The Conceptual Foundations of International Politics: Commentary and Critique of the Columbia University lecture series at Lecture Two Richard Betts

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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 Conceptual Foundations of International Politics: Commentary and Critique of the Columbia University lecture series at Lecture One Lisa Anderson

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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.

Second Centrepiece lecture on Philosophy of Education(Jude Sutton): Aristotle, Kant and the project of Humanity

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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.”

INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY COURSE: Aristotle Part one: The Metaphysics of Nature.

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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… 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.

The First Centrepiece Lecture in Philosophy of Education from the work “The World Explored, the World Suffered:The Exeter lectures”

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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.

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lecture 25: A defense of Politics?

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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.

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lectures 21,22, and 23: De Tocqueville

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“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:

“ 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.

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lectures 18,19 and 20: Rousseau

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“The Newton of the Moral Universe”, “The product of the ancien regime” and “The man from Geneva” are all phrases Professor Smith uses to describe our next Political Scientist: Jean Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau is a figure of the Enlightenment and even in that era he must be regarded as the most incandescent of the thinkers after Immanuel Kant. Kant, we know, was significantly influenced by the writings of Rousseau. Prior to reading Rousseau Kant was focussing principally on Theoretical Philosophy and the modification of Cartesian rationalism and subsequent to that a defense of Rationalism against Hume who he saluted with the words “Hume awoke me from my dogmatic slumbers”. Kant’s Categorical imperative is probably a formalistic characterization of Rousseau’s position which was attempting to criticize the earlier positions of Aristotle Hobbes and Locke. Man, argues Rousseau, is not a rational animal as Aristotle would have us believe but rather a sensitive compassionate animal who cares about his fellows in a state of nature to an extent difficult to fathom upon observing his behaviour in contemporary society. Already we can perhaps suspect Rousseau of resembling Diogenes, sensing in the dark recesses of European society a discontentment which Rousseau both describes and explains brilliantly. The theories of Hobbes and Locke did not, he argued, improve our understanding of the fact that “Man was born free but everywhere in chains” simply because these philosophers failed to appreciate the complexity of what they referred to as “the state of nature”. The following is Professor Smiths introduction:

“What did he believe? Was he a revolutionary? He believed that people in their collective capacity are the only legitimate source of sovereignty and “Man is born free but everywhere in chains”. Did his writings, then, seek to release us from the bonds of society as it appears to do in the second discourse “On Inequality”. His writings provide the base for romantic individualism: a celebration of the simplicity of peasant life and rural life. He helps to bring to completion the intellectual movement we know as the Enlightenment whilst at the same time being its severest critic. He defended the savage against civilized man and took the side of the poor against the elite. The Second Discourse is a conjectural history, a philosophical reconstruction of history but not of what has actually happened in the past: it is a history of what had to have happened for humans to have achieved their current condition.”

This introduction(brilliant that it is) does not quite, in my opinion, capture the full historical significance of Rousseau’s work for the History of Philosophy in general and Political Philosophy, Philosophical Psychology and Ethics in particular. Kant was not particularly impressed with romantic and poetic images of savage and oppressed man or the plight of any class in the “battle for civilization”. He did, however, see and appreciate the extent to which Rousseau’s speculations, descriptions and explanations would fit into his metaphysical and epistemological claims about man and his relation to Reality. The very terms “”romantic” and “conjectural” belie the power of philosophy to, as Kant puts it, in his “Conjectural Beginnings of human history”, “fill in the gaps in the record” For Kant part of the record is contained in the Bible, the book Rousseau would not let Emile read as part of his early adult education
firstly because of the fear of attachment to other men’s opinions, fear of dependence upon other opinions, and secondly because such works excite the imagination unnecessarily in terms of desires, hopes, and fears. The only book Emile is allowed to read is Robinson Crusoe which seems to be approved of by Rousseau because as Alan Bloom points out in his introduction to his translation:

“Robinson Crusoe is a solitary man in a state of nature, outside of civil society and unaffected by the deeds and opinions of men. His sole concern is his preservation and comfort. All his strength and reason are dedicated to these ends, and utility is his guiding principle, the principle that organizes all his knowledge. The world he sees contains neither gods nor heroes: there are no conventions. Neither the memory of Eden nor the hope of salvation affects his judgment… Robinson Crusoe is a kind of bible of the new sciences of nature and reveals man’s true original condition.”

