On Words and Things

Greetings from the Great North,

As Kanye West said to his presidential campaign consultants, let’s keep this short.

When I started working on my first book, I got a great piece of advice from a philosopher. (I know that sounds pretentious, but it’s true. He was an academic philosopher who wrote about stuff I was interested in and we emailed occasionally). And since I’m in Alaska, I should say he told me “don’t eat the yellow snow.” Or maybe that “the way you tell black bear crap from grizzly bear crap, is that the grizzly bear crap has the little bells and whistles they give hikers to scare away grizzlies in it.” 

But what he really told me was: Don’t confuse words for things. He was referring to intellectual history stuff, specifically. We have a tendency to think ideologies exist separate and apart from the human beings who represent them. Bolshevism, fascism, or any other –ism, good or bad, exists in some platonic realm of ideas, separate and apart from their human avatars.

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