Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pearls Before Swine

"Joshua Bell is one of the world's greatest violinists. His instrument of choice is a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius. If he played it for spare change, incognito, outside a bustling Metro stop in Washington, would anyone notice?"

...apropos Leisure, the Basis of Culture. It seems that many Americans are content not only to be proletariats, but philistines as well.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Can Marx Put Some Life in the German Attack?

What will we be doing April 4?

Please finish reading German Ideology so we can finish discussing it on Wednesday. The semester is rapidly drawing to its close. Here's my proposal for ending the term:

M 4/9 KMSW: Poverty of Philosophy, pp. 212-22
W 4/11 KMSW: Poverty of Philosophy pp. 223- 233
F/4/13 KMSW: Communist Manifesto, pp. 245-262

M 4/16 KMSW: Communist Manifesto, pp. 263-271
W 4/18 Pieper, Leisure the Basis of Culture, I-III (Reserve)
F 4/20 Pieper, Leisure the Basis of Culture, IV-V (Reserve)

M 4/23 Maritain, The Person and the Common Good, pp. 31-59 (reserve)
W 4/25 Maritain, The Person and the Common Good, pp. 59-105 (reserve)
F 4/27 McLellan, Karl Marx, "The Reputation," pp. 77-93

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Is Hegel a Christian?

The following is taken from this blog:


Pardon me if your pretension detector just rose to orange, but I'm about to quote a Hegel scholar again. To recall the elementary school years, reading G.W.F. Hegel is like putting your hands into a bag of peeled grape "eyeballs" at a mock hall-o-horrors on Halloween: You spend a lot of time trying to figure out just what it is you're dealing with. By this I mean I've spent a good bit of time this year wondering whether or not Hegel's philosophy is a Christian one. It's a touchy issue, and I've come across many attempts, even book-length ones, at addressing it; but I thought I'd pass the briefest and clearest of them along:

"Hegel is a Christian, but not an orthodox one by the Nicene Creed. He denies the precedence of the Father, from whom the Son and the Spirit proceed. He denies that lordship is the meaning of divinity, so that Christ manifests divinity only as the risen Lord. The true definition of divinity is Spirit. But Hegel is not an ancient Gnostic like Marcion or Valentinus. He does not denigrate the body as the kingdom of the devil. He affirms the incarnation and construes natures as the logos made flesh, as spirit, i.e., the infinite Christ. He is a modern,
Joachimite Gnostic: world history is the story of the logos making itself flesh in the rational state and human rights... [Hegelian philosophy] is still Christian even if not orthodox. To be a heretic one must after all first be a Christian" (Clark Butler 139 and 141).

Calling someone a heretic is not pleasant business. Perhaps the blow will be softened by knowing that those weren't the words of a conservative religious authority figure, but a professor of philosophy who, in so designating Hegel, is
by no means alone.

Heresy is a lot like vomit. Though not pretty at the time, it's ultimately a sign that the body is functioning properly. The fact that a given belief system loses the ability to call someone a heretic is not a sign therefore of "progress," but decline, just as a body that consumes toxins but can't expel them is not healthy, but sick. Boundaries are not necessarily bad. To recall Tom Oden, a circle without boundaries is not a circle. It's a point.

Heresy need not be the dirty word that it has become. Consider the converse of the usual case: If someone believes in the bodily resurrection, but then proceeded to call themselves a genuine Valentinian "Gnostic"... and when corrected by a real Gnostic, continued to assert that they were still in fact a Gnostic (but one who believed in the bodily resurrection) - that person would then be a Gnostic heretic. So labeling such a "Gnostic" as a heretic would both clarify Gnosticism's self-identity, and provide an important service to the person confused enough to think they could be a genuine Valentinian Gnostic while asserting the inherent goodness of the physical body.

Hegel is not, as many assume, a full-blown pantheist. But by clearly departing from the Creed he earns his status as a Christian heretic. Does this mean he cannot still to be learned from? The answer to that question should be obvious. If only because of his vast influence on modern thought, Hegel should be seriously engaged. Furthermore, because of Hegel's Christianity there will be many more points of contact for the orthodox Christian who reads him than there are in most 19th century philosophical alternatives.

But to use another analogy pulled from elementary school, reading Hegel is like conducting a mold experiment. Observing the growth of mold on previously consumable bread may be fascinating, but it's not nutritious. Likewise, observing what Hegel does to classical Christianity may provide insight, but the bread of life of orthodox Christianity is much more satisfying food.In conclusion, I'd like to suggest that orthodoxy/heresy is not just a matter of personal preference. Hegel's departures had grave public consequences. He made the standard heretical move of trying to reduce faith to knowledge, trying to squeeze God into the head.

