Saturday, February 7, 2015

Martin Luther King Jr. and Continental Philosophy

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Diagram of Hegel's System
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great civil rights leader and champion of nonviolence. But beneath his views on race and oppression lies a philosophical schooling that began at least in graduate school, during which time he took courses at Boston University and Harvard on not only the History of Philosophy and the Philosophy of Religion, but also a yearlong seminar on Hegel.

Dr. King's list of courses, from The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., page 18.
While hints at his education in the history of philosophy can be found, for example, in his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail (which references such philosophers as St. Augustine, Martin Buber, and Socrates), his having been a student in philosophy played a central role in making him the man we know today. In other words, Dr. King not only fought White America, but he did so by turning the ideas of dead white men against the oppressive practices of living white men.

As Dr. King wrote in his autobiography:
Just before [his advisor] Dr. Brightman's death, I began studying the philosophy of Hegel with him. This course proved to be both rewarding and stimulating. Although the course was mainly a study of Hegel's monumental work, Phenomenology of Mind, I spent my spare time reading his Philosophy of History and Philosophy of Right. There were points in Hegel's philosophy that I strongly disagreed with. For instance, his absolute idealism was rationally unsound to me because it tended to swallow up the many in the one. But there were other aspects of his thinking that I found stimulating. His contention that "truth is the whole" led me to a philosophical method of rational coherence. His analysis of the dialectical process, in spite of its shortcomings, helped me to see that growth comes through struggle.
In his Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King argues, using Hegel, that rather than having to choose either passive acceptance of oppression or violently opposing it, there is a "third way":
The third way open to oppressed people in their quest for freedom is the way of nonviolent resistance. Like the synthesis in Hegelian philosophy, the principle of nonviolent resistance seeks to reconcile the truths of two opposites—acquiescence and violence—while avoiding the extremes and immoralities of both.
Thanks to the King Library and Archives in Atlanta, we can read hundreds of Dr. King's notes on not only Hegel, but also on Kant, Spinoza, Kierkegaard, Marx, and Nietzsche. Here are some samples:

Apparently Kant was not the only one awoken from a "dogmatic slumber"
A discussion of Existentialism
An analysis of Anxiety
The "two assumptions" that "are important in a study of Kierkegaard"
Happiness in Spinoza and Nietzsche
A quote from Nietzsche in a 1966 sermon 
An exam Dr. King gave his students at Morehouse College (#4 is about comparing and contrasting Gandhi and Marx)
An outline for a sermon on history, with references to Hegel, Marx, and Plotinus

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What is 'Terrorism', and Why Can't People of Colour Be Victims of It?

From my latest post on ABC Religion and Ethics:
What is "terrorism"? What do we mean by describing an individual, a group, or an act as "terrorist"?
The most basic answer is that terrorism terrorizes, and thus any individual, group or act that causes others to feel terrified is terroristic in nature.
Such an answer is, of course, far too general to be of use, for then we would have to ask, for example, why the Charlie Hebdo deaths have been described in the media as caused by a "terror attack" while the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have not.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Uber Bowl

Nietzsche's "Why I Am A Patriots Fan" (an excerpt):
"Like a last signpost to the other path, Belichick appeared, the most isolated and late-born man there has ever been, and in him the problem of the noble ideal as such made flesh—one might well ponder what kind of problem it is: Belichick, this synthesis of the inhuman and superhuman...”