On Intellectual Charity

Is it possible to morally justify treating their ideas with sympathy and intellectual charity, given our knowledge of this legacy? I think that we can, although it makes reading and interpreting them a more complex task. Following Mill, I would argue that each of these authors presents important truths about the world we now inhabit that can compel us to reflect more deeply on our own dogmatically held opinions. Rousseau taught us a great deal about how the crass pursuit of naked self-interest can lead to a deep sense of inauthenticity. Marx’s analysis of how capitalism is a revolutionary mode of production which upends tradition societies and their values was a brilliant insight. It can tell us a great deal about how our societies have become increasingly fragmented and pluralistic. Nietzsche’s psychological account of resentment remains the most damning critique of the politics of victimhood to this day, and his genealogical look at the history of moral truths was pioneering. Heidegger’s interpretation of human existence in the world can be separated from his more nefarious political commitments, and provoke deep reflection on some of the rationalistic dogmas all too common today. Indeed, I often think a deeper look at Heideggerian computing in the manner of Herbert Drefyus would do away with certain popular but reductionist accounts of human consciousness and behavior. In each of these examples, it is a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff.

Matt McManus “How Should We Read the Totalitarian Philosophers?” - quillette.com/2019/01/30/how-should-we-read-the-totalitarian-philosophers/. Interesting summary of some of the views of controversial thinkers such as Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche and Heidegger in the context of counterpoints such as Hannah Arendt and John Stuart Mill. As the article notes, Arendt’s On the Origins of Totalitarianism, would not have been possible without her appropriation of Heidegger’s ideas. Hers was one of the most charitable minds of that era.

timothywstanley@me.com