Friday, May 06, 2005

I’ve been waiting for two years for Tony Blair to get his comeuppance. So this morning, I should be filled with glee.

I’m not. I’m filled with pity.

The repudiation of Blair was all about the war. A concentrated effort will be made to reverse the obvious among the American pundocrats in the next couple of days, but the fact is that, even if we put the anti-war shift away from Blair’s Labour at around 4 percent, that missing percentile torpedoes Blair’s ability to govern – as he is used to governing.

The polls don’t get to the multiplier effect. A list of voter priorities is not a map of voter mood. Every other issue was infected by the feeling that Blair practiced blatant deceit and high-handedness in maneuvering to bring Britain into the War.

What was the point? The U.S. was going to invade with or without Britain. In the event, Britain got nothing. No say in the running of “coalition” Iraq – the English had to sit back and watch flunkouts from the Heritage Foundation destroy Iraq as a unified whole from their place in Saddam’s Palace without having the power to intervene with a firm nanny’s smack. They enabled Bush-ites to design the war as a no-sacrifice political show. Even though that didn’t completely succeed (true, nobody cares about the number of Iraqi dead sacrificed to the neocon dream, but even a country of Sleeping Beauties – the out of it America of the Bush age – has a rumbling that things haven’t been working out right, there), Britain, by providing enough troops to subdue the South, actually gave the Bush administration the leeway to do what it likes to do best – put sacrifice off until tomorrow, while posturing today. If the U.S. had had to throw in another fifty to one hundred thousand troops in Iraq, Sleeping Beauty would be halfway out of her coma. So Blair’s policy didn’t even have the minimum effect he ostensibly wanted, keeping America integrated into the circle of international interests shared by the Great Power democracies. On the contrary, Bush’s nosethumbing at civilization became a great amusement for his more yahoo followers, while the NYT set had to be content with assuring us that Colin Powell was gravely concerned.

There is a part of me that will forever be an oatmeal bread Fabian. That part of me, the part that reads Polly Toynbee and nods its head, was not wholly out of love with Blair. True, the horrible civil rights record is not good – the sucking up to the worst kind of capitalist is even worse – but Labour made those incremental improvements in the lot of the working class that Toynbee is always writing about. It seems like all commas and subclauses, this program here and that program there, but that is the way Fabian progress looks.

However, my pity is more personal than political. Blair was battered for the war very personally, his nose was held to the blood spilt – once again playing the surrogate for Bush. And Blair seems like a person who can be very hurt by being disliked. The eagerness and chipperness in trying to make himself likeable is what makes him so damned annoying, and made the lap dog comparison woundingly apt – but, insofar as his surface insincerity is truly sincere, it also makes his wounding a sad spectacle.

ps – readers have complained that LI has neglected the week’s hot story – you know the one, Paul Abdul claiming to have been kidnapped by OJ Simpson so she could avoid marrying her secret American Idol sweetheart in Duluth Georgia, while the investigation among the Duluth Georgia police department reportedly finds that nine out of ten of the finest slept with Michael Jackson while he abstained from abusing them. Some talk of “playing with the badges” has surfaced. Well, we are taking the high road on this story. We are ardent fans of the alter-American Idol show – the one in which demi-virgins from Bachlorette are sacrificed on a Gilded dollar sign altar by Pat Robertson wearing the leathermask from Texas Chain Saw massacre – which is shown on the alter-Fox station in Austin, Texas. The singing American Idol show has a little too little bloodshed and corrupt evangelists for our taste. Also, no mudwrestling. We can’t abide no mudwrestling. Kudos kudos kudos to ABC for pulling its investigative team off the totally boring 8.7 trillion dollar Medicare deficit story – directly attributable to our lovable Mr. Mission Accomplished in the White House -- to jump on this much more interesting story. Red State America deserves no less – and no more.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Greater evils, election time

Pity the Brits today. An election between a man who is marginally more evil than Bush (the margin consists of his much greater intelligence—Blair is Iago to Bush’s Ubu Roi) and a conservative leader who is campaigning to bring the paramilitary right back to the fold. Howard is simply another sign of the disaster Margaret Thatcher wreaked, like some medieval comet shedding plagues, on a party that at one time boasted Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan. The socialist side of the British political economy, one should always remember, owes a lot to Conservatives – from the willingness to break with the liberal/free trade orthodoxy in Lord Salisbury’s era to Macmillan’s normalization of the welfare state.

