Who is Donald Trump and what does he stand for? Do we know? Does he himself know? Or is he caught, like all of us, but perhaps even more deeply in that precarious state of disorientation that characterizes our current political situation? While Trump regularly uses populist rhetoric and symbols, his policies seem mostly aimed at benefitting the rich. We should think of him as a plutocrat rather than a populist. But what kind of plutocracy does he stand for?
On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump, a most unlikely contender, was elected to the office of the presidency of the United States of America. In the course of that year he had beaten a slew of Republican rivals, major political stakeholders, for the right to run for this office. Disliked by the leadership of the party, he had won his candidacy with a campaign of vilification and an irresistible (though largely unfounded) self-confidence, declaring himself an opponent of the political establishment and an advocate of the common people. He had then turned with the same brutal energy on his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, denouncing her as another corrupt insider. With appeals to fear, prejudice, nationalism, and social resentment he had brought together an unlikely coalition of billionaires, right-wing conspirators, fundamentalist Christians, and working-class victims of globalization. Exorbitant promises of a national renewal had in the end secured him enough votes from a deeply divided electorate to win out over Clinton. And so, there he was on November 9 with no political experience, a spotty business record, limited verbal resources, and a simplified confrontational view of the world at the point of taking on the most demanding political office on Earth.
When Frege set out in 1919 to summarize his intellectual achievements for the historian of science Ludwig Darmstaedter, he called it distinctive of his conception of logic that it gives pre-eminence to “the content of the word ‘true.’”(Frege 1979, p. 362) This insight had come to him, in fact, only slowly and over the course of some forty years. It had certainly not yet been evident in his earliest and most original work on logic, the Begriffsschrift of 1879.
In an essay on Plato’s doctrine of truth Martin Heidegger argued in 1929 that the Republic marks a decisive point in the evolution of our concept of truth. According to him, that text jettisons an earlier Greek understanding of truth as “the unhiddenness of being,” and conceives of it, instead, as correctness. According to Heidegger, this is made evident in the allegory of the cave which depicts things in the temporal world as reflections of eternal forms and thereby speaks of truth as the similarity of something in the world to something else.
My initial question is simple but threefold. Heidegger’s essay “On the Origin of the Work of Art” of 1936 signals an important moment in the development of his thinking. But why did he set out to examine the origin of the work of art in that essay when the topic makes no appearance in Being and Time? Let us be clear that I am asking three questions here at once. (1) Why did Heidegger come to concern himself with art at all? (2) Why did this concern with art focus on the origin of the work of art? (3) And why is there no such concern with art and its origin to be found in Being and Time?
I begin with a piece of autobiography. When I first heard of symbolic logic I was a schoolboy, about fifteen years old. By chance, I had discovered a little book on the topic in some local bookstore and had found its treatment of the propositional and the predicate calculus an endlessly intriguing subject matter. It was a time when I dreamt at night of sex and truth-tables. I don’t know any more in what order.
Michael Friedman has written an eye-opening and ambitious monograph on three exceptional figures in twentieth century philosophy. Eye-opening, because he offers us a significantly new perspective on the split between “analytic” and “continental” philosophy. Ambitious, because he combines wide-ranging historical scholarship with a bold attempt to spell out an entire philosophical agenda.
In the Spring of 1967, Jaakko Hintikka published two contributions to the journal Synthese, of which he was then the editor, that have proved to be of singular importance to the further development of analytic philosophy. The first was Donald Davidson’s well known essay on “Meaning and Truth,” the second Jean van Heijenoort’s no less influential note on “Logic as Calculus and Logic as Language.” In publishing these two programmatic statements side by side Hintikka as editor of Synthese helped to propel analytic philosophy into an entirely phase of its evolution. He did not, of course, foresee this at the time nor did he anticipate that the two pieces would eventually also become crucial to his own philosophical thinking.