A Letter

I’m not going to send this, because I’m no longer sure about it. And no, I don’t normally think about this. As should be clear from previous entries, I spend most of my time thinking about apocalypse, robots and, of course, robotic apocalypse.

Dear Gadfly,

As an [alumnus], I would normally be too self-conscious of my role as a has-been to write a letter to the student-tutor publication of the school. But it suddenly occurred to me (really!) while writing a philosophical genealogy for my own use (really!) that there is an alarming, and possibly damning, hole (really a cap-stone) in the program. In the senior year, the program ventures into what are termed Modern (as opposed to Enlightenment, Scholastic and Classical) and (depending on labelling criteria) Postmodern philosophy. Most notably, we now read Wittgenstein and Heidegger, after having read Freud, Nietschze and Conrad. It seems to me that there is a huge elephant in the room when we read both Heidegger and Wittgenstein, and it has something to do with the intervening years between them and the latter group.

I hope that it will not be considered mere historicism to suggest that we may need to understand something about this period to understand Wittgenstein’s relationship to language and to idealism. And I would be the last to condemn Heidegger’s thought solely on account of his actions, but shouldn’t we ask ourselves what extra information we might need in order to evaluate his doctine of “attunement” to the “beings of being”?

Of course, I am wondering why we don’t have a reading that relates directly to World War II or the social and philosophical conditions that lead to NAZIsm in Germany. What just now occured to me was that the thought of the second half of the 20th century, which we are surely trained to consider (as it is the thought of our time) will not make sense unless we are presented with the war that has stood, for so many, as the proof of a somber thesis about Western Civilization and the nature and desirability of absolute truth. As always, we would not be required to reach any prescribed conclusion, nor would it be possible to force a senior to conclude anything. But to not present the War is, simply, to paint a false picture of the history of Western civilization and thought.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s