A Macmillan would recognize the opportunity that Blair has given the Conservatives to repair the social compact by opposing, wholeheartedly, the ill conceived alliance with the U.S. to invade and subjugate Iraq. A Macmillan would also recognize that a conservative defends those instruments of social cohesion that have passed the test of time – and thus would be for strengthening National Health, for instance, not looking for illusory savings. A Macmillan would recognize that, given the country’s enormous wealth, the cost of a higher education should be going down, with solid state support for taking the financial burden from the student and his or her family – for surely there is a direct relationship between conservatism and the expanded property-holding possibility given by higher education. A Macmillan wouldn’t be captured by the silly tinker toy called ‘conservatism’ in the United States, which consists of enormous handouts to corporations, a permanent state of war justifying a permanent inflation of the Department of War, and a taxphobia that is less a reasoned position than a cause for psychotherapeutic intervention.

Unfortunately, as long as the Thatcherites have their withered, dying talons on the throat of the Conservative party, they will keep squeezing the life out of the thing. Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in the Guardian the other day rather beautifully:

“What's more, Howard's enthusiasm for the war puts him quite out of step with his own followers, as opposed to the quasi-neocons and quisling right who dominate the Tory press, as well as the Tory leadership. Anyone who lives in middle England, otherwise known as provincial England, will be aware of what the polls have regularly confirmed: the Iraq war was markedly more unpopular among ordinary Conservatives than among Labour voters.

One of the most electrifying moments in the past month wasn't directly related to the election. George MacDonald Fraser was talking on the Today programme about the latest of his marvellous Flashman novels. Now an octogenarian, a Tory of Tories, this splendid writer is for ever groaning about the dismal modern age and every woe from political correctness to the metric system. More relevantly, a lifetime earlier he was an infantryman, who saw his best friend killed beside him.
Suddenly there was an explosion on air. He had never in his life felt more ashamed of his country than he had over Iraq, the old soldier said. He could not get out of his head two pictures, one of a small Iraqi boy with his arms blown off by American bombs, and another of our prime minister smirking sycophantically at President Bush's side.

It was riveting, but not surprising. I would have a large bet that if the 60th anniversary of VE-day on Sunday were marked by a poll of MacDonald Fraser's surviving contemporaries - the men and women who served this country in 1939-45 - an easy majority of them would be opposed to the Iraq war.”

And so the spectacle will continue – a country moving right under a nominally left leadership, opposed by a rightwing party that stands for the worst kind of servility to a foreign power, etc., etc. Sad days.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

damned, rammed and sunk

We’ve been thinking of Abiezer Coppe.

The reason we’ve been thinking of Abiezer Coppe is that Infinite Thought, in the course of visiting a May day celebration in some village in England, came across some “prophetic (and poorly-spelled) religious missives [that] were posted on walls around a place that already seemed pretty religious (in a whitebread, exclusivist, entirely British kind of way). Russia will attack Israel, apparently according to Ezekiel 38-39 (The Gog-Magog bit).” She has photos up of the broadsheets here.

Now, unlike the bestselling leftbehind apocalyptic novels put out by rich evangelical types, in which we see the happy merger those two ur-American tropes, the Caucasian utopia and the action hero movie, the older style of apocalyptic lit digs into the pork and corruption of a world that runs over the oppressed and sees its dark ends – the first who shall be last, here, include the rich evangelical types, being fed into the maw of some rich Bosch-style monster. When the World is turned Upside Down, the values that held it right side up will be turned upside down too – which means that profit seekers will suffer, while the idle will be rewarded for their intense study of the lilies of the field; which means that the pure to whom all was pure – the whores, wankers, tramps, schizos, pennyante artists, Sal Army Hall bedwetters, holy toothless fools, runaways, all the tranquillized children in all the foster homes, etc., etc. – will invade, with much hooting, the halls of power; which means the meek housewives who took up steak knives and studied their husband’s backs on all those electric lightbulb sick nights, Raymond Chandler’s heroines, will pack like Amazons and destroy the peace of mind we’ve all purchased by disciplining the libido, and banning the Id. Those mean streets, it turns out, are the streets of the New Jerusalem.

The World Turned Upside Down was the title of the book by Christopher Hill that re-introduced the Levelers, the Diggers, the Ranters, and the Muggletonians to the world. I think it is that book, with its sections from Coppe’s Fiery Flying Roll, that insinuated the man into the subdeb niches – and even into the Norton Anthology of English Lit, for a guest appearance, between Donne and Milton.

