December 26, 2012

Lack of Leftist's Canon

We've discussed this around here. It speaks to me of why it is so unsatisfying to argue with those on the left. They have no literary canon and little foundational philosophy.

Insty linked this yesterday, but I wanted to wait until at least midnight of Christmas before posting an "everybody who disagrees with is an irrational, unlearned fool" post. And yet, it is true:

The real intellectual vacuum underlies not the Left as such but people who style themselves liberals, but not socialistsói.e., Iím guessing, most Democrats. Where are their intellectual roots?
For about a decade I team-taught a course on Contemporary Moral Problems with a prominent philosopher of language. He argued the liberal side of each issue; I argued the conservative side. I had no shortage of philosophical material on which to rely. He and I both assumed, since liberalism is supposedly the position that informed, intelligent people occupy, that there were similar philosophical foundations for liberalism. We were both astounded that there were not. For someone who seeks to be a liberal, but not a totalitarian, there is Rousseau, on one interpretation of his thought. And thatís about it.

I'd kill for my lefty friends to throw Marx or Rousseau at me. I am more likely to get a link to a Jon Stewart clip or a TED talk -- but that might speak more against my friends than the movement. Yet I have never heard anyone say the left can match our Cannon:
But their real question isnít about literature. Itís about philosophy. The conservative movement rests on a series of great thinkers: Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Burke, Mill, Hayek, von Mises, etc. Where are the intellectual foundations of the Left?

Popper spends Volume I of "The Open Society and its Enemies" dismantling the Plato - Kant - Hegel philosophical wing. Add Marx and Schopenhauer and I'll give the left an honest thought tradition (if it indeed tends sadly towards totalitarianism).

But I sure like the skill and depth of our side.

UPDATE: Mea Culpa! "Cannon" corrected to "canon" twice.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at December 26, 2012 1:14 AM

Of course leftists lack a cannon. They favor gun control. You don't expect David Gregory to start brandishing an M198 on national television, do you?

Posted by: Keith Arnold at December 26, 2012 1:51 PM

The weapon of leftists, more powerful than a cannon (or canon) is: unearned guilt.

Posted by: johngalt at December 26, 2012 2:01 PM

Yeah, there's never an editor around when you need one. ("Cannon" corrected twice to "canon.")

Posted by: jk at December 27, 2012 3:53 PM | What do you think? [3]