The seminar room was packed. Robert and Sophia sat in the front row with their notebooks at the ready. Glynn and Jude sat at the rear. Harry drew a deep breath and exhaled before beginning:
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first seminar in the series of the elective “Psychology and Education”. There will be 3 lectures in total.
The title of this course, requires an introduction because it is not obvious what “Psychology” actually is, i.e. it is not obvious what the term means. What is clear, is that many of the thoughts I will be talking about have their origin in other universes of discourse. That said, let’s begin at the beginning and note firstly, that the word “Psuche” in Greek is the etymological root of “Psyche”, which does not exclusively mean “mind” as some commentators have stipulated. The Greek expression has a broader meaning which is going to be important in characterizing the central question or questions the subject is concerned with. Psuche means life. You may wonder, ladies and gentlemen what is meant by life, i.e. what the Greeks were thinking about when they used the expression. The Greek classical narrator, Homer, apparently used the expression to refer to what was lacking in bodies strewn lifelessly on a battlefield. This has been misinterpreted over the ages in two directions. Firstly certain very concrete interpreters thought that it meant “breath”: the dead soldiers were no longer breathing. This was obviously in a sense incorrect, yet life surely cannot be the name of a simple biological phenomenon involving an exchange of gases necessary for activity: surely it must in some sense refer to the activity of living itself in a broader sense. Secondly, some more abstract interpreters thought that “psuche” must refer to some spiritual substance that was no longer present in the bodies of the soldiers, namely, their souls. These interpreters were of course armed with a particular theory about reality as a whole which divides it into two entities, a physical entity like the body which breathes, senses, and moves, and a mental entity which in some curious fashion is able to have experiences even when separated from a physical body. One needs to be in some sense conscious if experience is to be possible, it was argued, and thus was born the idea that Psuche meant something like “consciousness”.
In this respect “Anthropology” would have been a more apt name for the subject matter of Psychology. The term, Psuche, interpreted as “Life” or “Consciousness”, appears to be unable to convey the whole of what we are studying, namely, the human being living a human life. “Anthropos” in Greek means “human” and “Logos” means “study” or “systematic investigation”. If we move forward ca 2000 years, a tradition of studying man in a holistic spirit as man-in-society grew up in the German academic literature culminating in a work entitled “Anthropology” by Immanuel Kant. Kant’s work, followed one of the major currents of the stream of Enlightenment thought, and not only studied the human in his human Aristotelian context—his society— but also studied the human being as the proper holistic object of study in the light of the humanistic conviction that the subject of God cannot be studied other than as an idea in man’s mind. God as a theoretical idea had, on Kant’s account, become a hypothetical projection of man’s thinking processes and reasoning. And on this latter issue of man’s thinking processes, and the investigation of the human being, here is a quote, in illustration, from Kant’s preface to the work in question:
“All cultural progress, by which the human being advances his education, has the goal of applying this acquired knowledge and skill for the worlds use. but the most important object in the world to which he can apply them is the human being: because the human being is his own final end…..A doctrine of knowledge of the human being, systematically formulated(anthropology), can exist either in a physiological or in a pragmatic point of view.—Physiological knowledge of the human being concerns the investigation of what nature makes of the human being: pragmatic knowledge is the investigation of what he as a free acting being makes of himself, or can and should make of himself.”
During the Middle Ages and even during the Enlightenment, the idea of the Homeric/Platonic soul as capable of surviving to have experiences after the death of its host body had miraculously disentangled itself from the Aristotelian arguments proving such a conception to be impossible. But another current of the stream of Enlightenment thought, namely science, was operating beneath the surface of academic events and although the assumptions which enabled science to achieve its successes were primarily Aristotelian, it had distanced itself from Aristotle’s metaphysics in general which regarded matter and the material world as infinite and his conceptions of formal and final cause in particular. For Science, the universe could be divided up and reduced to either its material components, whatever they turned out to be, or it could be divided up into all of the possible physical facts, some of which would include reference to the causes of facts. On this latter conception, science collects facts for the book of nature like the zoologist collects butterflies. That is to say, science measures the quantities of things which it assumes is the only way of investigating an infinite homogeneous continuum. Blue is reduced to a certain number on the nanometer scale and red is characterized in terms of another number on the scale: the qualitative difference between red and blue is subordinated to a quantitative frequency of light. These operations of dividing and quantifying which were promising great technological consequences were already, prior to the Enlightenment, serving to diminish the value of humanistic studies which, following Aristotle, were striving to understand the essence of phenomena rather than their causes. So whilst Kant was in the process of undermining the theological-metaphysical God, he was doing so in an environment that would succeed not only in undermining Aristotle’s metaphysics but also the Kantian transcendental metaphysics itself. Both of these are needed to academically understand the essence of Humanity. The non-Kantian, Cartesian idea of consciousness, for obscure reasons which remain to be investigated, prevailed as the major influence and concept requiring explanation. In 1870, some 70 years after Kant’s lectures on Anthropology were published, science launched a major attack on the city-state of Philosophy and in the ensuing battle colonized a suburb of the Humanities which it gave the name “Psychology”. There would no longer be transcendental metaphysical discussions of the human being: man was to be investigated with the empirical method of experimentation and observation: the true road to knowledge. Wundt in Germany defined this new subject as “the science of consciousness” and proceeded, in accordance with the principle of reduction, to reduce all conscious phenomena to the elements of sensation and feeling. Wundt failed, however, to conduct successful experiments demonstrating the usefulness of his definition of psychology. These experiments also failed to justify the concepts of “sensation” and “feeling” in theories about “consciousness”. Science analyzed the resultant chaos it had created and determined that the problem was that no one had ever, or ever would be able to, observe consciousness: and that what was needed was a more tangible, less metaphysical, less transcendental entity which could be observed.
Thus was born the next definition of Psychology: the science of behavior, and the school of behaviorism which was to dominate discussion for decades to come emerged at the beginning of the 1900’s. The subject matter of Anthropology and the possibility of the birth of the subject called Anthropology had been successfully blocked by these developments. These are the reasons that I could not call this course “Anthropology and Education”: no one would have understood why it was not called “Psychology”. The reason I am able to call the course “Psychology and Education” is simply that most people have a general idea of the general intentions of education as a practical activity and expect that such an activity must incorporate knowledge of how human beings learn and develop through such an activity. They believe that there must therefore be a subsidiary study of the conditions and consequences surrounding the learner’s role in this process. I certainly believe that these are two of the essential questions psychologists should be seeking to provide answers to, namely the questions of learning and development. There are, however, other broader questions which Kant’s Anthropology highlighted that as a matter of fact may be more holistically relevant than anything this so-called discipline of “Psychology” has been able to produce. This is not to deny that there have been “psychologists” if you prefer this term to “anthropologists”, whose reflections have proceeded in the spirit of Aristotle and Kant, and I will refer to these figures in the course of the lectures. Basically, Kant believed that satisfactory answers had to be given to 4 fundamental questions if one was to philosophically understand the world: What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope for?. What is a human being? The answers, of course, had to be logically consistent with each other. Kant comments in his work, “Anthropology”, on Descartes’ reflections concerning our mental faculty of memory. Descartes, according to Kant, speculates on the causes of the phenomenon, rather than the phenomenon itself, wandering about the traces of memory in the brain. Kant admits in this speculative process that in reflecting in this way Descartes has ceased to become the one who remembers. He has, rather, become one who observes a remembering process and all that can be observed in this respect are the cranial nerves and fibers involved:- the phenomenon of remembering has disappeared. Kant quite rightly claims as Aristotle would have, that this kind of speculation is a waste of time. And yet it is this scientific endeavor that has come to dominate our speculations about memory even today. There is a lesson for us all here: do not underestimate the power of science, for it has the power to persist in any area of investigation in spite of providing explanations of something different to that which it should be explaining.
We appear to be hypnotized by the magic of science, ladies and gentlemen. The phenomenon investigated disappears by a sleight of hand, too fast for our eyes to follow, and hey presto!, something else takes its place. Of course, we reason, this something has to be identical with the phenomenon we started off requiring an explanation for, because this is what we have been told. Magicians can also be hypnotists, ladies and gentlemen. This method of characterizing everything we experience from a third person or observationalist perspective, is a methodological demand that is especially problematic when it comes to characterizing human activity, especially in the case of the relation of my own first-person perspective to my action. If I am doing something, my attention is usually directed outwards toward what I wish to accomplish. If I want to neutrally “observe” what I am doing, that involves involuting my attention onto the action itself as if I am a third person trying to work out what is being done, i.e. the role of the observer is usually the role of the questioner who is trying to find something out. When I am reaching for a piece of fruit I am not normally in the situation of waiting to see why my arm is moving toward the fruit bowl, rather I know from the first person perspective what it is I am going to do: changing perspective in mid-action is guaranteed to destroy the intentional fabric of the action and if such a change of perspective occurs I will no longer know what I am doing. Furthermore, considerations of measuring the speed of movement of the arm or measuring anything else in this situation will be irrelevant to what I am doing. When science gets involved in psychological phenomena such as memory or action the result is usually comedy, tragedy, or magic. How should the psychologist investigate memory then? According to Kant the investigation should be from a pragmatic point of view. But what does that mean? It may mean asking what role memory plays in the life of a person. Consider the war veteran home from a traumatic term of service at the front, having witnessed the most horrific events. We can ask what role memory is going to play in this state of affairs. Were it to be just a question of leaving traces in the brain, a matter of creating protein templates, memories would just physically form and that would be the end of the matter. The templates would just be a totality of facts about the war and the subject would be a walking part of history sharing his memories at dinner parties, pubs etc. But the mind is normatively structured, ladies and gentlemen. People ought not to experience such terror. The mind is structured for the good: what is not good or evil will probably create a terror-filled mind, an unbalanced mind. The psychologist treating such a patient will not be surprised to learn that the patient does not sleep or eat, that cars backfiring in the street place him back at the war-front in a state of terror. Now such a patient may find that his lust for life has been lost and for most of the time he sits passively like an observer, waiting for things to happen to him, instead of actively living a good and flourishing life. Freud treated such patients, ladies and gentlemen, with a theory that scientists have been lining up for generations to call “unscientific”. Well, if his theory is not scientific then all I can say is “Good!”, because if it was scientific the patient might have been left observing his life go by for the rest of his time. After all, is this not the attitude the scientist wishes people to adapt to everything they experience! All I can say is that what we need is an account containing Principles of Anthropology which can explain how memories which are normally constructive of flourishing lives can play a destructive role in a life. What I am raising here is the question which Anthropology requires an answer to, namely “Why do people do what they do?” As we have seen above this question carries with it a need for an explanation as to why the traumatized war veteran cannot any longer strive for what is good in life and needs help to extricate himself from the passive attitude which leaves him terrorized. The war veteran may not of course be conscious of what is wrong with him. In talks with his psychologist he may invoke a list of symptoms: unable to sleep because of nightmares, nausea, unspecific anxiety, irrational responses to cars backfiring and loud noises, depression. He has “observed” all of these “facts” but he cannot say what is wrong with him. If he is a self-conscious being as I have claimed we all are, should he not be aware of what is wrong with him? This is the kind of question that troubles the “unscientific” psychologist like Freud to such an extent that he spent 50 years trying to find adequate explanations which will fully explain the different forms of mental illness. I am not saying that Freud was right about everything in the field of mental illness or indeed that his theories of man in society cannot be improved upon. Freud was an archeologist rather than a believer in teleology as far as man was concerned. In exploring the theoretical idea of society he takes us back to the mythical band of brothers who, in a Hobbesian state of nature, kill their father who they experience as a tyrant. As the understanding of what they have done sinks in, and the prospect that anyone assuming authority for the community possibly awaits the same fate becomes clear for all concerned—the brothers form a pact and regulating social existence by law seems the obvious response to the dilemmas and paradoxes of living in a state of nature. Such a narrative contains within it a conflict view of man’s relation to the civilization he has created. His instincts are regulated by both Eros and Thanatos, the life and death instinct, and both of these need to be regulated by forces of civilization which seemed to resemble the defense mechanism of repression. And in a famous work with a marvelous title, “Civilization and its Discontents”, Freud asks whether all the effort involved in civilization-building is worth it. He wonders whether, given the fact that we all appear to be enslaved to hedonism, and demand hedonistic satisfaction from cultural activities, a flourishing life is at all possible. Apparently at the age of 75 when most men are fully occupied with the task of staying alive he was still reflecting on the organization of civilization and predicted that from his perspective the future outcome of this organization, might be one which the individual will reject rationally. According to Freud, the psychological mechanisms we see operating in the arena of culture are repression, frustration, sublimation and rational rejection. The kind of life that was possible in such circumstances was one that submitted to the cultural equivalent of the reality principle—Ananke—The life of resigning oneself to a state of affairs one was powerless to change through rational rejection. Rejection is transformed into a smoldering acceptance as Eros, the life instinct, ebbs away and we grow older less than gracefully. There is no comfort of an ethical or religious form of life. For Freud the latter form of life was infected with defense mechanisms which manifested itself in obsessive rituals, childish wish fulfillments and anxieties. The former lifestyle according to Freud was initially going to be subjugated to an authoritarian and sometimes cruel superego (which itself is the result of a defense mechanism Freud refers to as identification) until the point at which the ego could take non-defensive control of the whole structure of the mind including the primary processes of the id. Returning to the theme of self- consciousness it appears on this account that becoming self- conscious is not something which appears out of the blue of existence one fine day, but rather requires considerable effort and work as well as perhaps a non-hedonic form of love which loves a person for themselves. I accused Freud of being more of an archeologist than a follower of the teleological view of the human spirit, but there is a latent negative teleology in the possibility of a strong ego that resigns itself to a civilization that might not be worth the effort. In this work, man is not merely a hedonist in relation to the life instinct, Eros. He is a wolf in relation to the death instinct, Thanatos. The vision of the Stoic bearing life’s miseries with a stiff upper lip looms large. The ego, Freud claims is the repository of lost objects which have been invested with value and as such the ego needs a mourning process before equilibrium once again reigns in what Freud calls the “psychical apparatus” (which includes our neuronal system) before mental life and the life instinct can resume its work and its loving. In the psychoanalytic literature there is this wonderful image of a triangle where the life instinct narcissistically and hedonistically makes its demands on reality. Reality being what it is, with its lack of concern for humanity, and being resistant to change, frustrates the demand, and the final closing of the triangle involves a wounding of desire, and of course a wounding of the ego, or in James’s language, a wounding of Romeo We are all the wounded soldiers of civilization, ladies and gentlemen. We will not find in Freud the flourishing life of Aristotle, the Kingdom of ends of Kant or the life after death of popular Christianity. We will only find a city of Romeo’s in mourning. We can, of course, wonder about the parts of the person such as the id, ego, and superego and we can wonder about the role of sexuality in the development of the individual. At the same time it should be emphasized that Freud had read Kant and he claimed that Freudian psychology is the psychology Kant would have wrote if he had concerned himself with the subject. Was this a reasonable claim, ladies and gentlemen? I think the claim is partly justified when one bears in mind that, in Kant, we find the mind of a person divided into firstly, its receptive capacity where a small number of the conceivably infinite continuum of possible sensations from the external world are actually experienced as a manifold, and secondly the mind manifests its spontaneous or productive capacity where a rule is provided to organize the manifold. The mind, that is, is divided into receptive sensibility and the active conceptual activity of the understanding, which both contribute to forming the cognitive function of the mind. Abstract concepts and concrete sense impressions combine to form our judgments that are truth claims. Apart from referring to the reality principle Freud did not discuss in any detail the conscious cognitive function of the mind but in his discussion of the affective and practical functions of the mind he did provide an important distinction between primary and secondary processes which we will refer to later in the course. One should also not forget the considerable role that the developmental psychology of Piaget played, in our attempt to understand the person and the persons relation to the society. For Piaget, there were fundamentally three stages of moral development, egocentric, transcendental and autonomous morality. Egocentric stage behavior blindly makes its demands and strives in accordance with a hedonistically or narcissistically oriented judgment system. Transcendental stage behavior refers to the judgments of authorities and the tendency to think of such authorities as externally compelling the individual to conform to external norms. Finally, autonomous stage moral behavior is individually based on an internal awareness of rules that will bring rewards to the individual. Here there is an interesting distinction between conventional morality where there is no role to criticize the rules, and autonomous morality where criticism is built into the structure of the mind. Let me conclude by returning to Kant’s anthropology and his stages of development. There is firstly a stage of development where the child is principally passive and learning what to do is primarily imitative. The second stage occurs when the child begins to experience itself as a centre of control for its own activity and a rudimentary form of egoistic self -consciousness is formed. In a third stage the child learns to abstract from the differences between authority and the individual and abstract from the differences between different individuals in order to develop a morality where everyone is equal and free to pursue their own route to a flourishing life.
Now education, ladies, and gentlemen, is concerned with the optimum development of the individual in a learning environment, and it is concerned with getting the individual to share the vision of what constitutes a flourishing life. It bears an ancient message from the gods and Philosophy: that only knowledge will be adequate to the task of developing a rational self- consciousness and a society all can flourish in. I would like to end with a reflection on Plato who is said to have begun systematic psychological reflection. For Plato, philosophical knowledge was needed to run the perfect Republic which would then in its turn form the philosophical citizen who would lead the most flourishing life the Greeks could imagine. Failure to run Plato’s Kallipolis in accordance with philosophical knowledge would result in society spiraling downward via a number of political forms containing correlating psychological character-types to the worst form of tyranny in which the tyrant will meet a tragic end and the society would end up tragically consuming itself. Here we see a fascinating suggestion that our psychological profiles will be determined by what kind of society they inhabit which in its turn will be formed by the quality of philosophical knowledge involved in the decisions and laws of the society. The whole system is teleological and normative ladies and gentlemen and perhaps you can now see why I believe that Psychology, insofar as it willed its detachment in the name of science from a Philosophy which examines all things in accordance with their essential nature, cannot deal holistically with the phenomena of self -consciousness, the flourishing life and the flourishing society. In the next lesson, I wish to deal with the kind of phenomenon that Psychology might be able to investigate, namely the origins of self- consciousness. Civilization has been “evolving culturally”, as we say, for a considerable amount of time since the mythical band of brothers brought the law into man’s hearts, formed cities and defensive protective walls around these cities. Surely one would claim, that it must have been at this moment that consciousness was formed. I attended a seminar some years ago in Washington on the work of a psychologist who claims to believe that the event of the forming of self- consciousness into a unity is a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to this event, we lived in societies, not in discontentment because that presupposes the knowledge of self- conscious beings who are fully aware of the conditions of their existence: we lived, rather, in conditions of subservience ladies and gentlemen because we were not fully aware of an alternative form of life. We were similar to children, captives of the Kantian transcendental stage of moral development. We were not fully self- conscious. We were aware of what we could lose if we did not obey the law but we did not see its relation to our very limited form of life. Julian Jaynes, ladies, and gentlemen claims, as William James, another American psychologist before him, that the core of the person lies in his brain and the seat of his consciousness lies in the cortex region of his brain. He has been impressed in particular by the fact that the two hemispheres of the brain seem to be performing two very different psychological functions. He has further been impressed by the fact that language may have had a command-control function prior to its being used to autonomously narrate stories about self- conscious individuals. In this “transcendental” state, moments of anxiety caused by problems we do not have the psychological resources to solve enslaves individuals in the lower strata of society who are controlled by hallucinated voices of either individuals higher up in society or the internalized voices of dead individuals we called gods or God. Our consciousness, at a particular point in our history, was bi-cameral he claimed, split into a commander and a follower. I will follow this suggestion up in more detail during the next lecture.”
“A demanding, but ultimately rewarding, read. The World Explored, The World Suffered is successful in exploring the intricacies of debating philosophy. As such, it is more entertaining, and so potentially more useful, than reading a purely dry textbook. The book does what it set out to do: educate the reader within a fictional framework. It’s a laudable goal, and one that is firmly accomplished by the end of the book.” Self-Publishing Review”
Philosophical/Educational Journal. “The World Explored,the World Suffered”. Contents:
1. Religious contemplation of the human condition surrounded by a sea of infinite suffering, Freud, Bach and Wittgenstein.
2, First lecture from “The Birmingham lectures” by Harry Middleton: The Philosophy of Man: The History of Psychology
3. Introduction to Philosophy: The Historical Socrates.
“And at the end of all our explorations we shall arrive at the beginning and know the place for the first time”
“Let us start at the end of the Philosophical journey, ladies, and gentlemen, with what some doomsday prophets would say is the end of Philosophy: the Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Some have called him the greatest of the philosophers of this century and he might have been prepared to wear this particular crown of thorns in his earlier work where his logical atomism relegated all value, all aesthetic, ethical and religious value from the world constituted of facts. In his later work, however, he has been humbled and offers us some pictures of a part of a landscape that he admits he will not be able to form into a complete philosophy. So let us begin. At the beginning of the Second World War, just after the death of Freud, Wittgenstein has this to say:
“Why is the soul moved by idle thoughts—since they are after all idle? Well, it is just moved by them (How can the wind move a tree, since it is after all just wind? Well, it does move it and do not forget it.)”
This is the philosophical idea of psychogenesis that Freud believed played a role in mental illness. Freud was one of the few Psychologists Wittgenstein would study, perhaps because both believed that surrounding the heart of our understanding was madness, the cure for which was therapy. And what greater madness can there be than war, ladies and gentlemen. War, for both these philosophers was the product of idle thoughts not engaging with the everyday life-world of the context of involvements, and the everyday understanding of language. War, is the product of a childish resistance that refuses to engage with others. Wittgenstein believed that no distress can be greater than that which a single person can suffer:
“one human being can be in infinite distress and require infinite help”.
This is why he was inclined toward the religious. Religion promised the possibility of infinite help if one kept ones part of the bargain and believed and opened ones heart to God in one’s distress and remorse. This may seem to some to be the result of a childish form of love but the child does approach others with an open heart, something that adults seem not to be capable of. Perhaps adults cut themselves off from each other because opening our hearts and minds will not reveal very attractive content. Perhaps we suffer from a form of blindness and cannot see another’s soul, perhaps there is no means of talking about the relation another person has to his soul. It is not easy to see what relation each soul has to its life as a whole or to its own death. When someone dies we do not see the anxiety, depression and remorse the individual felt characterized their life: we are conciliatory and round off the edges of his life in sympathy because we understand how difficult it is to live and understand ourselves. We need to understand that our motives are not always transparent and that sometimes we may believe that our motives for doing X are virtuous but after internal exploration we may well discover they are born from cowardice or indifference or greed. We need this childish open-hearted honesty if our narcissism is to be destroyed, for only then can religion, like the sea, seep into every nook and cranny of our personality. Wittgenstein did not subscribe to the mental illness model subscribed to by Freud and would have preferred a more neutral personality-change model. And no model can have more detrimental effects on an education system run by the state, than that of the mental disease model. The state has historically handled mental illness poorly. First by incarcerating thousands of women in state institutions, with no treatment at all in the late eighteen hundreds, and then by placing its faith in science and incarcerating patients indefinitely in institutions, administering medicines designed to remove the more uncomfortable symptoms such as hallucinations: and finally in desperation when that clearly failed, releasing schizophrenic patients to a fate of homelessness on the streets. But what model does run our current state-run educational systems? All the above measures seemed to aim at reducing suffering. This is, according to Wittgenstein, the aim of education too, which is, to reduce the capacity for suffering. Here is something he wrote in 1948:
“Nowadays a school counts as good if the children have a Good time. And formerly that was not the yardstick. And parents would like children to become the way they themselves are (only more so) and yet they give them an education which is quite different from their own suffering really is out of date.”
You may recognize the medical “Hippocratic” model of reducing suffering at the root of all state run activity. In this regard Wittgenstein points to the industry of Bach, one of my favorite composers, and points out the “logical” or “grammatical” relation of industry to humility and suffering. Bach could really listen to music with the ear of an exploring sufferer and produce it for the hands of suffering explorers too. I personally cannot hear what I hear in Bach in very much of our popular music. Bach in his music is like the tightrope walker who is so high up in our cultural heaven supported by almost nothing but a little thread which seems impossible to walk upon: and yet he is up there moving across the space of our cultural sky. It’s almost as if he has wings. This is why Bach’s music is religious music, ladies and gentlemen. When one reads the Bible one gets the same feeling from the way the language is used. It is used like music, coming from writers who suffer infinitely, moving across the heavens with the greatest of ease, as graceful and as purposeful as an angel: the words of Solomon, the words of Ecclesiastes may sometimes land to the sound of softly flapping angels wings, but mostly these words are like the swifts flying on their secret missions.
And in 1949, a few years before his death, Wittgenstein points out that If Christianity is the truth about being in the world then all the philosophy about it is false. One year prior to his death he also remarks that if Gods essence is said to guarantee his existence, then this indicates that God’s existence, the philosophical question par excellence, is not the issue. What then is the issue? Suffering and how to live heroically yet humbly in the shadow of religion is Wittgenstein’s tentative answer. He claims that life led in the right way, with the right upbringing and experiences of suffering, can lead you to a belief in God or force the concept of God upon your thinking.
I wish now to speak less anecdotally and more theoretically about Wittgenstein’s view of religious language and the religious form of life. I will draw here upon the ideas of our colleague, Donald Hudson’s work.
Learning a language, in general, is learning to play a language –game in which action and language occur in intimate relations with each other. We need to be trained in order to understand the rules and the point of the game in much the same way as we are trained to play chess. Language games have two important logical characteristics: firstly they are part of an activity or form of life, and, secondly, what is done in the language –game always rests on a tacit presupposition On the first point Hudson engages in a thought experiment and asks us to imagine a lion-like form of life in which the lions talk as human beings yet carry on behaving exactly as lions. Imagine, Hudson, asks, a lion exclaiming “Goodness! It is already 3 o clock” but continuing to lounge about and sleep as lions are liable to do. These words would be a prelude to urgent action for a human being but, Hudson argues, we would not understand these lazy lions even if they could speak. The words, isolated from action as they are here, lose all their meaning. Hudson then gives an example of a tacit presupposition in the language game of science in its talk about the moon. The moon is spoken of as a continuous existent and yet our experiences of it are discontinuous: it is tacitly presupposed that our discontinuous experiences of the moon are sufficiently valid grounds for claiming the continuous existence of the moon. Now in discussing religious beliefs, we should not expect the religious man to reason about his beliefs in the same way as the scientist does about his theories. A man believing in the Last Judgment may act every day against the background of the fear or promise of such an event. Is this not then reasonable? Does not the practical belief seem to be stronger than any hypothetical scientific belief? The scientist has his world-view and expects that every event has an explanatory cause in a systematically uniform world in which moons continuously exist. But surely, we would want to claim, a worldview such as the Christian one cannot amount to explaining merely what individuals do in their daily lives. It surely must be able to understand and explain global phenomena such as mass starvation. No Christian would accept the explanation that mass starvation occurs because God does not care whether his creation starves or has food. Now perhaps not every Christian would be able to immediately understand or be able to explain this phenomenon, but we would certainly expect understanding and an explanation of the phenomenon of world starvation from a Christian theologian. The type of explanation we would expect would be something along the following lines: mass starvation is due to human selfishness which is a consequence of God creating man with reason, a free will and a sense of what is good, all of which can then be used to persuade men or let them persuade each other to do something about the phenomenon in question.
Finally, on this issue of the existence and essence of God, let me turn briefly to Kant and his work “Religion within the bounds of mere Reason. According to this work:
“The nature and intrinsic limits of thought and human knowledge preclude any demonstration of the existence of God.”
“non-existence cannot be demonstrated either.”
It is for the above reasons, ladies and gentlemen that knowledge about, or of God, is not possible and that we are left with faith guided by moral, practical reason. This faith assists us in moving toward what Kant called the summum bonum or the highest possible good in the world. This involves striving for the perfection of our own character and experiencing happiness in direct proportion to the goodness of that character.