Coppe, from Hill’s description, was an exemplary Ranter. He believed in free love, and drinking, and throwing himself under the wheels of luxurious carriages. He was a freelance prophet, not connected to the Diggers or Levelers and their more rational political schemes. When he was examined by the court, he supposedly bawled at them and tried to throw fruit about. He was more like Huck Finn’s father crossed with Ezekiel, if Ezekiel had been transplanted to the much colder climes of Albion. Then, of course, imprisonment, Cromwell’s reign, and the Restoration made him as lonely as a recalcitrant Yippie in the Reagan years, and he wilted away. Anyway, the intro to his most famous pamphlet, copped from the subgenius site:

An inlet into the Land of Promise, the new Hierusalem, and agate into the ensuing Discourse, worthy of seriousconsideration.
My Deare One.
All or None.
Every one under the Sunne.
Mine own. My most excellent Majesty (in me) hath strangely and variously transformed this forme.
And beholde, by mine owne Almightinesse (in me) I have been changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound ofthe Trump.…

And it hath pleased my most excellent Majesty (who is universall love, and whose service is perfecte freedom) to set this forme(the Writer of this Roll) as no small signe and wonder in fleshly Israel; as you may partly see in the ensuing Discourse.

And now (my deare ones!) every one under the Sun, I will onely point at the gate; thorow which I was led into that new City,new Hierusalem, and to the Spirits of just men, made perfect,and to God the Judge of all.First, all my strength, my forces were utterly routed, my houseI dwelt in fired; my father and mother forsook me, the wife ofmy bosome loathed me, mine old name was rotted, perished; and Iwas utterly plagued, consumed, damned, rammed, and sunke intonothing, into the bowels of the still Eternity (my mother'swomb) out of which I came naked, and whetherto I returned againnaked. And lying a while there, rapt up in silence, at length(the body or outward forme being awake all this while) I heardwith my outward eare (to my apprehension) a most terriblethunder-clap, and after that a second. And upon the secondthunder-clap, which was exceeding terrible, I saw a great body of light, like the light of the Sun, and red as fire, in theforme of a drum (as it were) whereupon with exceeding trembling and amazement on the flesh, and with joy unspeakable in thespirit, I clapt my hands, and cryed out, Amen, Hallelujah,Hallelujah, Amen. And so lay trembling, sweating, and smoaking(for the space of halfe an hour) at length with a loud voyce (Iinwardly) cryed out, Lord, what wilt thou do with me; my mostexcellent majesty and eternal glory (in me) answered & sayd,Fear Not, I will take thee up into mine everlasting Kingdom. Butthou shalt (first) drink a bitter cup, a bitter cup, a bittercup; whereupon (being filled with exceeding amazement) I wasthrowne into the belly of hell (and take what you can of it inthese expressions, though the matter is beyond expression) I was among all the Devils in hell, even in their most hideous hew.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Laissez faire casualties

LI, in pursuance of an editing job for a client, was reading Mill’s Principles of Political Economy the other day, looking for a certain quote. We found the quote, but we also found Mill’s rather startling defense of the export of food stuffs from countries that were in the midst of famine as dictated by the logic of free trade. Or so it appeared to us. The passage, in the PPE, reads:

“On the subject, however, of subsistence, there is one point which deserves
more especial consideration. In cases of actual or apprehended scarcity, many countries of Europe are accustomed to stop the exportation of food. Is this, or not, sound policy? There can be no doubt that in the present state of international morality, a people cannot, any more than an individual, be blamed for not starving itself to feed others. But if the greatest amount of good to mankind on the whole, were the end aimed at in the maxims of international conduct, such collective churlishness would certainly be condemned by them. Suppose that in ordinary circumstances the trade in food were perfectly free, so that the price in one country could not habitually exceed that in any other by more than the cost of carriage, together with a moderate profit to the importer. A general scarcity ensues, affecting all countries, but in unequal degrees. If the price rose in one country more than in others, it would be a proof that in that country the scarcity was severest, and that by permitting food to go freely thither from any other country, it would be spared from a less urgent necessity to relieve a greater. When the interests, therefore, of all countries are considered, free exportation is desirable. To the exporting country considered separately, it may, at least on the particular occasion, be an inconvenience: but taking into account that the country which is now the giver will in some future season be the receiver, and the one that is benefited by the freedom, I cannot but think that even to the apprehension of food rioters it might be made apparent, that in such cases they should do to others what they would wish done to themselves.”

