My reaction to the President’s abandonment of our Kurdish allies is making me sympathetic to the late Christopher Hitchens’ seeming adoption of neoconservative foreign policy positions. It is even (gasp) making me less contemptuous of Bernard-Henri Levy, affectionately (?) known as BHL.

The Orwellian interventionist strain of liberalism (and I mean Orwellian not in the sense of doublespeak, but in the sense of his international engagements) seems to have resurfaced with the cowardly actions of the President and while I cannot say that I am any less in disagreement with the invasion of Iraq, I can honestly ask myself, is this how Hitchens saw things in the mid 2000s, the way so many of us see the President’s capitulation to Turkey?



It is perhaps because of also reading Vidal’s essays that I checked this out from the library. A powerful and important writer who is likely to still be forgotten. Will my child grow up to read Hitchens?

As the current events he covered recede (into the dark fields of the Republic?), there are still gems that will be worth reading in a quarter century, especially his ruminations on early US history and on his seeming inspiration, Thomas Paine.

Also, as much as one might love listening to his voice, it is easier to forgive and understand his political positions when reading his actual words (I should add that I have only read one of his books that weren’t collected essays). He is, at his best (which he is not always at), at wonderful writer.

America The Philosophical

A sort of history of mostly twentieth century American philosophy (Carlin threatens to talk about Emerson, but doesn’t; he also writes briefly about the mostly nineteenth century Peirce and James in the context of Peirce, but those two reached into the next century; he also finds space for this millennium and even for Obama). Continue reading

The Metaphysical Club

What might be most interesting about The Metaphysical Club is that it purports to be about how figures like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, William James, Charles Pierce, and John Dewey (among others) created a new and modern American from the ashes of the Civil War, it manages to never explicate James’ nor Peirce’s nor Dewey’s philosophy nor that the first two are both considered the founders of American pragmatism (James association with it is mentioned once or twice; Pierce never) nor that Dewey’s has work might be connected to it over the course of three fourths of the book. Instead I found a series of frustrating threads, connecting Holmes to James and James to Peirce but not Peirce to Holmes in any meaningful sense. Supposed schools of thought like the Burlington transcendentalists (shouldn’t transcendentalist be capitalized, too, in this case, if it’s a legitimate, albeit no longer extant, school of American thought?) appear, are discussed in not insignificant length and then noted to be almost entirely meaningless to the topic and not influential at all. Jane Addams is the only woman noted beyond her relationship to a man and she gets briefly shoehorned into a lengthy rumination on Dewey’s Chicago. Continue reading

Important, Too

So, I am still returning to Thomas Jefferson, this time with Ta-Nehisi Coates or, at least, with his recent congressional testimony on the issue of reparations. I am not going to go into that issue, which may represent a kind of cowardice on my part, but I do want to flag one line that I can’t shake:

That if Thomas Jefferson matters, so does Sally Hemings.