Allen Bloom and Alan Keyes

Allen Bloom and Alan Keyes August 22, 2004

Jon Rowe has written an absolute must-read essay on our favorite intrepid campaigner, Alan Keyes, and our favorite nihilist-who-sounds-like-a-fundamentalist philosopher, Allan Bloom. I was not aware until I read it that Keyes was the person that Bloom was referring to in his book The Closing of the American Mind, when he told the story of a black student at Cornell who had been threatened by radical black students and the administration would do nothing about it. In fact, other than the fact that they both are social conservatives, I had no idea that Keyes was a student of Bloom at all. As Rowe notes, this does make for a rather twisted situation.

Bloom, you see, was precisely the kind of person that Keyes rants and raves endlessly about – atheist in belief, homosexual in orientation, nihilist in philosophy, and hedonist in his personal life. But Bloom was also convinced that those beliefs were only safe among the elite and the initiated, that the masses needed religion to keep them in line and keep society docile and stable. In short, he supported the authoritarian policies espoused by men like Keyes (who presumably actually believes it) because he thought it was required to control the passions of others, while flaunting and violating what he publicly supported in his own life.

Am I the only one who finds this terribly fascinating? Here’s a question for my readers who are also fascinated by it, and by political philosophy in general: how many of our own founding fathers took a similar position? I think one can certainly make a case that Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Hamilton, at least, believed something very much like this, that religion was useful as a control on human passions regardless of whether it is true or not. I’d very much like to hear the thoughts of some of my readers on this one, especially Sandefur and shulamite, both of whom have a fairly obvious association with the Straussians.

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