This, to my eye, seems to be heartless tripe. Now, I know Mill is not in the business of doling out heartless tripe. I also know that the case he is considering was contemporary with the writing of the Political Economy. This is from Mill’s autobiography:

“The Political Economy was far more rapidly executed than the Logic, or indeed than anything of importance which I had previously written. It was commenced in the autumn of 1845, and was ready for the press before the end of 1847. In this period of little more than two years there was an interval of six months during which the work was laid aside, while I was writing articles in the Morning Chronicle (which unexpectedly entered warmly into my purpose) urging the formation of peasant properties on the waste lands of Ireland. This was during the period of the Famine, the winter of 1846-47, when the stern necessities of the time seemed to afford a chance of gaining attention for what appeared to me the only mode of combining relief to immediate destitution with permanent improvement of the social and economical condition of the Irish people. But the idea was new and strange; there was no English precedent for such a proceeding: and the profound ignorance of English politicians and the English public concerning all social phenomena not generally met with in England (however common elsewhere), made my endeavours an entire failure. Instead of a great operation on the waste lands, and the conversion of cottiers into proprietors, Parliament passed a Poor Law for maintaining them as paupers: and if the nation has not since found itself in inextricable difficulties from the joint operation of the old evils and the quack remedy it is indebted for its deliverance to that most unexpected and surprising fact, the depopulation of ireland, commenced by famine, and continued by emigration.”

In both the PPE and the Autobiography, there is an odd coolness of tone – especially as it contrasts with the lively heat generated by contending against the principles of Protectionism. It is as if the dead of Ireland could be considered with one’s riding boots on, in contrast to the Ur-English proposers of raising the tariff on flax. It is always a little hurtful when one’s intellectual heroes fall for their age’s most vulgar prejudices.

However, on re-reading the PPE passage, one is struck by its lack of Mill’s habitual clarity: this is a defense of free trade that is so full of conditionals as to be a sort of economic fiction. In particular, we feel there is a touch of willful blindness in a lifelong employee of the India House writing ” If the price rose in one country more than in others, it would be a proof that in that country the scarcity was severest, and that by permitting food to go freely thither from any other country, it would be spared from a less urgent necessity to relieve a greater. When the interests, therefore, of all countries are considered, free exportation is desirable.” That equality among the interests of all countries would, of course, be the ruin of colonialism – that is, if it were taken to a political level. And if it is not taken to a political level, one wonder how the prices rising in the afflicted country are going to be paid. The paradox of famine is that the demand for food that rises the prices stems from the condition that has visited, with catastrophic effect, the agricultural sector in the country. Demand, in other words, is way out of kilter with income.

Mill knew this. In fact, while he was writing the mammoth PPE, he was also (as an ever energetic Victorian) writing a series of articles for the Morning Chronicle about the situation in Ireland. Mill’s articles could be boiled down to a negative and a positive component. The negative component was his concern about how the Government was going about dispensing money. First, he did not like the idea of public works projects in order to maintain the poorest Irish, since, in Mill’s view, the public works were inefficient – simply adding useless capacity to transport and such – and had the vicious effect of attracting agricultural laborers off the land. Second, he did not like the Government’s choice of landlords as the preferred vehicle for putting money in Ireland. He thought that loaning money to a class that had evidently made a mess of their business in Ireland was expanding a problem, rather than solving one. The positive component in Mill’s articles was the advocacy of a program similar, in nature, to the FHA – loaning money, on easy terms, to peasants in order for them to buy ‘wasteland’. Mill thought the tenant farmer system was at the bottom of Ireland’s ills.

Mill’s negative view of Government expenditure was echoed in the Great Depression by the right, which certainly saw no use in Roosevelt’s many public work projects. Of course, in Japan and Germany, at the same time, the massive outlay for public works projects, plus ending the gold standard, plus a policy of controlled reflating, was ending the Depression much quicker than it ended here. The same was true for Britain, which was even making a success of protectionist policies that formed its Commonwealth into a super-regional trading bloc – one of the reasons that England, in the late thirties, experienced a housing boom. Plus, of course, Conservatives and Labor had already provided a minimum social insurance plan. The conservative complaint is really a class complaint, anyway – conservative anxiety is always aroused when the instruments of power seemed to be used to help the powerless. It has nothing to do with the size of the government. The scale of government really has as little to do with the particulars of the alternatives between sides in the hegemonic ideology of post industrial capitalism as the scale of employment does – the size of government seeks its level as a share of the GDP independently of the opinions of lawmakers about big or small government.