Rousseau’s work Emile impressed Kant enormously but it does sometimes remind one of the lonely soul of Descartes “Meditations” and the citizens of Hobbesian and Lockean societies striving to lead instrumental lives of comfortable self-preservation. Aristotle, another so-called authority disliked by Rousseau, begins his political inquiries with the formation of the family and points to its lack of self-sufficiency. The starting point of the Kantian account is the Biblical first family (Adam Eve, Cain and Abel) who are clearly capable of discourse and thought which they had to acquire. Kant gives an account of how this process of civilization begins in the comparison of foodstuffs which prior to the functioning of the thought process is done instinctively. This comparison, Kant claims, is “beyond the bounds of instinctual knowledge”. He notes, interestingly, that these processes of thought and reasoning are aided by the imagination which also has the power, according to Kant and the Greek philosophers, to create “artificial and unnecessary desires” which in their turn generate a sense of luxuriousness that absolutely alienates our natural powers. In discussing the powers of the imagination Kant discusses the Socratic/Platonic/Freudian theme of sexuality. For instinct, sexuality is a periodic phenomenon which disappears as quickly as it appears. Reason and imagination struggle to achieve a mastery over the impulse and the transition from animal desire to human love were made possible by a moderation of the sexual impulse via the discipline of refusal which in its turn enhanced the value of love, the binding force of a family. This in its turn, according to Kant:

“enables man to prepare himself for distant aims according to his role as a human being. But at the same time, it is also the most inexhaustible source of cares and troubles, caused by the uncertainty of the future–cares and troubles of which animals are altogether free. Man, compelled to support himself, his wife and future children, foresaw the ever-increasing hardships of labour. Woman foresaw the troubles to which nature had subjected her sex and those additional ones to which a man, being stronger than her, would subject her…..Both foresaw with fear…death”(Conjectural beginnings..Kant p58)

Once this point is reached, Kant argues, instead of appreciating the power of reason the family begin to fear it as the cause of all ills and a decision is made to live in the present and vicariously through the lives of one’s children. Yet, in the course of a life made even more difficult by the absence of reason many artificial and unnecessary desires arise, occupying the mind to the extent that even death is forgotten in the process:

“mans departure from that paradise which his reason represents as the first abode of his species was nothing but the transition from an uncultured, merely animal condition to the state of humanity, from bondage to instinct to rational control–in a word from the tutelage of nature to the state of freedom.”(Conjectural beginnings… Kant p59)

Kant’s complete account of the transition of the species from being slaves of nature(“in chains”) to being masters of our destiny is meant to take place in a series of complex stages over extremely long periods of time(100,000 years) but it is clear that during this process the common good will be constituted as a concern of the human species and thus of all individuals belonging to the human species. This is a different more optimistic account than the one we find in Rousseau who has a more pessimistic analysis of the human condition and its Discontents. For Rousseau man led the life of a noble savage or a solitary Robinson Crusoe in the state of nature which in his view was transformed the moment men began to gaze at each other and gather around huts and trees for the company. The gaze must have been experienced as a questioning of one’s moral value and resulted in many different forms of artificial strivings motivated by the imagination in order to gain recognition. Included in this “work of the imagination” is the transformation of natural judgment into artificial and mythical interpretations of the world:

“the one who sang or danced the best, the most handsome, the strongest, the most adroit and the most eloquent became the most highly regarded and this was the first step toward inequality and at the same time toward vice. From these first preferences were born vanity and contempt on the one hand and shame and envy on the other.”(Second Discourse “On Inequality”-Rousseau)

This does not necessarily contradict the Kantian account which also bears the traces of the collective memory of the Philosophy of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and the rejection of the picture of a man living a solitary life in a state of nature as a starting point for political or educational beginnings. Yet the trace of Rousseau’s Emile is present in the Kantian reflections of the moral individual on the quality of the maxims of his actions involved in all ethical decision making. The atom of the ethical system is the individual using his freedom to decide what to do. This atom joins with the rest of the moral universe however when he reasons, not in accordance with instrumental hypothetical imperatives but in universalistic non-relativistic categorical terms in which humanity and knowledge about humanity are treated as ends in themselves. Kant’s individual is not the instrumental Robinson seeking a safe comfortable Hobbesian haven for himself. He is part of an ideal network of moral agents and thinkers striving for the common good and doing what they ought to do without coming together in the Agora to discuss the matter. This reminds one of the moments in Emile when he is lost and hungry in the woods and uses the science of astronomy to find his way home. This for Rousseau was what science was for, an instrument for a comfortable life. For the Greeks, all knowledge was an end in itself and they honoured this status with the creation of schools like the Academy and the Lyceum which lay symbolically in grounds far from the madding discontented crowd. Although one does have to admit that the hypothetical structure of our modern empirical, anti-Aristotelian natural science does lend itself to Rousseau’s account. Aristotle’s categorical characterization of the kinds, principles, and causes of change is a stark contrast to the more tentative hypotheses of our modern community of scientists doing their science in the scientific Agora as part of the search for fame and recognition in the spirit of “amour-propre”. The picture of an independent thinker like Socrates and Aristotle refusing to be influenced by the madding crowd and being guided by reason alone is a picture that Kant certainly would have appreciated as part of the larger vision of the examined or contemplative life but it is not certain that this was Rousseau’s vision in the education of Emile. Certainly, Socrates’ communion with his daemon and his deference to the gods of the community would prevent Rousseau using him as an exemplary figure to be studied. Kant, as we know, was also religious and found a place for religion in his critical philosophy: a religion that did not instill a fear of dying and thereby mobilize the imagination into the realm of unnecessary and superstitious belief about the after-life or pursuit of power and riches “so as to forestall death’s assaults”(Bloom, Introduction to Rousseau’s Emile). Death as imagined perverts the natural formation of consciousness. This is Rousseau’s clear and distinct message in Emile’s education which is to allow his natural courage in the face of death not to be tainted by opinions to the contrary: opinions that carry unnatural and illusory images of death. Bloom puts the matter succinctly:

