The Political Problem
November 18, 2011
This is from an exchange on Facebook with a former student who likes to throw the word “nihilism” around to describe those with whom he disagrees. And it raised for me the issue of what the political problem actually is. That is, is that problem the problem of “nihilism” or what might be called “conventionalism?” It is often said that political philosophy made its appearance only when the distinction between the conventional and the natural was recognized and taken seriously. This would suggest that the political phenomenon that is most common and, hence, most problematic is conventionalism, that is, the confusion of what is conventional with what is natural [or best].
The former student wrote, regarding his stay in France:
"Anyways, I'm not sure where I am now- what the Tradition would say France represents. Skepticism, nihilism... hell? Not sure..."
I wrote in response:
“You know what amazes me? That so many take "nihilism" as an attitude that is adopted quite easily, that it is seen as almost "natural," that it is what human beings adopt unless corrected by some "Tradition," whether the Catholic Tradition or the Great Books Tradition. Nihilism is not the natural state of human beings to say the least. For human beings to arrive at nihilism requires an effort, even a great effort. The "political/human" problem is not nihilism but conventionalism, whether that conventionalism appears as nationalism or patriotism.”