Friday, October 24, 2008

Heideggerian Proclivities

A philosophy professor once remarked to me that philosophies are relative to a time and place. He made this remark in light of being a historian of philosophy--it was a course in political philosophy. At the time, I never thought about it, but when I explore Heidegger's writings, the theme of his Nazism always arises in me. Yet, it's not in the typical "where-is-the-Nazism-in-Heidegger's-philosophy" routine. Instead, my worry is more directed at myself. For I have a belief that can surface in odd ways, and it worries me to no end sometimes that I will end up like Heidegger.

I have an idea of America that is grandoise, reverent and special to my heart. While I do not think the United States is the best country on earth currently, I believe it very well could be. We have the resources, technology and know-how to do so much good in the world. At the turn of the 21st century, President Bill Clinton gave an interview in which he said the challenge facing America in the 21st century is how America uses its power. As an ethicist, I find myself examining political decisions about our foreign policy (in larger scope than the War on Terror). After examination, I have conluded two general beliefs:

1) The American political tradition and its values constitute the best ideal formation of government and Constitution yet known.

2) Given 1) and the fact that human beings are willing to sacrifice their lives for ideals, it follows that I tentatively approve that 1) entails my approval of policies that use violence in order to protect and enforce the benefit of 1)

Given these two beliefs, it logically follows that I approve of war as long as that war protects 1). Now, I don't know how the War on Terror in Iraq protects 1), but certainly the Taliban's unwillingness to cooperate with the force we were ready to bring upon them for sheltering our enemies has justification in light of 1). Thus, I approve of America's campaign in Afghanistan years ago, and fail to see Iraq's contemporary relevance in service of 1).

I have not mentioned reasons why I support 1), and that could be the subject of an entire post. Among some of these features of esteem, I feel that the separation of powers and prevention of tyranny of one branch of government over others to be a great innovation. Secondly, a continual living constitution protecting minorities from the tyranny of the majority is the second greatest reason. A fully defensible Bill of Rights outlines and protects freedom and equality. These ideals when universalized to excluded populations find sanctuary in the United States, as long as the rule of law and order are preserved in the United States. With all the money and resources, the United States could, if it so chose, develop the sciences in ways that no other nation could. The list is exhaustive for reasons to favor the United States over other countries.

However, the worry comes back. My love for my home country, no matter if Canada treats me well, shines through. I wish for a better America, and if the chance to revitalize the idea and create anew arose, then I would in a heartbeat go back home to usher in a new America. However, I wonder how much Heidegger is in me at the love for America. Ultimately, compatible with 1) and 2) is a belief in the righteous quest for America to spread its values and ways of life to other parts of the globe. If it is even remotely defensible that the current political organizations of states has as its best version the United States, then the role of the United States -- like Rome -- would be to make other people Roman so to speak. This is entirely defensible if America's way of doing things is the best in principle. Now, I don't think I am as naive as Heidegger, but the danger to put my loves first uncritically stands to reason. I favor violence as a means to make the world safer for the best country on earth, and when I say that out loud, I endorse it.

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