“The simple lesson is that man must rely on himself and recognize and accept necessity….Although fear of death makes it difficult to accept necessity, amour-propre is what makes it difficult to recognize necessity. This is the murky passion that accounts for the “interesting” relationships men have with one another, and it is the keystone of Rousseau’s psychological teaching.”(p10).

In this context, Rousseau discusses the meaning of a baby’s tears of discomfort and cries/screams of help in response to some pressing need which normally immediately bring an adult who relieves the discomfort by meeting the need causing the condition. The baby can learn from this Rousseau argues that his will can instrumentally bring about the satisfaction of his desires by the use of others as a mean to his ends. This is the moment when such children lose their independence and become dependent on their ability to manipulate others to do their bidding. Here a desire to control others is born, emotions connected to the use of power emerge. Bloom describes the matter in the following terms:

“His concern with his physical needs is transformed into a passion to control the will of adults. His tears become commands and frequently no longer are related to real needs but only to testing his power. He cannot stop it from raining by crying but he can make an adult change his mind. he becomes aware of will, and he knows that wills, as opposed to necessity, are subject to command, that they are changing. He quickly learns that for his life, control over men is more useful than adaptation to things…Every wish that is not fulfilled could, in his imagination, be fulfilled if the adult only willed it that way. His experience of his own will teaches him that others’ wills are selfish and plastic. He, therefore, seeks for power over men rather than for the use of things. He becomes a skillful psychologist, able to manipulate others….the child learns to see the intention to do wrong in that which opposes him. He becomes an avenger….His natural and healthy self-love and self-esteem (amour de soi) give way to a self-love relative to other men’s opinions of him: henceforth he can esteem himself only if others esteem him. Ultimately he makes the impossible demand that others care for him more than they care for themselves. The most interesting of psychological phenomena is this doubling or dividing of self-love: it is one of the distinctively few human phenomena(no animal can be insulted): and from it flow anger, pride, vanity, resentment, revenge, jealousy, indignation, competition, slavishness, humility, capriciousness, rebelliousness and almost all the other passions that give the poets their themes. In these first seeds of amour-propre, as seen in tears, one can recognize the source of the human problem.”(Blooms Introduction to Emile p11).

The tears being referred to above are instrumental crocodile tears. Rousseau is venturing into the sphere of Anthropology or what today we might call Philosophical Psychology. The moment referred to above precedes the institution of property which according to Hobbes and Locke it is the duty of government to protect and keep safe. Smith comments on these points in the following manner:

“For Rousseau just as important as the idea of property is the attitude and beliefs shaped by the inequalities produced by wealth and power. Rousseau, like Plato, finds his voice when discussing the complexities of the human soul.He talks about a disposition toward inequality which is untranslatable and he called “amour-propre”. It is related to a whole range of psychological characteristics such as pride, vanity, conceit egocentrism–and it only arises in a society as the true cause of all our discontent. Rousseau distinguishes it from other dispositions, e.g. amour de soi-meme, which is a sort of self-love, a natural sentiment which moves all animals to be vigilant in the cause of their own preservation and which is directed in many by reason, modified by pity and can produce humanity and virtue, but “amour-propre” is a very different kind of sentiment that is relative, artificial and born in society. It leads an individual to value himself more than anyone else and inspires in men all the evil they cause one another and which is the true source of honour(the desire to be esteemed and recognized by others). For Hobbes, this sentiment of vanity, pride,and glory is natural to us, it is a natural desire to dominate. For Rousseau it comes about after the state of nature… how could pride have arisen in a state of nature which is defined by Hobbes as solitary?”

