Aristotle’s work “Politics” is an awe inspiring work. It is clear that it is one of his greatest pieces of practical Philosophy. The language of the work is clear and distinct but its structure reveals itself in its entirety only to scholarly investigations which reveal the work to have an iceberg-like structure with metaphysical theory, epistemological theory and Philosophical Psychology lying concealed beneath the water line and political and ethical issues manifesting themselves above the water-line. Similar remarks could have been made about his work on “Ethics” which also resembled a mammoth like iceberg with much of its structure lying unconcealed beneath the water line.
In the light of such remarks the modernist ambitions of Philosophers like Hobbes, Descartes and Hume who chose to deliberately ignore much of the hidden Aristotelian structure and sail into the Arctic circle of Aristotelian Philosophy, were monumental examples of philosophical misjudgment.
Aristotle’s “Politics” is a hylomorphic metaphysical work seeking to summarise the work of a large number of political thinkers and the practical work of statesman embodied in over 150 constitutions from city states of the developed world.
The opening words of Book 1 are:
“Every state is a community of some kind and every community is established with a view to some good, for everyone always acts in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.”
Aristotle then proceeds to resolve the whole of the state into its parts in accordance with his hylomorphic strategy:
“He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin,whether a state or anything else will obtain the clearest view of them.”
The assumption behind these words is an assumption that many early modernist philosophers such as Hobbes and Hue would reject, namely, that the state is a natural organic entity thus falling into a category of things distinct from artefacts. Neo-Aristotelians see this to be a key distinction between the concepts which we use to describe ad explain the human realm of work and the concepts we use to describe and explain the human realm of action. On the other hand, reductionist attempts by Hobbes Hume and other modern behaviourist psychologists to reduce action to what can be observable from a third person point of view, namely “bodily movement” clearly rejects Aristotle’s claim that different realms of human activity require different assumptions and conceptual frameworks for the description and explanation of whatever is changing in these realms.
Aristotle’s Politics according to Ross in his work entitled “Aristotle” employs the virtue nurturing mechanism of “the Golden Mean” in attempting to navigate a course between the iceberg’s of Thrasymachus’ materialistic conventionalism and the Cynic’s world view where citizens are citizens of a world in which states have withered away. Aristotle certainly held a more idealistic and principled view than Thrasymachus’ who would have scoffed at the idea of a great-souled citizen dwelling in a great souled city-state. The latter idea obviously involves the idea of a soul embracing the Platonic assumption that there is a fundamental relation between the soul of an individual and the soul of a city. Aristotle’s hylomorphism would certainly have articulated this relationship differently in terms of the matter and form of persons and states. The matter of a city state would include the population and territory of a city and the latter the character of its citizens and institutions.
The good referred to in the opening quote from book one has , as he would say, many meanings but in this work he specifically categorises the good into three areas: external goods, the goods of the body, and the goods of the soul with this last area obviously being the prime focus of the other two: external goods and the goods of the body are for the sale of the goods of the soul. Here again, we see emphasis placed upon a developmental or actualisation process leading to a telos or an end which is valuable both in itself and for its possible logical consequences:- the great souled man.
The stages on the way of this actualisation process are its “parts” , namely the elements of the family: male, female, children, slaves. Male and female reproduction is necessary for the continuity of the species in accordance with the drive of an instinct which desires to leave behind a physical form of itself in the material of ones children. Slaves were necessary for the survival of the family. This family quartet provides, then, the models for the kinds of rule we will encounter in the polis, Aristotle argues. The master slave relation is the elemental source of despotic rule in spite of the fact that Aristotle urges the master to befriend the slave, at the same time adding that this kind of friendship of utility cannot be mutual. We should recall in this context that slavery was an institution which Aristotle criticised claiming that the only natural slave was the person who could not take responsibility for their life owing to some kind of mental or physical dysfunction. Also relevant in this context is the fact that the Greek institution of slavery was more humane than its more modern forms during Roman or American times.The slave in ancient Greece was a member of the family. The husband-wife relation, for Aristotle was a constitutional relation and this presumably entailed mutual friendship: an important element of Aristotle’s ideal state. Much has been made of Aristotle’s view of women using a few ambiguous comments which state that whilst man is better at exercising his deliberative faculties than a woman but this could be interpreted to mean, “given the institutional role of women at the time”. Aristotle clearly states that the woman possesses a deliberative faculty but does not use it authoritatively. The father child relation is characterised as monarchical and here too there is room for mutual friendship presumably later on in life.
The interesting philosophical question to pose is “What is the motivation for claiming that the household contains the forms of rule which will then manifest themselves at the higher level of city states?” To understand this one must really appreciate the extent to which Aristotle means what he says when he speaks of the naturalness of the formation of the city-state. By “natural” is meant “biological” in the sense in which biology as a discipline aims at an account of life forms. Now another interesting question to pose is “Can a city state be regarded as an advanced form of life?” or is it as is sometimes viewed through our modern lenses merely an artificial concrete jungle of asphalt streets and buildings. A city is clearly partly conceived thus but even this conception requires some reference to the living “builders” of this so called “jungle”.
A city is alive in the sense Aristotle intended. This life has been transmitted over manifolds of generations through the elements of the household and the village in accordance with actualisation processes and conditions.
The city is certainly the place in which external goods, the goods of the body and the goods of the soul are best catered for. It is certainly, in many senses more alive than the village which in comparison is often designated as “sleepy”. The metaphysical principles of “that which a thing changes from”, “that which a thing changes to” and “that which endures throughout the change” is certainly operating in the transformation of households into villages and villages into city-states. Constitutional rule is obviously the telos of this process much as the frog is the telos of the tadpole. One should not be misled by physical dissimilarities which disguise the underlying formative processes.
Constitutional rule, therefore, has its material and efficient conditions as well as its formal conditions. It is the “final cause” or explanation of the phenomenon of the city state. Aristotle in this context speaks of the “organs” of the city state and refers in Socratic fashion to the “functional occupations” which are part of the “life” of the city. The occupations mentioned are: judges, warriors, traders, mechanics, priests, elected officials. Amongst the conditions necessary for the existence of ideal city-states, Aristotle cites Education and insists that this should no longer be a private matter but rather be a matter for public concern and institutionalised. Given this proclamation it is however, rather surprising that teachers are not included in the list of “functional occupations” or “organs of the state” above.
We need, however, to bear in mind that the nation states we currently inhabit are different structures to what Aristotle imagined in terms of what he thought to be the maximum size of governable entities. Although he spoke in favour of representative government for those occupations such as mechanics and traders who do not have the available time to participate in the political activities of the city, he nevertheless envisaged a city whose furthest limits could be reached by the voice of a town crier.
Aristotle acknowledged, somewhat reluctantly, that democracies were here to stay but he would certainly have raised questions in relation to the sizes of our current nation-states. We can imagine him offering the opinion that unless the educational system is excellent, the size of our states make them very difficult to govern.
Hannah Arendt, too, was a critic of the nation state. In her earlier works she claimed that the terrible events of the terrible 20th century point to the conclusion that the nation state has failed. Clearly, our educational institutions have not been able to bear the Aristotelian responsibility that has been placed upon them. In Aristotelian terms our educational systems ought to have been concentrating their attention on the liberal and humanistic virtues, developing both our theoretical and practical reasoning capacities to such an extent that political participation at high levels are regarded as obligations to the constitution of the state. By “participation” in this representative context is probably meant “acquisition of knowledge” and informed debate using that knowledge, perhaps also close contact with ones representative over the issues of the day and of course an obligation to vote. The word “obligation” shall here be construed not in its modern sense in terms of social contract theory where the relation between the rulers and the ruled is conceived to be a significantly artificial, conventional, non organic affair. For Aristotle, the “obligation” of the rulers and the ruled would be to ensure the common good prevailed for the whole city rather than the limited goods that are conferred upon two contracting parties where freedom is bartered for security. The idea of giving up ones freedom(an essential part of ones human nature, according to Kant) so that a “policeman state” can regulate the hustle and bustle of city life is a very un-Aristotelian position. For him modern men ought to regulate themselves socially and individually by developing capacities into virtuous dispositions with the assistance of the polis and its provision of public education. There is state regulation but of a liberal.humanistic and academic kind. On this model there is no need for a “contract” to be used in a tribunal in case one of the parties to the contract reneges on “the deal”. Aristotle’s citizens and rulers trust each other: they are “friends”. If the size of a nation state is such that virtuous dispositions cannot be the result of education, then this, for Aristotle, would be an argument against communities which are too large for such ventures.
How might Aristotle otherwise have responded to our large industrialised economically driven conurbations? Well, firstly, he would have raised his eyebrows at two characteristics of our “concrete jungles”. Firstly, he would have been more than a little surprised at the dependence on the nation state on a plethora of economic institutions and secondly he would have wondered about the use of technology. “Oika” is the Greek root of economics and it refers to regulatory activities of the household in the financial sphere. Aristotle, in this context was specifically against the universalisation of the wealth accumulation principle which was the duty of the head of the household. He would have insisted that oikonomous ought to be limited of course by the principle of the golden mean which regulates all virtuous development. Wealth accumulated beyond the needs of the household would have been anathema for Aristotle unless of course the excess was disposed of for the sake of the common good as was the case when rich families sponsored public meals and events and even entertained foreign dignitaries as a service to the state. Celebrating the richest people in the world as we do irrespective of their charitable activities would not be in the service of the common good. Both Socrates and Aristotle would have agreed that the art of acquiring wealth was an art of secondary importance. The doctor practising the primary art of medicine would feel obliged, given the Hippocratic oath to treat any patient needing emergency treatment even there was no money for the treatment. The existence of vast business empires(corporations) would exist for the sake of wealth acquisition would have been a form of life that both Socrates and Aristotle would have criticised. It is not, however, clear what Aristotle would have thought about our modern banking institutions and the business idea of lending money for interest. He would certainly have disapproved of the practice of lending money to the poor at interest rates which they could not afford, thus turning them into slaves of their debts.The banking function of financing industry and thereby creating jobs for the jobless and indirectly financing education through the taxes imposed on profits would probably have been in his eyes for the common good. Extreme behaviour of such institutions would have met with disapproval especially behaviour which required large amounts of taxpayers money to keep such institutions in existence..
One could also wonder what Aristotle would have thought about the omnipresence of useful and aesthetic artefacts in our cities: luxury cars and limousines, televisions, computers, mobile telephones, internet, washing machines, dish washers kitchen and household appliances etc. Some of these technological artefacts obviously are labour saving devices and make the need for domestic help by slaves no longer necessary. Such possibilities might have changed his position on slavery especially given the institutions society has created to help the mentally and physically members of our society, making it possible for them, with assistance to take some limited form of responsibility for their lives.
Would Aristotle view our communities as monstrous creations, a great Leviathan to use Hobbes’ description? Would Aristotle believe that the “concrete jungles” we inhabit are no longer “natural creations”? Man is the best of animals ruled constitutionally but in some environments, alienating environments man can be the worst of animals using his considerable mental and physical capacities for evil rather than good. In the sphere of technology and the way it has made war a massively destructive phenomenon on the scale of the worst of the worst natural catastrophes, man has certainly demonstrated that he is the worst of animals, for example, developing atomic weapons of mass destruction threatening the existence of all life on earth. Aristotle, if asked to comment on such a state of affairs might well have pointed out that we have become the slaves of our own technology and perhaps he might have said the same of the economics of those countries with large economic debts. It is almost certain that he would have viewed most of the population of our communities as not meeting minimum standards of political participation and thereby calling the whole concept of “representation” into question. He might, of course, as was suggested above, lay the responsibility for this state of affairs at the doorstep of our educational institutions which have failed to actualise or develop the virtuous dispositions required of the citizens of a nation.
He might that is see our nation states as natural organic developments of the city state, in spite of the modern experience of “alienation” by many of the inhabitants of concrete and technological jungles.
It has been argued earlier in this series of lectures that Kant has a claim to be called a “Hylomorphic” philosopher whose philosophy embodies many Aristotelian assumptions. Kant, in this spirit, argued in favour of a progress of mankind toward a final kingdom of ends, thus supporting Aristotle’s idea of the “naturalness” of actualisation processes. This idea of a teleological process moving to an end was of course called into question by the events of the terrible twentieth century.
Aristotelian naturalism could then be seen as the foundation for the telos of this march of progress which according to Kant is the very Cosmopolitanism that Aristotle might have thought too large to govern. It should be pointed out however that the Cosmopolitanism of the Greek Cynics and the Cosmopolitanism of Kant are very different prospects. The latter does not necessarily entail the dissolution or withering away of the nation state. The nation state for Kant and perhaps for Aristotle could well be a necessary stage on the way to the final political end.. Kant, interestingly, was the Cosmopolitan philosopher from Königsberg, a “Cosmopolitan city”. The idea of Cosmopolitan cities have been on our minds since the writings and times of Shakespeare’s portrayal of Venice in his plays in which Jews and Moors could perform, albeit somewhat tragically, on the Shakespearean world stage. As we know Königsberg was a part of Prussia which ceased to exist in the terrible twentieth century. This is an example of the destruction and demise of a city: a direct consequence of the military ambitions of the German nation state: a military tradition far removed from the practice of the Teutonic Knights that ruled from the 13th century to the 18th century. In normal circumstances, however, the city has a remarkable staying power requiring war on a massive scale to threaten its existence: perhaps suggesting that the city and its surrounding supporting countryside might be the primary entity in a future Cosmopolitan world. This, of course does not necessarily entail the withering away or demise of the nation state which might be the repository of communication organisational and educational functions necessary for the well being of the city.
The nature of the city state for Aristotle is plurality. We know he rebuked Plato’s Republic for attempting to artificially unify the state…”similars do not constitute a state”. This principle in fact contributes to the ultimate goal of the city state which is its self sufficiency. Plato’s Republic was written in despair at the sight of the failings of both oligarchical and democratic rule. For Plato both of these forms of regime were examples of the evils of the divided city in which neither would accept the rule of the other.Plato’s solution was to ignore the empirical state of affairs and instead impose a 5 regime blueprint on all forms of regimes: rule of the philosophy class, rule of the warrior class, rule of the rich class, rule of the poor class and finally rule of a tyrant who represents no class , only himself. With the proposal of this structure, the idea of class becomes an important consideration in political discussion. Plato, as we know leaves the productive class alone and they do not seem to figure as important elements in his blueprint of regimes, probably because they do not have the time to participate at the levels necessary. In his ideal Republic, the Callipolis, the ruling class are philosophers, the middle class is composed of warriors whose function it is to maintain internal order and defence from external threat, and the lower class is composed of the productive class. Plato put his faith in philosophers to solve the problem of the unity of the city. Aristotle does not accept this solution and instead proposes that philosophy itself should be involved in ruling the pluralistic city impartially in accordance with a principle of justice. This principle of justice is built upon virtuous dispositions acquired as a consequence of the principle of the Golden Mean.
We should bear in mind that Aristotle collected over 150 different constitutions from the governments of the civilised world and consequently saw the operation of the golden mean principle in actual constitutions which were not militaristically inclined(e.g. Sparta). Aristotle viewed military regimes as coercive. A warrior led society, even if subjected to a Platonic training in the Idea of the Good would probably not understand their citizens sufficiently to permit the forces of pluralism to, for example, spread philosophical ideas of value throughout the community. In communities like Athens in which power swung continually between democrats and oligarchs, the phenomenon of Socrates merely caused confusion. Was Socrates a fiend of the democrats or was he a friend of the oligarchs were questions which circulated on the grapevine of Athenian rumour. Athens, with its community of 50,000 citizens(200,000 inhabitants) was probably in the eyes of Aristotle too small for the principle of the golden mean to operate on a political level. A polis of 100,000 citizens was probably the optimum size for the principle to function effectively. There certainly was no friendship of the right kind operating between the democrats and the oligarchs. In the light of these facts Aristotle arrived at the conclusion that only a state with a large middle class would contain the best conditions for leading the most satisfactory political life. Here are his arguments:
“Thus it is manifest that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, and that those states are likely to be well administered in which the middle class is large, and stronger if possible than both of the other classes, or at any rate than either singly, for the addition of the middle class turns the scale,and prevents either of the extremes from being dominant.
Great, then, is the good fortune of a state in which the citizens have a moderate and sufficient property: for where some possess much, and the others nothing: there may arise an extreme democracy or pure oligarchy: or a tyranny my grow out of either extreme–either out of the most rampant democracy, or out of an oligarchy: but it is not so likely to arise out of the middle constitutions and those akin to them. I will explain the reason for this hereafter, when I speak of the revolution of states. The mean condition of states is clearly best: for no other is free from faction and where the middle class is large there are less likely to be factions and dissensions. For a similar reason large states are less liable to faction than small ones because in them the middle class is large, whereas in small states it is easy to divide all the citizens into two classes who, are either rich or poor and to leave nothing in the middle. And democracies are more permanent than oligarchies because they have a middle class which is more numerous and has a greater share in the government: for where there is no middle class and the poor are excessive in number, troubles arise, and the state soon comes to an end. A proof of the superiority of the middle class is that the best legislators have been of a middle condition: for example, Solon as his own verses testify:and Lycurgus, for he was not a king: and Chorendus, and almost all legislators.)1295b 35-40 1296a 1-21)”
Aristotle might well have pointed to the fact that certainly Socrates and himself fell into what he refers to above as the middle class both in terms of their philosophical views and their positions in society as determined by both economics and education. All of Aristotle’s views speak from a position between extremes and Socrates’ use of elenchus was a tool that he often used to extract contradictions from extreme contradictions such as that proposed by Thrasymachus.
The Metaphysics presents a theory of change which incorporates the processes of the destruction and preservation of things that change, e.g states. In this context revolution emerges. Presumably as a result of his empirical investigations of the available constitutions Aristotle appears to reject Plato’s blueprint of 5 different forms of regime. Instead, Aristotle prefers to speak of 6 regimes which exclude timocracies(one of Plato’s 5 regimes). The grounding concept of Aristotle’s blueprint is the Socratic idea of the common good combined with 3 types of ruling authority, namely rule by one man, rule by a few men , and rule by many men. If rule is in accordance with the common good we are then in the presence of three legitimate forms of government. If, however, the ruling authority rule in their own interests or in the interests of the group they represent we are in the presence of what Aristotle calls “perversions” of legitimate government.The two most common forms of government, oligarchy and democracy are in fact perversions because they operate with a perverted concept of justice. Democrats, for example, believe that:
“because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal.”(1300a 29-30
Oligarchs claim that:
“”those who are unequal in one respect are in all respects unequal: being unequal, that is, in property, they suppose themselves to be unequal absolutely”(1300a 31-32
Revolution is a natural consequence of the perversions of government. There are two kinds of revolution Aristotle argues. Firstly there are revolutions which aim at constitutional change in accordance with a different concept of justice, and secondly there are evolutions which take over the political administration without altering the constitution.
There are a number of causes of revolution some of which are related to the states of mind and motivations of the revolutionaries. Firstly, as has already been mentioned there is the desire for equality or inequality:
“desire for good or honour, or fear of dishonour or loss.” 1302a32
Other causes are :
“insolence, fear, excessive predominance, contempt, disproportionate increase in some part of the state:causes of another sort are election intrigues, carelessness, neglect about trifles, dissimilarity of elements”1302b 41-44
“Another cause of revolution is difference of races which do not at once acquire a common spirit: for a state is not the growth of a day, anymore than it grows out of a multitude brought together by accident. Hence the reception of strangers in colonies, either at the time of their foundation or afterwards, has generally produced revolution.”1303a25-29
“Revolutions also break out when opposite parties , e.g. the rich and the people are equally balanced and there is little or no middle class: for, if either party were manifestly superior the other would not risk an attack upon them. And for this reason, those who are eminent in excellence usually do not stir up insurrections, being always a minority. Such in general are the beginnings and causes of disturbances and revolution to which every form of government is liable” 1304b 1-6
This is a comprehensive list of causes. We can safely assume that Aristotle’s investigations of over 150 constitutions together with historical evolution of these constitutions played a large role in the compiling of this list. D W Ross
summarises the preventatives of revolutions in the following words:
“The preventatives of revolution are next considered. The most important thing is to maintain the spirit of obedience to law especially in small matters: the beginnings of change must be watched for. The second rule is not tto rely upon devices for deceiving the people, which are proved by experience to be useless. Further both aristocracies and oligarchies may last, not from any inherent stability in the constitution but because the rulers are on good terms with their subjects, never wronging the ambitious in a matter of honour nor the common people in the matter of money but introducing the leading spirits to a share in rule and adapting to some extreme democratic institutions. The ruler should always keep before his people the danger of foreign attack and should if necessary invent dangers to alarm them.” (p270)
This last reference to “invented lies” appears to contravene the earlier advice relating to the uselessness of deception: a very un -Aristotelian and Machiavellian recommendation..
The term “revolution” suggests a circular process in which the process returns to its beginning point in order to begin the process anew. It suggests a kind of evolution with the emphasis upon a change in the quality of life in the state that undergoes it: a change in which freedom from oppression is experienced. T S Eliot’s words:
“And at the end of all of our exploration we will arrive at the beginning and know the place for the first time.”
indicates also an increase in knowledge as a consequence of the revolutionary journey.
Hannah Arendt in her work “On Revolution” discusses the term “revolution” in relation to religious change in particular the “Reformation” which she regards as the beginning of the process of questioning authority and the beginning of the process of loss of respect for authority. The French and Russian revolutions went far beyond the peaceful nailing up of theses for public information which we witnessed in the case of Luther. This for Arendt was the beginning of a new era, the era of secularisation which would also spawn other peaceful revolutions such as the Industrial Revolution.
The word “revolution”, however, is usually associated with violence and in this respect perhaps the only violent revolution which produced something of benefit(knowledge and freedom?) over a longer period of time, was the American revolution.
The nation state emerged in this era of secularisation and perhaps the jury is still out considering its verdict as to whether we are dealing with a structure that will survive into the future or a pathological entity that will devolve into city states or evolve into a global community.
Jonathan Lear in his work “Aristotle” says the following on p149:
“Freedom is important to us not as one value among others, but as that which constitutes our very being. Other animals may have beliefs and desire but humans distinguish themselves from the rest of nature by the ability to become consciously aware of these beliefs and desires, to consider them and to decide what to do on the basis of that consideration. A human agent need not merely be caused to act by his desires: by his reflecting on his desires and deciding which to satisfy and how, the desires become reasons for him. In acting for these reasons and agent manifests his freedom and humanity but, unfortunately, we have little understanding of what this manifestation of freedom consists in. Since this freedom helps to constitute our humanity, in being ignorant of its working we are ignorant of our essence. We lack an understanding of what it is, fundamentally to be us:”
Now we could be forgiven for believing that the above remarks are about the ethics of Kant but they are rather meant to articulate what Lear thinks is an important implication of Aristotle’s ethics. Lear does however throughout his work on Aristotle articulate support for the claim that Aristotelian ethics is an ethics of freedom. In the course of this “comparison”, however, a surprise is in store:
“According to Kant, a free agent must reflect on his desires from a standpoint outside the desires themselves. The deliberation will not be truly free unless it is carried out from a perspective which can view the desire and so consider it as one factor among others, but which remains independent of its causal sway.On this conception of reflection is a manifestation of freedom precisely because it is a form of detachment. The moral agent, for Kant, is one, who, in thought detaches himself from his desires, particular interests and circumstances and considers solely what a purely rational would will.Hegel, a devoted student of Aristotle, criticised Kant’s conception of free will. Such a will, Hegel argued, would be so detached from its own desires and from the circumstances of deliberation and action that it would be empty: it would never be able to determine what to will.”
Hegel claimed that he would stand the philosophy of Kant on its head ad in attempting to do so may well have turned the worlds of Aristotle, Kant and the common man upside down. Hegel’s dialectical logic replaced the Metaphysical Logic of Aristotle and the Transcendental Logic of Kant. Hegel’s inversion of bottom and top via his dialectical logic remind one of the psychological subjects of Stratton, wearing glasses which invert their retinal images and seeing the landscape upside down on the first day. On the second day these subjects felt that their bodies were upside down until finally after a number of days acting under these strange circumstances everything returned to normal again. Wearing the glasses of Hegel to view the Philosophy of Kant can indeed make the world of Kant seem a strange world itself in need of conversion. It is to say the very least rather surprising to find Lear subscribing to this Hegelian position, succumbing to this Hegelian deconstruction. We need in such a context, to remind ourselves of the texts of Kant which disprove the detachment thesis. Firstly, in the Critique of Judgment Kant clearly claims the existence of an intimate relation between practical reason and desire:
“In the same way reason which contains constitutive a priori principles solely in respect of the faculty of desire gets its holding assigned to it by the critique of Practical Reason.”(Preface)
Lear is apparently failing to register Kant’s claim that there are two kinds of concepts, theoretical and practical which generate separate and different principles of the possibility of their objects. Concepts of nature and concepts of freedom have a reflectively different structure. The application of concepts of nature an acting will generates what Kant calls technically-practical principles in which it is legitimate to conceive of a kind of separation or detachment of the subject and his/her action. Such technically-practical principles regulate and agents skills in accordance with the law of cause and effect and this places such concepts and principles clearly in the realm of theoretical philosophy far from the ream of desire. Kant defines desire in the following terms:
” a faculty which by means of its representations is the cause of the actuality of the objects of those representations.”
This clearly relates desire to practical reason and to the bringing about of states of affairs by means of principles in the practical world. Kant, in this discussion is careful to distinguish between empirical cases in which ones desire for a particular object precedes the practical principle and transcendental cases in which the determining ground of choice is the practical principle. An example of the latter would be in the case where the principle “Promises ought to be kept” determines my choice of what I must do and transmits my desire down a chain of action related reflections. There is no space for any detachment or separation of the agent from his action in such circumstances. In cases of a desire for a material object which is not being directed by a principle, the desire could arise and be abandoned in favour of another desire and in such circumstances one might say that the agent had a detachable relation to the object of the desire and the desire. This possibility on Kant’s view is a result of what he refers to as a lower faculty of desire which he contrasts with a higher faculty in which “promises ought to be kept” is a principle which one cannot abandon as a practical agent. The former lower faculty of desire, argues Kant is concerned with pleasure related to the object desired and its agreeableness. The Latter is concerned with what Aristotle would call the good in itself which in its turn is a concern with our well being and worthiness to be happy. For Kant this is a key condition for an ethical position and this may indicate a key difference between his position and the finality of the happiness condition which Aristotle proposes.
It is therefore puzzling to find Lear asking how a self conscious being on the Kantian account could make decisions at all as if the Kantian self consciousness resembled the Cartesian self consciousness reflecting theoretically upon its own desires. Hegel, we know, did not appreciate the relation of Kantian ethical theory to the ethical theory of Aristotle’s in which we see both adopting the vantage point of reflecting upon the relation of practical reason to its object rather than reflecting on the relation of a state of mind to its object.
One may wish to contradict this account by insisting that Aristotle’s theory of virtue specifically argues that virtue is a state(lexis) rather than a capacity(dunamis) or a feeling(pathos). The question, however, is how would Aristotle wish to characterise the state of the soul. He would not for example countenance this state as a state of consciousness and he would not want to countenance this state being characterised as many modern philosophy of mind theorists do as something “private”(feelings are private and particular). Rather, the “state” Aristotle is referring to here is a state of the soul which for him is differentiated in terms of different principles, defining different kinds or essences. Indeed, the word “disposition” might be a more appropriate term. For these purposes a practical disposition would be construed in terms of a law-like principle that has been sculpted by the processes of training, education and habituation in accordance with social and cultural processes such as that of the “Golden Mean”.
Practical dispositions are given their initial characterisation in the opening remarks of the Nichomachean Ethics:
“Every art and every enquiry, every action and choice, seems to aim at some good:whence the good has rightly been defined as that at which all things aim.”
For Aristotle, we should recall, the good has many meanings depending upon whether it is aiming in discourse at peoples character, their actions, the place or time they live in etc. But all have in common the essence of the good for man or eudaimonia, which for Kant was a part of his ethical religious idea of the summum bonum. It is especially difficult given this rather strong resemblance in their positions to imagine the ethical Kantian agent being detached from his own happiness or flourishing life. There is moreover a hylomorphic element to Kants theorizing which is unmistakeable. In much of his reasoning there is specific reference to matter and form and if we analyse the two formulations of the categorical imperative it would be difficult not to see the formal aspect of the ethical law in the first formulation and the material aspect in the second formulation. Were there to be only one formulation, namely, the first, one might be able to argue more forcefully for if not the detachment thesis Lear proposes, perhaps an accusation of formalism or “emptiness”. The first formulation asks us to “will” that the maxim of ones action be regarded as a universal law and if there is no such universal law then the logical consequence is surely at the very least “emptiness” and more seriously perhaps the impossibility of ethical action. The second formulation however fills the first formulation with content by insisting that we should act so that we treat everyone including ourselves as ends in themselves. This latter formulation is moreover, reminiscent of the kind of respect embedded in the Aristotelian account of friendship in the Nichomachean Ethics. Aristotle speaks here of a kind of fellowship existing between individuals or citizens of a polis which is similar to the the affection that siblings have for one another. In Aristotle the good is in mans character from the beginning in the form of a capacity to be developed by nurturing and education into a disposition. Just as we learn to be builders by building, and teachers by teaching doctors by doctoring, we learn to be brace by doing brave acts in encouraging circumstances. This is the route by which states of character are formed. In this process of forming a good disposition pleasures and pains need to be organised because, as Aristotle claims, “the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain” are the main sources of vicious action. Feelings are originally also capacities and are part of the material that needs to be formed by the nurturing of a virtuous disposition so that one feels the right feeling in the right circumstances at the right time.
It is obvious from the above account that virtue cannot itself be merely a feeling because as Aristotle rightly argues we do not praise or blame men for the feelings they are having, because this is something passive, something that is happening to them, within the privacy of their own bodies. The ethical attitude is an active attitude inextricably tied up with human activity, with action and with choice. Such activity is formed by a method shaped by an aim to hit a target or achieve an end. The difference between the generous man, the spendthrift and the miser is one of an active attitude towards men and money.
We can only choose to act, Aristotle argues if the action is of the kind, voluntary. Actions caused by external factors(compulsions) or ignorance are for him involuntary actions and cannot be freely chosen: such actions can therefore neither be praised nor blamed, i.e the agent cannot be held fully responsible for them. The notion of choice however is not related to the end of the flourishing life because this latter is a rational wish of Eros and is not itself chosen but rather succumbed to in the manner an educational process is succumbed to. Deliberation chooses the means to accomplish the flourishing life. For a holistic view of the process of deliberation stretching from the moment of succumbing to the moment of making the good occur see Sir David Ross’s account in “Aristotle”:
Ross situates choice in the matrix of desire, deliberation perception and Art:
“Desire I desire A
Deliberation B is the means to A
C is the means to B
N is the means to M
Perception N is something I can do here and now
Choice I choose N
Art I do N ”
Ross does not do this but one can describe this process of deliberation in terms of areté which is a term Aristotle uses for both ones moral character and ones skill in thinking. Translating this term as virtue becomes clearer when it is used in the context of “the virtuous life” which when coupled to the term eudaimonia or the flourishing life embraces both the intellectual virtues and the moral/ethical virtues which include phronesis, courage and temperance.
The character of a virtuous man is, then, a set of dispositions(formed capacities) which organise ones desires and feelings in relation to the final end of eudaimonia or the flourishing life which inits turn is also the actualisation of the potential of the rational animal capable of discourse.
The Phronimos, the man possessing practical wisdom which he demonstrates with his correct reasoning , reasoning in the right way, or orthos logos, is the man whose psuche or soul best integrates the rational and the irrational parts of the soul. Aristotle indicates the consequences of falling short in the aim of fulfilling ones potential, namely forms of life which are neither excellent(areté) nor flourishing(eudaimonia. He illustrates this claim by pointing to the life of pleasure pursued by non rational animals, the life of honour pursued by men of ambition and the life of the Phronimos who, one assumes, fulfils his potential most completely because of the Platonic argument that he is the being who has experienced all the three forms of pleasure associated with these different life forms and as a consequence knows which pleasure is the best.Plato would have argued that the pleasure experienced by the Phronimos is pure(more intellectual) and unrelated to pain which by definition is a condition caused by a body striving for homeostasis. The lives of the hedonist, the wealthy man, the ambitious man are all pain avoidance related and therefore dependent on either external or internal causal factors. None of these forms of life meet the criteria of the self sufficient flourishing life.The great souled, Phronimos, on the other hand, is self sufficient because he reasons in the right way about the world of conduct and feelings(the feelings of pleasure and pain, fear and anger).
It is also important not to lose sight of the systematic connections of the above account with Aristotle’s claims about the psuche and human nature. Because humans are animals and organisms they necessarily possess an ergon(inbuilt function)as well as a telos which is dependent upon material and efficient causes. The human however, distinguishes itself from other forms of life through a unique capacity and its potential: rationality. Rationality is a term we attribute to humankind for its disposition to reason well and excellently. Reason is on this account a capacity and rationality a disposition(the well developed capacity of reasoning excellently).
One can wonder, as G E Moore did, whether including the natural, biological material and efficient causes of being a human in the definition of “moral value” condemns Aristotle’s account to committing the naturalistic fallacy, i.e. the fallacy of defining moral value in terms of natural capacities. We have argued above that moral virtue is dispositional and dispositions are formal and developed capacities. If this distinction is observed, there is no fallacy, no contradiction: capacities, we have argued, are actualised into dispositions given the appropriate conditions for the actualisation process to occur. That is to say, there is no logical equivalence between the natural capacities of a human organism and its moral dispositions which are , as has been argued, constituted of the exercise of natural capacities excellently.
Aristotle characterises all forms of activity and art as striving for the good and areté so it is important to point out that even if one possesses the capacity to build a house and do it well this activity of an artisan is not a form of moral excellence but rather a form of aesthetic excellence. Lear points out the fundamental differences between these forms of excellence:
“There are three conditions of acting virtuously. 1. The agent must have practical knowledge. For example for a given act to be courageous(not merely done in accordance with courage) a person must know that in these circumstances taking a stand would be the right thing to do. He must be aware that this is not a case of foolhardiness, bravado, or silliness. 2.He must choose the act and choose it for its own sake. He must be doing it because , in these circumstances, it is the courageous thing to do. 3. The act must flow from a firm character. It should not be a chance event as it would be, for example, if a man fought fiercely because in those circumstances he happened to find no way to flee. Such a person may have a strong survival instinct, but he is not courageous.”(p170)
The pursuit of aesthetic excellence requires only the first condition of the above three conditions. Lear continues:
” A builder needs only know how to build a house–choice and character are essential to virtue.”
There is a further major difference between moral and aesthetic virtue or excellence which is connected to the distinction Aristotle recognizes between acting(praxis) and producing(poesis). This is noted by G J Hughes in his Routledge guidebook: “Aristotle on Ethics”:
“Health is indeed the product of the art of medicine just as a house is the product of architecture, or a statue of sculpture. But eudaimonia is not the product of the actions of a good person. Fulfilment in life is not something over and above someone’s actions which those actions produce. Fulfilment consists in doing what one does just because one sees those actions as noble and worthwhile…. living is not a process one undertakes for the sake of something else which is produced as a result. The point of the good life just is the living of it.”
Hughes continues by pointing out that this puts Aristotle in the deontological camp in our modern ethical debates. He cannot be a consequentialist, argues Hughes, because:
“Aristotle has nothing comparable to Bentham’s definition of an action as a “mere bodily movement” from which it would indeed follow that the value of an action must depend the consequences that action produces, as Bentham says. Instead Aristotle defines an action in terms of how the agent describes or sees their behaviour at the time and draws no particular line between action and its consequences”
The implications of this are devastating for the utilitarian position which finds itself at odds with two of the most important ethical positions. For Aristotle, the agent must adopt a first person perspective to what they are doing and not a third person observationalist perspective which in the absence of the declaration of intention by the agent of the action might well see “mere bodily movement”. Confusion is endemic in this area of debate. We can see one kind of confusion in the utilitarian camp where the theoretical obsession with a reductive-compositive method together with an observationalist/experimental interpretation of that method postulates “atoms” of pure movement which can then be inserted into a theoretical framework of linear causes and effects. The movement “causes” a state of affairs which is logically different from its cause, thus dividing what was a unitary action into two elements which can only be composed into a unity at the expense of the holistic account of deliberative practical reasoning we find in Aristotelian ethics.
