Earlier this year I was in Dublin to take part in the presentation of a Festschrift to Brendan Purcell. David Walsh, one of the editors, remarked that, among other things, such events are designed to make the honouree uncomfortable. This is certainly true in my case, and, I suspect, for other more worthy recipients.Reading immensely erudite reflections that cite this fellow Cooper cannot but make one uncomfortable. I say this even though, like most of us, I have often looked at footnotes and indexes when first examining a book on a subject matter upon which I have written something.
Eric Voegelin received two such volumes but that is far short of the record. Economist Jagdish Bhagwati received four. A German classical historian, Joseph Vogt (who between 1940 and 1945 also was a Nazi) was to receive a four-volume work, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, in 1972. By 2013 it had expanded to eighty-nine volumes, most of which, technically speaking, were Gedenkenschriften.
But I am still alive to say thank you to all the contributors. Rather than send out letters, I thought I would write a book review to express my gratitude. There is a bit of overlap in my remarks as I deal with the several essays, and a bit of autobiography or gossip.
Thomas Heilke and John von Heyking: Introduction
The introductory quotation from Plato and the story from the Regime book do not provide as odd a juxtaposition as it seems at first reading–and not just because of the proper translation of Politeia. Considered together they amount to practical Platonic political philosophy, something, I believe, of which Aristotle would approve.
I am not sure about the notion of “philosophical truth-telling” since Socrates was not above telling stories and shading the truth. I would distinguish between Cassandra the truth-teller and Socrates the truth-lover. In that context, the role of the political philosopher has not changed all that much, though the rhetoric appropriate to truth-loving has changed; no doubt of that. On pride and interest: it is true, I use this distinction in the Regime book, but it was first borrowed from Harvey Mansfield who distilled it, so far as I can tell, from Plato, Machiavelli, and Tocqueville.
“Moralizing sadism” is borrowed from Foucault. I have found it invariably to be true that, when reading the moralizing sermons of politicians, their intentions are sadistic; they know perfectly well that the recipients of their exhortations are not going to be improved (who is?), and at best the intended audience will be ashamed or at least saddened and hurt by hearing a sermon that points out their failures to measure up. Hence the sermonizer’s sadism. It is especially to be deplored in the area of foreign policy. Consider, for example, the sadistic pronouncements of Lloyd Axworthy on an apparently desirable but utterly imaginary R2P. It is, of course, comforting to learn that Augustine can also be relied upon in the articulation of the concept.
Thomas: your recollection (aided by notes!) of my job-talk is right. I had to put something together from afar in Vienna and Tony Parel, who hired me, indicated that Poli 310, which he was teaching, would just have finished with Aristotle. What could be more logical than Alexander?
And I still think students are supposed to learn from Plato or Arendt and not just learn about them or learn what some clever fellow found wanting about them.
Chapter 1: Tom Flanagan: “Legends of the Calgary School”
My recollection of the 1967 events is rather different than Tom’s. Tom went to Berlin, it is true, to read and write his thesis on Robert Musil’s Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, which was said to be as difficult literary German as Faulkner’s Southern English.
Writing a political philosophy dissertation on a novelist was new then, and Tom had some problems with a Polish gentleman of the very old school on his committee, W.W. Kulski, who thought it highly improper. His (and eventually, my) supervisor, Prof. John Hallowell, apparently persuaded Professor Kulski otherwise.
In 1967 I taught American government to Duke undergraduates, most of whom at that time were Southerners. By the time I finished teaching Political Science 101, I was fluent in Suthren. I went to Paris in the spring of 1968 at the height of the événements. That means, like Danny (“le Rouge”) Cohn-Bendit, I too am a soixante-huitard, a fact as little known as Tom’s early admiration of the NDP. (Danny is now a Green Party politician in Germany.) I have wonderful memories of 1968, from meeting Raymond Aron to throwing pavés at the CRS.
When our paths crossed in Durham, Tom returning from Berlin and me off to Paris, he asked me: “you are from Canada and I have just been hired by the University of Calgary by Tony Parel. Have you ever heard of the place?” I had. “Do you think I will like it?” he asked. “Of course you will,” I said. And it seems that he did.