Smith goes on to point out that Rousseau can see the positive aspect of this passion of amour-propre, namely, “the desire to be accorded some kind of recognition or respect by those around us”. This aspect, he reminds us “is at the root of our sense of justice”. The problem with this passion is that it is a law unto itself because if this esteem is not given voluntarily it is seen as contempt. Smith refers in this context interestingly to the international controversy over the cartoon of Mohammad drawn by a Danish artist and claims that the passion of amour-propre lay at the root of the cartoons lack of respect for and recognition of the Islamic Religion. Smith claims the protestors had a point. We in the West claimed that the cartoon was not a political act on the grounds of the way in which we separate politics from religion. We do not require of our governments any protection for the practice of any particular religion nor do we require that governments ensure that any particular religious view is respected. Smith concludes this discussion almost prophetically with:

“Amour propre is the desire to be esteemed and to have your values and points of view esteemed by those around you: it is, in fact, a violent and uncontrollable passion..So much of its civilization and discontent grows out of this passion.”

Rousseau, however, might have shared some of the animus if not the particular motivation of the Islamic protest. According to him, amour-propre plays a role in the establishment of all governments and inequalities are instituted. The relation between people and their government are as a rule flawed relationships. Smith summarizes his Rousseau’s position excellently:

“Rather than bringing peace as Hobbes and Locke claimed the establishment of government had the effect of establishing existing inequalities. For Rousseau, there is something deeply troubling and deeply shocking about the fact that men who were once free and equal are so easily led to consent to the inequalities of property and to rule by the stronger. For Rousseau, the Hobbesian Social Contract is a kind of swindle. The establishment of government is also a kind of swindle that the rich and powerful use to control the poor and the dispossessed: rather than instituting justice this compact merely legitimizes past usurpations.Government is a con game that the rich play on the poor. Political power simply helps to legitimate economic inequality. The government may operate on the basis of consent but the consent that is granted rests on falsehood and lies. How else can one explain why the rich have lives that are so much freer and so much easier, much more open to enjoyment than the poor. This is Rousseau’s critique. The establishment of government is the last link in the chain of Rousseau’s Conjectural history–the last but the most powerful links in the chains that bind us.

Governments, Smith continues, have created and favoured a middle class, bourgeoises, that are not quite the phenomenon envisaged by Aristotle: namely a golden mean class using knowledge and reason to avoid the extremes of firstly,a wealthy life wallowing in the luxury of unnecessary desires and secondly, the life of poverty wallowing in the cesspools of lack of dignity. The Governments envisaged by Hobbes and Locke have been called “liberal” and have favoured the wealthy, seeking to distribute that wealth more broadly to a middle class with the values of the upper class. This kind of economic focus by governments would have been frowned upon by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. For them, government by necessity would have to concern itself with areté:–doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. Economics, for these philosophers, was a secondary art that ought to be confined to the running of households and the private sphere of a citizens existence. Kant shared this vision to some extent. In his work the “Anthropology” he discussed the passions and their detrimental effects on our lives:

“Desire is the self-determination of a subject’s power through the representation of something in the future as an effect of this representation. Habitual sensible desire is called inclination. Desiring without power to produce the object is wish…Inclination that can be conquered only with difficulty or not at all by the subject’s reason is called passion..To be subject to affects and passions is probably always an illness of the mind because both shut out the sovereignty of reason.”(Kant’s Anthropology p 149)

Kant continues in the same vein on page 166:

“passions are cancerous sores for practical reason, and for the most part they are incurable because the sick person does not want to be cured and flees from the dominion of principles, by which alone a cure could occur.”

Kant is not, however, in complete agreement with Rousseau in relation to the industriousness of the middle class. Ambition can be an inclination determined by reason and the need for social intercourse in which there is a mutual striving for recognition and esteem. It is only passionate ambitions that becomes hated by others and which in turn leads to the mutual avoidance of each others company.Passions enslave man in chains and are antithetical to freedom according to Kant and in this respect, Kant and Rousseau agree. All desires are not necessarily passionate as we can see from Kant’s definition above. The relation between desire and passion is illustrated in the following quote:

“The desire to be in a state and relation with ones fellow human beings such that each can have the share that justice allows him is certainly no passion but only a determining ground of free choice through pure practical reason. But excitability of this desire through mere self-love is just for one’s own advantage and not for the purpose of legislation for everyone: it is the sensible impulse of hatred, hatred not of injustice but rather against him who is unjust to us. Since this relation is based on an idea, although admittedly the idea is applied selfishly it transforms the desire for justice against the offender into the passion for retaliation which is often violent to the point of madness, leading a man to expose himself to ruin if only his enemy does not escape it, and (in blood vengeance) making the hatred hereditary between tribes…”