Confusions between praxis and poesis may even assist in this attempt to subject this domain to the theoretical framework of scientific reasoning. It is of course easier to dissolve a skill(needed for the production of an object) into movement and the product produced at the end of the activity because here quite clearly the observer can for example see the builder building and the “consequence”, the completed, produced house. Aristotle would immediately criticise this theoretical attempt for failing to appreciate the role of intention in identifying the activity, in correctly describing the activity. This for him could only occur from the first person point of view. The builder sees what he is doing from the point of view of the idea or form of the house he has in mind and this for him logically determines how one can describe such building activity. All art aims at the good, Aristotle declared but there is a difference between the good house being built which is largely an aesthetic matter and leading a good flourishing life which is a broader, ethical/political good. We need also to recall that we are in the realm of forms for Aristotle, forms which are subject to his metaphysical theory of change. Forms for Aristotle were hierarchically structured with sexual reproduction of living forms at the lower end of the scale being followed by the production of artefacts and finally by the learning and teaching of the forms. The production of artefacts as we pointed out involves practical knowledge but not choice and a stable character. Here it seems we are clearly dealing with an activity or work but not fully fledged action(Arendt distinguished in her work between labour, work and action) An organised soul is required to perform the actions which aim at a flourishing life: only work-activity is required to produce the objects of techné.
So, knowledge is involved in firstly, the action as a result of practical reasoning and secondly, in the deliberative calculation of the work activity behind the creation of objects of techné. We need to enquire into the different kinds of knowledge one can encounter in the different kinds of science one can encounter as part of the flourishing life. Aristotle distinguishes between three different kinds of science: the theoretical, practical and productive sciences. In relation to theoretical science he claims, in the spirit of knowledge being justified true belief, that essence specifying definitions or principles are the justifications we find in the theoretical sphere of scientific activity. These both provide a form of logical necessity not to be found in the other two sciences, which are both aiming at something for which, as yet, there are no essence specifying definitions but there are principles. Theoretical sciences aim at the truth and use logical demonstration that move from first principles or essence specifying definitions to logically related conclusions. Practical sciences may be related to the truth and logic or “analytics” as Aristotle called logic, but the primary aim of these sciences is the good. Because of areas of commonality we find in this area that particular conclusive judgments follow from universal and particular premises. Similarly, in the practical sciences “justification” will also involve the elements of Aristotle’s metaphysical theory of change in which reference will be made to 4 kinds of change, three principles and 4 “causes” but here agents, powers and actions will be the focus of attention.
In the “Posterior Analytics” Aristotle gives us an account of the acquisition of knowledge which it has been argued by Jonathan Lear is common for all the sciences:
“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 characterises 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 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. As Aristotle says, “though one perceives the particular, perception is of the universal”(p2)
The above is a fine account of how the desire to understand involves powers building upon powers and integrating into the unified disposition of mind that we believe generates knowledge. This process, surely is, as lear claims, common to all the sciences. It accounts for how we differentiate animals from each other, of how we differentiate men from each other and also finally how we differentiate objects and actions from each other. The above account does not mention the powers of language and reason but these will certainly be involved in the generation of knowledge. The 4 causes or explanations of the theory of change will also be involved in our judgments of the good man striving to actualise his potential to live the flourishing life. They will also be involved in scientific judgments in relation to the good action which as we have been told plays an important role in the above actualisation process. The desire to understand oneself and know oneself will also probably be a part of this journey of awe and wonder. Aristotle’s idea of the flourishing life is one where both the moral and intellectual virtues form a unity in which knowledge whilst not being perhaps a seamless robe is at least one coat of many colours.
The idea of the good will in this account include both knowledge and understanding of oneself and the world one lives in.
Aristotle did engage in discussion of one aporetic issue which directly highlights the ways in which theoretical and practical knowledge are integrated in ethical action. Socrates argued that if a man knows the good, i.e. really knows and understands the universal idea of the good, then he will necessarily always do the good in his actions. On the fact of it the opening sentences of the Nichomachean Ethics, claiming as they do that all art, activity and enquiry aim at the good suggests that Aristotle too, must accept this Socratic analysis. Awareness of the phenomenon of the man claiming to know the good and then not doing it, however, pushed Aristotle into giving a more nuanced account of this so called phenomenon of akrasia or incontinence. For Aristotle it was necessary for him to acknowledge this phenomenon and give it an acceptable explanation. Now if it was the case that all men as agents aim at the good, it is difficult to understand how an agent can perform an incontinent action where that is defined as an action that is intentional and performed against a background of the knowledge that a preferable alternative action is available to the agent. If we are imagining a rational agent wholly constituted of their beliefs, desires, values and actions then:
“We can see a being as an agent, as acting intentionally, only insofar as we can see his behaviour within the schema of beliefs and desires that we attribute to him. It is among his beliefs and desires that we must find a reason for acting as he does. But we are able to identify his beliefs and desires only via his intentional actions, by what he says and otherwise does.It is in these actions that what is of value is revealed:there is , in principle, no independent access to his values.”(p176)
Socrates was criticized by Lear because he wanted to characterise akrasia in terms of states of the soul but the above quote seems to be a similar attempt, using states of mind and the terminology of analytical Philosophy. Aristotle’s account of akrasia is actually better characterised in terms of his own terminology of the powers of perception, memory, language, knowledge and reason in an organised soul: . On this account it is not possible. If there is an alternative action for which there are good reasons, it must be the case in an organised soul that all things considered and understood this must be the action one chooses to perform(not being aware of what one is doing and being drunk with passion are excluded as possibilities). This suggests that the phenomenon of incontinence must be explained by their either being a lack of knowledge or ignorance of how to act.
The power of judgment will also necessarily play a part in the deliberative process which leads to action. Lear develops this point in the following manner:
“Given that the premisses of a practical syllogism necessitate the action-conclusion, Aristotle needs an account of how the premisses might on occasion be blocked, rendered inoperative. He distinguishes various senses in which one can have knowledge or understanding: there is the sense in which one possesses the knowledge though one is not at present exercising it, and the sense in which one is actively contemplating. Aristotle accepts that a man actively exercising his knowledge could not act incontinently with respect to it, so he concentrates on those cases in which a man may possess the knowledge but somehow be prevented from exercising it. Strong anger r appetites may actually change the condition of the body…strong passions work like a drug which shuts judgment down, just as does wine or sleep.”
The virtuous soul, of course, is a well organised soul and will not allow its powers to be compromised in the above ways. The soul on its way to virtuous organisation may, however, be like an actor on a stage and be going through the motions of knowing, i.e. exercising deficient powers of knowledge by believing that he ought to be doing some alternative better action but because of the confusion in his soul is not able to settle on the completely articulated reason for what ought to be done. We should also remember, considering the fact that we are dealing with practical reasoning and rationality that the soul will not acquire what he calls the logos by merely hearing something and assenting to it: language is not a sufficient power to install the kind of knowledge being referred to. The apprentice knower, that is, must imitate his betters in an environment of ethical guidance and the journey from being an apprentice to being a virtuous man is one in which one is learning about oneself and the world . The possibility of course exists in such circumstances that someone may be right in ones judgments about the world but wrong in ones judgments about oneself, i.e. incontinence will be on display in such a case.
Jude was 10 minutes late to the lesson. Another anxiety attack. He would not have made it if he had not drunk his last two barley wines. Sucking on a spearmint tablet he entered the class.
He threw his pen on my desk again and wrote on the board “The pen is on the table”
“If I say I know the pen is on the table and you Browne ask me on what grounds I know it I might say “On the grounds of seeing the pen on the table, feeling the table and the pen, hearing the pen when it dropped to the table, perhaps smelling the pen if it has a distinctive smell”. In other words, I know, by means of the senses. Now these grounds can be challenged. We know, do we not, that our senses have deceived us in the past and we have been quite surprised to learn that either what we thought to be there was not, for example the seeing of the mirage of water after a long waterless sojourn in the desert: or vice versa, for example, I was certain my gloves were not in the drawer but found out later they were. Further, that what we thought to be an x turned out to be a y, for example I thought I saw a round tower on the horizon but upon approaching it I see it really is square. What sometimes can deceive me can always deceive me. Hark unto the voice of the skeptic ladies and gentlemen for his voice is very convincing. Last night I dreamt that the wind was blowing me toward a cliff and there was nothing I could do about it. I woke up and realized it was only a dream or a nightmare. At the moment I think I am standing and lecturing before this class. I am certain of it as certain as I was of being blown toward the cliff in my nightmare last night. Could it not be the case ladies and gentlemen that I am only dreaming that I am standing in front of you and giving a lecture. The real me, the dreaming me, is back in another location preparing to wake up from this dream. So if I can not trust my senses and I can not be certain about whether what I see is part of a dream, how can I with certainty say I know the pen is on the table? But, on the other hand, surely we know that the pen is on the table. If we don’t know this how could we be said to know anything?” Logically we represent this state of affairs like this.”
He wrote on the board
“Knowledge of P = being able to apply the criteria for P being P
We can infer P from the premises fully specifying the criteria for P
Which means the criteria for P = P”
“But”, Jude continued, “Surely this cannot be so. Surely my knowledge of the pen being on the table amounts to more than the story told about the relation my sensory experiences have with this state of affairs.”
Mark Cavendish, a science major, put up his hand and responded
“ We need to think about the way in which we conceptualize the state of affairs, that is, the language we use to state the fact. There are not two things to be related here, merely two aspects of the same complex phenomenon.”
Jude stopped himself from continuing the lecture and asked
“And how would you describe this complex phenomenon”
“Not in terms of its truth conditions. This may be an infinite set or a very large uninteresting set. Language has a more important communicative function”.
“Are you saying that the communicative function of language has nothing to do with its truth function?”
“No, but I might be saying that if a hammer when it hammers is expressing its true function or its essential function, then this is what makes the thing we are talking about a hammer This would seem to be of greater significance than the fact that all the sensory criteria for this particular act of hammering have been met and are expressed in a theoretical characterization of this fact.”
Jude smiled his little private smile of recognition before his tone hardened:
“You are characterizing the world as a totality of functions or processes which take place in the continuum of time. If I were to take an example of hammering to illustrate my point it would not be a particular occurring in a continuum of change. It would be a timeless truth, which is made true by general criteria relating to the concept of hammering. The question I am asking is :”What is the relation of these criteria to the concept?”
Mark Cavendish, hesitated, unsure that he had understood everything that had been said. He looked at Robert questioningly for help.
“Hammering may not be the best example to take in order to see the difference between the two positions. Imagine instead that you see a birdhouse I have recently built and you add this new fact to your arsenal of knowledge. Whilst it is being built it seems that the only reference point outside of the hammering and other activities occurring to bring the event of a completed birdhouse about, would be in the mind of the builder. His idea of a completed birdhouse would seem to be, at the time of having the idea, free of the physical space-time continuum. That is, anybody anywhere and at any time could build a completed birdhouse using this idea. Amongst other things what seems to be needed are general ideas of the function a birdhouse performs, and general ideas of what building are, before any such activity can take place. Although, by taking such a practical example, we may have wondered away from the original example which seemed to be about characterizing physical states of the world such as the pen being on the table. Dr. Sutton is asking, what the relation of criteria, is to the truth of this idea but I think Mark’s point very relevant anyway. The pen being on the table may not be fully and completely characterized by any set of purely physical criteria, even if we include physical laws, if that is what Dr. Sutton meant when he said that the pen on the table may involve more than my sensory experiences of this state of affairs.”
Cavendish nodded in enthusiastic agreement and Jude had now completely lost the thread of his lecture but something stirred within as he registered the student’s enthusiasm.
“Let us turn away from the abstract account of the criteria for P and away from the state of the physical world which contains Roberts birdhouse but towards an example which I believe can point us in the right direction insofar as ascertaining the grounds for knowledge claims is concerned. Let us imagine that I am in pain and that everybody can see the symptoms of the toothache I am suffering from. Let us further consider this example in the light of the question “What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a pain to be a pain? Gather ye symptoms as ye may, they do not seem to add up to the necessary and sufficient symptoms for a pain to be a pain. That is, it always seems possible that an agent could fully be manifesting all of these symptoms and there be no pain—he might for example be acting a part in a play. Or, alternatively, the agent is in pain but he is in unfriendly circumstances and is using his Spartan training not to display any of his symptoms. He is in pain but only he seems to know it. But have I not in this admission that he knows he is in pain given the game away to Descartes and his followers who might at this point say in the most skeptical of voices “Only the person experiencing the pain can know that they are in pain”. Caught in these skeptical pincers one may want to try to deny that the agent “knows” he is in pain. It is too intense for him to know anything, someone may want to maintain: He is in pain, and this means that the experience is not an epistemological state, not a position in which one can know anything. Well, I think the agent does know he is in pain, and claiming that he is not, is only going to change the example we are talking about. Let us give the Cartesian his due: the agent knows he is in pain in spite of the fact that I believe the Cartesian could not give us a good philosophical account of what kind of being possesses a state of mind in which he is both in pain and knows that he is. The Cartesian argument Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, is supported by an argument which is meant to refute the skeptic, namely the argument that one cannot doubt that one is thinking because in order to doubt that one is thinking one would have to be thinking. This is a good argument but not an account of the state of mind of a being that can acknowledge this to be a good argument. And anyway it is at best only an account of how I know myself to be in pain. It is not an account of how I know some other sentient being to be in pain. And since I do not share in his conscious state, his conscious state, by logic, therefore, could not be attributed to me. We can rule out that I am conscious of his pain in the way he is. Well, then, how do I know? By observation, by using my senses and the application of criteria to ones observations, is one possible position. But this is only going to lead us back to the position previously referred to: we might settle for a large set of symptoms and find that they will not suffice and then we will add others and they will not suffice and eventually we will throw up our hands in dismay and agree that no theoretical set of symptoms will ever amount to the pain itself. I am told that Socrates left his studies of the physical world because of this kind of problem after having read the work of a pre-Socratic philosopher who claimed that the foundation of everything was Mind. The attempt to ground knowledge on the nature of matter will always fail philosophically because we will, in Kant’s words never arrive at its nature however complex the set of symptoms for it are. Aristotle claims matter is infinitely mysterious and we can only know its forms –the result of its apprehension by the mind: or in other words, the way in which we conceptualize it. Some ancient philosophers thought that the problem resided in the fact that all we could know of matter are its mathematical properties and since these are provably infinite, when considering it in its quantitative dimension, there can never be a complete set of symptoms for its state. Be that as it may, I think it suffices from the point of view of logic to merely point out that all that needs to be the case is that some given physical phenomenon is alternatively conceptualisable, say as a wave, or as a particle:- and if this is the case we clearly have a logical problem unless we rest with the idea that alternatively conceptualizing this phenomenon is a matter of characterizing different forms or ideas of matter.
A Mathematics major raised their hand and asked:
“Can you elaborate on the proof, that the number of mathematical properties of any material thing will be necessarily infinite?”
“Yes, There are a number of paradoxes, most of which are attributed to Zeno, in which it is maintained that objects in space are totalities or collections of potential points. Take any two points AB on their surface and calculate the number of potential points between AB and it will be an infinite number. These paradoxes even point to the difficulty of quantifying motion once the variable of time is added into the equation”.
The Mathematics major nodded, satisfied with the answer
“Is there, then, no way out of this labyrinth except the ancient resort to forms in the mind?
Wittgenstein discusses this issue in his Investigations and arrives at the position that the forms in the mind have been put there by some objective process. We were not born with them. We may have been born with Aristotelian powers but not Platonic forms, and even Aristotle made fun of the theory of forms in spite of his abiding respect for his teacher.
In learning language, we fall and hurt ourselves as children, and are in pain. Our linguistic mentors then teach us to say that “We are in pain” and we move from the world of instinct, where animals are in pain and other animals sympathetically lick their wounds, to a kind of intellectual game in which I say “I am in pain” and other members of the community commiserate and offer me their sympathies, helping me over the pain. When I am initiated into this new form of life of talking about pain rather than the bare experiencing of it we are led into the human arena of caring for one another and the forms of life that are associated with this. If there is a principle behind all this it is the principle of Care—a very practical principle, which I would like to connect to the previous ethics lecture but for the moment I will restrict myself to the point brought up earlier about the language we use. It is a language relating to Humanity and Society not persons in abstraction from their relation to each other in communities…”
Action and Agency are form-creators for Aristotle because they issue from a form of life which can build a world around itself. As a rational animal capable of discourse I go forth in a world of physical events such as a storm at sea. After throwing the cargo overboard I can but sit and wait for the consequences to play themselves out on this watery stage. As a rational animal capable of discourse I am of course a form of life that can act but one whose actions have consequences I cannot control. The sun was shining and the weather was fine when I embarked on this sea voyage. The possibility of a storm at sea was a piece of knowledge I had but it was not active at the time of the choice. I am now trapped in this situation and if I was an ancient Greek,the “action” of praying to the gods would follow the action of throwing the cargo overboard. Is it irrational to begin to pray or is prayer an assertion of agency as such when natural events play with our lives? For Aristotle, the world-creating forms occur in the media of change(space, time and matter) and they find their explanation in a theoretical matrix of 4 kinds of change three principles and 4 causes. The material and efficient causes of the storm are forms situated in the infinite continuum of the media of change: the forms of water(the high seas) the forms of air(high winds) the forms of fire( the lightning issuing from the heavens) and the wooden earth-like form of the ship being tossed about and being prepared to rest finally in peace on the earth at the bottom of the sea. In such a situation can we talk about praying in terms of rationality? Well, I had the knowledge that this fateful outcome was a possibility and did not use this knowledge. For Aristotle, this was a failure of deliberation and therefore of rationality. So all that is left of the definition of such a being is his animality expressed in his fear and apprehension and his attempt to communicate via prayer with the “agency” expressed in the storm. For those who found themselves in such situations and prayed and survived to tell their story, it might seem as if some divine agent had now a reason to save the souls on the ship. Aristotle would not have sanctioned such an explanation. He would have pointed to all those skeletons lying on the floor of the sea-bed, resting, who undoubtedly prayed and who lost their souls in storms at sea. Aristotle’s theory of action, agency, and powers would not permit the world of the human to become confused with the physical forms of the infinite continuum. That is one can rationally say that I should have considered the possibility of the ruin of my hopes in a storm at sea and ought not to have decided to board the ship but one cannot rationally say that the Storm ought not to have sunk the ship and extinguished the life of all the souls on board. For Aristotle, there is a categorical distinction to be observed here, a logical boundary that one only crosses on pain of the loss of one’s rationality. This does not necessarily mean that Aristotle would have thought that it was irrational to pray as the ship’s mast was broken by the tempestuous winds. Indeed he would have thought that we are active world creating forms and a structured form of discourse was, of course, preferable to quivering and weeping or rushing around like the ship’s dog howling at the wind. We are forms of life embedded in a world of physical forms and some forms of action are appropriate and some forms of behaviour not: or in other words, when we are dealing with free voluntary choices there are actions which ought to be chosen and actions which ought not to be chosen. The oughts here are rational and can be formulated in value-laden premises and conclusions with logical relations to each other, thus forming rational valid arguments for action. We are clearly exploring the foothills of ethics and morality or as Jonathan Lear so clearly put it in his work “Aristotle: the desire to understand”, we are exploring the “Mind in action”.
Lear believes that understanding Aristotle’s philosophical theories of Psychology are a necessary pre-requisite to understanding both his ethics and his politics. So the man on board the ship is acting and the ship’s dog is just behaving. Why the difference? The difference lies, Aristotle argues in our ability to think and create higher level desires which as a consequence creates a region of the soul which is rational and a region which is irrational. But we need to consider how the human higher form of desire is integrated with our knowledge if we are to fully understand the complexity of the human form of life. The desiring part of the human soul is the acting part because man is capable of acting rationally and behaving irrationally, i.e. he is capable of both reasoning that he ought not to drink water which might be poisoned, but he is also capable of drinking the same water. It is perhaps the existence of these parts of the soul which generates all those desires which we express in value laden ought statements. The dog’s soul is perhaps a seamless unity. Indeed one can wonder whether dogs have minds in the sense of a mental space in which Aristotelian deliberations can take place. Deliberations are rationally structured but are also value or desire laden:
“Aristotle’s theory of deliberation is a theory of the transmission of desire. The agent begins with a desire or wish for an object. The object of the wish appears to be a good for the agent. But the appearance helps to constitute the wish itself. So a wish is both a motivating force and a part of consciousness. That is, an agents awareness that he wishes for a certain end is itself a manifestation of that wish. The wish motivates the agent to engage in a process of deliberation whereby he considers how to obtain his desired goal. Aristotle describes deliberation as a process of reasoning backward from the desired goal through a series of steps which could best lead to that goal until the agent reaches an action which he or she is in a position to perform”(Jonathan Lear Aristotle:the desire to understand, p144)
This reference to consciousness is very modern and this of course is a term Aristotle never used: he preferred to use the term awareness instead and many modern commentators build a notion of reflexivity into this awareness, that is, they claim there is a self-awareness implied in Aristotle’s usage of this term. What this in turn implies is that there is a self that is aware of itself. Does this imply the presence of two selves? Not necessarily. There are in the actualising process of the human organism striving to be rational, earlier and later stages of development. There is no logical contradiction in the self at a later stage confronting in discourse oneself at an earlier stage during the process of moving from one stage to the other. But this is a different kind of deliberation to that involved in performing an action. The process of reasoning involved is characterised by Aristotle in the “Metaphysics” as follows:
“…health is the logos and knowledge in the soul. The healthy subject, then, is produced as the result of the following train of thought: since this is health, if the subject is to be healthy, this must first be present, e.g. a universal state of the body, and if this is to be present, there must be heat: and the physician goes on thinking thus until he brings the matter to a final step which he himself can take. Then the process from this point onward, i.e. the process towards health, is called a “making” “(Metaphysics VII, 7, 1032B5-10).
This process of reasoning is then compared by Aristotle to the reasoning one finds in the activity of geometers. In geometry, synthesis is the name of a process of construction by iteration of elements and construction of relations between elements: a straight line is thus synthesised or constructed by the placing of a second point at a distance from the first and the connecting of these two points by a straight line. The analysis of this straight line would then break the process down in a set of orderly steps until one arrives at the stage at which one begins the synthesis again. The analysis reverses the process. In the example of the doctor planning to act above the initial desired goal has been synthesised and the deliberation “analyses” or “deconstructs” the goal to that point at which the doctor/agent fetches some warm blankets from the cupboard to warm the patient. The forming of the desire to warm the patient is of course not deliberative reasoning it is more like the effect of Eros on the mind, more like a learning or succumbing process issuing from an attitude of mind of awe, love for the world or desire to understand the world. Of course, one is aware of this desire and to that extent one is certain about it in the same way as one is certain of any other manifestation in the consciousness of any mental event. It is the self-reflexive act of contemplating the desire which allows freedom into the Aristotelian process of deliberation. The agent decides whether and/or how to satisfy his desire and once this process is completed the desire to keep one’s patients healthy is transformed into a reason for acting. We are of course ignorant of the workings of this freedom to choose and to this extent we are ignorant of part of the essence of what it is to be human. Kant would later dub this region the region of noumenal being, the region of the noumenal self.
Reason, action and consequence are concepts in complex relations to each other. Insofar as in Aristotle forms constitute the world, the forms interacting in the matrix of space-time-material and causation must contribute to the creation or “forming” of this world. In a previous essay I pointed to the three different kinds of forms that constitute this world: the forms produced by and in relation to sexual reproduction, the forms produced by work of man in the building and construction of his artefacts, homes and cities, and the forms produced by teachers in the process of communicating knowledge. Reason, action and consequence are of course related to human activities insofar as they are knowledge driven. Such activities aim at the good they desire and analyse what is needed in order to bring about the changes in the world they desire. Such human agents have reasons for their actions in the same way as the archer has a reason for his action. The archer who hits the centre of the bulls-eye is like the geometer arriving a the point at which his whole reconstruction is to begin. We are in awe of his performance: the object of the action and the intention are in such cases in full almost divine congruence. The consequence is a logical consequence as is the recovery of the patient with the cold after the doctor restores the homeostasis of the body with the warm blankets. Many of our actions, however, do not achieve the desired result on the part of the agent but this is no reason to doubt the logical relation in thought between the object and the intention. Human desire is generated in a human body. The desire to understand or contemplation may be an activity that involves no bodily activity although it is difficult to even here to conceive of this activity taking place without correlative brain activity. It seems that only God the divine can think without a correlative underlying physical activity generating the thought. The mind-body problem obviously surfaces at this point in Aristotle’s philosophical psychology. Sir David Ross in his work on “Aristotle” defines Psychology in terms of its objective “to discover the nature and essence of the soul, and its attributes” So on this characterisation Psychology will cover plant and animal behaviour as well as human action. There is sufficient resemblance between the forms of life these different forms of soul lead to, to call soul “the principle” organising the nutritive and reproductive activity, perceptive and motor activity, reasoning activity respectively. We mentioned in a previous essay the relation between these form of soul. David Ross puts the matter thus:
“Geometrical figures may be arranged in an order beginning with the triangle and proceeding to more and more complex forms, each of which contains potentially all that precedes. So too, the forms of soul form a series with a definite order, such that each kind of soul presupposes all that come before it in this order, without being implied by them.”(Ross, “Aristotle”, p135)
The physical substrate or matter underlying the above is obviously a simple physical organisation of parts of a plant to a more complex organisation of the organ systems of different species of animals enabling them to “sense” their environment or alternatively reason about their environment. It is as important to know about this material substrate which is as inseparable from its mental aspect as the shape of the ax is inseparable from its function of “chopping”. The soul and the body for Aristotle are in the human inseparable aspects. Ross has this to say on this topic:
” Most mental phenomena are attended by some bodily affection….Mental phenomena, therefore, are “formulae involving matter. The true definition of them will omit neither their form or end(their rational causation) nor their matter(their physiological conditions”(Ross, p137)
The soul has its rational and irrational parts and also its various faculties which Ross explains in the following way:
“He is simply taking account of the fact that the soul does exhibit a variety of operations and that behind each of these intermittent operations we must suppose a permanent power of so operating. But these faculties do not exist like stones in a heap. They have a definite order, an order of worth, and a reverse order of development in the individual. Further, they have a characteristic which we may roughly call interpenetration. Thus, for instance , intellect and desire are distinct faculties, but the highest species of desire is of a kind which can only occur in beings which have intellect, and is itself intellectual. Choice or will may equally well be called desiring reason and reasoning desire, and in it the whole of man is involved.”(Ross, p139)
The language of potentiality and actuality is particularly important in the Psychology of Aristotle because of Aristotle’s insistence of categorical distinctions between the operations of the soul: Firstly,there are feeling operations and secondly operations which actualise the possession of capacities and thirdly operations which actualise the possession of dispositions. Dispositions are higher level capacities, they are rationally regulated capacities. The virtues are examples of dispositions and language is an example of a capacity. Reason is a faculty and its relation to the other faculties is regarded by many commentators as a mystery. With reason we approach the contemplative life of God, the divine life but this contemplative life does not appear to have any links with the body, according to Aristotle.
Philosophical Psychology also deals with Perception. Given what has been said previously about the nature of the physical body being defined by its system of organs we can draw the conclusion that the senses are obviously materially connected with organs. One of the accusations traditionally directed at Aristotle is that he confuses the purely physiological with the psychological. The physical eye of course is connected to the organ of the brain and Aristotle states that perception takes place in the head as a result of the eye taking on the sensible form of whatever it is perceiving. The eye somehow identifies itself with the brown and green colours of the tree and the shape of the tree and the outcome, probably involving the brain is an awareness of seeing the tree which in itself does not have to be brown and green and possess a shape of a tree. The language of actuality and potentiality are important here in order to establish the relation of the object to its perception. The tree, in its turn, has the potentiality to be seen , that is, has the potentiality as a second level and higher actuality to affect the faculty of sight(which would include the relation of the eye to the brain) in this way. It is not the tree that is present in the soul but its form.
A by-product of perception or the faculty of sight is the imagination or the faculty of the imagination rendered by the greek term phantasia. Ross characterises this faculty in the following manner:
“”Usually phantasia(which has the meaning of “to appear”) is describes as operating only after the sensible object has gone. The “movement of the soul through the body” which perception is sets up a repercussion both in the body and in the soul—though as regards the soul the effect, until recollection takes place, is potential, i.e. not a conscious state of mind but an unconscious modification of the mind. At some later time, owing, for instance to the suppression of sensation in sleep, the movement becomes actual:i.e. an image similar to but less lively than the sensation, and less trustworthy as a guide to objective fact, is formed and attended to: and this is the act of imagination”
Phantasia has two main functions, according to Ross. The first function is the pure formation of after images and the second function:
“Memory, Aristotle begins by emphasising the reference of memory to the past, and infers that it is a function of the faculty by which we perceive time, i.e. of the “Primary faculty of perception”, the sensus communis. Memory, he adds is impossible without an image. It is therefore a function of that part of the soul to which imagination belongs. But it is not the present image but the past event that is remembered: how can this be? Aristotle’s answer is that what is produced in the soul by perception is a sort of picture or impression of the percept, like the impression of a signet ring. Now in seeing a picture we may become aware of its original: and similarly it is possible, in becoming aware of an image, to be aware of it as the image of something, and of something past. When these two conditions are fulfilled we have not mere imagination but the more complex act called memory.
Freud obviously based his analysis of the condition of “shell shock”on the above theory. For Freud bringing something into consciousness via the process of recollection and persuading the patient to talk about the cause of the images recollected, in the therapeutic situation, suffices to turn the phantasy of the traumatic event into a memory which would fade over time. We should remember in this context that for Freud language was a secondary sensory surface related more to thought than to perception. For both Aristotle and Freud Thought was more reliably related to reality than imagination because it followed what Freud called the reality principle.
This is the final lecture in this series.
The lecturer is clearly a quantitatively based data driven lecture which is, however, trying to make ideological and ethical criticisms of existing global structures and processes.
Ocampo begins by noting that he is going to adopt a critical perspective of global structures and processes from the point of view of the opportunities and difficulties experienced by the developing world. There are, he claims two views of global economic development. Firstly there is the claim of David Ricardo who views the International Economy as an entity in which all participants are equal partners. Secondly there is the alternative view which Ocampo appears to argue for, in which the International Economy is a system in which unequal participants relate to each other on unequal terms.
Ocampo then produces an overhead highlighting three critical issues:
“* Uneven liberalisation of markets
* Uneven distribution of benefits
* Global institutions lag behind Global Markets”
He then supplements the information on the overhead relating to the uneven liberalisation of the markets by pointing out firstly that industrialised countries have an enormous advantage in the system because they have developed institutions which can mange what he calls “the down sides of markets”. He notes that there are three critical issues relating to the institutions of the International Economic system:
“* An incomplete and biased agenda
* An incomplete set of institutions
* Asymmetry between the agenda and the instruments for actions
* Unsettled relation between globalisation and the nation state
* Developing countries have limited voice and limited participation”
Ocampo having argued for the first two points earlier in relation to the third point mentioned above points out that the UN millennium goals clearly had an agenda but the instruments of action to achieve these goals were lacking. In relation to the fourth point concerning globalisation and the nation state he provides a detailed overhead of what he regards as the three different stages if globalisation: The first stage between 1870 and 1913, the second between 1945 and 1973, and the third between 1974 and the present time(2007). The missing years are the war years in which he argued all global activity ceased. He notes that in the current period for example there are high levels of capital mobility and a growing volume of labour mobility and trade and that there is growing interdependence of national institutions. The major problem he notes is that the development of international institutions is lagging behind what the International economy requires. As a consequence he disagrees with the previous speaker and argues that there is continuing divergence between the economic growth of industrialised and developing countries especially in those developing countries outside of Asia which is part of a trend of longer term increase in International Inequality. He does, however note a statistic that might be a counterargument against his position:
“Between 2004 and 2007 there was for the first time a faster rate of growth in the developing countries than in the developed countries. Is this a trend?We do not yet know, for example if the economies of China and India can function as locomotives and pull the growth of the world economy forward. According to a recent UN University study, 88% of the world lives in countries where inequality is increasing”
Ocampo points out in relation to this research that the amount of social spending on health, education and social protection is highly correlated with the level of income of the country concerned.
Ocampo then shows an overhead relating to three inequalities. In the quote below is both the information contained on the overhead plus the verbal commentary on it:
“Inequalities of Global order: Three asymmetries.
1. financial and macroeconomic: The available finance in the International Economic system flows from the industrialised countries and this is what constitutes the international currencies we trade in, the dollar, pound,yen etc. This in its turn produces market segmentation , i.e. a market of good and bad borrowers in which the developing countries are regarded as risky borrowers who as a consequence have to pay more for the money they borrow. This cost prevents them from being able to manage the cyclical downturns in the market(flow of capital followed by dry weather). This is a characteristic feature of the third wave of globalisation and is a cause of the divergence of economies
2.Technological and Productive inequalities: Only a few countries generate new technologies and they are very protective of their discoveries. This prevents a smooth process of distribution: diffusion is a very slow process
3. Limited labour mobility. There is discrimination in the system against unskilled labour mobility and an asymmetrical flow of labour toward the industrialised countries
Ocampo elaborates upon point one by pointing out that there are no instruments to counter financial swings in the market insofar as the non OECD countries are concerned and while the expectation is that water and funds should trickle downward, it looks very much as if the developing countries are funding the industrialised countries.
This in turn connects to point two above. With these funds the industrialised countries can make their agricultural and manufactured products more competitive which results in faster growth
In relation to point three Ocampo claims that migration, with the exception of Western Europe, is in fact more limited in the third stage of globalisation than it was in the first stage.
Ocampo then shows an overhead entitled “Three Basic Objectives of International Cooperation”:
“* Interdependence, guaranteeing an adequate supply of global public goods
* Equality of Nations which would help overcome the asymmetries in the world
* Equality of citizens which would be based on a world system of Human Rights,
i.e. global citizenship
In relation to point one and point two on the overhead the lecturer points out that nations are a part of a hierarchical system which by its nature generates unequal opportunities for some participants.
In relation to point three the lecturer asks the question: How do we build an international system of rights and he answers at the institutional level rather than the individual citizen or nation level.He posts an overhead entitled “Improved Governance Structures”:
“* Should be based on a network of world, regional and national institutions forming a dense network of systems
* Whilst retaining a “policy-space” for individual nations where diversity is respected
* Developing countries must participate on equal terms”
The level of the individual is perhaps incorporated in the political and educational institutions that he participates in but what is missing in the above account is the language of individual action in the description of institutions which have been formed by human beings for human beings. There is an underlying complaint in the lecture which refers back to the level of unjust action which would have produced a more nuanced discussion.
There is paradoxically a theoretical bias in this discussion, as there is in economics generally: a bias which works on the assumption that there is a constant or uniform state of the system which all actions of the system attempt to create or maintain. The interesting question to ask is what is the best concept which we should use to describe this system. Is it the concept of the system of the healthy body of Aristotle in which there is an energy regulation system striving to maintain a uniform/constant state of the body giving it a healthy glow and allowing it to lead a healthy life. Or is the system best described in psychological or subject like terms in which the actions will be striving not just to achieve something uniform and constant but rather something better, something desired, something excellent(areté), something which will be good and just for the generations of the future.
The theoretical view of economics quite often uses a hybrid concept of body and mind and mixes these fundamental categories in a theory of the so called enlightened self interested subject whose choices would be enlightened from all points of view.