There is a story as well connected to my coming to the U of C in 1981 “with tenure.” This was not done, no matter what the rank at which a new hire was made. I mentioned to Tony Parel on my job-talk visit to Calgary that “I assumed” I would have tenure; I had obtained this exalted status at York University when I was promoted to associate professor. Tony said, “of course.”
Then began, entirely unknown to me abroad in the world east of Vienna, a protracted struggle with the University President’s Office. Tony eventually prevailed. The next fall the President, Norm Wagner, had all the new professors over to his house for a reception. I introduced myself. “Oh,” he said, “Cooper. You are the asshole who caused me so much trouble.” I said in reply, “President Wagner, it is wonderful to meet you.” He then explained the previous hiring practices and the terrible precedent I had set. We immediately became friends.
The proof came a few years later when the president of CBC took exception to some research I supervised regarding the regional and ideological bias on CBC radio (TV came later). Pierre Juneau sent Norm a letter demanding I be fired for my “attack” on the sacred national broadcaster. Norm asked me to draft a reply. In my view, Norm Wagner was by far the best president the U of C has had in the past 32 years.
On the “Firewall Letter:” I did not sign it because I was not asked. I was not asked because, as I understand it, I had opposed the National Citizens’ Coalition, of which Stephen Harper was at the time president, in a lawsuit over what in Canadian political finance laws is called “third-party funding.”
That is, a “third-party,” in this case the National Citizens’ Coalition, was largely prohibited from running political advertisements during the election campaign. I was asked by the lawyers for the Crown to write an “expert” report on the legality and constitutionality of the sections of the Canada Elections Act that dealt with third-party funding and that the NCC was alleged to have contravened. I did.
The law was, in my view, entirely constitutional. It was also, in my view, entirely stupid. I said so in my report and gave a number of reasons why it was a bad, though constitutionally permitted, law. Apparently Stephen thought I was trying to have him jailed, a possibility I considered remote.
I should perhaps add that this was one of the last expert reports that “The Charter Group,” originally comprised of Ted Morton, Rainer Knopff, David Bercuson and me, ever wrote. Some of the other work–on the Wheat Board, on headgear for the RCMP, and on constituency boundaries–was more fun, but all helped pay the bills.
For the record: I agree with everything in the “Firewall Letter.” I wonder if all the signatories still do.
Chapter 2: Rick Avaramenko: “Homesteaders and Orangemen”
The opening paragraph is priceless! It is true, I suppose, that everything one writes is informed by everything one knows or has learned. I had never thought of a hunting diary as much more than a scorecard. But obviously it is. The last sentence in the second paragraph, page 42, made me laugh out loud. Rick may be right about Orange, Puritanical Upper Canada, but many of the Puritans soon adopted the comforts of Anglicanism, particularly early in the 19th century. My forebears did.
Unfortunately, Rick repeated a myth that Canada bought the Northwest Territories and Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, much as the U. S. bought Alaska from Russia. Not so. The Crown in right of Canada paid for “improvements” to the wilderness that the Hudson’s Bay Company had made; the transfer of lands was from the Imperial Crown to the Canadian Crown. The Hudson’s Bay Company governed the Northwest Territories and Rupert’s Land as operators of a plantation, not as an owner. This arrangement was common in the 17th century, as, for example, with the Virginia Company.
I would say that Thomas Scott thought he was defending the Orangemen of Ontario against the popish French, but he was not. Riel was not French. He was, and understood himself to be, a specific kind of Métis; soon there would be Polish-Cree Métis to join the Scottish- and Orkney-Cree Métis such as Isbister, and together this new nation would, if not conquer the world, at least settle the West. Tom’s book Louis “David” Riel is the source of this account of Riel’s hopes and intentions.
Nuances aside, Rick’s “Homestead Consciousness” is a valuable insight to aid in our understanding of Laurentian Canada and in our own self-understanding.
Chapter 3: Rainer Knopff: “Hunting for Cowboys”
To this understudied dimension of southern Alberta history I would make but two comments.
First: one of the unintended consequences of the RAMP program was, because hunters could simply register at a drop-box at the edge of a rancher’s property, to undermine the personal relationships developed, often over many seasons, between hunters and landowners.