Kant, in the above quote, is drawing an interesting distinction between a power and its object. One cannot hate injustice it seems because hatred is logically or grammatically an object relation term and injustice must be defined in terms of a principle of justice. Hatred seems to be an appropriate logical consequence of the way in which people’s gazes operate when amour-propre is the motivating power of relations between people(Rousseau). Hatred, according to Kant, is impermeable to reason. Freud in his Conjectural speculations upon the beginnings of Civilization also deals with the issue of hatred. The band of brothers is, on this account, ruled by a tyrannical father who uses everyone in the extended family as a means to his own ends, attributing no esteem or respect to them. The brothers unite in their hatred and kill the father and consequently are forced to face up to the meaning of their action which is: anyone assuming the father’s mantle of rule can expect the same fate as their father. This for Freud is the moment in which the light of reason dawns and a connection is made between what is done, and the past and the future of the tribe. In this new dawn, the band of brothers agrees that principles or laws are needed to regulate the activities of the tribe. In this instance, Eros wins a major battle against Thanatos and an important milestone of civilization is established–the rule of law. That particular moment comes a little later in Kant’s Conjectural speculations, when Cain kills his brother Abel, probably in a fit of “amour-propre”

Smith wonders what solutions Rousseau has to the problems caused by the inequalities that have been in their turn caused by amour-propre and the installation of a property protecting government. Smith points t the following:

“The General Will concept is the concept Rousseau thinks will be important in the answering of the problem of inequality in society…The General Will is the foundation of all legislative authority and he means by this that literally, all standards of justice have their origins in the will or free agency. It is this liberation of the will from all transcendent sources or standards, whether found in nature, custom or revelation, or any other source that is of importance. It is the liberation of the will from all such sources which is the true centre of gravity of Rousseau’s philosophy. His world is a world that emphasizes the privacy and primacy of the will, the moral point of view(Kant). Given Rousseau’s liberation conception of human nature his description of the actual mechanisms involved, the Social Contract, comes as something of a surprise.”

Everyone, according to Rousseau must embrace the following aims: protection of the property and persons of the society and protection of the right of every person to “obey only themselves”. There seems, however, to be at the very least a tension if not a fully fledged contradiction in this conception of the Social Contract. Rousseau, however, is envisaging a Hobbesian like sovereign at the root of the conception. Smith summarizes this as follows:

“The General Will is not the sum total of all individual wills but is more like the general interest of the rational will of the community. Since we all contribute to the shaping of this general will when we obey its laws, we obey ourselves. This is a new kind of freedom which brings about a transformation of human nature….it is a new kind of freedom to do what the law commands.”

The above position is reflected in the third form of Kant’s Categorical Imperative which claims that the kingdom of ends is a kingdom in which the citizen-subject identifies with the legislator and treats the law as an end in itself. We are now in the sphere of the Aristotelian “common good”. The law does not need to be liked but given the fact that it is partly shaped by the activities and debates of the citizens, it has to be respected. If the processes involved are somehow at fault then it is, of course, possible for the citizen body to change then. What is being imagined here is the Aristotelian ideal of the many debating an issue by bringing many different perspectives to bear upon the process of the formation of the law. The process is a synthetic one and will involve extracting the truth from many theses and antitheses presented in the debate. A process, that is, that is designed to produce the good, the whole good and nothing but the good.

In this context, Rousseau argues, perhaps paradoxically, that:

“we need to return to Rome and Sparta to find models of citizenship where the spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion to the common good were important.”

Sparta was also paradoxically a model that Plato referred to and although it was not a divided regime as was the case with oligarchies and democracies, the military code of honour certainly would have reminded Plato of “amour-propre” as it would have reminded Kant of the rule of the passions over the sovereignty of reason. The Spartans, after all, were haters of philosophy.

Prof Smith concludes the lecture with a section entitled “Legacies”. He includes amongst these the influence Rousseau’s work had on the French Revolution, the fact that he was approached to assist in the formations of the constitutions of Poland and Corsica, the influence on Jefferson in the USA, the influence on de Tocqueville, the influence on the kibbutz movement in Israel. He ends with the following:

“”Kant was taught by Rousseau to respect the rights and dignity of man. Kant called him “The Newton of the Moral Universe”. Kant’s entire moral philosophy is a kind of deepened and radicalized Rousseauism where the General Will is transmitted into the rational will of the categorical imperative.”

