Croatian philosopher of science and politics Neven Sesardic (b. 1949) retired from Lingnan University, Hong Kong, in 2015. He wrote a book shortly thereafter, When Reason Goes on Holiday: Philosophers in Politics (Encounter Books, 2016). He was wise to wait till he had his pension…
First, Einstein. His cautious sympathy for Stalin comes as a surprise. Einstein seemed over-anxious to discount the obvious, as when, for example, 48 scientists were shot within a couple of days without even a show trial.
Imre Lakatos (1922–1974) after whom a prestigious philosophy of science award is named, worked hard to demolish intellectual freedom in his native Hungary. As an agent with a Party code name, he informed on his own mentor and searched his wastebasket. Much is made of his time in a labour camp but he was put there for being too Stalinist. Then there was the unpleasant business of forcing a girl to commit suicide. Moral philosopher Bernard Williams considered him “kind of a thug” and a “psychopath.”
The fact that these eminent thinkers ended up in the United States is sometimes taken to imply that they were resolutely anti-totalitarian. But in the digital age, we might best describe their biographers’ art as reputation management. Biographers go to great lengths to protect their subjects’ reputations, creating ambiguity, casting doubt on their support for totalitarianism, and offering distractions. For example, we are told by elite philosophy source Stanford Plato that Lakatos was a “warm and witty friend” as well as an inspiring teacher.
Knowing your math does not make you moral.
It may not even make you sane.
Most people close their eyes to unpleasantness in their past. Political movements do the same thing on a grander scale. Nowhere is this truer than in the willful blindness of twenty-first-century progressives to their early twentieth-century counterparts’ embrace of eugenics.
After seeing the end result of such ideas in the Holocaust, progressives naturally sought to bury their connection to this genocidal concept, and succeeded in doing so, at least when they can discredit conservatives who persist in mentioning it. That problem bubbled to the surface last week when Bloomberg’s economist and writer Noah Smith tweeted, “Apparently some people believe that eugenics was the scientific consensus 100 years ago. Sounds like a total myth to me.”
That historical denialism did not go unnoticed. The editors of The New Atlantis, among others, pointed out the dangerous historical ignorance at work in that statement. Indeed, they went further than Smith and cracked a book or two to back up their points (see the thread here).
If those who do not remember history are bound to repeat it, what does that make people who willfully forget history?
Liars who are hiding their murders in the past, so they can have another go at it when the coast is clear.
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. — John 8:44