Second, why the HFH program was not wildly popular with ranchers, I would guess, was a result of their general distrust of innovation, especially if initiated by governments, which is to say, by bureaucrats. Sometimes I think our good friend Ted Morton in his ministerial interlude forgot that folk wisdom.
Chapter 4: Janet Ajzenstat: “Public Law”
Janet’s essay continues her well-known empiricism. Ever since I first saw her in action, in an ill-lit basement room at Massey College, when she defended her thesis, a careful reading of Durham’s Report, she has been concerned about what texts meant, especially to the authors of them.
Peter Russell, whom she quite properly corrects in her essay, was her dissertation director and he asked me to be an outside reader and examiner. One of the other members of her examination committee was Gerry Craig, who abridged the Report for classroom use, and who subscribed, rather strongly, to the conventional interpretation that Janet so beautifully demolished. The defense was spirited and Professor Craig was refuted into silence. She also introduced to me the three-volume Lucas edition of the Report, the existence of which was unknown to me, and I expect to most political scientists.
Lucas coined the term “mosaic” to apply to the British Empire; like all mosaics it was ordered and hierarchical–vertical, if you like (John Porter popularized the term, vertical mosaic, much later and in a much more parochial sense and without mentioning Lucas). A non-hierarchical mosaic would be a chaos of random tiles and not a mosaic at all. At the top of the mosaic, like the peak of a well-ordered design, sat the illustrious Anglo-Saxons, destined by nature to rule the globe.
Janet’s emphasis on the importance of legislatures, as distinct from courts, in securing civil liberties and “rights” reminds me of a similar argument by Willmoore Kendall regarding the United States. Historically this should not be shocking: after all, courts began as extensions of the executive. The origin of the Supreme Court of Canada is in this regard, particularly revealing. (Jennifer Smith wrote an excellent paper in C JPS on this many years ago.)
Chapter 5: Michael Franz: “Spiritual Disorder and Terrorism”
Michael’s discussion and criticism of the terrorism book is both sympathetic and unsparing. I certainly plead guilty to having overestimated the familiarity of most terrorism specialists with the problems of philosophical anthropology. I suppose what I had anticipated was that, upon reading something quoted from Arendt or Voegelin, whom I assumed the average terrorism specialist had heard, admired, and acknowledged as being intellectually far superior to themselves, the average terrorism specialist would then actually read Arendt or Voegelin.
That is, I thought they might, for instance, try to figure out what “pneumopathology” actually meant and do so in their own words. This is what my students do, after all. Silly me.
On the question of demonstrating (my term not Michael’s) examples of how pneumopaths are never quite unaware of their self-deception, this is almost self-evident. To give a couple of examples: when the Koran describes itself as a “book not to be doubted,” this is prima facie contradicted by the fact, of which everyone is fully aware, of different schools of interpretation.
Second, there is the example of Fadlallah’s invention of the term “self-martyrdom.” In Islam before he invented the term, which he did for entirely expedient reasons, martyrdom was akin to achieving sainthood in the Catholic Church. No one can become a saint on his or her own; likewise there used to be a detailed procedure to become a martyr in Islam. And Fadlallah was perfectly well aware of it, being himself a learned Muslim cleric.
On the problem, resolved by Huntington quite clearly, of Islam versus Islamism, I do not think the problem is Islam per se; it is what Islam has become, namely a kind of dogmatic or fideistic cult that has been severed from reason ever since the suppression of the Mutazalites, of whom most Muslims have never heard, which is, of course, a measure of philosophical illiteracy and a grave practical problem.
A few years after the terrorism book appeared Bob Reilly analyzed the issue in The Closing of the Muslim Mind. I quite agree with his analysis, which is far more extensive than the brief treatment I provided. On the “root causes” argument: there are no root causes of terrorism for the good Arendtian reason that terrorists act and actions are, precisely, uncaused.
There is, of course, a problem of reconciling the presumed spiritual superiority of Islam with the actual political and economic misery of so many Muslim countries, which is made even more unbearable because of the memory of early Islam, when political success was understood as evidence of spiritual superiority. But that is another issue.
On “moral insanity” as used by Burleigh: not having read Burleigh’s book closely, my recollection is that the term “moral insanity” comes from British Victorian jurisprudence and has considerable overlap with pneumopathology. The example of Mohammad Atta suggests this interpretation quite nicely.
