Trump: The Post-Modern Nightmare

Is Trump the end of post-modernism?

A student in my seminar this week asked his classmates to decide whether Gandhi or Donald Trump more closely embodied Nietzsche’s celebrated superman. Unsurprisingly, they plumped for Trump, as the one who made his own values, compelling others to interpret the world in his terms. He is certainly untainted by asceticism or Christian meekness. It is one of the ironies of the present time that the liberal intelligentsia, which has so embraced Nietzsche’s idea that there is no objective truth or reason, is now faced with their dark doppelgänger in Trump and his alternative facts. Arguments about bias, which had formerly been used as critiques of patriarchal or colonial ideas of truth, are now employed by a cheerful misogynist who would like to rid the United States of undesirable immigrants.

How are we to respond? Does the Trump phenomenon reveal a need to return to utopian Enlightenment ideals? Ideals with rationality as the common currency of a universal Oxbridge

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Proofless 9 April 2017

I am struck by Milbank's account of reason. It is not often that we encounter an account of reason that is inseparable of "will and desire". It seems obvious, however, that reason should not be separated from those human qualities. Reason is like a tool in that without the desires of the humans who wield it, it ceases to exist as the thing it is named.

As much as I would like it to be so, I don't think the solution to today's anxieties are as simple as the acknowledgement of the more human qualities of reason, as Milbank's post suggests. Was not the inclusion of will and desire the dominating perspective of pre-Enlightenment? And was it not that perspective's tyranny and repudiation of tolerance that made the jump to the Enlightenment a celebrated feat for reason? I agree that our contemporary development of reason has strayed from its human genesis and, in doing so, has become more akin to deceit. But a simple acknowledgement of the "ethical" in our act of reasoning, puts us dangerously close to repeating the atrocities of our past "ethical" wars.

Perhaps the reason will and desire have become divorced from reason is that our desires are so magnificent that our reason, as intricate as it is, has fallen short of our most cherished wishes. Our tools have only afforded us cheap imitations of the true desires we have hidden deep within ourselves. We should recognize, however, that, like tools, new possibilities can be crafted from realized achievements. And that one day, the world we desire to inhabit might be within reach of the reason we have fashioned. In championing for such a future, let us head Milbank's warning and commit to honesty and acknowledge our desires for realities beyond the conceivably possible.

-Peter Wiggin

kyoung21b 27 March 2017

Nice piece re. trying to make some sense of our current political situation. And it does seem true that it's important to evaluate the somewhat mercurial nature of reason beyond the demagogues who either tout it's mathematical precision or argue that they've transcended it. This seems nowhere more important than in attempts to transmit understanding of a more useful notion of reason to that fraction of the American poor who's hopes were so cynically manipulated.