The accidental and the necessary

One sort of madness consists in seeing the accidental (or contingent) as necessary. We meet someone and later think that the meeting was fated; it was written in the stars. In La Nausée (1938), Sartre explores this issue. Nothing is actually necessary; it’s all contingent. Everything that has happened could have happened differently—or not have happened at all.

The Burden of Freedom

“The astonishing thing is not that some people steal or that others occasionally go out on strike, but rather that all those who are starving do not steal as a regular practice, and all those who are exploited are not continually out on strike: after centuries of exploitation, why do people still tolerate being humiliated and enslaved, to such a point, indeed, that they actually want humiliation and slavery not only for others but for themselves?”

The Tug of War between Functional Differentiation and De-Differentiation

Whenever people try to undercut the independence of or science or journalism, for example, we see the countermovement of functional de-differentiation. The battle between creationism (or the more respectable “intelligent design”) and the theory of evolution has been an attack on the functional differentiation of science; it’s effort to subordinate science to religion. A closely related movement has been the movement away from public schooling in the form of fundamentalist schools and religion-based homeschooling, which seeks to subordinate education to religion.

Hannah Arendt on Antisemitism

The Nazis were not simple nationalists. Their nationalist propaganda was directed toward their fellow-travelers and not their convinced members; the latter, on the contrary, were never allowed to lose sight of a consistently supranational approach to politics. Nazi “nationalism” had more than one aspect in common with the recent nationalistic propaganda in the Soviet Union, which is also used only to feed the prejudices of the masses. The Nazis had a genuine and never revoked contempt for the narrowness of nationalism, the provincialism of the nation-state, and they repeated time and again that their “movement,” international in scope like the Bolshevik movement, was more important to them than any state, which would necessarily be bound to a specific territory.

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