It is important to point out that Kant is not here merely making epistemological points but is also hinting at a metaphysical framework. Mathematics and Science are only on a sound theoretical footing as long as they do not claim to be true of Being or reality as such: as long, as they claim to be discovering the truth of what appears to the observer possessing theoretical knowledge. Kant’s argument, is that all our experience is structured by basic forms of sensibility and/or categories of thought. Neither space nor time characterize reality as it is in itself, but characterize the receptivity of the sensible faculty of our minds. Furthermore, objects as they are experienced must, in accordance with scientific assumptions, be subject to causal determinism, i.e. no one can experience any change in the world which does not have a physical observable cause. That is how the world must be organized for the scientific observer. If determinism is a universal principle, however, we are immediately going to have a problem characterizing the free will of moral agents, which are not causally determined entities. The resultant paradox of both being in accordance with and not being in accordance with the theoretical demand of determinism is resolved by Kant’s distinction between the self as a phenomenon obeying deterministic causal laws and the self as a noumenon which is free from determinism. Similarly we do not experience God as a phenomenon to be experienced but only as a noumenon free from determinism. God has not been caused by anything, he is his own cause: he is the explanation of himself. The thematic question of religious belief is “What can I hope for?” thereby situating religious phenomena squarely in the field of aspiration, in the field of what ought to be striven for: a good will , a hope for salvation. This is not necessarily the same thing as the theological doctrine of Original Sin which is a highly theoretical claim about the human condition and certainly not compatible with the idea of a free agent with individual responsibility striving for the good, striving for what it ought to do. But what then of what Kant calls radical evil. How can he account for this phenomenon? Firstly he tends to speculate about this matter in terms of the will rather than behavior. An action with good intentions might conceivably have what is regarded as evil empirical consequences, but unqualified goodness is demanded of the will which is capable of noumenal deeds: capable namely of adopting principles of action which are in accordance with the categorical imperative. Such noumenal deeds can be corrupted and a deviant will is thus possible. It is important not to underestimate this possible corruption. We speak of people as good even if we experience deviations from the good, as illustrated above by our speeches at their funerals. The dead person may have felt acutely remorseful and guilty at the memory of their deviation from the good, he may indeed have felt his life as a miserable failure because of a few deviations and yet we, with our knowledge of the human condition round off these embarrassing edges and call the dead person a good man. What we are engaging upon here is nothing less than what Kant would have called “ a deduction” of the idea of a justification of a human being who is guilty of deviations but has through hard work with his character transformed his will into one that would please God. This hard work is enormously demanding and leads to a complete transformation or rebirth of the person. Kant says the following:
“The distance between the goodness which we ought to effect in ourselves and the evil from which we start is infinite, and, so far as the deed is concerned—i.e. the conformity of the conduct of one’s life to the holiness of the law—it is not attainable in any time”
For Kant it is progress along this infinite continuum which counts as good. There is no alternative for Kant given the fact that deeds in the noumenal sphere of our existence escape cognition. But strictly speaking the progress of the will, no matter how far it has come, in its infinite work toward the absolute good, may yet regard its work as a failure. The role of God enters here in the form of his good will and grace: if man has done everything he can, then God imputes righteousness gracefully to us. But what about our empirical societies, is there hope that they too will progress infinitely toward the ideal of a kingdom of ends? Indeed, is not the empirical state of affairs the following: that the growing awareness of cross-cultural and ecological awareness has left us with a lack of conviction in the supposed work for progress: that the individual in such circumstances will feel that there is no hope of producing good consequences in these circumstances. Kant would respond in two ways to this state of affairs: firstly he would insist that moral action is not instrumental, is not a means to an end but rather it is an end in itself: secondly, and relatedly, he would insist that this is not a knowledge issue to be calculated in terms of means and ends but rather a matter of faith that one’s action will constitute progress toward the good.
Finally Kant discusses whether the above very complex metaphysical reasoning could serve as the foundation of an actual ethical community of the form we find in a church. Kant realizes that some form of public experiential condition is needed. There is needed, he argues, some form of historical faith in authority or leadership grounded in actual historical conditions laid down, for example, in the Bible, ecclesiastical literature and historical practices. The historical account of the journey of the Jews and the life of Jesus Christ are obviously important in this respect.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, the world explored is the world suffered actively in the mode of an active faith, reasoning about the world as a whole. There is of course a melancholic air to both exploration and suffering which will always be the case until this untethered buoy with its tolling bell finds a safe harbor and safe shelter: the finite promised waters in a sublime infinite sea of suffering.”
Top customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very worthwhile reading
January 7, 2018
I just finished this book, and I find myself feeling “post-partum”. It is a deep, philosophical meditation on human existence, and is not a “light read”. Prior knowledge of Philosophy, while not required, is helpful. What is required is the desire to grapple with the philosophical questions. The author synthesizes the thinking of Wittgenstein, Kant and Aristotle into a beautiful and quietly melancholic view of the world in the context of a story of people whose lives exemplify that view, and require that view. He moves between clear expositions of the basic questions in Western Philosophy, questions of purpose and meaning in life, the nature of aesthetic judgement and its relationship to truth, the nature of tragedy, to the struggles of individuals living out those very questions. What comes across clearly and unobtrusively in this work, is that the author knows these struggles. It was written from the heart, as much as from the mind.
Glynn opened his notes: “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Today is the second of three lectures entitled “The World Explored,the World Suffered”. We talked about the restlessness of the human soul during the last lecture. Today we are going to ask the question: “What forms can this restlessness take if it seeks to express itself cathartically in Science, Art, Philosophy, and Religion? Firstly some remarks about “the World”. Science has altered its character over history, ladies and gentlemen. During Pre-Socratic times Science and Philosophy were united, both were born of “wonder in the face of existence or being”. Modern science and perhaps much of modern philosophy have lost this spirit of exploration and both are skeptical in relation to this very basic characteristic of what Heidegger called our being-in-the world. Modernism doubts everything and needs to obsessively consult the external world piecemeal for the establishment of every idea and, as a consequence, is thereby thrown into the attitude of trying to construct the world from a pack of theoretical constructs. Are the cards arranged like this?” is the question each scientific age now asks itself and the truth about Being-in-the-world is lost. Wonder is replaced with observation and manipulation. The truth about Being-in-the-world and the truth about the questions of Being is lost. We are lost. We look at the cards and accept the hand we have been dealt, instead of asking, why these cards? Why this kind of card? Why this kind of idea? Our restlessness is transformed into an anxiety-laden activity where we shuffle the cards every generation and are stimulated at the new combination. Heidegger claims we are “thrown” into this world, dealt a hand by a mysterious dealer, ladies and gentlemen, and that our theoretical representations and dealings with the world are inauthentic. At the same time we dwell in the world we live in most intimately in our practical dealings with it. In our dealings with things, we manipulate and use what is “ready-to-hand”. In our concern we thrust aside our theoretically interpretative tendencies that conceal our concerns. We call these entities with which we are concerned “things” and perhaps thereby take a theoretical leap into the unknown. The scientist is a magician, ladies and gentlemen, and one has to be skilled to detect his sleights of hand, especially when he is shuffling his self- constructed cards. Notice how this leap away from Being or reality is a leap away from the fundamental reason for our pre-Socratic wonder in the face of the world. It is a leap away from value, ladies and gentlemen. Let us ask ourselves, “What keeps the craftsman at his task?” A theoretical representation of the house he is building? Is this his concern? Surely he thinks more broadly and more deeply. Does his activity not stretch along a series of interconnected thoughts about the form of life of being human or being-in-the-world? Does it not stretch away from the bare material house along a chain of practical operators we designate linguistically in terms of the expression “in-order-to”? This chain formally refers something to something else along the chain until we come to rest perhaps in “Eudaimonia” if we are Aristotelians, or in the attitude of “a boundless happy outlook onto the world”, if we are Kantians like Dr. Sutton. The builder, ladies and gentlemen does not see the structure he is building as something merely geometrical with its 4 rectangular walls. What, for example, has the hammer the builder is building with, got to do with the rectangularity of the walls? The hammer’s nature is to be, as Heidegger puts it, ready-to-hand. The hammer needs to be used to reveal its nature and if it is thought about, it is done so, circumspectly, in relation to an action structure it is embedded within. If it is looked at, observed theoretically, then this is a different kind of concern which will have a different purpose altogether. The scientist may observe for example that the shaft of the hammer is made of wood as is the house, and think of the biological, chemical or physical properties of wood. For the true craftsman, however the wood may set into motion a process of thought ending in a forest of trees stirring his wonder: The woods for him may be a sublime place to be visited with appropriate clothes and a transcendental attitude: a place to be explored with the senses. When houses are mass produced, the hammers’ value is diminished as is perhaps the “value” of the house. We are not, of course, talking of economic value, which quantifies away the quality and substance of things possessing real transcendental value. The magnificent work “The peasant’s shoes” by van Gogh is a sensory presentation of the truth of this matter. The work of art reveals to an observer, the world of the peasant and the world of work which perhaps Socrates imagined in his healthy city: the city without luxury, without soldiers, without Philosophers. Work and a natural philosophical and religious attitude was all that was required. These attitudes connected its things and activities teleologically, into a system of ends Heidegger would have called a “world” or “being-in-the-world”. All these things and activities do not stand out and present themselves for observation unless something goes wrong. If the hammer does not work or the walls of the house fall down, then these things emerge from this world of activity and present themselves for inspection or observation. The condition of the builder building his house, of course is that the hammer and the walls do not present themselves in the above way and interrupt the activity. Notice how the world is divided, ladies and gentlemen. It is not divided theoretically or mathematically where one begins by imagining a theoretical “substance” or “thing” that can be divided, shaped and moved, remaining constant throughout all of these types of change. The world is a network or totality of equipment where each element has a means-ends or instrumental relation to the beings that use the equipment. The hammer when used is primordially understood in a way described by Gilbert Ryle as “knowing how” which, is contrasted to “knowing that” but is also contrasted to the observational mode of encountering hammers that do not work and walls that fall down. We are not conscious of using the hammer but we are pre-consciously aware of what we are doing. The world of Descartes, the mathematician and Philosopher, ladies and gentlemen is a theoretical world to be explored mathematically and scientifically. His physical world is a theoretical world of res extensa where literally any division, and shape, or any type of movement measurable or observable within the confines of science and mathematics is possible. In this curious world of the mathematician, the infinite can be capable of infinite change. For the practical man this theoretical world will be an image of a world, the mere shadow of the real practical world of equipment. This is, then, not a human world, ladies and gentlemen, nor can it be a religious world, even if for Descartes God guaranteed the truth in a system which had , on these assumptions, to remain forever hypothetical. Only God could know the truth in this system ladies and gentlemen. Only God could guarantee that we are not all dreaming and being deceived by an evil demon. Let me just say that there are theoretical ideas of God such as we find in Aristotle that are based on res cogitans rather than res extensa but let me also say that Aristotle was no dualist and you will find no reference to evil demons in his work. Descartes’ philosophy, ladies and gentlemen announced the coming of the modern secular scientific and technological age. Kant, in attempting to correct Descartes, wound the clock back to the Greeks (and here I do not completely agree with Heidegger’s view of Kant) but to no avail, because Kant’s ethical and religious worldview was nevertheless rapidly overwhelmed by “modernism” and “individualism”. For Descartes it is the quantitative modifications of the physical world which are the primary fundamental phenomena upon which everything and every quality of a thing is built, including the hammer, the house, the peasants shoes, the sublime woods, and even ultimately the thinker, ladies and gentlemen, whose brain, according to Descartes, becomes the meeting point of res extensa and res cogitans. “Value” in such a secular, scientific world, ladies and gentlemen, has to have a special “stamp” imposed upon it by the subjects experiencing it. The woods are not sublime in the view of the scientist but are regarded as so by the person so absorbed, and this attitude is no more generally valid than the attitude of the horseman, riding through the woods whose thoughts are elsewhere on the road ahead and the house at the end of the road, or indeed, to take another example, the attitude of the driver of the machine that cuts down trees in accordance with a quantitative schedule written down on his order sheet: an order sheet which in its turn was written by a supervisor who did not think about the trees as such but only of the amount of capital they would generate for the company. Hail be to king Oeconomous! Whereas, ladies and gentlemen, I want to say that there is a very great difference in value between the absorbed contemplator, contemplating the sublimity of the woods, the machine-driver cutting down trees and the horseman riding for home. This analysis is not complete, however until we ask the question “Who is thus absorbed, in these activities of contemplating the woods, destroying the woods or riding for home?” Shall we be modern and give the answer: “the Cartesian substantial consciousness?” We can, I hope, immediately reject this Cartesian theoretically constituted consciousness in favour of practically constituted “existence”, in favor of a practical “I”. The builder builds a house for a practical “I” to live in. The hammer belongs to a very practical carpenter. But these beings enjoy a different mode of Being or Reality to the network of means and ends that they both help to constitute and are part of. The theoretical “I” stands apart from Others, is separate from Others, in a solipsistic world of its own. In Heidegger’s “Being-in-the-world-together”, on the other hand, I and the Others stand equally and practically together constituting a practical network. Others may present themselves as different when they appear in a landscape but as soon as they pick up a hammer, go into a house, ride through the woods, stand amazed at the sublimity of the woods, go into a church, sit enthralled at what is being said in the house of God: as soon as these things happen, the Others become my brothers and sisters and I adopt an attitude of humanistic solicitude toward them. But it must be emphasized, ladies and gentlemen, that I am concerned about Others in a way I could never be concerned about a hammer or a house. This latter type of concern, or attitude of solicitude can become corrupted by the forms of life we lead: for example, the horseman nearly knocks his brother down in his furious ride to reach the house. Here he sees his brother as something that gets in his way, an obstacle to overcome. He has devalued his brother: not shown his forbearance for his brother. Our Being-with-one –another in the world ought to be a being- for- the- sake- of- one-another. This Being-with- one-another can be compromised by our theoretical attitudes that separate us into individuals with our own cogito, our own interests, desires, and needs. Once this happens we need to travel a road of self-knowledge in order to re-discover this primordial attitude of Being-with-one-another which came so natural to the Greeks and the Christians. One of the deficient modes of being- together- with- one -another occurs when we see all people around us as a means to our ends. This narcissistic or “Individual” me which cannot grasp what I have in common with my brothers can be theoretically characterized by Psychology as an individual “I” defined by a set or properties one of which may be narcissism. Such a theory, however, can never bring the individuals back into the practical network of value that unites them. Society is not a totality of individuals, united by a set of theoretical properties but a brotherhood of brothers or a siblinghood of siblings or a fellowship of friends united by a set of practical concerns about goals, duties and rights. We are thrown into this burdensome world, ladies and gentlemen, and this is reflected in our states of mind or moods that become defining for how we see the world. We need to master our moods, ladies and gentlemen because, according to Heidegger, there is a basic fundamental mood that reveals the world as it is for us. We need to master our moods because there are bad states of mind or bad moods which will disguise from us the nature of the world and neutralize the value of work, walks in the sublime woods, and other people. According to Heidegger it is only when our senses belong to an entity whose kind of Being is Being-in-the-world possessing a state of mind or mood which cares for the world, that things can reveal themselves to us in the world as something to be valued. A good mood is not a dominating state of mind, ladies and gentlemen, it submits itself to the world: a bad mood, ladies and gentlemen, seeks to dominate the world, perhaps as the modern scientist seeks to dominate the physical domain: a bad mood can sometimes seek to destroy our woods or “inadvertently” in a more complex context, provide the weapons of mass destruction. Between moods that submit themselves to the world and world-destroying moods, there are moods of contemplation in which we impose the categories of substance and its properties, action and its properties, upon the passing show. Twentieth-century fashions looked to logic to replace epistemological approaches to philosophical problems. The logic of grammatical subjects and predicates, the logic of theories of types and descriptions provided context independent statements which theories would attempt to give an account of. This state of affairs was meant to attempt to solve the problem of the existence of the world that needed to be inferred from sense data in the mind or logical theories. According to Heidegger the world is not a hypothesis or an assumption. Being–in-the-world is our original situation from which everything else follows. Equipment networks for Heidegger are the background against which everything else stands out. The work of the later Wittgenstein moves in this direction when it refers to language-games embedded in forms of life. Here the forms of life form the background of the world. Psychology relegates moods to secondary phenomena subservient to representation and willing. Phenomenological research tries to restore moods and emotion back to the practical phenomena they were in the Philosophy of Aristotle. In the Phenomenology of Scheler, for example, , actions can have their own “sight” and their own “interest”. Phenomenology is a philosophy born at the beginning of the century, conceived by the spiritual “father” of Heidegger, Edmund Husserl. It maintains in its reflections upon language, that underlying our interpretations of things is a context of “involvements” which provide the cognitive content of these interpretations. Everything has “meaning” and this meaning can be disclosed. In the statement “The hammer is too heavy” we do not discover “meanings” but rather we discover an entity like the hammer and its relation to the ready-to-hand context in which it is involved. The predicate “too heavy” then is a narrowing or focusing of attention that characterizes this specific hammer. Thirdly, this statement communicates this state of affairs to others and the state of affairs is shared with others who may have no direct involvement in the state of affairs. This statement can then be passed along in an unending chain of communication. Interpretation in itself does not need to be linguistic or theoretical but can be purely practical as when a carpenter tries to use a hammer which is too heavy, lays it aside for another which is lighter. But of course talking about things is a mode of being together. In language we communicate our understanding of the possibilities of things that we project upon them, and we can also communicate our state of mind or mood. But just as primary, ladies and gentlemen, is the fact that in language or discourse we listen-to, we are open-to, ideas and other people. Indeed our very being- in- the- world is constituted in and through the activity of listening to others. Man shows himself to be the being that listens before he reasons ladies and gentlemen. Hence, Aristotle’s definition of “rational animal capable of discourse” replaces the earlier simpler definition of “rational animal”. It is in listening-to, or reading, that all true explorations of the world and our place in it begin. We listen or read in order to explore, and to know that we are not alone. Language is therefore not a repository of words to be used ladies and gentlemen, but rather something we use with solicitude, with care: the same attitude we reserve for human beings. That we speak and listen are not properties of a theoretical Psychological “I”, but rather constitutive aspects of our human nature or being-in-the-world with others. But, ladies and gentlemen, here comes the reason why we have to read and to listen very carefully. We are thrown into a world where the meanings of things are either not apparent or where things said are only half meant or not meant at all. This is a world in which one could get lost, ladies and gentlemen. A world in which interpretation might lead into a labyrinth of meaninglessness: in this labyrinth we will find the scientist, the psychologist, and the social scientist, down in the Platonic cave, hunting for they know not what, hunting for nothingness in the dark. But in this world one can hear if one listens carefully, and one can understand if one reads about the essential characteristics of the world which makes this world of ours, a real world. The chalk I have in my hand has perceptual characteristics: grayish, white, relatively solid, a thing with a definite shape. These seem to be the mathematical/scientific properties of the chalk: but, for the practical understanding this piece of chalk has an essence, namely a piece of material that can be used up after writing on a blackboard. After it is used up it has no theoretical properties at all. Does it not exist, therefore, because it does not possess the above theoretical properties or does it not exist because it has been practically used up in the act of writing on the blackboard? The essence of the chalk seems to reside more in the practical act than in these theoretical properties: the chalk is used up in practical acts situated in our life-world of which this lecture hall is a part. And yet these acts are a something rather than a nothing: they have being or reality. The chalk is a thing in a context of involvements that include the student reading its traces and understanding what was written, perhaps even after the chalk that was used to leave its traces itself has disappeared and all its theoretical properties are nothing. Heidegger writes about the darkening of the world bearing down upon us and perhaps it will reach into this institution when chalk writing on a blackboard will no longer be understood. Here I am thinking of the mathematical logic of Professor Russell. Attempting to reduce all objects and acts to their logical theoretical form is an important mistake, if one can call it a mistake at all. It is not of the order of misunderstanding the use of something like a hammer but more like not being able to relate to other human beings spiritually: as beings which have intrinsic value. Now, no one can accuse religion of not being able to relate to human beings spiritually. The language of religion is spiritual: it does not settle for the facts or express facts in isolation, but rather relates to something of value underlying the facts. It is not a fact that religion preaches the brotherhood of man but rather a statement that expresses the nature of our relation to man as a relation of solicitude and care: a statement which is true yet value-laden. It is an expression of an ontological mood. So, for a modern man, Christ dying on the cross is a fact but for a Christian this event expresses symbolically the essence of man’s life, or the mood of life in general. The picture of this event is perhaps the most terrible, horrible event that the mind could conjure up: this event of the good man, dying in such a cruel way. Be not mistaken, ladies and gentlemen, this is not one man dying because of a betrayal for thirty pieces of silver. This event symbolizes all of mankind on the cross. This is the symbol of the darkening of the world after which came quite naturally the dark ages. The Renaissance supposedly designated the awakening of the spiritual in man until Descartes came along to put a nail into God’s coffin with his mathematical individualism and radical skepticism. Then came the Enlightenment, but it is an open question as to whether Kant put another nail into Gods coffin. I don’t believe he did cause problems for religion, but will not fully give my reasons for thinking so during this lecture. The language of religion, ladies and gentlemen, is not Latin, it is Hebrew. Latin translations of Hebrew and Greek, as we know have been problematic. The word that we know in English as “substance”, is the Latin translation of “Being” or reality. The word the Greeks used was paraousia that designates the presence of an essence or a homestead standing and revealing its essence. We have, through unfortunate Latin translations misinterpreted the Greek term phusus that refers to the spontaneous unfolding of something essential which lingers. Physics, as a consequence of Latin mistranslations, has fallen under the spell of the Latin translation substance that is more easily interpreted as something material endowed with mathematical characteristics. The essent, for the physicist is self- evidently given, a datum that can be discovered by an observer equipped with scientific instruments and mathematical theories and concepts. The essence becomes an object to be observed, or to be acted upon with measuring instruments. The essence of man and language have disappeared into this labyrinth of confusion and perhaps all we have left is the historical event of the death of Jesus to talk about. Perhaps all that is left to do is to explore and suffer the significance of this event. An event, instead of a world, is all we have to speak about in the house of God: in the house of a Deus absconditus. In this house we show we care about metaphysical matters. Sitting and waiting for mass to begin, the metaphysical anxiety we feel in the face of our death is transposed into a Stoic calm. The storm that is coming over the horizon is on our minds when we talk collectively about death. Out in the street we talk idly about death as if it were an accidental event and try to forget about it as quickly as possible. The storm of another person’s death is an event like any other that will pass away in history. Neighbors congregate around a dying friend and predict he will soon be well: they administer tranquillizers. In our everyday talk about death we anxiously pretend that there is no cause for anxiety. But then we find ourselves in church ladies and gentlemen where the truth is up there on the altar for all to see. No tranquillizers for Jesus. The claim that he suffered for us means that his death was not a mere historical event but an event of solicitude and care. We should “know” that we are going to die, disintegrate into the nothingness of dust: we should as Heidegger claims: “find ourselves face to face with the “nothing”, of the possible impossibility of our existence”. If we do, we become free to meet this impossibility we will never experience, resolutely, with the stoical spirit of a Socrates or a Jesus. We will of course need a clear conscience if we are to accomplish such a feat of anticipating resolutely what is to come. Aristotle, ladies and gentlemen as you know, spoke of every activity and inquiry as aiming at the good. For him the world was not a merely totality of things or events or facts about things and events: it was a totality of involvements with natural things and human beings that manifested value in the form of friendship, concern, solicitude, and care. For Aristotle we also have a relation to God when we contemplate the good, the true and the beautiful and for Kant we have commitments to both humans and God. One cannot help but recognize that the values referred to are in the realm of the possible and the realm of the “ought”, and that one can in fact be bored with existence or tired of existence or wish to destroy existence without these facts being a basis to abandon what we ought to be committed to and care for. This terrible modern century with two world wars and the dropping of two atomic bombs on civilian populations and the threat of nuclear holocaust is only 75 years old. One wonders what is in store. One wonders what on earth is coming next. If ever a talking cure was needed it was needed in this terrible century. If ever there was a humanistic voice needed in the wilderness of our modern times it is now, during this century. The voice began to whisper its concern about humanity during the end of the last century, paradoxically in the name of science, and in defense of the immoral treatment of mentally ill patients. And as the patients confessed in the consulting rooms of this humanist named Freud, it became apparent that science did not have the resources to do the work of diagnosing the causes of complex mental phenomena. Freud, after flirting with scientific materialism turned his attention to Plato and mythology in order to interpret the phenomena he encountered in his consulting rooms. We may wonder how Jesus knew his life was not going to end well after having raised his voice in the name of humanity and brotherhood. He was tagged “the King of the Jews” and given a crown of thorns. Freud was never openly tagged in this way but to the scientist he presented a challenge to the throne of science by abandoning materialism and physical causation. He transformed the current dogma of somatogenesis (mental illness has a physical cause in the brain) by a critical doctrine of psychogenesis (mental illness has its origins in our minds ). He was never openly tagged but was made to wear his crown of thorns. Now I am not a fan of Dr. Freud because of his attacks on visible religion but I can see how he might have thought that the confessions of someone who can listen and understand could take the place of a religion grown weary of listening to unimaginative, almost ritualistic prayers, of a religious institution wearily offering unimaginative ritualistic formulas in response to the anxiety of modern man. I can see how Freud might have thought that religion embraced a set of beliefs that were driven by fantasy or wish rather than the reality of how the world ought to be. Freud was a great emblem of this terrible century, being both a sufferer and a deep explorer of the human condition. The time of the prophets may be long gone but it is ironic is it not that he and Einstein were asked to diagnose the causes of war on the eve of the war to end all wars. The language, of religion, ladies and gentlemen is not a factual language, nor a language of observation, cause and effect. It is the language of poetry combined with the language of myth: neither language is well understood, although we incorrectly believe we understand the language of poetry more than we do the language of myth. Myths may be the only clue to pre-history that we have and it may be defining of myths that we cannot connect the events narrated with either the time of our history or the geographical space of our world as we define it today. Religious texts, ladies and gentlemen, explore the relation between man and what he considers sacred: between man and that which threatens this sacred bond, namely, evil. The confession a man makes of his faults is symbolic and is in need of the kind of interpretation that is required to understand the language of religious texts. The confession is not simply an emotional exclamation of pain, ladies and gentlemen, it is rather a cry for righteousness and justice: a cry from an emotional complex of anxiety and fear which is being operated upon by an ought-system of concepts emanating from the conscience of man. Freud called one part of the mind the superego in recognition of the fact that it assists the ego in its work of transforming the id and its cauldron of appetites into a life force capable of creating an Aristotelian flourishing life. Psychoanalysis ladies and gentlemen, is the secular inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. It aims to transform our childish narcissism into a deep thought about, and love of the world, which will make a Temple of our societies. So, in place of the God that has absconded from our secular cities, we have analytical interpretations of our cries for help. In Heidegger’s terms, the cry is analogous to the cry in the wilderness where the appeal is to be returned to civilization, to the context of involvements with people and things. The call of conscience is a call to be able to experience fully what one ought to be able to experience: work and love, which by the way happen to be the two criteria for a healthy ego that has successfully transformed the cauldron of emotion of the id into a life force This healthy ego also has successfully transformed the commanding cruel captain of the superego into the gentle man of peace, no longer aggressively accusing its host. It would seem that man enters into the ethical world through fear and not love, if Freud the prophet is to be believed. Once having returned from the desert to his context of involvements, love makes an appearance on the condition that the spirit did not die from the terror of the desert. It is the spirit on the verge of dying which cries out “How long O Lord must I endure?” “Hast thou abandoned me?” Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, the spirit of man is an enigma because much of its history completely escapes narration. But the narrative of the sea ladies and gentlemen, is the sea as it threatens or purifies and baptizes in accordance with its moods. Indeed the sea is narrative of the natural order and this is not as pressing a matter as the narrative of man confessing his faults. And if science has anything to do with the construction of this narrative of the sea there will be no reference to its role as elemental purifier. The scientist will do with the waters of the sea as he does with the desert: he will measure the depths, calculate the winds and look to the moon to explain the motion of the waves: he will count the sands of the desert, measure the heights of the dunes and look to the winds and the sun to explain all shape and motion. This world of science is a world in which everything follows the laws and nothing breaks the laws, on pain of the law not being a law. In the ethical world of the suffering man, suffering is a symptom of having broken some commandment or law that governs the flourishing life. Ancient man carried this symbolism into the natural order and explained the flood in terms of broken divine commandments or laws. The threatening or purifying flood was predicted and it was a vengeful phenomenon. The sufferer did not love God enough, it was claimed. The secular Plato might well have said “If you do not love the world and knowledge of the world enough you will be punished and suffer.” The unjust or evil man must suffer: that must be the logic of the ethical world and everyone seems able to intuitively understand this. But not everyone understands that we need more than knowledge to understand the terrible event of a just man dying on the cross with his crown of thorns. He has done nothing to deserve his fate in the ethical order of things. So why has the ethical system abandoned him thus? It is because his death is his sacrifice on behalf of all sufferers. He is the savior and our salvation. There just is no other reasonable interpretation of this event. And where was Deus absconditus, while Jesus was saving the world? Robert raised his hand “Heidegger’s major work was called “Being and Time”. If I have understood what has been said in previous lectures on Kant, time is an internal structure of our minds. This surely cannot be Heidegger’s position given what has been said in your lecture today. Can you say something more about time?” “It is the mood which prevails in our practical network of involvements. Things matter and have significance in this mood. A mood is not something inside an individual but rather the name for the spirit in which things get done. This for Heidegger expresses the significance of past for us. We are assimilated by this spirit or mood that is most definitely outside of us. As a result of this assimilation I then presently articulate the world by focusing on an element such as a pen and begin writing an essay which in its turn articulates the world by showing how it has been divided up and put together again both in action and in discourse or language. This in its turn is embedded in a network of possibilities. The essay makes me think in a new way about something and explores the possibilities of the world. This is the future tense of Heidegger’s project.” “So time is measured more realistically in the act of writing an essay than in the orbit of the earth around the sun or the earth spinning on its axis-“ “Yes, being-in-the-world, is in one sense a better measure of time than staring at the movements of large bodies in linear or angular motion. In another sense however it is good to know when the light is going to disappear so I can make my way home in the light, or when in the year I can sow the seeds for the wheat crop. The calculations made in relation to the motions of these large bodies then become significant for the beginning and endings of activities but perhaps the activities themselves are actually, when totally absorbing, approaching a feeling of timelessness, expressed in our saying afterwards “Is that the time? Where did the time go?” This in turn, suggests that time becomes more important the more conscious we become of it, especially when things do not go as planned or intended. Our time is up I see. Thank you for your time ladies and gentlemen.
