- Republican Anxiety, or, Franklin as Constitutional Thinker
Let me begin with a summary of a certain thematic that runs through philosophy from Kant to Heidegger and after. The thematic may be called the subject, temporality, and the political.
Read from this thematic: The basic problem of philosophy is telling what time it is. Telling the time is not so much, of course, a chronometric matter. Rather, the time for philosophy lies in the possibility of situating itself in the sequence of problems and questions that actuate inquiry and that become an order or succession of concepts generated from the questions and problems asked, in becoming a history of the appearing of knowledge. The responses to the questions "when" and "what" stand as the residue or trace of the previously unexpected and unforeseen event and the order of events. In these formulations Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger are recalled, but also Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, and Marx, as well as Foucault, Derrida, and Badiou.
The collision of the prior formulations concerning the times and the [End Page 213] subject with the unforeseen, the event, then, became the condition for any truth. The truth occasioned by the event provides the basis for the distinction for any determination of before and after, for any history. One of the ways to summarize later collisions between philosophy and event may be: Kant, Kantianism, and the questions posed by the American and French Revolutions. Further, the question can be sharpened: How can the event form the individual and collective subject in its subjectivity? What relation do later generations have to the moment of formation wrought by the event?
1. Initiation, the Initiate, and the Political Significance of the Follower
That and how truth may come to appear and be transmitted are problems that Hegel and Kierkegaard explicitly struggle with. Oddly, and not so oddly, the problem of transmittal or transmission of truth is also, at the same time, for these two philosophers, a political one: a problem of situating the apprehension of a truth; the instilling or recollection of truth as an event in the formation of individual or collective consciousness as an event of knowledge; and the subsequent creation of adherents or followers out of the initial event of truth. The initial event of truth as a community-forming event provides a common ideological root for the religious and the political whereby the one can often be read interchangeably with the other throughout much of history. Becoming an adherent and then becoming a member, or assigning oneself and being assigned a position in a group organized around a theme—whether it involves being the member of a religious community, a sect, a political party or faction, a school of thought, or even a profession such as medicine, science, or law—is what is entailed here. The first condition of being a follower is coming to a belief that offers a prospect of knowledge. The occurrence of this coming to belief and adherence is taken up by some of the philosophers already mentioned, each in their own way.
In Philosophical Fragments, or, A Fragment of Philosophy, Kierkegaard sets forth the problem of the transmittal of truth as a relation of teacher and follower in a double manner, coming at two historical times: the transmittal of truth as posed by Socrates and the transmittal of truth from the god or savior [End Page 214] to the follower. Certainly, in this second example, the whole problematic of the figure of Christ and Christianity is evoked. The two regimes are opposed, though it is worth noting that each figure serving as a model here died at the hands of the political authority in control in their time.
The Socratic regime of transmittal is the more modest of the two. Kierkegaard emphasizes Socrates' self-characterization as a midwife of knowledge. The truth is already with the follower, and the propaedeutic method of the teacher is to assist the follower in recollecting what is already there; it is, at once, to indulge the student's vanity that he already is in possession of knowledge and simultaneously to build beyond that vanity, for clearly, the followers/students in the Socratic...