The sense in which Kant’s philosophy is deeper is probably the sense in which Kant continued in the tracks of Aristotelian philosophy and was prepared to investigate the benefits that religious discourse has had for mankind, even if the concept of God the creator and cause of the universe is not in itself responsible for the cultural progress of mankind toward a kingdom of ends. For according to Kant, all that is required for this cultural and moral journey is freedom which is an idea of reason.

Professor Smith could also have mentioned under the heading “Legacies”, Rousseau’s influence on our educational systems everywhere in the world but perhaps the jury is still out in relation to this issue. Opinion is divided about this vision of a lonely Robinson being educated by a tutor supposedly unaffected by the more destructive social passions.

INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY COURSE: Plato part two: The Logos and grammar of “Eros”.

Hits: 355

Paul Ricoeur in his work “Freud and Philosophy; An Essay on Interpretation” comments on the importance of Language in any investigation of Freudian ideas in the following way:

“It seems to me that there is an area today where all philosophical investigations cur across one another—the use of language. Language is the common meeting ground of Wittgenstein’s investigations, the English linguistic philosophy, the phenomenology that stems from Husserl, Heidegger’s investigations, the works of the Bultmannian school and of the other schools of New Testament Exegesis: the works of comparative history of religion and ot anthropology concerning myth, ritual and belief—and finally psychoanalysis. Today we are in search of a comprehensive philosophy of language to account for the multiple functions of the human act of signifying and for their interrelationships. How can language be put to such diverse uses as mathematics and myth, physics and art…? We have at our disposal a symbolic logic, an exegetical science, an anthropology and a psychoanalysis and, perhaps for the first time we are able to encompass in a single question the problem of the unification of human discourse.”

Ricoeur goes on to suggest that “psychoanalysis is a leading participant in any general discussion about language” and reminds us that Freud’s writings after the publication of “The Interpretation of Dreams” had serious cultural intent, ranging over art, morality, and religion. Ricoeur highlights dreams in the context of a claim that “as a man of desires I go forth in disguise” and it is this statement that we are going to explore in relation to the mythical figure of Eros which occurs both in Plato’s and Freud’s writings. A dream is a work of desire. The language of desire is also partly a work of desire and both works require interpretation. This commonality of structure is important when we are confronted with the hermeneutical problems of the meaning of a dream and the meaning of a text like Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.

Freud was clearly influenced by Plato in his final phase of theorizing in which he refers to the formation of culture in terms of the “battle of the giants”, Eros and Thanatos, and one wonders what the exact source of his inspiration was. Was it the sustained exploration of Justice and The Good in the Republic or was it the speeches given in honour of “Eros” in the work entitled “The Symposium”?

The reports that dreamers gave in Freud’s clinic use a primitive language of desire with a complex structure of double meaning(Ricoeur) which we also find in mythology—the realm in which Eros and Thanatos dwell, although insofar as mythology is intending in its narrative to present a theory of the beginning and end of our world, there is in such language no dissimulation, no going forth in disguise, even if the language involved also has a double meaning structure. The Great Narratives of beginnings and ends, argues Ricoeur deal not with dissimulation but with manifestation and revelation: they deal with what some Greek thinkers would call aletheia. What is being made manifest is the realm of what man considered sacred, the realm of the divine which man without the help of such texts merely glimpses through a glass darkly.
Ricoeur calls the above functions of language, the “symbolic function” and he calls the field of “work” in which symbols emerge, “the hermeneutic field”. The work of the interpretation of symbolic language is a work of understanding and a desire for understanding and it is these two aspects of language I wish to concentrate upon as the key to understanding the language we use concerning the mythical figures of Eros and Thanatos.

In “The Symposium” one of the speakers asserts that Eros is a God. Socrates conjures up a conversation he had with Diotima in which he had proposed the thesis that Eros must be a God. Paradoxically, Diotima uses elenchus on Socrates to demonstrate(“make manifest”) that a God has to be beautiful and All Good.(lacking in nothing) In her demonstration she points to what we know about Eros, namely that he is in mythology a barefooted figure (like Socrates) padding about the city in search of what is divine or sacred: ergo he cannot be an embodiment of the all good and the beautiful which all hold to be divine and sacred. Indeed his origins seem far too anthropomorphic, having being conceived as he was at a party to honour Aphrodite by parents one of whom was drunk and the other extremely poor(Resource and Poverty). This is a dream-like scenario.
Myths and dreams resemble each other for Freud but there are differences. Dreams for Freud are regulated by the Pleasure Principle,i.e. the language we use to report them bear with it the symbolic structure of double meaning and dissimulation: dreams and myth go forth in disguise. They stand in contrast with our desire to understand, which for Freud is the work of the Ego. The work of the ego is in accordance with the reality principle which in turn is responsible for the education of our desire — responsible, in the language of mythology, for the fact that when we talk about Eros we represent him as understanding the beautiful and the Good. Understanding the reality principle is also responsible for Eros communing on occasion with the Gods.

