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This is so interesting and resonates so much. I am not the typical graduate, so I have had experience of the academic world at early and later points in my life. This has given me an interesting perspective to say the least. I was heavily exposed to Marxist inspired thought in my younger days. There was a notion of 'dominant ideology' that was repeated often, especially at master's level. This dominant ideology was assumed to be conservative or 'right wing' and yet never fully defined. The lack of any clear definitions is something I now reflect upon. I recall making a naive assumption that my lecturers would have exposed me to 'right wing' (whatever that is) ideas/theories/philosophies if only to criticise them. I concluded that there was not much thought going on in that direction, that the 'right' had nothing to offer and so drank up what I was offered. To say I felt a sense of betrayal in later years is an understatement. I have now been making up for lost time. Roger Scruton's work has been a revelation, in addition to Oakeshott. I was intrigued by your mention of Heidegger. I have been reading him for almost a decade now. You are right, his work 'defies blithe summary' however, there is a further angle on that. Heidegger's work can shock the left winger who finds himself fearful that he might agree with some of the approaches. Additionally, there is the usual exercise in acknowledging Heidegger's membership of the Nazi party (always difficult and tiresome, complex and unresolvable). However the most perplexing aspect for the younger scholar is the use made of Heidegger by the ubiquitous Michel Foucault - one of (if not the) most cited philosopher/thinkers in the humanities and social sciences. Foucault admitted to this debt to Heidegger I believe before his death. In many ways one might argue that culture warriors distort Foucault's work to fit their objectives. I am currently drafting something on postmodernism which will touch on this. Enjoyed this, thank you!

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Aug 30, 2023·edited Aug 30, 2023Liked by David McGrogan

I was just popping by to ask why Roger Scruton had not been mentioned. 🙂 I confess to not having read anything by Scruton; I am by nature more to the left of the old political divide, yet still deeply concerned with the monocultural bias that David is exploring here. I would not want any one to only read what I had read, and I absolutely demand the opportunity to engage with others who think differently: anything less is a democratic failure.

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I enjoy reading Scruton's work but I'm afraid (heresy alert) I don't rate him particularly highly as a thinker. He was a very lucid explicator of a particular type of conservative thought, and he was an important networker and rabble-rouser, but I don't think he was playing the same sport, let alone in the same league, as an Oakeshott or Strauss. His name gets mentioned a lot primarily because nobody can really think of any other prominent right-wing philosophers, at least in England.

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Foucault is extremely poorly understood by both his supporters and critics - and I agree entirely that his work is very often distorted. (Critics on the right tend to bandy about his name as though he was a 'postmodernist' along the lines of Derrida; he was anything but.) I have my issues with him - not least his appalling personal life - but his work is absolutely indispensible in understanding the position we are now in.

On Heidegger - yes, there is a vein of 'left Heideggerian' thought as I understand it, but most of the time cognitive dissonance sets in, with the safest way to resolve it being simply to act as though Heidegger didn't exist.

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Regarding Rawls, it is not in my nature to write ill of anyone, but his attempt to reframe Kantianism drew attention away from the most important aspects of Kant's political philosophy in favour of Rawls' attempt at monetary redress, which Rawls A Theory of Justice expends numerous pages upon. Nozick dismantled these ideas quite brilliantly immediately afterwards, but thus secured Rawls' place in the US university curricula, at least in the late twentieth century, where both books became fixtures.

I respect most in Rawls work his arguing for civil disobedience as morally respectable - something Kant himself could not quite manage. Beyond this, I would rather people who want to think about the problems of democracy skipped Rawls and went straight to Kant, most especially the 1795 essay Toward Perpetual Peace which has far more to offer than A Theory of Justice in a fraction of the reading time.

Look forward to further pieces in this series, David!

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I just think Rawls is emblematic of a highly rationalistic approach to thinking about social issues which has served us very badly over the last century or so. He's not the problem; he's just the best example of it.

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deletedAug 29, 2023Liked by David McGrogan
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Yes, I remember reading that. It now seems oddly prescient.

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