Puritans don't work things out with enemies like these because there is no negotiating with the irrational. The Puritan mind reasons: "Well of course the witch doesn't want to be saved from her own evil. That's why we must save her from herself by burning her at the stake." Sounds absurd, but that American major said after the destruction of the village of Ben Tre in Vietnam: "It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it." A true Puritan there. And now look what we're doing in Iraq. Think Fallujah. We're burning the country at the stake. It's a form of mental illness, but it's a sickness we all accept as normal.
Terrorism is the latest encounter of the Puritan mind with the irrational, and the traditional Islamic culture that promotes it will just have to be destroyed to save it. World politics will be so much more hygienic once we exterminate the vermin. I wasn't all that surprized to learn that Tom Delay had been an exterminator before he entered politics. He's the poster child for this tragic illness. Would that Jerry Lewis have a telethon to raise money for its cure.
A key element in understanding the Calvinist mentality is its need for control and its willingness to use whatever level of violence necessary to repress the "irrational" elements in human experience, and the premodern in the Puritan demonology is full of irrational images triggering fears in need of suppression—magic, witches, Catholic ritual, shifty Jews, hot-tempered Italians, voodoo practicing Africans, the savage Indian. J.K. Rowling's "muggles" and their fear of magic is a kind of sendup of this mentality. Theirs is a tight, priggish, white-bread, control-obsessed world, sterilized of anything that suggests mystery, transcendence, or the non-rational in general. The Puritans and their Calvinist cousins the Scotch Irish, of course, didn't invent priggishness, nor are they, obviously, the only ones in the history of humanity who have justified the violent repression of their enemies for religious reasons. But theirs is the peculiarly modern form for the religious persecution of the enemy, and it lingers in Anglo-American culture, and is so much in the cultural air we breathe that we cannot see it clearly. At the very heart of modern "religiosity," whether in its Calvinist or its more secular versions, is fear of the uncontrollable non-rational.
The American right's fear of communism/socialism is more akin to the Islamic fear of modernity, which is the fear of an uncontrollable future. If fascism derives its mystique from a mythological past, communism derives it from a mytholgized future. Progressives look to the future. Conservatives look to the past. Progressives distrust the past and its premodern irrationality; Conservatives distrust those who look to the future with an irrational utopianism. Progressivism is experiencing hard times these days because during a culturally decadent period like the one we're currently suffering through, we don't know what to hope for. We have only the weakest sense of plausible future possibility. We are capable of seeing the future only as a variation on 'more of the same', and that is not a vision that inspires concerted action. That will change someday, but for now it's the conservatives' time because when our imagination of the future is weak, we fall back on the past for want of something better. And we find ourselves voting for mediocrities like George Bush rather than mediocrities like John Kerry for the same reason. The first represents the solidity of the past; the second a fuzzy future for which we can muster little hope.
The idea that the universe has a rational structure that the mind can apprehend characterizes an older trend in European philosophy called "rationalism." Rationalism traces its roots to Rene Descartes and to the birth of modern philosophy. Most of 20th century European philosophy was a direct reaction to this older tradition, a reactionary attempt to explore the possibility that the universe has no rational structure for the mind to apprehend. Phenomenology, for example, as advocated by Edmund Husserl confines itself to observing and describing our own consciousness without drawing any conclusions regarding causes or connections.
Human beings seem to have a need for transcendence. The present is examined in light of the past to build our biographical identity, the essence of the continuity of our person in time. Renunciation, being fundamental to the achievement of psychic maturity, is related to leaving something behind and accepting the passing of time and the impossibility of controlling the future. But is it enough? No; renunciation is not enough; we need something more. In psychoanalysis, this can be defined as facilitating a space to play or a space of illusion in our own lives. In therapy, analysands perform a core task basically related to time. They remember the past to then abandon and renounce it. In addition, they forfeit control over the future.
Phenomenology and psychoanalysis have in common that they consider the investigator and the subject as equals as evidenced by the application of their basic principles and of their findings to both investigators and investigatees whom they consider human beings cooperating in a joint search for knowledge. In psychology, phenomenology is used to refer to subjective experiences or their study. The experiencing subject can be considered to be the person or self. Subjective experiences are those that are in principle not directly observable by any external observer. One aspect of this of great philosophical interest is qualia
, whose archetypical exemplar is "redness". "Is my experience of redness the same as yours?" "How would we know?" Subjective experiences are not merely perceptual. They can include any emotional, cognitive, or conative experience reaching the consciousness of the subject.
Phenomenology, as a philosophical method, has been successfully utilised by a number of 20th century existential philosophers, including Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and Jaspers. The method of phenomenology seems to be a tool peculiarly suited to the investigation of human existence. Husserl's phenomenology is important for existential philosophers because it appeals to experience supposedly without theoretical bias. One of the important differences between Husserl's phenomenology and those of existential philosophers is that for Husserl there is stronger emphasis on essence, and that for him philosophy should be treated as a science. Existential phenomenology gives a detailed description of phenomena in our everyday experiences, but the emphasis is on human existence. Sometimes Husserl's phenomenology is criticised for neglecting individual human existence and Being itself. The place of Jaspers' phenomenology in his philosophy is a complex issue. Although he uses the method of phenomenology he does not consider himself as a phenomenologist. It should be noted that Jaspers was a medical doctor, a psychologist and a psychiatrist before he finally turned to philosophy. He was undoubtedly influenced by Husserl's phenomenology, particularly in his early works.