The purpose of this unusually long post is to review and expand upon comment-thread discussion under a set of posts by Tim Kowal and Burt Likko, who are both practicing attorneys with abiding interest in Constitutional Law, on doctrines of interpretation. Many of the text-links will be to the original comments by others and myself.
I can accept Likko’s description of my approach as a “hybrid” of his and Kowal’s, starting out in the area of the latter, but ending up in the vicinity of the former, though I would prefer to stress the complementarity of the two perspectives, loosely “Originalism” and “Living Constitutionalism.” The perhaps still distant objective is a framework for a “synthetic originalism” or “vital originalism” or “living originalism,” or a Unified Theory or at least Adequate Description of American Constitutionalism… Continue reading
What we call “liberalism” may appears to us as more a set of “priorities or predispositions” than a coherent ideology or philosophy because the ideology and its political-philosophical commitments are preceptual and effectively consensual – for us: Liberalism may not appear “ideological” because we treat its main ideological precepts as simply true or as unquestionable for “all intents and purposes,” in other words under the continuation of the social-cultural whole as well as the political-juridical-administrative “state.” We can (always idly) question the philosophical validity of our foundational concepts, but we are precluded from taking any negative conclusions truly meaningfully into the public square. The unquestioned premises tend to come forward and become identifiable as ideology, and therefore more questionable potentially (prior to self-defensive suppression or ideological hygiene), under conditions of stress or crisis, most obviously as a result of an external or seemingly external impetus, as during war with ideologically defined adversaries, another way of saying that the actual (as opposed to merely intellectual or ideal or idle) bringing forward of these premises will be definitional for a crisis of the whole state. Under “normal” conditions, they operate as ingrained presumptions and occasional subject of politically meaningless speculation. Continue reading
…an enlightened utterance in response to which we will note, with our friend Mr. Hume: “We have… no choice left but betwixt a false reason and none at all.” Rousseau concurs, but Nietzsche remains more popular among “us” (not “really” more popular in the more material sense, in which Rousseau and Hume reign), because, in addition to reaching that same conclusion, and before he descended into complications and dissociations indistinguishable from “none at all,” he invited us to make up and celebrate any more pleasing reason-no-more-true-nor-false. In the social-political dimension, the problem that Nietzsche encountered and we encounter, or that we simply ignore if it it suits our needs or preferences or madness, is that the peculiar false reason of the mass liberal democratic regime form remains a true reason precisely to the extent that, like the dying fairy, it is always applauded back to life. If the people childishly choose false democracy democratically, then it is a truly-if-childishly and truly-because-childishly democratically chosen false democracy, more authentically democratic than the rejected ideally or supposedly authentic democracy, and the lonely post-Humean Nietzschean has nothing to offer against the massed innocents except the necessarily generally unheard assertion that he or she, for his or her own perfectly unaccountable reasons, prefers something else, as if we might ever have had some doubt on that score, and even though or because he or she utterly lacks the power to produce that something else except within the limits of the room set aside for him or her by his or her family or perhaps the state, if family or state so chooses on the basis of connections and assumptions, those also false notions truly believed and believed true, that family and state retain against the lonely post-Humean Nietzschean’s ridicule, whether shouted or scrawled or whispered in free stride naked back and forth across the floor, covered in his or her but to be honest typically his own filth, impotently priapic, priapically impotent, occasionally pausing to play piano also with his elbows, and calling it Continue reading
Also on the subject of cultural-historically informative television commercials showing during the NBA playoffs:
Somewhat predictably, the US Navy’s recruiting motto “A Global Force for Good” has been criticized not for its imperial presumptions, but for its seeming overemphasis on humanitarian missions and purposes. Similar criticisms have been lodged at recruiting commercials that depict Marines speeding “Toward the Sounds of Chaos” while trucking AID pallets along with their weaponry and each other. Any notion that the US military exists or can be justified for the purpose of “foreign aid” runs into well-conditioned political reflexes – against wasting lives or resources or money or anything at all on ungrateful foreigners; in favor of a military purposed for, as they say, hurting people and breaking things – but surely there are few supporters of the American military who conceive of it as a “global force for evil,” or as a completely neutral force. Continue reading
The Chris & Cliff Paul ads for State Farm are unsettling.
I could narrate the nightmarish historical grotesques that flash through my mind when I see these commercials, but the result would inevitably recapitulate the same mixture of the ridiculous and the obscene. Anyone ought to be able to do it themselves. I’ll just ask in what kind of society would it be possible to separate identical twins at birth, and bring them together at some later date just to see how they react to each other? In what kind of society, or social system, would it be possible for such a long-term experiment on two human beings to be carried out?
Though easily turned into a cliché, and an obnoxious one, the notion of the childless and in that sense socially remote thinker or artist who sublimates a defeated bid for mere genetic immortality as greatness, of the individual for whom art or philosophy or science or religion is procreation by other means, and as near to the divine as ever achieved or achievable by human exertion, remains indispensable, in part because the alternative looks something like this: Continue reading
Thank you for the thoughtful demurrals, Mr. Drew.
I think the crucial question, when you say, regarding the idea of “constitutional disobedience,” that “we should account for our use of it,” is the eternal “Whom do you mean by ‘we’?” Since political constitution is constitution of the collective, in debating the constitution we are debating possible answers to that question. For the purposes of this inquiry, if we mean “you, me, and the participants at this blog,” or, more broadly, “interested if mostly powerless people in general,” then the discussion is by definition unimportant. Whether we “should” or not is not a great matter, and these little or lesser “we”‘s are nothing except our freedom to play around with notions too big for us, with any regard for consequences seeming quite pretentious. If, however, we are or imagine ourselves to be in contention with the greater we, or even as the lesser we presume that we should speak as though we are or might be or, even very much without meaning to do so, might become of relevance to the greater we, if we should be conscious of that risk however small, then there might be problems for little-us. Continue reading
The American Dream as Rod Dreher depicts it would be a sham, or the ideological manipulation of the credulous masses, or perhaps a lie we willingly tell ourselves:
The American dream is a lie. This idea that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything — that’s very individualistic. Who’s that really about? Who is that serving? Who is that for? It’s for me. It’s a pursuit of happiness that doesn’t create happiness. There’s nothing with any substance at the end of that. So, if you work hard enough, are you going to defeat cancer? If you work hard enough, are you going to be happy with your job? If you work hard enough, and get a big bank account, does that create happiness? No!
I will not call Dreher a liar, but he is offering a false or exaggeratedly simplistic definition of the Dream that happens to suit his polemic.
For Jaybird, the main reference of “post-theist” seems to be to the individual non-/believer’s state of belief. Jaybird was a believer in God, but now is not: “There’s just something about throwing the mantle off, rather than never having worn it.” That “something” suggests the familiar liberationist affect or frisson, excitement of the newborn modern at or as the death throes of all divines, though we may also see ourselves as too late in the historical day to experience that excitement except as a matter of nostalgia, imitatively. De-divinization may have lost its luster, perhaps never more than the twisted reflection of a phantom, the bare ideational existence of a non-existent. Post-theism, or its possibility, whether or not experienced as an apparently inner state of belief, must also reflect an historical, common, or social-cultural condition or tendency of belief, the sense that, whatever else we know or believe, we also know that there was a god perhaps indistinguishable from or never more than the belief or belief in the belief, so never completely un-believed either, or there was God for us, once for all of us, but that He/She/It has been brought down or that we have brought Him/Her/It down, have assassinated or superseded It, somewhat as in the Nietzschean completion of the possibility anticipated by Luther and Hegel, and, according to a few mystics, gnostics, heretics, and materialists, the Christian myth always and essentially. Continue reading