In the arena of philosophical practical reasoning the key concept is that of action which has two Aristotelian aspects , that of deliberation before the process of acting, and the process of “production of the action” after the deliberation process is over. These two aspects cover two regions of reasoning or “science” for Aristotle , neither of which are what he would term “theoretical reasoning” which is defined as the transmission of knowledge via a series of premises. The two forms of reasoning involved in the two aspects of action which Aristotle discusses involve a transmission of human desire to a final premise which describes an action which ought to be immediately taken, or an object of pleasure. Ocampo is arguing for such a premise relating to an action which presupposes a transmission of desire after a process of deliberation by a network of international institutions(in the name of equality) without the requisite premises, i.e. without the presence of premises of the requisite logical form. In other words Ocampo is attempting to argue for an ought value laden premise conclusion without any major premise containing an ought value-laden statement, thus committing the naturalistic fallacy. Also amongst the is-premises there ought to be recognition of the appropriate categories under which to categorise his theoretical notion of a system. The prevailing category is that of equality: but equality in a physical system where each part or participant in the system should receive equal benefits and opportunities. If , for example, the category assumed is that of a physical system like a living body, Aristotle of course believes that equal treatment of participants should prevail unless there are significant differences between the recipients of benefits. If trying to maintain a uniform or constant state of ones body required distribution of oxygen,nutrition and antibodies to ones organs the function of the organ will determine how much oxygen nutrition and immunising antibodies should be received. It would for example be absurd to claim that every organ in the body should benefit equally: the benefit any particular organ receives will probably be in proportion to the work it performs in the body. The principle of distribution then is related to the contribution to the whole which the particular organ or participant in the system makes, i.e the equality principle does not apply. So this cannot be the type of system that Ocampo has in mind. What he appears to have in mind sometimes is that the larger industrialised countries are the beneficiaries of the work and financing of the non industrialised countries. But is this true? The evidence for this thesis is not presented. There are implied complaints about industrialised countries preventing the free flow of technology but there is no recognition of the work and effort which resulted in the technological innovation. In what Ocampo refers to as “this hierarchical system” this work is, according to Aristotle the significant difference which justifies the fact that a larger proportion of benefits should accrue to the workers behind this work. It might be in fact that in an Aristotelian economic system, work is the value which is being measured. Hannah Arendt argued for a threefold distinction to be observed in this arena of discussion: labour, work and action. Ocampo talks much about labour but not of work or of action,areas of activity which are more complex than labour. If it is these two latter categories, work and action, that are the real generators of value in our society then it is not helpful to construct economic systems based on the value of equality which at best measure the value of labour. The issue of the rights of non industrialised nations presuppose the responsibility of the industrialised nations to assist in the process of the development of non industrialised countries. This issue or rights can only be discussed in relation to the ethical ideas of justice which relate to action. Ocampa wishes for a system of institutions to work and to act in the interests of the non industrialised actors but there is no coherent model for the justification of this work and action coming from the field of economic theory. There is more than an echo here of an old complaint from Socrates who pointed out that doing what is just and understanding what is just requires knowledge.
The Deep Forces of Globalisation
This is a very important lecture and its form and content appear to depart from that which we have experienced so far in this lecture series. There are statistics and interpretations aplenty making this the most data driven lecture thus far. There are however, conceptual and ethical confusions
Sachs begins with a historical observation that the modern era began 200 years ago which given the date of this lecture series in 2007 is around the time of Napoleon just after he entered Königsberg, the home city of Kant who had died one year earlier in 1804. Sachs then wishes to divide this era into two. The first 150 years and the last 50 years. In the first 150 years he argues that the Industrial revolution was the expression of what he called the force of divergence which began to occur in the world between those North Atlantic countries who embraced and drove the industrial revolution for all it was worth and those countries in the world who experienced this revolution through contact with the industrialisers or colonisers and the goods produced by a technological advantage they did not possess. This process of divergence between the industrialisers and those countries affected, opened up a gap between rich and poor which was very quickly experienced as a gaping wound.
In the second period of this 200 hundred year span–the last 50 years–this deep process of globalisation has fundamentally changed its nature from divergence to convergence. Sachs says the following:
“I believe in the last 50 years that process has fundamentally changed to a process of convergence rather than divergence and the mechanisms that triggered this unprecedented period of economic, military and geo-political development before are now a worldwide process. So that China, India, South East Asia, Brazil and Africa can also now experience the advantages of rapid development.”
Technology, Sachs argues, is the key. The developing countries need to find ways and means to adopt the technologies that the developed countries have in their possession. Once this can be done on a large enough scale the gap between the rich and the poor parts of the world will narrow. This prediction from the year 2007 we now in the year 2018 know to be true. Hans Rosling in various lectures and works, e.g. “Factability” have clearly demonstrated this thesis to be fact. Sachs points to the most dramatic example of this development:
“The most dramatic aspect of this is the rise of China principally because of its population of 1.3 billion people. The growth rate per capita is rising at ca 8-10% making the doubling time between 7-9 years. The doubling time for growth in the developed countries is much much slower, somewhere in the region of 35 years.”
This is the argument for the fact that the deep force of divergence has now transformed into a process of convergence which Sachs regards as the first driver of globalisation. The second driver is population increase which as Rosling has pointed out has slowed significantly. Sachs, however is still very concerned with the fact that in spite of this good news we are still adding ca 85 million per year to the total population of the world–a country the size of Germany is being added every year to the population of mostly poor countries. Put this in the context of:
” a world of open borders, mass economies and mass migration”
and, he claims the possible consequences are disturbing. Sachs points to the statistical facts. In 1830 the world population was one billion. by 1930 it was 2 billion. The current projection is that the 9 billion mark will be reached in 2050. Even if we can slow the momentum of this explosion down, Sachs argues the large number of young people in the world will still mean ca 8 billion people in the world by 2050, making the world a very crowded place. For 80% of the world involved in the process of convergence and catching up, this will be a less serious development but for the remaining poor 20% the consequences of strained resources will be felt more acutely. Natural resources are going to be used on a scale never seen before and apart from the natural consequences of shortages of land, water, fossil fuels, available animals to hunt available fish to catch there will be a significant effect on the climate of the planet. Current estimates, Sachs argues are that the predicted level of the use of resources will as he puts it:
“wreck the planet by the end of the century, if not sooner”
of course on the way to doing that will entail witnessing a number of natural disasters. Carbon based emission must be radically reduced he argues.This is the third driver of Globalisation–Ecosystem pressure.
Sachs then elaborates upon this point by referring to the work of Paul Crutzen,the winner of the Nobel prize in chemistry for his discovery of the problems with the ozone layer. Crutzen believes that we are now situated in a new geological era, what he calls the Anthropicine Age. That is he believes that the driver of the earths fate is no longer a non anthropomorphic factor such as the orbit of the world in relation to the sun(the factor that caused the last ice age) but is rather a factor related to mans activity here on earth. The climate threat is man made, a result of human activity on the planet. Climate change is only one consequence of ecosystem pressure.
The fourth and last driver of globalisation is Failed states although I am not sure that it is semantically correct to name this variable a “driver”. In relation to this point Sachs claims that he is an optimist in relation to Technological innovation. He refers to diffusion processes in the world which improve the human condition and claims that both ideas and technology spread rapidly everywhere in the world. This means that even if technology and ideas are generated in the wealthy states these can relatively easily be distributed to the poor states. But it is important to realise that there are regions of the world that are not part of this diffusion process:- the so called failed states. States can fail not just for political reasons but also because they are so poor, i.e. possess very few resources. There have always been failed states throughout our long modern history but in a globalised world the consequences of their presence are felt today as never before. To take just one example..the attack on the twin towers by terrorists working for an organisation based in Kabul, Afghanistan surprised everybody. Who would have thought that a city so far away in such a remote corner of the world would be able to orchestrate such an attack with such devastating world-wide consequences:
“There is no place on earth that is too far away to care about, and this is true in a political sense, and a public health sense. Diseases like Aids started in jungle in West Africa with a chimpanzee hunter. This disease has now killed 40 million people and is responsible for several million deaths per year. In a way one event was a premonition of what was to come–the gunshot in Sarajevo which caused one of the worst wars in history.”
So in summary Sachs produces an overhead listing the 4 deep drivers of the globalisation process:
“1. The end of North Atlantic Hegemony
2. Demographic change
3. Ecosystem pressure
4. Failed States”
Sachs calls these 4 items “phenomena” and he clearly thinks of them as causal agents which can be politically mediated on the condition that we can agree on international political action, given the fact that all of these causal agents are operating across the current borders of our political systems. Sachs recognizes a logical problem here. Our current political institutions are confined to particular countries, with the exception of the UN,Nato, and the EU
which have been formed in recognition of the logical problem Sachs refers to. He does not however refer to these kinds of organisations but has this to say:
“The political decisions we need to take are more global than ever. We need global decision making–we are not good at this. Most of the above issues cannot be solved at national level. The most preposterous site we can witness is that of the US trying to act and decide on these issues unilaterally. This is 19th century thinking which we can clearly see did not work in the 20th century. George Bush may have been a good Sheriff in Texas in 1840.
What is somewhat perplexing is that Sachs does not mention the UN in relation to this demand. Is he, one wonders, a “member of the great platoon of the walking wounded” who believe that the UN inspired by the vision of Kant has had sufficient time to solve the problems of the universe and has significantly failed in its declared missions? Kants response to this would probably be to warn us of raising expectations too high when the problems to solve are so complex.
Sachs then produces an overhead which differs somewhat to his remarks in the introduction. He seems now to wish to talk about the forces of divergence and convergence in relation to a longer time span:
“Forces of Divergence 1750-1950
Concentration of technological capacity, resource endowment. Political conquest
Forces of Convergence 1950-2050
Diffusion of technological capacities”
Sachs also amends his N Atlantic thesis by recognizing Japan as a counterexample. Divergence between 1750 and 1950 does not he now argues include Japan on the side of the industrialised but rather on the side of the industrialisers.
Sachs notes in this context that the Industrial Revolution driven by the technological innovation of the steam engine powered with coal began around the 1750’s in England. This spread rapidly to N Atlantic countries and gave its possessors a military advantage over those who did not possess this concentration of technological capacity and endowment of natural resources. A wave of colonial occupation swept over the Indian Ocean and the margins of Africa. This military occupation served to widen the gap between those that possessed these technological and military capacities and those that did not. Being subject to colonial rule made it almost impossible to develop ones industry:
“The Colonial system of every power was designed to hinder this process of development. It was designed to extract raw materials from the home country. Educational development was also not encouraged.”
Sachs also mentions in this section the presence of a racist ideology amongst the colonial powers and challenges the position of Niall Ferguson in relation to his claim that the “The British Empire modernised the world”:
“It would have been better if England had stayed put and become just a trading partner.”
Sachs is not a friend of Europe, the home of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle,Newton, Darwin, Kant and Wittgenstein. He recognises that Economic development relies on ideas even more than it does on coal, which was phased out when the internal combustion engine and oil proved more efficient. Ideas were spreading rapidly over the world when , as he rather starkly puts it, Europe went into a process of self annihilation with two world wars in a relatively short period of time. The Great Depression followed the first world war putting an end to Imperialism. Sachs does not mention that the second world war was fought over the issues of racism and freedom or that the United Nations was formed shortly afterwards. It seems that by ideas he means “economic ideas” and he does not appear to see History as Kant did in terms of a progression in the understanding of the political significance of knowledge and freedom. He does not either appear to see History in terms of the development of the democratic form of the rule of law and ethical behaviour. A rule which also involve ideas but of a kind which would subject his “drivers of globalisation” to a philosophical and ethical analysis that would place them side by side with other “influences”. Influences which seen from a philosophical point of view would provide solutions to the logical problem of the decisions that need to be taken if we are to survive the consequences of the spread of economic ideas and destructive technology( such as the invention of the weapons of mass destruction). In the realm of ideas worthy if being distributed the Europeans are not proud of their history of colonisation and recognise that the phenomenon occurred because economic ideas took precedence over the Philosophy of humanistic liberalism which was evolving. Ideas connected to living a life in accordance with this Philosophy are the contributions Europe can make to the world. In this Philosophy the factor of acting so as to actualise the fulfilment of unnecessary desires which economic development encourages is the telos of European development. There is no mention of these “constructivist” “influences” in Sachs’ account.
Sachs moves to 1950 and discusses Japan, claiming that they practically invented the art of imitating and “catching up”via processes such as “reverse engineering” in which one begins with a product and reconstructs all the processes that must have been involved in its production. This latter process combined with a desire to make ones product just that little bit better ensured that Japan in some areas of technology and business have “leap-frogged” over the leaders and become a world leader in technology and innovation themselves. Sachs does not mention that in the realm of the development of Philosophy or Democratic ideas or life-styles the Japanese will remain a footnote to the texts of the world history of ideas.
Sachs points out that Japan becomes the focus of Chinese attention in 1978. Japan in their eyes is the economic example to imitate. With the emergence of China, it is argued , there is not such a gap between the technological leaders and followers anymore:
“The diffusion of good ideas is so fast that even if the US were the leader of all innovation in the world, these innovations would still spread rather quickly to the rest of the world.”
If this is correct then what we are witnessing is the waning of the American empire of science pragmatism and technology simply in virtue of the fact that several other powers in these fields are emerging to share the limelight.
Sachs elaborates on Demographics by pointing out that two thirds of the world population has lived in Asia for the past two thousand years. . He notes that with the arrival of the industrial revolution in Europe and the US that Asia’s share of the world’s wealth fell from 60-20%.We are also, he argues beginning to experience the consequences now:
“At a recent Africa economic conference Europe was courting Africa but was surprised to find China also competing for economic influence in the region. The trends are reversing:
“in 2050 Asia will possess more than 50% of the worlds population and Africa will move up from its current 13% to 20%. At the moment the USA economy is roughly twice the size of the Chinese economy and China has 4 times the population. But by 2025 the Chinese economy should be the largest in the world. By 2050 the Indian economy will be larger than the US economy and there should be a population of 1.6 billion people in India. AlreadY today the country is crowded. The countryside feels crowded.”
ThE above trends are the result of life styles. the rich have few children and invest heavily in each child. The poor have ca 6 children because 2 will probably die before adulthood and there is a tradition of not investing so much time and energy in each child. Children growing up in poor families are normally undernourished and under-educated.
Sachs points also to the demographics of Europe as part of illustrating how power shifted from East to West during the middle ages with the tremendous growth of population in Europe and the stagnation of the growth of population in the Islamic countries. Superior political and legal institutions also played some role in this shift. The industrial revolution in Europe during the 19th century ensured that Europe had superior military capability. But now, Sachs points out, the Islamic population is reaching parity with Europe and by 2050 it will outnumber Europe:
“is on the way”
He also points out that there is a greater number of fighting young males in the Middle East compared to Europe and further:
“in a global world the structure of our internal populations will change to reflect external structures..The US is becoming more like the rest of the world ethnically. By 2050 50% of the population will be non white(where nonwhite includes the Hispanics) The same thing could end up being true in Europe because the Muslims living in Europe have high fertility rates. By 2050 Muslims could be between one fifth and one quarter of the population overall but could be between 40-50 % in the cities.”
Finally Sachs takes up possible factors which prove the above predictions to be false. That is growth could be slowed down for the following reasons:
“War, economic global collapse and large scale ecological damage. If one of these “inhibitors” swing into operation then he argues:
“current trends are terribly dangerous”
Yet Sachs points out there is no need to be pessimistic about the future because the solutions to the problems are, economically speaking not that expensive. He argues that it would cost about 2 and a half percent of world GDP to solve the failed states problem and probably only 1% of world GDP to solve the problem of climate change. War is not currently a problem in the rest of the world but it is in the failed states.
The logical problem remains however. We could help economically but there is no agency, it is claimed that can make decisions and organise such solutions effectively. he asks the obvious question:
“Once the technical analysis is done how can we collectively decide what to do? Collective choice involves business, society, government, international organisations and treaties but there is no conductor of this orchestra. The US does not want to lead this process. We need to find a means of collective decision making. We need a new kind of global organisation. The IPCC(an international group of scientists)were given the Nobel Prize for their work on climate change. Perhaps it is in collectives like these that we can find the answer.”
Or the answer may lie closer to hand, in the UN which is already orchestrating much work and effort into many areas of international need. It is after all the organ of peace in the world.
Science has not got the greatest of records for its contributions to the causes of peace. It was after all a similar collective that worked together on the Manhattan project and provided the world the means by which it could destroy itself if it decided to do so. I do not know whether this was on Sachs’ mind when he chose the speech of John Kennedy to close his lecture. The speech below was given shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis where the world stared into the abyss for a few brief moments as the advisors of Kennedy suggested he launch the missiles that came from the collective effort of the scientists of the Manhattan project:
A Presidential speech by a real President on Peace in the World
John Kennedy 10th June 1963
“We need to examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But this is a dangerous defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that War is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man made and they therefore can be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.
Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable. I am not here referring to the absolute and universal concept of peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the values of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our immediate goal. Let us focus instead on a more practical more attainable goal—based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution of human institutions in a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single simple key to his peace—no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic not static, changing to meet the needs of each new generation. For peace is a process, a way of solving problems. So let us not be blind to our differences but let us also direct our attention to our common interests and the means by which these differences can be resolved, and if we now can not end our differences at least we can make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures and we are all mortal.”
A brilliant speech with many Aristotelian and Kantian moments but also containing wonderful moments of American pragmatism where one pretends to forget where all our ideas and key democratic institutions came from.
“GENUINE PEACE MUST BE THE PRODUCT OF MANY NATIONS, THE SUM OF MANY ACTS”
What better definition of structure and purpose of the United Nations could there be!
A Presidential speech by a real President on Peace in the World
John Kennedy 10th June 1963
“We need to examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But this is a dangerous defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that War is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man made and they therefore can be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.
Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable. I am not here referring to the absolute and universal concept of peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the values of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our immediate goal. Let us focus instead on a more practical more attainable goal—based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution of human institutions in a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single simple key to his peace—no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic not static, changing to meet the needs of each new generation. For peace is a process, a way of solving problems. So let us not be blind to our differences but let us also direct our attention to our common interests and the means by which these differences can be resolved, and if we now can not end our differences at least we can make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures and we are all mortal.”
Human Rights and Institutions—-Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson, the ex-President of Ireland, sets herself the task in this lecture of placing human rights in the political coordinate system provided by Lisa Anderson in her previous lectures:
“Where do Human Rights fit on the map of political theory: Realism, Liberalism, Idealism and Constructivism. Well, Human Rights is certainly not a tenet of Realism. For them, the world is dominated and determined by material forces. Liberalism emphasises the advantages of Human Rights in International cooperation. But Human Rights is most often placed in the constructivist camp. Constructivists assert that world peace and stability will only arise from a consensus around shared norms and values. Human Rights are pointed to as proof of the existence of the emergence of a world culture.”
The placing of Idealism in the above quote is ambiguous. Is it meant as a new category, since it was not mentioned by Andersson in her earlier lectures, or is it meant as a kind of qualification of the Constructivist position?Constructivism has been historically discussed in many contexts: it has been asserted as a learning theory in which information is “constructed”: it has also been asserted as an educational theory in which the focus is taken away from the teacher and placed on the constructing mind of the pupil: lastly it has also been claimed to be a literary theory in which interpretations of a text are “constructed”. Given the fact that there is no further mention of this “new category” of “Idealism” as a new coordinate on the political map we assume that what Robinson may be referring to is none of the above forms of constructivism but rather the new research by Christine Korsgaard on Ethical Constructivism in relation to Kant’s moral philosophy which has often been characterised as idealistic in spite of the fact that there are many realist claims contained in his moral theory. The following quote is taken from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
“For instance, Christine Korsgaard characterizes Kantian constructivism as a form of “procedural realism” – the view that “there are answers to moral questions because there are correct procedures for arriving at them”; and she contrasts procedural realism with “substantive realism” – the view that
there are correct procedures for answering moral questions because there are moral truths or facts, which exist independently of those procedures, and which those procedures track. (Korsgaard 1996a: 36–37, see also Korsgaard 1983: 183)”
We have not encountered very much of Kant’s thinking so far in this lecture series and we must examine the extent to which this lecture will bring Kant’s ethical and political Philosophy into this debate. The above makes the interesting point which we have referred to earlier, namely that ethical and political thinking is “objective”. Perusing the above account we would question the statement that it is moral facts which lay at the foundation of the so called correct procedures for answering moral questions but we would agree to the term “moral truths”. The only qualification we would make to this claim is that these moral truths must be inserted in an ought system of concepts matrix in which the major premise is always a true ought statement
In the above quote by Mary Robinson there is reference to the “emergence of a world culture” which fits neatly into the Kantian ethical framework of a kingdom of ends which is distinctly cosmopolitan. There is, however, in Robinson no acknowledgment that the concept of Human individual rights probably were grounded and founded in Kant’s moral and political writings. On her account Human Rights are a relatively recent phenomenon, which can be dated back to the post second world war era. There is no recognition of the fact that the institution of the UN was actually suggested in the 1790’s as a response to the extreme nationalistic behaviour of the states of his time. Put this together with the Kantian suggestion of a world cosmopolitan culture which in its turn is a consequence of his law-based moral theory and we can then defend the claim above that “individual human rights were grounded and founded upon Kants moral and political writings”. Some commentators have incorrectly interpreted these writings as suggesting a world government but this was specifically ruled out by Kant who claimed that such a government would eventually become a tyranny. Kant’s theories have often been embraced by humanistic liberals wishing to champion the dignity of man. Robinson refers to such a world creating value in the quote below:
“The world came together out of respect for the dignity of each human being. All human beings are born free and dignified with rights. Human Rights are also the foundation stone for national and international peace.”
The dignity of each human being is, as we will recall, a central concern of Kant’s moral theory and this idea is also involved in Kant’s almost Aristotelian account of the telos of moral theory which is to treat individual men as ends in themselves in the cause of the “construction” of the kingdom of ends. One of Kant’s essays in political philosophy is entitled “Perpetual Peace” and it too links this view of human nature with his moral and political theories whilst simultaneously arguing that Peace is the necessary condition for achieving the environment necessary to establish the free exercise of responsibilities in a kingdom of ends.
Robinson continues to outline her position in the following way:
“One position maintains that a world without human rights is a world in which two world wars could occur, a holocaust, the dropping of two atomic bombs and a cold war. It was after such a failure that the liberal and constructivist theories became more important.”
She is referring here to what Hannah Arendt in her work “The Origins of Totalitarianism” described as “the terrible events of this terrible century” but no mention is made of the specific impact of realist political thinking which dominated international relations from the time of the Treaty of Westphalia. The arena of International Relations where combatants came to fight and survive was a realist “construction”. It was a Hobbesian state of nature where all were at war with all. Aristotelian Philosophy had lost its influence and standing in the world, was temporarily restored during the Enlightenment only to fade away again in the face of the onslaught of realism in the guise of science on its combat mission against Religion. Liberalism has taken many forms over the centuries. The closer we move to our own time the more the humanistic liberal and constructivist positions seem to merge, still beleaguered, however, by the realists on their various combat missions(terrorism is the latest object of their aggression) A certain commitment to if not Cosmopolitanism, internationalism emerged from the terror of the last century only to be submerged in the cold waters of the cold war. Two Hobbesian superpowers emerge with arsenals of weapons of mass destruction and the world became polarised and terrorised as it had never been before. Even human rights became polarised with the East bloc claiming that economic/social and cultural rights were more important to them than the Western ideals of civil and political rights. Robinson has this to say on the issue:
“The Eastern bloc countries claimed that they would first have to build their economies and ensure health and education before they could participate in Western civil and political rights. This split in opinion and ideology split human rights right down the middle.”
After having read Henry Kissinger’s work on “Diplomacy” one can just imagine the negotiations between the blocs over this issue especially after Kissinger insisted that Human Rights should be an essential element of every discussion between the two blocs. One can imagine Kissinger negotiating with the Soviet Union over its treatment of political dissidents in the Gulags. On Kissinger’s mind was probably the fact that the Soviet Union was a totalitarian regime with the blood of millions of its own citizens on its hands. One can also imagine the Soviet union harassing the USA with its record with respect to slavery. Robinson refers to this issue below:
“There is a reason why the US resisted the idea that economic, social and cultural rights were rights which stemmed perhaps from the reluctance of the US Constitution to give slaves economic social and civil rights.”
Robinson introduces this discussion to prove that in the halls of power human rights were the subject of tough negotiations in spite of the fact that outside the halls of power(in the ivory towers of the Universities?)human rights are largely regarded as “soft power”.
It would not, for example, be unusual to hear from the realists in the world of corporations and business that:
“For the realists, international law without the means to reinforce it does not matter on the world stage. In fact reliance upon international law is dangerous and naive in an anarchaic international system of states. For them a states uttermost priority is survival.”
Robinson then asks how we should respond to this state of affairs but before we quote these responses let us discuss that the Neo-Kantian Constructivist believes that the ICJ is a rational organisation whose task it is to both inspire the world with international ideas of justice and enforce these ideas in contexts of due process and sound juridicial judgments. The constructivists, that is believe in the Aristotelian definition of humans as rational animals capable of discourse and because of this fact their actions and thought far transcend the need for survival or the Hobbesian need for commodious living. Constructivists, that is, believe more in the Kantian ethical and religious summum bonum of a good life for human beings.
Robinson then provides a number of defences for the value of International law:
“Almost all nations observe almost all the principles of International Law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time. This is the practical reality. Many of the core concepts of International relations such as sovereignty, non intervention, immunity, were developed through inter state relations and then codified into International Law. International law is the normative system of the world and the standard currency of International Relations. Much of the talk of leaders today about democracy building would be impossible without international law.”
All of the above are, of course practical implications of the Kantian Cosmopolitan ideas of freedom and responsibility(duty). The above points are also an argument for the actual existence of International law and she further claims in the same spirit that a multiplicity of actors have created with their combined and integrated actions a situation in which Human Rights are as she puts it:
“the minimum condition that should be met in the process of globalisation”
However, such a multiplicity of actors, argues Robinson, creates uncertainty concerning who exactly carries the ultimate responsibility for International Law. This is a strange objection because if one is a Neo-Kantian institutions such as International courts of justice and the United Nations are Principle-based institutions. Robinson continues with a quote of Kofi Annan on the shortcomings of International Law which, he argues has :
“Too often it is applied selectively and enforced arbitrarily.”
However, Robinson argues, International Law is a young still maturing system. She notes also what everyone easily forgets, namely that at the millennium shift
273 new treaty signings took place in relation to many different spheres of interest. That is the end goal of a more secure and peaceful world appears to have somewhat closer to fulfilment. Robinson points that the war on terrorism has been a negative factor in the arena of respect for human rights. She rightly criticises the practice of torturing prisoners. Involved in this war is the opening up of ideological and religious differences between large groups of people.
“What we are witnessing is a huge demonstration of soft power”
Do International Institutions Matter?”
Dag Hammarskjöld: “The UN was not created in order to bring us heaven but in order to save us from hell.”
Edward Luck argues that the 30 years war and the resulting Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 laid the foundation for the modern system of states, a system based on the principles of sovereignty and non intervention(in accordance with Just War Theory):
He continues as follows:
“This state of affairs worked for a while. At the beginning of the nineteenth century a series of International Organisations were created by the Council of Europe. Thirty broad based International Organisations dealing with various functional issues were created. Dozens of International Organisations for preventing disease were created. As a result of the Hague Conference there was a trade interdependence that was more extensive than that we have today. The theory was that countries would be tied together by these International Organisations in order to prevent them going to war with each other”
Two World wars and a Cold War during the twentieth century, Luck argues, put an end to this state of . After the first world war there were increased attempts to increase the number of International Organisations amongst them the League of Nations but this did not prevent the second world war following very quickly. Many of these Organisations were functioning inefficiently and in need of coordination. Thus, according to Luck was the UN born, in an environment of expectation and confusion. With the advent of the Cold War and into the 1990’s we witnessed many resolutions related to peace keeping missions were passed:
“during the war with Iraq the Secretary General claimed that the UN was being made irrelevant and redundant. The production of Resolutions and Presidential statements have steadily increased from 1988 with 20 resolutions and 8 statements to 2006 when there were 87 resolutions and 59 statements. The number of meetings and consultations increased dramatically. The UN is working 7 days per week 365 days per year. Is this a good thing? There are 19 ongoing peace operations and 40 peace mediations. If we include Nato and other International Organisations, there are 200,000 peace keepers currently deployed on peace keeping missions.”
Luck then asks the question whether the Security Council of the UN has failed: whether the principle of non intervention is a failed doctrine. The Realists, Luck claims, are ready to draw the conclusion that International Organisations have now proved that they do not work and therefore do not matter in spite of the enormous amount of activity they generate.. Luck then counter-argues the Realist with the following statistics:
“The number of wars between states are down strikingly since the end of the cold war. The number of wars within states are also strikingly down. The number of war casualties are down. The number of refugees are significantly down. The number of internally displaced peoples are down. Economic trends suggest that growth rtes are going up in the developing countries. Infant mortality is down and life expectancy is up. The number of people in poverty is down considerably.”
Luck asks whether the UN is equipped to deal with the large range of issues that demand its attention and he also points out that not all states comply with UN resolutions. He notes with skepticism the complex bureaucratic structure of the UN and the presence of 28 sub committees but does not in this context refer to the results of the work of these committees. Indeed he poses the question whether whether these sub committees are an intended distraction from the issue of the lack of influence of the Security Council.
Luck then notes that a number of the articles of the UN Charter challenge a states sovereignty :
“I have always assumed that states were initially framed for the protection of people. This function obviously alters over time. The UN is clearly violating sovereignty yet there are few complaints about this. Why? Some commentators refer to the sovereignty gap–the gap between what the citizens of a state require and what the state is able to provide for its citizens under its own steam. If this is true then other states and international organisations are needed. Environmental issues require inter.state-cooperation as does disease, trafficking, finance, commerce and security. So it is not a question merely of whether sovereignty is going to be overriden but where and by how much. From this perspective International Organisations are not the enemy of sovereignty but its guarantor. The Secretary General claims that strong independent states are important since weak and failing states are the source of many problems.”
Luck discusses the issue of the conditions for just UN interventions and draws the conclusion:
“the direction is very clear.The hands of the powerful are being tied. The powerful are being woven into a network of laws and institutions.”
This final image of being trapped in a spiders web makes it clear that there is little trust for this Kantian institution of the UN.
Kant in his work “Universal History” proposes in his 9 propositions a philosophical psychology and picture of human nature which provides us with a picture of political man that may perhaps explain to some degree this hostility. Kant’s intention is also to explain the more vicious kind of hostility that lies behind acts of war, He claims firstly that much good is achieved by the antagonism which arises when men encounter each other in the world of tasks to be done: this, he claims is a world in which there are disagreements. The consequences of such antagonism are often good he argues. He goes so far as to say that even the consequences of war which are not to be wished for might produce in their wake a redrawing of the boundaries of states which are for the benefit of all concerned. He claims secondly that man is a being who needs a master but does not wish to have one, preferring to resolve all issues pertaining to his affairs himself. In his moral writings, Kant takes up this characteristic again when he points out that man may even agree in general with the law but in special circumstances wishes to exempt himself from the reach of that law. There are in other words tendencies toward antagonism and egoism. Throughout history we have seen these tendencies play out on the world stage. The UN is the master men need but do not want. Men support it with their money and signatures to documents but they wish to exempt themselves from the reach of its sanctions. This is clearly demonstrated by Luck’s lecture.
Aristotle speaks in his work on Politics of man as the social animal possessing the capacities of trust and love. The city-state, Aristotle argues is held together by bonds of trust and friendship. Man is presented here also as a political animal with the capacity of Logos(speech and reason), a capacity which provides us with a freedom not possessed by animals. A capacity which also suggests the role of knowledge in political activities as well as the earlier referred to role of political friendship. Such political friendship is not a romantic idea but rather refers to the kind of relation we find between siblings who we know can be antagonistic toward one another yet be the best of friends. Sibling-love is the kind of love that citizens should have for one another, argues, Aristotle, a love which competes for the attention , recognition and esteem of the city-state/surrogate parent.
This Aristotelian image of our relation to authority is a far cry from the above modern image of a spider weaving a trap for an innocent fly. There is, in Luck’s image a clear substitution of an unfriendly antagonism for the friendly sibling antagonism of Aristotle. Perhaps this difference of mood is one of the markers which distinguish our modern times from the Golden Age of Greek civilization.
Charting the course of this change of mood is no easy task. The spider lives in a state of nature where there is a war of all against all. The philosopher who describes this state best is Hobbes. Man emerges from state of nature with two passions which need to be tamed if civilisation is to be established: pride and fear of death. These two passions rule our attempts to live communally together in civilisations in the best of times and the worst of times. Laws are the means the sovereign of the state uses to tame these passions. The picture is of a restless spirit which rests only in death. Hobbes was together with Descartes a hostile critic of Aristotle . He was a political realist who scoffed at the idealism of life in a state that prized knowledge and recommended the examined life. For Hobbes life was a business and if man possessed reason it was for the purposes of calculating his advantages and the economic value of life. Man should live a commodious life. These ideas are the source of the image of the spider which is sometimes also used as an image of the modern academic. Hobbes’s philosophy was also aimed at dismantling Aristotle’s influence in the university system. he recommended that his works should replace those of Aristotle. Descartes philosophical meditations were also aimed at the dismantling of our trust in all authorities in general but Aristotle’s influence in particular and together these two philosophers sought to transform Universities into “modern” institutions where Aristotle’s ideas were no longer taught. Scholars were forced to become “specialists” plotting and spinning their ideas in their study-dens, critically trusting nothing and no one in a landscape in which the sciences proliferated and the humanities , the truly universal branch of knowledge became imprisoned in a web of specialities.
The Council of Europe has a long history of facilitating International cooperation since its inception in 1948. The history of international cooperation via business and trade goes back to The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
In recent times beginning in 2008 the Council of Europe has suggested a framework of educational levels(called EQF) ranging from 1-8 which are intended to be used for the purposes of evaluating educational qualifications internationally and thus facilitating the free movement of people between different sovereign nations
The Global Educational Reform Movement is a modern educational movement partially initiated by so called “progressive” pedagogues in the USA. This movement has swept the globe and produced devastating consequences for educational systems around the world. It is important to note however, that the movement actually has a very long academic history which goes all the way back to Hobbes and Descartes who heralded the beginning of the modern scientific and political age by dismissing the works of Aristotle: works which had actually been the foundation of all progress in Europe. Many philosophers throughout the ages have argued that the reason why Scientists have pursued their subjects so systematically is due to the systematic and universal approach to the subject. If this is so one must be wondering how two Philosophers of the modern age can have succeeded in dismantling Aristotle’s thousand year influence. Unfortunately, during the Middle Ages in the course of translation by Religious authorities who controlled the flow of ideas in the world. the work of Aristotle was falsely represented for reasons we do not yet fully understand. This was followed by a time when academic scientists with one eye on the treatment of Galileo sought to free themselves of the chains that were confining their scientific theorising about the structure and origins of the universe. The feeling was that we needed to reinvent the wheel of knowledge in a space free from Religious intervention. The Scientist wanted to be left alone to pursue his observations and formulate his theories in order to provide us with explanations of the origins and structure of the universe. This picture of the lone scientist completely disregarding the history of his subject and setting off into the desert and mountains of the universe with his instruments was the image which actually inspired the American revolution in Education that in turn suggested the child should adopt this a-historical backwoodsman mentality in the classroom. The teacher’s role should be as an advisor and guide and learn about the child’s mind via this uniquely revolutionary approach to education. We know now that this was a disaster and a number of generations of pupils instead of experiencing a truly progressive historical educational system based on the Philosophy of Aristotle with its amendments and improvements by Kant and the work of the later Wittgenstein, have been forced to participate in a romantically inspired adventure which has to my surprise not yet ended. It is my suspicion that, of all places, the Council of Europe are still more influenced by the limited perspectives of Hobbes and Descartes than they are by the systematic theorising of Aristotle Kant and Wittgenstein.
First we should point out that it is thanks to the work of Aristotle that we have the framework of the differences between theoretical, practical and technological science. It is thanks to Aristotle that we have the divisions between the sciences we have today, e.g. the physical,the biological, the psychological, the theological. It is thanks to Aristotle that academics do not believe the “stories” about ethics we get from theoretical scientists in which it is claimed that theories about ethical behaviour are not as objective as their theories about natural events and processes. This latter point is not an expression of a position in an academic quarrel but rather is an expression of the fact that our educational systems maintained their strong ethical focus for so long. For Aristotle, Education aims at the philosophical: it aims at universal knowledge which flows from the structure of the human mind which he examined in a way which to this day dwarfs all other examinations. The range of complexity of his theory is still being written about by scholars today. It took great minds like Kant and Wittgenstein to accept his framework and make improvements upon it. All three philosophers were highly critical of the scientifically inspired “framework” that developed as a consequence of the “modernisation of Philosophy and knowledge by Hobbes and Descartes. A framework which would eventually lead to the GERM.
