For Tony the incentive behind the book—and it had to be a powerful one to overcome the discomfort and depression that were his constant companions—was primarily intellectual, a matter of clarification. ... Sick Tony ... was able, with Tim and through sheer mental and physical exertion, to find some relief and exhilaration in the life of the mind.
I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but I now see that the dead can extend feelings across the divide separating the living from the ever after. But—and this is a big but—they can only do it if they think of it in advance, before they actually die.
Passion and skepticism would always be in competition in his mind, as though he were forever debating his own enthusiasms. He has been criticized for being inconsistent in his views. But arguing with oneself, especially with one’s passions, is the mark of a real thinker. And Judt didn’t stop thinking until he drew his last breath. [My emphasis added]
...It is one thing to say that I am willing to suffer now for an unknowable but possibly better future. It is quite another to authorize the suffering of others in the name of that same unverifiable hypothesis. This, in my view, is the intellectual sin of the century: passing judgment on the fate of others in the name of their future as you see it, a future in which you may have no investment, but concerning which you claim exclusive and perfect information.
...The only thing he was an idealist about was serious public debate. This was the one thing, along with love, that was always left standing no matter how much was felled by the disease, and so much was. Tony called it the core. To me it was a narrowing beam of light in the darkness that was separating Tony from us all. And if Thinking the Twentieth Century stands in the no-man’s-land between what is and what should be, as I think it does, this is in part because it was driven by the darkness but also part of the light. It was besieged, as he was.As is liberalism? As is democracy?