In profiles of Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Alexandre Kojeve, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, the author demonstrates how these thinkers were so deluded by the ideologies and convulsions of their times that they closed their eyes to authoritarianism, brutality, and state terror.
European history of the past century is full of examples of philosophers, writers, and jurists who, whether they lived in democratic, communist, or fascist societies, supported and defended totalitarian principles and horrific regimes. But how can intellectuals, who should be alert to the evils of tyranny, betray the ideals of freedom and independent inquiry? How can they take positions that, implicitly or not, endorse oppression and human suffering on a vast scale? In profiles of Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Alexandre Kojeve, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, Mark Lilla demonstrates how these thinkers were so deluded by the ideologies and convulsions of their times that they closed their eyes to authoritarianism, brutality, and state terror. He shows how intellectuals who fail to master their passions can be driven into a political sphere they scarcely understand, with momentous results for our intellectual and political lives. This revised edition includes a new afterword by the author.
Mark Lilla is Professor of Humanities and Religion at Columbia University. He was previously Professor at the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. A noted intellectual historian and frequent contributor to "The New York Review of Books," he is the author of "The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics" and "G. B. Vico: The Making of an Anti-Modern," He lives in New York City.
"A skilled exploration of why notable 20th-century European philosophers and intellectuals -- figures such as Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin and Michel Foucault, among others -- had at times succumbed to what [Lilla] calls 'tyrannophilia, ' a narcissistic embrace of totalitarian politics, assuming that tyrants would put their big ideas into action." --Carlos Lozada, The Washington Post "The essays that make up Mark Lilla's book . . . are driven by his sense of disappointment, a lover's kind of disappointment, that such profound and influential minds should have been so politically insouciant when confronted by the hectic barbarity of the 20th century. . . . Lilla has a gift for nimble exposition, and each study in his collection is illuminating, often revelatory." --The New York Times Book Review
"Mark Lilla is today the leading intellectual commentator in the United States on European thinkers and ideas. . . . He understands them better than they are understood in their own countries. And often better than they understand themselves." --Die Zeit
"This is important. Lilla's short, elegant and readable book is about what happens when philosophers get tangled up in the real world. It is also a matter of recognizing that the world is in the shape that it is because of the influence of the most rarefied of minds." --Nicolas Lezard, The Guardian, Paperback of the Week
"Lilla's accessible, summary look at eight 20th-century thinkers is a compilation of cautionary tales...shrewd advice...a very canny book showing us how not to think and chew politics at the same time." -- Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"As Mr. Lilla ably shows, what is common to these thinkers is a rejection of political philosophy. They deny the possibility of a patient, sober and rational exploration of political possibilities. And even when they become disillusioned with specific tyrants--Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Khomeini--they continue to reject political moderation and balanced analysis." --Daniel J. Mahoney, The Wall Street Journal
"'Lilla has a gift for nimble exposition, and each study in his collection is illuminating, often revelatory, ' Sunil Khilnani wrote here in 2002." -- The New York Times Book Review
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