Interviewer: Michael R D James has recently published a book entitled “The World Explored, the World Suffered: The Exeter lectures”.(November 2017) It is the first volume of a Trilogy which aims at introducing the reader into the world of Academic Philosophy via the medium of a fictional setting of human drama and tragedy.
Can I begin this interview by asking this question. A large number of Philosophers thoughts are taken up in the book but Aristotle, Kant, Heidegger Merleau-Ponty, and Wittgenstein seem to figure more prominently than the others.Why?
Michael: Yes I think that is a correct observation although there are extensive references to Socrates, Plato, Schopenhauer, Arendt, and Ricoeur. The reasons Aristotle Kant and Wittgenstein are central figures is to do with the training I have received at the three different universities that I have studied at, and a current conviction that these are the most important figures in philosophy. Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty are interesting figures in themselves but they occupy a central role in the book only because of the character of Glynn Samuels.
Interviewer: The cover of the book depicts Plato as the central figure appearing out of the mists of the milky way and Aristotle and Socrates as his wingmen so to say. Why is this?
Michael: I think the Swedish expression “Vintergatan”, “the Wintry street” is, by the way, far more poetic than our English expression “the milky way”. In answer, to your question, however, the Greek world and Greek consciousness I hope, permeate all of the lectures in the work and Plato is in the popular mind the symbol for that world and that consciousness. I believe actually that Aristotle was the better Philosopher although Plato was the more popular figure because he embedded his Philosophy in the art form of the dialogue, which I believe used to be one of the areas of competition in the Olympic games. Having said that Aristotle was taught by Plato and could only see as far as he could, philosophically speaking because he stood on his teachers shoulders.
Interviewer: You have chosen unusually to embed Philosophical lectures in the form of a fictional drama. Why?
Michael: Because as the Delphic Oracle prophesied, knowledge of the self is so difficult to acquire. We, humans, appear to be moving toward a difficult to discern goal or telos and there are at least two aspects to this process: knowledge of the world and knowledge of our role in creating everything that is human about this world. The story of this development is a complex one but trying to explore this complexity without some kind of narrative structure would seem to me to be a formula for isolating Philosophy in an ivory tower on an academic campus far removed from the hustle and bustle of life.
Interviewer: I would like to ask about the Political Philosophy lecture which is one of a series given by Jude Sutton as part of his Philosophy of Education course. Does this lecture connect in any way to the what I presume is an underlying theme of the importance of International Education?
Michael: Yes indeed it does and you are right to suggest that the importance of International Education is an underlying theme of the work. Jude Sutton gives voice to a political position that I would characterize as Humanistic Liberalism: a position that is bound up with Kantian Ethics and Political Philosophy. The Kantian idea of a Kingdom of ends requires a cosmopolitan regime and a view of human rights that is transnational or international..
Interviewer: Harry Middleton is the third lecturer giving a series of lectures in your work, He is what one might call a Philosophical Psychologist in the Continental tradition of Philosophy but he also takes up William James and Freud in his lectures. He seems to be something of a hybrid.
Michael: Freud and William James according to secondary sources were the only Psychologists Wittgenstein is reputed to have read with interest. Yes, Harry is more of a hybrid character than Glynn Samuels who also in many peoples eyes walks a theoretical tightrope. Both of these lecturers manifest the spirit of the search for integrated knowledge which Alec Petersson, the first Director of the Internationa Baccalaureate program was engaged in. His agenda was partly to obtain a unified theory of knowledge, whether it be to use the language of the 1970’s a coat of many colours or a seamless robe.
Interviewer: You mentioned a tightrope in your last answer. Let me read you a section from your work “the World Explored, the World Suffered”: Glynn Samuels in his lecture on Wittgenstein, Religion and Philosophy of Education has this to say:
“Wittgenstein points to the industry of Bach, one of my favourite composers and points out the relation of industry to humility and suffering. Bach could really listen to music with the ear of an exploring sufferer and produce it for the hands of suffering explorers too. I personally cannot hear what I hear in Bach in very much of our popular music. Bach and his music are like the tightrope walker who is so high up in our cultural heaven supported by almost nothing but a little thread which seems impossible to walk upon: and yet he is up there moving across the space of our cultural sky. It is almost as if he has wings. This is why Bach’s music is religious music, ladies and gentlemen…the words of Solomon, the words of Ecclesiastes may sometimes land in our minds to the sound of softly flapping wings, but mostly these words are like the swifts flying tangentially on their secret mission.”
So, Religion and Education do not sit comfortably together in our modern secularized societies. How do you think the character of Glynn contributes to your message of finding common ground between these two areas of discourse?
Michael: The above passage comes immediately after a quote from Wittgenstein one year before he died. Wittgenstein in that quote is regetting that the schools of the time(1949) seemed to be more concerned with the children having a good time and pretending that suffering was out of date. Remember that all the “Greats”, Aristotle Kant and Wittgenstein were sympathetic to religion and appreciated its good intentions. For me and for Glynn, the Religion of the Philosopher must find its way into education and education needs to search for a way to address practical religious questions more actively.
Interviewer: Can I ask you to name the fictional authors that have influenced you and can you also say something about their influence.
Michael: Lawrence Durrell is the author I have read and re-read the most during the past 10 years. His Alexandrian Quartet is a masterpiece and allows the reader to “live” in Alexandria in a way that leaves memories about the place and people as if you had actually lived and worked in the city itself. The people and events are seen through the eyes of 4 characters and a process of “triangulation or “quadrification” occurs which gives one a very real impression of the people and the time they live in. Shakespeare has also been a regular source of inspiration because of his effortless unification of prose, poetry and theatre, as has been Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Laurens van der Post, and V S Naipaul. Given my admiration for Shakespeare T S Eliots poetry has haunted me since I studied him at school. Other poets like Dylan Thomas and Robert Frost, W B Yeats have also occupied me periodically. But Lawrence Durrell has always been the star in the sky of literature that I have tried to follow.
Interviewer: The first chapter of the work is about ships, the sea, deeply tethered bouys, and you say on the first page that you “began to look upon the sea as a teacher, with respect”. You speak also of a calm sea as a dreaming sea and “the rising of the tide of the level of your consciousness”. The sea then makes its appearance in many metaphors and images throughout the work. Why?
Michael: You tell me. The sea feels like a part of me. Powerful waves and tidal changes of considerable magnitude are the norm in Cape Town. High tide in Cape Town would probably feel like a tsunami to someone not used to such sound and fury. At every high tide I almost expected the sea to turn the streets of Sea Point into canals. I think I had pictures in my mind of Venice before actually knowing that the city existed.
Interviewer: Is that why Venice is connected to suffering?
Interviewer: What is the significance of the title “The World Explored, the World Suffered”. For you, these seem to be tied almost logically together rather than be the names for separate independent activities.
Michael: Yes that observation is correct. The fate of Socrates alone ties these two activities irrevocably together but Aristotle that explorer of the human spirit par excellence also had to flee Athens and died within a year of escaping. Kant, the philosopher that never left Königsberg, speaks several times about the melancholic haphazardness of everyday life. Freud’s mood is even darker than this as is Schopenhauer’s. I think the title reflects the response of many philosophers to our secularized world. The character of Glynn Samuels appears to the character Sophia to be the most stable probably because he builds religious walls around his life and prepares for the secular siege with the wisdom of all ages and the wisdom of all kinds of text.
Interviewer: The final lecture that Jude Sutton gives is the one he enjoys the most: the lecture on Aesthetics. He talks about the creation of a film of the “terrible events of this century” and he compares this anxiety laden venture with Giorgione’ss Quattro Cento landscape entitled “The Tempesta” where a storm is looming in the background of figures who are pursuing their everyday lives without concern for what is coming on the horizon. Sutton refers to Adrian Stokes and his hope that psychoanalysis will help us understand the good object in general and the beautiful and the sublime in particular. Love emerges as a theme of the lectures for perhaps the first time. Can you say something about this observation?
Michael: Yes, the quotation you refer to comes from Stokes’s essay on Michelangelo, perhaps the greatest of the Italian explorers and sufferers. The quote connects love to the oceanic feeling, the feeling of being at one with everything in contrast and connection to the feeling of the singularity of people and things. Stokes suggests that both Art and love stimulate these attitudes in us. In visual art, this is accomplished via the medium of space in which we are simultaneously enveloped but by an art object that singularly stands out like a rock in the sea. Jude Sutton goes on to discuss the work of Shakespeare and categorizes him as a Quattrocento writer embracing the suffering of man in a medium of a Stoic calm in the face of the storm. Stokes is a disciple of Melanie Klein’s but I can detect in this lecture the present of Freud and his principle of Ananke, or neccesity, looming over the hustle and bustle of life. I suppose my message is that love requires a considerable amount of Stoicism and if Art is like love than this means that our greatest artists should be at least Freudian Stoics if not Kantian Stoics.
Interviewer: Looking at your author page on Amazon and reading the first chapter of your book suggests that this novel is autobiographical. Is it?
Michael: Yes, there are some biographical events which lie behind some of the content but the work is a work of fiction. The drama and tragedy are not the focus but the medium for the message.
Interviewer: And what would you say is the message of the first book of the trilogy?
Michael: That life is a difficult business for most of us partly because of our divided human nature and partly because of the difficulty humans have in befriending one another in a philosophical spirit of fellowship. Our institutions seem to need a spirit of fellowship if they are to function as they should. Educational institutions try forlornly to address both the question of our questionable natures and our relation to our neighbours and other citizens but the attempt is not very impressive when one considers that it is more than two thousand years after the beginnings we were provided with by the Academy and the Lyceum.The spirit of fellowship, for example seems to me to be very rare in this world of ours but one encounters it occasionally.
Interviewer: Your characters mention several times throughout The World Explored that we read in order to know that we are not alone. Is this significant for the message of your trilogy?
Michael:Yes, we read, write and listen to music produced by exploring sufferers to know that we are not alone. There is something almost sublime in reading the words of the Great Philosophers. It a bit like a timeless eavesdropping at their study doors in Athens, Königsberg or Cambridge.
The World explored, the world suffered: The Exeter lectures is the first part of a trilogy and is a work of philosophical/ educational fiction(Published in November 2017). Its fictional component is composed of a middle-aged Romeo-Juliet drama which ends with two deaths in Venice and a youthful adventure that takes Robert, the narrator from trauma in South Africa to a teacher training institute in England where he discovers Philosophy and befriends an alcoholic lecturer who had once studied under Wittgenstein.
The educational component is composed of a series of lectures on the philosophy of religion, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, ethics, the philosophy of natural science, human science and mathematics, philosophical psychology, political science, philosophy of education. Three different lecturers deliver a series of lectures, the educational intention of which is to introduce the reader to the world of Philosophy and the world of Education seen through the eyes of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, Kant,Hegel, Marx, Tolstoy, Schopenhauer, Freud, William James, Wittgenstein Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau- Ponty, Arendt, Quine, Cavell, Paul Ricoeur, Brian O Shaughnessy, R. S. Peters, Paul Hirst, Peter Winch, Hudson, Adrian Stokes, T S Eliot, Julian Jaynes.
The book attempts to take the reader on a philosophical journey from curiosity to commitment and it is hoped that the trilogy will serve as a general introduction to Philosophy for all who are curious about the eternal Philosophical questions such as “What is the nature of Reality?” “Is God merely an idea in our minds?” “Is the soul a function of the body?” What is Justice?” “What is ethics?” “What is the role of Education in the life of the individual and society?”How should we characterize the feeling of the sublime?” “How shall we characterize the feeling of the beautiful?” “What properties do great works of Art possess?” What is the philosophical role of Psychoanalysis?” “How shall we philosophically characterize the role of language in our understanding of the world?” “What is the meaning of life?”
Life, for the central character and philosophical explorer of the book, Jude Sutton, was ebbing to its conclusion prematurely and his best friend Glynn Samuels, a religious Welsh follower of Heidegger, Freud and T S Eliot could do nothing but play the part of the spectator of a Greek, Shakespearean tragedy, watching the spectacle unfold to its inevitable conclusion. He could do nothing but express his admiration for his friend and his suffering at his friend’s misfortune in his lectures.
Below is the central lecture given by Glynn Samuels, the lecture has the same title as the book:
“Ladies and Gentlemen! How does man relate to the world? What is he that he is capable of posing a further question for every answer he gives himself? Why is the mind of man so restless? Thanks to science we know why the sea is restless. Indeed the behavior of all the other elements, earth, air, and fire have been captured in our observations and equations. Science in this very restless century has explored the outer regions of the heavens and the inner structures of the smallest particles in the Universe: particles that are invisible to the human eye. However, in a series of operations reminiscent of the unpacking of a sequence of embedded Russian dolls, it looks to me as if an inevitable limit has been encountered even for the eye equipped with various forms of microscopes and telescopes. If this is true, does this signal that we have come to a resting point in Science especially insofar as the exploration of the Natural physical world is concerned? Are we detecting a winding down of the activity that occupied the geniuses of Einstein and Bohr? Have the microscopes been packed and moved off to other kinds of laboratories for the study of other kinds of things? Will we now be eagerly awaiting the results from clinical laboratories whose experiments save lives? The Frontiers of Science may have been moved to Chemistry, Biology, Medicine and the Human Genome, but the methodology is the same. Penetrate the phenomenon, reduce it to its smallest components and measure these in a myriad of ways. What will the result of all this activity be, ladies and gentlemen? Will we find a gene that explains my tendency to eat porridge in the mornings or will I read a book one day that tells me that it has now been established that mankind uses all his genes in his choice and eating of porridge? Dr. Sutton in his lecture last year attempted to map out the transformations in our intellectual landscape brought about by Science. He reviewed the developments of science in this century and arrived at the conclusion that though we have only completed 70 years of the cycle, this century may well come to be known by historians as “the century of terror”, counting amongst its “happenings” two world wars and the dropping of two atomic bombs on civilian populations. He asked the thought-provoking question: “on whom should we place our bets for the future: Einstein or Wittgenstein? I believe in that lecture he gave very cogent and persuasive arguments for believing that the processes of philosophical thinking are more to be trusted than the processes of scientific “thinking”. A colleague of Einstein once wondered what would have happened if Einstein had used his talents and genius to study the question “What is life?” as if he was to science what Christ was to Christianity. A famous psychologist who met Einstein at Princeton University thought there were contradictions in Einstein’s theories. There certainly appeared to be un- Christ-like practical contradictions in Einstein’s personal life. I am skeptical about the reasoning of Einstein’s colleague, ladies, and gentlemen because he was placing his faith in the science of Biology to investigate the gift of life. Biological investigations, I wish to maintain, need to be conducted holistically and philosophically, within an Aristotelian framework of Change: kinds of change, principles of change and causes of change. The concepts of matter and form, potentiality and actuality, the actualizing process, genus and species need to lift the level of reflection above the so-called “material causes” relating to why we choose to eat porridge in the morning. The question of the meaning of life, ladies and gentlemen, is a philosophical question, but it also a religious question. Even the great Einstein believed in Spinoza’s God: the God who ordered the world harmoniously in terms of principles and adequate ideas that man could theoretically understand. We heard in last year’s lecture that Wittgenstein too believed in God and the religious attitude, perhaps because he believed that no other attitude could bring peace to his restless soul. The sign of a great man, ladies and gentlemen may not be in the work that is immediately published, but rather in what happens to the entire history of thought once the published ideas have been assimilated, in our culture. Will these ideas still permit a judgment of the culture, a judgment urging necessary change? Dr. Sutton showed us how he himself through the work of Wittgenstein could understand Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant and all British Philosophy in greater depth. He demonstrated that philosophical texts are not atoms or particles in the cultural world but something more akin to living, breathing beings working together to build and maintain our culture in accordance with holistic principles. Man is a curious being, ladies, and gentlemen: he has intuition, intuition for the connection of things and the relation of parts to a whole. He is, as Professor Heidegger so perceptively maintained: a being for whom his very being is an issue. Heidegger also believed that the philosophical issue of the nature of his own existence was being addressed by the poets and their writings. The poets’ words, ladies, and gentlemen are drawn up very carefully, and with great effort, from the well of suffering- not only the well of their own suffering but also the very deep well of the suffering of the world. To fully understand the cathartic effect of the poet’s words we may need to recall Dr. Sutton’s lecture which referred to the Copernican Revolution of the work of the later Wittgenstein which in his words “shed the philosophical light of the sun on the role of language in our understanding of the world and each other.” T. S. Eliot had the following to say about some cathartic uses of language: “…..Words strain, Crack and sometimes break, under the burden Under the tension, slip, slide, perish Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place Will not stay still. Shrieking voices Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering Always assail them. The Word in the desert Is most attacked by voices of temptation The crying shadow in the funeral dance The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.” You may guess to whom these shrieking voices belong. Partly, to the manipulators of our diminishing dolls whose language has been atomized to the point at which one no longer cares for humanity in the way the religious man, the poet or the philosopher care. Consequences are not arguments, ladies and gentlemen. The consequences of medical science are indeed valuable but it is important to note that they are the result of the deep cultural process, which, in spite of the scientific method, inhabits the habitats of the universities. In relation to this deep cultural process we intuit the purpose of engaging in the search for knowledge for the sake of knowledge. We do not seek knowledge because it pays or gives us something. Restless eyes look for payment, for reward. These are not the eyes searching through the pages of books fighting the good fight that Eliot referred to in East Coker of the Four Quartets: “The fight to recover what has been lost And found and lost again and again.” There is hostility in restless eyes searching for a reward. An ancient religion and these restless explorers par excellence may have played a role in the Crucifixion of Christ. The restless eyes and minds of this century, ladies and gentlemen are engaged on the project of culturally crucifying religion and everything spiritual. We are, as Aristotle said, ladies and gentlemen, social beings, we absorb language and attitudes: like impressionable children. There is no longer any “easy commerce of the old and the new” to quote Eliot again. We have learned from Wittgenstein’s Philosophy that two of the essential characteristics of language are its Communication and Truth functions. Heidegger, in an essay entitled “The Work of Art” talks about how artworks can be revelatory of the world we are attempting to understand. The poet is conceived as an artist using words in a world revelatory manner. He is searching for the moods of the restless sea, the moods of the restless world. The world of Eliot was measured by a time older than chronometers, the time of a tolling bell of an untethered sea buoy responding to the swell of an infinitely restless sea. Who of you believe that this phenomenon can be caught in the torn nets of science being sewn together by the wives of old mariners who have missed the morning watch whilst the mariners themselves are searching the sea for what is inside of themselves or nowhere. Religion is world revelatory, ladies and gentlemen, it shows itself both in the commerce of the world and in the explanations and justifications of the most important aspects of this commerce. The world is laden with hidden values that reveal themselves, if and only if, one learns to look in the right way and with the right attitude. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is revealed or brought from concealment. Heidegger uses the term aletheia for this process. Truth begins with the Transcendental Aesthetic of the poet in his rendering of the spirit of place in the rhythms of time. It flourishes further in a Transcendental Logic of the categories of existence revealed in language. In the sea of meaning out of which the island of truth arises we find castaway life forms living in flux. Religious truth, ladies and gentlemen interprets life holistically. It can see a handful of dust particles without fear and trembling. It can calmly survey the end of the world of things. It can ask coolly and clinically “Is this handful of dust a part of the corpse we buried so long ago?” The religious eye is not afraid to dwell in the pages of old manuscripts and is not afraid to lift its eyes to the heavens and celebrate the divine in the human. It is not afraid to embrace humanity as a whole. In the beginning this embrace was carefree but time has taught us a lesson: that Care is tinged with the mourning for aged lost friends and relatives, ancient forms of life and forms of thought. Or if one wishes to change the key of this sung lament from Heidegger to Freud, the ego has a heart of darkness within, a heart composed of the memories of lost objects of the past. No one can live during this period, during this century, and not feel transformative processes shaping our world into something we know not what. Aristotle believed that every human process aimed at the good but this terrible century has allowed the skeptic to flourish. Where will it all end? In Eliot’s rose garden or in Kant’s Kingdom of Ends, or perhaps in Eliot’s waste land, where the cultural attitude will be shared by a few lost souls whose eyes will never dare to meet lest shared sorrow about lost values releases an infinite flood of tears, making life impossible. In the agony of such existence what comfort can there be other than in Religion, Philosophy, Music and Poetry?”
There are two more lectures in his series of three lectures on the themes of exploring and suffering. These lectures complement the exploratory lectures of Jude Sutton who is sublimating his suffering with alcohol and what it allows to rise to the surface from the depths of his losses.
The book is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
If you wish to peruse the lectures which figure in the following two volumes of the trilogy, you can do so via my blog situated at:
My author page is at :
https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B077JVNXCV and at
Michael R D James
This is the final essay in a series of essays on Brett and R S Peters’ work “The History of Psychology”. In the opening essay on the Philosophy of Man Peters pointed out how throughout the ages there has been a tendency to focus on the data or the subject matter of a collection of different kinds of inquiries occurring in the name of religion medicine and philosophy. This subject matter , of course, very quickly proliferates and demands ordering if the impression is not to be one of total confusion.
In 1870 Psychology unilaterally declared its independence from Philosophy and Religion and decided to focus on the scientific method as a means of uniting a chaotic field of data or subject matter. This move incorporated a commitment to observation and a resultant suspension of the “psychological” practical attitudes involved in calls to action and the evaluation of action which was the concern of Aristotle’s practical science. Psychology reduced the circumference of the circle of its concerns to a theoretical reasoning that committed itself to what Brett called “observationalism” and introspection(a psychological mechanism which turned observation inwards).
The twentieth century, it is maintained, was largely obsessed by observationalist assumptions and reactions to observationalism such as behaviourism. Initially upon the declaration of independence, the definition of Psychology accepted by many leading researchers was “The science of consciousness” but it was then discovered that consciousness could not be observed and could not, therefore, fit into the theoretical scientific framework of being manipulated or measured as an experimental variable. The “scientific” response to this was to redefine Psychology as the “science of behaviour” and this move merely further reduced the circumference of the investigative circle and much that was of interest in the Philosophy of man was ignored.
