Satan's Trouble With Eve

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Naomi Wolf

One challenge that I was aware of when I conceived this course was making the Milton & Metaphysicals side of the Seventeenth-Century dialectic seem plausible to you – the students of the new millenium.

As I have stated in lecture, Hobbes and his advocacy of naked power won the debate. Will to power is the default belief for all our social, political & private discourse. The Metaphysicals’ default assumption that All You Need is Love is, to anyone not in generational synch with The Beatles, total laughable crap: impossibly quaint and contemptibly archaic.

In our just-completed election, did any of our would-be leaders declare that the solution to murder, theft, poverty, drug abuse and separatism is Love? Do any university lectures beg for more Love to solve the problems between men and women, employer and worker, or pray for more Love between Wal-Mart and its enemies? (Did I, for the matter of that, write my course syllabus so that the greater love receives the greater final grade?) Have any social advocates that you have heard implore families to Love each other more?
Answer: No! All these issues are framed in terms of pure power-politics. And of course this is likely for the best. Hobbes’ world is the real world.

However, to my utter surprise, and to the serendipitous benefit of our course, Naomi Wolf – of whose feminist tract The Beauty Myth über-feminist author Germaine Greer and author of The Female Eunuch wrote “'the most important feminist publication since The Female Eunuch” – has just declared herself a Christian after a mystical experience of Jesus. Her credo now puts her solidly on the love side of our course dialectic.
I absolutely believe in divine providence now, absolutely believe God totally cares about every single one of us intimately, that we’re not alone, that we’re surrounded by love. That everything is OK.
Wolf is now in effect harmonious with the Metaphysicals - she rejects the claim that power is alone realism and affirms instead that Love is ontologically Real, is Personal, and is the Answer.

Polemically speaking, Providence could not have shined on our course any brighter!

There is a completely fascinating -- fascinating for our course -- debate between Wolf & Greer on BBC Radio4's Woman's Hour which you can listen to online here.
The essential exchange for our purposes has Greer arguing that in the world as it is, all mentor relationships -- including father & daughter -- are forms of "seduction" - that is, sexual and predatory ("we are caught up in a sadistic scenario" she insists), and Wolf replying -- with fastidious respect bordering on obsequiousness -- that Greer is ".... sexualising inappropriately what is an intellectual relationship intergenerationally."
Setting aside for our present purposes the question of who is right, we simply observe that these are precisely the dialectical positions definded in the seventeenth century and by our course's two literary opposites: Power versus Love; Hobbes versus Milton & the Metaphysicals. However, insofar as we were to judge Greer to be expressing the correct view, we would be declaring ourselves Hobbesians: all human (and, in Hobbes' disciple Darwin, all animal) arrangements are reducible to mere exercise of power, with win, loss, or (more rarely) draw the three iron results possible.
Wolf herself draws the fact of dichotomy explicity: saying to Greer that "we are talking from completely different experience bases ...."


  • With respect for Hobbes’ real world and power politics, are we to believe that most artists exist outside of this reality? “Where is the love?” Do not artists past and present count as social advocates? They implore families to love, as well as outline major social issues. Is it not credible to sing of love to promote understanding and acceptance? Naomi Wolf and many modern artists would agree with the reality and power of love!!

    By Blogger Will, at 9:54 AM  

  • Dear Will:

    Your last sentence is the very point I wanted to make. Perhaps there is an opposition impied but one one that I am missing?

    By Blogger Dr. S.A. Ogden, at 1:42 PM  

  • No opposition, only a comment.

    By Blogger Will, at 9:45 PM  

  • And a fine comment it was!

    By Blogger Dr. S.A. Ogden, at 3:23 AM  

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