I am watching a wonderful series at Wondrium titled “The Modern Intellectual Tradition.” It traces the failure of Philosophy to define practices that enable us to ascertain truth. The lecturer, Lawrence Cahoone of the College of the Holy Cross, does an amazing job of managing terminology and illustrating and relating the various traditions. The material is dense, not necessarily for everyone.
What is important, however, is the relationship of our current political crisis to later thinkers who shifted their attention to how philosophy relates to social activity. If communication cannot be verifiably true, what are the domains of communication, and how do we organize the negotiation of concerns in each domain?
The terrifying episode arises in the relationship of neoconservative thought to the work of Strauss. Strauss held that philosophy undermines social coherence by exposing the insubstantiality of political speech. For this reason, to serve society, the philosopher must propagate “Noble Lies” that guide political leaders into virtuous action.
Strauss, we should be aware, is the philosophical inspiration for neoconservatism. Understand this clearly: the reason that neoconservatists lie is because they believe that lies are necessary to political action. They have no intention of understanding opposing viewpoints or cultivating consensus. The believe that they know better and are committed to 1) lying to the voting public (their “political leaders”) to see that vision realized, and 2) elevating “useful idiots” to the highest office in the land.