Political Philosophers

“Philosophy professor Neven Sesardic shows how prominent philosophers ‘admired for their scholarly contributions actually abandoned reason altogether once they turned to politics.’”  Marvin Olasky

Editor’s note: In the Preface to You Can Still Trust theCommunists…to be Communists, I wrote: “Let me close with words from the world-renowned philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist Slavoj Zizek.  In a recent interview with the New Statesman, he said, ‘I am a Leninist.  Lenin wasn’t afraid to dirty his hands.  If you can get power, grab it.’ National Reviewdubbed him ‘the most dangerous political philosopher in the West.”  He has been a visiting professor at Columbia, Princeton, New York University, University of Michigan.

Political folliesNevan Sesardic

Political follies

Against rule by philosophers and professionals

Neven Sesardic’s When Reason Goes on Holiday: Philosophers in Politics (Encounter, 2016) is one of those thoroughly secular books that supports a crucial Biblical understanding: Not only our bodies but our brains are fallen and naturally sinful.

Philosophy professor Sesardic shows how prominent philosophers “admired for their scholarly contributions actually abandoned reason altogether once they turned to politics.” He notes well-known examples: Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein championed Communism; Martin Heidegger and Kurt Gödel danced with Nazism; and Michel Foucault cheered on Iran’s Islamists. Particularly valuable are his chapters on those lesser known outside philosophical circles: Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap, Michael Dummett, Hilary Putnam, Donald Davidson, and so on.

Even Albert Einstein defended the murderous Josef Stalin at times. Sesardic asks how highly intelligent people could be so stupid and why “it is precisely such very smart individuals who are especially prone to exhibit certain types of irrationality? What if there are follies that often spare ordinary people while more easily afflicting exactly those who are exceptionally bright, highly educated, and presumed to be extraordinarily sophisticated?”

Economist Dambisa Moyo wrote Dead Aid, an excellent book on how not to help the African poor, but she falters in Edge of Chaos (Basic, 2018) as she proposes “weighting votes by voters’ knowledge of civics, age, or professional qualifications.” She proposes one vote for all but more for those who scored higher on a civics test. Or, “weighting could also be tied to one’s professional qualifications (such as certification as a doctor, teacher, lawyer, and so forth), employment status (such as being an administrator of a hospital, manager, or CEO), and level of educational attainment, on the assumption that excelling in these domains makes one more likely to make well-informed choices in the voting booth.” Does it?


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