Amazed that over 9 months I've written 2,000 tweets on my favorite thinkers! Below are some reflections on the project.
All of these thinkers are grappling with the limits of reason; what does it mean to care about mystery, about unverifiable, non-empirical phenomena in a world governed by scientific method. 2
Some are religious, some are secular. Some are more on the side of Jerusalem, others more on the side of Athens. But all realize that "authority" is not what it used to be. 2
All of them are asking what it means to be a self while also being relational. Independence and dependence are not opposite. 3
Many of them embrace paradox, tension, hard choices, uncertainty, and ambiguity as fundamental to the good life. If their projects are heroic it is against a presumed baseline of skepticism. The burden of proof is on them. 4
Even as some accept egalitarianism and others reject it, they're all trying to level up, not trying to create an equality of outcome by leveling the best down. They're contending with the possibility of aristocracy in a democratic age. 5
Especially for 20th century thinkers, but even for the 19th century ones, they're also grappling with the problem of scale, living in a time when things are faster and bigger and more complex than ever before. The globe is more connected, but life is also more alienating. 6
All have deep appreciation for tradition, even when they see tradition as not enough. Even Nietzsche starts off as a classicist. Heidegger can't reject Plato without also venerating what he gives us to think. The past can never be outright rejected, only reworked. 7
Some of them may reject humanism and universalism, but all are "humanists" in the broad sense that they believe a humanistic tradition of study has something to say that you won't get from being in STEM. This belief is, today, culturally on the wane. 8
A certain capitalist mode sees humanistic study as quaint, perhaps "a luxury."

A certain social justice mode sees it as conservative or reactionary, a defense of book learning instead of action. 9
Both want to cancel the humanities for being "unproductive" and retro; the former, for failing to be economically helpful, the latter for failing to be politically expedient. 10
All of the thinkers I love believe "thinking" is something more difficult, more reverential, more awesome, than mere cognition. Philosophy isn't just about being critical or using one's mind to come up with new ideas. 11
Philosophy or "thinking" is a way of life connected to virtue, insight, the good and the beautiful. 12
Even Adorno, who takes a more ascetic path, insisting that as long as the world is broken, so, too, philosophy, holds fast to the ideal.

He is like the negative theologian, or like Paul Celan whose compass is the felt absence of a North Star. 13
Many of the thinkers realize that language is the medium in which we exist, and that saying something about that which is beyond language presents us with a paradox. Many turn to art, contemplation, acts of love, or (political) decisionism, to resolve the paradox. 14
All believe that truth is higher and greater than what can be measured or proven & that utilitarianism is founded on a shallow metaphysics. It is as dogmatic as the worldview it rejects. 15
I could go on, and perhaps I will, in book form. If this project means something to you, and you have connections in the publishing field, lmk.

Now a personal reflection.
What I've learned from doing this:

1.I find twitter threads to be such a freeing medium
2. I find the engagement energizing and the unpredictability and serendipity meaningful.
3. I am having fun writing about things that are high octane and others are having fun with me.
4. I'm not anti-academic. I love many of my professors. But it's clear to me that learning and thinking can and should take place outside academia, too. Twitter has its limits, but the engagement here proves something, I think, about the desire to philosophize in the "agora."
5. The mode of academic publishing, for me, and probably for many others, is stifling for many reasons, including that the criterion for originality ends up narrowing the scope and ambition of the work, especially for scholars just starting out.
6. The turn around for academic publishing can be 1-3 years. And only a few people read the work, if they even do.
For twitter, it's an instantaneous turn around with a potential upside of anyone with a computer who can read English.
7. Ironically, many academics love talking about being "inclusive" these days, yet stand atop an edifice that is intentionally exclusive- and not just because it costs a lot to get a degree.
8. If you care about being inclusive, find ways to get your thought outside a paywalled journal article; find ways to use language that is non-jargony; find ways to make the thought personal and emotional. Find ways to relate ideas to what's going on in the world.
9. There are reasons we don't do this. It's risky. We might get rejected. And when we're more vulnerable and can't hind behind abstraction, rejection is personal.
10. We've also been trained to equate rigor with being impersonal. "Facts don't care about your feelings."

