The New Republic, Dec. 15, 1997
A review of The Era of the Individual: A Contribution to a History of Subjectivity by Alain Renaut, translated by M.B. DeBevoise and Franklin Philip. Princeton University Press, 258 pp., $29.95.
Its enemies charge that the liberal spirit is hegemonic. Its friends sense that the liberal spirit is imperilled. To understand why liberalism is worth defending, it is important to see that it is both.
Few politicians today dare to run for office under liberalism's banner. In public discourse, "liberal" has become a term of abuse that Republicans hurl and Democrats dodge. The hurlers and the dodgers form an unlikely, unholy alliance that confuses the liberal spirit with the governing ambitions, the policy positions, and the political fortunes of a particular wing of the Democratic Party. One result is that fewer and fewer know that liberalism also names a proud tradition of moral and political thought. Its many varieties notwithstanding, this tradition, which arose in the seventeenth century, has championed goods that are as fundamental to the hopes of the right today as to the hopes of the left: individual liberty, human equality, religious toleration, intellectual inquiry based on the free exercise of human reason.
Despite contemporary liberalism's tarnished reputation, the principles for which the liberal tradition has always stood continue to exercise a powerful influence over American hearts and minds. No candidate can hope to succeed in America who denies the fundamental importance of individual freedom or questions the ideal of equality before the law. The disputes rage about the scope of freedom and what government may or must do to secure equality for all, but even the thorniest controversies between the left and the right in American political life take place in large measure within a liberal framework.
The primacy of liberal principles can be seen in the battle over abortion and in the struggle over affirmative action. Proponents of a woman's right to choose "to terminate her pregnancy" appeal to the familiar liberal principle of personal autonomy: the individual woman alone, it is argued, should have the final say when it comes to decisions about her own body and life. But to a considerable extent the opponents of abortion also build their case on the liberal ground of respect for the individual; they merely place a different (and very much younger) individual in the forefront of their considerations. Similarly, in the struggle over affirmative action, the contending camps often disagree over the interpretation and the application of a principle that they hold in common. The proponents of affirmative action argue that in a society haunted by the legacy of slavery, racism, and sexism, taking race and sex into account in hiring and promoting is necessary to achieve equality. And the opponents also invoke the principle of equality, contending that legally mandated preferences based on race or sex violate government's obligation to provide each citizen with the equal protection of the law. And one could repeat this exercise with similar results in connection with the debates over the right to suicide, welfare reform, tax policy, and other fiercely contested issues.
Though they are inextricably linked in liberal thought, the ideal of freedom and the ideal of equality must remain in tension with each other. The protection of individual freedom --- especially on a level playing field --- leads to inequality, as individuals, through the exercise of their different capacities and powers, achieve different results. And since it requires the imposition of constraints on what individuals may do with their property and themselves, the quest for equality results in a diminution of the freedom to do exactly as one pleases. And yet, these tensions notwithstanding, freedom and equality are part and parcel of the same fundamental thought in the liberal tradition. All individuals are thought to be by nature free. And all individuals are thought to be equally free because all equally lack the right to rule over any other.
The premise of natural freedom and natural equality is bound up with the metaphysical notions and the moral ideas that modern philosophy makes central to the understanding of the human condition. The modern turn toward subjectivity --- the notion that the human mind plays an active role in organizing and giving meaning to reality --- gives an egalitarian thrust to modern thought, by helping to undermine the classical idea of a natural order of rank and the religious vision of a divinely sanctioned hierarchy. The view that every man and every woman is essentially free lends luster to the virtue that Mill called "individuality" --- the exercise of a stern self-discipline to fashion a distinctive character out of strong and variegated passions; and at the same time it opens the door to the pathology that Tocqueville called " individualism," whereby "each man is forever thrown back on himself alone, and there is danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own heart." The idea of autonomy --- the modern moral idea par excellence, that the form of freedom is one and the same for every individual and consists in obeying only those laws that one has prescribed to oneself --- presupposes the theoretical primacy of subjectivity and the practical primacy of individuality.
None of this means that liberalism has ever devised conclusive arguments on behalf of its fundamental premise. Indeed, the perceived failure of the tradition to do so has led many liberal theorists to eschew the discussion of first principles, as if one could make philosophical questions vanish by refusing to speak about them. In recent years some leading liberals have become so aggressive in their evasions that they have confused the tactic of avoiding arguments in support of their first principles with the extreme insistence that liberalism altogether lacks theoretical foundations.