The Medical model also played its part in the development of Psychology through the reciprocal influences of Psychiatry and Freudian Psychology under the heading of technologies of cure which sometimes steered and sometimes were steered by theoretical views of diagnoses. The concept of development played its part in influencing the direction of Psychology by both focusing on animal research and child development. Simultaneously the social sciences with its tendency to highlight the role of the social environment in the development of the individual also contributed to a rich mixture of ingredients. One of the responses of the behaviourists to the introspective musings of subjects in “experimental” situations was to discard what people were saying and concentrate instead upon what was being done: behaviour. At the same time the medical model, operating in what Brett called the technological therapeutic mode was emphasizing a moral treatment of patients that demanded that the Doctor listen to his patients both for the purposes of diagnosis and for the purposes of treatment. This ethical focus was probably a consequence of the need of Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis to view humans holistically if the practical problem of restoring man to health was to be solved. Freud’s initial training was in the Physiology of the brain. This was complemented with a medical training because, as a Jew, he could not look forward to a well-paid research position at Vienna University. Both of these largely theoretical educations proved to be inadequate to solve the kind of problem Freud was faced with in private practice. He was forced to resort creatively and experimentally to various “technologies” such as hypnotism in order to address the complex symptoms of his patients. But Freud was also a man of culture and we know he was familiar with the writings of Kant and this perhaps prevented him from engaging in the various forms of quackery that was a sign of the times. Paradoxically it was probably Platonic, Aristotelian and Kantian Metaphysics and Transcendental Philosophy that turned this Physician into a leading figure on the world stage in the 20th century. Popularly, he became famous for his idea of “the unconscious” but this was probably only one of a number of innovative concepts he formed in his 50 years of theorizing. Ernest Jones, Brett points out, thought very highly of the Freudian distinction between the primary and secondary process of the mind working in accordance with different principles: the pleasure-pain principle and the reality principle respectively. Freud’s background in Physiology and Biology led him to formulate a theoretical idea of “instinct” and this together, in turn, with his philosophical interests enabled him to construct a complex hylomorphic concept of instinct as constituted of the elements of “aim”, “object” and “source”.This complexity was of course not appreciated when criticism of his thesis of the sexual etiology of neurosis became almost universally accepted. The more superficial ideas of an organism being merely a bundle of instincts gained much traction at the beginning of the 20th century. In his seminal work, “The Interpretation of Dreams” Freud published the results of his adventures of reflection into the realm of wish-fulfillment which reads very differently to his other more technical works where we are clearly in the realm of action. The Interpretation of dreams is almost like a hermeneutic work of interpretation operating on a mythical world, except for the famous chapter 7 on the psychical apparatus that brings us back into the real world of action. In Kantian terms dreams are phenomena that happen to us and are distinct from the things we choose to do, and there is no obvious route for Kant from the realm of fantasy to the realm of the real world. Freud claimed that dreams are the royal road to the unconscious but what many of his critics fail to see is that the road leads in the other direction to the world of reality and action, and Freud’s work actually allows us to journey on that road connecting these two different “cities” of the mind. Our minds begin their life dwelling in the city of the primary process ruled by solipsistic wish fulfillment and anxiety and life in this city is obviously problematic. The contrast of the solid city built of choices and real actions leading to real consequences is stark. These are Brett’s words:
“However, whatever the right sort of description for such goings on which Freud called the primary processes, Freud saw clearly that they require a different sort of description from that which we give for processes explaining actions or performances. For we explain these in terms of the ends which people have in mind and their information about means to ends, which falls under rules of efficiency and appropriateness. To act or to perform a person must have a grasp of causal connection, of time, of external reality, and of logical contradictions. Such standards are the product of ages of convention, adaptation, and conscious experimentation. This inherited wisdom is handed on from generation to generation, as what Freud called the secondary processes begin to develop out of the autistic amalgam of the child’s mind. A wish, to be transformed into a reason for acting, has to have logical and causal connections, together with standards of social correctness, imposed upon it, to that what is wished for, the objective, can be connected with acts that lead up to it. It is interesting to note that Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics distinguished “wish” from “choice” roughly along these lines.”(R. S. Peters)
The analogy of two different cities obviously breaks down with the concept of the unconscious which actually is a concept on the boundary of the physical and the psychological. Ricoeur noted that this part of Freud’s theory is more physiological and relates to the “energetics” and physical mechanisms of the body such as the leaving of memory traces by ideas that pass in and out of consciousness. Freud discovered that not all of these traces give rise to memories which can be retrieved in the way memories normally are. Some of these traces are of ideas that at one time passed through consciousness and require special techniques or circumstances before they are able to “surface” once again in the realm of consciousness: techniques such as hypnosis or free association, and circumstances such as dreaming or narcosis. Why one might ask do these “ideas” nor naturally “surface” in consciousness under the appropriate circumstances? Freud’s answer is that something or some force is preventing this natural process from occurring. There is, in other words, a repressing force operating in the mind distorting its natural function. Freud also acknowledged tendencies of the id which are not conscious and have not been formed by the egos defense mechanisms. Examples of traces that are prevented from expressing themselves in consciousness are “the traces left by experiences in early childhood–especially those involving wishes of which we feel ashamed”. In his later theorizing, Freud introduces “agents” into his topographical model. The Ego, for example, is the outer face of the id that negotiates as best it can with three masters: firstly it meets the demands of the external world instrumentally finding the best means to the ends which meet these demands, secondly it meets the demands of the id, sometimes defensively, thirdly it meets the demands of the superego and its demands that certain standards of behaviour and judgment be maintained.. This latter agency of the super-ego is obviously an introjection of mechanisms of society which regard “norms” as necessary for the ordering of relations between men in society. Here we are obviously dealing with the attitudes I referred to in the beginning of this essay. The final third wave of Freud’s theorizing provided us with a picture of the workings of a “silent” instinct that wreaks havoc in society: the death instinct that manifests itself defensively as aggression and this was for Freud the final piece of the puzzle depicting the contours of human nature. A number of patients with sadistic-masochistic tendencies were flying beneath the radar of Freudian theory and until Thanatos entered the arena of theoretical explanation these patients were paradoxes for Freudian theory. The superego obviously contained more than a little of this aggression as well as containing the influences of our closest relatives and friends as well as the influence of social institutions.Many everyday transactions in the social world are in Freudian theory, given technical labels which refer to a network of descriptive and explanatory concepts. The theory proposed that conflicts in early childhood can centre around organs and operations of the body and that the failure to resolve such conflicts might result in personality distortions which have been famously described in personality type theory.
R S Peters spends much time on describing and commenting on Freudian theory and feels it necessary to say the following in conclusion:
“If any justification is necessary for spending so much time on presenting Freud’s theory as a whole it is to be found in its overwhelming importance and influence in twentieth century Psychology. It combines the purposivism of other theories with the stress on the unity or wholeness of the personality which purposive theories have often neglected. It has been illustrated by more empirical material than any other theory and is richer in causal genetic hypotheses. In fact, there are enough speculative hypotheses in Freud to keep a generation of psychologists going in the endeavor to state them precisely and to test them. The stress on “the unconscious” and the importance given to early childhood experiences was revolutionary when we consider the theories in the field at the end of the 19th century. The only respects in which Freud was a child of the 19th century were his Darwinian approach, his vague metaphysical leanings derived from Schopenhauer, and his conception of “ideas” as dynamic mental entities which he inherited from Herbart.”(R. S. Peters)
Interest in the development of the child and personality types gave rise in the twentieth century to an industry of attempts to “measure” the abilities and personality of children and adults. Educationalists became interested in intelligence testing. Testing and experimentation also continued in earnest with different animals. Psychometrics became a part of many Psychology and Teacher training courses at Universities and Colleges. Everyone became technically interested in the “instruments” of Psychology and the conceptual aspect of psychological investigations was marginalized. Statistical studies aiming at proving causal relationships between variables soon gave way to studies using probability theory to calculate correlations between variables, especially in those studies in which a conceptual understanding of the variables and their contexts were lacking.
The Social Sciences also played an influential role in mobilizing researchers. Marx’s Economic theories lent themselves well to a theory of value which continued a tradition begun by Hobbes and Hume, a tradition that attempted to separate value from the realm of objectivity in favor a psychological fallback position which attempted explanations of social phenomena in terms of the invariable psychological(subjective) characteristics of individuals. Hobbes, for example had attempted to “deduce mans social and political behaviour from basic psychological postulates about self-preservation which were themselves presumed to be deducible from physical postulates about matter in motion”. Hobbes wonders whether life can be anything more than the mechanical movement of springs and gears. This value-phobia inhabited even the thinking of those social scientists who rejected the psychological approach and like Marx regarded the concepts of class, nation and the collective to be far more useful for social analysis than the needs and wants of individuals. The Philosophical notion of a prescriptive set of concepts possessing objectivity and truth and subject to the laws of logic was a thin crescent moon in the starry heaven of academic ideas. Peters points to a publication by Charles Cooley entitled “Human Nature and the Social Order” which he claims was very influential in America, the home of social psychology:
“Its main theme was that human personality is a social product and that most of our beliefs and attitudes are socially acquired. The “social order” thus determines the individual personality. Kantian objections were conspicuous by their absence in this zone of debate.”
Peters points out insightfully that this discussion only had one direction in which to go and that was toward a description of human automata. This environment also made it difficult for Freudian ideas to persist and Freud bashing became a favorite past-time of many American academics. Even Malinowski’s serious objections to the Freudian Oedipus complex was overshadowed by a general lack of interest in Freuds theories. The condition of the existence of his theories depended upon insisting upon a link with social anthropology.
The overall impression of Peters is that during the 20th century there emerged a proliferation of “schools” of Psychology all operating on either different assumptions or with different methods or with different concepts and that this has in no small measure contributed to what many philsophers regard as the “conceptual confusion” in the subject.
“The influence of biology proved to be the most far-reaching of all influences coming into psychology from outside the philosophical, religious and medical traditions from which psychology, in the main has developed. But its full influence did not make itself felt until the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century when men who had been trained in Darwinian Biology started to study man in the same sort of way as they studied animals and to use the same sort of explanatory hypotheses for human behaviour. There was, however, a transitional period before the rise of various schools of psychology in the 20th century when the biological outlook exerted a correcting rather than a radical influence on the old tradition of “idea” psychology.. The systematizers, Ward , Stout and James, for instance, though strongly influenced by biology were what we would now call “philosophical psychologists”. They were interested primarily in traditional topics like the relationship between perception and conception, the self, and self-consciousness, the association of ideas etc…..stress on conation, on plasticity and adaptability, and on function was beginning to replace the old interest in cognition, faculties, and structure. But Psychology remained predominantly introspective. The mind rather than behaviour remained the centre of interest: the difference was that a more biological account was given of mental processes.”(Brett and Peters)
The latter half of the 18th century was a period of intense activity in the sciences including some interesting research on the brain in which memory, for example, was explained as “the persistence of impressions on the brain substance”. Cartesian dualism surprisingly dominated psychological discussion and the physiological “vis nervosa” was distinguished from the soul or psychic force. In Germany the notion of “Lebenskraft” was influential and the concept of development was the focus of much theorizing. The Sciences were beginning to assemble themselves into a series of ascending steps beginning with physics reaching through chemistry, physiology, biology to psychology. Functionalism supplemented the materialism of the day and was interwoven with the activity of the will. Bichat, for example in the spirit of functionalism defined life as “the complex of functions which resist death”. The dualism was almost Platonic: man was a divided being composed of natural forces functioning mechanically . and the spontaneous force of a conscious will. Hughlings Jackson’s reflections advanced the scientific position that the real “organ of the mind” is the body and claimed that the nervous system of the body is representative of three levels of evolution: impressions and movements(sensori-motor), these representations are then re-presented in a larger integrated context: finally at the highest level there is re-re-presentation in terms of thought and volition. Even in this case we encounter the assumption of dualism and consciousness is assumed to be a mere effect or accompaniment of the neural processes we are dealing with. Towards the end of the 19th century, the issue of feelings becomes controversial and two debates occurred, relating firstly, to lower feelings and their connection to sensation and, secondly, to the relation of higher feelings to moral and aesthetic ideas. The former in a dualistic context, claims that the increase or decrease of intensity of sensation produces differences that are felt and this leads inevitably to a theory of unconscious “feelings”. Hartmann disagreed with this and asserted categorically that feelings can only exist in consciousness. He concedes also that all feeling is to placed on a pleasure-pain continuum. All qualitative differences of feeling are actually differences in accompanying sensations or ideas which can shift in levels of awareness. A key shift in emphasis occurred when Horwicz in his work “Analysis of Thought” claimed that Feeling is “always accompanied by an impulse to act”—-“sensation is always incipient movement”. the mental space that is thus created allows a possible choice of movement to be represented in the light of an anticipation of represented consequences. This thinking process comes to an end when the agent inclines himself to one action. Thinking, on this view, is a stream of representations controlled by feeling and a striving toward action. Horwicz realizes that abstract and scientific thinking is compromised in this position and claims that even the search for the causes of a sensation is related to the positive feeling of pleasure and the driving force of desire to experience pleasure. Kant, in contrast, had attempted to unify practical consciousness by reference to the will and reason in relation to an ethical standpoint. Horwicz attempts the same task by the use of feeling: a new basis, but arguably a basis manifesting the most inner and private of phenomena accessible, one presumes only to introspection. Darwin’s writings had obviously tuned the European mind into the theme of the emotions and the so-called “peripheral theory” of Lange and Sergi began to emerge and was developed and elaborated upon by the Americal Physiologist William James. These thinkers focussed on the order of events in an emotion and claimed that the idea of a bear, for example, is not the cause of emotions “as a match might be said to cause a fire: but along with the “idea” there is a total organic reaction which makes the “idea” itself a uniquely personal event, and wields it into that concrete psycho-physical process called experience”. Brett argues that this position is in harmony with Kant’s insistence on allowing the subjective to be part of, for example, his transcendental deduction and also allowing it to play such a prominent role in the critique of judgment:
“..for Kant leads the modern school of thinkers who insist on a) giving to feeling an independent position and b) regarding it as the subjective complement of the objective processes(sensation, ideation)”(Brett and Peters)
In England Spencer had been propagating for Psychology to be treated as a natural science and then partially deserted that position with his “two aspect” theory which retained an inductive approach to the phenomena of Psychology. Among the consequences were strange terminological inventions such as “cerebration” which were used for processes of thinking. In this context consider Dr Irelands famous quote:
“Cerebration!–what a name for thought! When the liver secretes bile one does not say that it hepatates, or when a man breathes we do not say that he pulmonates”
The above of course is an example of a technical or technological relation to language which was to cause problems at many different levels for the discipline of psychology during the next century.
With Spencer, the life of the mind was divided: into inner and outer activities. Darwin’s work was in the spirit of Aristotle and introduced the spirit of deduction into an atmosphere of induction, an atmosphere where all the energy of researchers was devoted to the collection of facts without any thought concerning the problem of how these facts should be ordered. Darwin’s theory of change regarded Nature as infinitely and ceaselessly productive, a process in which every change was an experiment directed by the processes of random variation and selection. It became clear now that there should be a general biological treatment of mental functions and the lives of animals and children were especially relevant to such investigations. His view of emotions also had great effect: replacing the focus on consciousness with a focus on habit. Consciousness came to be regarded as a consequence of the process of evolution. Darwin’s position implied a rejection of dualism in favour of Aristotle with a Spencerian twist, namely :
“The cooperation of the physical and psychic factors which this theory employs is explained by giving to the body a capacity for producing certain movements, and to the intelligence a power of selecting, and so finally establishing some modes of action in preference to others.”(Brett and Peters)
It was clear that Darwins theories would provide more insight into the study of life and also that a platform was provided for the union of physiological, biological and psychological viewpoints. But the fruits of this union had to wait for the works of Bain and Ward. It is at this point that we first begin to see the beginning of a new attitude to the problems of the theory of mind in particular and philosophical psychology in general. Spencer had talked about induction and associationism but Ward sought for a deeper method and a deeper unity. Ward argued that the phenomena of psychology are not specifically inner as opposed to outer but are rather :
“certain distinct characteristics of conscious individual life. These characteristics must be assigned to a subject or an Ego. A sequence of “states” has no inner unity and could not know itself: there is an agent as well as an action, and in addition to knowing, feeling and doing we must admit that which knows, feels, and does.
This agent is equivalent to the total state and processes of consciousness and further:
“Every distinguishable element of the mental life is, therefore, a phase of its activity: it is no more separated from its phenomena than the moon is separated from its phases: the subject is the knowing, feeling and doing in their own living unity.”
Wards Psychology is one in which the material of presentations is largely given but the life of consciousness involves attention in relation to these presentations plus a voluntary direction of attention onto “motor presentations from which result changes in the field of consciousness” Again in this we can see the trace of Kant the scientist. There is a large primitive mass of undifferentiated intuitions out of which we differentiate sensible and conceptual entities, all of which constitute the antecedents of knowledge. The matter is form-ed(hylomorphism) and here we hear echoes of Aristotle. But it is the activism of the German school which is mostly the driving force of Ward’s theorizing: the active organizing subject is responsible for the unity of experience:
“they are not transcendental principles of mind regarded universally, but organic principles of individual conscious existence. Time and space are the first of these organizing principles: unity, identity, resemblance, difference comes next: the higher intellectual categories come lates(substance, cause etc)”
Ward thus rejected associationism and the building up of the whole out of the synthetic activity of combining parts. According to Ward only ideas are capable of association. his treatment of emotional and conative action is in terms of firstly, natural selection and secondly in terms of human purposive selection which also takes effect at a very early age was an advance in thinking. Purposive movement differs from reflex movement in that the former are “selected, purposive, and capable of reinforcing the emotion as a whole”. Feeling is retained as an important element of the theory and purposive movement as is the case with all intellectual activity is actually steered by desire and feeling. Ward also prefigured James and Freud in insisting that “life and growth belong to the mind as truly as they belong to the body.
Stout takes Ward’s theory further into the territory of consciousness. Consciousness, for Stout, has three fundamental modes of functioning: thinking feeling and willing. His characterization of these modes, however, is not functional and is more reminiscent of the characterization of different attitudes:
“the matter given to consciousness is the sum of presentations: to each presentation there is a possible reaction in one of three ways. If the presentation is referred to an object, and regarded only as significant, we are said to think: if we find ourselves in an attitude of liking or disliking, we have the volitional or conative mode: from this arises pleasure or pain(the third mode)… In reality, then, only two modes are fundamental: we either think or will…Thought and will are operations by which the creature strives to regain its lost equilibrium.”
This last thought concerning the equilibrium of the organism recalls the early work oF Freud who suggested an energy regulation principle and a pleasure-pain principle was involved in this work of balancing the consciousness of the individual. “Thought is the creatures way of satisfying its needs”(Brett and Peters).
James carried on in this spirit and introduced the term “stream of consciousness” against the background of a solid physiological and almost positivistic orientation toward “the study of the phenomena and conditions of mental activity”(James’s definition of Psychology). He believed that experience could not throw light upon itself and was committed to Lotze’steachingss about the difference between knowing something and knowing about something:
“In a certain way, one only knows vision by seeing: but sciences are not immediate experiences, and a chapter on vision must describe the eye and its functions simply because the greater knowledge toward which men strive is attained by this particular circumnavigation…..To say that physiology throws no light on mental processes is very true: the fundamental error is in asking physiology to explain something which has previously been made inaccessible, instead of taking all the facts as capable in some degree of being explained by all others.”
James then also explains the psychologist’s fallacy which in essence amounts to believing that if one has an idea of a year that one also has an idea of its 365 days. Of course, the object “year” has 365 days but the “idea” of a year does not. James and Freud, it is reputed, were the only two psychologists Wittgenstein studied carefully. This example reminds me of the Wittgensteinian discussion of a painting of a kettle with steam coming out of the spout. Wittgenstein asks whether it makes sense to claim that there is water boiling in the kettle.Here too the distinction between object and idea is being debated.
James weaves introspection into his otherwise “scientific” account but there are elements of mysticism and there is also a nod in the direction of Freud:
“I cannot but think that the most important step forward that has occurred in psychology since I have been a student of that science is the discovery, first made in 1886, that, in certain subjects at least, there is not only the consciousness of the ordinary field with its visual centre and margin, but an addition thereto in the shape of a set of memories, thoughts, and feelings which are extra-marginal and outside the primary consciousness altogether, but yet must be classed as conscious facts of some sort, able to reveal their presence by unmistakable signs. I call this the most important step forward because, unlike the other advances which psychology has made, this discovery has revealed to us an entirely unsuspected peculiarity in the constitution of human nature.”
With these reflections, I bring the 19th century to a close and will move on to a discussion of 20th-century Psychology. Bretts work came out in 1921 but Peters who abridged the three volumes wrote a chapter on 20th-century Psychology. This chapter will be the subject of the next thread.
Cogito ergo sum: “I think therefore I am” was the result of the Cartesian search for the first principle of Philosophy and although Kant picked up on the premise of that “argument” if such it be(“I think”), Philosophy and therefore philosophy of education after Kant’s influence waned, focussed more on the conclusion: the existence of the subject. This in spite of the fact that the most convincing argument Descartes produced for his first principle was an “epistemological” argument namely, that If I should try to doubt that I am thinking I cannot do so without thinking. Now I am not sure that this is an epistemological argument because the intuition of thinking seems to be an after effect of the thinking(admittedly a closely connected after effect). Thinking rather appears to me to be a transcendental condition of the experience or intuition.
What I wish to begin to explore in this article is whether this transcendental condition is related to the grammatical structure of the first person. Wittgenstein counseled us to ask how we learn a word if philosophical disputes arise connected with the concept the word expresses but he does not talk about the conditions under which we learn the word “I” as far as I can remember. Kant, however, does take this issue up in his work “Anthropology”. Kant, the transcendentalist, points out that children before they learn the use of the word “I” call themselves the name that other people call them, that is, they use their name in (perhaps accidental)accordance with the rules of a proper name which are probably connected to citeria of uniqueness such as Born in Demo Alopece, Athens in 470/69 BC into the family…etc. At some point probably around 2-3 years the child feels a unity of consciousness within itself which needs characterization by the first person pronoun “I”. Logicians have probably misleadingly called “I ” a “shifter” because of their obsession with the idea of ostensive definition and the role of such definition in naming. “Socrates” would be, according to Kripke, a rigid designator referring necessarily to that object given by the criteria specified by a set of definite descriptions: the man born in…the man born at the time….. The term “I ” cannot designate rigidly in the way in which a name can, therefore the term “shifter”. By the time logicians are thinking in this way, the transcendental “I think” or the grammatical form of the first person has disappeared from mainstream Philosophical discourse. In my previous essays on the Post Kantian history of Psychology, I mentioned some of the factors responsible for this transformation of the philosophical landscape since Kant. Ludvig Wittgenstein initially a leading thinker in the kind of logical thinking instantiated by Kripke et al, relatively quickly joined the critics of his own earlier work and began to realize that Philosophical logic had replaced transcendental logic for no good reason. In his later work, we find Wittgenstein arguing for a concern for language which is no longer analytical but more anthropological and communal. Behind Wittgenstein’s “we say” is “we think” and many of his discussions with himself in his work “Philosophical Investigations” are in accordance with the ancient Socratic definition of thinking as “talking or discoursing with oneself”. Wittgenstein’s style therefore reaches back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and further on in History to the more systematic transcendental treatment by Kant. Wittgenstein’s dialogical approach was very effective in providing convincing arguments against behaviourism, functionalism, pragmatism, materialism, naturalism, scientism, logical atomism, logical positivism, consequentialism and instrumentalism: all of which had shifted into the vacuum created by the displacement of transcendental logic and the grammatical case of the first person. This looks a very abstract point but this is only so as long as one does not see the connection between transcendental logic and metaphysical and ethical investigations which deal with reality and the value of reality respectively.
My first contact with Wittgenstein’s thought was via a Philosophy of Education course at Exeter University in England during the 1970’s given by a lecturer who had substantial contact with Wittgensteinian Philosophy in Cambridge both directly with the master and with the initial inner circle. Philosophy of education became as a consequence of the influence of Wittgenstein’s thought a fermented keg of discussion confined to 5 Universities of which Exeter was one. The ingredients of this fermentation were Platonic, Aristotelian, Kantian and Wittgensteinian and the key thinkers spreading ideas in Philosophy of Education were R. S. Peters, Paul Hirst, and Richard Pring. This latter figure is particularly interesting because he has been relatively active until recently in the field of education. His work “Philosophy of Educational Research” is a work that is highly recommended to those who are interested in the topic we are attempting to discuss in this article in particular for its consistency with the ideas of the 1970’s in England. If we are right in our reasoning, this period of the 1960’s/70’s in England may have been the beginning of the restoration of Hylomorphism, Transcendental Logic and also the beginning of a broadly Humanistic revival of spirit in Europe.
But let us begin at almost the beginning, with Aristotle. In an earlier article on political identity we discussed the criteria of personal identity and referred to the central concept of continuity as a logical concept derived from Aristotle’s theory of change. Four elements were involved: continuity of the body(the actual material of our body is changing and dying), continuity of memories in our memory system (we have forgotten many early memories but some of the memories we have probably had some relation to other memories which in their turn were related to other memories which in their turn might have been related to the early memories we have forgotten), continuity of the social system(social structures are disappearing and appearing in accordance with some kind of continuity principle) we are embedded in, and continuity of the political system we have perhaps created in our lifetime with our political judgments decisions and opinions. Memories are individual memories and are memories of other individuals. Social institutions are composed of individuals and their memories de facto and in virtuo in the form of the books of a library: history is embodied in monuments and buildings and street names etc. Similarly with political institutions, there are living individuals writing books for libraries and reading books from libraries: Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, Kant’s Political Philosophy. In this latter context individuals form new political parties, change the direction of a party etc. The political element incorporates formally (logically) the social as material which in its turn formally incorporates memories of individuals and individuals bodies as material. This logical connection of elements is only possible with the kind of matter-form formula which we encounter in Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory: form and telos provides both the organizing principle and the end toward which the underlying material substance is actualizing. We can also see in this matter-form formula the logical relation of wholes to parts which is mentioned in Aristotles “Prior Analytics”.
There does not seem to be any difficulty in holistically characterizing what a person is in this kind of context and most commentators see the advantage of the hylomorphic view over the kind of view which suggests that the person is a complete collection of facts. Facts are facts because they inhere in different categories. How are we to differentiate them if not by a theory of the categories? Categories are ways of thinking about reality. Now there has been enough controversy about such issues to realize that the categories at best allow us to glimpse reality as if through a glass darkly. Kant helped to tidy the discussion up by claiming that categories determine kinds of judgment which direct our relation to reality in different ways. For Wittgenstein, Judgment, of course suggested something we do, i.e. conceptual judgments emerged from forms of life which embed language games as justifications of what we do. Different forms of life justify different judgments. This initially looks like a formula for relativism but this is not the case because Wittgenstein is not comparing judgments at the same level, i.e he is not claiming that a categorical form of life and thinking gives rise to categorical judgments in one community can be compared and contrasted with a categorical form of life and thinking giving rise to a different categorical judgment in another community. He is rather claiming that if one community for example believes that happiness is the end for which ethical action aims and another community aims at duty as the good this is not a contradiction but a choice of a categorical view of the good over an instrumental view. On another level, Wittgenstein points to categories of language to distinguish between kinds of judgment. The language game with pain in “I am in pain” is categorical because it does not make sense to doubt that I am in pain(cf Descartes, it does not make sense to doubt that I think) but there is between these two language games of “I am in pain” and “I think” a fundamental difference. In the former case we are in the Kantian realm of Sensibility,(The Wittgensteinian realm of sensation) in the realm of events that happen to me, and in the latter we are in the realm of activity, the realm of what is done. In the former case I learn the expression in connection with primitive behaviour such as falling and skinning my knee: my teachers teach me to say “I am in pain” and this replaces my screaming in pain. In the latter case there is also undoubtedly some behavioural base which will be substituted by the words “I think”, perhaps the behaviour in question might be that of an exclamation upon being struck by a thought, e.g. thinking of something I just exclaim that something. The major difference between the two cases is that in the former the question as to why one is in pain, reference will be made to a cause whereas in the latter case the question as to why one is thinking something or doing any activity, reference will be made to a reason(and of course depending on the type of activity the reason may be an instrumental one, “because it makes me happy” or a categorical one, “because everyone ought to do what I am doing if one is to treat people as ends in themselves”). In the case of the reason for thinking something we might in fact be reasoning in a series of premises culminating in a conclusion.
These are first person cases of different kinds and different language games will be embedded in different patterns of activity or forms of life. Even second person responses to our first person avowals will differ accordingly. In the pain case there will be sympathetic reactions and in the thinking case there will be more cognitive reactions and perhaps even a long discussion, i.e. in the thinking case the discussion with oneself will be replaced by discussion with any possible second person and both will be testing their understanding of each other in terms of the truth of the statements, the reasoning being used and the conclusions drawn. A major difference between the sensation case and the thinking case is that in the former one can engage in observing the course of ones pain but in the latter that is not a possibility because pain is a phenomenon and thinking is not: “although there are phenomena of thinking, thinking is not a phenomenon.”(Wittgenstein). What is the role of language in this context? Wittgenstein often refers to the first person plural case “We say…… and Stanley Cavell in his “Claim of Reason” asks the provocative question “and what gives anyone the right to speak for or on behalf of others”. He might well also have asked “What gives anyone the right to “think” on behalf of others”: or what gives anyone the right to claim something is true and expect acceptance of the truth of what is said. This is the normative aspect of our discourse with each other and with ourselves when we are thinking: the truth is what ought to be acccepted and understood. Cavell points out we certainly are not appealing to empirical research or the process of voting or counting hands. There are phenomena of talking but talking is not a phenomenon, Cavell seems to be arguing. Grammatical remarks are first person collective remarks and they transcend experience. Connections can also be made to the idea of the self being transcendental, being that is, as Aristotle would characterise the soul, a principle of experience and activity.
“Kant rightly declared that the mind must be regarded as a structure regulated by principles which are ultimately its own activities. Before Kants time the psychologist was not unlike a physiologist who tried to explain digestion, without any reference to the organism, as a process by which various foods introduced into the stomach analysed themselves and distributed themselves conscientiously to their appropriate places in the organism. It was Kant who first saw that such a procedure was wrong and that we must start from the mind to explain the ideas, not from ideas to explain the mind”(Brett)
“Psychologists have, in most cases recognized this merit in Kant, and all the modern work founded on the conception of the unity of consciousness is indebted to Kant. But for the rest Kant belongs to the logicians rather than the psychologists, and his theory is more important for discussions of validity than for the study of the mental structure.”(Brett’s History of Psychology)
The Copernican Revolution of Kant further means that the receptive faculty of the mind which receives sensations has no meaning apart from the formative activity of the higher spontaneous thinking centres. Brett goes on to point out that perhaps Kant failed to take into account the fact that a sensation which is related to another sensation might modify that sensation: “after a great heat a moderate warmth seems chilly, and so through all the senses: there is a kind of self arrangement which is not the work of the mind”
Brett accuses Kant of being the propagator of the view that the higher regions of the mind or thinking processes alone organize conscious life but quickly admits that the Categories of the understanding, according to Kant, are the “indispensable preliminary activities of consciousness”. These categories obviously play the role that forms do in Aristotelian hylomorphism and Brett poses the question many critics of Aristotelian hylomorphism have posed over the centuries: the question of the importance of Psychology. Martin Heidegger in his work on Kant, suggested that Kant missed an opportunity to found his critical work on the psychological idea of the imagination and one should remember the following: that the above criticism of the importance of the psychological predates Heidegger.