Chapter 6: Leah Bradshaw: “Thinking with Technology”
This, too, is a beautiful and reflective essay on an ongoing problem, namely how to think about what technology is.
I must say that having my name linked with Arendt and Heidegger is a bit comical, for the obvious reason that whatever I wrote about technology was derivative of my understanding of Arendt and Heidegger. Indeed “action into nature” is a phrase of Arendt that a reviewer of her work found unintelligible, in the pages of The New York Review of Books, no less. I used it because I thought it afforded great insight. Leah knows all this, of course, but it is still comical to be linked to those two major thinkers rather than subordinated to them.
I thought the quotation from Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page was utterly amazing: his principal interests are, apparently, “minimalism, revolutions, and eliminating desire.” I do not “do” Facebook (or whatever the correct verb is) so I never would have encountered such an utterly vacuous description of a person’s interest. If he succeeds in eliminating desire, or even diminishing it, we are sliding down towards a world of Alan Bloom’s “souls without longing.” Is that what is meant by a Facebook friend?
Chapter 7: Peter Emberley: “Precarious Restorations”
Peter’s Grantian-Girardian meditation on the significance of religious life in the contemporary, technologically penetrated world is a little gem of luminous clarity. To connect with Leah’s contribution, Peter spells out in detail what Zuckerberg meant. I think it was Neil Postman, not Ben Barber, who warned about amusing ourselves to death. This is perhaps become a dream closer to reality as our technicians search for a death gene in the hope of synthesizing an anti-death gene.
Peter and I edited, translated and deciphered the Strauss-Voegelin correspondence. In fact, Peter did most of the deciphering in translating. In this essay he shows again his remarkable sensitivity to the nuances of reality. He has always been more responsive to rhetoric than I, more so in fact than I can even begin to understand. It is a particularly bleak vision he presents, not to say a depressing one. Perhaps, however, there is still room for irony–David Walsh might say, of hope–in our understanding, even if it entails a kind of partial rejection of many of the fruits of technology.
The alternatives are not those of Ben Barber’s jihad vs. McWorld, but of jihad vs. some kind of orthopraxy that no longer rejects philosophy and conversation alike. This is not new, of course, but for that very reason such an obnoxious pair of alternatives as Barber’s cannot define very much.
Chapter 8: Zdravko Planinc: “Tracking the Good in Plato’s Republic“
Only someone with a proper understanding of Plato could summarize generations of interpretations of the sun, the line, and the cave as “the revenge of Adeimantus and Glaucon: they are read the way Adeimantus prefers to read a text in order to derive an understanding of philosophy that Glaucon would accept.” What such a historically sustained blunder forgets is the drama of the dialogue or, as Zdravko said, they forget it is a conversation and even poetry. This may be a somewhat Straussian interpretive strategy, but it is also a correct one.
Zdravko has, as it were, proven the correctness of the approach in his other studies of Homer and Plato, and the present discussion of the passages in Republic, books 6 and 7 in the context of Odyssey, book 12 falls into that splendid tradition. It almost goes without saying that properly to appreciate Zdravko’s interpretation it is necessary to have both Homer and Plato at hand and to take careful notes. And then comes another surprise: Aristophanes is also a source-text for Glaucon’s comic limitations. Strepsiades as a model for Glaucon? Who knew? Well, it is obvious enough now who knew.
Chapter 9: Jürgen Gebhardt: “Legacy of Voegelin and Strauss”
Jürgen began his reflections on the “timeliness” of political philosophy with reference to the Strauss-Voegelin correspondence. I can still recall the shock I felt many years ago when I was working my way through the 40-some boxes of Voegelin’s correspondence in the Hoover Institution Archives. Here were letters between the two greatest political scientists of the 20th century (in my view both then and now) and no one seemed to have noticed.
I asked a few Voegelin scholars and they were as surprised as I was. Then Peter Emberley, who may have been at the Hoover then–it was the summer of 1990 I think–and I discussed the letters and, if Lissy Voegelin agreed, thought the correspondence important enough to be translated and published. Paul Caringella, who had been Voegelin’s last assistant, agreed. And so it began.