It is a serious mistake to define or to defend the spirit of liberalism while ignoring its fundamental premise. The belief in the freedom and the equality of all human beings is not all there is to liberalism, not by a long shot; but the premise is fundamental, because it orients and it organizes liberal thinking. It links the diverse strands that make up the liberal tradition. And it provides a principle for distinguishing liberalism from other traditions of moral and political thought. It explains why Hobbes, who established the natural freedom and equality of all as one of the bases of the true science of politics, deserves a place in the tradition; and why Nietzsche, who diagnosed the doctrine of human equality as a poisonous conceit and honored freedom as a prerogative of the few, does not.
It is also a mistake to reduce liberalism to its fundamental premise, as if the liberal tradition embodied a monolithic worldview and one could derive, from a single assumption, all pertinent conclusions about its governing style, its vitality, and its worth. As Judith Shklar pointed out, the liberal tradition is also defined by its "overriding aim," which, in her words, is to "secure the political conditions that are necessary for the exercise of personal freedom." Liberalism's fundamental premise does not dictate one right path to the attainment of its overriding aim. Indeed, in the effort to create political institutions and to promulgate laws that equally respect the individual freedom of all, the liberal tradition has produced a rich diversity of emphases, approaches, and arrangements.
This is a tradition that has articulated a set of characteristic themes including individual rights, consent, toleration, liberty of thought and discussion, self-interest rightly understood, the separation of the private from the public, and personal autonomy or the primacy of individual choice; a tradition that has elaborated a characteristic set of political institutions including representative democracy, separation of governmental powers, and an independent judiciary; and, less noticed these days, a tradition that has provided a fertile source of reflections on such non-political supports of the virtues that sustain liberty as commerce, voluntary association, family, and religion.
Listening to liberalism's leading critics in the academy, though, one might never guess that liberalism is a complicated and many-sided tradition. Communitarian critics reproach liberalism because (they claim) it disassociates citizens, drains the morality out of public life, and degrades politics to the play of selfish interests. Feminist critics rebuke liberalism for tolerating beliefs and practices that have denied women opportunities and perpetuated their status as second-class citizens. And postmodern critics condemn liberalism's core institutions and key concepts for working to conceal the contingency of established arrangements and thereby depriving individuals of the full range of choices that should be available to them. There is some truth in some of these charges. But all this reproaching and rebuking seems to have left its leading critics little energy for appreciating liberalism's achievements, such as protecting personal rights and securing the equal protection of the laws, that these critics take for granted and would not, at least for themselves, dream of abandoning. Nor have the critics set aside much time to consider to what extent these solid achievements would be imperilled by the pursuit, without the backdrop of liberal limits and guarantees, of communitarian, feminist, or postmodern goals.
Truth be told, academic liberalism must shoulder a fair portion of the blame for allowing the complexity and the diversity of the liberal tradition to fade from view. The professors --- the philosophical professionals --- must take some responsibility for disarming liberalism in the face of aggressive assaults on its good name. The liberalism that dominates in the academy is primarily concerned with articulating technical principles and applying them to contemporary moral dilemmas. It takes little account of the unruliness of human passion, the practical force of higher aspirations, the nonpolitical requirements of politics in a liberal state, and the impact of the laws on the character of those who live under them.
In the universities, liberals continue to do their own tradition an injustice by uncritically conforming to the custom of studying only the Locke who teaches about the principles of legitimate government in the Second Treatise and Letter Concerning Toleration, but not the Locke who, in Some Thoughts Concerning Education, examines the virtues that support liberty; of attending almost entirely to the Kant who expounds the principle of autonomy in the Groundwork, but neglecting the Kant who articulates the virtues of moral character in the Metaphysics of Morals; of focusing exclusively on the Mill who, in the first three chapters of On Liberty, celebrates individual choice and the need for new experiments in living, but leaving out of focus the Mill of the fourth and fifth chapters of On Liberty, who recognizes society's interest in cultivating the "social virtues," and stresses the role of the state, the family, and voluntary associations in fostering the virtues of freedom. With friends like this....