Readers of Freud’s later writings will be familiar with his suggested topographical triangle of desire. We desire or wish for something outside of the circle of our necessary desires, and the world or reality refuses the demand, resulting in a subsequent wounding of the ego which one would expect to lead to a modification of the desire(as falling within the circle of the necessary desires of the body). Yet humans being what they are and being subject to the law of tragedy(tragic beginnings(the drunken relation of Eros’ mother and father) have tragic consequences) the necessary modification of desire in accordance with the reality principle will probably not occur. Ananke is the symbolic figure of the Reality principle for Freud and also symbolizes the fact that human beings will probably never understand the divine or sacred structure of reality. Ananke signifies that the Ego will be subjected to a tormented lifetime of “wounding” in the attempt to strive after the impossible states of affairs that are wished for.

The above discussion seems to many philosophers to fall outside their scope of interest. Logic, they argue is univocal: it can only have one meaning if the principle of non-contradiction is going to have any meaning at all. Was it not Aristotle after all who proposed this principle of logic? Mythology and Freud’s philosophy does not obey the requirement that language has one definite sense requiring logical analysis. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus demanded that every proposition have a determinate sense and logical analysis will help us to understand that sense. As we know he was forced to abandon his earlier position as he looked closer and closer at how we in fact use language. Aristotle also in his metaphysics clearly restricted the role of the logical discipline he invented by declaring categorically that “Being can be said in many ways”.

Freud and Plato, seen through the telescope of Kant’s Philosophy, can be seen to be attempting to answer the 4 major domain.defining philosophical questions, “What ought we to do?”, “What can we know?” “What can we hope for?” and “What is a man?”. The answers they give are: “We ought to act rationally”, “We do not know as much as we think we do(we are not as rational as we think we are)”. Given these two answers, the answer to the third question can only be “Do not hope for too much(do not desire too much). Which of course is unsurprisingly enough in line with at least two Greek oracle proclamations: “Nothing too much” and “Know thyself”. This latter proclamation and the animus of Aristotle’s philosophy probably lay behind the fourth Kantian question “What is man?”. Aristotle’s answer(rational animal capable of discourse) still stands illuminated as a beacon for Philosophy today given the fact that all 4 of these domain defining questions have fallen into the darkness of neglect. The Aristotelian beacon has highlighted the “capable of discourse” component of late and language (the medium of discourse) is seen by many as leading us back to the road of Aristotelian and Kantian Philosophy, and thereby to a discourse about Eros and Thanatos in a Platonic and Freudian spirit.

The Great Myths are, of course, forms of discourse with a “logical” structure which Freud(and perhaps Jung) understood philosophically. They were regarded as rich hermeneutic fields requiring understanding not merely in terms of whether the events signified therein did or did not occur(did Eros’s father get drunk and have sex with Eros’s mother?) but rather in terms of their more universalistic cosmological and humanistic intentions. The language of these myths in talking about events are using these events to carry a deeper signification about, for example, the nature of infinite reality and finite man. Symbolic discourse was also for Heraclitus believed to be the dwelling place for the Gods and a domain he wished to inhabit and believed he was inhabiting toward the end of his days. Perhaps he was the first to believe that he was the son of the Gods, surveying eternal and infinite change from the vantage point of Logos.