Voegelin typed his letters and so all we had to do was translate them. Strauss was a very different story. Peter was in charge of most of the negotiation with Joe Cropsey, whom he knew, to get permission from the Strauss side. That went smoothly enough, which meant we now actually had to turn Strauss’s crabbed handwriting, which even Voegelin often misread, into a text.
Peter enlisted the help of an older generation of German-speakers whom, we thought, might be familiar with such scrawl. Peter also received assistance from Jenny Strauss. What made matters even more difficult was that Strauss would often insert Greek or Latin into his written text and it was seldom obvious (to us) when he did. Looking back, what we produced was really a first draft.
A few years later, Peter Opitz asked me if I still had the original photocopies I had made; I sent them to him. Then, a couple of years ago, I received an email from Emmanuel Patard, whom I have never met. He indicated that we had royally botched the job, and provided a lengthy account of how, with just about every letter, we had messed up.
I wrote him back, thanking him for his diligence and indicating that if ever a second edition were published, we would be sure to credit him with the corrections. In the event, Opitz published the correspondence in the original languages, German or English, and incorporated Patard’s corrections. Opitz added some additional letters we had missed and Strauss’s notes on Voegelin’s New Science of Politics, which I had once examined and of which I could read hardly a word. So: there is something like a critical edition now available, mostly in German, published in 2010.
Jürgen’s argument is that political philosophy is a modern discourse, an orderly reflection on modernity from within the disorders of modernity and most assuredly not a “revolt against modernity,” as is often claimed. The notion of such a “revolt” seems to me both an ill-considered interpretation and an utterly futile practical enterprise. It is for this reason, Jürgen said, that political philosophy is “timely,” unlike certain remarks of, say, Nietzsche.
Chapter 10: Jean Porter: “A Probing Consciousness”
Like Avramenko and Bradshaw, Jean Porter begins with a quotation from a paper I gave to a collection of Voegelin scholars in 1987 in San Francisco. The occasion was the 35th anniversary of the publication of Voegelin’s New Science and I used the occasion to argue that Voegelin was, in fact, an empirical political scientist in the original sense of the term. Given that most political scientists equate empirical with countable, my purpose was also slightly provocative.
Porter’s essay comparing Searle and Voegelin is also slightly provocative, largely because Voegelin scholars only occasionally compare him to anyone (Gebhardt and Eugene Webb are the most notable exceptions). Searle has also made an impression on paleoanthropologists and archaeologists who are uncomfortable with the materialist reductionism of most of their colleagues. There is some hope, I would say, for Voegelin (and Lonergan) to join Searle is providing an anthropological argument useful to paleoscientists.
Brendan Purcell has certainly provided an inspiration in this respect in From Big Bang to Big Mystery. With Searle and Voegelin, one might argue, there is yet another kind of equivalence, notwithstanding the differences between the two, particularly concerning what we conventionally call philosophy of history.
Chapter 11: Tilo Schabert: “Eric Voegelin’s Workshop”
This is the longest and most thorough version of Tilo’s discussion of “Voegelin’s workshop.” It describes the creative process by which Eric Voegelin turned his own experiences into texts and then let them go, or at least stand on their own. This process involved revisions and amendments, of course, but also discussions with others, sometimes unwilling or bewildered others, who had difficulty following where Voegelin’s creative Eros was taking him.
Two examples from my own experience: first John Hallowell, who was a good friend of Voegelin. Hallowell sent him during the 1940s and early 1950s chapters of his own textbook, Main Currents in Modern Political Thought, and Voegelin provided his responses. Some of his comments were included in the notes to Main Currents, along with Hallowell’s remark that the author, Voegelin, did not wish to be identified. The comments in the notes are easily enough identified as Voegelin’s if one is familiar with his writings; moreover the correspondence in the Hoover archive contains the originals.
One evening, likely during the mid-1960s, Voegelin was dining at Hallowell’s, and discussing the theory of consciousness that would soon appear in Anamnesis (1966). Hallowell did not entirely follow Voegelin’s discussion. He had, however, invited William Poteat over for dessert and coffee. Poteat was more familiar with such matters and Hallowell gratefully invited him in with the words: “thank God you are here. I have just been listening to Hegel for three hours.”