Consider Michael Sandel's criticism of the reasoning that underlies recent Supreme Court decisions on religious liberty. Sandel's communitarian worry is that in the end the liberal approach to religious liberty, which requires that "government should be neutral toward religion in order to respect persons as free and independent selves," only respects religious beliefs insofar as they can be seen as "the product of free and voluntary choice." And this reductionist view of religion, Sandel believes, has baleful consequences for religious believers, for when liberalism "protect s religion as a life-style, as one among the values that an independent self may have, it may miss the role that religion plays in the lives of those for whom the observance of religious duties is a constitutive end, essential to their good and indispensable to their identity."
Attention to his language helps to reveal the moral consideration that animates Sandel's criticism of the liberal approach: "Treating persons as selforiginating sources of valid claims,'" Sandel writes, "may ... fail to respect persons bound by duties derived from sources other than themselves" my emphasis . In other words, Sandel wants the Supreme Court to adopt a form of reasoning about religious liberty that is not less neutral but more neutral than the standard liberal approach. Sandel seeks a theoretical perspective that not only respects persons whose beliefs are freely chosen, but also respects persons whose religious beliefs are experienced by them as given and fixed. Sandel demonstrates little interest in the truth or the falsity, the wisdom or the foolishness, the utility or the danger, of religious belief. His approach no more displays an inherent respect for religion than does the contemporary liberalism that he condemns for failing to take religion's intrinsic claims seriously.
Or consider the feminism of Catharine MacKinnon. Despite her fierce denunciations of liberalism and its principles (for sustaining "a reign of sexual terror and abasement and silence and misrepresentation continuing to the present day"), MacKinnon makes equality for women her fundamental goal. Indeed, MacKinnon begins her major work, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, with the remarkable acknowledgment --- in a parenthesis! --- that while her book is "not a moral tract" and "does not advance an ideal," for the purposes of her argument "sex equality is taken, at least nominally, as an agreed-upon social ideal." That there is a connection between the liberalism that MacKinnon reviles and the pervasiveness of sex equality as a social ideal in America, which she is pleased to take for granted, does not occur to her.
MacKinnon's extremism obscures the extent to which her theory aims in effect to advance the liberal principle of equality for all by securing equality for a group that, in her view, has been from time immemorial denied it. Although she preposterously insinuates that under present conditions there is little meaningful difference between sex and rape, MacKinnon does bring to light how law and social relations can work against rape victims and for rapists. Although she recklessly denounces the right to privacy conferred by Roe v. Wade because it "reaffirms and reinforces what the feminist critique of sexuality criticizes: the public/private split for the lives of women," MacKinnon rightly contends that the private sphere can be the site of women's humiliation and degradation. And although she makes many loose statements and unsubstantiated claims about the connection between pornography and violence against women, it is reasonable to worry that the hard-core pornography casually peddled at corner newsstands and neighborhood convenience stores weakens the claims of equality by fostering the opinion that women's purpose in life is to provide sexual pleasure for men. What is crucial to notice is that MacKinnon criticizes the law of rape, the right to privacy, and the First Amendment protection of pornography for depriving a particular class of individuals of the equality and dignity that she seems to believe is theirs by right.
Postmodernism, too, derives much of its appeal from what it shares with liberalism. Some postmodern theorists deny that postmodernism has a stable core, asserting that the term is in large measure the invention of hostile critics who seek to dismiss a great variety of critical positions by collapsing them into a single opinion or perspective. So argues Judith Butler, in the opening paragraphs of an influential article, "Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of Postmodernism." And yet she goes on to affirm the following as axiomatic: "power pervades the very conceptual apparatus that seeks to negotiate its terms, including the subject position of the critic"; "there is no ontologically intact reflexivity to the subject which is then placed within a cultural context"; "agency is always and only a political prerogative" italics in original . Of course the translation of such abstruse, technical language into more ordinary terms is always a tricky business, but it certainly sounds as if Butler is affirming a core set of beliefs commonly associated (and not only by hostile critics) with the postmodern viewpoint: that there is no human nature, that truth is socially constructed, and that reason is the tool of will and an expression of power.