Well, I'm sorry but philosophy and literature aren't facts and fact-envy is not going to end well for anyone who thinks otherwise.
11. Does this mean anything goes? Does it mean the end of expertise? I don't think so, and I hope not. But it's ironic that some of those with greatest professed attachment to egalitarian aims cling most tightly to their credentials.
12. I am grateful that I have the time and freedom to write these threads. It's good that some people can make a living teaching at universities. But we should get away from thinking that learning can only happen in certain places, within certain frames.
13. I'll end with a nod to Socrates, the founder of this endeavor, who never had a job called "philosopher." He made everyone his teacher and in so doing was the greatest teacher of all.
14. Pirkei Avot echoes the Socratic sentiment when it says that a wise person is one who can learn from anyone.

Let's hope for a world that is not just more knowledgable, and more scholarly, but also wiser. And let us not mistake hard won erudition for the latter.

Thank you!

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Zohar Atkins

Zohar Atkins Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @ZoharAtkins

12 Oct
The time is nigh for a @threadapalooza on Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), Nazi apologist, romantic, and one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. Schmitt's critique of liberalism remains trenchant and influential on both the right and the left to this day.
Ironically, Schmitt believed the most fundamental political question is who is your friend and who is your enemy; and yet Schmitt himself has become a "friend" at the level of theory to many who do not share his politics. 2
All who follow Schmitt agree with him that liberalism is bad because it deliberately lowers the temperature in the room and attempts to outsource fundamental disagreements to processes to anonymous, administrative processes. 3
Read 103 tweets
8 Oct
IMO, Fukuyama is one of the greatest living thinkers of our time. He understood that profit maximizing alone would never satisfy us and that identity politics is inevitable—long before it was cool to talk about “identity”
The End of History makes clear in non technical terminology why Hegel and not Locke is the only route to securing liberal democracy. Nobody said it was easy.
His agonistic view of politics as being about “recognition” is spot on, and is embraced on both right and left.
Read 15 tweets
8 Oct
I had fun using Carl Schmitt's Nomos of the Earth to understand the story of Noah's ark.

Read on to discover what Elon Musk's SpaceX, @roddreher's Benedictine Option, and Foucault's "Critique" all have in common.

Tldr: Commitment > Optionality.…
"Noah must leave the ark in much the same way that George Clooney’s character must stop flying in the film Up in the Air. The sea is pure optionality, a haven from the frustrations of actuality. But nothing happens at sea, and nothing endures in the air."
Noah from his ark, and George Clooney from his airplane, look down at us suckers, us “normies,” in our sclerotic smallness. But the sad joke is on them as they take themselves out of the human condition, thinking that they have made a life by becoming drop-outs.
Read 4 tweets
7 Oct
I agree with Antonio that creed is less important in Judaism than Christianity. I disagree that Christianity is about happy endings.

The power of the Incarnation imo is that God shares in human suffering.

Jewish theology shares in this idea without making God a literal human.
In addressing the problem of the Holocaust, Hans Jonas imagines not a God who is responsible for it, but a God who is witness to it, a God who "goes into exile with God's people."
This said, I think one conflict between Judaism and Christianity has to do with the role each assigns to philosophy. The Torah is fundamentally narrative. Philosophy is fundamentally about abstract concepts.
Read 6 tweets
7 Oct
The Talmud (Gittin 56b) teaches that the Emperor Titus died from a gnat that flew into his ear and grew into the size of a pigeon. Thread.
What's remarkable about the story is that it repeats the trope of the Trojan horse, but on the nano-level.
While you can read the story in physicalist terms with the gnat as a a kind of migraine or tumor, you can also read it in contemporary terms as a "psy-op" or "brain-worm." That is, Titus died from ideational/ ideological corruption.
Read 7 tweets
1 Oct
One of my many contrarian takes on Peter Thiel's Zero to One is that it's a work of theology, first, and not a work of business advice. Being a successful business founder is besides the point.

Here, I use Thiel to read the Cain and Abel story:…
"At a strategic level, Cain and Abel are both condemned, so long as they are competing for divine love on the same axis. One is condemned to death, the other to murder."
"In God’s cryptic admonition to Cain, I hear a call for Cain not to compete, a call to walk away from the tournament for divine affection. It is a test that Cain fails, but one that we can hope, reading his cautionary tale, to pass in our own lives."
Read 5 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!