Classics at that conference, which led to the formation of some new groups to promote the work of classicists of color.

But there were also several horrifying racist incidents, including the one you mentioned and one which involved the racial profiling of two students who were at the conference to receive an award for their incredible outreach work with the Sportula. In the aftermath of those incidents, there was a wave of harassment and backlash to progressive Classics led by sites like Quillette and The New Criterion.

My work in this book focuses on the reception of Classics in communities that are often vocally white supremacist. But the ties between racism and Classics exist in other places outside the internet. Theres a painful reckoning happening in Classics as a discipline as we try to confront our own complicity and do the hard work to make the study of Classics truly welcoming to all, not just a discipline where white men see their values reflected back at them.

Circling back to the way this stuff plays out online, the main goal of these alt-right types is to cement this idea that white men are the guardians of intellectual authority. But are they actually defending a tradition or are they just looking for a rhetorical club to beat women and people of color with?

I think its both. On the one hand, they do love that rhetorical club. But harassing people online actually takes a lot of effort, and having a real cause is extremely motivating. Defending their culture against those who want to destroy it provides that motivation. So this fixation on defending ancient history, defending this great civilizational legacy, is a very galvanizing force.

As I said in my interview with Angela Nagle, author of Kill All Normies, half the time I cant tell if these people are waging a genuine civilizational battle or just a heroic trolling campaign.

You seem to think its both.

I do think its both, and I think its very difficult to tell which it is at any moment. In the Daily Stormers Normies Guide to the Alt-Right, Andrew Anglin identifies one of the hallmarks of the alt-right as non-ironic Nazism masquerading as ironic Nazism. They want you to feel like youd be stupid to take them seriously, but also just as stupid maybe even more so to ignore them.

Its a very slippery but clever strategy, one thats perfectly adapted to modern internet culture.

People have always used history and philosophy to prop up their transgressive ideologies Whats your solution to the problem? Can we ever really stop people from weaponizing history?

No, we cant. We can provide alternatives, and continue to imagine new and different ways to think about what ancient Greece and Rome mean in the present day. And we can try to correct false information where we see it. Its a constant battle, but its an important one for any area of study to engage in.

We should always be thinking about what the study of our subject means and why its important.

I also wonder how much of this is a function of the way these internet platforms are designed and structured. How many people start off with a genuine interest in history and then find themselves pulled into a black hole of misogyny and racism and hate?

This idea haunts me. Again, I think all we can do is try to provide other content for people to find, which is part of what Im trying to do with my publication Eidolon.

You also point to a strange overlap between how the far-right and the far-left view the whole tradition of ancient philosophy Both sides see it as an affirmation of white male supremacy, only one wants to revive it and the other wants to replace it.

Im curious how you respond to the left on this front?

I dont think that anybody should feel obligated to study Classics. If your personal feeling is that it can never be more than white supremacist patriarchy re-inscribing its own values through the Western canon, then I completely understand why you wouldnt want to study it.

But if youre politically progressive and find Classics fascinating, then theres a lot of exciting work being done in the field to study that tension. I would point people in that direction and encourage them not to accept what theyve told about what history is or must be.

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Why the alt-right loves ancient Greece and Rome - Vox.com

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