But there is more to this than a radical theoretical stance. There is also a governing moral intention. Butler's position, she is at pains to point out, "is not the advent of a nihilistic relativism incapable of furnishing norms, but, rather, the very precondition of a politically engaged critique." A politically engaged critique "subversively" deploys the tools of " deconstruction" on familiar terms and categories in order "to displace them from the contexts in which they have been deployed as instruments of oppressive power." And it seeks to expose "insidious cultural imperialism" and the "ethnocentric bias" of allegedly universal moral principles. Put aside for the moment the question of whether postmodernism's critique of reason sustains or subverts its moral agenda. The important point is that postmodernism understands itself to be a movement of liberation. And as a movement of liberation it is not the antithesis to liberalism, it is liberalism's fruit.
Communitarianism, feminism, and postmodernism, even when they explicitly define themselves in opposition to liberalism, continue to derive much of their appeal from the manner in which they develop or extend liberalism's fundamental premise, which is the natural freedom and equality of all; and they are driven by liberalism's governing moral impulse, which is the dignity of the individual. At the same time, the outstanding defects in the approaches to politics of liberalism's leading critics can be traced to their disregard of crucial lessons taught by the liberal tradition about the beliefs, the practices, and the institutions that protect --- and limit --- individual freedom and secure equality before the law. Liberalism's leading critics are in fact its own fickle and rebellious children. They denounce or deny their parents, but they continue to live off --- and run down --- the family fortune.
But what of those who, out of mischief or piety, wish to deny the power of liberalism's fundamental premise? And those free spirits who wish honestly to resist liberalism's claims to authority? What can be said on behalf of liberalism's fundamental premise to them? Can reason defend freedom and equality as the political principles most appropriate to the dignity shared by all human beings?
Alain Renaut thinks that reason is up to the task. Renaut, the co-author with Luc Ferry of French Philosophy of the Sixties and Heidegger and Modernity, is one of an influential group of French intellectuals who, in response to the excesses of existentialism, Marxism, and poststructuralism that marked the post-war intellectual life of Paris, have sought since the 1980s to stake a claim to the liberal tradition. In The Era of the Individual, his densely argued "contribution to a history of subjectivity," Renaut seeks to provide a philosophical vindication of liberalism's fundamental premise and its controlling moral impulse.
But this is not precisely how Renaut would put it. Steeped in the tradition of continental rationalism that arises out of Descartes, that ascends through Leibniz, Kant, and Hegel, and that undergoes radical criticism in the writings of Nietzsche and Heidegger, Renaut writes about the theoretical foundations of liberal modernity with a polemical flair and an air of grandiosity:
How are we to make sense of the presence in our intellectual universe of the assault on subjectivity as the root of totalitarian or technocratic enslavement, and the simultaneous appeal to subjectivity in describing and denouncing this enslavement as underlying a certain conception of humanity that is alien to the totalitarian world --- a world in which human beings are denied any possibility (and thus any right) of being the source of their own thought and acts, of being subjects rather than objects (that is, the reified basis of an infinite manipulation)?
This is not a book for the philosophically faint of heart. English-speaking readers may be intimidated by Renaut's style, and if they happen to have been raised in the strait-laced tradition of analytic philosophy, they may be repelled by it. His initial articulation of the fundamental problem is certainly daunting:
The basic challenge facing modern society is to reconcile the "freedom of the moderns" --- that is, the demand for independence implied by the modern idea of autonomy as independence from a radical otherness, or exteriority that prescribes the subject's course of action --- with the necessary existence of norms, which in constituting an unavoidable demand for intersubjectivity therefore presupposes a limitation upon monadological individualism --- and so a limitation upon individuality.
Still, Renaut's central thesis can be restated in an idiom that is faithful to his intention and brings out its pertinence to contemporary American debates.
In "our" terms, Renaut's thesis might be put in this way: The defense of the dignity of the individual is a crowning achievement of modern thought. It is not, as so many of liberalism's critics maintain, the irresistible fate of the modern defense of the dignity of the individual to culminate in a diabolical and doomed quest to subject the world to human mastery (as Heidegger, the Frankfurt School, Hannah Arendt, and Michel Foucault all argue) or to deteriorate into an aimless individualism which confuses freedom with isolation and the liberation from regulation by any rules whatsoever (as Louis Dumont, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Robert Bellah and his co-authors of Habits of the Heart maintain).
