Fierbinte auto-scrutare: Batranul Cioran despre tanarul Cioran


Burning self-scrutiny, old Cioran on young Cioran: “We were a band of desperate individuals in the heart of the Balkans. And we were doomed to fail; our failure was our only excuse… [The Iron Guard] was the only sign that our country could be anything but a fiction. It was a cruel movement, a mixture of prehistory and prophecy, mystique of prayer and of revolt. And it was persecuted by all authorities, and it wanted to be persecuted … It had been founded on ferocious ideas: it disappeared ferociously. Whoever between 20 and 30 does not subscribe to fanaticism, to rage, to madness is an imbecile. One is a liberal only by fatigue, and a democrat by reason.” (E.M. Cioran, “Mon pays,” cited in Alain Finkielkraut, “Cioran mort et son juge,” Le Messager Européen, no. 9, Paris: Gallimard, 1996, pp. 66–67)

This passage is included in my essay titled “The Metapolitics of Despair: Romania’s Mystical Generation and the Passions of Emil Cioran,” and will be appear in the volume “Ideological Storms of the Twentieth Century,” co-edited with Bogdan C. Iacob

Not to sink into the mass of the depraved: Adam Michnik at 70


Minima moralia: In “Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors,” one of his most influential essays–and also one of my favorites–, Adam Michnik wrote about Piisudski, but in fact about himself: “…his is not simply a national but also a very human perspective. It is not patriotic and political concerns but my own concerns, my own good that inspire me to fight. This will rescue me from sinking into the anonymous, shapeless mass of the depraved, captive, and obedient.” (“Letters from Prison,” University of California Press, 1985, p. 210)

Image: Adam Michnik, Warsaw, December 1981

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Despre onoare in timpuri sumbre: Adam Michnik la 70 de ani


Cosmopolis: “By his actions, always nonviolent, Michnik established the unity of his premises and conclusions. I would draw your attention to a hypothesis: capable of seeing greatness in the past in people like Gandhi, we may fail to see what takes place in the present. If this hypothesis is correct, Michnik is one of those who bring honor to the last two decades of the twentieth century, even if a film on his life will not be produced soon.” (Czesław Miłosz, Foreword to Adam Michnik, “Letters from Prison and Other Essays,” translated by Maya Latynski, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, p. XV)

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Când citesc despre sumele plătite de Sorin Ovidiu Vântu unora și altora, mă cuprinde o greață infinită. Cu ani in urmă, un amic, fost coleg de liceu, parcă la Roman, cu SOV, imi spunea că in anticamera mafiotului puteau fi văzute personaje faimoase stând la coadă pentru primirea plicului. Mi-a oferit niște nume, m-am crucit. Pentru de-alde răposatul Patriciu, Vântu și alti caizi, orice om are un preț. In ce mă privește si in ceea ce-i privește pe prietenii mei de valori și de idei, s-au inșelat amarnic. Adevărul, cinstea și onoarea sunt neprețuite. Ele sunt precum diamantul despre care un mare psiholog german, Ludwig Binswanger, scria: “Der Diamant soll nicht geteilt werden, weil er wertvoll ist”. Traduc liber: Diamantul nu trebuie sfărâmat, valoarea ii stă in integritate.

Even in darkening days…


At Hannah Arendt’s funeral, December 8, 1975, her close friend for decades, philosopher Hans Jonas, spoke about the immense biographical significance of her coming to the US. True, her politicization had started in Parisian exile, but ti was here, in the US, that she developed her vision on what “beginning anew” means: “Still, what would have become of that, had she not come to these shores–who knows? It was the experience of the Republic here which decisively shaped her political thinking, tempered as it was in the fires of European tyranny and catastrophe, and forever supported in her grounding in classical thought. America taught her a way beyond the hardened alternatives of left and right from which she had escaped; and the idea of the Republic, as the realistic chance for freedom, remained dear to her even in its darkening days.” (Quoted by Richard H. King, “Arendt and America,” University of Chicago Press, 2015)


Let’s face it: Coup d’etat in Turkey


Let’s face it: The Erdogan regime is not a democracy. I deliberately use the present tense because the situation remains uncertain, volatile, and fluid. Kemalism has been the institiutional and ideological pillar of Turkey’s adherence to modernity. Imperfect as is is, democratically speaking, it is the opposite of Erdogan’s sham democracy based on boundless corruption, disguised, self-serving Muslim radicalism, and populist techniques of mass mobilization. I have no idea (does anybody have?) who the coup architects/protagonists are. Maybe they are the new Young Turks. We shall see. Turkey is a crucial NATO member, its stability is a key for NATO vitality and viability. These are just cursory, early thoughts. We need more information based on which we can go beyond guesstimation…

Dialectica desvrajirii: Imre Lakatos si Cercul Petőfi (Budapesta, iunie 1956)


Dialectics of disenchantment: In the spring of 1956, Imre Lakatos joined the Petőfi Circle where he delivered a vitriolic, devastating attack on Stalinism. In fact, his speech went further than the self-limited revisionism embraced by Georg Lukács. In the aftermath of the revolution’s crushing, he left Hungary and taught philosophy of science at the London School of Economics. He is widely regarded as as one of the most influential epistemologists of the twentieth century. Lakatos died suddenly in 1974 of a heart attack at the height of his powers. He was 51.

“The very foundation of scholarly education is to foster in students and postgrads a respect for facts, for the necessity of thinking precisely, and to demand proof. Stalinism, however, branded this as bourgeois objectivism. Under the banner of partinost [Party-like] science and scholarship, we saw a vast experiment to create a science without facts, without proofs.

… a basic aspect of the rearing of scholars must be an endeavour to promote independent thought, individual judgment, and to develop conscience and a sense of justice. Recent years have seen an entire ideological campaign against independent thinking and against believing one’s own senses. This was the struggle against empiricism [Laughter and applause].”