Today’s NYTimes had an article about a controversial new book about Martin Heidegger. The author, Emmanuel Faye, apparently believes that the German philosopher’s connection to Nazism so severely damages any value to be derived from his ideas that philosophy should disown him outright, and refrain from any serious critical evaluation of his work. Although I haven’t read the book — and I’m not sure I’m going to — I can already see why this form of censorship will prove to be futile. Specifically, the next battleground for theories involving racial superiority, as in Nazism, will not come from philosophy but from scientific research conducted for the purpose of eliminating racism.
I can understand Faye’s perspective. He seems to think that there is harm in showing any of respect at all for the theories of an avowed racist, even if those ideas are expressed in the most sophisticated language, and convey a deep knowledge of the history of ideas. And yet, doesn’t it seem odd that such a book would get so much attention when the most serious debates about racial superiority will be based on current statistical evidence of racial inequality, and not from critical analyses of the works of dead Nazis!
Who will be conducting this research? That remains to be seen, but you can be sure that it will be seized upon by politicians for their self-promoting agendas. The thrust of the controversy will concern why there is such a disparity in the apportionment of wealth between the races. And it will concern “wealth” in the broadest terms, because the debate will also try to explain disparities in crime, disease, population demographics and access to public resources. Liberals will argue, naturally, that racism is the cause of this inequality, and that only through government action to “level the playing field” will the injustices of racism be removed. After all, the liberals say, no matter how you try to characterize the motives of a racist, it always comes down to conscious bigotry in the end.
But of course those same statistics will be “explained” differently by their opponents. It has to be, because the statistical evidence of racism will surely be used to justify the consolidation of power in the liberal camp. The simplest, and most obvious way to fight it will be to use the same statistics to promote the theory that the races really are different, and that the inequality is scientifically based on the weakness of the inferior race.
Both sides will have plenty of ammunition. The liberals, you see, must include controls in their studies which will be meant to validate their scientific integrity. This is the only way they can show that no other factor except racism could possibly explain the disparities. However, inevitably, those same controlled studies will be turned upside down, and used as weapons against the liberal perspective. Look, their opponents will say, the results of the controlled studies clearly show that racism was not the cause.
With so much power at stake, you cannot avoid this debate, and it will only become greater and more bitter in the future. The accumulation of vast computer-indexed databases of statistics will guarantee the legitimization of this mode of inquiry. For racism is the perfect rationale for government to demand the surrender of every remaining unit of privacy from our lives. And it will go on and on, long after the name of Martin Heidegger is forgotten.