This entry is based on a casual WhatsApp message from my friend Del Percio. The Argentine thinker’s distinction is well known, but in its digital formulation it produced unexpected resonances. On the one hand, he told us, we have optimism and pessimism. On the other, hope.
The scale extends on a spectrum from the banality and euphoria produced by power and glory at one extreme to suicidal or homicidal despair at the other – despair marked by meaninglessness, failure, or subjugation. Thus, one can be optimistic or pessimistic depending on the circumstances.
However, it must also be taken into account that there are characters marked by affective tonalities that existentially incline them to incarnate in one or the other type. Or to put it another way, using the reductionist language of genetics, there are those who carry in their DNA an unbalanced percentage of genes that orient them toward one extreme or the other.
Argentina has defined its pre-candidates for the elections to be held this year. The first impression is that the right wing and the “progressive” Peronism have reached a tacit, unspoken agreement. Everything is being discussed, except the most important things.
The political establishment is moving towards a consensus reminiscent of the privatizations of the 1990s. This time, key resources such as lithium are being handed over, along with political sovereignty, social justice and economic independence.
The coming model is decidedly extractivist. The policy is one of deep adjustment. The debt will once again serve to bring the popular classes to their knees.
In this context, the left seems to be the most decent option, even if it is accused of being old-fashioned. The institutional right promoted Milei to push the discussion to the extreme and to present its belligerence as acceptable in the face of the rhetorical monstrosities of the ultra-right candidate. Installing the proposals of the left in the popular agenda will force “progressive” Peronism to move in the opposite direction.
With the current distribution of forces, Jujuy has become a narcissistic mirror. We saw and heard the right’s brazen defense of blood and fire. But we also witnessed the entente between the xenophobic radicalism of Morales and the surrenderist Peronism.
On Realism and Anti-Realism
One of the most heated philosophical debates of our time revolves around questions of the real and the access to it – that is, truth. Phenomena in the public sphere such as the so-called “post-truth” give the debate an apparently current appearance. What is certain, however, is that this is a question that lies at the origin of philosophy itself, that to some extent defines the framework of theoretical philosophy, and that lays the foundation for any discussion in the field of practical philosophy.
In recent years, first through my studies of the work of Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre, and then through my efforts to understand the so-called “new realists” (Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Maurizio Ferraris, and Markus Gabriel) and their critiques of postmodernism, I have become increasingly inclined to present my philosophical speculations in “realist” terms. This is particularly significant given that my philosophical training is not only Western but also Eastern (I have spent the last thirty years of my life familiarizing myself with the tradition inaugurated by the Indian pandit Nāgārjuna and his Tibetan followers). In this context, I have come to interpret Nāgārjuna, against a vast academic and popular literature, as an “accomplished realist,” in contrast to many authors who tend to read him as an anti-realist.
The Framework and the Debate
The first thing I want to say in this note is that my approach to the problem at hand is not partisan. It is true that on the surface such debates are often presented as such, as a sporting (or even warlike) contest, but my circumstantial defense of realists or anti-realists is not intended to legitimize one school over another, or to assert the intellectual authority of a “church”. It is fair to acknowledge that philosophical debates are generally framed in this way, or take on this appearance, but this is a far cry from the philosophical ideal embodied by Socrates and his disciples. In my view, the “agonistic” character of philosophical discussion has more to do with the connection between theoretical philosophy and practical philosophy (to which I will return below), i.e., with the possible consequences for ethics and politics in any given historical circumstance of adopting a realist or anti-realist position, than with the theoretical question itself.
On universal principles
In this article I want to address the phenomenon of “moralism”. In particular, I am interested in moralism in politics and in academic and intellectual life. To articulate my argument, I will use as illustrations the two circumstances I have discussed in my previous articles: the war in Ukraine, and the debt crisis in Argentina today.
Let us begin by defining moralism. I owe the definition to Alasdair MacIntyre, who, in his most recent work, “Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity”, points out that moralism revolves around an understanding of obligation that requires the adoption of an impersonal and universal perspective that challenges everyone equally and is therefore hypothetically inescapable. MacIntyre states:
On the Illegitimacy of Debt
In this article I would like to refer, through a couple of notes, (1) to the debt contracted by Mauricio Macri and his acolytes with private banks and the International Monetary Fund, and (2) to the legitimisation that, in recent days, the government of the Argentine Nation headed by President Alberto Fernández, accompanied by both Houses of Congress, made of these spurious loans by authorising the refinancing agreement with the international organisation.
