I've just come away from watching an interview with the acclaimed author and philosopher, John Bellamy Foster, conducted on the Midwestern Marx YT channel. It was like a bucket of ice water in the face (for me!). In what way?
Well, as anyone unfortunate enough to read my stuff will know, I’m enthralled by what Foster would call philosophical “irrationalism”. Years ago, I resurrected my mental stability in part through the works of philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Von Hartmann, Nishida Kitaro, Bergson etc etc. All very much philosophers of mysticism and intuition. The closest I get to similar levels of enthusiasm with purely rational philosophers is with Marx and Spinoza. My bad.
I’m not just saying that, nor am I being ironic. I think Foster is absolutely right. We have a looming twin apocalypse ahead from either nuclear war, climate collapse or both. It’s time for politically thinking people to dwell in the rational and practical. In fact, Foster’s talk held up an inconvenient mirror for me. I constantly bang on about how bloody awful and destructive the arisen cults of irrational contrarianism, conspiracy theorism, and general anti-realism are, while concurrently in my private moments, I wrap myself in deeply mystical thought.
In my own defence, I try to keep a clear enough distinction between my ‘spiritual' life, which is the proper realm for mysticism, and my social attitudes and praxis (limited though that has unfortunately been in recent years). I keep the necessary wall in tact, a feature of mature political republicanism, between my religious beliefs and what has to be done for securing the life and well-being of all people. But even here, I suppose, having listened to Foster, I am guilty of placing far too much importance on my private musings.
The main thrust of Foster’s argument (actually, go and watch the interview if you can : it’s just released on Midwestern Marx YT, conducted by Carlos Garrido) is the neutering obscenity of what passes in the western academy for “left”, ie the successors of the post-modernists, the Frankfurt school, the daft imperialism-friendly woo of Zizek etc and how these siphon off vital energy and attention from the real struggles. It centers on a discussion of the mid 20th century Hungarian philosopher Lukacs and his criticisms of the Frankfurt school as a sort of academic brothel for western capitalism, anti-communism and imperialism, and of Heidegger as well as the ongoing apologetics for Heidegger (in shame, I admit to having re-read Being and Time and not found it without merit, though I retain an extremely dim view of the man).
It’s an excellent and timely discussion.
Now I’m going to go for a cold shower.
Realism might be growing on me.
ROSS ION COYLE
This article was republished from Ross Ion Coyle.