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Timothy Snyder's 20 Lessons for Recovering Trump Voters (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) January 24, 2021: Yale history professor and public intellectual Timothy Snyder is the distinguished author of the 2010 book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books).

Now, in Snyder's accessible and incisive 2017 book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (New York: Tim Duggan Books), he explicitly rejects the contemporary philosophical movement known as post-truth and the American political movement known as nationalism (also known as America First - a slogan often associated with Charles Lindbergh [1902-1974]).

In effect, Snyder implicitly defends the broad tradition of philosophical realism - against the philosophical movement of post-truth, on the one hand, and, on the other, the non-philosophical practitioner of spirit of post-truth, now former President Donald ("Tweety") Trump.

Now that former President Tweety Trump is no longer in office, Snyder's 20 key lessons are still important for turning his anarchist and nihilist followers away from their wayward ways.

As noted, whatever else may be said about Snyder's still relevant 20 lessons, he does not happen to advert explicitly to the broad tradition of philosophical realism.

Now, my favorite scholar is the American Jesuit Renaissance specialist and cultural historian Walter J. Ong (1912-2003; Ph.D. in English, Harvard University, 1955). For an accessible discussion on his philosophical thought, see my lengthy OEN article "Walter J. Ong's Philosophical Thought" (dated September 20, 2020):

Click Here

Whatever else may be said about Ong's phenomenological and personalist philosophical thought, his philosophical thought falls well within the broad tradition of philosophical realism.

Now, whatever else may be said about the contemporary philosophic movement known as post-truth, it does not fall within the tradition of philosophical realism.

For a relevant defense of philosophical realism, see Martha C. Nussbaum's scholarly article "Human Functioning and Social Justice: In Defense of Aristotelian Essentialism" in the journal Political Theory, volume 20, number 2 (May 1992): pages 202-246.

Now, in Snyder's succinct "Prologue: History and Tyranny" (pages 9-13), he operationally defines and explains what he means by tyranny: "In founding a democratic republic upon law and establishing a system of checks and balances, the Founding Fathers sought to avoid the evil that they, like the ancient philosophers [Plato and Aristotle], called tyranny. They had in mind the usurpation of power by a single individual or group, or the circumvention of law by rulers for their own benefit. Much of the succeeding political debate in the United States has concerned the problem of tyranny within American society: over slaves and women, for example" (pages 9-10).

Then Snyder's accessible short book unfolds in the following 20 short chapters:

(1) "Do not obey in advance" (pages 17-21).

(2) "Defend institutions" (pages 22-25).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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