Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Monday, August 15, 2011

JESUITS AND JANSENISTS

I am a regular reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish. It is lively, well-written, and gives me insight into thinking on the right. Sullivan is an English Catholic HIV-positive gay conservative man, and each of these aspects of his being plays an important role in his blog. [He also has a beard, and makes a big deal about beards, but that, I am afraid, leaves me cold.]


Sullivan is extremely critical of those whom he calls Christianists -- the fundamentalist young earth end times creationist rabidly anti-gay born-again Protestants who seem to have captured the Republican Party. I am fascinated by this animus toward people who might, from a suitable distance, be mistaken for his co-religionists, because it echoes a tension in Christianity that is literally two millennia old.


I have always associated the tension with the feud between the Jansenists and Jesuits in France -- the Jesuits, worldly, educated, flexible, intellectual, the Jansenists rigid, unyielding, narrow in their view of the world. More recently, I saw a version of this old struggle when Zeno Vendler, a Jesuit priest fleeing from Stalinist Hungary, arrived in Boston to study Philosophy at Harvard. The Boston Irish clergy [Jesuits, to be sure], were narrow and rigid in their rejection of anything more modern philosophically than late St. Thomas, and Zeno, in despair, left the church, married a nice Catholic girl named Helen Hennessey [who went on to become, as Helen Vendler, a famous literary critic], and had a fine career as an American philosopher. I have always thought that if Zeno had come to a city dominated by French Catholics, he might have remained a priest.


The split in the Republican Party between old fashioned flacks for capital and the new-fangled crazies is of course currently center stage in presidential politics, What makes Sullivan's version of it interesting is the connection in his world view to the split in Christianity.


Take a look at the blog. It is worth a read.


2 comments:

Murfmensch said...

You look at the leaders in the Republican race and one conclusion springs to mind. Old-fashioned republicans (the sort that used to carry New England) are now split between Romney and Obama.

Michael said...

I'm always fascinated by the durability of faith among those who might more naturally (by my liberal atheist standards) see themselves as more naturally opposed to the doctrinaire, absolutist nature of religion. I suppose I could dismiss Sullivan as irrational, but he's far to intelligent to be dismissed like that--even if I rarely agree with him.