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xi Preface Caminante, so tus huellas el camino, y nada más; caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar. —Antonio Machado This book was written in dark times, in an attempt to stave off despair. It was begun when war had once again been launched—an unprovoked and illicit war that by now has cost the lives of several hundred thousand people (mostly civilian). The rhetoric surrounding the war was deceptive, full of “double-speak” and disinformation. In large measure, the public media—those institutions designed to provide genuine information and to stimulate critical debate—had fallen in line with official governmental pronouncements, thus abdicating their educational role. To make matters worse, the intellectual community in large numbers had followed the lead of the media, thereby enhancing the dominant mood of conformism and silencing the voice of conscience and public dissent. In this somber surrounding, I remembered (almost by happenstance) an ancient teaching that has reverberated through the centuries, an adage that I had learned as a schoolboy: the point of politics is to promote the well-being of the people and to cultivate the “good life” (eu zen). It seems to me that most of the forces in contemporary life have conspired to erase this adage from memory or to render it unintelligible. Born out of anguish, this book is addressed to people who, like me, are troubled by the agonies of our time. It is not intended principally for academic philosophers or political theorists untouched by such agonies. As it happens, much of political theorizing or philosophizing today is a “professional” enterprise, that is, confined strictly to a discourse among professionals or “experts.” Although participants often display remarkable erudition and sophistication, the concern fueling this discourse is primarily one of academic prestige and professional advancement, which is not the concern of ordinary people in the lifeworld. Given the degree of academic self-enclosure, the gulf separating political theory and public life today tends to be profound, with dismal effects on both philosophy and politics. One of the main aims of the book is to correct or narrow this gulf. For this reason, the book is written largely in ordinary or commonsense language, with only minimal resort to academic terminology (where it seemed unavoidable). Basically, the chief addressees of the text are ordinary laypeople—what in the Middle Ages were called homines idiotae. Several chapters in the book deal explicitly with the role of idiotae, the streetwise people in the marketplace. In order to reach such people, many portions of the book address not only their minds, or reason, but also their hearts, or emotion. As Mahatma Gandhi once remarked, if one wishes to affect or transform human conduct , one needs “to appeal not only to the head but to the heart of people.” This saying is quite correct, since it is the heart that provides the wellspring of motivations for human conduct. I realize, of course, that this dimension has been almost totally smothered or buried under an avalanche of “objective” data and technological gadgets; my hope lies in the word almost. Seeking to cultivate and transform human conduct is the province of pedagogy, of pedagogical prodding or inducement. In our troubled times, much of this pedagogical effort has to be directed toward memory work, that is, the retrieval of buried or suppressed memories regarding well-being and the good life. One of the chief obstacles or stumbling blocks for this book is the widespread resistance to, or outright rejection of, pedagogy as such. Under liberal or libertarian auspices—dominant in Western societies—concern with well-being and the good life is considered a purely private matter that must be kept out of the public domain. In accord with the liberal disaggregation of social life, individuals are said to be sovereign masters of their conduct and ethical maxims, while every attempt at public pedagogy is viewed as a “road to serfdom” (or worse). To be sure, in their better moments, even radical advocates of this view realize that, based on such premises, social and political life is impossible. If ethical conduct xii Preface is entirely a matter of arbitrary individual choice, then it seems that the same freedom (or license) must be granted to murderers, rapists, and torturers. The usual rejoinder here is that the enforcement of penal laws is sufficient to maintain order. However, can laws and penal sanctions really do the job in the absence of a widespread sociability or willingness to be sociable...


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