To show that the modern individual can be understood in such a way as to avoid the dangers of "the reign of subjectivity" and the "triumph of individualism," Renaut undertakes a "philosophical history of philosophy." This differs from the sort practiced by professors of the history of political thought, which begins and ends with philological and historical concerns. Renaut does not begrudge such professors their interests or their labors. Indeed, he himself wishes to get the words right, to understand ideas in their contexts. Still, what animates his scholarly toil is the belief that a proper understanding of the thinking of the major figures in modern philosophy is crucial to a proper understanding of the truth about human nature; of the requirements of justice; of what we can hope for, and what we should fear from, politics today.
Renaut begins with Heidegger. This is right, not only because of the immense influence that Heidegger exercised over the French intellectuals who rose to prominence in the 1960s, but also because of the intrinsic power of Heidegger's analysis of the trajectory of modernity. Heidegger argued that modernity in thought and politics is defined by the "turn," initiated above all by Descartes, toward subjectivity. The principle that man the subject constructs the reality that human beings inhabit implies that, behind custom and morality, underlying the laws of social and political life as well as the laws of nature, giving shape and substance to visions of the divine and conceptions of the ultimate principles of the cosmos, there is nothing but the organizing and productive capacities of the human mind.
The proposition that reality is a function of man's mind, Heidegger argued, culminates inevitably in the supremely arrogant view that man the subject is the ultimate reality. So the logic of subjectivity subverts the old ultimates, overturning the idea of a natural moral order that is separate from, and is a standard for, human conduct; it brings about the death of God, and sanctions the self-deification of man, or his quest for the absolute mastery of the world. Thus does Heidegger derive Nietzsche's will to power from Descartes's cogito, and thus do his disciples derive twentieth-century totalitarianism and technocratic culture from the Cartesian imperative to become "master and possessor of nature."
In Renaut's view, Heidegger's interpretation of subjectivity was a great achievement: it brought to light a powerful but unseen logic linking a succession of thinkers and systems of thought. But Renaut also observes, correctly, that much of the attraction of Heidegger's history comes from its amazing one-dimensionality: who needs to master the details or read any of the books when one knows exactly how the story comes out, and why it could not have come out otherwise?
The history of subjectivity is considerably more textured than Heidegger acknowledges, as Renaut shows; it is marked by a pluralism of perspectives, by discontinuities in its development. Renaut wishes to demonstrate that already in Kant's moral philosophy an interpretation of man the subject was put forward in which the tendency of subjectivity to reduce all of reality to the constructions of the mind was recognized and wrestled with. Renaut does not claim that Kant's recasting of subjectivity was entirely successful; but resisting Heidegger and reconsidering Kant is critical, he argues, since the idea of subjectivity is inextricably connected to the defense of the dignity of the modern individual.
The most defensible interpretation of this dignity, according to Renaut, must be made in terms of autonomy. The autonomous self is self-governing. It is itself the source of the law that it follows. To many, the idea of autonomy begs or confirms Heidegger's view that the principle of subjectivity results in a self that knows no limits. Yet Kant was aware of this interpretation of autonomy, and he rejected it. His argument was that freedom does not consist in obeying any old law that one happens to prescribe to oneself. It consists instead in obeying only those laws that one prescribes to oneself because of their necessity and their rightness. This is a distinction with a momentous difference.
Renaut turns to the writings of the French anthropologist Louis Dumont to analyze the second great pathology of subjectivity: "individualism." Based on his study of hierarchically based society in India and on comparisons with the egalitarian West, Dumont distinguished two fundamental ideologies for the organization of social life. A holistic ideology, of the sort found in Hindu India, subordinates the individual to society. An individualist ideology, of the sort that organizes the Christian West, subordinates society to the individual, whom it understands to be prior to, and independent of, the social whole. Dumont sees the Reformation, the birth of liberalism in the seventeenth century, and the French Revolution as successive stages in the triumph of individualism in the West. He views this triumph as a bitter one, since it culminates in the atomized and isolated individual --- the same nefarious human atom that has become the target of heaps of social criticism and political blather, whose freedom is allegedly formless, whose aims are allegedly arbitrary, whose life is allegedly consumed with the narcissistic pursuit of narrow pleasures or the neurotic quest for novelty and self-minted meaning.