Still, one gets back, with Mill, to this moment in which the imagination turns to stone. Wordsworth might have awoken him to life, but it was a very English life. The life of the Irish, and their deaths, was not a spirit easily roused from the mere data. There are a few passionate outbursts in the articles about the condition of Ireland. But the marmoreal utopianism of the Free Trade passage in PPE rests, like a gravestone, not only on the million slain by the Potato famine, but on the millions to come who will die in India due to Britain’s use of terror famine tactics there – free trade, one should always remember, has as many notches in its belt for as many bodies as Soviet style collectivization.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Rolling over in our sleep

LI has long contended that the proper analogies for the Iraq war should be sought in U.S. foreign policy in Central and South America, with its heavy emphasis on the electric wire to your balls and support for a compliant elite, sitting on all those extractable raw materials, rather than in WWII or in Vietnam.

Oct 24, 2004 – LI

“The Lord Raglans of the Rumsfeld gang – the Tommy Franks and Ricardo Sanchezes – have, if anything, been even more coddled by the press, which does love a man in uniform, and since getting their fingers burned in the Vietnam war have reliably laid down a covering fire of delusions for the U.S. government as it has supported death squad democracy in Central America and, now, Iraq. It is rather embarrassing for the newspapers to have to confront the obvious screwups of our politicized and incompetent high command – Franks inability to hurt Al Qaeda when it was concentrated in Afghanistan, and Sanchez’s mindblowing underestimation of the insurgency last fall – so the reporters prefer to do in depth reports on these things a year or two after they have happened. News may upset the bourgeois reader, but never his prejudices. And so the world is cut out for us on a paperdoll pattern.”

Read Peter Maass’ excellent article in this Sunday’s NYT Magazine. LI has found surprisingly little comment about it – but then, we are all so tired of the war. Being tired, there is a simple solution -- re-file Iraq in the national dream life from the drawer in which the dreams are remembered to the drawer in which the dreams are forgotten. Every night the body politic goes to sleep and rolls over on another two or three American bodies, and fifteen to twenty Iraqi ones:

“The officer in charge of the raid -- a Major Falah -- now made it clear that he believed the detainee had led them on a wild-goose chase. The detainee was sitting at the side of a commando truck; I was 10 feet away, beside Bennett and four G.I.'s. One of Falah's captains began beating the detainee. Instead of a quick hit or slap, we now saw and heard a sustained series of blows. We heard the sound of the captain's fists and boots on the detainee's body, and we heard the detainee's pained grunts as he received his punishment without resistance. It was a dockyard mugging. Bennett turned his back to face away from the violence, joining his soldiers in staring uncomfortably at the ground in silence. The blows continued for a minute or so.

Bennett had seen the likes of this before, and he had worked out his own guidelines for dealing with such situations. ''If I think they're going to shoot somebody or cut his finger off or do any sort of permanent damage, I will immediately stop them,'' he explained. ''As Americans, we will not let that happen. In terms of kicking a guy, they do that all the time, punches and stuff like that.'' It was a tactical decision, Bennett explained: ''You only get so many interventions, and I've got to save my butting in for when there is a danger it could go over the line.'' But even when he doesn't say anything, he explained, ''they can tell we're not enjoying it. We're just kind of like, 'O.K., here we go again.'''

Iraqification. It is a glorious sound, no? And this is a glorious phase in helpin’ the liberty lovin’ show that they love liberty in the approved American way. We have the right people in place: the U.S. has been using, as its liaison with the squad Maass followed, a certain Jim Steele, formerly the prime U.S. link with death squads in El Salvador.

This is the Samarra detention center that Maass visited:

“We walked through the entrance gates of the center and stood, briefly, outside the main hall. Looking through the doors, I saw about 100 detainees squatting on the floor, hands bound behind their backs; most were blindfolded. To my right, outside the doors, a leather-jacketed security official was slapping and kicking a detainee who was sitting on the ground. We went to a room adjacent to the main hall, and as we walked in, a detainee was led out with fresh blood around his nose. The room had enough space for a couple of desks and chairs; one desk had bloodstains running down its side. The 20-year-old Saudi was led into the room and sat a few feet from me. He said he had been treated well and that a bandage on his head was a result of an injury he suffered in a car accident as he was being chased by Iraqi soldiers.”