The Council of Europe were undoubtedly influenced by Descartes lonely meditative figure reflecting on himself and by the materialist Hobbes and his vision of the good life which was the bourgeoisie businessman’s life dedicated to commodious living and occupied with a hedonistic calculation of the value of human life. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle would have scoffed at this simplistic vision of the complexity of man as would have Kant and Wittgenstein. They would have suggested that if one followed such a vision one would end up with a society of the kind we currently see in the USA–the businessman’s paradise. If this is true, is this not a fascinating thought that the Council of Europe shares its values with a USA that largely ignores the ICJ and the UN and spreads the GERM everywhere it can.
So, in the light of the above considerations let us examine one of the latest products of the Council its EQF “instrument of evaluation”. There are eight levels in the EQF system. Level 4 is the level of gymnasium education, level 5 is a level between Gymnasium and University and there we see an amazing anti- Aristotelian thought, namely that as education advances it “specialises” into ONE area and as we progress toward doctoral studies at level eight we are dealing with a part of a subject. The very title-name of Ph.d is Aristotelian: it refers to a doctor of Philosophy and philosophy in Ancient Greece was the most universal of all the subjects. It was the subject which examined the mind which sought to understand everything about the universe,and not just the internal organs of the coffin worm which could be the topic of a science Ph.d. Aristotle that is, was using philosophical and first principle thinking when he identified all the domains of study which would later become the subjects we are studying. So for Aristotle the doctoral level of study should not be specialising but universalising. This is not reflected in the criteria we see for level 8.
Now the GERM has also all but destroyed our once excellent European University systems. It has definitely destroyed the University system in Sweden. When I was attending Universities in England in the 1970’s the GERM was just beginning to make its presence felt and I can honestly say I was given the original Aristotelian education at two Universities in England. Arriving with these qualifications in Sweden in 1979 I was forced to “alter” my Aristotelian, Kantian and Wittgensteinian attitude in order to obtain a Swedish doctorate. That is, I was forced to write a worse doctorate than the one I would have otherwise written.
I am sure the Swedish University system is even as we speak requiring the same behaviour of students who come into the system with a genuine philosophical background and the difference is that they today are now able to point to two Council of Europe decisions and the EQF evaluation instrument in support. The dreams of Hobbes and Descartes of men and institutions created in the image of their Philosophies have come true. Sciences proliferate in accordance with the spirit of specialisation like the mythical thousand heads of the monster of the ancient Greek imagination. In the last 50 years the Humanities subjects in the spirit of philosophy have constantly diminished in stature and teaching hours at University level. These are the concrete consequences of the GERM with the added support of the EQF instrument and an ever increasing population of scientists at these “Universities”. How long before we call them by the more appropriate name: “Specialities.”?
I am a product of the English A level system and have been teaching in the Swedish Social Sciences/Economics and Natural Science programs as well as the International Baccalaureate Programme. All four programs would be placed in the current EQF system at the EQF 4 level. One program (the A level system) was a pre-GERM system and has with one qualification which we will not discuss here have a claim to be a higher level educational system than level 4.
On the basis of an Aristotelian/Kantian/Wittgensteinian framework where knowledge does not proceed in a specialising direction but rather a philosophical holistic universal direction one might conceive that the above 4 programs should be placed at three different levels ranging from 4 for the Swedish programs to low 5 for the IB AND 6 for the Olde English A level system before it was contaminated by the GERM. IB is currently placed at 5 because at its inception it had truly Philosophical intentions and should have been placed at a 6 in my new proposed system but with the expansion of the system in America and other non English speaking countries, the GERM system has managed to affect the quality of education produced and a current realistic estimate would be that the Ib system should be on the boundary between a 4 and a 5.
Let us note here that that the argument being put forward is not that science is not an important subject in the gamut of subjects we learn and teach. It is rather that, according to Aristotle, Science had characteristics which would firstly, explain its differentiation into different parts in accordance with the segments of physical reality it seeks to describe and explain and secondly would explain the universal nature of the subject where universal principles organise these descriptions and explanations. Science,in other words proceeds universally in accordance with the principle of non contradiction and other universal principles outlined by the Philosophies of Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein. Proceeding in the direction of universalisation at University level might also have resulted in more research into the relations between the biological, psychological and theological “universal” sciences.
The IB deserves a place above normal gymnasium systems for three reasons. Firstly because of its attempt to incorporate its philosophy of education in a course given to the students called the Theory of Knowledge course. Secondly because of its inclusion of the subject of Philosophy amongst the range of options it offers in its humanities section. Thirdly because of the essay based approach which is assessed in terms of criteria which are intending to evaluate not specialist understanding of concepts but universal understanding of principles and systems of concepts.
The problem with this suggestion of a new scale and the new criterion of universalisation rather than specialisation is the problem of how we are going to find differentiating criteria for the higher levels. Again I would suggest turning to the ancient Greeks and the hierarchy of understanding that is involved in study over a period of time: the young man(bachelour) studying for three years at the Academy or the Lyceum is obviously learning how to make judgments on the material he is presented with in accordance with principles. The more mature man(master) who has studied somewhat longer has mastered the concepts and principles and is not merely capable of making judgments in accordance with the principles but can make judgments on the principles, i.e. can make critical judgments. The doctoral level is a more mature position,and involves the application of a critical approach for the benefit of the subject and its relation to all other subjects and the society one is part of as well as other societies. This would be a hierarchical escalation on an evaluative scale in accordance with the principle of universalisation rather than specialisation.
All the reasons for this approach can not be given in a short lecture of this nature and would require amongst other things also studying the work of Philosophers working with the same or a similar theory of knowledge. It would also require the study of the History of Psychology/Social Science and the History of Education as well as the History of the subjects of a school and university curriculum.
Let me in conclusion appeal to the study of two Psychologists whose work has been in the spirit of Aristotle, i.e. in the spirit of a holistic understanding of man, namely Maslow and Freud. Maslow’s work we know appeals to the businessman who is frantically searching for a theory which he can apply to his fickle customers or unreliable business partners but it is in fact an academic theory inspired by Aristotle’s theories. Maslow is trying to describe and explain what it is that motivates man and why. We are animals, as Aristotle pointed out, and as such we are motivated by physiological needs(which include the sexual) and safety needs: a place in a territory we have defended where we feel safe.
As animals capable of discourse and reason we also experience the need for a kind of love which animals do not possess. According to Maslow once we receive the required amount of love which occurs over a long period of time over a long childhood, a need at the next level of the motivational hierarchy emerges namely the need to feel self esteem and receive respect or esteem from others in ones environment. In Maslow’s earlier theory it was enough to fulfil needs at this level in order to become self actualised, i.e. reach ones full Aristotelian potential of being the fully functional rational animal. In order to test his theory he applied the criteria of his theory to his university students and discovered to his surprise that they fulfilled the criteria for esteem but not for self actualisation. Maslow asked himself why this was the case and realised that his theory was missing a dimension which is very relevant to my thesis, namely experience in the attempts to answer three universal questions that have come down to us from Greek Philosophy in general and Aristotle in particular, namely What is true? What is the Good?, and What is beauty?.
These are the universal questions one attempts to answer at University and one supposes that Maslow may also have reasoned in the light of the GERM that there was no guarantee that these questions receive satisfactory answers at many Universities.So Maslow believed in universalisation rather than specialisation in his motivational theory.
Sigmund Freud was a brain researcher of significance at Vienna University before he founded the universal psychoanalytical movement which lay completely outside the University system.His earliest theories attempted to use purely scientific concepts and principles in order to explain why people were not mentally healthy and he failed monumentally to such an extent that he even attempted to hide this embarrassing fact from future generations by burning his “Project for a Scientific Psychology”. As he progressed in his theorising, it is not difficult to see how he used definitions and concepts which were Aristotelian in order to develop a framework from which to treat his patients. Toward the end of his career he even turned to Plato for the concepts of Eros, Thanatos and Ananke when he sought to explain mans futile attempts to embrace the rationality principle of Aristotle in the wider context of life in so called civilised societies. This is an escalation from specialisation toward the universal.
My last argument is that the very word “university” means “universal” and all education aims at universal knowledge if we all are to understand the world in all its forms. It is without question useful to specialise and understand the functioning of the internal organs of the coffin worm at the extreme ends of this universal-specialisation spectrum but it is a finer thing to wish to understand the mind of man and the universal principles that determine the shape and form of the infinite starry universe above and all around us.
I am the bearer of bad news in these times of good news from the football arena because I am a subscriber to the theory that rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen and football is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans. The game against Columbia proved this theory correct –7 yellow cards before the referee saw no point in continuing the warning process. Anyway, my major point for those looking forward to the next victory for England is that they probably will not win because of a curse. The football gods placed a curse upon England called Dr Arnolds curse: they cursed the country and the school which dared to blaspheme and pick up the ball and run with it. One pupil at rugby school, a gentleman, picked up the football and was running away with it presumably out of concern for his fellow gentlemen and other gentlemen tried to stop this rude interruption by tackling him . Apparently he was quite difficult to catch and thus was born the game of rugby. The football gods from that time on have cursed the country which gave birth to this game where you try to stand up when you are tackled and respect the referees decision. At least hopefully we can look forward to a more gentlemanly performance in the Sweden/England game but apart from predicting a win for Sweden I also predict there will be at least one incident where one wonders whether the person tackled should be given a free kick or an oscar.
Professor Anderson begins the lecture with a discussion of the definition of a nation-state:
“There can no longer be any doubt that globalization forces impinge upon and influence the shaping of individual entities sometimes even at the expense of the relation between the individual and the community. How one defines a nation or nationalism will be important for questions relating to ethnicity and one should also remember that policy recommendation are likely to flow from such definitions. There is a very important relationship between how you define the terms you are using and the conclusions of what ought to be done about the situation referred to in the definitions.”
Two points need to be raised in relation to the above opening statement. Firstly, globalization forces are postulated as theoretically embedded in a third person matrix of causality instead of from the more obvious and relevant point of view of a matrix of agency and its powers. Secondly, and relatedly, policies are characterized as following from definitions which can only be the case if the major premises of the above-proposed argument are normative premises, i.e. premises from the ought system of concepts. Kant pointed to an archetypal form of ethical/normative argumentation and in this form we see that the definition of the issue concerned comes after the normative generalization, e.g.
Promises ought to be kept
Jack promised Jill he would pay the money back that he was borrowing from her
Therefore, Jack ought to pay the money he owes back to Jill.
Notice that in this formulation there is no risk of the naturalistic fallacy occurring. There is, that is, no risk of attempting to illicitly derive an ought conclusion from an is-premise or set of premises. Norms clearly define the arena the definition is meant to perform in. Norms define both the context of the descriptive judgment and the context of the definition. This discussion should be connected to the first discussion above in relation to globalisation. In this respect, Kant’s Philosophical Psychology points to the importance of an ontological distinction between what happens to one(the forces and causes that impinge upon us) and what one does(our agency and powers). Anderson at the beginning of this lecture series constructed a classification of political positions that fails to accommodate the above discussion and fully utilize the full range of Kantian Political Philosophy. The three positions that are referred to, namely realism, liberalism and constructivism are not conceived in accordance with either Kantian or Aristotelian political theory, thereby foregoing the insights that these political philosophers can bring to any discussion relating to the nature of the nation state and globalisation processes
Anderson then leaves what she calls “policy issues” aside and continues with a description of our modern era:
“The current structure of the modern world would seem to demand that we identify ourselves with a nation and not a region of the nation. Nationalism in the last 150 years has been a powerful provider of identities and provided vehicles for political action. The only other powerful identity provider has been that of “class”: “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains.”…The beginning of the modern system of states began with the treaty of Westphalia. It is after this that you begin to encounter nationalism. Here we have, it is argued, an identity with substance which celebrates the variety of different kinds of people in the world, speaking a particular language, enjoying a particular history and traditions…We identify with other people who share this language, history and culture. Viewed in this way Nationalism was a way to assert value.”
Notice in the above quote the reliance on the idea of a psychological mechanism of identification. Freud was one of the first psychologists to examine this idea systematically in a paper entitled “Group Psychology and the analysis of the Ego”. We should bear in mind also here that Freud claimed that his Psychological reflections were Kantian. In this paper Freud points to pathological psychological mechanisms at work in groups that gather together in public in an attempt to express their collective power to act in the name of some cause under the leadership of a narcissistic leader whose rhetoric is essentially emotional and instinctive and not in accordance with the dictates and inhibitions of our conscious personality as is the case when it is operating in accordance with the demands of ethics and the superego. The infantilism of the group naturally submits to the leader, it is argued, in much the same fashion as the small child submits to his father, except in this case the positive aspect of this relation in which the father consciously and ethically relates to his child and the world in general is foregone.
One can wonder whether Anderson means to refer to the above first mentioned idea of pathological identification or rather the idea of non pathological identification between a father and a child. There is a difficulty, however, with either of these suggestions because Anderson specifically claims that it is possible to identify psychologically with a nation or a class. She calls this form of identification an identity with substance and seems to be forgetting here that this mechanism in its pathological form led to enormous conflicts in the 20th century nationalist movements.
Apart from this problem there is also a problem with identifying with an abstract collective like a class or nation. At the very most it appears that the identification must be with the individual leader of the class or nation. If this is the case then we do appear to be discussing the pathological form of identification related to the personality “strong leader” cults of the various nationalist movements of the twentieth century. In such circumstances the leader takes the collective where he wants them to go like some kind of pied piper, whether it be to war or into isolation or both. It is quite amazing that this phenomenon could occur in the twentieth century, a period of heightened conscious awareness of almost everything it seems except the workings of political processes. Such a phenomenon would have been more to be expected at the dawn of civilisation and consciousness when educational systems and socialising processes were in their infancy and strong conscious leaders were trying to lead their collectives toward the common good. Our modern democracies have very consciously and deliberately limited the power of individual leaders thus limiting the role of identification in the political process. Emotion and instinct have been replaced with a healthy skeptical trust. Indeed the presence of skepticism in our relation to modern day politicians may be a result of the pathological political processes of the last century. Indeed, a reversal of roles appears to have taken place one which demands that the leaders in a positive sense “identify” with their constituencies: these constituencies no longer gather to express their collective power but rather individually express their opinion of their representatives in a private voting booth every 4-5 years. Further when this voting ceremony occurs one is no longer voting for a charismatic leader but rather for a party of leaders with a consciously intended party program for the future common good of the country as a whole. The Freudian superego will be firmly represented in democratic party programs and pathological identification mechanisms will be conspicuous by their absence. Democracy, indeed, does not appear to be in any sense nationalistic in the pathological sense and the only occasions when we see pathological identification mechanisms operating in democratic systems is in times of war when the almost infinite power of the masses are mobilised to fight. In such moments we can clearly see otherwise rational political processes degenerating to the level of the pathological. With these considerations in mind the words “Nationalism is a way to assert value” seem oddly anachronistic. Add to these considerations the records of nationalistic governments of the twentieth century in relation to law-in-general and international and domestic law in particular and we move from the realm of the anachronistic to the realm of the paradoxical.
Aristotle’s preference for the regime of Polity or “constitutional rule” which was defined as rule by the many in accordance with the common good relates to a political philosophy which is recognisably instantiated by the more advanced democracies of the Western world. The “many” in the above context would not be the masses but rather a large middle class which would have rejected the more extreme political policies of the rich and the poor and accepted the importance of education. This group of the many-in-the-middle would necessarily avoid the extreme policies that strong personality cult leaders would have inclined towards. Aristotle’s reasoning that the many are more likely to understand the common good than the one idiosyncratic leader is reflected in not just our political systems but also in our legal system. The Western concept of a jury of our peers embodies rationality in every utterance and decision of the trial process whose navigational star is that of the common good.
In relation to the second objection we raised to the opening statement one might also in the spirit of Kant wish to claim that the above navigational star of the common good is what is really at issue in the agency and powers of government. That is, the principle of practical reason, namely freedom,is the major principe underlying globalisation, or to use Kant’s more appropriate term Cosmopolitanism. Here our description, unlike Lisa Anderson’s will not be of patients enduring forces but rather of agents freely and powerfully acting to bring about the common good or justice.
The question of what a nation is is obviously important if we are to determine what nationalism is and Anderson at this point in the lecture asks for a definition of a nations. She begins by referring to Benedict Andersson’s definition:
“a nation is an imagined political community that is limited and sovereign”
She continues in the following way:
“Nations aspire to sovereignty which many communities do not.””
Apparently my membership of a community is an imagined one and this suffices as an argument against Cosmopolitanism because:
“No nation imagines itself as co-terminous with mankind”
So, identification and now imagination respectively have been suggested as (psychologically?) important in nationalism and citizenship respectively. Both of these terms are of course twentieth century psychological terms which seek to distance themselves from the language of objectivity that permeates Kantian ethical and political thinking. For Kant it is not a question of imagining Cosmopolitan obligations such as keeping promises and telling the truth. One understands these things and our reasoning both justifies our categorical and objective position and aims at bringing about actions for the benefit of the common good.
Reference is made to the USA and its mode of nationalism in relation to which it is claimed:
“The nationalism of the USA is a civic nationalism more concerned with consensus around common political values legal norms and moral commitments than with a common language and cultural tradition..Contrast this with ethnic nationalism”
In this context Anderson then asks the very interesting question: “When did the Irish living in the USA decide that they are Americans of Irish heritage?” and suggests there was a type of rational calculation in accordance with rational calculus. One recognises the spectre of utilitarianism in this passage and rather surprisingly no mention is made of the avalanche of criticism that was unleashed by this attempt to substitute casuistry for ethical reasoning. No further exploration of this interesting question occurs. Anderson is reluctant to use the term “Culture” in this debate but it would appear that culture defined in Aristotelian terms, namely in relation to the institutions of the family, the neighbourhood(the village) and the city must all play their role as must the more global Kantian institutions of keeping ones promises and telling the truth.
There is, toward the end of the lecture a section which attempts to acknowledge the normative features of nationalism. It is, however, mundanely descriptive:
“Nationalism seems to be morally ambivalent. On the one hand we feel solidarity with oppressed peoples and sympathise with their nationalist aspirations but, on the other hand are also repulsed by the crimes perpetrated in the name of nationalism, notably ethnic cleansing. Nationalism creates dilemmas for International Justice. Do we privilege existing sovereign states or do we take a cosmopolitan view which limits sovereignty. Or do we believe that we have a responsibility to protect emerging nationalist movements? This is a vexed area of debate.”
Surely it is possible, Anderson argues, to imagine a world of content sovereign nations with all the goods and values they require. She thus brings to bear both her psychological account and the utilitarian account recently mentioned. Perhaps I can imagine such a state of affairs but her description demands that we abandon the attempt to see nationalism in relation to the democratic form of government inspired by Aristotle referred to above and also involves abandoning the attempt to see the state of affairs in a wider context of a possible Kantian progression toward a morally constituted Cosmopolitan world. It would be without further debate refusing to countenance the truth of the progression of our existence from our life as an individual struggling to survive, to our life in a family, to our life in the village, to our life in the city, to our life in the nation, to our life in the cosmopolitan world.
This 4th lecture in the lecture series is entitled “Cold War in the Middle East”. It begins by referring to President Bush Senior’s overwhelming use of force in Kuwait and the consequent increased presence of US forces in the Middle East. Bush Junior, in 2001, followed in his fathers footsteps by using overwhelming force to invade and dismantle the state of Iraq. These events raise the following question for Khalidi:
“Is the US an Empire?”
This question relates to the concept of “The New World Order” which we raised in the last lecture. When President Bush senior used the above words he was apparently thinking about the Primacy of America but when Kissinger used these words in his work “Diplomacy” he was referring to a new Balance of Power situation involving 6 major countries, namely the US, Europe, China, Japan, Russia and India. In relation to the question “Is the US an Empire?” we need look no further Kissinger’s work “World Order” and the following words:
“No truly global “world order” has ever existed”.
Kissinger is no stranger to the concept of overwhelming force. He refers in the first chapter of the above work to President Truman and the Atomic attacks on the Japanese and the fact that this was a moment Truman was proud of because it brought his enemies back into “the community of nations”.
This suggests that the US only uses overwhelming forced conditionally and instrumentally in order to restore order amongst the community of nations which in its turn suggests that the US possesses no absolute Imperial intentions. This may be true but this fact does not however, suffice to give the US the right to bear the title of “the beacon for the world” as Kissinger suggests in his earlier work, “Diplomacy”.
Khalidi in his argumentation points to the British Historian Nial Ferguson’s analysis that the US is de Facto an Empire because of the following considerations:
1.The US has always had a global mission
2.The power of mobilising the armed forces remains with the President and has not been devolved back to the people as is the case with other warring countries.
3. There are US fleets on all the seas.
4. There are US bases on all continents
5. Weapons manufacture has remained at high levels of production.
Ferguson argues that the US should wake up to its role in the world and take its responsibility, though exactly what this means is not clear in this lecture.
Paradoxically, Khalidi maintains, the principal threat to the US is not coming from any of the other big 5 nations but rather from the challenge to American power by Iran in the Middle East. Recent events in the relation between Iran and the US now appear to suggest that the US is responding to this threat more unilaterally than it has done in the past. Sanctions and a possible threat of overwhelming force is attempting to cause Iran to adopt a posture of submission. This latest policy from the Trump administration is a distinct departure from the earlier “community of nations” approach sanctioned by the UN.
Khalidi points to lessons that should have been learned in SE Asia: that military power may not be “capable of determining the outcome of conflicts always and everywhere”, thereby suggesting, without specifically saying so, that the current system of International Relations is the Westphalian balance-of-power-amongst- nation-states-system. This is Kissinger’s position and neither position is sensitive to one of the underlying mechanisms of globalisation: a globalisation process that is moving us away from the Westphalian system toward Cosmopolitanism via the intermediate stage of the European union and other regional state, defense and economic organisations.
Khalidi, points out quite correctly that the amount of money spent on weapons and war(under the current Westphalian system) could be used for education. Universal education of the individual is one of the mechanisms we need to move us toward Cosmopolitanism. In this context consider Kant’s account of the role of the education of the individual in the journey from a natural antagonism toward ones fellow man:
“The means which nature employs to bring about the development of innate capacities is that of antagonism within society, insofar as this antagonism becomes in the long run the cause of a law governed social order…..All man’s talents are now gradually developed, his taste cultivated, and by a continued process of enlightenment, a beginning is made toward establishing a way of thinking which can with time transform the primitive natural capacity for moral discrimination into definite practical principle: and thus a pathologically enforced social union is transformed into a moral whole.”(Fourth proposition from essay “Idea for a Universal History” in “Kant’s Political Writings, p45)
One can wonder what Kant is referring to here when he talks of a “pathologically enforced social union”. He is certainly referring to social unions that are not in accordance with practical principles of the kind he is talking about in his moral and political works. He is probably also talking about the “commonwealths” of his time where antagonism is projected onto outside enemies and we thus as a consequence, find ourselves locked into a cycle of war and preparation for war which seems never-ending. But even this process has, according to the hopeful Kant, a positive telos or purpose:
“Wars, tense and unremitting military preparations, and the resultant distress which every state must feel within itself, even in the midst of peace..these are the means by which nature drives nations to make initially imperfect attempts, but finally after many devastations, upheavals, and even complete inner exhaustion of their powers, to take the step which reason could have suggested to them even without so many sad experiences—that of abandoning a lawless state of savagery and entering a federation of peoples in which every state, even the smallest, could expect to derive its security and rights not from its own power or its onw legal judgment, but solely from this great federation, from a united power and law governed decisions of a united will.”(ibid p47)
Today we find ourselves not quite in the Westphalian-balance of power political situation thanks to Kant’s foresight. The UN exists. It is a Kantian institution created for the purpose of regulating international disagreements. This lecture series has in earlier lectures expressed skepticism with respect to the efficacy of the UN in the arena of international disagreement. Kissinger has also expressed his skepticism. This state of affairs may actually have its explanation in an earlier proposition of Kant’s which points out that man needs a master but does not want a master. This dialectic of authority and subject which man wrongly conceives of along the lines of master and slave is a dialectic that is currently playing itself out on the world stage. Kant’s account is tied up with his transcendental account of the relation between the future subject of the coming kingdom of ends and the future justice system. There is no dialectical relation between these two fundamental elements but rather a relation in transcendental logic which states that the subject and the legislator of the legal system are in a relation of identity: these are the laws that the subject would have created were he in the legislators position and the legislator, in turn, regards himself as a subject which must obey these laws. This is a relation of identity. Justice in such a kingdom of ends requires knowledge both on the part of the subject and the legislator and this in our contemporary societies is not something which is yet actualised. One reason for this state of affairs is that our educational systems are not yet cosmopolitan, they are rather, in Kant’s words, pathologically national. What we need are Cosmopolitan educational systems financed by the money which otherwise would have been spent on war and preparation for war. The situation looks hopeless but it is not so for the eagle eyed Kant whose gaze spans hundreds of thousands of years. He sees that in our contemporary situation, for every war that occurs the germ of enlightenment survives. He detects in the manifold of political phenomena that there is a plan of nature which will eventually realise the cosmopolitan goal. He can see a state of affairs in which wars cease and cosmopolitan educational systems can actualise the moral whole.
In this context, Kant has the following to say on p49:
“We are cultivated to a high degree by art and science. We are civilised to the point of excess in all kinds of social courtesies and proprieties. But we are still a long way from the point where we could consider ourselves morally mature. For while the idea of morality is indeed present in culture, an application of this idea which only extends to the semblances of morality, as in love of honour and outward propriety, amounts merely to civilisation. But as long as states apply all their resources to their vain and violent schemes of expansion, thus incessantly obstructing the slow and laborious efforts of their citizens to cultivate their minds, and even deprive them of all support in their efforts, no progress in this direction can be expected. For a long internal process of careful work on the part of each commonwealth is necessary for the education of its citizens.”
This position is in accordance with the positions of both Plato and Aristotle who tie the character or personality of the individual to the kind of state he inhabits. So, the question of whether the US is an Empire or not is largely irrelevant in the Cosmopolitan process. The Paradox of the US as the beacon of all political value and as the commonwealth using overwhelming force on other commonwealths is a modern paradox which we all live with and prevents us from regarding the US as the saviour of the New World Order. Paradoxically for the Americans we Europeans believe that the beacon of all political value is the much older Kantian beacon shining through the fog and mists of time into the future. Whether or not this beacon will light the way into the future will also depend on whether the European Project can live up to its Kantian hopes and provide commonwealths of peace and prosperity via cosmopolitan educational institutions.
I will be answering questions on the AMA feed tomorrow , 28th June 2018, in the areas of Political Philosophy, Philosophical Psychology, Philosophy of Education and Ancient Greek Philosophy.
Jude Sutton turned up 5 minutes late to the lecture on a windy March afternoon. The lecture room was diagonally opposite his offices and he was obviously not having an easy time making headway against the winds sweeping off the moors. His long coat flailed in the wind and whipped his legs. His hair was completely disheveled upon arrival in the lecture-room. Even his cigarette had gone out and he seemed to have come without matches. He took a long time to decide what to do with the residue of his home -made cigarette. At last the moment for decision came and he crumpled up the cigarette and put it in his coat pocket. Jude Sutton was suffering. He had almost decided not to come to the lecture. Without a cigarette to distract his nervous system it would not be long before his hands would begin shaking with anxiety. It would not be long before his headache made it impossible to talk without it seeming as if his voice was coming from somewhere far away in the distance. He steeled himself for the opening of the lecture:
“What is our relation to the world as a whole? Surely it cannot be what the scientist claims it to be, a relation to physically measurable events related by causal mechanisms obeying laws we cannot formulate accurately. Surely it cannot be, as the idealist would like us to believe ,a matter of mental states and processes obeying laws of thought we cannot formulate, all relating back to the Cartesian Cogito ergo sum, “I think therefore I am”? How have we been led to this impasse? Is it because of what we will take up in our next week’s lecture, namely the influence of epistemology? Or is the problem instead the influence of the so- called theory of knowledge, upon the three central metaphysical issues in Philosophy: 1. of the existence of the world, 2.The nature of our souls, and 3. The being or processes we call God.
Surely our relation to the world is not merely a knowing relation, which always puts us at a kind of psychical distance to reality. Yet we surely know something about the world. What about our relation to our own souls or even more interestingly given our topic today of Ethics, our relation to other souls. Is the mere concept of knowing sufficient to characterise this relation?. This relation to other souls, which is the concern of all ethical theory?
The major enemy of Philosophy or the major disease it suffers from is skepticism that has the mission not just of questioning everything we claim to know, but, in the course of that questioning mission, skepticism dismantles our world, reduces it to primeval dust. And when we are standing there with dust in our hands the skeptic says nihilstically “ See! it was all clouds of thought, castles in the air”. True, philosophers know you can never reduce a cloud to dust, and the forms of the castle and the house are just as real as the primeval dust the skeptic wants everything reduced to. Philosophy has learned from many skeptical attacks in its history that the existence of the world is not a problem of knowledge. The claim to know places us too far away from the core of the problem. The other major disease that Philosophy has suffered from historically is dogmatism. Sometimes one disease is a cure for another but not very often. Dogmatism is the tool of the tyrant and skepticism the tool of his tyrannical subject and the discourse in such a kingdom can only reduce the truth to dust. At funerals we hear “Man, dust thou are, and to dust shalt thou return.” The intention was to humble us but instead the dust blinded us, filled up our ears and mouth, caused deafness and struck us dumb. What we are, could never be returned or reduced to primeval stardust. This is the source of the ancient idea of the immortality of the soul, itself, related to the Platonic forms which exist sub specie aeternitatis: timelessly. In that handful of dust is our human relations, the relation of one soul to another or the relation of a soul to his community. Skeptics are clever. In dismantling the relation we have to each other they will pretend to believe in the certainty of our private consciousness or sentience, which no one by definition could ever publicly define. They will ask what it is we actually know about other people and we will be forced to answer that what we know of others is based on the behavior we see. I infer, on the grounds of their possessing bodies, which seem the same as mine, that their behavior is connected to their consciousness or sentience in the same way as mine. This is the so- called famous argument from analogy. Other people possess consciousness or sentience by analogy. I can never see anyone’s pain only infer it. And here the skeptic makes his match- winning move. Surely he argues, someone can be behaving as if they are in pain and not be in pain at all. That’s how much we know! And surely, he again argues, someone can be in an enormous amount of pain but, being the true Spartan they are, they show the world nothing of the pain. That is how much we know, the skeptic claims, triumphantly.
Well, Ladies and gentlemen we should not be overly impressed with these snippets of philosophical drama. All the argument shows is that the existence of the world and other souls are not to be characterised in epistemological terms. They are not, in other words, problems of knowledge. We do know of the existence of others, and the criteria of us knowing what we do know, is how they behave, what they say etc. Of course the metaphysical status of this physical and linguistic behavior is a critical philosophical problem and it is part of how we know that someone is in pain.
And someone being in pain, the suffering soul, ladies and gentlemen is one of the key phenomena that ethics needs to deal with.
But before we take up this issue let us talk about language. We obviously see something as something when we see certain physical movements of a man’s face and the sound he emits as a wince of pain. Where does this ability come from? One suggestion is that we see something as something because we are language- users, and it is a major function of language in virtue of its possessing a subject predicate structure, to say something about something. This translates eventually into thought and in virtue of this linguistic capacity we can think something about something. The capacity also transforms our animal like perception into the more human form in which see something as something, for example, I see those physical movements and that sound as a wince of pain. And here we have the later Philosophy of Wittgenstein overturning the earlier, and producing what has been referred to as the Wittgensteinian Copernican revolution. All Philosophical problems , Wittgenstein now argues, can be resolved by investigating the philosophical or as he calls it grammatical structure of our language.
Language does not disguise thought, it manifests thought:-If we would only disengage the skeptical and dogmatic voices within us for a moment and understand what there is to understand. When these skeptical and dogmatic voices within us take over, we are bewitched by the language we use and we can even believe things that are impossible to believe, that is, there can even be contradictions dwelling in our belief systems, which become impossible to detect. Wittgenstein urges us in our “Philosophical Investigations” to ask, “Under what circumstances or in what particular cases do we say that someone has winced in pain, or someone loves someone?” His idea here is that we make conceptual judgments for which there are criteria. We make judgments in the same way as does a dance-judge or an ice skating-judge. In their minds is the idea or form of the perfect dance or perfect ice skating program. In our minds we don’t quantify but judge in virtue of the quality of truth. “What is this physical movement I see before me, how shall I conceptualise it?” The sixty four thousand dollar question is “Where do the criteria for our judgments come from?”. I am afraid I only have a thirty-two thousand dollar answer but it is what we have thus far in the middle of a work in progress, The criteria of judgment come from the agreement over what counts as what, in our language. This linguistic agreement is a work in progress that has been formed of tens of thousands of generations of speakers influenced in every generation by the best minds. If we cannot value or have respect for that, then there is not much we can respect. This language we speak has been over these generations interwoven with forms of life that have transformed our animal existence into human being. We learn our language at our mothers knee and when we see everything we see in our modern concrete jungles there is a thread longer than Ariadne’s flowing back all the way to the cave paintings, fire, the first tools and the dusty paths we walked along in bare feet, eons ago. Agreements over what is to count as what form the structure of how we think about the world. This is the starting point of the Wittgenstein’s revolution.
And so we arrive at the criteria for what is ethically good.
Here is an ethical judgment: “Murder is wrong”. How are we to analyse such a statement philosophically. Aristotle thought there are many meanings of Good two of which were “the good action” and “ the good person”. I am going to concern myself with these during the rest of the lecture.
Charles Stevenson in his work “Ethics and Language” claims that there are two kinds of disagreements that people generally have when talking about the good, Disagreement in belief and disagreement in attitude. Disagreement in belief occurs when verification procedures of the facts can resolve the disagreement. Disagreement in attitude occurs when we agree about the facts but one finds the set of facts good and the other does not. According to Stevenson we can do nothing about the latter. No rational procedure will change attitudes.
I want to maintain, ladies and gentlemen that in analysing “Murder is wrong” on Stevenson’s analysis it turns out that if we submit this to the first pattern of his analysis we must analyse the judgment into “I disapprove of murder (an attitude) and you should do so as well(an imperative). On his second pattern of analysis he would claim that we are on the level of principle and that the analysis of “Murder is wrong” should refer to the principle that murder creates a considerable amount of unhappiness in the society in which we live. This amounts to, what we call in philosophy, a non-cognitive analysis of the moral judgment since disagreements in attitude have no logical relation to facts. Well I am sure, ladies and gentlemen, that disagreements in attitude have a conceptual and therefore logical connection to facts. “Murder is wrong” not just because I disapprove of it and urge you to do so, but for good philosophical reasons, and our individual happiness is only marginally involved in the point of the language game we play with ethics. Stevenson is wrong in insisting that a disagreement in attitude occurs when we agree about the facts. True, we might agree that A killed B on the basis of medical criteria relating to the occurrence of the event of death. But some would doubt that we agree with the murderer over the judgment “Murder is wrong” especially in those cases where the murder is premeditated. Aristotle claims that we all aim in our actions at the good. In an instrumental sense the murderer sees his action as the achievement of an instrumentally structured goal. But, for the sake of a complete argument, were this the only structure by which to judge the value of the action of murder we would as a practical consequence be living in a state of nature and living the kind of life Hobbes described as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. A war of all against all.The difference in the judging procedures in these two cases is that in the first case, we are concerned with the difference between the instrumental value of the achievements of my life-goals and the happiness of my life and in the second case with the categorical value-judgment of the same action. These, when submitted to the practical reasoning process of Kant’s categorical imperative would arrive at the logical consequence that “One ought not to murder”, because the universal law justifies the “Murder is wrong” judgment. I am saying ladies and gentlemen that when we say that “murder is wrong” this is amongst other things a first move in a language game in which we place a responsibility on the hearer to approve, to adopt the correct attitude. We are not inviting our interlocutor to a debate about the concept of murder.
