Friday, May 25, 2007

Martha Nussbaum on Indian politics

Martha Nussbaum has an article on Indian politics in The Chronicle of Higher Education that can be read here. An excerpt:

"..............The real "clash of civilizations" is not between "Islam" and "the West," but instead within virtually all modern nations — between people who are prepared to live on terms of equal respect with others who are different, and those who seek the protection of homogeneity and the domination of a single "pure" religious and ethnic tradition. At a deeper level, as Gandhi claimed, it is a clash within the individual self, between the urge to dominate and defile the other and a willingness to live respectfully on terms of compassion and equality, with all the vulnerability that such a life entails.

This argument about India suggests a way to see America, which is also torn between two different pictures of itself. One shows the country as good and pure, its enemies as an external "axis of evil." The other picture, the fruit of internal self-criticism, shows America as complex and flawed, torn between forces bent on control and hierarchy and forces that promote democratic equality. At what I've called the Gandhian level, the argument about India shows Americans to themselves as individuals, each of whom is capable of both respect and aggression, both democratic mutuality and anxious domination. Americans have a great deal to gain by learning more about India and pondering the ideas of some of her most significant political thinkers, such as Sir Rabindranath Tagore and Mohandas Gandhi, whose ruminations about nationalism and the roots of violence are intensely pertinent to today's conflicts................"

If you like what you see, then I very strongly recommend you buy her The Clash Within out this week with Belknap/Harvard University Press. As I've recently posted, I absolutely loved the book and conclude my review by saying: "The Clash Within is another remarkable achievement from teh most exciting political philosopher of our age. I cannot recommend it strongly enough."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The problem with linking truth with power

I am completing a review of Martha Nussbaum's The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future (which I recommend strongly) for the Times Higher Education Supplement. I will post an excerpt and link to my review shortly. However, it is worth noting a passage from the book found on page 262:

"As the philosopher Bernard Williams memorably observed to a gay scholar-activist, who was discussing Foucault's ideas, "If truth is nothing but power, you will always lose.""

Nussbaum notes (on page 375 note 94) that the conference was held at the University of California, Berkeley in memory of Gregory Vlastos and that she believes "Williams oversimplified both Foucault's ideas and those of the speaker."

Nevertheless, I think this is a revealing passage. If truth is power, those without power will not win any battles in presenting truth: no power = no truth. It is another gambit one might throw at the postmodernist, with his/her ready at hand oversimplified, crystal-clear picture of precisely how one should view the world with his/her toolbox at hand of deconstruction and discourse analysis. If Foucault's views are correct, then the postmodernist represents neither truth nor power.

Analytic philosophy, 1 ; postmodernism, 0

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The best places to live in the United States

...and to think none of them mention Connecticut and New England hardly makes an appearance!