Herbart was one of the first post Kantians to attempt to restore the idea of the soul to the world of phenomena: the soul for Herbart was “a multitude of independent ideas and activities”(Brett). Herbart’s point of departure is mathematics and the natural sciences and his aim, according to Brett is to “reduce consciousness to simple elements and their combinations” This attempt to restore the idea of the soul, ultimately leads to the position of abandoning the idea of the soul altogether although this was not the case with respect to Herbart’s reflections. The most interesting feature of Herbart’s account is his emphasis on the soul being the agent manifest in all its activities and not the place where events just “happen”. Brett claims that it is with Herbart that Psychology becomes empirical. I am not sure that this is an entirely appropriate analysis. As long as the agent is not defined as an object seen from the perspective of the third person there would seem to be a retention of some of the spirit of Kant’s position. The abandonment of reasoning for the empirical scientific method, however, was certainly not in accordance with the Kantian Copernican revolution. Indeed Brett’s description of Herbart’s account of the relation between consciousness and its ideas cannot fail to remind one of what is later to come in the name of phenomenology:
“Phenomena are in perpetual flux: in other words, the most obvious thing about consciousness is its perpetual tendency to change: even though we try to retain one presentation, it slowly dwindles in our grasp. This general fact gives Herbart his starting point. By an idea we mean the outstanding point, the summit or peak on the surface of an ever heaving-consciousness. If we imagine a light shining on a sea of rising and falling waves, the analogy may assist us to grasp Herbart’s conception of “arches” and “summits”. Every single idea travels, as it were, on the path of a semi-circle, from a point below the level of consciousness upward to its zenith: it then goes down again and gives place to another. This process continually goes on: it is the business of psychology to find its laws.”(Brett)
The problem with Herbart’s active conception of the soul is that “the only active quality ascribed to the soul is the tendency to preserve itself”. And with this thought, Herbart’s reflections move away from phenomenology and back to the basics of science: consciousness and the expenditure of energy of the organism. This energy regulation principle, already present by implication in Aristotle’s reflections on the soul was to be later used in Freud’s Scientific Project. Freud, of course, abandoned this attempt to reduce the qualitative to the quantitative in his later theorizing.
Herbart interestingly also claimed:
“to have provided a psychology especially applicable to education.It was the interest in mental growth and in the union of right thinking with the right feeling that led Herbart to understand how closely the qualities of character depend on the complete fusion of knowing and feeling in one indivisible state of mind, evolving into the kind of clearness which is only attainable through self-expressing actions.”
The essential feature of mental growth is characterized in terms of apperception. or the Kantian “I think” or the “I will” but the “I” of consciousness is still characterized in terms of scientific Psychology. He applied these ideas to ethics but neglected the Kantian concepts of reason and freedom believing along with Plato that the temper of the community determines the temperament and character of the individual.
Schopenhauer is the post Kantian who converts the self into the will and defines it in terms the Psychologist will find difficult to accept:
“As some had declared the “Thing-in-itself” to be the organism, Schopenhauer declares it to be the vitality resident in the organism”. His view is thus biological, where it is not merely metaphysical: when he proclaims his own originality he is justified if we think only of modern tendencies, but in everything but its language and its excesses this view is a restatement of Aristotle’s doctrine of the fundamental conation, persisting through all the scale of organic life, variously combined with and modified by corresponding degrees of conscious realization”(Brett)
Schopenhauer restored the will to modern thought but the whole trend of his analysis Brett argues is toward “the fundamental impulses of animal nature”, although there are moments in his account when Schopenhauer stands where Kant stood. Herbarts influence was to prevail over Schopenhauer’s forlorn attempt to restore Kantian Psychology.
Fechner’s interest turned more to physics and aesthetics than mathematics and he actually wrote some valuable works on electricity. But there are also elements of mysticism in Fechner:
“lying in bed on the morning of the 22nd of October 1850, he saw the vision of a unified world of thought, spirit and matter linked together by the mystery of numbers. So it was, perhaps, that Pythagoras saw the quality of sound transformed into measurement!”
And yet there is something of the spirit of the age in Fechner’s vision. He tries to unite the psychical and the physical and with him Brett argues:
“The centre of controversy shifts to the question, How much of the inner life actually enters into this sphere of measurement and quantity.”(Brett)
By the time this question was raised, Kant’s voice has been lost and there is only a very faint echo of the answer to this question “Hardly anything at all” This is not to deny that mental states do not have physical equivalents but the key question becomes “Are the limits of our knowledge of this relation confined to correlation?” But correlation between what and what? How can there be a correlation between a principle and that which it is a principle of? This post takes us to the psychology of the 20th century which will be the subject of the next thread.
Kant’s Philosophy divides neatly into the two realms of the natural world and the ethical world and although the discipline of Psychology was only to officially announce its declaration of unilateral independence in 1870, the move toward separation may have begun with the Kantian Copernican revolution and the thinkers that reflected upon Kant’s Philosophy. Kant leveled such devastating criticism against metaphysics that of the three ideas of reason: God, Freedom, and the Soul, only Freedom survived his onslaught. The idea of God becomes dependent upon the idea of Freedom and the Soul disappears in favour of the concept of self-consciousness whose essential nature is defined by an act of the “I think”. But immediately that is said one has to also recognize that Kant believes that there are two kinds of selves operating in the arena of philosophical reflection, firstly, a noumenal self which is presupposed by experience but which can only be known in a segment of that experience: namely, moral action. Secondly, in Kant’s theoretical writings the natural sciences are then linked to the phenomenal self which post Kantian epistemologists and scientists attempted to study as part of their reflections on the nature of this divided subject.There are two levels of description involved in this latter theoretical project, namely empirical description and mathematical description which rely on the observational method of science and the logical method of mathematics.
In his earlier work, Kant was a rationalist and believed in the soul until encountering the work of Hume who astutely pointed out that whenever we reflect upon our experience we never encounter a self or a soul but only a phenomenon, for example, someone experiencing something or someone doing something. This self, Kant argued, can be studied empirically by psychology, or what he called Anthropology, under the heading of “what man makes of himself”. Some critics have accused Kant of constructing a Psychology without a soul but that does not seem to be a just accusation. Kant is merely claiming that the soul is an idea in consciousness which can never be given in experience because this idea is equivalent either to the substratum or the totality of experience. Kant was with this complex move the first philosopher to systematically recognize the limits of metaphysical thinking.
Psychology, or Anthropology, as Kant would prefer to call it is wholly empirical but it could never be a science Kant argued because mental phenomena are in the flux of time and therefore incapable of measurement. Given the Copernican revolution and the conviction that knowledge is not solely the product of ideas which arise out of experience but is rather a structure regulated by the minds own activities, we can see how self-consciousness is a holistic idea with its own essential unity. The mind of the self is, Kant, argued made up of a receptive component which receives sensations from the outer world but even here there is a structuring activity of the mind present in the form of space and time which are a priori “forms of intuition” as Kant called them. The actual contents of the mind are as Aristotle would have argued, complex products of formed experience: there is no pure experience of pure matter coming from the outside proceeding inwards. Whatever comes from the external world will be shaped at the very least by the structuring features of space and time. Space and time were not acts of reason but rather capacities of the receptive part of the mind which Kant calls Sensibility. The mind is in fact divided into three “regions” sometimes called “faculties”(but not as far as I can remember, by Kant): Sensibility being the psychological part of the mind most connected to the body and through the body the external world, Understanding operates as a further shaping agency of the mind and is defined as a system of categories which assist in the forming of logical judgments that firstly, relate principally to the totality of experience and secondarily to the substrate(space and time and sensation). These categories are products of a thinking consciousness(“I think”) and “are the necessary and only forms of all thinking”. This region of the mind is that which generates the truth function capacity of the mind and is still related to experience but in ways which are convoluted and partly psychological (via the shaping operation of Sensibility). It is this truth-functional region of the mind which has a necessary connection to sensibility by placing it under its sovereignty: to such an extent that when I see lightning strike a tree at a particular place and a particular time I inevitably think “It is true that the tree is being struck by lightning”. Notice that this is not a necessary logical truth of the kind “Every time trees are struck by lightning we think that it is a fact that they are struck by lightning.” Obviously, the sensible/psychological part of the mind can dominate this environmental transaction by producing a fearful trembling or a fearful emotional response, which of course is a less rational response and that at first might seem as if it damages the universal case for seeing the world under the aspect of the true. Yet it does not do so for truth is a normative concept which basically amounts to claiming that one ought to see this under the aspect of the truth or to take another essence specifying example, “one ought to tell the truth when you promise to do so at a trial”. The concepts of promise and truth are logically intertwined. What does normative mean in this context? Only that we ought to view the scene under the aspect of the truth which obviously does not imply that I am doing so or will do so. The fearful emotional response might even have a representational content–a picture of an angry God, and if this is so this testifies to the presence of the synthesis of the imagination operating upon the content of sensory experiences. The imagination is named so because it works in the realm of images. Truth from the perspective of theoretical reason is, according to Kant the concern of natural science in its attempt to explain events in the natural world. The categories are thought to be a set of synthetic apriori judgments which constitute science. There are quantitative judgments that connect events and things in terms of mathematical unity plurality and totality or number which is connected in not easily expressible relations to time and space. There are dynamic judgments or ways of thinking that relate to the existence of objects, their reality, negation, and the limitation of a reality combined with the possible criticism of a negation. Relational and modality judgments more clearly than the other categories of thought take us into the realm of metaphysics and this confirms Kant’s commitment to the belief that metaphysics is a science but it also covers the principle of causation which is so important for organizing judgments of experience and scientific theory. Nature is defined as “the whole object of possible experiences”.Judgments of experience are objective and deal with the necessary and categorical connection between things and events in contradistinction to judgments of perception where the connections are subjectively yet logically contained in the thinking subject. The difference between objective and subjective being the difference between the perceptions and intuitions organized by the concepts of the understanding or not. “The room is warm” “I was frightened by the lightning” would be examples of subjective judgments of perception. There is here no expectation “that I or any other person shall always find it as I do now”. These judgments do not intend an objective reference but only the connection of two sensations in me. In the judgment of experience, I connect my perceptions or intuitions in consciousness in a general categorical way such that the connection is valid in general for any being using their consciousness in this manner. Perception becomes experience by the subsumption of that perception under a concept of the understanding and by the concept is meant the category which determines the form of judging that is to be used by the judging consciousness to determine or understand the “form of the perception or intuition. These concepts of the understanding are then transformed in the thinking process into judgments and there is a table of 12 of these ranging from singular, particular subjective judgments up to the categorical and apodeictic. Now here is the important conclusion that should be drawn from this discussion of natural science: Anthropology or Psychology can never become a Science because a science must be mathematical. Mathematics belongs principally in the domain of the category of the quantitative which requires a quantitative standard that could operate on the material it is applied to. Kant is clear that the part of consciousness which belongs to the realm of thought is not the kind of material that can be measured quantitatively or ordered in mathematical relations. Thought functions in the domain of reality,
Now here is the important conclusion that should be drawn from this discussion of natural science: Anthropology or Psychology can never become a Science because a science must be mathematical. Mathematics belongs principally in the domain of the category of the quantitative which requires a quantitative standard that could operate on the material it is applied to. Kant is clear that the part of consciousness which belongs to the realm of thought is not the kind of material that can be measured quantitatively or ordered in mathematical relations. Thought functions in the domain of reality, negation and limitation, (thinking something about something). It can have conditions and so the category of causal conditions may certainly be relevant in explaining how particular thoughts or kinds of thought come to be but this relates more to the substrate of thought than to outlining the totality of relevant conditions. The “I think” implies that I think something but it probably also implies some notion of self-consciousness which raises the thinking above that of the psychological realm of sensibility and its organizer, imagination. Thinking, that is, occurs at the fully mental realm of understanding and reason. Psychological states of consciousness are continuous and can be objectified by breaking the continuity into discrete units but self-consciousness is intentional and has a logical relation to the truth. O’Shaughnessy has the following to say on this important point:
“Self awareness necessitates awareness of truth. Thus, a child who regularly makes the sound “hungry” as a way of getting food, only thereby manifests self-consciousness and knowledge of the fact of its hunger, when it knows the sense of “I am hungry”, which consists in knowing it is true that he is hungry. Indeed, for any thinking language user to know any proposition is true, is for it to know that “P” is true. Self-consciousness requires that all knowledge, including that of the inner world, be for the self-conscious creature under the aspect of truth.”(Consciousness and the world)
O Shaughnessy continues to make another important point, namely that self-consciousness is only one, though perhaps the most fundamental of a circle of properties which constitute consciousness.
This dovetails neatly with the claim that Kant makes in the Anthropology, namely that when the child learns to use the word “I” correctly there is a dawning of a new kind of awareness of the world.
Now the criticism that Brett levels at Kant is the following: Kant’s outlook was limited to the operations of reason. This is not an appropriate criticism given the fact that Kant sees three different aspects of the mind namely sensibility, understanding and reason and as can be seen from the argument above the categories are clearly functions of an understanding consciousness. Brett further goes on to argue that Kant thought that the higher powers of reason are the sole organizers of conscious life. Kant stands accused of ignoring the lower operations of consciousness, the sensible/imaginative psychological operations of the mind, but it is clear that this too is not a valid argument. Kant quite specifically argued in his work “Anthropology” that the senses are not in any way an inferior form of consciousness but on the contrary are analogous to the people in a state who are ruled by a government who can affect the people but that in turn the government can be affected by the collective will of the people. In the second book of the Anthropology Kant discusses feelings which are in one sense inhibitors of reason(high levels of anxiety can, we all know, inhibit the learning process), but in another sense the feelings of pleasure and pain can be united by the understanding to the ideas of good and evil and so “produce a quickening of the will”. This is quite aside from the positive contribution of aesthetic forms of consciousness to the leading of a flourishing life with a happy outlook onto a boundless future. Indeed the psychological sensible aspect of consciousness becomes even more manifest when Kant takes up the way in which consciousness practically reasons about the ethical decisions that are taken in life. For it is here that the self as noumenon, as a metaphysical thing in itself is revealed as bearer of the form of consciousness most defining of our human nature, namely the ethical form of consciousness which he then contrasts with what he regards as the empirical theories of Psychology which one could as well retrieve from the pages of novelists such as Fielding. This historically served as a challenge to future psychologists who were preparing the ground for a science of behavior which would become a source of knowledge about man. It was clear to Kant that moral action was sustained by a particular kind of reason for acting that should be characterized in terms of the universality and necessity of the maxims or principles one had for one’s action. These cannot be of the kind: “Whenever lightning strikes trees I am frightened ” because according to Kant that would fall under the heading of something that happens to man rather than the heading of what man intentionally and self consciously does. Intermediate between emotional responses and moral action fall instrumental actions on principles of happiness and practical reasoning, e.g. “Accumulating money makes me happy therefore I will take every opportunity to accumulate as much money as possible by any means possible”. This according to Kant is the principle of self-love in disguise and if it involves using people as a means to an end without according them the dignity one owes to them, then it is clearly neither universal nor necessary but a product of the sensible region of the mind responding in accordance with the category of causation to cause events which result in the accumulation of money. That is, this behaviour quite rightly falls into the domain of the scientific, in virtue of the means-ends relation being cause-effect relations, and may be quantifiable. One should in this context of the quantification of action, however, remember ancient Greek warnings to the effect that feeding one’s desires merely creates a desire for more and this hardly seems a mathematical relation.
It was clear to Kant that moral action was sustained by a particular kind of reason for acting that should be characterized in terms of the universality and necessity of the maxims or principles one had for one’s action. These cannot be of the kind: “Whenever lightning strikes trees I am frightened ” because according to Kant that would fall under the heading of something that happens to man rather than the heading of what man intentionally and self consciously does. Intermediate between emotional responses and moral action fall instrumental actions on principles of happiness and practical reasoning, e.g. “Accumulating money makes me happy therefore I will take every opportunity to accumulate as much money as possible by any means possible”. This according to Kant is the principle of self-love in disguise and if it involves using people as a means to an end without according them the dignity one owes to them, then it is clearly neither universal nor necessary but a product of the sensible region of the mind responding in accordance with the category of causation to cause events which result in the accumulation of money. That is, this behaviour quite rightly falls into the domain of the scientific, in virtue of the means-ends relation being cause-effect relations, and may be quantifiable. One should in this context of the quantification of action, however, remember ancient Greek warnings to the effect that feeding one’s desires merely creates a desire for more and this hardly seems a mathematical relation.
Indeed the psychological sensible aspect of consciousness becomes even more manifest when Kant takes up the way in which consciousness practically reasons about the ethical decisions that are taken in life. For it is here that the self as noumenon, as a metaphysical thing in itself is revealed as bearer of the form of consciousness most defining of our human nature, namely the ethical form of consciousness which he then contrasts with what he regards as the empirical theories of Psychology that one could as well retrieve from the pages of novelists such as Fielding. This historically served as a challenge to future psychologists who were preparing the ground for a science of behavior which would become a source of knowledge about man. It was clear to Kant that moral action was sustained by a particular kind of reason for acting that should be characterized in terms of the universality and necessity of the maxims or principles one had for one’s action. These cannot be of the kind: “Whenever lightning strikes trees I am frightened ” because according to Kant that would fall under the heading of something that happens to man rather than the heading of what man intentionally and self consciously does. Intermediate between emotional responses and moral action fall instrumental actions in accordance with principles of happiness and practical reasoning, e.g. “Accumulating money makes me happy therefore I will take every opportunity to accumulate as much money as possible by any means possible”. This according to Kant is the principle of self-love in disguise and if it involves using people as a means to an end without according them the dignity one owes to them, then it is clearly neither universal nor necessary but a product of the sensible region of the mind responding in accordance with the category of causation to cause events which result in the accumulation of money. That is, this behaviour quite rightly falls into the domain of the scientific, in virtue of the means-ends relation being cause-effect relations, and may as a consequence be quantifiable. One should in this context of the quantification of action, however, remember ancient Greek warnings to the effect that feeding one’s desires merely creates a desire for more and this hardly seems a mathematical relation.
Moral action reveals the self as a thing itself with causa sui properties, i.e. the self-causes itself to think and act morally and this occurs in the realm of the noumenal and in the realm of what some analytic philosophers would call the ought-system of concepts. What one does is what one ought to do and what one actively does not do one does because that is what one ought to do. It is in this context that one demonstrates ones freedom from being externally caused to do what one does in contrast to internally and freely choosing to do what one ought to do or ought not to do. The good will is the free will. The good is what one ought to do. I ought not to accumulate money using people in an undignified manner to achieve the end of accumulating capital. This is the maxim of my not doing what my desire tempts me or causes me to consider doing. According to Brett this falls in the realm of the prescriptive in contrast to the realm of descriptive whose task is to describe what I, in fact, do, perhaps in accordance with the principle of causation. In this latter case, the reality of what it is possible to do falls on a continuum of possible action and encourages talk of efficiency and the causal framework which accompanies it. Here it might be possible to measure degrees of efficiency in a similar way to hitting the outer ring of a target with one’s bow and arrow Thie rings of a target seems to measure the efficiency of an attempt to hit the bullseye. Emotional responses can also be measured scientifically when the issue is a standard which the body is measured by, e.g. one’s pulse rate: the lightning hits the tree and my pulse rate goes up to 150. The object of the emotion can also be related to this, lightning sends my pulse up to 150 whereas watching an exciting rugby match only increases my pulse to 120. We need both a constant variable and a comparison object if knowledge is to be generated in such a context. But there is no continuum of experience from the first person perspective in deciding whether or not to steal someone’s money ergo there can be nothing mathematical ergo, according to Kant, this realm of the mental cannot be the object of science. Now the normal scientific response to this is to claim that only the descriptive third-person perspective is objective and everything from the first person perspective–the perspective of the “I” is subjective. In a sense this is true but in a sense this response ignores the logic of the condition and unconditioned. The self is both the condition and in itself unconditioned(being causa sui, cause of itself) of self-consciousness. This logical requirement is the metaphysical basis of freedom. This is reflected in the Kantian rejection of the appeal to descriptive concepts in the relativisation of morality in which for example it is claimed that because Jack broke his promise to Jill to pay the money he owed her, this is sufficient grounds to question the universality and necessity of the moral duty that we ought to keep our promises. This type of reasoning confuses the realm of descriptive discourse with the realm of prescriptive discourse. “Promises ought to be kept” is the norm or prescription by which to measure how to judge what happens when Jack fails to keep his promise just as when someone murders someone at a bus stop we do not claim that this jeopardizes the universality and necessity of the law “We ought not to murder”. Of course as Kant maintained we can characterise one and the same action from both the point of view of practical reasoning and the principle of freedom(the first person perspective) and the view of theoretical reasoning : the principle of causality or determinism, the descriptive (the third person perspective) but it is important to realize that this is merely the expression of the old Delphic prophecy that it is difficult if not impossible to know oneself.
The Philosophy of Religion in the 20th century managed two major offensives against what many have regarded as the global force of secularism and one or both of these offensives may turn out to be the decisive territorial gain for religion ensuring its position in the globalizing processes leading to Cosmopolitanism. The Philosophers behind these offensives were Wittgenstein and Ricoeur. They both represent the challenges of Hermeneutics and Philosophical Psychology to the secularization process. They also, I would argue, represent the presence of philosophical cosmopolitan imperatives in the multi-dimensional globalization process.
Popular commentators on the subject of the decline of the authority of Religion have claimed, perhaps prematurely, that God is dead (although no one has actually seen his body). The postulated first cause of all things, it is argued, is no longer efficacious in the world of mobile phones, television sets, computers, driverless cars, robots cutting the lawn, robots hoovering the house, internet diagnoses of physical and mental diseases etc. The major causes involved in what is hopefully an accidental death are 1. The claim of Kant that God was just an idea in the mind. 2 The claim of Darwin that man who was supposed to be made in the image of God in fact evolved from the animal kingdom in accordance with the mechanisms of random variation, natural and sexual selection. 3. The claim of Freud that religious belief may have neurotic and psychotic characteristics, i.e. that the idea of God in man’s mind is not an idea one finds in a healthy mind. 4 Economical systems that seemed to have done more for the poverty of billions of people than divine assistance could ever manage(God died from an extended period of inactivity).
It might also be of interest to point out that in the secular process, the human being seems to have disappeared or receded into the background in relation to the jungle of equipment functioning in accordance with the law of economic/technological efficiency. If a robot/computer can replace a doctor and a psychiatrist and win chess games against chess masters then what hope is there for priests, teachers, philosophers and the rest of us ordinary mortals? Well, as was suggested above there is hope and it comes from Philosophy in general and Philosophical Psychology in particular.
Let us, however, examine more closely the so-called causes of God´s accidental death. Firstly let us remember that Kant was a religious man(as is the case with both Wittgenstein and Ricoeur) who he did not attend Church regularly. Indeed, although his ethical system was logically autonomous in relation to religious authority, this system still needed God, (the idea in man’s minds) to produce the good consequences of a good or flourishing life which otherwise might not follow from pure and good intentions. The philosophical conclusion of Kant’s argument is that both God and “the good” might be logically related ideas in man’s mind, indeed, they may even be identical. This idea of the good being necessary for man to lead a meaningful flourishing life goes, of course, all the way back to Plato and Aristotle.
Darwin’s ideas initially threw the religious world into a state of ferment for a time but theologians soon realized that all that was needed to survive the Darwinian storm was to claim that Evolution is a process proceeding in accordance with divine laws of creation. God’s invisible hand was steering the process and the mechanism of random variation was not a real mechanism but an illusion of mans fragile and ethically flawed mind. The embarrassing facts of the creation scene in the Bible needed re-interpretation and some scholars began to argue that one should not interpret everything in the Bible literally. Reading the creation scene metaphorically and symbolically could allow space for the existence of mechanisms of natural and sexual selection functioning in accordance with the expression of God´s will.
Freud’s ideas, similarly, when one reads his texts closely may lead one to the conviction that when Freud claimed that a belief in God had the hallucinatory qualities of a schizophrenic delusion, he may have been talking about the way in which some people or even most people relate to God. Blindly rattling off one’s prayers or performing religious rites do remind one of the obsessive compulsive’s repetitious attacks on the world but these repetitions also remind one of the healthy actings out of children who are trying to control the environment that is causing them so much anxiety. Worshipping an invisible figure in public can seem strange, and Freud explains it partly in terms of the defense mechanism of displacement caused by excessive anxiety: a mechanism which substitutes a real ambiguous punishing/forgiving father figure with an equally ambiguous invisible father who promises relief from one´s suffering if one plays the game of religion. The second part of his explanation involves returning to the origin of the religious belief system as communicated to believers in civilization. Primitive wishes in response to a primitive feeling of helplessness provide the temporary relief we need from the burden of existence in fragile civilizations. Freud may well himself have been ambivalent toward even mature attitudes involving religious conviction as some commentators have claimed but I am sceptical of this description for a number of reasons, amongst which are the following: he claimed to be writing the Psychology Kant would have written if he had interested himself sufficiently in psychological or anthropological matters. Freud did not definitely say that man would never be guided by his reason and place his hope and faith in some reasonable future probably because he was reluctant to present himself as a prophet for fear that mans destructive instincts may, as a matter of fact, overshadow his constructive instincts(Freud, died in 1939 at a time when the existence of civilization was threatened ideologically. He may have suspected that the time might come when civilization would be threatened by the power of weapons of mass destruction)
Perhaps if Freud had lived in another time and another place, England or France, for example, we may have seen him launching the offensive against a wave of economic/technological or secular globalization(his comments in his work “The Future of an Illusion” and his remarks on the USA certainly suggest he would have been one of the ideologues at the forefront of demonstrations against the way in which market economics has dominated all other globalization processes). He certainly attempted to transform psychoanalysis into a global movement in the name of science(sic).
Paul Ricoeur, after Freud’s death, wrote both about the confession of evil in the religious context and the confessions one could witness in the psychoanalyst’s clinic. There appears to be a “symbolic function” of language which takes us far beyond the purview of the scientist in his pursuit of a certain kind of explanation. He like Wittgenstein believed that the route to the understanding of what Aristotle called being qua being needed to proceed more circuitously to its destination via language. Many commentators have commented upon the “confessional” nature of Wittgenstein’s posthumous work, the “Philosophical Investigations”.
In Ricoeur’s work “the Symbolism of Evil” it is claimed that the confession of evil is of interest for the philosopher because it is an utterance man makes about himself. A confession is an act of religious consciousness but as yet is not Philosophy until it becomes an object of reflection. Myth, for Ricoeur, is not,as is the case with Freud, an expression of a primitive helpless mind filled with fantasy-laden wishes. It too has a symbolic function which is expressive of the power of discovery and revelation in the realm of Being. It reveals the bond between man and what he considers sacred and important. “Evil is the crisis of this bond”. The experience of sin, according to Ricoeur is the ground upon which the feeling of guilt occurs but:
“The experience of which the penitent makes a confession is a blind experience, still embedded in the matrix of emotion, fear, anguish. It is this emotional note that gives rise to objectification in discourse: the confession expresses, pushes to the outside, the emotion which without it would be shut up within itself, as an impression in the soul. Language is the light of the emotions.”