Now it is important to realise the difference between an ethical judgment about what is good in the world of action, and an aesthetic judgment about what is good in the world of fashion and taste, in which the winds of change blow our taste first in one direction and then in another. In the language game of aesthetic judgment we concern ourselves with things such as strawberries and raspberries and how things appear rather than what they are in themselves. Any imperative or ought –judgment in the aesthetic language-game does not relate to our obligations to do something but rather to our desires for pleasure and happiness. Ethical obligations, on the other hand, do not arise from how the world appears to us to be, but rather from how it ought to be for everyone.
The agreement relating to the judgment “Murder is wrong” is mandatory. What that means is that if you do not agree, you are compromising your rationality in the whole sphere of moral value judgment. The advertisement of such a phenomenon of disagreement in a world filled with the noise of advertisements is interpreted by people who understand the workings of practical reason as being indicative of the aimless wanderings of a stranger in the polis of good ethical action. Perhaps, it might be surmised, such a stranger is confusing what is aesthetic with what is ethical. Such a stranger is confusing the appearance with what is real.
But all of this is somewhat obscure unless some account is given of the criteria I have been talking about. What are they? Well, ladies and gentlemen I believe that they are Kantian .The first criterion is conceptual universality, i.e. if something is to be conceptualised as murder it is necessarily wrong. The attitude of disapproval is written into it. Killing, in self defence when no other alternative is available is not, some would claim, murder, although Dr. Glynn Samuels our resident Welsh genius would certainly disagree. For him you should allow yourself to be murdered under the Christian value system whose only real commandment, according to Leo Tolstoy, is “Do not resist evil”.
The second criterion is connected with how we ought to universally treat people. According to Kant we ought to treat everyone as ends-in -themselves—as dignified bearers of ultimate values with a right to everything humans have rights to. The third criterion is connected to the fate of our society. According to Kant there is a kind of law of historical progress operating and we will eventually reach a point in the development of society, which he calls the kingdom of ends, in which everyone who has reached the age of consent or the state of mind of a knowing, consenting being, will fulfil their obligations to each other. In such a society there may not even be any widespread need for legal and justice systems given the fact that all relations and actions in that society would be regulated by Kant’s moral law. This of course would be to the liking of Dr. Samuels and his source of inspiration Mr. Tolstoy.
But it is not only obligation or duty, which is the key idea in Kantian ethics. The practical idea of freedom defines the difference between the theoreticians belief in the spatiotemporal world of deterministic causation and the practical philosophers faith in the freedom from causal determination of the ethical agent when acting ethically: Aristotle’s good person and good action in other words. The ethical subject and the ethical action are striving not to be happy but, rather, to be deemed worthy, on the basis of their actions, of happiness. There are basically four kinds of action in the Kantian practical system and the ethical is the highest and most complex . The second most complex kind of action are instrumental actions which are structured in accordance with the principle of prudence: a principle which aims to strive for the individuals good and the individuals happiness. The next kind of action in Kant’s hierarchy are customary or traditional actions which rely on the wisdom of generations and finally there are expressive actions which are normally positive emotional responses but can even be completely detrimental to the agents well being, even if they are, as Aristotle put it, “aimed” at the agents good. And here again we must cast out the skeptical voice in us which tries to suggest that theoretical knowledge is the standard by which to measure whether a reason is good or not, whether a judgment is good or not, whether a person is good or not. Kant talks of faith in this context: faith in the good processes of the world, promoting and sustaining the good ethical actions of the good agent judging wisely. Here, for Kant, the belief in the Good and the belief in freedom are fundamentally practical concerns. These ideas of the Good and Freedom, according to Kant take us deeply into the world as it ought to be in itself: allow us to glimpse the kingdom of ends which is what some will maintain is the aim of all religion. In this line of reasoning we can see a Kantian modification of Christ’s claim that “The truth will set you free”. It is the truth of the above ideas, which above all will set you free. We may not all be sinners but we all certainly live our lives with an inadequate idea of the structure of the world and inadequate ideas of the structure of our souls”
A mature English major, raised his hand and said:
“The lesson ended some time ago we only have 15 minutes for lunch.”
“Yes doesn’t time fly when one is having fun. Next Fridays unit in the series “Philosophy of Education” will be “Epistemology”—Theory of Knowledge for you non Greek speakers. In this unit we will ask how we know facts such as “The pen is on the table” and “How could I know that you were all hungry?”
Jude Sutton ended the lecture angry at himself for not completing the lecture. One or two students immediately rushed to the canteen next door but I, and a number of others stayed to ask follow up questions. Amongst these, I was surprised to see Sophia, who must have come in after me and sat at the back of the lecture room outside my line of sight
“What implications do these ideas have for the legal institutions of society?” asked the friend I had seen Sophia together with in the library.
“It is a perennial philosophical question whether these institutions of justice are themselves fundamentally just. They are all designed to punish the bad man and the bad action. If one goes back to Socrates’s discussions of justice in the Republic he argues that punishing a bad man will not produce the good, it will only make him worse and that will be worse for everybody. But the Kantian position recognises “the evil” in man, if I can put these words in quotation marks for the moment: that is, these words recognise mans disposition not to look at the world with a good will. Kant also recognises that the work of convincing man to approach the world through his judgments and actions with a good will cannot be done via the traditional biblical means of revelation of the miraculous and a pseudo-inference to an all powerful super-sensible being at the source. So Kant views punishment as, not in the spirit of an “eye for an eye”, but rather in the spirit of depriving the agent of his freedom and waiting for that fundamental condition of approaching the world with a good will to occur, namely seeing the world as a place where the good produces the benefits of a good life and seeing ones actions to be part of the processes which lead to such a good life. So, to answer your question the statues of justice should not just have a sword and scales in their hands, they should try to find some way of carrying a book, perhaps under their arms, and my suggestion for the book concerned would be Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”. Some humanists believe that the sword should be removed from the hand of the statue of justice but this would be to override an important Kantian intuition about justice, namely that the consequences of murdering someone is that evidence becomes public that a human being has lost his humanity and every murderer must symbolically live with the consequences of that. This of course does not necessarily mean that all murderers should be put to death as useless animals who no one wishes to own are, but it does raise the interesting question of what we should do with murderers.”
Sophia stepped forward, her long golden Swedish hair decorating her shoulders:
“We are sorry but we joined the course late. We were doing Sociology of Education but thought that this elective might be more useful to organize our thoughts about education. I am sorry if I am asking questions you have probably answered earlier in the course but today you talked about the existence of the world and its reality. What do you mean? Is this a silly question?
Jude Sutton gave a little smile and answered:
“Not at all my dear, your question cuts right to the heart of the course which began by asking about the nature of the world. We are , according to Aristotle, the rational animal, and it is our reason that enables us to understand a world rather than live in a segment of it: in an environment. There are other regions of our mind, which help to build up this awareness. Firstly there are our innate intuitions of space and time, which are involved in the perception of the things in the world as we build up our experiences Secondly there is our understanding of the world when we begin to organize these experiences into a coherent whole with for example, the principle of causality and other categorical principles. But Reason is the crowning moment for our minds. It allows us to believe that we can systematically understand the world as systematic whole. When all our principles of experience are laid out in plain sight we still do not have an adequate idea of the world—one that allows the smooth operation of language and logic. Reason makes reasonable assumptions, which may be the consequences of inferences from different regions of the mind. One of these assumptions is a presupposition of reality as a given continually changing infinite continuum out of which the world emerges, as a space for all possible human experience and awareness. In order for this to make sense there is a presupposition of an infinite original being which is just the name of existence as a whole. This grounds the possibility of the experience and awareness of everything, both the possible and the actual. This is why the world cannot merely be the totality of things, because the principles of the experience of objects will never enable us to understand important regions of the world: for example the human regions of the world. Considering man as a network trapped in a deterministic network of causes transforms him into an object and denies the fundamental law of his subjectivity, namely his freedom. But freedom is a recent idea of Reason. The practical idea of reason that took us from our animal existence to our divine humanity was the theoretical idea of God. The reasoning went something like this. The things in the world are different. This difference is a function of the fact that they are not some other thing: things are as they are as a result of the negations attaching to them. The negation is only possible if there is an understanding of a whole of things and their negations. This whole is then conceived to be an original being from which all things are derived. One can immediately see that this is not an objective necessity but is a necessity that arises as a consequence of our thought processes about the world. It is then a natural extension of theoretical reasoning to connect this to causality and regard this being as the first cause of all contingent things which owe their existence and essence to him, if we wish now to anthropomorphize this being- Thus was God born. I have no problem with believing in the Philosopher’s God . For the philosopher the idea of God would have made more sense if God was characterized as the whole from which all processes of change flow”
Aristotle’s response to dialectical reasoning and the dialectical interaction between the positions of materialism and dualism was hylomorphic theory and its method of metaphysical logic. This method builds upon a correct understanding of the Principle of non-contradiction(PNC) which he characterises as follows in Book 4, 3-6 of his work Metaphysics:
“It is not possible for one and the same thing both to have and not to have one and the same property.”
There is also a slightly different formulation of the same principle at 1006b 33-34:
“it is impossible that it should at the same time be true to say of the same thing both that it is human and that it is not human.”
The first formulation clearly refers to reality directly and the second formulation appears to take a more circuitous route and refer to what can be “Truly said” of reality thus indicating that the PNC is not merely a logical principle regulating relationships between propositions and statements. For Aristotle the Principle refers directly to reality via our truthful claims about reality. If this is so, and this position is argued by Vasilis Politus in Chapter 5 of his work “Aristotle and the Metaphysics”, then it would appear to follow that logic is subservient to metaphysics and PNC then becomes a principle of what we would call “Metaphysical logic”. PNC on this kind of account, is a source of demonstrative proofs or explanations which itself is not subject to demonstrative proof or explanation. As a corollary of his position in this debate, Politus argues that PNC is not a so called “Transcendental Principle”, i.e. a claim to the effect that something is true of reality because it is true of thought or language. Politus has this to say on p 135:
“Aristotle argues(in Chapter 4,4) that if PNC were not true of things then we could not use thoughts and words to signify things, and in general we could not think and speak about things. He concludes that if PNC were not true of things, then thought and language about things would be impossible. PNC is rue of things because it is a necessary condition for the possibility of thought and language about things.”
This has the logical consequence that there can be no demonstration or explanation of PNC. On our account we wish to maintain, therefore, that PNC is a principle of metaphysical logic and as a consequence a principle about thought and language about things. Aristotelian metaphysics is about the form, essence or primary principle of things. PNC requires that everything in the world has explainable essences or principles. Denying that things have essences or forms or primary principles is a condition of denying PNC. If things are indeterminate(have no essence) then PNC cannot be an applicable principle. However, since PNC is true of all things, all things are determinate and must therefore have essences. Socrates has an essence, namely his humanity, and therefore we can make true non contradictory statements about him, i.e. access his “primary being” to use the expression used by Politus.
Returning to our second formulation of PNC, can we then not say that Socrates’ humanity is the primary principle or form or essence of primary being of Socrates? : and is this not that which explains what Socrates ontologically is? Aristotle believed that all living things possessed souls of different kinds or in his technical language from De Anima a soul is “the actuality of a body that has life”. But living things take different forms and Aristotle therefore constructed a matrix of life forms which defined a living things form or essence partly in terms of the physical organ system it possessed and partly in terms of the power the thing as a whole possessed. He begins with simple plants, their simple physical structures, and their powers of growth and reproduction. The matrix seems to be organised in terms of a continuum of a possible infinite number of forms only some of which are actualised because of the physical conditions of the elements of the world(earth water air fire) and their accompanying processes of wet and cold, hot and dry. The next stage of the continuum manifests itself in animal forms possessing animal organ systems and the powers or perception and locomotion(in addition to the previous plant like power). The penultimate stage of the matrix is that of humanity or the human being which possesses a more complex organ system and also more complex powers of discourse, memory and reasoning(in addition to all the lower powers previously mentioned). This matrix was an attempt to transcend the dialectical discussions of dualists and materialists and present a hylomorphic theory of the soul which would not fall foul of the PNC. This matrix is a matrix of agents and powers which in its turn is of course embedded in an environmental matrix of space, time and causation(discussed in part one).
In a sense Metaphysical Logic was metaphorically placing a curse on both the houses of dualism and materialism in order to stem the reproduction of theories from these sources. However, as we know Platonic dualism defied the metaphorical curse and was one of the motivating assumptions of Old and New Testament Religions and we also know that materialism was one of the motivating assumptions of the rise of modern science which Descartes, Hobbes and Hume were embracing in their anti-Aristotelian theorizing. As a direct consequence metaphysical logic dwindled in importance as the drama of dialectical interaction between Religion and Science played itself out at the beginning of our modern era. PNC was demoted from a Metaphysical principle to a transcendental principle of logic governing thought and language. Dualism was of course as old as the hills and Orphic, pre-Judaic, Judaic and Christian theories of the soul characterised it as a special kind of substance that breathes life into a material body embedded in a space-time-causation matrix. Materialism saved its breath for several centuries before finally claiming in the spirit of dialectical interaction that a non-physical, non extended entity cannot have causal effect in the physical matrix of the material world—this substance can move nothing in the material world because it shares none of its properties. The soul cannot be causa sui, materialists argued, by definition, because it cannot be observed either by itself or by others in its putative causing itself to do things.
With PNC, Metaphysical logic and hylomorphic theory marginalised by a “transcendental” conception of logic, the resultant chaos was inevitable. Metaphysics became identical with dualistic assumptions and Aristotle’s metaphysical logic was categorised as dualistic and it was not long before PNC’s metaphysical implications were entirely forgotten except for those die-hard Aristotelians working in a University system itself in the process of being transformed into institutions for the representation of the houses of dualism and materialism. Kant, thankfully, temporarily halted this process of “modernisation” for a short period of time until Hegel and Marx in true dialectical fashion ensured that both Kant and Aristotle were consigned to the footnotes of their dialectical Philosophies. Both Aristotle and Kant emerged as relevant Philosophical figures once again when the process of “modernisation” was again halted in England by the later Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Modernisation and the scientification of our everyday existence continues but for every halting of the process the followers of the opposition increase in number and help to construct what is now beginning to look like a philosophical tradition composed of the philosophies of Aristotle, Kant, and the later Wittgenstein and their followers.
The problem of the relation of the soul to the body must surely fall into the category of what Aristotle referred to as aporetic questions. It is also one of the key problems that needs to be addressed in the arena of Philosophical Psychology. Aristotle regarded the relation of the soul and the body as a holistic unity similar to that of the relation between form and matter. Jonathan Lear, a commentator on the writings of both Aristotle and Freud characterises this issue in the following way:
“Yet it is precisely because soul and body must form a unity in a living organism that it is difficult to distinguish them. Artefacts provided the original model for the form-matter distinction:and there is a clear sense in which a craftsman imposes form on distinct matter. With living organisms, by contrast, matter and form are intimately bound up with each other: consequently,there is no distinctly existing and persisting matter on which soul can, from time to time, be imposed. Indeed the matter of a living organism seems to depend on being ensouled to be the matter that it is. And a given type of soul, say human soul, seems to require a particular type of matter. The living organism is such a unity but the real challenge for Aristotle is to show how that unity can legitimately be conceived as having two aspect, soul and body.”
The soul is an actuality of matter(there can be levels of actuality) and living beings can be regarded as “substance” par excellence by Aristotle. His matrix of different life forms are established in terms of the kind of power that belongs to a particular form. In De Anima 15b 8-14 Aristotle maintains unsurprisingly that the soul is the moving, formal and final cause of the body. He also maintains that a particular constellation of organs are what give rise to particular forms of life. He does not claim that these organs “cause” in any modern sense the form of life—it is rather the case that these forms of life “spontaneously” cause themselves to do what they do, i.e. exercise the powers typical of their particular life form. Aristotle, as we pointed out in part one speaks of a matrix of life forms which form a hierarchy from the simplest to the most complex form: from the simplest form of vegetation to the most complex life form of God. This matrix is constituted by the differentiation of powers but the most interesting observation Aristotle makes is that the more complex life forms incorporate the simpler forms and presumably in so doing transforms their functions into more complex activities. At the level of the human being, the next most complex form of life, Aristotle provides us with three different characterisations:
1.The first characterisation is in terms of an essence specifying definition: a rational animal capable of discourse. This is clearly a kind of summary of the most important powers a human possesses.
2.The second characterisation is in terms of a careful account of how we acquire knowledge through the uses of the powers of perception, memory and reasoning which also appear to be related to powers of language and imagination.
3. The third characterisation is in terms of mans ability to reason both theoretically and practically.
There does not appear to be any conflict between the three characterisations. Hughlings Jackson a theorist who influenced Freudian theory, claimed that areas of the brain have the above kind of hylomorphic hierarchical structure. Freud used these hylomorphic ideas when he suggested his three principles of “psychic” functioning:–the energy regulation principle, the pleasure-pain principle, and the reality principle. Each of the higher principles “colonises” some of the territory of the lower principles thus transforming the human activities associated with them. Eating a meal, for example, primarily an energy regulation activity, is transformed into a civilised activity aiming at the pleasures of sitting down for a period of time with ones family. This is a clear example of the transformation of an instinctive/biological activity into a social event which may involve other powers of the mind such as engaging in discourse and reasoning at the dinner table. Freud claims that one function of language and discourse is to bring “psychic” material into the field of consciousness(where all our powers appear to be integrated). Indeed, his later therapeutic techniques appear to be presupposing the hylomorphic principle of powers building upon powers with the intent of integrating all powers in the mind. Freud is ambivalent on the question of whether consciousness itself is a power or an inherent function of the brain probably partly because of the fact that he was fighting for hylomorphism against the predominating Cartesian model of consciousness. Freud obviously also benefitted from the work of Kant. He is reputed to have said that his was the Psychology that Kant would have written had he concerned himself with this subject which had broken its moorings from Philosophy in 1870. Kant’s work had obviously recreated the space for reflection upon the hylomorphic soul and the power of thinking that Aristotle had established earlier. The Dualism-materialism dialectical interaction continued however with the appearance of the Hegelian criticism of Kantian philosophy which it must be admitted was not straightforwardly hylomorphic. Freuds work began in materialistic mode but soon rejected these assumptions and attempted to restore the Aristotelian principle based approach in the arena of what today we would call Philosophical Psychology. Even during the later phases it must also be admitted that Freud’s work is also not straightforwardly hylomorphic. There is clearly a dualistic tendency in Freud’s work which manifested itself when in his last phase of theorising he turned towards the theories of Plato for some of his key concepts(Eros, Thanatos, Ananke). In spite of these reservations however, it is clear that Freud’s theory is a theory of agency, principles and powers set in a practical context of the search for a flourishing life. The Aristotelian notion of substance implies agents that can do things and act upon things. Powers, for Aristotle, are potentialities to bring about changes in reality and this idea is clearly at work in the Freudian Reality Principle. A power is actualised as part of a cure and then belongs to the agent. Hume would probably have objected that just as we cannot observe the cause of building a house, we cannot observe powers and that therefore they are highly dubious entities. This is a logical consequence of his position that whatever happens is the only thing that can happen.
P.M.S. Hacker in his work “Human Nature:The Categorical Framework” argues that this Humean position is absurd:
“The incoherence of the position was already espoused by Aristotle. For if a thing can do only in fact what it does, then we can no longer speak of skills, since a man cannot do what he is not doing: nor can we speak of learning(acquisition of skills). We shoud be deemed blind when we are not seeing and deaf when we are not hearing.”
Hacker is of course one of the foremost commentators and interpreters of the work of Wittgenstein who, he claims, restored hylomorphic theory in the seminar and lecture rooms of our dialectical Universities. Consciousness in its non- Cartesian form enters into modern post Wittgensteinian discourse in terms of the reflective nature of the human being that possesses an awareness of their powers(unlike a magnet or snake which possess powers unreflectively). This reflectiveness, in its turn, according to Hacker, gives rise to powers that can be willfully used, i.e. powers that we can choose to exercise or not. It was this mental space that appeared to be absent in the mental space of many of Freud’s patients and it was this lack that drove Freud to postulate that the principle driving much of their activity was unconscious and in accordance with the so-called pleasure-pain principle. Hacker calls “volitional powers” in which choice is involved, “two-way powers”. Included among such powers were the powers to perceive, remember, think and reason. He further argues that both Descartes and Hume conflate empirical and conceptual issues and thereby provided assumptions for an emerging neuroscience which were incoherent and confused. As we pointed out earlier Kant attempted to correct the influence of Descartes and Hume by claiming as an axiom of his philosophical psychology(Anthropology) that human beings know a priori the difference between what they are doing and what is being done to them. Kantian accounts as we now know gave rise in the process of modernisation, to volitional theories which in attempting to classify our actions in terms of the modernist matrix of space-time-linear causation resolved a holistic activity into a causal relation between two occurrences which the process of composition could not logically unify.
Schopenhauer was already experiencing the pull of modern volitionism back into a non-Aristotelian matrix of space-time-linear causation when he claimed that:
“we certainly do not recognise the real immediate act of will as something different from the action of the body and the two are connected by a kind of causality: but both are one and indivisible….thus actual willing is inseparable from doing, and, in the narrowest sense, that alone is an act of will which is stamped as such by the deed.”(World as Will and Representation).
It is not difficult to see how volitionism is connected to the dualism-materialism dialectic and in particular Cartesianism and its pernicious form of dualism that paradoxically ends up in the brain. Platonic dualism is not pernicious in this way. It distinguishes between a world of forms and a physical world—a world of representations and the world of that which the representations are of—which Schopenhauer addresses with his distinction between the world of will and the world as representation, where the former world is connected to a priori knowledge that is non observational.Hylomorphic theory with its levels of actuality seems to be the only theory capable of “saving the phenomenon” of willing without reduction or reification. Freudian theory, we should remember, maintained that one can act involuntarily.
Hacker connects teleology to voluntary action and two way powers in the following passage:
“Human beings, like other sentient animals with wants, have the power to move, to act, at will. “to act” in this context does not signify causing a movement, but making one. We acknowledge a special role for such so-called basic actions not because they are a causing of a movement that may be the first link in a causal chain, but because they are the first act. The first thing for which a purposive or intentionalist explanation may be apt. To say that a human being moved his limb is to subsume behaviour under the category of action. It earmarks behaviour as being of a kind, that is under voluntary control, as something of a kind which is a sentient agent can choose to do or not to do, and hence indicates the propriety of asking whether there is an intentionalist explanation of the deed. The attribution of the movement to the agent is not causal. But it is an action, and therefore is of a kind that falls within the ambit of the variety of teleological explanation appropriate for human action. The agent may have moved his hand in order to… or because he wanted to…..or because he thought that….or out of fear, and so forth. Aristotle’s movement is to be understood to be liable to the range of explanations of the exercise of two way powers by a rational agent.”
This, of course, calls into question the observationalist use of the method of resolution and composition(the behaviourist psychologist). Saying on the basis of observation something about another agents movement that “His arm moved” is a description which leaves it open whether this was something he did(raise his arm to call a taxi) or whether this was rather something that happened to him(raising his arm in a fit of cramp). If the phenomenon was of the latter kind there are absolutely no grounds for calling what happened “action”.
Modernization of Aristotelian theory resulted in the scientist reasoning in the spirit of Hobbes and Hume, as part of the process of the dismantling of hylomorphic theory, that teleological explanation is not a form of explanation at all. Two reasons are given for this claim. Firstly the telos cannot be observed and secondly telos disappears in the methodical resolution of activity into linear cause-effect events. Events can then be comfortably described a-teleologically. That scientists should have spent so much effort and time in this composition and subsequent destruction of this “straw man of teleology” or “ghost of teleology” is indeed thought provoking. What is even more thought provoking is the success of their “mythologizing of teleology” and the fact that this process could prove so devastating for Psychological theories such as Freud’s and Piaget’s. Because this process was so successful it might prove useful to remind ourselves of what teleological explanation is via Hacker’s characterisation:
“Our discourse about the living world around us, about ourselves, our bodies and activities, and about the things we make is run through with description and explanation in terms of goals, purposes and functions. We characterise things such as organs and artefacts, and also social institutions in terms of their essential functions and their efficacy in fulfilling them. We explain animal morphology in terms of the purposes served by their shapes, limbs and features. This is not a causal explanation(although it is perfectly consistent with, and indeed calls out for one), since we explain what the organ or feature is for and not how it came about and not how(by what causal processes) it fulfils its function. We describe what it enables the animal to do and how it affects the good of the animal or its offspring. We commonly explain why certain substances animate and inanimate(artefactual) or constituent parts of substances(organs of living things or components of artefacts) do what they do by describing what they do it for…We explain and justify human action, including our own, by specifying the rationale of the prospective or antecedently performed action, and we often account for the behaviour of social institutions likewise. These kinds of description are called “teleological descriptions” and these kinds of answers to the question why, teleological explanations—explanations by reference to an end or purpose(telos).”(p163-4)
Hacker goes onto add that:
“Teleological explanation is typically an explanation in terms of reasons, motives and intended goals…and is said to yield understanding(Verstehen) in a distinctive form by contrast with explanation in terms of causal law that is the mark of the natural sciences.”(p164)
Hacker also agrees that teleology is linked to the idea of the good on the grounds of psuche being a biological/psychological substance whose essence it is to come into being, flourish and eventually die and decay. Living beings on his and Aristotle’s account have absolute needs tied to health and mortality. These needs extend from life-maintaining activities to activities producing the quality of life necessary for a flourishing existence. These latter activities require a considerable amount of learning and the acquisition of many complex skills. We can clearly see a hierarchy of needs emerging from this account. Abrahams Maslow’s theory is a hierarchical theory in which satisfying a need “causes” another higher level need to emerge. There is , in this theory, an “incorporation of the lower level need in the higher. Proceeding up the hierarchy eventually results in a flourishing life for the individual concerned. Maslows account includes reference to cognitive and aesthetic needs. Hacker is not directly referring to Maslow’s theory in his characterisation below but there are significant resemblances:
“Human welfare is associated with the satisfaction not only of absolute needs, but also of socially minimal needs that are a prerequisite for the successful pursuit of any normal projects that human beings adopt in the course of their lives, and hence are normally required for a tolerable life. These include the cultivation of human faculties and the acquisition of skills. The notions of normalcy and of socially minimal needs are both socio-historically relative and normative. In a society such as ours, education(the formation of character, the training in skills, acquisition of knowledge, the development of intellectual powers, and the cultivation of sensibility) is a constitutive element of the welfare of members of society. It is needed if it is to be possible for a normal person to form, and pursue with reasonable chance of success worthy life plans and projects.Welfare is part of the goal of man, but it is the lesser part…Beyond is the flourishing, thriving and prospering that nature, endeavour and future bestow.”(p175)
A large part of the task of society and its social institutions is striving toward the telos of the good: that is, for a society to be flourishing large numbers of the members of that society must experience that the conditions provided allow them to have their needs systematically met. The telos of the society, as Socrates suspected, must be connected to the telos of the individual. If an individual flourishes in a flourishing society he achieves what Aristotle refers to as the summum bonum of life, namely eudaimonia , or happiness. This can only occur, argue Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, if the society concerned is Rational. This moves us onto the question of the realm of the essence or formal “cause” of society and individual.
One of the needs of the animal and the human being is to reproduce and if the latter do so rationally a level of consciousness of the telos of sexuality is a requisite condition. Plants and animals do not possess this requisite condition, this level of reflective consciousness in relation to reproductive or sexual activity. In Freud’s theory it is the principles of energy regulation and pleasure pain that regulate reproductive activity. In the human being we are capable of regulating this activity by using the powers of discourse and reasoning. We can that is discuss the reasons for our reproductive and sexual behaviour. The essence of the individual is tied to reproductive activity for Freud but his claims only make sense in the context of hylomorphic theory. The family is obviously the social institution connected to sexual activity and the bringing up of children which appears to so many to be an important part of the flourishing life. The family is also the basic social unit which forms the basis for the construction of the polis and is therefore an important element of the flourishing polis, the Callipolis.
Aristotle’s teleological explanations seem therefore to have clear application in the realm of the human world but is the case for their application to the natural world equally obvious? Particles and matter for example are not naturally thought of in terms of being “for” anything and the reason why particles and matter do what they do is also not directly relatable to their internal potential to move but rather to some propensity to move when caused to do so by external factors. In a low pressure system, for example where the air is cooled the matter in the system will descend in the form of rain after having ascended in warmer circumstances to form clouds. This might suffice for some to attribute a telos to the evaporated water that was ascending and then descended back to earth in the cooling process. Some kind of resolution-composition method sufficed for Aristotle to pick out the elements of earth water air and fire and their associated processes of wet-cold, hot-dry and for him there did seem to be a place for teleological explanation in weather systems, organ systems and perhaps also economic systems. Basically energy regulation systems such as weather systems are set to a teleological standard of homeostasis. Viewed from the vantage point of energy regulation Aristotelian teleological physics appears harmless enough. It is, however, when God is brought into the picture as a designer of systems that problems begin to emerge. Aquinas, a commentator and interpreter of the works of Aristotle from a religious point of view attempts to argue that in the inorganic world, “material” which lacks awareness could only have a goal, i.e. act “for the sake of” some end if God directed the process in much the same way as an archer intentionally directs an arrow at a target. This of course, cannot fail to remind us of the passage in the Nichomachean Ethics where Aristotle claims:
“If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake(everything else being desired for the sake of this)…clearly this must be the good and the chief good. Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life?Shall one not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should do?If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is.”
Aristotle claims that this end is Eudaimonia, often translated as happiness, but not always happily so. Perhaps a better translation in some contexts would be “a flourishing life”. It is the function of man, Aristotle argues, to lead a flourishing life which for him amounts to living in accordance with areté or virtue which in its turn means doing the right thing at the right time in the right way: all these elements will be involved in the reasons a man gives for doing any particular act. This, in the Freudian scheme of things, would entail that the Reality Principle(Ananke) is the organising principle of ones life.
Aquinas conceives of God as a Supreme Agent, the Supreme Archer but there is very little in Aristotle to support this thesis. Aristotle claims that an arrow falls downward for the same reason that rain falls downward in the weather system, namely earth falls downward because its situational-being is beneath the water and air and this is its natural place. Fire and heat and light(not heavy) warm matter moves upwards because the source of heat is its place, namely, the sun. All these elements are we should be careful to note already formed material (in accordance with the matter-form principle) and it is their form that decides their position and changes of position in the universe. That is, an arrow will fall to earth after having been fired into the air because of the forms that compose it: the wood and the iron are returning to their source—the earth. Now Aristotle in claiming the above was not making the mistake of other early philosophers/poets and claiming that the arrow “wanted” to return to earth. After all, was it not Aristotle who claimed that a tree has a visual form to present to the human eye but that a tree because of its nature cannot itself be aware of visual forms. Did he not maintain that powers build upon powers and that in accordance with this idea only substances that can be perceptually aware of visible forms can “want” and desire and therefore strive to fulfil these wants? Only animals and humans can fire the arrows of desire at their targets. Now, on Aristotle’s account god is pure form but his function is pure thinking which does not desire or aim at objects since all objects are immediately possessed by a pure thinker. God, therefore, cannot in any way be similar to a super-human craftsman creating and shaping the substance of the world over a period of time. The Biblical creation myth is allegorical and meant merely to establish the hierarchy or “Place” of animals in relation to earth and God in relation to man and man in relation to the animals and the rest of the universe. In short God, whilst in some sense being alive does not perceive or desire and his thought has no relation to these powers. There is, it should be noted a significant difference between the philosophical God of Aristotle and the Biblical Mythical God who appears amorphously through the mists of mythological allegory. Aristotle’s God is not a craftsman caring for his creation and he is not therefore the Supreme agent or Supreme archer directing the elements to their natural places. He is rather, pure actuality, pure form, pure thinking. He thinks in a way which is not the realisation of a potential but rather thinks of himself in a timeless infinite “moment” of contemplation. Perhaps Thales shared this conception and perhaps this is what he meant when he said “things are full of gods” as a response to those atheists who believed that the planets were just cold feelingless stone. If God is not thinking as we do about Reality how then should we characterise this thinking. Aristotle brilliantly chose the description/explanation that God thinks about thinking. He therefore cannot be a super-agent or a super-archer. When we are thinking, Aristotle points out, we partake however primitively, in the divinity of contemplation. When we are contemplating, it is during these moments that we are closest to God and the extent to which this occupies a large proportion of our life is the extent to which we lead a flourishing life or the “good spirited(Eudaimonia) life. One cannot but be amazed at the ease with which Aristotle makes his transitions from Metaphysical aporia to Ethical and political Philosophy aporia. These almost seamless transitions were the reason why he was referred to as “The Philosopher” for hundreds of years and “the teacher of our teachers”. Dante referred to Aristotle as “The master of those that know”. This is also the reason why we need to take his definition of Philosophy seriously—the systematic understanding of the world as a systematic whole– in a way that has been done only sporadically by Modern Philosophy since the time of Descartes and Hobbes.
The Conceptual Foundations: American Foreign Policy: Historical Perspective
Lecturer Stephen Sestanovic
Let us place these reflections in the context of the historical perspective of an ex diplomat: Henry Kissinger. The work we will be referring to is entitled “Diplomacy”. The book begins with a chapter entitled “The New World Order” but the word “order” has to be metaphorical given that Kissinger agrees with Sestanovic’s diagnosis of the fundamental ambivalence of American Foreign Policy in the twentieth century.
Sestanovic. For example talks of the contradictory character of 6 dualities:
“1. The US possesses the most powerful military as well as the most powerful tradition of civilian control of the military.
2.The US possesses the most Imperial Presidency as well as the most extensive congressional limitations on Presidential power.
3.The US has contributed more than any other country toward establishing a system of international organisation and law and is the most determined to protect itself against unwanted applications of International Law and processes.
4. The US has the most ideas driven policy and is most easily duped by anti-idealistic pragmatic authorities elsewhere.
5. The US is the land most committed to free trade and at the same time heavily influenced by small protectionist lobbies.
6.The US is deeply influenced by business interests and yet most likely to upset them by pursuing other goals.”
These remarks are placed in the context of the classification system proposed by Lisa Anderson in the first lecture but otherwise they seem to lack the cohesion of the more systematic political perspective of Kissinger.
Kissinger does not speak in terms of a classification system of perspectives, of what the US possesses or of business interests. He speaks rather in terms of so-called “universal values” and international politics:
“In the twentieth century no country has influenced international relations as decisively and at the same time as ambivalently as the US. No society has more firmly insisted on the inadmissibility of intervention in the affairs of other states, or more passionately asserted that its own values were universally applicable. No nation has been more pragmatic in the day to day conduct of its diplomacy, or more ideological in the pursuit of its historical moral convictions. No country has been more reluctant to engage itself abroad even while undertaking alliances and commitments of unprecedented reach and scope. The singularities that America has ascribed to itself throughout its history have produced two contradictory attitudes toward foreign policy. The first is that America serves its values best by perfecting democracy at home, thereby acting as a beacon for the rest of mankind: the second, that America’s values impose on it an obligation to crusade for them around the world…..Both schools of thought—of America as beacon and America as crusader, envision as normal a global international order based on democracy, free commerce and international law. Since no such system has ever existed, its evocation often appears to other societies as utopian, if not naïve….Thus the two approaches, the isolationist and the missionary, so contradictory on the surface, reflected a common underlying faith: that the US possessed the world’s best system of government and that the rest of mankind could attain peace and prosperity by abandoning traditional diplomacy and adopting America’s reverence for international law and democracy. Americas journey through international politics has been a triumph of faith over experience.”
These two accounts agree on the ambivalence of American Foreign Policy and the ideological attitude toward foreign powers but both accounts also disagree on several points. The first disagreement is over the issue of international law. On this issue we find Kissinger talking in terms of reverence and Sestanovic talking in terms of avoidance/rejection. Kissinger’s reasoning is more scholarly and systematic. The key pairs of terms for Kissinger were: “beacon and crusader” and “reverence and faith”.