The second event took place in the early summer of 1981. I spent the summer of 1980 in Paris finishing a little book on Foucault and went to Vienna to spend the rest of my sabbatical intending to look for Voegelin materials there and improve my lousy German. I could find no trace of Voegelin; one librarian at the University of Vienna told me with a certain amount of glee that whatever I was looking for had certainly been incinerated by the Russians. In December I left via the Balkans, Greece, Egypt, Kuwait, Pakistan, India, etc. for Vancouver. From Tahiti I flew to LAX and from there to San Francisco for a couple of days.
I telephoned Voegelin at Stanford. He remembered me from previous meetings and I went to visit for an afternoon. I saw the Japanese garden and his study and met Lissy for the first time. He asked me where I had been and I told him. There followed a 90-minute interrogation of everything I had seen and thought about, especially in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Burma–including, of course, my encounters with locals and with women, two distinct categories. His interest was purely scientific.
There is one correction to the first paragraph of Tilo’s chapter. The original project is now divided into two and possibly three. When I applied to SSHRCC for research money, I was twice disappointed; the reason given was that I had not provided a properly developed methodology.
Personally, I think that was simply the excuse given by my unimaginative colleagues on the SSHRCC adjudication committee. Perhaps some of them did not like me any better than the project. Anyhow, I rewrote the application; the first part is a book on Voegelin’s philosophy of consciousness, a continuation of the Foundations book, which addresses the sought-for “methodological” issues. This is to be followed by a book on the Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic symbolism; it may take two books to finish.
Chapter 12: David Walsh: “Hope Does Not Disappoint”
David’s discussion of hope –“hope does not disappoint” (Rom., 5.5)–is not just philosophically astute; his first paragraph is a model of concision and beauty. It reminded me of Gabriel Marcel’s Homo Viator. It is also timely.
Who said philosophy was useless? By applying considerations of what hope is to the current problems of the economy, he provided insights that are unavailable from any perspective within the context of economics. Of great significance is his observation that politics must (somehow) come to the aid of the economy, which to some degree operates on hope or at least has a social dimension to it of which hope is a part, even when exchanges are undertaken by individuals.
Of course, someone or some body must enforce the law, including the law of property and of contracts, even though governments are incapable of substituting direction for individual initiatives in the market. But that, he rightly observes, is not our recent problem. Not political overreach but economic autonomy may be our problem.
Consider what the lesson of hope would have been had the malefactors in the economy–Wall Street, as demagogues might say–been punished for law-breaking. And to say they may not have broken the law because no one could figure out what laws they broke simply reinforces the point about economic autonomy. None of this is news to readers of Adam Smith.
One more thing: much of what David writes in the way he writes it amounts to a kind of paradoxical exploration of something like Kantian noumena. Or, perhaps, of conditions of possibility that are not themselves conditional. His formulations are often aphoristic:
“the eternal dimension is what makes time possible . . . . History is merely the path along which responsibility is enacted . . . . We may disappoint hope, but hope does not disappoint us . . . . All seeking is within the horizon of finding . . . . The political community is already present in the hope that precedes its formation.”
To these insights, I might add another: when hope becomes explicit, it induces distrust.
Or, working backwards from some current problems in American politics, it seems clear that many in Congress and not only members of the Tea Party faction do not trust their president. One reason, I suspect, is that he laid so much emphasis not on hope exactly, but on specific hopes that many citizens did not share. Hope may be the most effective in sustaining trust when it is simply acknowledged and not specified. If we “live within” hope, as David said, we cannot make it an object of our policies.
There can be no conclusion to a review such as this, but only an expression of surprise that anyone would undertake the labor of producing the book and gratitude that they did. Included here are not only the editors, Thomas Heilke and John von Heyking, but also the publisher, Bruce Fingerhut, along with those other friends whom Heilke and von Heyking prevailed upon to support its publication.
I must also say that Robert Cooney’s photograph of the front cover is entirely appropriate. It is an unpaved road familiar to those of us lucky enough to live in southern Alberta. It is hard to say what direction it is heading, but unlike one of Heidegger’s Holzwege, it goes straight on till morning, with ditches, phone lines, crossroads, barbwire, and a coulee in the distance that surely holds game.
This excerpt is from Hunting and Weaving: Empirical Political Philosophy (St. Augustine’s Press, 2013).