A myth is obviously partly a traditional response to suffering and contains elements of a lamentation about that suffering but it is also a language with a complex relation to being, the self, time, and imagery. That is why it has a non-confessional narrative structure. A confession of ones suffering occurring in the realm of the symbolic does not necessarily have to be embedded in a narrative structure. It has a cosmic and ethical/psychological significance. Both myths and confessions require philosophical interpretation and hermeneutics, according to Ricoeur, is the reflective instrument required for this work. In a paper given at a conference on “Hermeneutics and Tradition” Ricoeur points out that time is lived and used in two different ways. Tradition transmits symbols and myths and hermeneutics interprets myth and symbols. Interpretation, he argues keeps a tradition alive. “Every tradition lives by the grace of interpretation”. Ricoeur then points out that these two temporalities intersect in a third profound temporality which constitutes the elusive field of “Meaning”. Symbols live in this sphere of the relation of a physical literal meaning to a figurative, spiritual ontological existential meaning. A symbol always says more than it says and therefore is in constant need of interpretation. According to Ricoeur the study of the time of symbols would be a much more important philosophical pursuit than, for example, the interpretation of myths. He points out in support of his thesis that a myth can never exhaust the semantic constitution of the symbol. Insofar as the symbolism of evil is concerned Ricoeur has the following to say:
“The symbols embraced by the avowal of evil appeared to me to fall into three signifying levels: the primary symbolic level of stain, sin, and guilt, the mythical level of the great narratives of the fall or the exile, and the level of mythical dogmatisms of Gnosticism and original sin…….It appeared to me…that the store of the meaning of primary symbols was richer than that of mythical symbols and even more so than that of rationalizing mythologies.”
Much more can be said about the relation of the confession of the patient seeking a cure in relation to the confession of the religious man seeking salvation but let me now turn to Wittgenstein’s arguments and their claim to restore the lost object of religious discourse to the house of Deus absconditus in our robotic secularized cities. Firstly, the language of religion is not a factual language, nor a language of observation, cause, and effect. It is a language game and as such, according to Wittgenstein, it is embedded in a form of life in which the participants operate with tacit presuppositions: Not the tacit presuppositions of a science in which for example it is assumed that the heavenly bodies which are only subject to infrequent observation nevertheless enjoy a continuous real existence, but rather the tacit presuppositions relating to the activities of a soul, for example:
“Why is the soul moved by idle thoughts–since they are after all idle? Well, it is just moved by them.(How can the wind move a tree, since it is after all just wind? Well it does move it and do not forget it)”
This is the philosophical idea of psychogenesis that Freud thought played a role in mental illness. Freud was one of the few psychologists Wittgenstein studied: perhaps both thinkers believed that surrounding the heart of our understanding was a kind of madness or soul blindness, the cure for which was therapy. But Wittgenstein probably did not subscribe to psychoanalysis as the sole route to understanding the human condition for he turned to a higher power for his succor, namely Christianity. One year before his death we find Wittgenstein reflecting upon God and suffering and suggesting that if Christianity is the truth about the human condition, then all the philosophy about it is false. He rejects the concentration on the argument that Gods essence guarantees his existence and claims that if one leads one’s life in the right way a belief in God will naturally condense from the cloud of suffering that surrounds man. Donald Hudson, a religious philosopher, and commentator on Wittgenstein’s work, points out that we should not expect the religious man to reason about his beliefs in the religious language-game in the same way in which the scientist reasons about his theories. A man believing in the Last Judgment may act every day against the background of the fear or promise of such an event. Is this not reasonable asks Hudson? Does not this practical belief system seem to be stronger than any hypothetical belief system any scientist can produce? The scientist has his set of commitments and expects that every event which occurs has an explanatory cause in a systematically uniform world-view in which moons continuously exist. The scientist is building a system of knowledge which does not know what to do with transcendental truths. Wittgenstein realized this from his earlier work but let us conclude with a quote from Kant’s “Religion within the bounds of mere Reason.”:
“The nature and intrinsic limits of thought and human knowledge preclude any demonstration of the existence of God”
And further on:
“non-existence cannot be demonstrated either”
How then are we to interpret the avowals of the suffering souls of the Psalms or the suffering patients in secularized psychiatric waiting rooms? Surely their cries are not just facts being stated, the effects of causes or the consequences of observations? surely the realm of Hope and Faith that Kant referred to is the home of their language games? Surely their cries are symbolic? Surely these cries are relating to how the soul believes the world ought to be.
The History of Psychology, according to Professor Brett, is the history of a number of traditional inquiries amongst which are included The Rationalist tradition which includes both Plato and Aristotle, The Religious and ethical tradition, The Observationalist tradition, and the Medical Tradition. Brett also discusses the emergence of the theme of self-consciousness(Kant and Neo Kantians), what he calls the theme of the gateway of method, and theme of the reinterpretation of authority followed by the theme of the challenge to authority. This is a broad spectrum of concerns and can explain the controversies that arise whenever someone suggests a “reduction” of Psychology to one or two of these traditions/themes.
Aristotle is regarded as a Rationalist but Brett does not observe what has subsequently been noted by Aristotelian scholars, namely, that his thought would have something to contribute to each of the traditions, and the themes mentioned above. This essay attempts to show the breadth of Aristotle’s interests and indicate how these interests correlate with the breadth of concerns of the above traditions/themes. The theme concerning authority is particularly significant given the fact that Aristotle was regarded as “The Philosopher” for centuries and a “reinterpretation” of his work was needed by the religious authorities before a challenge to his authority could be mounted.
Brett is also eager to point out Aristotle’s deficiencies as a scientist even after pointing out that he differed markedly with Plato in his approach to reality by extolling the virtues of observation, methodological classification, and experimentation. Apparently, Aristotle’s fondness for definition was supposed to be a residue from the Platonic theory of forms according to Brett but what he then continues to say about Aristotle’s hylomorphism does not quite amount to devaluing a commitment to definition.
Since matter, space and time must be infinite for Aristotle and the infinite can neither have a beginning nor an end, any chunk of finite matter must have a principle of organization which forms it into the kind of thing it is. Now there has been a great deal of philosophical discussion relating to whether there are natural kinds or not and Aristotle has been accused of adhering to the position that these natural kinds just occur in nature without any further explanation. This is not the case because we know he believes that the infinite is formed into these natural kinds by a principle which is constitutive of the essence of that thing. The essences of things Aristotle believed shall be given in a thing’s essence -specifying definition.
The theoretical framework of Aristotle also includes:
a)4 kinds of change that occur in the world,
b)three principles of change which ensure that we can make sense of the fact that something retains its identity throughout a process of change as long as that change does not destroy the identity of the thing in question, and
c) four different kinds of explanations of the change that occurs to the environment whether it be global change or the local change of the behaviour of a thing in the environment.
Amongst the 4 kinds of changes that were referred to, Substantial and Qualitative change were obviously more philosophically significant than Quantitative or Relational change. This was Aristotle’s objection to the Pythagorean claim that the real qualities of things such as the sound of harp strings were to be related to the underlying mathematical lengths of the strings. The latter mathematical relations, i.e. according to Pythagoras, explained the former qualities of the sounds that we qualitatively identify and appreciate.
This claim was certainly true of the harp strings but according to Aristotle, this state of affairs could not necessarily be generalized to all substances and qualities. The harp’s creation brought a substance into being in accordance with all the teleological qualities that a Harp requires. The quantitative knowledge relating to the length of the strings is, of course, part of the process of making the harp and in Aristotle’s terms part of the efficient and material causes of the harp. The separation of quantitative changes from qualitative and substantial changes was a revolution in thinking which began with Plato and actually upset the Pythagorean attempt to universalize the ideal of mathematical thinking in nature. Modern quantum theory disregards the Aristotelian revolution when it insists that events in the sub atomic universe are to be explained by a mathematical formula which works but no one knows why it works.
The idea in the mind of the maker of the harp is , for Aristotle, not a quantity but a form, one of the three forms which are communicated in his composite world of matter and form, the other two forms being 1. the biological form of reproducing the species to create another individual related to me and 2. the forms of knowledge that are communicated from teacher to learner: these last forms will probably include the form of the good, the form of justice and the form of beauty.
Finally, Aristotle’s definition of human nature as a rational animal was revised in a later work to “man is a rational animal capable of discourse” and part of what Aristotle means here by “rational” are: 1. the theoretical knowledge of the world. and 2. the ability to plan one’s life by imposing some kind of life-formula upon my desires and wishes as well as 3. the ability to regulate communal desires and wishes via one’s understanding of the role of laws in the construction of the communal flourishing life. These plans and formulae are continually subjected to a critical reflection process which will determine whether they are right and wrong, whether they have achieved their purposes. The composite of a man includes his animal nature and the relation of this aspect to man’s rational nature requires understanding Aristotle’s view of the soul.
This is the complex theoretical framework which he used for both biological and political science research in his Lyceum. There was no discipline of psychology at that time but there was much talk about the concept of the soul or psuche.(as distinguished from the physical animal-like body). Brett refers to Aristotle’s definition of human nature(rational animal capable of discourse) as not being “scientific” because it embodies no causal reference. Brett is using “causal” in some narrow linear scientific sense which works best when applied to the physical world of a billiard ball reacting with another billiard ball. For Aristotle “cause” means “explanation”(“aitia”) and both rational and animal have a complex conceptual relation with each other which is reminiscent of the relation of the soul(psuche) to the body. But there are largely 4 assumptions about the soul which are being used in Aristotle’s reference to the 4 kinds of change, three principles and 4 causes and these are:
So life is the first power or capacity of the physical body and power builds upon power: language, for example, builds upon the powers of memory and experience(in which we come to know or to see man as a man) and is in turn built upon by the power of rationality which eventually learns to think theoretically and systematically about the world(if all the conditions of this actuality are met along the way). Reason has also a practical dimension referred to above when we impose plans or formulae upon our individual desires and wishes(efficient causes of action) and we understand and pass laws which regulate our societies. These latter two capacities are intimately linked to the ethical concepts of right and wrong, standards of correctness which add an achievement or areté -aspect to action
The soul moves the body but cannot itself be moved therefore it is nothing physical but rather it is able to move the body because thought in the form of intention or reason can move the body. But thought has an end built into itself and is experienced as a coming to rest rather than a movement. We come to rest in the very performance of the activity. So the form of transmitting thoughts from learner to teacher is not like that the relation between the builder building a house and the house that is built. In this example the house is an external end to the activity. In thought, on the contrary, the end is logically internal to the activity. The “telos” of the learner learning is logically tied to the activity of the teacher. teaching.
“”Seeing” and “remembering” are also so called achievement “verbs”. When we speak of them we speak of a standard that has been attained and are not making reports about movements in our soul(mind) or body. Similarly with action: action is not a movement because movements just happen without being right or wrong: that is action is not a term of the same logical type as movement. Action also internally and logically contains its end. It has been planned and thought about. This is why the end of an action is necessary to explain the movement one makes in trying to achieve that end. These ends are also further evaluated in terms of whether they are right or not. The plans, formulas or maxims are regarded as intelligent or not either in relation to the circumstances or to other higher purposes such as the meaning of ones life.
Seeing and remembering can also be components of knowledge and both Plato and Aristotle are in agreement that our desire to understand the world is best manifested in the knowledge we have of the world. The process of acquiring knowledge, however, is multilayered and multi-faceted. The best account of this process can be found in Jonathan Lear’s work on Aristotle entitled “Aristotle: the desire to understand”:
“Man is not born with knowledge but he is born with the capacity to acquire it. But the world must cooperate with him if he is to exercise that capacity. Man starts life with the ability to discriminate among sensory phenomena, an ability he shares with other animals. His soul retains a record of its sensory encounters. Through repeated encounters with items in the world, our sensory discriminations develop into memory and then into what Aristotle calls “experience”. Experience Aristotle characterizes as “the whole universal that has come to rest in the soul.” From repeated perception of particular men, we form the concept of a man, and the knowledge that this thing which we see is a man is experience. If the universal, or concept, were not somehow already embedded in the particular, we could not make the transition from bare sensory discrimination to knowledge of the individual… Because the universal is embedded in particulars, a persons first explorations among particulars will lead him toward a grasp of the embodied universal. Having acquired experience, or knowledge of individuals, we are able to formulate more abstract forms of knowledge, the arts and sciences(technai and epistemai). Each stage of cognitive development is grounded in the previous stage…..”
“By the beginning of the last decade of the 20th century. Wilsonianism seemed triumphant . The communist ideological and Soviet geopolitical challenges had been overcome simultaneously. The objective of moral opposition to communism had merged with the geopolitical task of resisting Soviet expansionism.”(Kissinger 1994)
“”The absence of both an overriding ideological or strategic threat frees nations to pursue policies based increasingly on their national interest. In an international system characterized by perhaps 5 or 6 major powers and a multiplicity of smaller states order will have to emerge much as it did in past centuries from a reconciliation and balancing of competing national interests.” (Kissinger 1994)
“Both Bush and Clinton spoke of the new world order as if it were just around the corner. In fact it is still in a period of gestation and its final form will not be visible until well into the next century- Part extension of the past, part unprecedented, the new world order like those which it succeeds will emerge as an answer to three questions: “What are the basic units of the international order. What are their means of interacting? What are the goals on behalf of which they interact?”(Kissinger 1994)
I believe Kissinger’s book on Diplomacy to be one of the best works written on the subject because it implicitly acknowledges a political and ethical philosophy which is conspicuous by its absence in many other similar works. Kissinger is correct in his formulation of his three questions but he pays scant attention to perhaps “the two political events of the twentieth century” which may answer his question concerning the basic unit of international order, namely the formation of the United Nations and the European Peace Project. He points out how the US was a polyglot formation of many different European nationalities and that the Soviet Union was an empire containing many Eastern nationalities. He does not emphasize this point but these seem to the Kantian political philosopher to be precursors to both the United Nations and the European project in the sense of their manifesting a disbelief in the unit of the nation state(See my earlier post on the Pathological nation state)
Kissinger goes on to point out that:
” No previous international order has contained major centres of power distributed around the entire globe. Nor had statesmen ever been obliged to conduct diplomacy in an environment where events can be experienced instantaneously and simultaneously by leaders and their publics-“(Kissinger 1994)
Kissinger then asks the Aristotelian and Kantian question: “on what principle shall the new world order be organised. His answer is unfortunately narrow and suburban::
“..can Wilsonian concepts like “enlarging democracy” serve as the principle guides to American foreign policy and as replacement for the cold war strategy of containment? Clearly these concepts have been neither an unqualified success nor an unqualified failure. Some of the finest acts of 20th century diplomacy had their roots in the idealism of Woodrow Wilson: the Marshall plan, the brave commitment to containing communism, defense of the freedom of Western Europe and even the ill fated League of Nations and its latest incarnation, the United Nations”(Kissinger 1994)
It is clear from these quotes that Kissinger does not place any faith in any unit of international order which does not naturally grow out of the historical units of the nation state. He points to Americas victory in the cold war but simultaneously reflects on the fact that their power to influence has decreased and regretfully and nostalgically reminisces on Wilson’s desire for universal collective security. Kant had pointed out at the end of the 18th century that this would not be possible without an organisation like the UN.
“In the absence of a potentially dominating power, the principal nations do not view threats to the peace in the same way: nor are they willing to run the same risks in overcoming those threats they do not recognize”(Kissinger 1994)
Clearly Kissinger sees the UN project to be flawed, partly perhaps because of its reluctance to fight globally for its values in the way in which the US has. America will, Kissinger predicts be the greatest and most powerful nation well into the 21st century but it will be a nation with peers and become a nation like others but it is moving into uncharted waters and History cannot be its guidebook. Wilsonianism he is convinced is no longer relevant.
“Curbing the power of the central government has been the central concern of Western political theorists, whereas in most other societies, political theory has sought to buttress the authority of the state. Nowhere else has there been an insistence on expanding personal freedom…The society, and in a sense, the nation, preceded the state without having to be created by it. In such a setting political parties represents variants of an underlying consensus, today’-s minority is potentially tomorrows majority. In most other parts of the world the state has preceded the nation. It was and often remains the principal element in forming it. Political parties, where they exist, reflect fixed, usually communal identities: minorities and majorities tend to be permanent. In such societies the political process is about domination, not alternation in office, which takes place, if at all by coups rather than constitutional procedures.”(Kissinger 1994)
Kissinger goes on to say that our Western democracies presuppose a consensus on values. In America the single most important value is freedom to live as one wishes. This is not the European Kantian idea of freedom which recognizes necessary limitations imposed by the pluralistic life styles of modern communities and pursuing happiness collectively and ethically rather than as a collection of psychologically motivated individuals. Kantian reflection on the universal values required for our collective projects arrived at a universal ethical theory which then gave rise to the conviction that human rights were universal. This way of thinking has always been ambiguously regarded in the US especially in those historical instances where it is clear that leaders have very often put American interests first and human rights second. It remains to be seen what will happen if Kissinger’s prediction actualizes itself : if, that is America finds itself in a world of equally powerful peers.
Russia’s domination has been limited by two factors: the anticommunism which is prevalent throughout Russia but also anti-imperialism which is present especially in the new non Soviet republics. What is going on in this region of this world is very different to what is going on in the West. Russia never had an autonomous church, it missed the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Age of Discovery, and modern market economics. Experiments in the introduction of market economics has usually resulted in failure and a wish for the good old days of communism, allowing the communist party on occasion to achieve 90 % of the vote(1995). The major problem for the new world post Wilsonian order, according to Kissinger, is the integration of Russia into the international community.. But he does not mention the difficulties that putting America first has caused in the world. He does not mention how this is related to the individual putting themselves first. Or how this compromises the universal and collective project of ethical values which involves so much more than the often materialistic concerns of the individual. Previously Wilsonianism, the bearer of the Kantian humanistic world view that the ethics of the individual and the politics of the state were isomorphic, had sustained the hope of cosmopolitanism but subsequent isolationism brought with it a disbelief in universal ethical aims
Kissinger notes the tendency for leaders of the US to come from the South and the West,regions of America with the least emotional and personal contact with Europe. President Trump is of course from New York but he carries on the post modern attitude of political detachment from the concern of Europe for its security and development. He carries on along the path of individualism and the individuals uncertain psychological relation to his community.
Peruse these words written in 1994:
“In the years ahead all the traditional Atlantic relationships will change. Europe will not feel the previous need for American protection and will pursue its economic self interest much more aggressively: America will not be willing to sacrifice as much for European security and will be tempted by isolationism in various guises. In due course Germany will insist on the political influence to which its military and economic power entitle it and will not be so emotionally dependent on American military and French political support.”(Kissinger 1994)
The future of the European Project, which incidentally Kissinger does not believe in, the United Nations, which he also believes to be flawed, and the deeper processes of Globalization in accordance with Ethical universal values which lay masked behind Woodrow Wilson’s largely academic view of politics, is uncertain in the wake of the rising tide of isolationism and populism which appears to have the power once again to submerge the accomplishments of the Enlightenment and Greek Political Philosophers.
But Kissinger believes that the 21st century will be marked by a seeming contradiction between fragmentation and Globalization:
“On the level of the relations among states the new order will be more like the European system of the 18th and 19th centuries than the rigid patterns of the cold war. It will contain at least 6 major powers–the US, Europe, China, Japan, Russia and possibly India–as well as a multiplicity of medium sized and smaller countries. At the same time international relations have become truly global for the first time. Communications are instantaneous, the world economy operates on all continents simultaneously. A whole set of issues has surfaced that can only be dealt with on a worldwide basis…”(Kissinger 1994)
Yet nowhere can we read in his work about the possibility that the academic political vision of Wilson, imitating poorly the Enlightenment ethical and political messages of Kant, might contain the recipe for the success of either the UN or European peace projects.
Alan Bloom in his excellent work “Shakespeare’s Politics” regrets the passing of the time when university lecturers could count on students who were familiar with a canon of great works that they held up as a standard by which to shape their lives:
“The role once played by the Bible and Shakespeare in the education of the English speaking peoples is now largely played by popular journalism or the works of ephemeral authors. This does not mean that the classic authors are no longer read: they are perhaps read more..than ever before. But they do not move: they do not seem to speak to the situation of the modern young.”
Bloom puts this fact down to the lack of a common understanding of principles. By way of emphasizing the modern lack of understanding of principles, he points also to how figures like Marlborough claimed to have formed their understanding of English history from Shakespeare as a counterpoint to the modern confusion expressed by the quote below:
“the result is not only a vulgarization of the role of life but an atomization of society, for a civilized people are held together by its common understanding of what is virtuous and vicious, noble and base.”
Bloom wishes to make Shakespeare the theme of philosophical reflection and the source of inspiration for the search for the solution to moral and political problems. Shakespeare could write in the way in which he did because, Bloom argues, he wrote before the University was atomized: before Poetry was separated from Philosophy, Psychology from Philosophy, Politics from Philosophy, Philosophy from History etc Philosophy once moved city states but no longer does so whilst poetry and popular songs can move nations. The imitators seem to have supplanted the originals.
Shakespeare, Bloom claims, moved the English into an understanding of the political framework of their lives which affected everything then as it does now. Moreover, Shakespeare’s cosmopolitanism anticipates Kant’s Political Philosophy which is very aware of the history of politics .
Shakespeare was dismissed as a Philosophical poet by T S Eliot because he failed to fit the mold of Dante or Lucretius and neither of these latter writers could be regarded as Philosophers. But Eliot’s poetry as brilliant and unique as it was requires a dogmatic Catholic Philosophy for its structure so perhaps this is not the best standard by which to measure the greatness of Shakespeare’s poetry. For this is the nub of the problem: to evaluate the quality of Shakespeare’s work.
Wittgenstein is puzzled by Shakespeare and asks himself in his work on “Culture and Value” whether Shakespeare is more a creator of language than a poet. He suggests that because of this uniqueness Shakespeare should be regarded more as a natural phenomenon than a literary phenomenon (as Eliot was). He also says that Shakespeare is like a dream where both language and world are created. This impression is I suppose a result of the fact that Shakespeare’s plays are intended to be re-created in the dream space of the theatre. We sit in the dark, awake and hear Richard the seconds monologue after the losing of his kingdom:
“Of comfort let no man speak. let us talk of graves, of worms and epitaphs. Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes write sorrow on the bosom of the earth. Let us choose executors and talk of wills. And yet not so–for what can we bequeath. Save our deposed bodies to the ground. Our lands, our lives, and all, are Bolingbroke’s. And nothing can we call our own but death….. For Gods sake let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories about the death of kings. How some have been deposed, some slain in war. Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed. Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping killed: All murdered–For within the hollow crown that rounds the mortal temples of a king keeps Death his court…. How can you say to me– I am a king?”
The language and the world fit seamlessly together, like a panoramic landscape. Here Shakespeare is like the linguistic alchemist conjuring up images of loss and discontinuity which fit together into a picture of a universe of sadness.Shakespeare is also the monarchist whose views of kings and government may still reside in the minds of Englishman today reverberating in their bones whenever there is news of the Royal Family. He was not a supporter of Republics as his plays on The Merchant of Venice and Othello testify. Both are situated in the prosperous Republican city-state of Venice. Things did not go well for the Jew and the Moor living as they did in a universe of sadness created by a political misunderstanding of the social forces that operate beneath the surfaces of important events. And yet in the middle of this universe of sadness, out of the tearful mist, Venice appears in all its grandeur and we dream that we are there. We follow the Jew and the Moor to their fates. And in Venice, there appear the bearers of strange customs and traditions from other lands. Images within images These strangers were real men with real characters and real burdens to bear and demanded, therefore, the cosmopolitan sympathy we feel for all men. Was it living in a Republic which was responsible for their fates? We know Venice went the way of Athens and the city states of Greece. The Renaissance witnessed a resurgence of Republicanism once the memory of the fate of the Roman Republic faded sufficiently to seem sufficiently unreal. Venice was striving to be a modern Republic. Yet, Aristotle had claimed in his “Politics” that as long as a Community was constitutionally sound and virtuously run in accordance with a principle of justice which ensured the common good, it did not matter whether the ruler was a monarch or a group of citizens. There was a proviso however which might be problematic. The monarch would have to be as wise as the wisest philosopher because of the complexity of the task of ruling men.Aristotle was a believer in pluralism and manifold forms of life thriving in the state. This in itself would seem to require some system where representatives for these forms of life could bring their knowledge to bear on the task of government. Political reality for Aristotle appeared to be multi-perspectival and require an understanding of a number of perspectives if lawmaking was not to disadvantage one group at the expense of another. So although there is a remote possibility that one man could have the wisdom to rule in such circumstances it was highly unlikely. Richard the second’s fate may be a testament to this fact. The problem with Republics is that they seem to be founded on an act of violence which is often not only murderous but breaks up the continuity of life. Some lawmakers believe continuity to be the very condition of life, hence the great respect for common law in England. Shakespeare appears to side with this belief in the common law of England. Now, Kant became very excited when he heard of the French Revolution and Kant was influenced by Aristotle and the Stoics which must be one of the ethical positions most loved by the Englishman who sees in the monarchy the continuity of all political life, remaining the same as governments come and go. But the French revolution did not start or end well and Napoleonic troops were in Königsberg very soon after the demise of Kant. I am not at all sure though, that Kant would have been against a symbolic presence of a monarchy without any lawmaking responsibility. The Merchant of Venice brings in another dimension of religion, of , as Bloom put it “other-worldliness” into the Shakespearean wheel of fire. The Judaic God appears to be an extreme God to the Christian, vengeful, judgmental and not appearing to understand the creatures he created very well at all. So the presence of a Jew in the Republic is just as much of a test of the breadth of the pluralistic spirit of Venice as was the presence of a Moor. Neither are parasites on the society and both appear to be performing functions necessary for the prosperity and security of Venice. Bloom believes this test of tolerance was not directly addressed by ancient political thought but I think he must be forgetting Aristotle’s arguments for respecting pluralism. Shylock, of course, represents one of the most puzzling aspects of Globalisation, namely the commercial trading spirit which in a sense appears to frown upon veering from the middle path into extreme forms of life.Venices prosperity was due to this commercial spirit. It is also fascinating, and a testament to Shakespeares almost infallible ability to pierce to the very heart of all mysteries that he should choose to make the law the centre of the dispute between Shylock and Antonia, his Christian adversary. The Old Testament talks about 10 commandments or laws and the new testament only two, which presumably will imply at least the ten found in the old testament and many more other laws. The old testament thunders its laws out from Mount Sinai that “Thou Shalt Not” and the new testament meekly suggests that love is enough: love God above all and love thy neighbour as yourself. Which of course Shylock does not obey in his dealings with Antonio who also is not entirely blameless in the affair. The New Testament claims to capture the spirit of the law and the moral of the tale seems to be that Christianity was not just new but better. Shylocks respect for the law is admirable but it turns out to be a dogmatic respect. What is fascinating with Shakespeare’s choice of these two themes of the Jew and the Moor is that if one looks some hundreds of years into the future to our recent “terrible century”(the 20th century) we will see that Antisemitism and Racism were elements of Hitlers totalitarianism, Hitlers attempt to found a thousand year Republic which thankfully only lasted 12 years. What message emerges from the fate of the Jew and the Moor apart from the fact that commercial Republics require more than an antipathy toward monarchy and a commercial spirit. The Merchant of Venice and Othello are both tragedies, not mere historical accounts, which means that Shakespeare’s poetic intent must have been to attempt to cause an awareness of our common humanity which of course did not seem to be present in Venice. Such awareness has obviously to preceded institutions which will guarantee the equality of men. Indeed, I believe that not mere awareness but philosophical awareness is required before institution building can begin. This was provided, in my opinion, by Kant’s moral and political philosophy which provided a secure ethical foundation for equality and human rights. Kant’s vision even extended to a suggestion of a United Nations to ensure the implementation of human rights. In Othello, of course, the theme is love. Not Christian love but the love of a more secular and unstable kind. We should remember in connection with the theme of love that it is a Christian concept with global intent. Christianity has always maintained that love is all you need for globalization, all you need to turn all our relations to each other into a brotherhood of man. More is needed of course, but it is nevertheless a good beginning. Some say that the presence of Iago in Othello is the presence of the devil. He is a materialist, loves money and uses deception to achieve his aims. If all citizens were like him, a government would, of course, be impossible. Only more sophisticated deception can outperform deception. This brings us back full circle to the claim that all politicians must trust(love) their citizens, i.e. brings us back to the need for politicians to be humanistic liberals.