But Sestanovic’s account also strives toward a deeper understanding through the use of the Aristotelian term of “pluralism”. Commenting on the 6 dualities he proposed he asks:
“How do we explain these dualities?Together they paint a portrait of a highly pluralistic policy process. Not all participants in policy processes are committed to the same goals.”
The term “pluralism” appears here to be used less systematically and more rhapsodically than the way in which Aristotle would have used it. But Sestanovic approaches a deeper level of understanding of what is happening when he quotes both Keynes and Churchill:
“Keynes:–“There is a long tradition of seeing American Foreign Policy as disorderly, ineffective and even defective…the organs of decision making are so incredibly inefficient that one wonders how a decision is ever reached at all.”
Churchill: “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have exhausted all other alternatives.”
This last Churchillian quote could well be the clarion call of pragmatism that practical doctrine of craftsmanship and politics elevated to a “philosophy” by William James. Indeed the presence of pragmatism in this lecture series is so prevalent that one is surprised that it was not allocated a special genre in Anderson’s classification system. Realism is an epistemological position and could not therefore be confused with a practical instrumental position until James transformed pragmatism into an epistemological position. This confusion is therefore possible in American theorising. Pluralism for Aristotle was also a practical ethical position which appears to have been transformed into an epistemological position in Sestanovic’s lecture.
Sestanovic links this disordered Foreign Policy to the classification system provided by Anderson. American Foreign Policy it is maintained is seen to be sometimes realist and sometimes liberal: the realist, it is claimed, believes that pluralism can never produce a successful foreign policy whilst the liberal believes the opposite. The American people as distinct from its government, does not believe in realist political policies. Interesting examples of the position of the people are given. Firstly, the American authorities, in a monumental confusion of epistemology and political reasoning, declared the American shrimp to be a different species of shrimp to shrimps coming from other regions of the world, and for what reason? To protect the interests of the American shrimp farmer. A second example of the respect for pluralism and preference for liberalism concerns the Irish lobby successfully persuading the government from the course of action of preventing the flow of money to the IRA, a terrorist movement that targeted civilians with bombs.
Let us be clear about what pluralism actually means. Pluralism in Aristotle is connected ethically to the manifold forms of life that people have freely and rationally chosen. The latter term “rational” is important because for Aristotle practical rationality is intimately related to morality and virtue, i.e what he calls the common good. The choice of the Irish terrorists to target and murder innocent non-combatant civilians in a war against the government would not be “rational” or “ethical” in the Philosophical ethics of Aristotle. Aristotle would also have reacted with bewilderment over the declaration that the American shrimp is a different species of shrimps of other countries. For Aristotle, a form of life is owed respect in direct proportion to its ethical rationality. This is a Condition of Aristotelian pluralism. The idea of pluralism referred to by Sestanovic is a different idea altogether.
Kissinger does not discuss the concept of pluralism and he steers well clear of the foreign affairs implications of the above embarrassing events. Wilsoniasm which both Kissinger and Sestanovic agree on lies at the foundation of American thinking in the arena of foreign affairs is one of the keys to understanding the American understanding of foreign affairs in the twentieth century. Sestanovic argues that Woodrow Wilson is a realist. Kissinger is unclear about where Wilson belongs on the political spectrum-classification system. This is what Kissinger has to say on this issue in the chapter entitled “The New World Order” : (p18)
“..the American peacemakers believed that the Great War had resulted not from intractable geopolitical conflicts but from flawed European practices. In his famous fourteen points, Woodrow Wilson told the Europeans that henceforth the international system should be based not on the balance of power but on ethnic self-determination, that their security should depend not on military alliances but on collective security, and that their diplomacy should no longer be conducted secretly by experts but is the basis of “open agreements openly arrived at.
Clearly, Wilson had come not so much to discuss the ending of a war or the restoration of international order, as to react to a whole system of international relations as had been practiced for nearly three centuries.”
It is not easy, on the above evidence, to bluntly characterize Wilson as a realist. He appears rather to be a pragmatist with an Aristotelian leaning toward a limited form of practical rationality which embraces the virtues of honesty and transparency. What is clear is that we see here, in this event, the USA climbing on to the world stage and preaching global reform. Kissinger, either knowingly or unknowingly, takes up the European response to Wilson’s sermon:
“In fact, both the American and European approaches to foreign policy were the products of their own unique circumstances. America inhabited a nearly empty continent shielded from predatory powers by two vast oceans ad with weak countries as neighbours. Since America confronted no power in need of being balanced, it could hardly have occupied itself with the challenges of equilibrium. Europe was thrown into balance of power politics when its first choice the medieval dream of universal empire collapsed and a host of states of more or less equal strength arose from the ashes of that ancient aspiration. When a group of states so constituted are obliged to deal with one another, there are only two possible outcomes: either one state becomes so strong that it dominates all the others and creates an empire or no state is ever quite powerful enough to achieve that goal. In the latter case, the pretensions of the most aggressive member of the international community are kept in check by a combination of the others: in other words by the operation of a balance of power.”
These words could have been written as a historical or descriptive account of modern political activity. It is important to note, however, that there is another type of political reasoning of a prescriptive or ethical character: that which for example grounds Wilson’s “open agreements openly arrived at”. Sometimes Kissinger writes as if Wilson was holding the torch of American democracy up for the world to see in the hope that the whole world would imitate the American way or form of life. He does not pursue this image but the reader is left with the impression that this was a possible symbol of the “desire for empire” to be achieved by nonmilitary means.
Kissinger has missed one European perspective whose foundations were laid during the Enlightenment, shortly after the birth of the USA, namely the view of a nonmilitary ethical empire of a world ruled by the moral and international law and the teleological idea of a permanent peace guaranteed by a United Nations organisation. It was, of course, Woodrow Wilson who proposed a league of nations in the wake of discussions with a British government official. Was this a strain of Kantianism? If so, then such considerations make it very difficult to accept the classification system of this series of lectures. What is Kissinger missing here? The claim of this lecture is that he is missing the underlying philosophical value in the European Academic tradition of thinking about Politics. The following is Kissinger’s thoughts on the Enlightenment contribution to European civilisation:
“Intellectually the concept of the balance of power reflected the convictions of all the major thinkers of the Enlightenment. In their view, the universe, including the political sphere, operated according to rational principles which balanced each other. Seemingly random acts by reasonable men would, in their totality, tend toward the common good, though the proof of this proposition was elusive in the century of almost conflict that followed the thirty years war.”
Historian and American scholar Henry Kissinger has also missed, as have the lecturers holding the above series of lectures the Aristotelian concept of Areté(doing the right thing at the right time in the right way) as well as the ethical Cosmopolitanism of Kant. This latter position clearly distinguishes between the balance of power that is the case and the Cosmopolitan world of International law and order that ought to be the case in a world in which the virtues are grounded in the Categorical Imperative. Until what ought to be the case is the case, the world will never be fully rational.
Kissinger, in the above quote, is adopting a perspective of instrumental reasoning in the lives of people and nations. Here so called enlightened self-interest presumably will be the beacon steering man toward collective security. The key words in the above quote are “seemingly random acts” because on the principle of enlightened self-interest there would never be perpetual peace: politics on this view is an infinitely recurring power game forever in search of equilibriums which will appear and disappear. Power is the most difficult “commodity” or capacity to share. Sharing can only occur if all the actors in the game share egalitarian intentions. If, in this game, the mechanism of the fear of being wronged overrides the powerful urge to do wrong in one’s own self-interest is invoked here in defence of the Kissinger position, we can only say that this is to say the very least an equilibrium that is a consequence of “wishful thinking”. Passively fearing the consequences of being wronged surely, for the realist must be a sign of liberal weakness, especially if the only other category of political position is that of constructivism.
The Classical Greek element that is missing in Kissinger and Sestanovic’s positions is the normative concept of Knowledge. In this respect, we should remember the Socratic response to one of the first attempts by Thrasymachus to justify the Politics of Power. How, Socrates asks, would the power hungry rulers know which laws they would need to pass in order to consolidate their position. Once this argument is established most forms of instrumental reasoning related to enlightened self-interest. Perhaps as a consequence realism as a political attitude also collapses. Anarchy and ambivalence seem then to be the only alternatives if one does not accept that Politics is fundamentally ethical and related to the categorical imperative and its humanistic approach to the justification of action.
Humanism and categorical reasoning are certainly not related to the so-called “soft-power” of constructivist positions. Humanism is an academic position requiring the courage of a Socrates or a Jesus. Perhaps Humanism is closely related to liberalism of a certain form but it is not similar to the Liberalism of Mill which attempts to use instrumental reasoning to pursue a goal only achievable by the categorical imperative, the goal namely, of happiness.
Let us conclude these reflections with a discussion of the pair of terms “reverence and faith” introduced by Kissinger in the context of the American relation to International Law. The first Puritans to arrive in the New World were, of course, religious and placed their faith in written agreements which could bind them together in their essentially religious communities. Some social contract theorists refer back to this “act of faith”. The agreements, of course, were signed beneath the eyes of God and in the light of this seen to carry the weight of ancient religious covenants. Why, one wonders, in the light of such a history is it so difficult to persuade the USA to agree to subject itself to International Law? Has “enlightened” self-interest secularised both the religious and the ethical elements of living together? Or, does this reveal the true intentions of Wilsoniasm, namely to be the law but not to be subject to the law? Kissinger does not discuss these objections because he insists paradoxically that American Foreign Policy is fundamentally ethical. What he means by the term ethical, of course, is neither Aristotelian nor Kantian: neither of these latter positions can be connected to any kind of self-interest. Was it not, in relation to this point, Socrates who claimed that the craft of the doctor was primarily for the sake of the patient even to the extent of not being paid for his services if the patient’s life was at stake? Is this the position of enlightened self interest?
Kissinger is aware of the drift of the world toward globalization but he does not see in this phenomenon the seeds of Kantian Cosmopolitanism. Rather, he claims:
“The international system of the twenty-first century will be marked by a seeming contradiction: on the one hand fragmentation, on the other growing globalization. On the level of the relations between states, the new order will be more like the European state system of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries than the rigid patterns of the Cold War. It will contain at least 6 major powers:–the USA, Europe, China, Japan, Russia, and probably 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 have surfaced that can only be dealt with on a worldwide basis, such as nuclear proliferation, the environment, the population explosion, and economic interdependence.”
According to Kissinger, enlightened self-interest, assisted by the craftsmanship of the statesman, appears to be the only mechanism that we can hope will bring the above process to a satisfactory conclusion. He envisages a new balance of power doctrine in a multi-state world. History can only provide us with analogy and intellectual analysis may or may not be relevant. There is no mention in this chapter(The New World Order) of the role of philosophy and the thoughts of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Kant. Presumably, Kissinger thinks that they only provided us with analogies and irrelevant analysis.
Kant envisaged that it would take ca 100,000 years for the Cosmopolitan world to actualize. Kantian Commentators have pointed to the incredible growth of freedom since the time of his writings and they have suggested he might have been too pessimistic in his estimation of the time required. The argument in favour of Kant’s prognosis is, of course, the depressing fact that the most prominent political scholars of our time have yet to identify the underlying mechanisms of political change in spite of the fact that these can be found in 5he pages of historians and in the writings of intellectuals like Aristotle and Kant.
This second lecture by Richard Betts follows the classification system of political theories advanced in the first lecture by Lisa Anderson. Anderson claimed in her lecture that the political theories of democratic regimes must either be realist, liberal or constructivist but as we pointed out in our commentary the descriptions of these three positions do not appear to exhaust the possible political theories that have been proposed in the past and adhering to this framework will of course seriously limit the type of theory that can be proposed in the future. The major reason lying behind the limitations of this classification system is the absence of recognition for the role of the normative principle regulating the actions of the individual or the collective. A subsidiary reason relates to the arbitrary exclusion of that political position most associated with Globalisation, namely the Cosmopolitanism flowing from the ethical and political works of Kant. Another secondary reason lying behind the limitations of Anderson’s classifications system is that the basic units of states, individuals and corporations exclude arbitrarily intermediary political collectives on the road to Cosmopolitanism, namely, the European Union. This Union as we know is an idealistic so called “liberal” project that refuses to confine itself to economics and its game theory.
Betts opens his lecture in pseudo-Churchillian manner with the following comment:
“Realism is the worst theory of International Relations except for all the others.”
He then proceeds to define Realism:
“Realism is an attitude toward the human condition and a general theory about how the world usually works, held, for example by thinkers like Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Hobbes. This type of political thinker emphasises flaws in Human Nature and the natural conflicts of interests that occur between states. There is a domination of material interests over legal and moral norms in the determination of the actions of political units like nation states. Robert Guildford pointed to three assumptions of Realism:
1.The conflictual nature of International affairs.
2.That the essence of social reality is the group and not the individual(which is the liberal unit of political action)
3.The primacy in all political life of power and security.
Following Plato’s distinction in “The Republic” between assumptions that work through to a conclusion without attempting to establish the validity of the assumption in terms of the principle embodied in it and assumptions that embody a valid principle it would seem that accepting this distinction requires us to question the above three assumptions of Realist theories. We can begin by asking why the theory appears a-historical, i.e. why it seems to assume that the political realm is an unchanging realm of natural international conflict involving flawed individuals in communities fighting for power and security. Why, one may wonder, can one not, for example claim that politics aims to end international conflict through individuals striving for the good which may minimally involve power and security but so much more. Why, that is, can we not begin our political reflections at the beginning of reflection on political issues, namely with Plato and Aristotle. For reasons that are obscure we are invited instead to begin our reflections on political theory in the middle with the assumptions of Hobbes and Machiavelli. Aristotle’s theory of change obviously would seem best equipped to deal with processes of transformation typical of political processes. The state for Aristotle was less the ship of state from earlier Greek politics and more like a living organism transforming itself on a curve of development culminating in a telos or of self sufficiency characterised by Eudaimonia(good-spiritedness). This developmental process is obviously characterised by both state descriptive is-statements and teleologically oriented normative ought-statements and primacy(in the Aristotelian system of ethical and political statements) falls on those normative judgments of what the organism is-to-be, i.e. descriptions of states of the organism are teleological. Man may never actualise his potential to become fully rational but because that is his telos, rationality is the primary term in the definition : rational animal capable of discourse.
According to Realist theory nation states are not fully rational and are therefore less concerned with International peace and more concerned with power and security of the nation.state even to the extent of disobeying international law. In this theory there is a steadfast refusal to use the organismic model of Aristotelian hylomorphic theory which would have no difficulty in incorporating the hopes and ideal of International Peace into a definition of Justice in the realm of the political. According to Aristotelian hylomorphic political theory, which was actualised in Kantian Political Philosophy, Peace is the telos of the International Political Process and every event of the international political process should be judged accordingly. For realism such reasoning is naïve and even dangerously idealistic. On this view of realism it almost seems as if realism and idealsim are, if not contradictories, at least contraries and this is not the case in Aristotelian and Kantian political theory.. On these latter theories the appearance of contradiction or contrariness only appears if one does not understand hylomorphic assumptions that a things coming to be is part of its essence and thus an important part of the essence specifying definition of that thing. In other words the telos and idea of a things essence is just as real as any stage of that thing ‘s development. Stages of development are obviously necessary for a thing to pass from its origin to its telos. The tadpole stage description then, has the same reality as the frog telos normative description. The need for security and the use of power are the tadpole stage of a nation-state and it is in fact only instrumentally essential to its final form which is embodied in the Kantian vision of Cosmopolitanism. Just as the tadpole structures are largely dissolved by the frog-like structure the nation-state as a structure may even disappear as a so called “basic unit”. If the fundamental essence and telos of the political process is Peace and Peace is achieved there is no contradiction in hylomorphic theory in the initial phase being transformed and transcended by its essence and telos. The basic political unit for Aristotle may well be, in spite of the contention of communitarian theory, the uniqueness of the individual’s life. Aristotles claim that man is necessarily a social animal is a formal characteristic which certainly transforms and transcends this individual life, but I would argue that this is done without the dissolution of this condition. Indeed respecting this individual life is what Aristotle refers to in his pluralism thesis. Political judgments must respect individual lives unconditionally even when these lives are being incorporated into the larger political units of the family, the village, the tribe and the city-state. The individual is certainly the fundamental political unit of Kantian political Philosophy because politics is determined by ethics, and ethics is determined by the individual responding to the world universally in his actions. So, Cosmopolitanism does not make the Globe or the World the basic unit of politics. Respect for the individual life will be a major component of this New World Order. Aristotle of course is not a spokesman for Cosmopolitanism for a number of reasons. Firstly he could not see how representative democracy could govern numbers of citizens exceeding 100,000 citizens. He also, secondly, could not see a mechanism for installing a greater degree of rationality in the citizen body. Kant could see this mechanism, namely education, even if it would need a span of 100,000 years to do its work. We should remember in this context that although education was beginning to become important in Platonic and Aristotelian times there was at that time no existent educational mechanisms for achieving the aims of education, apart from conversations in the agora ,hand written books and performed dialogues. Schools were an invention of the philosophers and the Academy and the Lyceum were prototypes of later institutions of education which invented the lecture as a medium for the communication of ideas. The projected intention for later Schools and Universities(institutions of universal education) was to use lectures to teach ideas idealistically to future citizens. Hopefully amongst these ideas will be the idea of peace. Aristotle’s teleological narrative of the origin and development of the polis of course involves the idea of the Good that all human activities strive for but it also postulates a natural history in which individuals have their uniqueness respected whilst simultaneously being embedded in the social units of the family, the village, the tribe and the city-state.For Aristotle there is a pluralism of forms of life that must be respected by any and every just political system. He refrains from theorising about the state but he insists that the state must be just and that justice simply consists in one person or a few people or the many ruling in the interests of the common good. The Common Good or justice on the above Realist account is simply the need for security and security related power. It is indeed an open question given the presence of Machiavelli on the list of spokesmen for Realism, whether the exercise of power has to be just or whether the laws of the polis have to be just. Security for “the common good” appears to be operating according to a lowest common denominator principle and be something which ensures ones survival or the safety of ones life.The quality of life seems to have been reduced to the bare fact of living. Also, according to Hobbes, the arch-Realist the above safety principle should also ensure the safety of ones property. In a society where many own property but a significant proportion of of the population do not we can readily see how a ruler could naturally reinforce a division in society which might lead to civil disturbance and even war or at the very least continual regime change.
What we do know, according to Betts is that Realist theory is a theory of why wars occur between states in spite of the presence of an International Legal System and the United Nations. According to the Realist, theorist anarchy prevails in International Relations and one cannot rely on the UN to come to a member country’s aid if they find themselves attacked and invaded and even if the UN do sanction military action, this action may do more harm than good.
Betts follows this discussion up by referring back to Anderson’s initial political classification system:
“Realists, then, are more focussed on issues of war and peace whilst liberals are more focussed on normative and economic interests.”
War , for a liberal, is an evil and only sometimes, and very rarely is it a necessary evil. Sometimes, that is, the survival of the state is at issue but most of the time war is a futile attempt to solve problems which really require dialogue and diplomatic solutions where the issue of “The Good” or “The Common International Good” is the intended telos of negotiations. War for reasons other than the will to survive is anathema. Wars are unjust because justified violence is by its nature intended to stop someone doing something. Wars conducted with the intention to inflict punishment on a country because of what they have done are for the Greek liberal like Socrates unjust, simply because they are inherently evil and evil in their consequences: one can never make a bad man better by doing something bad to him. According to the liberal, punishment is only justified after due legal process has established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a normative law based international liberalism. The Conservative Realist argument against this position is bewildering and relates to our descriptivism versus prescriptivism argument in our commentary upon lecture one. The argument is that just because a few countries in fact do not recognise International Law as an International regulator of action the community as a whole ought not to use International Law as a regulator! That is, a description of the unlawful behaviour of a few countries somehow justifies discarding the prescriptive judgment:”The law ought to be obeyed”!
Betts clearly manifests how Realist theory is a creation of skeptics and cynics when he says:
“War can easily occur because of misunderstandings and miscalculations. Security dilemmas occur for example when two states, neither of whom want war with each other are nevertheless suspicious of each others intentions”
Betts refers to this as a “cycle of increasing tension” and claims that this cycle lay behind the occurrence of the first world war. He then asks the question:
“But why do political disputes produce war rather than litigation? Because litigation only works if both parties are prepared to accept the verdict of a third party or if some form of law enforcement can enforce judgments. So litigation against the USA would only have worked in the Nicaragua case(the mining of its coastline) if the international community possessed an executive arm with authority. This is the situation Realism calls “Anarchy”. Some International actors hoped that the USA would be that executive authority which enforced International Law but the UN is not a world government. The real unmasking of the UN came in 1995 in Srebnizka. The UN proclaimed a safe area for the Bosnian Muslims which was to be protected from attacks by the Serbs. The proclamation could not be enforced. The one Dutch Battalion when faced by the Serbian army melted away. Seven thousand Bosnian Muslims were rounded up and murdered.”
We should remember it was the social contract theorist Locke who claimed that we contract to leave our natural state or state of nature for protection under a Law proceeding in accordance with due process in the spirit of justice. This of course was a retreat from the categorical position that Socrates took in relation to the Law. For Socrates the law could not be unjust and even if the law led to unjust consequences such as his death sentence, it was at all costs to be protected and obeyed. If one had no respect for the law the only course of action was to continue obeying it until one left the country or perhaps campaign in the agora for change, for people to think more philosophically about the law. The business man’s holy grail, the contract, would have seemed to Socrates and the ancient Greeks an expression of uncertainty and fear that people were no longer to be trusted to do the right thing at the right time and in the right way, that generally no one could be trusted to keep their word or their promises unless everything was put in writing. The argument we see in the above quote is an old argument used by Thrasymachus. Its logical form was understood by Socrates: you cannot argue from one premise or a number of premises describing what people or governments do to the conclusion of what they ought to do. Later philosophers would formalise this Socratic response and name the logical error the naturalistic fallacy. We are told that no one came to arrest President Bush for the crime against Nicaragua and the Peace keeping corps of the UN did not do what they ought to have done. These states of affairs are regrettable but they are not reasons for abandoning value-laden institutions such as the UN and International Law. Rather these events are one more reason for using a Socratic approach with the disbelievers and informing them of the value of such institutions via elenchus and dialectic. This is a reason, in other words for convincing those of little faith of the logic of prescriptive judgments.
Betts naturalistically jumps to the conclusion that these events prove that”Power trumps law” and thus reducing a situation which calls for a categorical value and ethically laden judgement to a situation judged instrumentally with the words of a gambler, i.e. “Power trumps law”.
Betts puts the interesting question:
“Is Realism Immoral? In one sense this is true. If ethics is shaped and limited by the survival imperative then there is a difference between what is and what ought to be—the desirable and the possible. Trying to do what is desirable may be at best futile at worst counter-productive. For the Realist thinking dominates wishing. Those for whom the opposite is true and wishing dominates their thinking, the realists call idealists.”
In book 9 of the Republic plato argues via Socrates that where the logical space of judgment is divided into three alternatives, call them the top, the middle and the bottom, a bi-polar tendency(Something is either x or not-x) often leads us to misjudgements because of the failure to include all three alternatives or possibilities in our act of judgment. Socrates argues concretely in terms of living in a world where there is a top a middle and a bottom and claims that if one lives in the middle region of this world and all that one relates to is the bottom of the world one might misdescribe ones situation in that world by claiming that one lives in the top region of the world. Applying this “logic” to the above quote, the three abstract alternatives confronting us would be wishful thinking(of a “pathological” kind) instrumental thinking(like that used by a gambler) and categorical ethical thinking. Betts, in the spirit of the pragmatic instrumental sentiment “This is how the world works” looks at a few moments in the history of the world, where, at those particular moments International Law and the UN are not working in accordance with their intentions. Betts did not however widen his horizon of thought and take into account the possibility that at some future time these failures of intent and breaches of International law might be addressed as they were in the case of the ethnic cleansing crimes committed by the Serbs in Bosnia. Many of those responsible have now been brought to justice and sentenced for their crimes. Failing to take these instrumental acts inspired by categorical ethical thinking into account, Betts calls the ethical idealist pattern of responding “wishful thinking”. This, it is not to be denied, is a very modern approach to our very modern problems which would have been met with disdain and incredulity by Greek and Enlightenment philosophers like Kant. The Greeks and Kant know where the modern road is leading and would not have been surprised at the totalitarian anarchy of the twentieth century. What might have been incomprehensible for these philosophers would have been that half a century after these events and after an Arendtian analysis of them, “modern political philosophy” is still lacking a correct analysis of what is real and what is not.
Kant witnessed the modern equivalents of Thrasymachus in the thoughts and political philosophies of Machiavelli and Hobbes. Betts, reaches back into history to use Machiavellian thoughts to justify his position:
“Machiavelli, for example, argues that the Prince sometimes has to do evil in order to do good. The ends must sometimes justify the means if you believe in waging war for any purpose—because a decision to wage war, including for the reason of self-defence involves a decision which will kill a large number of people. The war against Hitler was a war of this sort.”
Believing that the war against Hitler was merely in accordance with the survival imperative would be a very primitive analysis and leave the response of the world especially Great Britain to Hitlers totalitarian motivations completely out of the equation of the analysis. Indeed, Totalitarian governments are realists in the sense being propagated here. They proclaim their instrumental aims to be categorically good and they reserve the right to use every means, however unethical, to make sure their gambles pay off. Hitler and Stalin would have claimed that they were realists in accordance with the definitions provided here and they too would have used the arguments of Thrasymachus, Machiavelli and Hobbes to justify their positions. “Power trumps law” would have been a slogan both of these tyrants would have claimed was true. It seems we moderns have still failed to learn that without an ethical idealist basis law paradoxically becomes what you wish it to be and Hitler and Stalins “wishful thinking” in this respect is well documented. Law becomes the Fuhrers law, Stalin’s law or Mao’s law. The law becomes an object of wishful thinking.
For the Ancient Greeks ethical ideas are categorically real and form the foundation of Political Philosophy and Law. Betts believes that these ideas belong in the category of wishful thinking. He aligns himself with his team: Thrasymachus, Machiavelli and Hobbes and his team are challenging the team of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Kant. And the grounds for the challenge lies in the former team believing that the middle of a region is its top and that the slogan “Power trumps law” suffices as an academic argument.
The reference in the above quote to the survival imperative rings warning bells. Hannah Arendt in her work “The Origins of Totalitarianism” refers to the way in which totalitarian leaders like Hitler were using the law of natural selection in arguments relating to the superiority and inferiority of certain races. The natural law of selection had categorised the Jews as an inferior dying race and this in accordance with the naturalistic fallacy motivated the judgment that they ought to be killed to hasten their end: They were dying anyway at the hands of a law of nature in Hitler’s opinion. For Hitler, the law of natural selection “trumped” the Kantian Categorical Imperative. The above is an example of the naturalistic fallacy in full flower:”The Jews were a dying race therefore they ought to be killed”. This is a Realist argument.
Kant’s approach to war was to claim that on both instrumental and categorical grounds that they ought not to occur but for the Realist Betts:
“Realists believe that war is a natural phenomenon paralleling the law of natural selection”
Arendt points out in her work how the inevitability of this natural law motivated much of the otherwise incomprehensible behaviour we witnessed during “the terrible twentieth century”. Totalitarian leaders share the the above realist belief as they do the sentiments below:
“Wars are about how states will be formed, organised and controlled and states are the critical agents for a realist.”
Nation states came into existence after the time of Kant but Kant felt that wars were pathological. For him the essence and telos of political development was founded upon ethical categorical imperatives which would lead us to a Cosmopolitan world with Cosmopolitan citizens. In the eyes of Betts Kant would be classified as a liberal. It ought to be pointed out that Kant was not a believer in the power of wealth. He would not have aligned himself with those wealthy middle class liberals who led a Hobbesian life during the day and slept with their guns and their social contracts under their pillows.
There are admissions at the end of the lecture that Realism does not provide a theoretical framework for conceptualising the so called “clash of civilisations” and terroristic activities. This is a weakness because of the choice of the fundamental unit of the state for the analysis of all political phenomena but the greatest weakness of Realism is not in its attitude toward extreme phenomena but rather in its attitude toward the realm of the ethical. This is well borne out by the following claim:
“Realism is not meant to accomplish positive things, to make the world a better place, but it does help to suggest what is necessary in order to prevent negative developments that threaten the good.”
One can be forgiven for wondering why so much effort and time has been spent on the negative aspects of Political Philosophy and so little time on the positive essence and telos of Political phenomena, namely the ethical attitude which has as its sole purpose the aim of making the world a better place.
The first lecture by Lisa Anderson sets the agenda for the entire course with the claim:
“This is a course about how the world works today”
This is a very empirical and pragmatic beginning to the course and perhaps intentionally so. Perhaps it is intended to ring a warning bell in the community of souls who believe like Aristotle and Plato that Politics is fundamentally conceptual but that the concepts are ethical concepts, concepts related to the good and what ought to be aimed for at the level of the polis. For these philosophers a course with this title ought to be about what ought to be the case rather than about what is the case.
Asking the question “how something works” obviously is intended to invoke a cause-effect principle which is scientifically free of terms of appraisal and evaluation. For many philosophers, the term “Political Science” is a problematic combination of terms unless of course “Science” is used in the broadly Aristotelian sense in which there is a reference to knowledge.
The course description does not however resolve the ambiguities raised above. It states that the course is :
“Designed to help students think theoretically and analytically about leading issues in international affairs by introducing them to to social science methods and scholarship:and by exposing them to the uses of such concepts in practice, through examination of contemporary problems and challenges in international affairs.”
This commentary and critique is intending to examine these lectures from the broader perspective of knowledge that we have inherited from Greek and Enlightenment philosophy.
Lisa Anderson begins the course with a comment on the modern world and its relation to change:
“When Hobbes and Locke and Marx and Weber were trying to figure out how the world worked at the beginning of the modern era, they were, as we were, living in a time of dramatic change—they were trying to understand a world that was changing before their very eyes. Some of what they say resonates through the centuries ad is still relevant today”
Upon reading this the reader may be forgiven for immediately thinking of Aristotle. Was he not living in a time of change? Did not his pupil Alexander change the world? In fact was this not partly the reason for him beginning his entire metaphysical theory with a theory of change. Was he not one of the first philosophers to respond to change with knowledge about change in the form of disciplines which would respond to different kinds of change with different principles? Did he not respond to the unity of change with differentiation? That is, he clearly distinguished between different kinds of explanation for different reasons, one of which was the differentiation in the nature of the phenomena he was studying. Aristotle clearly saw, for example, the role for the principles of material and efficient causation in the explanation of natural phenomena and principles of formal and final causation in the explanation of human phenomena. In the realm of human action, for example, it is more illuminating to inquire into the why question which gives the action its identity rather than the how question which takes us outside of the sphere of the reasons an agent has for acting. The why-question is and the how question is not situated in the sphere of ultimate values, the sphere of what Plato called “The Good”.
What is being claimed here is that this course would have provided a richer experience for its students if some kind of reference to the philosophical idea of ultimate value had been a focal point.
Let us develop this line of reasoning in relation to the following remark:
“All public policy is based on theory which in turn is based on assumptions and sometimes the policy makes is aware of these assumptions and sometimes they are not. These assumptions are about how the world works or about how people live. They may, therefore, also have beliefs about what motivates human behaviour, about what causes conflicts, about how we should measure value, about what the rights of citizens should be, about how identities are formed.”
Theory of all kinds is obviously grounded in practice and theories must hae both descriptive and explanatory functions, i.e. answer what , how and why questions. Theories about human action at an individual or collective level must take into account the teleological and formal aspects of the matter, namely that all human activities, aim at the good. Is this an assumption? It seems much more than that or at least it seems that it differentiates itself from the normal theoretical assumption and is therefore a special kind of assumption.
One should add here that apart from a theory being defined in terms of its descriptive and explanatory functions a theory must connect to the world in some fashion. For Aristotle Political theory is connected to the world via the way in which action of a particular kind brings about a telos of a particular kind(the common good). There is an obvious symmetry for Aristotle between the good the individual strives for and the good the rulers of a city are striving for because the individual is striving for the individual good of a flourishing life which can only be achieved in the context of a flourishing city or Callipolis.
This theory is, in modern terminology “normative” and “prescriptive” in that what is being described by the theory is of political significance or value. Aristotle was at pains to point out that ethical and political reflection was more problematic than reflection in other areas and this was probably due to the fact that norms and actions are more difficult to characterise objectively than the things and the events of the physical world.
R.S. Peters, in his work “Brett’s History of Psychology” points out, in the spirit of Aristotle that theoretical questions are distinguishable from questions of policy. The former, he argues, might tell us that iron swords expand when heated and the purpose of this is observationally descriptive, that is, it is a description of what one expects to happen if an iron sword is heated. Questions of policy, on the other hand, are not descriptions of what we expect to happen but are rather normative and prescriptive and express our attitude and interests in the common good. In relation to the idea or form of “The Good” Plato in his work “The Republic” made an interesting distinction between, firstly, assumptions that just assume a hypothetical principle without any thought of a further “why” question which might take us back to a first principle or origin of things, ad secondly a categorical first principle such as “we ought not to murder each other”(with swords). On Plato’s view it would be wrong to call this an axiom of the ethical system because axioms are not first principles and do not possess the necessary stamp of a first principle. It might for example be an axiom of our measuring system that space is measured by straight lines which are defined as the shortest distance between two points. It is possible to reject this axiom without contradiction by assuming that space is curved and that space now has to be measured(or described) in other ways. Intentionally taking another persons life is an ultimate categorical negative value because it deprives a person of what is ultimately and universally valuable, namely life which is a principle of anybody being able to do anything. Murder is therefore a more serious matter than breaking a promise or lying. These are not “scientific” or observational matters. No amount of observing the acts of people murdering each other , in a war, for example, will ever teach anyone the first principle of ethics because all hypothetical principles tied to observation must in accordance with scientific method be appraisal free and value neutral: must be free of all attitudes tied to evaluation. There can therefore be no such thing as the observationally based measurement of value on Platonic and Aristotelian grounds, except perhaps in the banal sense of the counting of the victims of a holocaust or ethnic cleansing campaign. The way in which we know a policy is right or wrong is therefore non observationally and not scientific.
Hovering in the background of these remarks is of course the worry that the scientific account will start with a set of facts and jump to an arbitrary and evaluative conclusion: pull an ought conclusion out from a hat full of facts.
Peters puts this concern into perspective with the following remarks(p30):
“A great number of questions, however about what is or was, or will be the case but about what ought to be the case. Answers to such questions of policy are appraisals rather than assumptions, prescriptions rather than descriptions. They express our interests, attitudes and demands rather than our expectations. They cannot be confirmed or falsified by simply looking 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: we cannot put our ear to the ground and hear goodness steal by: the sacredness of a shrine is not made manifest to the nose of one who lingers there. Of course appraisals are seldom made without looking at things, people, or situations, or without memories of them or testimonies about them. But such appraisals and prescriptions are not statements of fact, neither can they be inferred from statements of fact. Assumptions are extremely relevant to appraisals, descriptions to prescriptions: but there is no valid inference from one to the other. Words like “wrong”, “good”, “sacred” do not express our expectations so much as our interests in, demands of, and attitudes towards things, people and situations.”
So, on the basis of extensive observations of facts one can never arrive at an appraisal unless there is already an evaluative idea guiding the observations—Plato’s “form of the good”. This idea, in Wittgenstein’s terminology enables us to see what we are seeing “as” wrong, evil etc. We should be clear that this is a very different scenario to that in which we inductively accumulate facts which eventually lead us to the generalisation/assumption , for example, that all metals expand when heated. Making the judgment that it was wrong of one man to murder another at a bus stop in the course of an argument is not a question of learning the wrongness of the deed from the observations one makes: it is rather a case of seeing the murder under an evaluative category The judgment is, in virtue of these facts in its nature an appraisal and a prescription.
