About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
David Brooks wrong on philosophy and history
A few days ago, Brooks wrote a column on how Plato's concept of “thymos” (one of the three parts of the soul, together with appetites and reason) explains a lot of our troubles. Thymos, according to Brooks, is the urge for recognition, which drives so much politics and human affairs, especially when men are involved. Wrong. Plato's thymos was actually the emotional part of the soul, a much broader concept than Brooks' simplistic rendition. Moreover, as much as I admire Plato, surely we don't want to go back to his Republic as a good model for political discussions – unless Brooks is fascinated by the idea of a fascist state controlled by philosopher kings.
Today, he did it again, this time waxing poetical about how 2008 presidential hopefuls should be looking at Lincoln as a model. You see, he didn't shrink from the possibility of war, he expanded its scope to make it right. But surely Brooks knows better than to think that the so-called Civil War (which in the south they still call "the war of northern aggression") was predicated on the ideal of racial equality. It was largely (at the political level) a matter of economic resources and territorial power -- just like any other war, including the one in Iraq. If we really wish to learn something from history, let's look at the Peloponnesian war instead (see "A War Like No Other," by V.D. Hanson). There, "exporting democracy" was clearly a thinly veiled excuse for imperial Athens, and the effort ended in a disaster from a cultural, political, and human perspective.
David, a few days ago you got Plato completely wrong, now you present us with an exceedingly naive view of history. Next time, a bit more home work and less ideological grandstanding perhaps?