Professor R S Peters published an abridgment of the three volumes of Professor Brett’s “History of Psychology” in 1953(revised in 1961). The original volumes were published between 1912 and 1921. The subject matter of Psychology has historically been very differentiated and that differentiation does not appear to be organized in any obvious way. This fact has led some commentators to question whether there is any specific subject matter which Psychology is about. Many 20th century Philosophers have complained about the conceptual confusion inherent in the theories and claims of Psychology and pointed to specific regions of confusion. So when a History of Psychology is written by a philosopher and an abridgment attempted by another philosopher it certainly deserves attention. Peters tried to impose a philosophical framework on Brett’s work. Many myths are exposed on this journey of abridgment and some of these are the construction of scientific superstition. The myth of privileged “data” accumulating under different headings and science cautiously making generalizations about this “data” makes a very large assumption that one can approach nature with a mind like an empty wax tablet upon which nature can impress its form. Peters points out in his abridgment that no one individual can “begin” acquiring knowledge. We all are part of a long tradition:
“The very language we speak incorporates in a condensed form all kinds of assumptions about things, people, and situations. We take things for granted that our ancestors discovered by trial and error: we can neither avoid nor dispense with our social inheritance which is handed down in the form of countless traditional skills and assumptions.”(Peters, 1961)
The above quote quite categorically adopts the view that at some point we began our epistemological journey with assumptions that are very general, We do not “construct” them from particulars. We take our assumptions with us in our dealing with things, people and situations and learn to differentiate between them and to particularise them. Apart from this we also have interests in and attitudes towards our world and these assist in generating expectations and assumptions which in turn provoke the asking of questions when frustrated. There is no such thing Peters, argues as a presupposition-less inquiry. With all this in mind, one can maintain that subject matter is not the key differentiator of Psychology from other areas of inquiry. What is more adequate to this task would be to differentiate one tradition from another by constructing their respectively different traditions of inquiry: that is from establishing their history. So Peters claims:
“What we call psychology is just an amalgam of different questions about human beings which have grown out of a variety of different traditions of inquiry.”
Three major traditions are of interest and probable sources of psychological inquiry: religious investigations, medical investigations and philosophical investigations into the nature of man. In all three types of inquiry, the investigations take into account what people say about their own actions and feelings. Peters introduces an interesting philosophical distinction between three types of questions: questions of theory, questions of policy and technological questions.
So generally, if we wish to talk in terms of disciplines these are characterized in terms of the way these disciplines go about answering questions. This way includes the integration of expectations, attitudes, and interests in relation to the aspects of reality these disciplines are concerned with. Peters then draws an interesting distinction between two of these three elements and claims there is a clear and logical distinction between two types of statements: statements which involve expectations and statements which involve our interests and attitudes:
“If a person says that iron expands when it is heated he is describing what he expects to observe but if he says that swords ought to be beaten into pruning hooks he is expressing an attitude towards the use of iron, or prescribing a course of action. Descriptions are answers to questions of theory: prescriptions are answers to questions of policy.”
Prescriptions are related to “interests, attitudes, and demands”:
“They cannot be confirmed or falsified simply by lookings at things or situations. The man who says that peace is better than war cannot be refuted by being made to look at swords as well as pruning hooks or by being taken from his husbandry to watch a battle. The wrongness of killing people is not revealed to us by simply watching a battle. People can agree on their expectations of and assumptions about things people and situations, yet they can at the same time differ radically in their attitudes to, interests in and demands of them. And if they disagree with such questions of policy there is no agreed procedure for settling the dispute.”
Technological questions are questions about the means one should employ to achieve a particular end. An engineer builds a bridge to meet certain specifications. He creates the required states of affairs in accordance with general assumptions about temperature, expansion and material stresses and a description of initial particular conditions. Questions related to health and happiness are technological questions, questions about the means to achieve a particular end.
These three types of questions succinctly demarcate Philosophically the arena of psychological questioning. Since 1870 and the secession of Psychology from Philosophy these three types of inquiry have been favoured: the scientific the technological and the prescriptive. The philosophical or self consciously reflective dimension of psychology diminished in importance. That dimension in which so called “second order” questioning occurs which wishes to examine our assumptions and which require a reflective level of self-consciousness of one’s own activity and a reflective awareness of how we use language in these areas of inquiry:
“If a moral philosopher attempts, like a moralist to recommend a way of life or a new conception of society, he does so in a second order manner by redefining words like”justice”, “good” and “natural” or by concentrating on certain procedures for deciding on “rightness” or “wrongness” like looking at the consequences of actions or paying attention only to peoples motives.”(Peters 1961)
Philosophical concerns were once vitally important to psychological investigation and the history of psychology. Many of the mental concepts philosophers have reflected upon such as “reason”, “will” “desire” “conscience” have subsequently been converted into first order concepts by the anxious desire of the scientist to convert the thinking about activity into the activity itself. As a consequence, many scientists dismiss these concepts because they seem to suggest a first order activity of introspection(internal as distinct from external observation) thus confounding the entire reflective process which was not observational but connected to establishing a logical justification for the assumptions involved in the activity. Sever this philosophical dimension from psychological questioning and we will very quickly produce the conceptual confusion Wittgenstein, Merleau-Ponty and many other analytical philosophers have pointed to.
But what would be an example of a psychological investigation which took into consideration a reflective philosophical approach? Toward the end of the 18th century, Kant actually produced a text book for a discipline which he termed “Anthropology”. This work was designed to facilitate the political task of preparing the citizen for a cosmopolitan existence. Philosophy, for Kant, was a cosmopolitan affair which could be characterized by 4 fundamental questions: What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? and What is a human being? This last question is the concern of Anthropology specifically but there will be a relation to the first three questions too. The Anthropology claims that investigations into human nature can take two forms: either physiological(what nature makes of man) or pragmatic(what man as a free acting being makes of himself or can and should make of himself). Physical anthropology is scientific and based on observation or introspection. Kant is rightly suspicious of this latter line of investigation because of the difficulties of the fact that the very act of observing changes the behavior that is observed(presumably introspection also changes the activity it is relating to). If this is correct it is an amazing indictment of the experimental psychology project that was to be launched in the next century almost a hundred years later. The freedom of the will is not a variable that can be controlled or manipulated. It is incredibly difficult if not impossible to grasp the essence of human nature. But almost paradoxically Kant does think that we can profitably pursue the line of investigation suggested by pragmatic philosophy, namely, the question of what man can or should make of himself.
Globalization and History would seem to be necessarily intimate companions for Humanistic Liberalism. Yet this is only the case if one understands both of these terms philosophically. Globalization interpreted economically in terms of the management of a country’s resources in the spirit of the management of a household where benefits and burdens are distributed, will fail to provide any principle of significance explaining important changes in our macro-political environments. The reason for this state of affairs is not always obvious. Some commentators claim, on the contrary, that economics is about the principles behind the distribution of money in a context of exchange, which has nothing to do with the household but rather with all types of interested parties transacting in an economic region defined as narrowly as a city-state or as broadly as an economic union of countries. These principles of exchange can either materialize the medium of money or scientize it. Both of these possibilities detach the exchange from its ultimate telos or end which according to Aristotle and Plato would be the thriving of a self-sufficient community. In this process of detachment from fundamental intentions we see the technique of reduction in operation: the reduction of the teleological causes and essence specifying or formal causes to what Aristotle called the material and efficient causes. Final causes of actions are, as suggested above, related to intentions, relate to what one wants to do or ought to do or both and these provide the value of the action or the good we attach to it. Material and efficient causes are naturalistic and both reduce a holistic activity to some of its conditions.
Globalization is a philosophical and holistic value-laden idea and only history will help to reveal its import. The history of Aristotelian metaphysics since its inception has involved the attempt of the modern mind to rid itself of the Aristotelian value-laden view of the world. Part of this endeavour relates to the attempt to theoretically characterise the activities of man, financial and otherwise, in terms of the mechanics of science and the calculations of mathematics. This theoretical position tempted many to side with European modernists such as Hobbes and Descartes who both intensively opposed Aristotle’s holistic theory of change. The mark of the modern mind, it was argued is to err on the side of scepticism when it comes to evaluating metaphysical reflections on the world in general and human action in particular. These modernists both attempted to bracket our understanding of the hylomorphic theory of Aristotle. There were defenders of Aristotle then as there is today but they were overwhelmed by the energy and vigour of the youthful scientists, all of whom were eager to replace the conceptual understanding we have of the world with a toolbox of pragmatic techniques and a pocket book of theoretical/mathematical calculations. Were these phenomena the cause or the consequence of the abandonment of the Ancient Greek view of the world? A view of the world which could plainly see how ethics, politics, history, poetry, religion tragedy science and mathematics all could be characterized satisfactorily in accordance with a metaphysical theory of change. It must have seemed extremely unlikely during the time of Aristotle that the Humanities disciplines would be “colonized” by mathematics and science. Paradoxically, it might be the case that the primary target for modernist skeptical philosophy after the Middle Ages was not Aristotle but rather that bearer of authority par excellence: Religion. As we emerged from the Middle Ages Religion was itself in the throes of responding to internal protest of its own which in England, in particular, was to result in the dissolution of the Monasteries and a revolution of the social and political life of the country. Prior to these events, Aristotle was the philosophical authority and that his philosophy should have been enveloped in a tsunami of anti-dogmatism is, of course, a testament to both the fragility of Philosophy and the human mind. The Emperor Justinian had, in the 5th century AD closed all non-religious schools thus depriving philosophy of any institutional medium for the preservation and development of philosophical thought. Platonic thought still thrived under the auspices of the Church because it found space for an ancient mythical conception of the afterlife. Plato’s work was translated into Latin by a translation industry largely run by the Church. Insofar as Aristotle was concerned, Church authorities could not find anything but a non-religious mystery behind a concept of the soul or mind which seemed to require dependence upon a body for its existence. Without any institution committed to the preservation of Aristotle’s texts, many works were lost until Thomas of Aquinas found a means of rehabilitating “The Philosopher” to the church through the construal of the essence of human nature in terms of its ability to love and serve God. Considering the obvious fact that the Aristotelian God and the God of the theologians were obviously very different beings this was an amazing feat of hermeneutics, aiming as it did at some kind of synthesis. Aristotle indeed had left space for God in his surviving lectures as a thinking being whose acts of creation became very much more mysterious in comparison to the God who created the world in 6 days by acts that sometimes look all too human. The divine aspect of our minds, presumably implanted in us or transmitted to us during the moment of creation, of course, explain how it is possible for us to have a conception of a perfect being but it does not explain Aristotle’s presentation of the human as an autonomous being leading a life largely independent of his putative creator. Such a being possess a capacity of his own for the creation and understanding of his world via a tradition of philosophizing which stretches from Heraclitus, Parmenides to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and forward to the Stoics. All this was naturally “neutralized” when Aquinas clipped Aristotle’s wings with his synthetic hermeneutics in order for these otherwise dangerous ideas to be domiciled under the eaves of the church. Aristotle’s ideas became institutionalized as the power of the Church was growing in Europe. But another “global” process had survived amazingly outside of any medieval protective institutions and that was connected to the “naturalistic” ideas of the pre-Socratic philosopher’s materialistic search for the elements and constituents of the physical world. These ideas were to find a “home” in the theorizing of Heraclitus and his very compelling idea that the physical world was continually and forever changing. Parmenides was possibly the first to oppose this position and insist upon the idea that something must remain the same to bear change if one was to have any understanding of that change whatsoever. The world was one and unchanging, according to Parmenides. Plato reinforced Parmenides’ position with his own and produced a theory of forms or ideas which would explain both permanence and change. Aristotle saw logical problems with Plato and his dividing the world up into the dualistic alternatives of what is to be explained and that which did the explaining. But perhaps the key cultural event happened prior to Plato and contributed to the death of Socrates, namely the loss of the war with Sparta which signaled to the world that Athens with its unique political, legal and cultural characteristics, was not a possible unifying agent among the disparate city states of Greece. Indeed, one could argue that Alexander, Aristotle’s pupil, was more influenced by Sparta than his teacher’s global-cultural message when he embarked on his empire building adventure. We do see, however, in the aftermath of conquest how Alexander demonstrated the influence of his teacher in the respect he showed for the traditions and cultures of the peoples he conquered. This respect testified to the importance placed on virtue rather than the honour and power based value system so characteristic of Sparta.As we know both Aristotle and Alexander came from Macedonia. Alexander’s military solution to the problem of providing global unity for a number of disparate world elements was, of course, a far cry from the rational model of rhetoric and argument which was so specific to the Platonic and Aristotelian academic institutions which sought after an intellectual unity of disparate ideas and even disciplines. The word university, of course, originates from the Latin but the meaning applies to something global if we are thinking in terms of action or something holistic if we are thinking in terms of knowledge and belief systems. The term “university” could well have applied to Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, both of which had lectures for the public and more specialist based lectures for the purposes of the advancement of knowledge through research. The first Italian, French and English institutions were, it is claimed modeled on clerical and monastical institutions but it is interesting to see that right from the beginning the works of Aristotle were important, presumably because of their systematic and global intent. If the Academy and the Lyceum were the wombs of modern universities it is fascinating to follow the differentiation of disciplines and wonder whether this differentiation process was the beginning of a process which sought to focus on differences rather than systematic unity. This unity was provided by the philosophical method of argument and counterargument in search of necessarily valid assumptions and logical consequences. This was the method which aimed at the systematic understanding of the world as a systematic whole which we see in the works of Aristotle. As mentioned earlier the sciences, themselves were the result of the differentiation process mentioned earlier but these disciplines very early were focussing not on organizing the results but on collecting information or data which could serve as evidence for any generalizations made for the purposes of theorizing. This method of observation and experimentation was perfectly in accordance with Aristotelian research into the constitution and function of living organisms. However, during the 1500’s an interesting Platonic twist to this tale occurred: the mathematical measurement of the physical world began to become an important part of scientific method. In religious terms Galileo was the figurehead of this movement. his measurements and calculations amazed the secular world but probably shocked the clerical authorities who had only relatively recently in their view clipped the wings of Aristotelian philosophy. Even looked upon from an Aristotelian point of view this development must have been of concern because the thinking God of Aristotle was now in the process of being replaced by the primary physical reality of the “natural philosophers”. Another Platonic twist in this philosophers tale came of course with the philosophy of Descartes who believed in the dismantling of the Aristotelian system in favour of a mathematically based search for a first philosophical truth which he was convinced he had found in his Cogito ergo sum “argument”. The search, as was the case with Plato, ended in a dualism of the mind and the body which Aristotle had contested already back in the time of Plato. Prior to this event, there were secular protests against the authority of the church in Europe in 1517(The Reformation), resulting in the dissolution of the monasteries in England in 1536 which brought in its wake the curious consequence of the banning of the teaching of scholastic philosophy in English Universities. Somehow, curiously enough both Aristotle’s natural writings and his holistic metaphysical hylomorphism had receded into the background of debate in favour of the search for conceptual distinctions in the spirit of a rationalism Aristotle would have argued against. Perhaps it was this secular blow which emboldened Descartes and Hobbes later in the 1600’s to share the task of dismantling Aristotle’s philosophical system. But even during this time Philosophy and Science had not finally quarrelled. Indeed, we should remember that Newtons “Principia” was sub-titled “natural philosophy”. But it was probably around this time that Science began to authoritatively declare that those parts of philosophy not relevant to the investigation of the natural world should be deemed to be “non-scientific”. This created a division between natural kinds of explanation and humanistic kinds of explanation, or perhaps it just manifested the Platonic dualism between the natural physical world and the world of ideas which had been lurking in the shadows of the Church for some time. Aristotle’s view that there was only one world in which there were 4 kinds of change, 3 principles and four kinds or types of explanation was at this point lost, at least insofar as the institutions of the Universities were concerned. Pursuing Science as Newton did merely encouraged dualistic positions which neatly divided our holistic world into a world of things and relations, points and lines and a realm of ideas about these physical and abstractly intuited entities. This dualism passed into common sense which had already been primed by the ideas of God and the afterlife. In this process, “philosophical” support and not merely mythical authentication had been provided for a worldview Aristotle would have thought indefensible. Newton-inspired Hume to do for the mind what Newtons natural philosophy had done for the physical world but Hume could only arrive at conventional habitual thought processes to explain even such important physical principles as the principle of causation. He could not even authenticate that relatively holistic idea of the self that unifies the perceptions and ideas of the mind. Here we are witnessing the logical consequences of the fragmentation of the Aristotelian worldview. Hume was an important landmark in the process of the scientising of the mind and his exhortations to commit all metaphysical works to the flames laid the foundations for an empirical reduction to physically observable, measurable, and calculable atomistic evidence of everything to do with holistic entities such as the mind and the self. This regressive process was miraculously arrested by Kant, a philosopher of the late enlightenment. Kant restored a non-physicalist non-materialistic theory of the mind by talking in terms of a theatre of the faculties of mind: the sensibility, understanding, and reason, in which experience was both constituted and regulated. He subjected the metaphysics of scholastic philosophy to severe criticism but insisted that Hume was wrong in his estimation of the role of metaphysics in philosophy. He maintained that both the study of physical nature and morals had metaphysical dimensions that transcended the physically experienced, observed and measurable world. The most interesting question to pose here is whether Kant’s theories are Aristotelian in spirit or whether it is a re-emergence of a more Platonic form of rationalism. The argument against this latter interpretation is given in the second and third critiques where action and feelings respectively are examined philosophically. Action, Kant is arguing, basically is a mental entity embedded in rational structures of belief and desires which have purposes that aim at the true and the good. For Plato action would be an event occurring in the physical world and would not have any rational connection to the idea of the good. Kant arrested the regressive process temporarily until Hegel systematically misunderstood him and Marx in his turn systematically misunderstood Hegel, thus providing the modern conditions necessary to unleash the idealistic and materialistic forces which would almost destroy the womb of all culture: Europe. There was a moment in the culture of Europe which also attempted to arrest the regressive forces leading us into what Arendt would call “this terrible century” and it was paradoxically not directly philosophical. I am referring to the work of that genius Shakespeare which seems so seamlessly to continue the heritage of the classical world of the Greeks. I will examine this in my next lecture.
Montesquieu and Hannah Arendt claimed that the law is negative, it tells you what you ought not to do but not what you ought to do(Kant’s categorical imperative in the realm of ethics focuses on what we ought to do) So governments are defined by a principle of action defining what is valued in the sphere of the public space that political acts occur in. Montesquieu considered monarchies, republics and tyrannies which appeared to be the alternatives available during the 1800’s. The Principle of action, then, has the task of defining ultimate values for a particular people/government. Monarchies, Montesquieu argued, value honour, Republics value Virtue, and Tyrannies value fear. Hannah Arendt takes up this thread in order to analyse totalitarian forms of government which according to her are an original and unique form of government which emerged during the last century and manifested itself most clearly in the Nazi and Stalinist regimes in Germany and Russia. Now on Montesquieu’s analysis, we probably would have to characterise these latter regimes in terms of the characteristics of tyranny and these seem not to do justice to the world wide consequences we experienced at the hands of totalitarian regimes. Tyrannies, for example, were destined to destroy themselves from within in a relatively short period of time and the fear we witnessed in such regimes at least had some relation to principles of instrumental action. citizens of these regimes should not criticise government for fear of their lives, otherwise they were allowed to exercise their freedom in the available political space. Arendt points out that this is an inadequate analysis of totalitarian forms of government which did not merely adopt an irrational principle of action but rather abandon the very concepts of action and freedom and adopted an attachment to so called Darwinian laws of nature or Hegelian laws of history. These laws were in the process of shaping man to be a different being to the being he thought he was, namely, valuing freedom, pluralism and democracy. Their tool was “terror”. A terror which destroyed the public political space which existed between people, a public space, viewed as the medium by which to achieve political goals which made reference to individuals and their differences. Totalitarian governments believed in the laws of nature(The Aryan race was the chosen race, the one destined to inherit the earth) or the laws of history(Communism will replace democracies because of its superior political values) and the citizens involved in these “shaping” processes did not need to understand what it was which was bearing them forward to their destinies. The only public political space belonged to the head of the government and he used it as whimsically as he pleased because even he did not fully understand where the process was headed. Totalitarian government must have its source in one individual for only then can some form of continuity be guaranteed. Of course, this continuity could be absurdly irrational. Stalin’s supporters could suddenly be assassinated en masse if Stalin happened to change his mind about a government policy. The laws and ethics of the Weimar Republic could be ignored if the Fuhrer chose to ignore or even reverse their principles. With the disappearance of the ethical demands that people make upon each other, on command of the totalitarian leader, it was a short step to commanding the illegal murder of a whole once chosen but now corrupted race(the Jews). Underlying global movements of Anti-Semitism could dominate the public space and receive justification via the “truths” of the laws of nature and history, which for Hitler were one and the same. For the communist regimes, the underlying global movements of distrust for Capital and the capitalists, turned the laws and ethical principles into laws and principles not governing races but rather classes. Insofar as the working class was the only creator of value in the society their destiny was to inherit the power over the society and dominate the public political space which, when nation states, the servants of capital, withered away, would create a global communist society. The most irrational political principles and outcomes were suddenly possible and even probable under the banner “anything is possible”. Only the leaders acted as if they knew what was going to happen and the resulting consequences of their policies. The Russian form of totalitarianism in fact engaged more directly with one of the major irritants of democracy, namely the accumulation of capital that does not work for the people who helped the capitalists to accumulate their wealth and which, because of this fact was making large numbers of working people superfluous to the economic needs of the country. This according to Arendt was one of the major factors behind colonisation which was merely the attempt to use this accumulated capital in other countries where labour was cheaper and this use was of course merely to accumulate even greater amounts of capital.
Hannah Arendt has an interesting analysis of the conditions necessary for totalitarianism to succeed apart from these structural economic factors which she touches upon. A man is naturally and ethically a being that thinks in solitude, i.e. he is what Arendt calls a two-in-one soul: two voices conversing about what is to be believed or done. His political and community identity is important to him because these two voices make him feel like a divided and dualistic being. It is the public space where the voices find the expression which enables the citizen to identify the values his inner conversation is striving toward. The citizen acquires his identity, and a sense of community is established among friends and kindred spirits who identify this being with two voices as one unified being, possessing one set of values. All this work is done in the public space and it is this which is destroyed by totalitarianism. The condition for this to occur is that masses of men must not be engaging in this inner conversation striving toward the truth and values and manifesting itself in the public space. Their souls are not engaging in this inner conversation, they are lonely. It is the role of education, of course, to install this inner dialogue in us all. If that education is predominantly scientific this conversation is truncated in its form and the lonely search for the truth of the laws of nature and history is the norm. Once this has happened, and it happened in Europe, the major condition for totalitarianism exists. Humanistic voices both within and without fall silent. The universal habit of reading good and difficult to understand books of humanistic significance is, of course, a natural agent provocateur of this inner and outer conversation. Education is also another agent provocateur of this inner conversation which encourages manifestation in the political public space and should be the source of these good and difficult works of human significance. But is not our public space filled with conversations on facebook, linked in, and social media? But these conversations are not challenging difficult to understand affairs. They are rather superficial events. covering up an incredible existential loneliness most of the time. We need a Freud of the internet, an interpreter of human behaviour which can diagnose loneliness behind all this furious finger tapping and be flicking in relation to our mobile phones and computers. There is difficult to understand material on the internet but it is not that difficult and most of it does not require the dedication required to understanding Kant or Aristotle or Wittgenstein. Indeed I would go so far as to claim that even the Bible with its narrative structure and parables are beyond the understanding of most of the younger generation. Something has gone seriously wrong with our educational systems if this is true.
Freud’s writings over 50 years corrected themselves and changed systematically from a clinical/scientific approach in relation to the analysis of patients with mental illness to a more philosophical approach to the individual, society and culture. I use the word “systematically” to demarcate the fact that in the move from his earlier approach to his later theorising there is no contradiction. Indeed although Freud systematically moves toward a Platonic view of the psyche I would argue that Freud’s theories are more Aristotelian, i.e. in many of his comments such as the ego contains the idea of the body, the ego is composed of precipitate of lost objects, there is a hylomorphic foundation working. Now I am not sure that Freud was familiar with the works of Aristotle but we do know that he was a vociferous reader and that he was very familiar with the works of Kant and even claimed on one occasion in his later works that his Psychology would be the Psychology that Kant would have written had he interested himself in the area. We know Kant wrote a work entitled Anthropology and this work had clear Aristotelian affiliations.
Now we also know that Freud did not have much time for the philosophers of his day who were much influenced by the concept of consciousness that had been developing since Descartes “epistemological revolution” in Philosophy. Some commentators superficially believe his opposition was grounded simply in Freud’s “re-discovery” of the realm of the unconscious mind but I believe his opposition ran deeper. That is, I believe that in spite of his claim to be a “scientist” we see in his later work, if I am right, that the metaphysical hylomorphism of Aristotle was steering his choice of concepts and his famous three principles of psychology: the energy regulation principle, the pleasure/pain principle and the reality principle. From a Kantian point of view he was working in the area of the mind Kant thought of as sensibility, in the area of self -love, but Freud’s theories have a grasp of the function of understanding and reason which is also, I would argue, Kantian. His reasoning, of course, falls into the arena of practical rather than theoretical reasoning much of the time but we should really pay attention to the Freudian mechanisms which are psychologically causal, e.g. repression, identification, sublimation, projection, all of which fit very neatly into the very practical idea he has of the reality principle. There is also his unique contribution to psychology in the form of the primary and secondary processes of the mind which are intimately connected to his three principles.
His idea of “object” is clearly Aristotelian, rather than scientific in the narrow sense, and not just backwards looking to the causes of physical events but teleological, forward looking to the end which an action is striving toward. Now there are speculations in some of his later works such as Civilisation and its Discontents which seem unscientific because unverifiable, e.g. the band of brothers thesis. He sketches a Hobbesian scenario of a state of nature in which all are at war against all and even the band of brothers kill the tyrannical father but regret their action and establish a rule of law and perhaps the dawn of self-consciousness, to move civilisation forward.Now these are his “scientific speculations”: looking backward for the causes of phenomena and perhaps he does so without sufficient care for marshalling the totality of facts. I am not saying that this is necessarily so, because even today I do not believe we are anywhere near accumulating the necessary facts which would allow us to pontificate one way or the other but I do think that those commentators that fixate on the Oedipus complex and see this scenario as the blueprint of his speculations in this domain are reading Freud too narrowly.
Freud bashing in the name of science has become a professional activity for some academics and a hobby for many others who have views of science that in the urge to purge our thought of all things metaphysical and ethical would in Freudian, Kantian and Aristotelian terms be regarded as “epistemological” in a pejorative sense. The sense that has dogged Philosophy through all the modern “isms”: positivism, naturalism, materialism, pragmatism, behaviourism, utilitarianism.
Freud bashing is just of a course a part of the sport of humanist bashing and all that it requires is a very limited knowledge of a methodology which applies only to one aspect of our world and a willingness to colonise the domain of the humanist with this limited methodology and wonderful technological inventions, e.g. the invention of the atomic and hydrogen bombs, television, computers, and robots.