Peters also refers to a third category of question which in fact haunts many theories in the field of Political Science/Philosophy and which it will be necessary to understand if we are to evaluate or criticise this series of lectures: This is the category of “Questions of Technology”. He characterises these questions as a logical hybrid of the other two. Questions of Technology are, for Peters, instrumental questions which sometimes appeal to the scientific method. This method of resolution of a compound into its elements before the attempt to compose the whole out of which the elements have been condensed is the method Hobbes and Hume used in their attempt to rid social science and philosophy of its metaphysical inclinations. The method will take a holistic activity such as the murderer murdering at a bus-stop and resolve it into the value free elements of means and ends. Using this method one is then able to see this murder as a means to an end, namely the removal of an irritant in an otherwise “happy” day. This involves a “technological attitude” which uses the scientific principle of causation to construct a means and ends relation which must be value and appraisal free. In Aristotle’s ethical and political philosophy there is a holistic integrity to all human activity in which values are equally present in the means as well as the ends, i.e. the means of dealing with the irritant at the bus stop will be deemed in accordance with Aristotle’s theory to exclude the means of violence and instead treat the irritant as an end in himself whose life possesses the universal life-value of all agents. The means and the ends are equally value-laden, equally “Good”. The Enlightenment Philosophy of Kant was equally concerned to see the theoretical and practical connections of ethics and political philosophy. Kant was equally concerned to see human activities under the aspect of the good.
Peters may be levelling his criticism at Psychology in his comments on the History of Psychology but it should be stated that the history of Psychology mirrored the history of the Social Sciences. In both cases there was an equivalent tendency to distant these disciplines from the Philosophical methodology of Metaphysical Logic whilst simultaneously embracing the methodology and assumptions of the natural sciences.
Lisa Anderson continues the lecture with the following attempt at the motivation for and classification of political regimes:
“One can wonder where the ideas in these assumptions and theories come from and what alternative assumptions there are. Policy is only continually improved if policy-makers recognise their own assumptions and in the process of living the consequences of the policies, embrace their normative implication. We not only have theories about how the world works but also preferences relating to how it should work. There are different kinds of theories. Liberal v Realist.”
Nothing is said about the logical status of our “preferences”. Are they “subjective” and “whimsical”? Anderson then asks why policy-makers in general prefer democracy and fails to answer her own aporetic question. She instead proceeds to the task of classification of forms of regime and elaborates firstly on the liberal view of democracy which postulates a cooperative man striving to understand even violence in terms of science and “causes” such as socoi-economic depression and the exploitation of foreigners: secondly she characterises the realist’s view of democracy in which it is understood(by whom?) that “evil lurks in mans hearts” and where states compete for survival in a lawless world.
In this context Anderson points out that:
“International law exists but it does not really determine the way in which states interact with each other. The Primary unit of analysis for the Realist is the State and International Relations consists in the game of survival evaluated best by games theory.”
So, it looks as if Economics, that “Science” par excellence is going to be the final judge of the why’s and wherefores of International Politics. This is an incredible claim. What will it have to say at the end of all its “gaming” about why we prefer democracy? Perhaps that it is like all our preferences, arbitrary?
What is missing from these reflections is a determination of whether “modern political and social philosophy” initiated by Hobbes, Locke and Hume fully understood the heritage of ideas from the ancient democratic Greek world. The suspicion which will be made more and more apparent as these lectures proceed is that the above “Modern” Philosophers did not have sufficiently good arguments to discard the Platonic and Aristotelian ideas that have motivated political discourse over thousands of years of theorising. This discourse has given rise via the Enlightenment Philosophy of Kant, to the democratic form of government which most of the world is striving to actualise. Given these claims it is difficult to see how one can discard both theory and practice for a “method” or strategy which leaves us posing the question “How does it work?”
To condense the democratic cloud into the drops of liberalism, realism and constructivism appears somewhat arbitrary given the descriptions of these respective positions.
Jude Sutton appeared almost on time for the lesson and the lesson began with the words:
“Education is a noun but the key to the whole problem as to what education is, lies in the primary verb form ”educe” which, according to the “Cambridge” English Dictionary means to bring out, to lead, develop from latent or potential existence, a process of inference of principle from the matter which it explains.
This ladies and gentlemen is a very different idea to that we have discussed earlier, namely, the world being the totality of facts. In the idea or form of education the Aristotelian notion is of a world being a totality of facts and explanations or justifications, where these explanations and justifications in many areas of discourse have a fact- determining role.”
The Science major raised his hand and asked.” I don’t quite understand. Surely a fact is a fact independently of what anyone thinks about it”
“I am inclined to agree, a wolf can kill 3 sheep in 7 days independently of whether there is anyone to see these events or talk about them, but that is only part of the story of what makes a statement to that effect true. The wolf has become a linguistic entity as soon as he became a bearer of the name “wolf”… but this is all too theoretical to be of immediate relevance for us. If for no other reason than the fact that the concept of Education is not close to the physical events occurring in the world and not close to the thoughts that furnish one’s mind but is rather an umbrella term for a group of action-related processes whose telos or function will only become clear when we have sketched the logical geography of the associated concepts in this terrain.
Let me give you an example of the way in which principles determine reality in the practical sphere of ethics. No one, I hope will question the importance of ethics for Education. In theoretical contexts if I claim that “water boils at 100 degrees centigrade” and someone discovers that it does not at great heights above sea level, then my statement is not a principle, and must be rejected on the grounds of lacking support in reality.
But take the ethical principle “Murder is wrong” and imagine you are standing in a bus queue and two people begin quarrelling bitterly with each other. One pulls out a gun and shoots the other. We have witnessed what is called a murder and we are bearers of the attitude towards this event expressed in the words “Murder is wrong” Now note that the argument for murder being wrong is not to be found in reality as is the case with the wolf eating 3 sheep in 7 days. That is, the argument is not to be found in the fact that the murder occurred in front of my eyes whilst I was standing in a bus queue.
It is to be found in what philosophers call principles in the ought system of concepts, one of which is “Murder is wrong”. This principle is fact-determining. The principle itself also has the function of justifying the attitude we take to the event and all explanation and justification ends there. So, at least in the world of how things ought to be, in the world of value, this is the end of the process of justification. Once we have reached the rock bottom of the justification process we can but appeal to our fundamental attitudes and to what we do and this is why the Greek philosophers and Kant placed their bets on practical philosophy in their search for solutions to metaphysical problems
But I digress, yet only ever so slightly, for the answer to the question “ What is education?” resides in how we characterize what we do and the attitudes underlying what we do”
The drama student raised her hand and asked
“But does that not make what we do, relative, and not in accordance with, the universality principle. After all the murderer thinks what he did is right. That is his attitude toward what he has done”
“True, but since this is not how he ought to think, this is not an argument against the principle. How we ought to think, of course, is as much of a logical matter as is how we do in fact think, and this may be why the world is not just the totality of facts. The younger Wittgenstein was wrong and he has admitted as much and written a work entitled “Philosophical Investigations” in which we shall find the beginnings of the answers to some of the questions that will be thrown up in this course. Education is the name for a family of activities conducted in accordance with criteria for a value system which ought to be universally true, but are not, because we are not ethically mature beings. Yet ethics is there bubbling under the surface of everyday relations and legal systems. It is there ready to erupt when the time is right. It erupts daily in these systems but it has not resulted in what I would like to call the ethical attitude because we , unlike Socrates, do not understand what we do not know. We do not fully understand ourselves. The claim of the later Wittgenstein and Gilbert Ryle is that we will only reach full understanding when, after analysis of all the relevant concepts and possible judgments we will stand in a strategic part of the educational terrain and see everything stretched out before us.
The Greeks felt that education was the universal key to unlock all doors: the doors of moral virtue, good government, the soul, and the world. Kant felt that the educational project was necessary for the perfection of mans human nature, a project that might take one hundred thousand years. According to him, man can only become truly what he is destined to be when the project is nearing completion..
The major problem about education in particular and values in general is that , as Wittgenstein wrote, values are not to be found in the world, they lie at the origins of it and also in the attitudes men bring to bear upon the world via their actions and judgments. When it comes to certain kinds of events, it has been argued, men seem to create the world they live in.
“But”, the questioner persisted, “Surely attitudes differ. You like strawberries and I like raspberries. What citizen A does in Polis P is different to what a citizen B does in Polis Q”
“True, on both counts. There are different kinds of actions and different kinds of judgments. Liking Strawberries and Raspberries are a matter of judgments of taste. And citizen P may drive a certain kind of car to work and citizen Q a different kind of car. These latter two examples are examples of what philosophers call instrumentalities: actions whose essence is to be instrumental to achieving a goal, such as going to work. The goal in itself may also be an instrumentality and be part of achieving another goal further on in time, such as saving to buy a house. But at some time in the acting process we come upon value, the origin and terminus of the process of practical reasoning: the categorical reason for doing what we do–and these reasons reveal our attitude toward the world in general. Such attitudes usually relate to what Plato and Aristotle called “The Form of the Good”. To return to our example from the realm of ethics, “Murder is wrong”. This is, according to Kant, a moral law which can be universalized(that is, everyone ought to believe it and act in accordance with it) and has to do with a fundamental attitude towards people and the kind of society it is necessary to build if we are to complete “The Human Project”
“But people clearly do not universally believe in it or act in accordance with it. The prisons are filled with murderers”, the mature English major asserted.
“And the point is to understand why they are there, sitting in their prisons, thinking about their deeds. In murdering someone, the agent gives up their humanity, according to Kant, and this suffices as an argument for him to give murderers the death penalty. But actually putting murderers in prison might be sufficiently Kantian, even for Kant, because in prison we lose what he regards as part of the essence of humanity, namely ones freedom. Kantian philosophy permeates the legal system: Murderers are found guilty of murder in legal processes because we all have powerful minds, part of the structure of which is to choose between right and wrong, or even more basically: the man in the bus queue in front of me could have chosen not to pull out his gun and shoot his antagonist. We all possess this ability to distance ourselves from our own acts. In modern brain research parlance: the frontal lobes inhibit instinctive action and bring reasoning to bear upon what we may, deep in our animal souls, wish to do. However it is important to question the principle of justice our system of law is in fact operating with. Leo Tolstoy thought it was a primitive quid pro quo system based on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and his Kingdom of the utopian future contains no legal system. Christian Morality takes care of everything. In this we hear the strains of an old Socratic song from the early books of Republic.
We digress, yet ever so slightly, since education is fundamentally concerned with the project of Humanity, and if the preceding argument is correct, Education is fundamentally in its nature, a process obeying the laws of the categorical imperative, to use Kants language. And with that I think we can rest our case for today.” Since we have pointed out the similarities between the language we use for education and ethical language we shall during the next lecture take up the issue of ethics and language.”
Aristotle’s contribution to establishing a philosophical method was extensive and profound. Philosophy up to and including Plato included the discovery of elenchus and dialectic methods both of which were essentially designed for a face to face debating approach that often took place in the presence of an audience expecting areté(excellence)
Aristotle, in contrast to most of his predecessors, viewed the historical development of Philosophy more systematically perhaps exactly because of the methods he had discovered. Where Plato in his central work, “The Republic” resorted to allegory and myth at crucial moments in his theorising, Aristotle used Categories of existence and logical argumentation. This resulted in the substitution of the dialectical interaction of different thinkers such as Heraclitus and Parmenides by a more theoretical panoramic view of all the thinkers of the Greek age, including the so-called “natural philosophers”. The result of this historical-methodological approach was of course firstly, the “invention” or “discovery” of logic and, secondly, the emergence of hylomorphic theory from the metaphysical investigations into being qua being(the first principles of Philosophy). With these developments a panoramic view of the landscape of thought was made possible.
Given that metaphysics begins with the asking of aporetic questions the definition of which refers to the phenomenon of there being apparently equally strong arguments for both the thesis and the antithesis of the issue, there appears to be a need for an overarching theoretical framework in which elements of both answers can be accommodated without contradiction. Indeed one is given the impression that the canvas Aristotle was using was considerably larger than that used by previous philosophers. In Raphael’s painting “The School of Athens”, Plato is pointing upwards toward the ethereal heavens and Aristotle is pointing straight ahead, perhaps at future audiences and the demand for more systematic systems of representation. He was of course hoping that his works influence including as it did the practice of incorporating the insights of previous systems of thought into present ones would not diminish over time.
Descartes and Hobbes were both anti-Aristotelian theorists and the result of their works was to return us to a dialectically inspired resurrection of materialism and dualism. These modern philosophers and many modern philosohers philosophising in their spirit failed to understand that hylomorphic theory transcended these alternatives with a systematic world view.
Aristotle embraces Heraclitus to a much greater extent than Plato did in his work and as a consequence we will find in Aristotle a more satisfactory explanation of the material aspect of reality, partly because matter is a part of the medium of change in Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory. Matter was conceived as infinite by the materialists of the Greek age which included the early Socrates in their number. Aristotle conceived of matter as infinite because it appeared to him that the number of forms matter could take was unlimited. One arrived at the fundamental elements of reality, i.e. an ontological understanding of what there was by dividing the infinite continuum up either into abstract “atoms” or more concrete elements such as earth, water, air and fire. In Aristotle’s view, early materialism did not provide a sufficiently complex explanation for the desire to understand the world which he claimed all human beings possess. At best we are given a view of what might exist, e.g. atoms, elements etc, without any principle for their existence. This form of principled existence or explanation of existence refers to the question “Why?” and this question transports us very quickly into the realm of the aporetical which Descartes and Hobbes were so keen to abandon in favour of a methodology of investigation. For Descartes this method was purely rational and was based on the givennes of thought or consciousness in the activity of thinking: his method was purely rational. Hobbes on the other hand was intellectually skeptical of the world of thought and its wild and wonderful ontological structure. For him observation as part of a method of resolution and composition eliminated the wild flying creations of the intellectual imagination and allowed the philosopher like the scientist to slow the pace of investigation down to a pedestrian earthly speed. Wholes were carefully resolved into their parts and parts were composed into wholes. This method when applied to the human sciences then also gave birth to the resolution of holistic human activities into two kinds of events which were logically independent of one another—cause and effect. Given that human activities are logical composites of the actions of agents and the objects they produce this of course places an enormous obstacle in the path of the task if explaining human activities. When the above method reigns the domain of explanation , the question “Why?” tends to focus on the cause of the activity in accordance with a principle of causation which states that “every event has a cause.” This principle literally means that one cannot rest in ones explanatory task with another event because that in turn must have a cause and it says nothing about resting ones explanation on a foundation which is not of the kind: event. With this principal we are literally on the path to an infinite regress which will logically prevent the kind of explanation needed if for no other reason than the fact that the direction of the explanation is archeological, proceeding backwards in time. Aristotle was one of the first to point out that explanation of human activity which aims at the good is teleological, aiming in the opposite direction, namely forwards in time. This kind of explanation starts with the aim of bringing something, a holistic state of affairs, about and will only be resolved into sub goals if there is a logical relation between these sub activities and the overall aim of the holistic activity. There cannot be a cause-effect relation as envisaged by analytical philosophy of the kind practised by Hobbes and Hume simply because a cause is logically independent of its effect. From a modern perspective, Sciences like Physics and non-organic chemistry have great use for this method of resolution –composition without too much distortion of the phenomena being studied. It is, to take an example, more easy to see how dead rabbits decompose into particles but , staying at the level of particles it is much more difficult to use them to account for how these particles help to teleologically keep live rabbits alive. These particles at the very least need to be composed into organs or the dandelions the rabbit eats. This example illustrates that decomposition into parts actively discourages teleological thinking. Aristotle’s starting points for the rabbit were its teleological ends of growth, survival, and reproduction, and these “ends” are used to conceive of the parts of the rabbit, namely, its organs and limbs. The same modus operandi is used for conceiving of the why’s and wherefores relating to human beings. For Aristotle, a particular form of life requires a particular constellation of organs and limbs functioning teleologically to keep the rabbit growing, alive and reproducing. Aristotle also recognises the principle of rabbithood in his comparisons of the form of the life the rabbit leads and the form of life the human being leads. The rabbit, Aristotle notes moves itself in accordance with this principle of rabbithood which rests not inside the rabbit but “in” the rabbits activity. For Aristotle all life forms are, to use Ricoeur’s terminology “ desiring striving and working to be, to survive”. Organisms are in a sense causa sui(the (logical)cause of their (continued) existence). This causa sui-principle is not in any sense the end point of the explanation Aristotle requires. He believes we also need to provide a categorical framework other than material and efficient causation in order to “describe” the forms of life we encounter in the world. Aristotle’s “forms of life” are defined by the characteristic features of the activities engaged in by these “forms of life”. Plants, for example, are characterised(described and explained) by their growth and reproduction: animals by growth, reproduction, perception and purposeful movement and human beings by all these “characteristics plus talking, remembering and reasoning. One sees very clearly here how life forms are defined by not just their organ systems but also by characteristic powers, each building upon the other teleologically until the form of life the animal is destined for is actualised in accordance with an actualising process determined by its telos or end. This life form is determined by factors internal to the organism and not caused to come into existence by some outside agent as a table is caused to come into existence by the craft of the table maker. The parents of the organism pass the art of living on to their offspring by the creation of an internal principle which in turn will from the inside create the form of life typical of the organism. Matter does not drop out of the account completely. It is potential and it actualises its potential by being formed by some principle, e.g. the matter of living beings is formed into flesh bone and organs. This system of matter produces a system of powers that in term generates the form of life typical of the organism. These two systems together suffice to place living beings in a categorical framework. It is important to note here, however, that the telos or end of the actualisation process is the key to describing and explaining the function of the “parts” or the “elements” of the living being. This telos, before it is actualised is potentially present as part of the principle of the organism. What the organism is and what it strives and works to become define the nature of the being that it is. For Aristotle, this essence or form can be captured by an essence or form specifying definition. The categorical framework outlined above supersedes but does not eliminate the earlier division of the material world into earth, water, air, and fire, each of which, according to Aristotle,also possesses an essence or a form partly defined by what it can become or its telos, which in the case of these 4 elements is determined by the final resting place(T S Eliot, the death of earth, water, air and fire?). The earth is at the centre of the system of elements and is the source of all life which also requires water and air and the sun to thrive in accordance with the form of life determined by the system of organs and the powers generated thereby. When the organism dies its parts are returned to the earth, its resting place. Death, on this account is defined in terms of the lack of a principle of change in the organism: the organism now “possesses” in an empty sense, organs and limbs that lack the power of movement or change.
Life, in relation to the long term tendency of the physical elements to return to their source and place of rest, is paradoxical because it is composed both of “that for the sake of which” the process of growth occurs, and the principle or form determining this process.
Thus, forms or principles are, for Aristotle, the constituents of the universe: constituents which allow us to understand the truths of materialism, and the truths of Heraclitus, Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Socrates, and Plato.
When the principle or form is imposed externally upon matter as is the case with Art by the craftsman painting a painting or building a building it appears as if form and matter can be separated. If the art concerned is the art of building it almost seems as if the material of the bricks and wood is waiting around at the building site for the builder to shape into the form of a house. Several weeks later the material is standing high above the earth in the form of a house. In cases of living forms, however, the principle and the matter are , so speak, “intertwined” and inseparable and give rise to powers which the whole organism manifests. Matter, in itself, is therefore only understood in terms of its principle of organisation. The organs and limbs of flesh and bone are not the pure or prime matter of a human form. The organs and limbs themselves dwell in a hierarchy that rest on the elemental matter of earth water and heat. The powers of the organism in their turn rest on the formed matter of the organs and limbs.
Jonathan Lear in his work: “Aristotle:the desire to understand” has the following to say on the topic of the actual presence of powers in the living being:
“However, if this power is not a functional state of material structure, how can its presence be observed? Are natural powers beyond the realm of empirical inquiry? No, they are not: but it takes some care to spell out the conditions under which they can be observed. Obviously, powers are not immediate items of sensory perception. Nor can they be seen under a microscope. If an intelligent scientist were permitted to observe only one immature natural organism in his life, having been kept in ignorance of the general facts of generation and destruction, then there would be no way he could detect the presence of a power in the organism.. The first dawning of the idea that a power is present could only occur in retrospect. From the perspective of the fully developed organism we realise that there was a force present in the immature organism which directed its growth and activity toward this mature state. However, although the original idea of the presence of power is necessarily backward looking, this does not imply that powers are unobservable.”(p22)
Aristotelian teleological explanation has often been misinterpreted by the inductive scientist using the methodology of resolution and composition. Such scientists set about dividing the whole into its parts and then attempt on the basis of the observation of the actions and reactions of the parts and their relations, to re-compose the whole. A power could never emerge with this inductive method especially if this method is accompanied by a resolution of the whole into two logically independent events of the cause and effect kind. Sometimes we hear from the scientist the complaint that teleological final causes are using an impossible mechanism of “backward causation” and that this violates the logic of causal explanation.
The way to short circuit such objections is to situate teleology in its holistic context of form, potentiality and power. Lear has this to contribute in his discussion of the connection of these three terms:
“In Aristotle’s world form as a potentiality or power does help to explain the growth, development and mature functions of living organisms. And there are empirical tests for the presence of form. Were there no structure in an immature organism or regularity in the processes of development there would, in Aristotle’s eyes be no basis for the attribution of a power, regardless of the outcome.”(p24)
The power which differentiates man from other organisms, according to Lear is the power of asking the question Why? in the search for understanding of the world and oneself. This obviously builds upon other powers of talking, remembering, thinking and reasoning and the question is rewarded with answers provided by a naturally ordered and regulated world. This is the question that for Aristotle reaches into the cave of our ignorance, like the sunlight, and the world in turn provides an explanation in terms of the form, principle, or primary cause of whatever it was that provoked the question. In our desire to be and effort to exist(to use Ricoeur’s terminology) we are all engaged on this search for understanding, argues Aristotle. This Why question can be answered in 4 different ways, Aristotle claims, and the suggestion is that all 4 kinds of answer are required if our explanation is to be adequate or complete: i.e. all 4 kinds of answer are needed for the explanation to meet the conditions required by the principle of sufficient reason as understood by Kant. Three of the types of non materialistic explanation, the efficient, formal and final causes(aitiai) are different ways of giving the same answer: they are, that is, in Aristotle’s terms different aspects of the formal component of hylomorphic theory. These three types of explanation do not, however, meet the conditions of the principle of sufficient reason. An explanation of nature incorporating the truths of materialism is also required for a complete explanation. Many later philosophers such as Hobbes and Hume were interpreting the central idea of “cause” physically and materially and they were convinced that the other explanations were either fictional creatures of the imagination or alternatively could be reduced to a physical idea of linear causation.
Jonathan Lear interestingly discusses the Aristotelian complex idea of cause(aitiai) or explanation in relation to the Humean linear concept of the two event account. He argues that it is the scientific obsession with observation which in its turn generated the dualistic approach that took, for example, the unitary event of a builder building a house and resolved this unity into a cause and an effect which are merely contingently and not logically connected. Lear points out that Hume claimed we cannot observe the transition from the cause to the effect.
Lear claims that:
“What is at issue is a disgrace, not only about causes but about what constitutes an event. It is important to realise that events are not unproblematically given. It is easy for us to overlook that because we think we can locate any space-time point and call what is going on there an event. But Aristotle had no such matrix to isolate and identify events. He did not have a watch, and when he specified the place of an object it was not in terms of its location in a unique all-encompassing field. The place of an object was characterised in terms of the boundary of the body which contained it. The way Aristotle chose to identify events was via the actualising of potentialities: the potentialities of substances to cause and suffer change…..while for Hume causation must be understood in terms of a relation between two events for Aristotle there is only one event—a change…and causation must be understood as a relation of things to that event.”(p31)
Lear’s otherwise excellent work on Aristotle is somewhat incomplete in terms of the simplicity of the account of Aristotelian thought in relation to place and space, i.e it is not clear that Aristotle did not make the assumption that reality could be characterised mathematically). A mathematical point, after all is not anything actual: it is something potential. It only appears in reality or becomes actual if something concrete or abstract happens at that point, e.g. one begins at that point to perhaps represent motion in a straight line until that motion or represented motion comes to rest at another resting point which is actualised as the motion or represented motion comes to an end.
Space is also represented in the above example. Matter may be represented if one imagines a physical body or particle in motion. Space, Time and Matter were, for Aristotle, essential media for the experience or representation of reality and these media for change played a very important role in his conceiving of reality as an infinite continuum. Returning to our example of the line defined as the shortest distance between two points, we know that there are potentially an infinite number of stopping points between the starting and stopping points on the line. We can clearly see the role of the concept of potentiality in this context. Indeed, one might even wish to argue that the Aristotelian matrix was far more complex than our modern space-time-causation matrix given that it can embrace human reality in the form of a builder building a house starting from the point at which a pile of bricks and wood is located and ending with a completed house occupied by a family living a flourishing life. Dividing this reality up by using our modern matrix of space-time-causation where we end up with two events such as the building activity of the builder and the product of a house rather than one Aristotelian event of change uses the resolution-composition method of science unnecessarily to create insoluble ontological and metaphysical problems. Hume, as we know , was a victim of this mode of observational thought and apart from the above mistakes arrived at the paradoxical result of cause being a conventional idea—simply on the grounds that he thought that causation could not be observed. He did not believe, that is, that we can observe a builder building a house until its completion.
Aristotle’s view is that his Causation, space-time matrix of reality is part of of a larger matrix of kinds of change and principles provided by his metaphysical presentation of “First Philosophy”. First philosophy is here understood as the first principles of any kind of change in the universe. We mentioned above that the power or capacity of a rational animal capable of discourse—a human being—begins in awe in the face of the existence of the world and its ever changing nature. We see and conceive of what is there and we spontaneously seek to understand the why. This desire to understand the why entails all of the following components:4 kinds of change, three principles of change and four causes/explanations(aitiai) being provided to the searcher for understanding of the changing reality.
There has been much ado about the latter component of the above account, namely the 4 aitiai or kinds of “explanations”. The Scientific matrix and method, for example conceives of matter, not as potential to be formed, but rather as “events observed” in accordance with the cause-effect rule. This conception insists that teleological explanation is incoherent: it cannot be observable when the builder is in the process of building the house. Science, in other words, cannot conceive of potentiality because potentiality is not actual and real—because it has resolved the one event of change into the two events of cause and effect which are, according to Hume connected because of the regularity of the world and the “conventional” way in which we characterise the world. Science sees these events in terms of observation and any reasoning about unobservables(such as the thought of the house “in” the mind of the builder cannot be observed )therefore does not exist. What is being imagined here is that the metaphorical “in” is a spatial characterisation. There is nothing “in” the mind of the builder: rather there is a principle related to the builders powers operating in the movement of the materials from one location to another. The scientist who is committed to denying the Aristotelian account just does not know how to characterise the holistic event of “the builder building a house”.
Descartes, Hobbes and Hume managed to turn our Aristotelian ideas of the world upside down in the name of a matrix of dogmatism and skepticism directed at common sense and its judgments about reality. Christopher Shields in his work on Aristotle illustrated excellently how down to earth Aristotle’s “explanatory framework” is:
“Suppose that we are walking deep in the woods in the high mountains one day and come to notice an object gleaming in the distance. When it catches our eye our curiosity is piqued: indeed Aristotle thinks so much is almost involuntary. When we come across an unexplained phenomenon or a novel state of affairs, it is natural—it is due to our nature as human beings—that we wonder and fall immediately into explanation seeking mode. What we see glistens as we approach it, and we wish to now what it is. Why do we wish to know this? We simply do: so much is unreflective , even automatic. As we come closer, we ascertain that what is shining is something metal. Upon somewhat closer inspection, from a short distance, we can see that it is bronze. So now we have our explanation: what we have before us is polished bronze. Still, if we find a bit of bronze in the high mountains we are apt to wonder further about it, beyond being so much bronze. We will want to know in addition what it is that is made of bronze…..as we approach closer we ascertain that it has a definite shape, the shape of a human being: it is a statue..We also know further, if we know anything about statues at all that the bronze was at some point in its past deliberately shaped or cast by a sculptor. We infer, that is, though we have not witnessed the event that the shape was put into the bronze by the conscious agency of a human being. We know this because we know that bronze does not spontaneously collect itself into statues… So now we know what it is: a statue, a lump of bronze moulded into human shape by the activity of a sculptor. Still we may be perplexed. Why is there a statue here high in the mountains where it is unlikely to be seen? Upon closer inspection we see that it is a statue of a man wearing fire fighting gear: and we read, finally a plaque at its base: “Placed in honour of the fire-fighters who lost their lives in the service of their fellows on this spot, in the Red Ridge Blaze of 23 August 1937”. So now we know what it is: a statue, a lump of bronze moulded into human shape by the actions of a sculptor placed to honour the fallen fire fighters who died in service.”
There would seem to be little to object to in the above description of the natural course a natural investigation into the identity of a temporarily concealed object might take. There is, however, nothing aporetic about this investigation or this object. This is nevertheless one form of aletheia, a simple form but a form of the search that aims to uncover the truth. Were the questions to concern objects or events or actions which do not carry their meanings on their surfaces: for example, an investigation into ones own being, which in Heidegger’s own words should result in the characterisation of us as beings for whom our very being is in question, the question would most certainly fall into the category of aporetic questions and the answers we uncover would not be as obvious as they were in the above investigation. In the case of an investigation into our human nature the search for aletheia would be difficult and filled with philosophical debate and dispute, but it would remain the case, however, that the Aristotelian hylomorphic theory of change would be the best guide to lead us out of the cave of our own ignorance.
The answers produced in response to questions concerning the being of human beings via the use of the scientific method of resolution-composition and its space-time linear causation method has now had several hundred years to produce a theory to rival Aristotle’s. The best it has achieved is either a kind of Quinean dualism of observation sentences and theoretical sentences based on a crude behaviouristic account of stimulus meanings, or alternatively, the more sophisticated dualism of Wilfred Sellars in which he, in the spirit of Plato, distinguishes between the Scientific image of the world and the Manifest Image of the world which he attributes to Aristotle.
If the world is the totality of facts is a position the scientist and analytical philosopher could take, we may legitimately ask for the Aristotelian response to this proposition. For Aristotle his response is his entire hylomorphic theory but one key element of that would contain the claim that the world is constituted of potentially evolving forms which use three “mechanisms” of transmission. Jonathan Lear summarises these mechanisms in the following manner:
“There are at least three ways in which forms are transmitted in the natural world: by sexual reproduction, by the creation of artefacts, and by teaching . The creation of artefacts remains a paradigm. The craftsman has his art or techné in his soul: that is, the form which he will later impose on external matter first resides in his soul. We have already seen that form can exist at varying levels of potentiality and actuality. The form of an artefact, as it resides in a craftsman’s soul, is a potentiality or power. It is in virtue of this power in his soul that we can say that he is a craftsman. The full actuality of the craftsman’s art is his actually making an artefact. Thus the builder building is actually the form of the house in action…this activity is occurring in the house being built. In short, the primary principle of change is the form in action. When Aristotle cites the builder building or the teacher teaching as the actual cause of change it is not because he is trying to focus on an antecedent causal event—i.e. on what for us would be the efficient cause. It is because he is trying to cite the primary principle of change: the form in its highest level of actualisation. Aristotle identifies the agent of change with that which determines the form: “The change will always introduce a form, in which when it moves, will be the principle and cause of the change: for instance an an actual man makes what is potentially a man into a man”.. If we are being more precise we must think of the cause as being the form itself—thus man builds because he is a builder and a builder builds in virtue of his art of building. This last cause is prior….the art of building at its highest level of activity is the builder building. This is occurring in the house being built.. As Aristotle says: “architecture is in the building it makes” “(pp33-34)
The above quote in Wilfred Sellars’ terms would be an account of the Manifest Image of the world. A world view in which potentiality requires a forward looking future oriented teleological perspective as opposed to an archeological antecedent event. If the Manifest view of the world looks backward in time it looks for an agent possessing powers and capacities. The teacher teaching in his classroom, for example, is expressing the power or form of teaching which was sometime in the past transmitted to him via an organisation of forms that were passed to his teachers. In his teaching he passes on the forms of geometry and number on to his pupils until these forms dwell in their souls to such an extent that we can call his pupils geometers and mathematicians. A scientific observer who claims that causation must be actually observable might have great difficulty in attributing the names of “geometer and mathematician” to these students talking about politics in the agora. It might only become obvious if one of these students begins to teach a slave boy the intricacies of the Pythagorean theorem. The form of geometry would then be actualised in this activity of a teacher teaching. In these processes of acquiring knowledge building houses or reproducing there is a striving or aiming for an end or telos which is a primary structure of the Aristotelian world. Attempting to investigate such phenomena by trying to observe actual material or functional structures(his brain for example) of the agent or his actions or by trying to see how one structure “moves” another as a bone moves a muscle will never allow us to explain how striving is determined by the end it is striving toward. The method of resolution-composition requires a movement backward in time to search for causes. But even if one lands at the brain as a cause, this starting point for Aristotle would be a form which is a result of a teleological biological process(Aristotle did not in fact understand the actual function of the brain but this would not have affected his point). Brain matter, organs, bone and flesh were for him already “formed matter” which themselves require the kind of explanation he is providing. There is no infinite regress in Aristotle’s theory although there is reflection upon the nature of the infinite and its place in his space-time, matter-causation matrix.
Matter, for example, is infinitely continuous, argues Aristotle
“The infinite presents itself first in the continuous”(Physics 3, 1, 200b 17-18)
Space, time and matter are all continuous. Aristotle’s notion of the infinite is however, complex. Space, for example is not infinite in extent but it is infinitely divisible. The same is true for matter. Time, on the other hand, has no beginning and no end as well as being infinitely divisible. The infinite is formless and is a pure un-actualised potentiality. Pure form and potentiality for Aristotle is God who is not actually anything but pure potential to be anything that has happened, is happening and will happen. Aristotle’s thought is difficult interpret here but he appears to regard God as the ultimate principle or law of all change. God operates in the realm of thought which for Aristotle is also a power or a potential we possess. Our thought, however is located in time and God’s thought on the other hand, is a -temporal , eternal, and not at all similar to the temporality of human consciousness Thought in a great souled being like God will differ considerably to human thought. God.s relation to reality as we conceive it is also problematical. It sometimes seems as if he is reality and this reality is for him included in the realm of thought . If this is correct then Gods thinking about himself is what produces change in the world but this thinking is infinitely continuous, without beginning and without end and not part of what we experience to be actualising processes. If he has a relation to time it must be that he is a condition for the existence of time. His thinking is not in “nows” as is the case with human beings but rather is a condition of the eternal movement of the heavenly bodies which we choose as a standard of measurement by which to measure time.
Newton’s distinction between absolute time which flows on continuously and of itself and the relative time created by human mind’s measuring the eternal flow may well have its roots in Aristotelian reflections. We cannot, however, on Aristotelian grounds, make absolute time intelligible because it is at the end of the Aristotelian spectrum extending from pure matter at one end to pure form on the other.
Jonathan Lear has an excellent account of how our human relative time is generated:
“It is only when we have perceived a before and an after in change that we say that time has elapsed. It is that perception that enables us to number it. But the number of change or motion is just what time is. But is that number itself objective? Usually when Aristotle talks about numbering, he is concerned with te enumeration of discrete items of a certain sort. It is a plurality of discrete things which are numerable. This would suggest that Aristotle had in mind that one picks out a certain unit of time—say the passing of a day as marked by the heavenly movement—and then pronounces a “Now”. The number of days will be measured by the pronouncement of the nows. It is change, then, as well as our recognition of it that grounds our recognition of a before and after and the interval which the distinct nows mark. This recognition—the making of distinct nows—itself recognises the reality of time and is also a realisation of time itself. For time is nothing other than a number or measure of change.”
Time is related to the soul and is “in” everything including the earth the sea and the heavens. Aristotle argues that were there no one to count there would not be anything to count, thus suggesting that without souls there would not be time but given the considerations raised above it is I believe clear that Lear is correct in his observation that:
“the reality of time is partially constructed by the soul’s measuring activities.”(p79)
Time is not change insists because presumably change is more fundamental such that without it time would cease to exist. Heraclitus, it seems was closer to the truth(aletheia) than Parmenides. Aletheia or logos may be true of the ideas that are involved in change since truth or logos is revealed over time. This however leaves us with a notion of pure change and how to characterise it: the aporetic question par excellence.
