Liberalism And Populism
February 17, 2009
There's something I don't understand about Michael Lind's argument here (which is just a variation on an argument he's been making for years). On the one hand, Lind claims to be writing with the Democratic Party's interests in mind: Please Mr. President, don't let the Republicans tap into a reservoir of populist resentment that could destroy your presidency. But on the other hand, Lind's lengthy account of this populist resentment is itself written in a tone of . . . populist resentment.
A Mormon In The White House?
February 17, 2009
David Frum is worried about the roughly 25 percent of Americans who would be disinclined to vote for a Mormon for president. (This is a potential problem for Republicans because several of the party's leading presidential candidates are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.) Before setting out to defend the Mormons against prejudice, Frum briefly examines Jacob Weisberg's 2006 attack on the faith and promptly dismisses its arguments on the grounds that they could be applied to the members of many other churches. I agree that Weisberg's arguments are overly broad.
Atheism And/or Happiness?
February 16, 2009
In this recent post, I proposed that those who defend and those who attack religion often share a belief in the harmony between truth, goodness, and beauty. While apologists for religion claim that the truth of God is both beautiful and good for humanity, champions of atheism tend to argue that human beings would be better off if they accepted the beautiful truth of godlessness. Frustrated by the Pollyannas on the atheistic side of the argument, I proposed Friedrich Nietzsche's tragic pessimism, which insists on the ugliness of the atheistic truth, as an alternative.
Liberalism Rightly Understood
February 15, 2009
In his criticism of the "illiberal liberalism" of this post, my friend Noah Millman makes several broader arguments against the metaphysically neutral form of liberalism I've been defending over the past few years (in the final chapter of my book, and in a recent blog post). Here are his objections: Linker’s whole project . . . rests on the proposition that absent a neutral arbiter without metaphysical commitments you inevitably get social conflict.
Lessons In Blogging
February 13, 2009
I avoided blogging for a long time. And the one time I briefly tried it prior to my current stint at TNR, I hated it. Why? Because something about the form (most likely its instantaneousness) encourages glibness. And the issues I like to write about -- religion, culture, philosophy, political theory -- cannot be addressed thoughtfully or fairly when they are treated glibly. (I'll leave it as an open question whether anything can be addressed thoughtfully or fairly when it is treated glibly.) So I avoided the medium. Until now.
Out Of Their Right Minds
February 12, 2009
To judge by posts like this one by Peter Wehner at NRO and this one by Abe Greenwald at Commentary's Contentions, the right really believes that the Obama administration is in free fall, with the Judd Gregg withdrawal as just the latest in a string of catastrophic mistakes since taking office just over three weeks ago. Andrew Sullivan takes this as a sign that the GOP has gone to "war" with Obama, which implies that all the hysteria on the right side of the blogosphere is somehow contrived to help the GOP triumph in this war. That's one possibility.
Freedom And Obedience
February 11, 2009
I'm delighted that Patrick Deneen has taken the time to craft a vigorous response to my post about Andrew Bacevich's thoughts on the end of conservatism - delighted because Deneen has a powerful mind and is perhaps the most formidable blogospheric defender of the paleocon outlook I set out to criticize. Deneen attacks me on two ground. First, I absurdly and ham-handedly link Bacevich's defense of individual self-restraint to the authoritarianism of the Legionaries of Christ, a scandal-ridden Catholic religious order.
No Way Out
February 09, 2009
Andrew J. Bacevich's response to Sam Tanenhaus's essay on the end of conservatism is welcome because it so clearly and succinctly expresses a paleoconservative sentiment that has growing numbers of champions online and may gather force over the coming years. Unlike the neocons, who marry conservative instincts in social policy to strong support for two of the least conservative practices known to man -- free-market capitalism and a militaristic foreign policy -- Bacevich is consistent.
February 09, 2009
As a witty and informative essay on the TNR home page explains, former Bush speechwriter David Frum wants very much to foster the growth of a new style of conservatism -- one that can win a "new majority" of votes in a future presidential election. Since it launched on inauguration day, Frum's new website has posted an interesting range of articles. I'm not sure if I've seen the stuff of a new majority there yet, but it's early.
Supposing Truth Is Ugly -- What Then?
February 07, 2009
The debate between orthodox religion and atheism goes on and on and on. In observing the argument, what strikes me more and more is not the deep divide separating the believers from the unbelievers -- not their radically incompatible views of truth -- but rather what they both share. Each side in the clash between reason and revelation follows Plato's Socrates in assuming that truth is good for human beings, and also that it is in some sense beautiful. Philosophers nearly always believe this, and so do modern scientists.