And here are a few grafs showing freedom lovin’ at its best:

“The Saudi I interviewed seemed relieved to have been captured, because his service in the insurgency, he said, was a time of unhappy disillusion. He came to Iraq to die with Islamic heroes, he said, but instead was drafted into a cell composed of riffraff who stole cars and kidnapped for money and attacked American targets only occasionally. When I asked, through an interpreter, whether he had planned to be a suicide bomber, he looked aghast and said he would not do that because innocent civilians would be killed; he was willing to enter paradise by being shot but not by blowing himself up. He gladly gave me the names of the members of the cell. One was a Syrian who had been arrested with him.

That evening, as I was eating dinner in the mess hall at Olsen base, I overheard a G.I. saying that he had seen the Syrian at the detention center, hanging from the ceiling by his arms and legs like an animal being hauled back from a hunt. When I struck up a conversation with the soldier, he refused to say anything more. Later, I spoke with an Iraqi interpreter who works for the U.S. military and has access to the detention center; when I asked whether the Syrian, like the Saudi, was cooperating, the interpreter smiled and said, ''Not yet, but he will.''

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Blake's bird continued

There is one myth about perspectivism that must be dispelled before one can make any sense of it.

It is of the essence of perspectivism that, among all possible perspectives, there is no single one that can encompass all the information found in every perspective. In other words, perspectivism claims that there is no God’s eye perspective. The myth takes that to mean something like: there are no universals. The two claims aren’t equivalent. It may well be that there are invariants across perspectives. But this does not mean that you can make, out of those invariants, a sort of uber-perspective. There are no back doors to the God position.

Furthermore, these invariants aren’t necessarily “truths”. I suspect that there are invariants that are fictions. Now, it is at this moment that someone inevitably pops up, a smirk on his face, and says, aha, how can you talk about truths and fictions if everything is just a perspective? This objection comes down to saying that truth is an extra-perspectival process. To which the reply, properly, is: so what? If it is true (that the truth is extra-perspectival), it amounts to saying that there is an invariant across perspectives. And if it is false (I believe it is false), this means, merely, that truth claims are judged on their relation to perspectivally specified frames of reference. In both cases, truth is not grounded in reality, but in procedure. What is at stake here is not really the truth, but something that is more like the reputation of the truth. The reputation of the truth is that it is a good. The reputation of the truth takes the truth to be more than it is – a selection procedure for statements. One of the hallmarks of modernity is the divorce between truth and its reputation. That divorce has been taken hard by foundationalists.

Another myth about perspectivism makes it equivalent to that extension of the liberal ethics of tolerance in which it is claimed that cultures are equal. This is, in some ways, a throwback to the Leibnizian notion of monads – those windowless things. It is as if cultures grew up in perfect autonomy and independence one from the other. Nietzschian perspectivism is quite different. In N. perspectivism, perspectives – and for the moment we will treat cultures as different perspectives – are constituted by the assimilation and rejection of other perspectives – a constant will to power. The liberal ethos of tolerance, according to N., could only arise after the liberal culture had sufficiently disenfranchised rival cultures to the extent that it could patronize them. This is a agitated point in Nietzsche’s writing – it is, on the one hand, a point at which a culture has come to the summit of its power, and, on the other hand, it is a point at which a culture manufactures the kind of nihilism – the kind of misunderstanding of its own historical dynamic – which undermines it. Nietzsche was inclined to describe this moment in medical terms. Indeed, Nietzsche is famous for using the metaphors provided by medical terminology – of sickness, health, strength, weakness – to diagnose (another medical metaphor) Western culture. Nietzsche went to the extent of identifying certain of his texts with convalescence itself – they were convalescent acts. Metaphor, here, is supported by metaphor.

Finally, one other brief note about perspectives. Perspectives are very difficult to quantify over. Since the tribe of analytic philosophers have a superstitious belief that knowledge begins with quantifying over its object, they have a hard time with perspectives. Thus, they tend to get impatient with Nietzsche. However, this is a superstition. You cannot, in classic analytic fashion, quantify over electrodynamic fields, as Maxwell described them. Physicists are rightly not worried about that.

The great point to keep in mind is: perspectivism is neither incoherent, nor nihilistic, nor philosophically untenable. And it makes a damn good alternative to foundationalism, which is not, in LI’s opinion, compatible with a scientific picture of the System of the World. I’ll trade the old stuffed Owl of Minerva for Blake’s songbird any day.

Elia meets Karl Marx at the South Sea House

    When Charles Lamb, a scholarship boy at Christ’s Hospital, was fifteen, one of his patrons, Thomas Coventry, had a discussion with a...