I remember the strangeness of the thought “The world is all that is the case” when I first heard these words in a Philosophy of Education class, in the nineteen seventies, in England. I had applied to and been accepted at a reputable teacher training college in Exeter after completing my education in a Grammar school and working as an insurance clerk for just over a year.
The lecturer, Jude Sutton, paused upon saying these words and waited expectantly, almost dramatically, for a few seconds before heaving a sigh of abandonment and continuing the lecture.
“The world is the totality of facts and not of things” (Wittgenstein)” was then written on the board, and the lecturer rounded upon us like an animal defending its territory and waited expectantly, again without result, before saying:
“Perhaps people of your generation believe that the world is made of sugar, spice, all things nice, slugs snails puppy dog tails. Or perhaps you all believe the world is made of many things, ships, shoes, ceiling wax, cabbages and kings.”
One of the students attending the lecture felt the need to ease the tension and responded by calling out
“Everyone knows that knowledge can only be composed of facts—facts are what the world is made of. Facts are the atoms of the world”
The lecturer paused to consider what was said and finally responded:
“And what if everyone in the world believing such a thing is confused and what if confusion causes great world catastrophes such as world wars and the young logical atomist Dr. Ludwig Wittgenstein, from Vienna, from the same school Mr. Adolf Hitler attended, was just wrong”
He paused and then continued
“And what would a fact, or this so called atom of the world, look like?”
The student felt the need to defend himself but did not know how, and responded in a less confident voice
“A fact is a fact”
“ Let me ask you all, these questions. Does this world you are thinking about change? If it does, is change one fact or many facts? Does the whole world change when something changes in it or does it remain the same and only parts of it change? Is all change of one kind, or are there different kinds of change? Surely if a change is to occur there must at the very least be something that changes. We talk about the atoms of the world as if they are responsible for the formation of these things and perhaps everything that happens everywhere. But what if there are processes of change occurring, within these indivisibles, which are partly responsible for their behavior when they do whatever they do. And if this is so, does this not commit us to thinking that these so-called indivisibles are in fact divisible. And if this is so, does not the process of dividing up the world seem an infinite one that could never be completed. What, ladies and gentlemen, if the world is infinitely divisible and is therefore infinitely conceptualisable or what if the world is alternately conceptualisable as a particle or a wave and facts depend on the structure of the minds of the humans thinking about them. Or what if facts are formed by many generations of thinkers discussing them?”
I raised my hand to ask a question:
Could one not say that the structures of our minds are explanatory facts which psychologists will discover one day, and could one not say that sociologists or anthropologists will discover the facts of social explanations that explain other facts we claim to know.? I think I agree with Dr. Wittgenstein.
The lecturer, Dr. Jude Sutton, looked inquisitively at me before answering:
Well, let me firstly inform you that Dr. Wittgenstein did not in his later work agree with himself but even in his early work from which I am quoting, namely, the “Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus”, he tried to acknowledge the importance of the mind, the self, and the importance of aesthetic, social, ethical and religious values..”
I raised my hand again to follow up my question, Jude Sutton’s expression changed from an expression of curiosity to an expression of mild amusement:
“What do you mean that he tried to acknowledge?
“I mean that he said that the Self is outside the world and that all other values flowing from the self such as aesthetic, social, ethical and religious values are also outside the world..”
“Surely a value is just another fact reflected in what we say and what we do?”
“That would entail that there two different classes of facts: one for the truthful account of events that occur in the world, and one for the kind of event that incorporates actions and persons who live very concretely in our world and not outside it”
The class looked confused and began to fidget impatiently. Jude smiled and continued:
These ideas are the most difficult and important you will ever encounter during your very privileged and sheltered lives. The kinds of questions I am raising are philosophical questions, what the Greeks called aporetic questions.”
He wrote a-poria on the board and continued:
“A-poria in Greek means “difficult journey”. Dr. Wittgenstein left Vienna and its culture of looking for the facts and made his difficult journey to England, to Manchester University, to study the dynamics of the aeroplane. Perhaps he was thinking that a birds-eye view of the world would reveal the nature of the world. Perhaps he was not thinking at all, some would say. Whilst at Manchester he became interested in the tools he was using to solve concrete engineering problems relating to air-flight. He moved to Trinity College Cambridge to study Logic and Mathematics under Bertrand Russell who was convinced that Logic would solve all the problems of Philosophy. Wittgenstein, under Russell, left the world of concrete problems and became genuinely puzzled by how ideas of the facts, of what is true, seemed to form an idea of the world as a whole, the totality as he called it, and he wanted to investigate this phenomenon. Let me give you an analogy of what he meant when he said the self is outside the world. When we wake up in the morning and open our eyes, a visual field appears. Now to a consistent thinker who has decided for his definition of the world as a totality of facts, and has decided that the truth of the facts are determined by scientific observation, that is, by someone using their visual fields to discover the facts, an obvious problem arises. A scientist is bound by a scientific oath, to use the scientific method of observation to look for the causes of phenomena and the cause of our visual fields are obviously our eyes, which lie outside our visual fields. So unless the scientist is prepared to give up his commitment to observation as the means that he uses to acquire and verify his knowledge, we have an aporetic problem, a logical problem. Some would say the scientist is faced with a contradiction in his reasoning. This problem occurs also at a higher level than that of the analogy of the visual field. If one says that it is a fact that the self and its consciousness lies behind our explorations of the world and our suffering in the world, then I should be able to observe this self and verify this fact. Yet this appears to not be logically possible. Even the Buddhists realized that you would be using your self to find your self and that the suffering self would no longer be suffering if it was exploring the world. You can see that these problems are not easy to solve. “
A student studying History raised their hands:
“But I don’t understand your references to Hitler and the War.”
“That was partly to arouse your desire to explore these issues but it was a serious suggestion relating to the terrible events that have occurred this century: the events of two world wars, the dropping of two atomic bombs on civilian populations and a cold war in which there is a serious threat of a nuclear holocaust between two non philosophical superpowers. I don’t mean to imply that Mr. Hitler was bright enough to formulate a theoretical definition of the world. I mean merely to suggest that he came from an Austrian and a European culture that had influenced the world with its blind faith in science. The assumption that the world is the totality of facts may lie behind everything we have suffered so far this century.”
“Surely the causes are more specific and diverse. Hitler was not sane”, the student responded.
“Perhaps it is a fact that Hitler was insane. Even if that is a truth determined by Psychology on the basis of available historical evidence, this still does not explain the facts, as we know them. Were all of the Germans carrying out the orders to murder the Jews, insane? I don’t believe that we are dealing with the matter of mass insanity and anyone who maintains that understands neither Psychology nor Philosophy. Let me take a concrete example. Eichmann was tried and hanged 14 years ago in Jerusalem. He lied but not compulsively. When confronted with evidence proving that he lied, he acknowledged the truth. Psychologists at his trial noted flat affect in his voice and lack of remorse for what he had done but he was not diagnosed as insane. Hanna Arendt attended his trial and read the 3500 pages documenting his testimony and wrote a book in which she definitely stated that Eichmann was neither insane nor evil. In her judgment, Eichmann had never been taught to think about value. He went to the same school as Hitler and no doubt left with the assumption that the world is merely the totality of facts. For him the world did not contain ultimate values such as “Murder is wrong” and according to Arendt, he did not know how to talk about what he had done. She referred to this phenomenon as the “banality of evil” which angered many Jews at the time.
I raised my hand:
“If Wittgenstein claimed that the self was the source of value and value lay outside the world did he not acknowledge the importance of value?”
“Good reasoning. Wittgenstein had said and believed to the end of his life that an investigation of language is necessary to answer aporetic questions. In the “Tractatus” however, he located the importance of language in the self and claimed that the limits of my language are the limits of my world. He claimed that values could not be talked about but only shown in our language. This appears solipsistic and suggests that our values are not inter-subjective, not objective. It was only in his later posthumous work, ”Philosophical Investigations”, that he realized that the self existed in a public and historical world and that language was public and historical. That is, he understood finally that we could talk objectively about values and claim with justification that “Murder is wrong”.
Jude paused and noted with satisfaction the interest he had aroused and left the lecture room abruptly. The group gradually dispersed leaving me looking transfixed at what had been written on the blackboard: “The world is all that is the case”
I remember feeling that this lecture was different from all the others we had experienced. It felt as if the lecturer had reversed the polarity of the world within the lecture-room and everyone was strangely looking for where north was instead of using it to fly off into their own private worlds. The atmosphere was loaded with anticipation and every thought was like a sudden bolt of lightning striking and splitting our world apart in the name of something ineffable, something which could not be talked about but which everyone mysteriously knew or thought they knew. This experience felt like an awakening, like stepping off from a rolling, swaying ship onto the rough hard ground of real, solid earth.
Professor Smith began this lecture series with the thesis that Political Philosophy is about “Regimes” and he then proceeded to support his position via lengthy accounts of the Political Philosophies of Plato and Aristotle both of whom would have denied his thesis. Both Philosophers would have maintained that Political Philosophy is about “The Good”, “Epistémé and self-understanding”. Aristotle may have added that knowledge of the good requires an adventure of reflection into the realm of the divine and the holy. Smith appears to regard the political realm as having more to do with technai, a realm in which straightforward questions are posed which have straightforward solutions. This, of course, is a different world to the metaphysical realm that Aristotle is referring to when he argues that the philosopher’s task is to pose aporetic questions. In the realm of technai practical reasoning takes the form of firstly, calculating particular means to achieve particular given ends and secondly it uses judgment to determine something general about the particular.
The faculties of understanding and reason, on the other hand, are used in reasoning about the good, in general, and formal terms. These faculties do not function in the straightforward manner in which the faculty of judgment does.
In the use of judgment, the mind submits to the world like a student of nature in contrast to the use of understanding and reason where the mind is more actively thinking like a judge, reflectively, about the laws that will be imposed upon the world. When a political judge or a statesman considers the phenomena of reality as he must do when people act either in accordance with or in contravention of the law he does not waver for a moment in the cases of contravention of the law and consider the abandonment of the law as would a student of nature exploring the world tentatively with his tentative concepts. The political judge or statesman is not a student, he is not building a theory but rather using a conceptual system to make judgments from the point of view of a political theory: If all promises ought to be kept and Jack promised Jill to pay the money back that was lent to him, then Jack ought to pay the money back. The ought in these statements are categorical and signify the necessity that follows from the objective and universal law that All promises ought to be kept. A student confronted with the phenomenon of Jack breaking his promise might be led to the conclusion that the law is illegitimate or false because it is not universal but this would be to misunderstand the peculiar universality and necessity of the ought in the sphere of “the good” and ethics. The field of human conduct is manifold and varied but when it is concerned with answering the Kantian question “What ought I to do?” in the sense Kant intended, we will find that both the political and moral realm has a law like structure. The political judge on the grounds of this structure will steadfastly question the transgressor Jack with a view to obtaining a full understanding of the situation. Once that understanding is reached, i.e. once it is clear that Jack never intended to keep the promise he made the judge then uses his knowledge of the law to judge that Jack’s intention and reasoning is flawed and that he ought to pay the money back in accordance with the law (that all promises ought to be kept). The judge or statesman(who is in the business of making and keeping promises) will not be impressed with the argument “But people do not always keep their promises”. His response to this argument will be simply to insist that he knows that it might be the case that people sometimes do not keep their promises but that it nevertheless ought not to be the case.: they ought to keep promises. The law here, in other words, is a standard that is being used much like the standard metre bar in Paris. The bar itself cannot be said to be one metre long since it is that which we use to determine the length of a metre. Similarly, we cannot ask sensibly whether the law which itself is used to determine what is right and wrong is right or wrong in itself. We can, however, as Kant did point out the logical consequences of abandoning the law which in practical terms would mean abandoning the institution of promising in our communities.
Life in a community is living in a field of desires. Both Kant and Aristotle in their different ways believed that desires need to be shaped and organized in accordance with the telos of “the ought” and in accordance with the principles and value of areté(virtue):i.e. doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. This requires a stable organized soul which Aristotle characterizes in terms of “character” Wisdom is a virtue requiring the understanding of oneself and one’s world. Wisdom is manifested in the wise man being able to reason both theoretically and practically about the nature of man and the nature of his community. In Aristotle’s terms, the wise man will reason well about the good, the true, the beautiful, prime matter and prime form(the Philosophers god). Included in his practical reasoning will be reasoning about the laws of the city. The wise man’s reasoning will precede the judgments he makes and deductively supports the judgments that have been made. Aristotle also distinguishes between substantive justice and procedural or formal justice. Substantive justice requires a general understanding of metaphysics, epistémé and ethics and procedural justice will fall into the realm of technai(particular cases must be handled in accordance with the rule: similar cases have to be treated similarly). For Aristotle, Political Philosophy is substantially ethical and contains the wise law-like statements of the statesman and the judge but it is also technical, i.e. composed of particular judgments which follow from both the law like structures and the particular facts of the particular cases that are being judged. When one is in the realm of the law one is, in Aristotle’s eyes, in the realm of the divine or the sacred. One must take the law seriously and respect its wisdom. Furthermore if one organizes the field of one’s desires in accordance with the principles of areté, one can look forward personally to a flourishing life. This is a judgment about a particular life based on the law-like structure of the virtues in one’s soul.
Kant, we are told by Hannah Arendt, did not produce a political Philosophy. This is a curious statement to make given the following facts:
1.) that our system of human rights is probably based on Kant’s formulations of the Categorical Imperative and
2. The United Nations was suggested by Kant in one of his essays on Political Philosophy.
Arendt wishes to make the case that we should look to Kant’s remarks on Judgment if we are to apply Kantian ideas to the realm of the political. For Arendt, the understanding and the kind of practical reasoning being used in ethics and the formulation and defense of the categorical imperative are irrelevant to the particularities one encounters in the political realm. This means that Judgment cannot command categorically what one ought and ought not to do. It can, in Kantian terms only ask and hope for an agreement by speaking in a universal voice as one does in our judgments of beauty. The grounds of our judgment then become obscurely the non-conceptual common sensibility(the feelings and emotions) we share with all humans. That is instead of beginning in our reasoning with an ought statement, we begin with an is-statement about common feelings and sensibility and then somehow mysteriously jump to the ought conclusions that are required by political judgments, ignoring logical restraints associated with the naturalistic fallacy. The categorical nature of the understanding is implied by the phrase “Categorical Imperative” and reasoning that about ends in itself rather than means to ends is also what Kant thinks of as “categorical”.
Professor Smith also fixes upon this notion of particularity and transports us into the realm of judgment and away from the law-like structure of the political and ethical realms. Sensibility unregulated by understanding and reason will for both Kant and Aristotle stay forever mired in the swamp of particulars. Although in judgment we are saying something about something the subject of the judgment is always a particular. Looking at man as a particular and excluding understanding and reason will only result in an individual story where individual desires or facts reign. Using such judgments results in a history of particular events which we may find interesting or even beautiful but which we can only tentatively judge with our “universal” voices. The generality is not achieved by recasting our actor’s role in a society for society too can be thought about in the particular, as being a polis situated in a particular place and at a particular time. We begin to think categorically only when the major premise of the argument begins “All Societies are…” or just in case Kant is right in his claim that no society is completely free and completely just the argument rather should begin “All societies ought….”
Smith is cognisant of the fact that Political science or Philosophy is in a considerable state of disarray but he mistakenly thinks that Aristotle and Kant have contributed to the chaotic situation he experiences in the Universities. He refers to Aristotle but fails to pursue Aristotle’s categorical path where the laws of reason shape and organize mans desires. He refers to Kant but fails to pursue the hylomorphic quality of Kant’s theorizing. An individual Man, for Kant, is only potentially rational. Rationality will eventually actualize in the species because man’s desires are so unorganized that they need a master to organize them. Man understands what is right, he understands the virtues and admires them but his self-interested desires are always working to avoid the law-like structure of our political and ethical communities by making an exception of himself. This is why he needs a master. He lives in the field of desires or sensibility where pleasure reigns. Most men, as a matter of fact, argues Kant, have their own self-interest firmly fixed before their eyes. The laws of ethics and the laws of politicians are aimed at regulating the consequences of this pursuit of self-interest. Looking at this situation in one way provokes the description that justice is merely the regulation or distribution of pleasures and pains(benefits and burdens) and that is a correct description from a third person point of view which avoids the first person question of the role of self-understanding in this process: the role, that is of mans awareness of what he ought to do and what he ought to be. It is in the spirit of this self-understanding that Kant claims that a society in which sensibility is unregulated by either understanding or reason gives rise to the judgment that life in such a society is “melancholically haphazard”.
Arendt and Smith are almost on the same page. Both seem to criticize Aristotle for placing bios theoretikos above bios politikos, of placing the contemplative life of the eternal and universal above the political life of the sensible and particular. Arendt, in the context of this debate presents the following quote from Pascal(talking about Plato and Aristotle) in her “Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy”:
“They were honest men, like others, laughing with their friends, and when they wanted to divert themselves they wrote, “The Laws” or “The Politics” to amuse themselves. That part of their life was the least philosophic and the least serious. The most philosophic was to live simply and quietly. If they wrote on politics it was as if laying down rules for a lunatic asylum: if they presented the appearance of speaking of great matters it was because they knew that the madmen to whom they were speaking thought they were kings or emperors.”
This may not exactly capture the spirit in which both authors wrote about politics but it does point us to the reason my Kant referred to life in society as “melancholically haphazard”. What was there to be melancholic about? We know that Plato thought that the final the final separation of the soul from the body was the moment of death and that the only response to such a state of affairs was to do Philosophy until the inevitable happened. This touches upon the great issue of the value of life. Kant raises 4 questions by way of defining Philosophy thus uniquely defining Philosophy by the questions it asks but all 4 questions raise the Platonic question of the value of life. The 4 questions are “What can I know?, What ought I to do? , What can I hope for?, and What is man?” His answers to two of these questions that one ought to do what is right and if one does so one can hope for a flourishing life raise the question that Aristotle sought to answer, namely “What is the flourishing life?” Aristotle’s answer was the contemplative life but he must have had in mind the Delphic oracles answer to this same question which referred to “taking on the colour of the dead”. Smith avoids according religion a prominent position in his reflections on bios politikos and thus avoids Aristotle’s answer to the question of the value of a flourishing life. He does, however, in his 25th ad final lecture return to Aristotle’s Ethics and asks whether “patriotism” might be a virtue located on a continuum of excess and deficiency the one pole of which would be nationalism and the other pole Kantian Cosmopolitanism: a strange ending given the almost complete absence of Kantian reflections in the rest of his lectures. Smith points out that an important consequence of Cosmopolitanism is that there is no significant difference between human beings because their humanity is the primary normative characteristic of their being. He goes on to suggest:
“This is the Cosmopolitan ethics of humanity which could only hold true of a confederation of Republics overseen or ruled by international law– a league of nations.”
Smith Pursues his Aristotelian discussion of whether patriotism could be a virtue with Carl Smitt’s reflections from “The Concept of the Political” in which it is claimed that bios politikos is the antagonistic life a dangerous animal leads. This antagonistic life is founded upon a Plemarchean theory of justice which claims that one ought to do good to one’s friends inside the polis and harm to one’s enemies outside the polis. Smith comments upon this in the following manner:
“The political life contains the most intense and extreme antagonism. Friend and enemy are the inescapable categories through which we experience the political: Athens versus Sparta. All attempts to rights, free trade etc are attempts to avoid the above fact.”
Smith points out that the “Friend-enemy” schema would be self-contradictory because if it also operated on the domestic front we would be dealing with a divided city. He then goes on to criticize the Kantian position:
“Kant confuses politics with morality. Kant wishes to transcend the sovereign state with known international rules of justice. If Schmitt believed man to be the dangerous animal Kant believed him to be the rule-following animal. Kant’s desire to transcend the state with a kind of international future is both naive and anti-political. If Hobbes was right when he said that covenants without a sword are but words, then on Kant’s view the question becomes, who would enforce these international norms of force. Kant’s conception of global justice is a wish for a world without states…International bodies like the UN have been notoriously ineffective in curbing and restraining the aggressive behaviour of states and International courts of justice have been highly selective in what they choose to condemn”
It is true that Kant deliberately and systematically relates ethics to politics and demands that the latter conform to the norms of the former. Statesmen have to keep treaties. Countries have to honour treaties. Kant would in this context certainly have disagreed with Hobbes on the question of combining covenants with the sword. Violence may be one of the terminal points of instrumental reasoning because this system of reasoning has no moral principle which it can use to judge the morality of the chains of ethically and logically unrelated events which defy the double effect principle. Given the fact that the dignity of man is what provoked Kant’s ethical reflections in the first place and also the fact that freedom and autonomy are central concerns of his theory as is the categorical nature of the ought system of concepts he would have firmly maintained that one ought not to coerce agents to keep their promises. If self-understanding is a part of the ethical adventure then words are the “swords” that one uses in the discourse with oneself over the Socratic issue of whether one can live oneself or not. International organizations such as the UN are Kantian to the core. They expect states to impose norms of justice upon themselves and the Hobbesian sword is sometimes used when all other alternatives are exhausted but the more likely route of persuasion will be sanctions enforced by the world community which send the message “If we cannot live with you how will you live with yourself”. Kant did not necessarily believe as Marx did that the state would necessarily wither away. If he did his concept of a league of nations would have been self-contradictory. States would not be dissolved by a world government because he believed such a government would be necessarily tyrannical. His concept of a kingdom of ends is Aristotelian in the sense that it is a construction of bios theoretikos and the Philosophers conception of God must be included in the summum bonum of a flourishing life. Smith is a secular political Philosopher. He follows Aristotle but only so far and he refuses to follow Kant at all. The kingdom of ends is a humanistic idea and Hobbes’ position is about as far as one can get from Humanism. Kant may have believed that when our ethical and humanistic cares and commitments are no longer operative(in a state of nature or a state of war) politics and legislation can step in to try and regulate matters. Kant was well aware of the fact that the unsocial sociability and antagonism between men can be difficult to regulate with moral laws. Smith’s remarks on the efficacy of the UN flies in the face of the facts. The UN is an incredibly complex structure of organizations and many of these organizations are contributing to world peace and stability on a daily basis by doing work which typically produces long-term results. Popular media likes to focus on the security council and the failures to reach agreements and this often dramatizes conflicts unnecessarily. If the UN is Kantian to the core than we should realize that the media presents the news of the day, politicians think in terms of the duration of government between elections, historians think in terms of centuries, oracles probably thought in terms of millennia, Philosophers like Aristotle and Kant, however, think in terms of hundreds of thousands of years. The kingdom of ends is one hundred thousand years away which conceivably could imply that although progress is being made in straightening out the crooked timber of humanity that progress will be necessarily slow.
Smith attempts to extract the truth from his dialectical opposites and claims somewhat surprisingly that America is the embodiment of the Aristotelian golden mean principle:
“Although neither extreme view is complete in itself the question is how can they be combined? These two are very much combined already in the American regime. America is the first truly modern nation– a nation founded upon the principles of modern philosophy….Our founding documents are dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
And yet relatively shortly after the founding of this Golden State it was torn apart in a civil war exactly over this issue of equality of master and slave. A war which by the way did not end the subjugation of one race by another. Smith is here committing the naturalistic fallacy, at least as far as his argument relating to Cosmopolitanism is concerned. Kant appeals to Cosmopolitanism as a teleological concept and claims nothing more than that it is the long-term goal that man ought to strive for. There is, he argues, progress toward the fulfillment of this goal but there are no guarantees that we will arrive at the terminus of our striving.
Smith, as part of a discussion of the issue of the universal versus the particular in Politics, appeals to History and the struggle for power:
“it concerns the political uses of power or the two great ends to which power can be put: freedom and empire. Political philosophy is reduced to political history. Both presuppose one another and are in some relation to the universal and particular. The Political Philosopher examines the underlying principles of the regime and the political historian examines the way these principles have been applied in practice. Where the philosopher is concerned with the best regime–that which is best according to underlying principles, the historian is concerned with what is best for a particular people at a particular time and place, Athens, France, America.”
It is not certain that Aristotle or Kant would have appreciated the above account of the distinction between the universal and the particular in relation to Philosophy and History. Certainly, Aristotle in his work on Poetry contrasted History and Poetry in terms of the particular and the universal but he would certainly have appreciated the historians search for the material and efficient causes of the particular events studied and surely some true generalizations could be the result of such investigations. But the question to be asked here is “Are historians relativistic in their judgments about what is best?” This sounds more like poetry. Aristotle would not have subscribed to any view which attempted to relativise the idea of the best.
For Kant, the historian must be concerned withnhistorical truth and this in turn must have some relation to the notion of progress and the postulated telos of Cosmopolitanism, an end state which may or may not be reached and in relation to which the state may or may not “wither away”. The events of history would be susceptible to both causal and teleological explanations and these explanations would not be subject to the criteria of identity one applies to judgments about particular events or particular cases. Indeed for Kant such judgments would require more general universal premises relating to underlying principles, if they were to generate the kind of knowledge we expect from history.
Professor Smith concludes his lecture series by asking where the teahers of these underlying principles are to be found. Not in most Universities he claims because the respect for tradition has been lost:
“Modern Professors of History often appear to teach everything but a proper respect for tradition. In my own field, civic education has been replaced by game theory– a theory that regards politics as a market place where individual preferences are formed and utilities are maximized. Rather than teaching us to be citizens, the new political science teaches us to be rational actors who exercise preferences. By reducing all politics to choice and all choice to preference the new political science is forced to accord legitimacy to every preference, however vile, base or indecent it may be.”
Smith acutely touches upon a major issue in education: the colonization of the humanities by firstly science and then the science of economics. His complaint is somewhat puzzling in the light of the fact that game theory would seem to be a logical consequence of the rejection of the relation of ethicsto politics that Kant proposes. It would also seem to be a logical consequence of the modernism that the very modern USA embraces.
“De Tocqueville’s work “Democracy in America” is the work of a man watching the demise of “the ancien regime” and keen to observe what will replace it in the future. Professor Smith introduces this political thinker in the following terms:
“What is the problem with which de Tocqueville’s book is concerned? Is it the 17th and 18th-century ideas of freedom and equality?. As long as the enemy appeared to be the entrenched hierarchies of power and privilege of the old regime, freedom and equality were mutually reinforcing aspects of the emerging democratic order. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century with the emergence of the proto-democracies in the New World and Europe that political philosophers began to wonder whether freedom and equality did not, in fact, pull in different directions. Tocqueville saw the new democratic societies as creating new forms of social power–new types of rule that presented threats to liberty, e.g. the new middle-class democracies in France England and the USA and the problem was how to mitigate the effects of political power. Locke’s answer to this was to divide and separate the powers. Tocqueville was less certain that this type of institutional device of separated powers, checks and balances could be an effective check in a democratic age where the people as a whole had become king.”
Professor Smith then claims that “The problem of politics” is the problem of how to control the sovereignty of the people”. There would seem to me to be at least one good reason to reject this formulation and that reason lies in the Political Philosophy of Kant, in particular in Kant’s idea that the teleological structure of politics lays in an idea of the final end of politics residing in the idea of a cosmopolitan kingdom of ends. Sovereignty, that is, for Kant, is merely a stage in the developmental process of our political activity and its terminating point in a political unit transcending the sovereign state. The nation-state was born in Westphalia in 1648. Could it be that what Kant was witnessing and reasoning about was a transitional organic form destined for transformation? Hannah Arendt, after all, in her seminal work “The Origins of Totalitarianism” claimed that the nation-state proved its failure as a political unit in the 20th century with the rise of totalitarianism. Was this a phenomenon that Tocqueville was also fearing. He writes: “I do not like democracy and am severe toward it.” and “In the future, all the world will be like America”. What exactly was it that concerned de Tocqueville? Smith suggests the following:
“What attracted my attention during my visit was the equality of conditions for everyone.”(Democracy in America) He is speaking here of the equality of social conditions. Equality of conditions precedes democratic government–It is the cause from which democratic governments arise. These conditions were planted in America and Europe long before there were democratic governments which are only as old as the French and American Revolutions—but equality of social conditions had been prepared for a long time by deep-rooted historical processes that began long before the dawn of the modern age…Tocqueville provides us with a history of equality that takes us back to the heart of the medieval world. He does not go back to a state of nature but argues against Hobbes and Locke and their claim that we are by nature free and equal and he also argues that hierarchies were introduced over time. These hierarchical processes have been moving away from inequality and toward greater and greater equality of social conditions…. Equality is something like a historical force..which has been working itself out in history over a vast stretch of time.”
De Tocqueville claims that the Americans do not have a taste for Philosophy and in this spirit, one wonders why Smith does not wish to return to the original form of democracy which was rule by the many and poor in Ancient Greece who were revolting and reacting against …? What exactly? The rich ruling in their interest? Or were they reacting against the lack of the equality of social conditions. Was this what was meant by the Socratic and Aristotelian references to the common good? The difference between this ancient form of democracy and its more modern counterpart would presumably be the putative absence of unnecessary desires in the latter form of rule. This absence would on philosophical theory be replaced by areté, the virtue or excellence of doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. Plato we know objected vehemently to the rule of the many with unnecessary desires but Aristotle could see the many rule in the spirit of the common good and areté and indeed thought it to be the best alternative of three possibilities: rule by the one, the few and the many. So the combination of the common good and areté seems to have been the philosophical foundation of our modern democracies and sovereignty seems to, on this account, have been an accidental inessential characteristic of the political unit. The question that then arises is whether social conditions aiming at equality were a cause or consequence of the several interacting processes which were in the process of forming our modern democracies. From the philosophical point of view, one wonders whether doing the right things at the right time in the right way requires social conditions or helps to produce the social conditions of equality. On Kant’s view it appears as if a consciousness of equality is tied up with a consciousness of freedom and its consequences, i.e. that one treats people as ends in themselves irrespective of the social conditions they find themselves in or represent. Doing this, it is argued is a recognition of their humanity and this is far more important than any attempt to consider other extraneous social conditions which might be affecting how they are represented to us. Smith maintains that “Equality is not just one fact among others but is a generational fact from which everything else derives.” It was this generational fact Smith argues that was motivating de Tocqueville’s reductional analysis. But what in particular did de Tocqueville envisage when he was talking about these social conditions which are contrary to freedom and “elude the efforts and control of man”?
Three forms of activity are referred to in this context: firstly, local government in the spirit of the Greek city polis( the organization of legislation and deliberation over common interest), secondly, civil associations such as the PTA, charitable and sporting organizations(where one learns to care for the interests of others through learning to care for the interests of one’s association) and thirdly the spirit and institutions of Religion. It was this latter form of activity that most impressed de Tocqueville on his journeys. Smith comments upon this in the following manner:
“Democracy and religion walk hand in hand in America and this is precisely the opposite of what has happened in Europe. America is primarily a puritan’s democracy,i.e. the American experience was determined in certain crucial ways by the early Puritans who brought to the New World strong religious beliefs, a suspicion of government, and a strong desire for independence. De Tocqueville drew two consequences from these observations: Firstly, the thesis proposed by many Enlightenment thinkers that religion will disappear with the advance of modernity is false. Secondly that it is a mistake to eliminate religion and totally secularize society. Free societies rest on morality and morality cannot be effective without religion. It may be true that individuals can achieve moral guidance from reason alone but societies cannot. The need and desire to believe will only be transferred to other more dangerous outlets: “Despotism can do without faith our freedom cannot.”
De Tocqueville appeals to Pascal to justify the above two points and constructs an epistemological argument which maintains that knowledge without faith is empty. he claims that there is something in the desire that only faith can satisfy. “An invisible inclination leads man back to religion”. “There is a metaphysical dimension to religion”
Although he sees this promising relation between politics and religion de Tocqueville is not happy with what he is seeing. He seems to sense an underlying possible tyranny in the system: the tyranny of the majority. He can see the rule of the mob lingering beneath the appearances of things: he senses the rule of the poor to secure their own interests. He even questioned whether the separation of powers would suffice to stem the tide of this tyranny. The key remark in this constellation of observations is perhaps the following which takes us back to the issue of freedom in the Kantian sense:
“I know of no country in which less independence of mind and genuine freedom of discussion reigned than in America.
Kantian freedom is obviously related to the virtues that a man ought to possess and therefore to reasoning in the ought system of concepts and Kant too believes that knowledge must make space for faith because morality requires religion as a teleological argument if what he called the “summum bonum” was to be achieved(the flourishing life, eudaimonia). He does not subscribe to the separation between the individual and society in this context, insisting that the individual is in need of a belief that the ought system requires, namely that the end be good, that is, that my life be flourishing as a consequence of the costs of forming and executing good intentions. So for Kant belief in religion is not a Pascallian wager but rather a necessity required to regulate the ethical system of ought concepts. Religion supplements the formal material and efficient causes with a teleological final cause that provides the motivation for the ethical form of life. Kant too will have shared the fear of de Tocqueville for the removal of the motivational pin of our ethical system. He too would have seen the dangers of secularization. Professor Smith talks as if the project of secularization is a European phenomenon and given the collapse of the ethical system in Germany and the rapid capitulation of the French in the last world war he may have a point. There is however an argument for the position that Europe still has faith in its philosophical foundations and that this is embodied in its educational and political institutions. Granted that religion no longer rules the realm of value absolutely, no one wishes to see a return of religious absolutism but neither do they wish to see religion disappear as an institution given the fact that it embodies important metaphysical and ethical dimensions important to man. If this is the case then it would seem to fit in with de Tocqueville’s claim that the Americans have little taste for Philosophy because they do not quite believe in the power of reasoning as the Europeans do. We believe in the Aristotelian account of the soul as a principle organizing the body rather than the Platonic soul that is tortured by the body and its unnecessary appetites. The Aristotelian soul is the true democratic soul capable of discourse and reasoning in the Agora about all manner of things including God who mirrors his nature more in the texture of our thinking processes than in the constitution of physical things or physical processes. The essence of the common good for Aristotle was partially divine.
De Tocqueville’s second volume of “Democracy in America” focuses less on the social and political aspects of democracy and more on the democratic soul:
“It focuses on the internal, on the democratic soul and is therefore philosophically richer focussing on what the democratic social state has done to us, how it has shaped us as individuals.”
This formulation is indeed illuminating. It suggests that we are conditioned by the state rather than freely forming the contours of the state with our individual virtues where we will do the right thing in the right way at the right time. This is more of a Platonic thesis: the needs of the city can override the interests and concerns of the individuals in the sense that a democratic state gives rise to democratic personalities. De Tocqueville iscusses three aspects of the democratic soul. Firstly “Democracy has a tendency to make us gentler towards one another”. We are more compassionate: softer. The problem according to De Tocqueville is that we have become too soft:
“But..my ability to feel your pain does not require me to do much about it. Compassion turns out to be an easy virtue, implies a caring without judgment”
“the democratic soul is a restless anxious soul and “always seems to be a work in progress tied to the desire for material well being(happiness). Democracy means a middle-class way of life made up of people constantly in pursuit of some absent object of their own desires.
According to Plato the three different parts of the soul have three different kinds of desires. Reason desires theoretical understanding and practical excellence. If the democratic soul is a reasonable soul there does not seem to be any problem with an individual pursuing these goals in any city state.
Thirdly, the soul is self-interested not in the sense of amour-propre but rather is an antidote to amour propre:
“It is not in itself a virtue but comes from people who are regulated, independent, far-sighted, moderate, masters of themselves”
This is not quite what de Tocqueville thought he saw in America.
This sketch of moral psychology naturally has consequences for the profile of the statesman who has been shaped by compassion, restlessness and self-interest:
“the legislator for de Tocqueville is hemmed in by the conditions of social factors, customs, morality over which he has little power. The legislator is more like a ship’s captain dependent on external circumstances that control the fate of the ship. The legislator resembles a man who plots his course in the middle of an ocean. Thus he can direct the vessel that carries him but he cannot change its structure, create winds or prevent the ocean from rising under his feet. All of this seems to be on the side of the historical forces that limit what we can do.”
Smith claims that de Tocqueville opposes all systems of historical determinism but at the same time writes “as if it is a peculiarity of democratic times that all people are considered equal: everyone is equally powerless to effect or change anything”.
This is the democracy that de Tocqueville sees and fears but it is not a Kantian or an Aristotelian olde worlde construction.