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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 25. 6 October 1972

Philosophers Sharpening Pencils

Philosophers Sharpening Pencils

The one discipline not mentioned so far is Philosophy. By reading student newspapers one could hardly be aware of its existence, much less its importance as the backbone (or cancer) of all the rest.

Modern philosophy has failed to nourish the social sciences with confident epistemological and ethical guiding principles; In their scramble after linguistic red— page 9 herrings, positivist detachment and the odd phenomenological fantasy, our philosophers have done worse than to carve themselves a comfortable little castle out of the state education system. By their silent default and 'cognitive defeatism' they have undermined that critical basis necessary' to prevent the social sciences from becoming increasingly dominated by a plethora of hangerson: pop-sociolists emerge (Alvin Toffler?), freedomhating psychologists (see B.F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity) and perhaps even market-hating 'economists'; By long neglect in ethics and aesthedcs the philosopher has said, in effect, "Who am I to say?" and has abandoned the Arts to justice-fearing moralists (Eric Fromm?) and existence-hating metaphysitions (Sarte).

Photo of Adolf Hitler

Well don't just stand there — negotiate!

Well don't just stand there — negotiate!

If the 16th Century was dominated by the spirit of Enlightenment, then the 20th century is dominated by the spirit of Confusion. (My existence led in confusion's boat, mutineed from stern to bow" - Dylan).

"Science", Hitler said, "is a social phenomenon, and like any other social phenomenon is (to be) limited by the benefit or injury it confers on the community." (Rauschning again). "The ideas," said Keynes, "which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil." (Quoted in Samuelson).

Keynes also makes the observation that "madmen in authority are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back."

One rather prominent scribbler in Germany was Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote prophetically "To recognise untruth as a condition of life that is certainly to impugn the traditional ideas of value in a dangerous (effective) manner, and a philosophy which ventures to do so, has thereby alone placed itself beyond good and evil."

"We must be brave enough" said Richard Wagner (having embraced Arthur Schopenhauer's anti-rational mysticism), "to deny our intellect." And Hitler's 'reply', "Whoever wants to understand National Socialism must understand Wagner" (Quoted in Peter Vierek, 'Metapolitics: The Roots of the Nazi Mind.)

With the advent of Munich murders and letter bombs this month, the way of terrorism enters a new and horrible dimension. It would be a good time now, to re-examine Nazi and Fascist ideology and compare it to the rhetoric of Activism (anti-ideology) and Terrorism, in which rationalizing veneer of pseudo-principles is offered in defence of what amounts to systematic intimidation by naked force.