[Conclusion of the astute synopsis by Mr. Entel, followed by his even more astute questions:]
Plato, Hancock contends, enacts this yoke between being and knowing by seemingly affirming the simple superiority of theory to practice, thus suppressing the question of the relation between the good of thinking and the common good by appearing to answer it. The responsibility of reason thus takes here the form of the rule of reason, a form of ruling that is itself an aristocratic configuration of transcendence, a claim to transcend our political condition that is very political. But the rule of reason cannot be established by reason alone. In fact, Leo Strauss has a similar, very practical intension when he posits the transcendent goodness of pure theory, insofar as theory must accommodate itself to the cave as required by human nature. Philosophy must not abolish the cave but rule it nobly: Strauss’ claim that theory transcends practice is rooted in an awareness of the practical conditions of theory, and of the practical sources of the nobility of theory.
The problem is that Strauss, or his followers to be precise, seem not to be aware that such rule can only spring from an actual practice of nobility.
Hancock is also guided by an awareness of the practical conditions of theory, an awareness that is heir to both Plato and Strauss. Democratic reason undermines itself because it emphasizes reason as critique rather than reason as rule. Reason, under these circumstances, can no longer affirm itself, and it is therefore irresponsible. Rawls, for instance, in giving priority to the just over the noble, hides vertical transcendence in the horizontal dimension, thus adopting a form of unacknowledged partisanship that is itself the most blind and dangerous partisanship. What Rawls forgets, Hancock argues, is that the good is noble because it involves responsibility for the whole, including the just. Taylor, in turn, posits that we have to be aware of how believers and unbelievers can experience their world differently, to which Hancock responds by asking: Is every articulation of an experience of the world equally adequate to that experience, or to the fullest human possibilities? Can he avoid leaning toward one direction or the other? Hancock’s answer is negative, to which he adds that even Taylor’s distinction between immanence and transcendence, on which he builds but which he does not question, is Christian. Taylor forgets the primordial embedding of the religious and the philosophic in the political.
Where do we go from here then? A coherent and wholesome retrieval of the question of theory and practice requires a complex assumption of responsibility for the irreversibly public character of the circulation [of meaning between poles], that is, of the mutual implication of the axes. Such an assumption, as Hancock underscores, is a most hazardous horizon for practical reason, which brings forth nevertheless a more dynamic and richer meaning of human existence.
According to him, this insight leaves us not so much with a solution as with a new problem.
I disagree, but only insofar as it actually leaves us with a new solution to a most old problem. This new solution, in turn, consists in a meta-prudence, or second-order self-awareness that must adjust the claims of a limitless, non-partisan (yet very partisan) party of humanity with that of a limited and explicitly partisan party of tradition. What is required, therefore, is a higher form of awareness than what the parties themselves possess, particularly the limitless and non-partisan one.
- Regarding Strauss and the weaknesses of the elevation of philosophy so
manifest today: If the very elevation of philosophy can only spring from an actual practice of nobility, is the absence of such an elevation characteristic of the present or of democracy at large? If the latter is the case, wouldn’t that underscore Strauss’ attempt from the outset? If not, what has changed in the last decades?
- If the illusion of the superiority of theory to practice cannot be sustained, should it be recreated? The assumption of responsibility that you allude to in response to the fusion of theory and practice and to the latter acknowledgement of the public character of the circulation within the axes, doesn’t itself demand an illusion of a novel kind? Isn’t philosophy of necessity partisan and meta-prudence a form of meta-partisanship?
- If I understand it correctly, the main goal of the paper is to address the
practical dimension of philosophy in a responsible way, and to address the main evil of our age, which is a so-called neutral form of neutrality that is anything but, even if it doesn’t know it. How would a responsible philosophy or philosophy of responsibility address this, particularly since the limits of the limitless party are so hard to grasp both conceptually and practically, and since its main partisan tenet is its non-partisanship?