Editor’s Note: I would like to thank Greg Johnson for sending me a copy of his book, The Alternative Right. I found it waiting for me at home this weekend after I finally got home from Missouri. I have a literal mountain of new books to read through and review, but I will get around to it.
“Leo Strauss is widely known as a critic of historicism and an advocate of classical philosophy. Historicism holds that philosophical ideas are relative to culture, whereas classical philosophy aims for knowledge of nature, which is not relative to culture. But what is Strauss’s own point of view? Does he base his arguments on historicist or classical philosophical premises? Does he offer an internal or external critique of historicism, internal or external praise for classical philosophy? For as the examples of Nietzsche and Heidegger show us, the most radical forms of historicism make it is possible to both criticize historicism and laud classical philosophy from a fundamentally historicist point of view.
To answer this question, I will give close readings to Strauss’s writings on historicism, beginning with a 1940 lecture “The Living Issues of German Postwar Philosophy.” By “postwar” philosophy, Strauss means German philosophy after the First World War. Today it is better to refer to it as interwar philosophy. …”
“Not only does Strauss claim that historicism is a healthy reaction to the intellectual bankruptcy of the modern world, in the next section of his essay, he also attributes this bankruptcy to non-historicist causes.
First, Strauss talks about Max Weber’s Learning and Science as Vocation. He specifically objects to Weber’s claim that reason cannot speak about the ultimate aims of life: being, nature, God, values, etc. Reason can only speak of means to ends. But our ultimate ends are matters of choice: arbitrary and subjective choice. If, however, reason cannot provide guidance to human life, then people will naturally turn to authority.
Then Strauss discusses Carl Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political, attributing the same sort of value relativism to it, even though it appears nowhere in the text. …”
Excellent articles on historicism at Counter-Currents.
In the 2000s, I used to be very much into philosophy. It has been a long time though since I have engaged with it. I only returned to the subject last year. I read a number of philosophers and political theorists in those years who fundamentally shaped my worldview. I’ve only dabbled in philosophy though because my true passion is history. In another lifetime, I would have become a historian.
For those who have been reading me the longest, you are probably familiar with my intellectual journey through the 2000s: Nietzsche > Ayn Rand > Carl Schmitt > Oswald Spengler and Francis Parker Yockey > Heidegger > Foucault > Communitarianism > Alasdair MacIntyre > Hegel > Aristotle, Plato and Epicurus > Luther and St. Augustine. This wasn’t the precise track that I took to get to the perspective that I have today, but it is a rough sketch and fairly accurate approximation.
In hindsight, I absorbed historicism through Pat Buchanan and Nietzsche. It was Nietzsche’s book On the Genealogy of Morals that fundamentally shaped my worldview as a college student. I would prescribe this book as an antidote to political correctness because it raised my historical consciousness that it is nothing but a cultural virus of the late 20th century West and that before that time morality was something entirely different. No one talked about morality in terms of political correctness.
In terms of economics, I also started with Pat Buchanan, but as I read through his books and plowed through his sources I came across Friedrich List’s book The National System of Political Economy. I leapfrogged from there into exploring the German Historical School of Economics and South Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang and developmental capitalism. As I explored American economic history and the economic history of the Caribbean, I became increasingly convinced that List and Chang were right and the Austrians and the Chicago School of Economics were wrong.
I would love to see more articles and takes at Counter-Currents on historicism. Specifically, I would like to see takes on Michel Foucault (power, ethics, aesthetics), but above all else on Alasdair MacIntyre’s work which is a radical historicist take on the degeneration of Western culture and morality in the modern era. MacIntyre proceeds from historicism to examine rival traditions of inquiry into ethics before going back to classical and Medieval philosophy. He attempts to do what Aquinas did in the High Middle Ages and reconcile Nietzschean genealogy with the Aquinas’s traditionalist synthesis of Aristotelianism and Augustinianism and the Enlightenment encyclopedia tradition.
More than anyone else, it was MacIntyre’s work which helped me see nihilism as a peculiarly Western phenomenon and a byproduct of Enlightenment philosophy. It is the result of the breakdown of the Enlightenment attempt to provide a purely rational and objective basis for morality in the 19th and 20th centuries. This is a phase that we are going through since we started giving up on Christianity and Aristotelianism in the wake of the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century. What’s more, it was historicism that allowed me to see that “Judeo-Christianity” is some weird passing phase of the Baby Boomer generation in America and that what we know today as “Christianity” in the United States has radically changed its colors in just the last century.
Anyway, I just wanted to draw your attention to these two articles at Counter-Currents. I think Jeffrey Tucker was right that the 2.0 movement didn’t have a solid philosophical foundation. Among other things, it didn’t have a solid moral foundation, a solid cultural critique, a solid economic platform or a sound political strategy to engage with the “mainstream.” The 2.0 movement has failed because it was just a stylistic rebranding of the 1.0 movement that took essentially the same philosophy, strategy and tactics and repackaged it with coarse language, funny memes and gutter nihilism.
I strongly believe that we need to go back to the drawing board and rethink everything. We’re smart people. If we start applying ourselves to solving our problems instead of just bantzing all day, sharing memes or rage posting about the world, we can do a lot better than the 2.0 movement. We should be working on creating a discourse that can appeal to a far larger audience.
Note: Unsurprisingly, FEE hates Heidegger’s philosophy.