Aristotle and Plato were very sceptical of the democracy of their day. For Plato it was the second worst form of government, tyranny being the worst. For Aristotle, democracy was a perversion of the forms of government seeking the common good. According to him, the democracy of the day, which was a direct democracy, served the good of the poor often at the expense of the good of the city state. It paled in comparison with the constitutional form of government he suggested which would serve the interests of the city as a whole. We should also remember in this context(Ancient Greece) that we are witnessing both in practice and in theory the beginnings of systematic thought and practice in the realm of politics. There was, for example, a fragile realisation, that perhaps religion(derived from “ligare” which means to bind or connect according to St Augustine) had something in common with the law which also was a mechanism of binding or connecting people. In both cases, the binding or connecting mechanism was related to obligation, an ethical concept. Being connected together entailed obligations on the citizens or members of the community. Philosophy was just emerging as a critical force and the ideal of an individual reasoning his way to the idea of the good or from the idea, to its political and logical consequences , was only being suggested by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
Indeed one of the problems with the Greek direct democracy of the time is that it failed to respect the law. Plato’s characterisation in the Republic is a chilling account because it points to phenomena we are witnessing today. When parents are ruled by their children and teachers are ruled by their students and when murderers can walk free in the agora after having been sentenced in the courts we see a city in disarray. Indeed it is in this environment that a member of the oligarchy will point out the disarray and promise a better future for all, probably well aware that he is not being truthful. An oligarchy according to Plato and Aristotle is marginally a better form of government but it will not unite the city. It will rule in the interests of the few, the oligarchy, which is often corrupt and will pass laws in its own interests. Indeed the problem that both Plato and Aristotle saw was the pendulum like polarisation of political rule between these two types of government. When the Democrats were in power they would as a matter of pride repeal the laws of the oligarchs and vice versa thus preventing an appreciation of the binding and connecting function of the law as well as removing the motivation of being obligated to anything. Plato’s response to all this was to point to the philosophical role of the idea of the good which the philosopher with his training in mathematics and dialectic can develop a full awareness of.
There were no institutions of education to speak of during this time so it was natural that Plato should come up with his famous formula in order to avoid misery and tragedy and ultimate ruin in the city state: the city will not flourish, he argued until kings become philosophers or philosopher become kings. Aristotle saw the difficulties of such a proposal in its fixation on kings or an upper ruling class and suggested a constitutional/representative form of government in which the middle class would steer a middle path between democracies and oligarchies adopting the best aspects of each. This middle class would through its practical wisdom over eons become motivated by knowledge and ethics. The institutions it would develop would be in accordance with the Greek concept of areté which means both excellence and virtue. The democratic practice of electing political officials by lottery would be replaced by a meritocracy where people with the requisite knowledge and ethical character would be appointed. Both Plato and Aristotle shared the Greek suspicion of the wealthy life as an ideal of the good life not just because of the inevitable corruption of the spirit such a life entailed but because the Greeks were very aware of the different principles needed to rule one’s private household and family(oikos) and the city state(politikos). For them, our modern political obsession with economics would have been a perversion of politics.In Hannah Arendt’s terms, there are important distinctions between types of activity which operate in accordance with different principles. Labour is the kind of work that was typical for the household and was cyclical and biological in nature, serving our survival needs. Work was an activity in which one produced results in the public domain in accordance with instrumental standards: a good house, a good treatment from the doctor etc. Action was the type of activity typical of politics and it was aiming at Aletheia, a Greek word, in this context, for the disclosure of the truth about the common good. Work and labour were inappropriate forms of activity for the political arena.
Anyway the moral of this Greek tale should be obvious. Both in the case of the election of the current President of the USA and Brexit we can see a return to the concept of direct democracy. In England, it was the referendum about an issue that neither Aristotle nor Kant would have hesitated to venture an opinion upon. The “experts” on both sides plus the media coverage literally did not know what they were talking about. This can be seen in the opening of the negotiations in Brussels where one hundred experts from the English side are attempting to clarify the British interpretation of what is entailed by the decision to leave Europe. In the USA the system of the primaries and the intense media coverage momentarily turned the country into a direct democracy. There were promises made that could never be kept and there were lies told which were believed because all the Greek requirements had been met. There stood the oligarch/tyrant promising better deals from the artisan of the deal. There was the promise to undo most of the work of the previous democratic president, the promise to put America first. There we could witness the three-word slogan chanting, Make America great, build the wall, lock her up, USA. It all felt very uncomfortable and we were only at the beginning of the process. The process has now been going on for 6 months and though there are a number of accusations of breaking the law and not acknowledging the independence of the law from the executive branch of government laid down in the Constitution, there is still extensive support from the Republican party the tyrant represents. Thankfully there are many many people that recognise what is happening and are speaking up courageously. There is a chance that hopefully, we are witnessing misery but not tragedy or ruin just yet.
The identity of limestone, gold, a plant or a bird is a rather pedestrian matter unless one wishes to scientifically explore the constitution and function of the material that composes these items. If one wants to know what these things are in their nature, the analytical method of dissecting something into its parts is unquestionably the route to understanding the objects identity, even if that “dissection” is as abstract as the division of Gold and limestone into their chemical elements. The ability of these objects to remain the same through change will be primarily a question of the constitution and function of the material they are composed of.
The identity of a human being cannot however be reduced to the constitution and function of their physical matter/body although this material identity will certainly be a part of the story of that human being: of how they came into existence, where their bodies moved during their lifetime, what those bodies did and how they ceased to exist. I would maintain that what those bodies did would be very difficult to characterise without reference to non material , non functional characteristics: characteristics we normally call mental or “psychological”. Personal identity requires perhaps two or three types of non material component which if we are to understand them requires a conceptual method rather than a scientific one. The method must relate to the non observational form of awareness that we have of ourselves and our actions. Action,indeed, is one of the central pivots of the account of personal identity because it is quite clear from both a Philosophical and common sense point of view that our destinies are shaped by what we choose to do, how we choose to act. This concept of destiny is crucial to the way in which we characterise personal identity for two reasons: one classical and one modern. The classical reason is Aristotelian: we are fundamentally ethical beings and ethically we seek to lead and have led(after death), flourishing lives. The modern reason comes from the Analytical Philosophy and the work of O’Shaugnessy(The Will: A Dual Aspect Theory). O’Shaugnessy claims that a fundamental aspect of being human is to posses a mind which is temporally oriented toward the future. Combining this with the classical reason we could say that one of the characteristic properties of the mind is its teleology, that is, that it is directed toward an end or a “telos”. The teleological explanation of action or the mind is one of the 4 kinds of explanation Aristotle refers to in his Metaphysics. The scientist, of course, thinks of this aspect of the mental as “psychological” and this is a term O Shaugnessy uses. His use of this term, however, does not correspond with the idea that the scientist has of the “psychological”. For the scientist polarises the realm of explanation into the objective and the subjective and praises the objective and blames the subjective for not being objective. In Aristotelian and Kantian accounts the psychological is divided into what is empirical and related to subjective experience whereas the objective is related to the philosophical or the conceptual . There is that is that which is subjectively psychological and that which is objectively, philosophically, or conceptually psychological. This distinction illuminates the reason why science cannot talk sensibly about the realm of ethics because this falls within the realm of the philosophically or conceptually psychological. Ethics and politics for both Aristotle and Kant are intimately related to this realm of the philosophically or conceptually psychological which Kant preferred to call “anthropology”.
Plato maintained, and Aristotle probably agreed that there is a fundamental analogy between the way in which we conceptually characterise the minds or souls of the person and the way in which we characterise the nature and essence of the state. In modern terms we would say that the Political must be characterised in terms of the conceptually or philosophically psychological.
Hobbes attempted to apply the Scientific method, concepts and explanations to the political world and was unable to provide an account which allowed room for ethical or human values. Hobbes, that is, gives us a good material account of the body politic but significantly fails to help us to understand the non substantival “substance” of the political world. For him the actions of a man or a state are just like the mechanical working of springs and cogs in a watch. The ultimate political consequences of such a materialist metaphysics is encapsulated in his quote that “Covenants without the sword are just words”. Covenants that are written down are to be defended with the sword because words are “psychological” in the sense that the scientist understands the term(not in the sense in which the philosopher understands the “conceptually psychological”). Words are just behaviour for the scientist. For the philosopher action is a concept which incorporates behaviour as characterised by the scientists but also incorporates another aspect which refers to the role of consciousness or non observational awareness in the process. Words are actions and political words are political actions. The best account of the difference between mere behaviour and action occurs in Hannah Arendt’s work “The Human Condition”. She differentiates between three levels of human activity: labor, work and action. Labor is that which typically is automated, almost machine-like/instinctive and is repetitive cyclical and habitual requiring little or no thought. Work is typically characterised by activity which requires more thought and judgment , and is therefore more psychological because it is instrumentally directed toward the fabrication of something which can physically stand in the world as a result of the activity. We speak of a house in different terms to the way in which we speak of a consumer goods produced by labor in a factory,e.g. a box of corn flakes whose lifetime is to be probably measured maximally in terms of months. There are also works of art which are the result of value-judgments which are more complex than those which are involved in the building work that results in the building of a house. But above these two forms of activity is action, and Hannah Arendt thinks that political action is one of the paradigmatic forms of human action.
Political action is of course going to be crucial to the idea of political identity which I wish to discuss. Political action is twofold: there are words and the actions which are based on the words, namely the voting for the passing of laws. Now, if Hobbes is correct and words are nothing without swords then we will not understand what is happening in a political debate. Nor will we understand what Hannah Arendt has to say concerning political action. For her political action is fundamentally teleological. The point, that is, of political debate and deliberation is to seek the truth, is to reveal the political truth of the issue one is discussing. This is done by coordinating complementary and conflicting viewpoints not into a compromise but into a synthesis of thesis and antithesis. This process may require that each synthesis becomes a thesis and is confronted by an antithesis until a final synthesis is arrived at and the law is voted on and passed into law. Now this process cannot be characterised by the methods, concepts and explanations of science. The kind of explanation required to characterise it is conceptual or philosophical. Even the application of the law cannot be characterised in scientific concepts. Take the example of the thief who is caught and prosecuted for the stealing of a car. Thinking like a true scientist he will try to defend himself by claiming that he could not help himself. The theft “happened to him” because his mother left him when he was 6 months old, his father became an alcoholic, he played truant from school and became involved with criminals, needed money to pay his rent: therefore he stole the car. The judges response to this is in terms of the philosophical conceptual psychological point of view. He will claim that the psychological is divided into two aspects: that which happens to one(in accordance with the principle of causation) and that which one does. Whenever one decides to do something one overrides what has happened to one because of the value of what one is doing. Confronted with the events of his life the criminal ought to choose what is right(not steal the car) and ignore what is wrong(steal the car). In ethical terms the judge will claim that the criminal is “free” to choose what is right: he is not an animal directed by causal factors such as instinct. The self consciousness humans enjoy enable them to transcend causal agencies with their ideas of what is right and wrong. Determinism reigns in the physical world of the scientist but not in the human world of the politician and the judge. The way in which the judge thinks about human action is the way in which the politician ought to think about human action: in conceptual terms, in terms of the ideas of what is right and what is wrong.
In talking of the politician and how he self consciously and ethically ought to think about human action we are now raising the question of political identity. The Politician belongs to a party and relates to the manifesto of his party in an analogous way to the way in which the judge relates to the written law the politician is responsible for. Written law of course takes three forms: criminal law, civil law regulating contracts, and law regulating governmental distribution of benefits and burdens in the society. The action of promising is central to the second two forms of law which are not regulated by the sword as is criminal law. These latter two forms of law are fundamentally humanistic and ethical entities and Kant’s categorical imperative is central to analysing what is involved in these cases. So ethics is a central aspect of the politicians identity. What he promises(as distinguished from that he promises) is related to the party manifesto and central value system. An important part of personal identity is the Aristotelian idea of continuity. A persons identity is what stays constant throughout change. Similarly a party’s identity depends upon the continuity of its value system(what it promises) as well as its substance(its relevance to the idea of a future flourishing society).
Common sense, for both Arendt and Kant is the name for what was referred to above as the process of coordinating compatible and conflicting perspectives which in its turn is a natural result of the pluralism of our modern societies where a manifold of forms of life thrive and prosper. A political party identifies itself with a set of perspectives instantiating a set of values which typically conflicts with the set of values other parties choose and this is an important aspect of a party’s identity. These values can change and we characterise this in terms of its shifting position on the political spectrum. It has, for example been observed that parties traditionally placed on the right or left of the spectrum have moved into the political middle ground to compete for the votes of the growing middle class. If there are more than two or three parties competing for the middle ground it becomes very difficult for the voters to identify the difference between the parties: the political identity of the parties is not clear. The voters are confused. This of course is the natural consequence of chasing voters instead of initiating them into ones value system. If ones value system(workers rights) becomes antiquated there may of course be no choice but to formulate a new value system(human rights) but this is a difficult business and can not be done without thinking philosophically about values, and of course counting the people to whom the new approach appeals
All parties, of course have to, on universal ethical grounds, make and keep the promises they make. This looks simple and obvious but common sense often points to the phenomenon of politicians promising to do things which for various reasons do not get done. When mistakes like this occur and the issue is an important one , one does not meet with confusion but rather with ethical indignation. This is a powerful political force. If the society is undergoing significant change(increasing climate consciousness, increasing automation, increasing corporate dominance, movement from a manufacturing to a service economy) and a large percentage of voters are left behind in this process this ethical indignation will become a highly emotional affair and be dominated by fear and impulse. Voting will not be positive and for anything but rather negative and against something and if someone in the political sphere begins to speak the language of these voters they will find themselves in power irrespective of whether they are competent politicians or not . Here common sense will not reign. The rules of politics will be changed. Promises, for example will not need to be kept(we are all against the same things)and there is a danger that serious politics will have difficulty in re-establishing itself in such an environment. Understanding the concept of political identity is therefore essential in such circumstances.
Following the UK elections called by Therese May has been a strange experience. The policies of the left and the right were clearly recognizable but with the exception of one policy which may have accounted for the unexpectedness of the result of the election, namely the pork offering of tuition fees to students, the middle ground was almost unoccupied.
Tony Blair, it has been argued modernized the Labour Party and made it electable by moving policy orientation to the middle ground and Corbyn’s unpopularity with his colleagues has been partly due to the fact that he has deliberately wanted to abandon Blair’s colonization of the middle ground and re-explore the territory of the left.
Cameron’s cataclysmic mistake of calling a referendum over the Brexit issue of course was a contributory factor to the phenomenon of Corbyn and the recoil of his successor May from the middle ground. In spite of Blair’s efforts, the British middle class was simply not large enough to ensure the continuity of commitment to the European project which is so much more than its economic dimensions. The youth, especially the students, hopefully the middle class of the future, largely stayed home for this Brexit election, trusting in the older middle class to ensure their futures. They were, however, galvanized into action by Therese May’s call for an election perhaps partly by being let down by the older generation and partly by the promise of the pork of tuition fees but on a deeper analysis perhaps partly by the thought of the consequences of Therese May’s so called “hard Brexit”, following closely on the heels of years of austerity politics.
Indeed the hung Parliament which resulted and the inevitable chaos which follows, perhaps another possible election looming on the horizon, may bring something good in its wake, namely a second referendum on Brexit which will be needed if the EU refuse to budge on the 4 freedoms principle. This second referendum seems impossible at the moment given Corbyn’s commitment to Brexit after having fought a poor campaign to remain. It will indeed take a dynamic leader to bite the bullet and argue for a position which runs counter to the wishes expressed in the first referendum. The Remain/Leave campaign was a strange series of events, the form of which violated one of the first philosophical assumptions of politics, namely to expect the unexpected. Each side was categorically stating the anticipated consequences of an enormously complex process in a fragile environment in which literally anything could happen to falsify their predictions. The impression that the campaigners knew what they were talking about was created by rhetorical arguments which much of the time verged on propaganda: indeed the campaign created its own populist dynamic and forced people to choose between two different castles in the clouds constructed in the imaginations of the campaigners.
In relation to this point there is also an ethical principle that Psychologists use when conducting experiments on volunteer subjects namely the informed consent principle which entails that the subjects must be given full information concerning what they are about to undergo in the experiment. In the light of the experience we had of the Brexit campaign, can anyone honestly maintain that Brexit is anything more than an experiment and that we the subjects have been given necessarily incomplete information? The leave campaign were appealing to the maxim that anything is possible for the British people if they put their hearts and minds into it. The remain campaign were pretending to be able to predict the unpredictable future and pointed to a dark and dismal future. No middle ground appeared to be possible. This in itself ought to have raised suspicions since political institutions are dialectical in their very nature.
Extremes with an excluded middle, in the realm of practical reasoning, are theoretical and assume that the alternatives are either entirely true or entirely false. This assumption assumes a position of certainty which we very rarely encounter in practical contexts. Indeed theoretical reasoning in Science does not even aspire to the certainty of logic and truth and rests its case on its endless method of observation and experimentation in the court of the hypothetical judgment.
But the really interesting point to make was that at the time of the Brexit campaign the majority of MP’s in Parliament were for the UK remaining in the EU. Now if we were as was maintained, a representative democracy, then surely these MP’s were elected as our representatives, our lawmakers and their expert opinion should have forced Cameron to pause before unleashing the dogs of the referendum?
In a relatively short period of time the Conservative party have learned the value of not gambling on the expected in the much simpler processes of a referendum and a premature election. It will indeed be interesting to see how the historians record these two events. If there is philosophical justice in the world the cause of both events will be recorded as “in the interests of the Conservative party but not in the interests of the country”.
Aristotle saw clearly the dialectical structure of human action and human institutions and also saw a continuity between ethics and politics which many modern politicians fail to appreciate. His concept of the Golden mean involved navigating a course of action in the middle ground between two extreme alternatives: a brave man does not rush into battle like a bull in a china shop or refrain from doing what ought to be done in battle like a coward. His rationality curbs his foolhardy impulses and irrational fears and Aristotle thinks of such a considered choice of action as golden, as worthy of praise, as rational. The two choices of the Conservative party to hold a referendum and a premature election were born of impulsiveness and fear and were therefore on his account, irrational. The electorate may have sensed this fact and consequently withdrew their previous levels of support. For Aristotle there was another political reason to favour the middle ground and that was because of a dialectic he was witnessing and we are still witnessing in our political arenas today, namely, the conflict between the rich and the poor on the battlefield of economics. Only a middle class, argued Aristotle would be able to stop the inevitable political divisiveness of such a conflict. The middle ground of such conflict would not perhaps paradoxically concern itself with ekonomos which the Greeks thought to be a purely regulative activity that should be restricted to the running of households. The middle ground for Aristotle would be ethical and not economical but unfortunately he did not elaborate upon what this entailed and perhaps we have only become clear about this issue since Kant gave us a clear account of our ethical duties and Hannah Arendt gave us a clear account of the human condition and its political constitution. For Kant the essence of ethical judgments, which we can be certain of, is that they are imperatives, which differ from declaratives in that they do not state what is the case which is the province of the declarative statement, but only what ought to be the case. This certainty is based on intentions which are embedded in acts of practical reasoning that are purely logical and universal. The ethical judgment par excellence for Kant was that it is our duty to keep promises. The argument for this was in terms of the logical consequences of failing to do so, namely that the very human institution of promising would be abandoned if it became a universal practice that people did not keep promises. Now Arendt, though not in agreement with everything Kant said, thought that many of our human and political institutions are founded upon the premise that promises ought to be kept and that this was an important feature of the stability of our world which provided the framework for everything important in our society. Aristotle would of course regarded the act of promising in accordance with the ethical judgment that promises ought to be kept, as a virtue, and he would no doubt have thought of his ideal of the middle class as possessing all the virtues necessary for a flourishing life.
If the above reasoning is correct then it may be that one of the deep processes of globalization is this movement away from extremes and toward the middle ground, away from a primary focus on the economical and toward a focus on the ethically grounded political activities that will provide us all with a flourishing life. Also if the above reasoning is correct the middle ground is that which is quite often occupied by the students who absented themselves in the Brexit referendum which in turn is an indication that the middle class in England is still too small to accomplish complex global goals.
Immanuel Kant’s Philosophy is systematic. It ranges over all the traditional divisions of philosophy and integrates them into a systematic whole. He brings metaphysical considerations concerning man and the cosmos to bear on ethics, political philosophy epistemology, aesthetics and religion. The resultant product is a Philosophy that rivals Aristotle’s in its scope and reach. Kant had the ability as did Aristotle to see a simple phenomenon woven into an integrated system of propositions: touch one strand of the complex and the reverberations would resonate harmoniously and holistically throughout the system producing a sound as beautiful as the sound of pure knowledge.
I have argued elsewhere that Kant’s Enlightenment philosophy provided the ethical foundations for human rights. It can be further argued that Kant’s article on a universal history provided the blueprint for the organisation which would, after the second world war, become the United Nations, the champion of universal human rights. Kant did not only have ethical arguments for the existence of human rights, he also had arguments that are difficult to classify and which enable one to embrace the phenomena of globalization and immigration, positively, from a philosophical perspective. One of Kant’s basic arguments is that every human being on earth possesses a right to roam the earth and pursue their peaceful activities and the consequence of this cosmopolitan and global right is the right of everyone to expect hospitality wherever they may roam. In an earlier essay I spoke about how Kant viewed the nation state as pathological(as did a number of other philosophers) during a time in which it was not yet clear that the European nation state system in Europe would bring actual devastation to the world. Devastation firstly, in the form of two world wars and a holocaust, and secondly, in the form of threatened catastrophe on a scale never before witnessed or even imagined: post war nation state alliances and enmities would for a long period of time promise to outdo the malevolent social engineering project of the Nazi’s with a nuclear holocaust which would threaten the very existence of the world. That this latter phenomenon did not occur, in my view, may have been attributable to a deep process of globalization, a cosmopolitan attitude towards and knowledge of the world and its people which Kant expressed in his Philosophy: an attitude moreover, that can be defended with logic and sound and systematic argumentation which has philosophical consequences and that reverberate and resonate over the whole extent of our thought about everything, including the right we have to roam the earth.
The level of self consciousness of the first trekkers leaving Africa is unfathomable so we do not know whether, when man encountered man in these sparsely resourced environments, he did so in a spirit of hospitality or fear. Hobbes envisioned life in this kind of state of nature as being solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Locke, to the contrary, envisioned life in a state of nature to be relatively peaceful but politically problematic owing to the absence of law to regulate disagreements. Given the fact that one of the benefits of the nation state was to produce a rule of, and a respect for, the law it would seem that even if these early encounters of man with his fellow men were fearful, the rule of law in a more modern community would appear to make such a response of fear, otiose.
So, I am genuinely puzzled by the obviously fear based responses of both politicians and large numbers of people to immigration that we are seeing the world over. The first migrants from Africa took considerable risks and showed remarkable courage in their decisions to leave what they knew behind, however, sparse and poorly resourced their environment must have been. These first trekkers were the builders of our first small communities. There is an obvious correlation with their willingness to brave dangers and the subsequent skill and competence they demonstrated in creating and maintaining their small settlements. There is also an obvious correlation between the asylum seekers we see risking their lives in rubber rafts and our early ancestors. If one examines the statistics in immigration friendly countries, such as the USA of past years, Britain after the collapse of the British Empire and Sweden in recent times there is clear statistical and experiential evidence of the considerable benefits that have accrued to the countries in which immigrants have come to settle. There are of course short term adjustment problems where life as one knew it may be to some small extent disrupted for a period of time, but the Chinese are supposed to have wisely claimed (in response to the question why they did not resist large numbers of immigrant settlers) : “In three generations they will be Chinese, so why bother about the fact that they are not Chinese when they arrive?” The statistics and general experience in both the USA of the past and Britain support this claim.
There is no doubt that in Kant’s Philosophy there is an ethical obligation to help people whose lives are in danger. Asylum seekers must be given asylum irrespective of ethnic or religious denomination. The second formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative claims that we have a duty to treat people as ends in themselves and this demands as a consequence not just hospitable behaviour but also justifies the right to asylum that has been universally agreed to by the members of the UN.
Kant would not claim that there is any difference in principle in relation to the freedom of movement of peoples involved in the European project. Treating people as ends in themselves requires that one is hospitable to strangers. The European project is a Kantian project, an Enlightenment pilot-project. Today freedom of movement in Europe, tomorrow freedom of movement on a cosmopolitan scale. The logic of cosmopolitanism requires that the European eventually be hospitable to the non European stranger who appears on their doorstep.
The Kantian Philosopher believes that this ethical argument is the primary argument for globalization. But has it not historically been the case that commerce has been the driving force of globalization? It has certainly been a superficial force. To the extent that our self interest has driven commerce, the philosophical analysis of this phenomenon would suggest that self interested commercialism and the desire to expand ones sphere of self interest over the whole world is not in the spirit of Kantian cosmopolitanism. This commercial spirit on the contrary, was one of the roots of in imperialism which did not know what to do with the discovery that the mere accumulation of capital as an aim seemed to make the working man superfluous, an entity to be exploited for the end of the accumulation of capital. Hannah Arendt provides compelling arguments which suggest a connection between this anti-humanistic spirit of commercialism and the emergence of totalitarian governments last century.
There are deep processes of globalization which populism, in its ignorance or misunderstanding of the systematic arguments of Philosophy, does not understand. Quite simply the populist politicians, whether they be British, European, American or Swedish, do not know what they do not know. They concentrate upon the divisions or differences between people rather on the systematic truths which unite them. This is why there is so much discussion about who is telling the truth and who is lying, why there is so much discussion about real and fake news. Real, objective Ethical Truths relate to cosmopolitan rights and the rights that unite all occupants of the earth. The shadowy arguments of populist politicians focus on national and cultural differences and fear of change, fear of the deep ethical process of globalization. This process of ethical globalization, for them is not an ethical matter, it is rather a natural destructive phenomenon which requires national defense measures. This fear of something which is not of itself fearful is of course a pathological feat of the imagination which reveals itself in all talk of building walls or defending borders or expelling aliens. This is the talk of the ignorant prisoners imprisoned deep in Plato’s cave, a deeply disturbing fearful incoherent babbling which is paradoxically, claiming to know something.
So Stockholm is the latest scene of what is beginning to look like a 5 act Shakespearean tale. The whole city locked down, people staying in hotels, walking home in what at times looked like a Great Trek, major television events cancelled, frenetic social media activity with all manner of response from the sublime to the superfluous(telling asylum seekers to go back to where they came from). And for what? For terrorism whose aim is to disrupt the peace and freedom of people who have absolutely nothing to do with the cause the terrorists claim they are fighting for. The question becomes: what kind of play are we witnessing, a tragedy, a comedy, a soap opera? Of course there were tragic consequences of the action in Stockholm but actions are defined by their intentions. If the object of terrorist action are people who have nothing to do with what is going on in the Middle East this scene is not tragic it is meaningless. Witness the actual consequences (barring the tragic loss of the victims and their families), strangers meeting and spending the evening together in bars or in hospitable homes. What did the terrorists imagine would be the actual consequences? Well I am sure if they imagined people actually coming closer together, societies actually bonding more tightly together because of their action, they might well wonder themselves what the point of their action is.
I have written elsewhere in this blog about my amazement at the reaction of the USA(and Russia) to , relatively speaking a handful of poorly armed terrorists. This “War on Terrorism” response is trickling down to all levels in the world. The amount of media time spent on this issue at all levels is quite disproportionate to its magnitude. This fact indicates that the terrorists actions and speech acts do not meet Aristotle´s definition of a tragic action which is an action of a certain magnitude. ISIS deliberately waits over 24 hours before taking credit for the acts because we overreact for approximately 24 hours to the events which occur. Compare this event to the bus accident with school children this week, a really tragic accident with approximately the same number of casualties(3 children) and compare the amount of attention given. In my mind the cause of both events are equally meaningless, if the cause of the bus accident turns out to be mechanical failure without any negligence involved.