Thursday, May 28, 2009
Austin Bramwell has a piece up where he focuses on Spengler's (David Goldman, not the original Oswald Spengler) intellectual hero Franz Rosenzweig. Bramwell suggests:
I consider only the political implications of Star, of which, surprisingly enough, I find very few. The Spenglerian theses in particular seem more like a creative gloss or "misprision" of Rosenzweig than an accurate restatement of his views. For all Spengler's obeisance to Rosenzweig, I suspect that Goldman came up with his stuff on his own.
Star is Rosenzweig's book The Star of Redemption. The link is to Google Books, so you can read a fair amount before you hit the preview limit.
GNXP reader TGGP pointed out an obvious Spenglerian dishonesty a long time ago. Just as Bramwell suggests that Spengler's oeuvre has far less to do with Rosenzweig than he might represent, TGGP found an instance where he cited as a support for an argument a footnote which didn't support his argument if you actually read the original source, which most of his readers obviously would not.
All of this matters because I occassionally get emails from big fans of Spengler who want me to give a response to this column or that, and sometimes he is brought up as an authority in the comments. He's also cited by people who I believe to be sincere seekers of truth such as Rod Dreher. But frankly the kind of thing TGGP put the spotlight on isn't surprising, when people point me to an "awesome" Spengler column there's a lot of smoke and mirrors, and the intellectual equivalent of "card tricks" pop up over and over. This doesn't mean the conclusions he reaches are necessarily incorrect, and if a plate of shady facts is your cup of tea if that's what you need get to dessert, I say go to town. I generally pass when that's on the menu. Look at this catch by Steve from several years ago. Spengler's assertion is pretty much a joke on the face of it factually (read The Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch for why you should be laughing), but 99% of his readers wouldn't know that, so they will continue to follow his close reasoning from false premises. His columns are mind-numbing because they're riddled with this sort of misinformation.