And though Hegel had an extremely generous and spacious intellect, even his brain was too small for God.

Because all things for Hegel, including religion, are en route to their being understood in philosophy, Hegel unwittingly set up the victory of the Hegelian Left. Explains another professor, "By the middle of the nineteenth century, right-wing Hegelianism had disappeared. The left-wing had the field to itself. It had in effect repudiated Hegel"(
241). And "left" here doesn't mean your friendly neighborhood progressive. It means Hegel's atheist interpreters who sought to de-Chrisitianize him completely, paving road via Feuerbach to that most famous left-wing Hegelians, that Old Testament prophet who lost religion, Karl Marx.

Such was Hegel's unhappy spawn. At one point Hegel informs us that "the owl of Minerva flies at dusk." This is his beautiful way of saying "hindsight 20/20," or that you don't know the true character of something until you see its full consequences - and on this point Hegel was right. So much so that his philosophy is no exception to his rule.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

What's happening 2/21?

Please read "The Critique of Hegel's 'Philosophy of Right'" , p. 32-38 in McLellan's Karl Marx: Selected Writings, 2nd edition. This will be our primary source. Then read Dupre, chapter 4, pp. 87-108,"Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of the State."

What's happening Monday Feb 19?

My friend, Lubos Hubata-Vacek will be coming to tell us what it was like living in a Marxist society. Obviously, he found it unacceptable because he sought political asylum in the U.S. Come listen to Lubos Monday morning.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Classroom

From now on we will be meeting in P103 (first floor of Pomajevich). Whoo hoo!

What are we doing, Feb. 14?

The flu has hit us hard! Hopefully we will all be together on Wednesday. Let's plan on chapter 10,"The Theory of Revolution" and Chapter 11: "Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Socialism and Communism" and perhaps even work through chapter 12, "Labor Movement and International" and 13, "The Philosophy of Practice." Whatever happens, by next week we need to start Dupre and the Marx primary source readings.

The Pyramid of the Capitalist System

From top level, down: "We rule you; We fool you; We shoot at you; We eat for you; We work for you/we feed all.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Another Great Website

Are you needing something succinct to guide you through the morass that is Marx? Here's a great website by Professor Dino Felluga at Purdue


First, there is his list of terms:
This is a handy glossary of most of the concepts we will be working with.

Then Felluga offers four modules:

1) On ideology
2) On the stages of economic development
3) On Capital
4) On Commodity Fetishism

What makes these modules so unique is that you are able to click on every important concept in the text and have an immediate definition appear in a box below it. I find this especially valuable as I am reading Marx's economic theory, where after a while I find it difficult to keep things straight: how to distinguish exchange value straight from use-value? money power from capital?

Even though this site is written for English students, it cab be helpful for us!

Illustrating the Labor Movement

Illustrating the Labor Movement
Cartoonists Draw on Workers’ History

by Mike Konopacki

The typical cartoon in today’s mainstream press is essentially the artist’s take on the headline du jour. Usually, that means illustrating some aspect of the liberal vs. conservative debate. At Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons, Gary Huck and I have found that labor cartoons can do much more. By going to the root of working-class struggle, labor cartoonists are "radical" in their expression of workers’ challenges, outrage, and, ultimately, empowerment. Labor cartoons are radical even in the sense that they acknowledge the existence of a working class, a concept that has all but disappeared off the media’s screen, replaced by the amorphous, nearly all-encompassing "middle class." (read more at http://www.resistinc.org/newsletter/issues/2002/11/konopacki.html

What to read for Wednesday,2/7?

in The Essential Marx,
please read Chapter 9, "The Problem of Increasing Misery"
Chapter 10, "The Theory of Revolution"

What to read? for Monday, 2/ 5

In The Essential Marx,
please read Chapter 7,"Value and Surplus Value" and
Chapter 8: "Profit and Capital"

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What to read? for Friday 2/2/07

This Friday we continue reading in Fischer's The Essential Marx, moving on to chapter 5, "The Classes and the Class Struggle" and Chapter 6, "Historical Materialism." (Please do not be thrown off by the Course Calendar. I made a mistake numbering chapters and forgot to include the real chapter 5, "Classes and the Class Struggle." Sorry!)

My hope is that next week we can do the following:

chapter 7: "Value and Surplus Value"
chapter 8: "Profit and Capital"

chapter 9: "The Problem of Increasing Misery"
chapter 10: "The Theory of Revolution"

Chapter 11: "Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Socialism, Communism"
Chapter 12: "Labor Movement and International"
Chapter 13: "The Philosophy of Practice."