As has already been repeatedly explained and is public knowledge, without any of those involved attempting in any way to refute this public denunciation, the indebtedness contracted by the government of Mauricio Macri was illegitimate in two ways.
It is difficult to avoid the qualification “treason” when referring to Alberto Fernández. However, there seems to be no other qualifier more in keeping with reality. The president has betrayed the Argentine people. A people battered by four traumatic years of shameless neoliberalism, a global pandemic, more than 100,000 dead, chronic inflation that has been running at over 50% a year for four years now, increasing poverty that has turned food into a luxury good, and to this must be added the disappointment and frustration of the population in the face of a government that claimed to be national and popular, arrived by means of an electoral front made up of explicit enemies until very recently. However, there seems to be no other qualifier more in keeping with reality. The president has betrayed the Argentine people. A people battered by four traumatic years of shameless neoliberalism, a global pandemic, more than 100,000 dead, chronic inflation that has been running at over 50% a year for four years now, increasing poverty that has turned food into a luxury good, and to this must be added the disappointment and frustration of the population in the face of a government that claimed to be national and popular, arrived by means of an electoral front made up of explicit enemies until very recently, united exclusively in the face of the horror of having Macri and his acolytes in the House of government, indebting the country to facilitate systematic dispossession through capital flight, and the persecution of political and social opponents, by means of a criminal organisation within the State, which in every way is comparable to the actions of the ominous genocidal military dictatorship.
About Intellectuals and Experts
As a researcher I am obliged to answer certain questions prior to my research activity: Why do I do research? Why do I want to know certain things? Why do I strive to find answers to certain questions? Why do I want to solve certain problems?
Obviously, when I say that these questions are “prior” to my research activity, I do not mean that I first have to solve these questions (or even formulate them) before I can carry out my research. Usually the opposite is the case. I discover the why and what for in the process of research practice itself. Or, to put it another way, I am able to fully articulate what motivates me, the genuine object that animates my will to know, as I progress in my task.
How do we think about truth in relation to this war? The first thing is the hard data: the lives cut short, the deaths, the refugees, the fear, the hostilities, that which we call “objective reality” in its “superficial”, apparent, immediate dimension.
Then we have the “subjective reality”, that which we think is happening when we observe reality in its superficial dimension, that which, we interpret, is hidden under the immediacy of the bare facts.
Now, what is the link between objective reality and subjective reality? In our age of marketing, propaganda, post-truth, as some call it, this link seems to be broken. For that reason, there is an urgency to think once again about truth, to be able to tell reality and act in it. That is the genuine vocation of the philosopher. As Marx taught us, it is not about interpreting the world, but about transforming it.
It is easy to understand that those who suffer the consequences (of war) find it unacceptably complacent to ask why it happened and whether it could have been avoided. Understandable, but wrong. If we are to respond to tragedy in a way that helps the victims and avoids the even worse catastrophes that lie ahead, it is prudent and necessary to learn as much as we can about what went wrong and how the course could have been corrected. Heroic gestures can be gratifying. They are not helpful.NOAM CHOMSKY
The invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war confront us with all sorts of aporias. It is difficult to think constructively about what is happening as we watch on our televisions the destruction on the ground and the ominous prophecies voiced by our analysts about our global future.
The comfortable alternative at the moment is unanimous and unrestrained condemnation of the Russian government’s crime against international law, forgetting entirely the background that has brought us to our current circumstances.
So, on this note, I will refrain from joining the chorus of the so-called “Western media”. Firstly, because I consider it a form of moral self-deprecation to join in this kind of textbook response to which social media and “emoticons and flags” communication repeatedly enjoin us.
Let us begin, once again, by retracing the path we have taken so far. To do so, let me paraphrase a quotation from the American political philosopher Michael Walzer which, in my view, sums up the spirit of what we are doing.
The context is a reflection on the significance of the exodus of the Jewish people. Walzer summarises his narrative structure as follows.
(1) The starting point is “Egypt”, which symbolises the enslavement of the Jewish people. (2) On the horizon, we have freedom, in the figure of the “promised land”: Israel. (3) Between the state of slavery and Israel (the promised land), what we have is a road. There is no alternative. If we want to get to Israel, we have to cross the desert, and for that we have to walk, we have to “join (others) and walk”.