8 09 2008

C. is FINALLY finishing a big job, so I hope this means she’ll be able to create her blog sooner rather than later. Yeah, lady, I’m a-waitin’!

I’m reading John Rawls’s Political Liberalism, in part because it’s at least somewhat related to a course I’m teaching, and partly to get at the issue Lucretia raised some time ago: how to deal with those who demand respect for claims you, in fact, don’t respect.

And I will talk about this, but first, I have to say how much I dislike reading philosophers on politics. Contemporary philosophers, I mean: those who have to nail down every last damned point before they can even begin their argument. (Nevermind that in the process of the nailing they are, in fact, shaping the argument. Some acknowledge this, some don’t.) It’s not that I don’t appreciate the work, or that I don’t think it’s not, on some levels, necessary. But it sure ain’t sufficient, and to a non-philosopher like me, it’s tiresome.

I know, I know: as a political theorist I should bow my head in before the clearly superior philosophy, and I should be ashamed—ashamed!—to admit my boredom with the perspecuity of the philosophical presentation. But I don’t and I’m not.

This isn’t a slam on philosophy generally. I took up John Caputo’s Radical Hermeneutics awhile ago (along with some other stuff), as well as the work of Gianni Vattimo, and I’d really like more time to get back to their stuff. Their work on the theology of the event and weak theology, in particular, is fascinating. And I’d like to read more Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel and more names than I can conjure on this Sunday evening.

But not about politics. It’s not that philosophers or economists or psychologists can’t or shouldn’t discuss politics—I’m a big believer in cross-contamination—but however acute they are in their analyses, I’m unwilling to yield the field to them. Yeah, there’s a bit of boundary patrolling going on, but there’s also something to be said about studying politics as a subject unto itself, and not merely as an adjunct to another subject. In short, I think boundary crossing works best when there are, in fact, boundaries.

Politics is largely a mess. Philosophy, arguably, is about cleaning up messes. Good for them, but I prefer the mess.