Just as Heidegger and his followers argue that the modern turn toward subjectivity must conclude in the destructive quest for man's absolute mastery, so do Dumont and his allies contend that the modern concern with the dignity of the individual necessarily ends with reduced and isolated individuals, who may think that they are autonomous but are really enslaved to public opinion, and in the crowds stand alone. And just as Renaut criticizes Heidegger and his followers for confusing subjectivity with one of its corruptions, so does he criticize Dumont and his allies for seeing in individualism the truth of autonomy rather than one form of its debasement.
Accordingly, Renaut provides principled means for distinguishing autonomy from individualism. Individualism stands for the independence of the individual, in the sense of the right to be left alone, to be free from the will of the collectivity, to do one's own thing. Autonomy involves grasping the necessary limits of freedom and imposing them on oneself. Individualism is accidental, what an individual happens to be doing. Autonomy is an achievement, what an individual sets out, freely and with his powers, to do. Individualism is the flight from constraint. Autonomy is a discipline by which one freely accepts laws and norms, not because one has invented them but because they are reasonable and right. Individualism glorifies the unique subjectivity of every individual. Autonomy presupposes an intersubjectivity --- a perspective shared by all individuals --- grounded in the universality of reason. "Individualism," as Tocqueville argued, is a disease marked by slackness of soul. Autonomy, like the "individuality" of Mill, is a virtue based on the education of the heart and the mind.
Renaut is adamant that the return to autonomy not "lead us back to those deluded models of the subject that had occasionally been cultivated by metaphysics in the past; in other words, it needs to be shown that the idea of autonomy is compatible with the destruction of those illusions, as with the main concerns of twentieth-century philosophy, all of which are related to the question of finitude." Thus he argues that no conception of autonomy will be acceptable which fails to reckon with the far-reaching role that external forces --- class, culture, social norms, the unconscious --- play in conditioning human subjectivity. In sum, Renaut seeks a conception of autonomy that is limited, self-aware, and reasonable, and so a worthy expression of the dignity of man.
Renaut may be faulted for suggesting that the modern understanding of autonomy is the only defensible interpretation of individual dignity. He may be criticized also for his antitheological ire and his one-dimensional reading of ancient political philosophy. For Renaut, God and the idea of a justice according to nature are little more than sinister temptations:
In defending against all attempts to "return to the ancients," we need to emphasize with equal vigor that transcendence will not consist in somehow getting free of subjectivity, in breaking out of the circle of immanence in order to revive some normativity conceived in the archaic, premodern context of the otherness of divine Law or the exteriority of Tradition.... In an age of disenchantment with the world that ... is inherent in the democratic process of modern society, it makes no sense to try to re-create from scratch a theological and religious vision whose revival is surely neither possible nor, owing to its incompatibility with the democratic idea of a selfimposed order, desirable.
But surely an appreciation of the productive powers of the mind does not preclude an openness to first principles and moral standards that the mind does not produce. Renaut's argument is overly fond of the Enlightenment arrogance that relegates religious belief to the childhood of mankind. Reason has its own dogmatism. Indeed, by the Enlightenment's own standards, the wholesale repudiation of faith is itself an article of faith, and therefore it should not be absolutely binding on the intellect. God's law, or His love of justice and mercy, is certainly not incompatible with the requirement that liberalism imposes on democracy: that, no matter how eloquently the case is made in the public realm, there are things that majorities, however united and sincere, or minorities, however deserving and wise, must be forbidden to do to individuals, on account of the intrinsic dignity of man.
Despite his weak points and his blind spots, however, Renaut has written a genuinely important book. In the present circumstances, in which reason is on the run, and liberalism, for all its ubiquity, is so badly understood --- in these philosophical and cultural circumstances, what matters most is Renaut's energetic, erudite, and effective summoning of reason to defend the autonomous individual.
The free use of the mind eventually leads to the question of whether it is reasonable and true that the free use of the mind is the basis also for the dignity of man. Renaut does not claim to have settled the question once and for all. What he has shown is that reason can demonstrate and disprove the inaccuracies and the undesirable implications of the leading contemporary criticisms of the ideal of autonomy; that reason can reestablish autonomy as a defensible and desirable idea. Renaut does not claim to have done more than this. And it is unreasonable to ask more of him, or of reason. Fending off the enemies of reason and keeping alive a viable vision of human dignity --- both crucial to the challenge of giving liberalism its due --- are services enough.
Peter Berkowitz teaches government at Harvard. He is the author of Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist (Harvard University Press).