Saturday, July 07, 2007


Thanks to Deirdre Good (specifically her fine blog On Not Being A Sausage) for pointing me in the direction of Daniel J. Mahoney's 'City Journal' review of Vaclav Havel's memoir, To the Castle and Back, published by Knopf. The article explores the twists and turns of his interestingly textured thought. Whether politics can be substantially re-grounded in a notion of what John D. Caputo calls "a passion for the impossible" without a commitment to the transcendent as more than simply notional (otherwise it remains just a re-working of the C19th Romanticism of "the sublime"), is the interesting theological question inscribed (but not really explored) on the body of Havel's work - which commendably takes "doing the truth" - a quirky Johannine phrase, actually - as its datum. In many respects it could be described as the negotiable space between those two overlapping but distinctly different "apostles of the impossible", Jacques Derrida and Jean Luc Marion (q.v. on FaithInSociety).

Mahoney writes: "In his post-1989 books and speeches, Havel [pictured] continued to defend a moral vision of politics that he called “nonpolitical politics” or “politics as morality in practice.” He identified this vision with the demanding but liberating task of “living in truth.” Havel refused to identify politics with a dehumanizing “technology of power,” the notion that power was an end in itself. Instead he defended a moral order that stands above law, politics, and economics—a moral order that “has a metaphysical anchoring in the infinite and eternal.” His speeches as president, many collected in English in The Art of the Impossible (1997), were artful exercises in moral and political philosophizing, enthralling Western audiences."

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