Friday, January 05, 2007

"Philosophy and Bear Mace"

"Philosophy and Bear Mace"--it's a catchy title but doesn't really indicate much about the substance of the essay--is an essay by the philosopher Jonathan Lear which explains in part how he came to write Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation.

The following paragraph from the essay touches on an experience doubtless familiar to us all, but the essay (and, the book, I imagine) is more about a culture and an experience much more distant:
In the aftermath of September 11, I sensed a rising tide of anxiety that civilization is vulnerable. People who differed in almost every other respect — conservatives and liberals, secular and religious, Americans and Europeans, those who welcome globalization and those who loathe it, fundamentalist Islam and those determined to stop it — seemed to share this anxiety. Ironically this shared anxiety was driving us apart: it fuels the widespread intolerance that has so tainted contemporary political life. But does anyone understand what we are worried about? Humans are by nature cultural animals. We are born into a culture, and we understand ourselves and the world in terms that are given to us by the culture. But if a culture is itself vulnerable, we must somehow inherit that vulnerability. What would it mean, then, for a culture to collapse — or even, to be destroyed? And what would that mean for us?
The less familiar culture is the Crow Nation and the experience is the Crow's transition from a vital civilization to life on the reservation.

Click here to read Lear's essay.

Click here to read an excerpt from Radical Hope.

--Marshal Zeringue