One of the great hermeneutical sins is to concentrate on the object of the discourse(the events) and survey this object independently of the intentions behind the text. In other words, the sin amounts to misunderstanding the function of mythical language which is revelatory of the nature of man and the nature of the world he dwells in. In the language of Aristotle mythical language moves in the orbit of the spheres of the theory of formal and final causes. Such theory strives to answer the question: “Given mans nature, what is his telos?” (Can he dwell with the Gods like Heraclitus?). I write “Given mans nature” but our answer to question two must surely force us to admit that only a God can know mans nature and telos. We can only strive or will to know with the help of our theories(for example, Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory of change).
But what, then, are the grounds for claiming that our myths contain “theories”. Well, readers and interpreters of myth will be able to identify assumptions(of, for example, an infinite reality whether it be infinitely continuous or infinitely discrete). Readers and interpreters can also identify the logical consequences of these assumptions. If, for example, reality is an infinite continuum we might be able to dwell like Heraclitus in the realm of the Gods. If not, then we are truly tragic creatures who will need to live forever with their wounded egos continually bruised by the discrete difference between what we wish for and what is possible for us to experience. There are, in myths, also embryonic arguments. Heraclitus is a good guide to follow into this labyrinth. He clearly uses the principle of non-contradiction when comparing a pair of opposites to generate an identity, e.g. “the road up and the road down is the same”.
Myths are filled with seeming contradictions, if we do not interpret the symbols hermeneutically. If we use the correct “theory” many of the proclamations we encounter are both significant and meaningful. Resource, Eros’s father and Poverty, Eros’s mother appear to be opposites at seemingly irreconcilable poles of the spectrum of practical reasoning, and yet they are united at the celebration for Aphrodite, even if it did take some alcohol to facilitate the process.
The text of myth, when interpreted by Greek “theory” calls for thought and interpretation in the spirit of aletheia(un-concealment), the spirit of manifesting or disclosing what is not openly manifesting itself. Symbols are not epistemic entities but entities which have both rational and cultural significance. They stretch over the domains of Metaphysics, Ethics, Epistemology Political Philosophy and Philosophical Psychology: those domains Kant tried to characterize in terms of his 4 questions: “What ought I do?”, “What can I know?”, “What can I hope for?” and “What is a man?”

Paul Ricoeur also explores the function of symbolic language in his work “The Symbolism of Evil”. When we avow the evil we ourselves or others have done this is not done in terms of what he calls “direct discourse”. Symbolic terms, such as “stain” or “spot” are taken from the realm of everyday experience but they are put to different uses in which the everyday experience refers further in a chain of referral to another more universal experience of the subject’s situation in the realm of the sacred or the divine. Ricoeur points out that this is demonstrated by the fact that engaging in the action of spot or stain removal will not solve the existential problem of our relation to evil. Symbols, Ricoeur points out are constituents of literary mythical texts. Some of these myths also contain a reference to poetic experiences of the beautiful and the sublime which range over the domains of the finite(beautiful objects are finitely formed) and the infinite(powers of nature like the power of the sea and powerful waterfalls). Poetry places itself squarely in the language of desire in virtue of the fact that its medium is the language of images. Poetry, Ricoeur maintains, places the imagination at the stage of the expression process where language is at the point of emerging to express desire. Images of the boundless space of the universe, the expansive waters of the oceans whose magnitude is beyond our comprehension and the immense power of huge volumes of water rushing over a precipice in a waterfall may even be beyond the power of language to express and may therefore force a reflective return of the mind attempting to understand such phenomena to its situation in the realm of the infinite. It is patently obvious that we are, here transcending the polarized logic of modern epistemology and logic which require that Being can only be said in one way with a univocal meaning. Aristotle, as we pointed out earlier, questioned this and opened the horizon of Philosophy up to extend far beyond what we can perceive and know. This is, as Kant was able to prove, not merely a rationalistic objection to the empirical worshipping of the idols of perception and method, it is a wider metaphysical iconoclastic project exploring with Socratic and Aristotelian humility the domains of the 4 Kantian questions referred to above.

According to the testimony in “The Symposium” Socrates was loved by many. He was not a physically attractive man, so the desire to be in his presence or be his friend must have transcended the physical. According to Pausania’s speech in this work, love can be both common love for the body or the divine love responding to the character of someone’s mind. The body is a transient phenomenon and will decay with age or illness in front of our eyes over a relatively short period of time but the mind of a good man like Socrates will remain and endure in the realm of eternal things. The mind which is typically loved is the mind that reflects and reasons about its own beliefs and also over doing the right thing at the right time and in the right way. This is the virtuous mind of Greek philosophy. In Freudian terms, this discussion reminds one of the distinctions between the pleasure-pain principle and the reality principle, the former of which appears to be more concerned with the love of oneself than the love of others. The Reality Principle is that which the ego uses to situate itself in the world. It is what is operating in the triangle of desire we referred to above when the wounded ego engages in a reflective work involving a mourning process for the lost object of desire. It is difficult not to see Eros involved in this work. The ego seems to be Eros in the abstract, not a God but a kind of spirit trying to give expression to Eros even to the extent of negotiating with Thanatos whose unnecessary desires aim at the destruction and ruin of everything that has been created and preserved. The Ego appears to be the Freudian embodiment of the virtuous mind reflecting upon one’s beliefs and desires and striving to do the right thing at the right time in the right way, trying to develop realistic expectations of the workings of an externalworld under sovereign Ananke.

The above also reminds us of the Stoic man and the Christian who, as a result of many wounds at the hands of the external world has lowered the level of their expectations to a pinpoint of light in the infinite darkness of the universe of space. Can one love the world in such a state of mind? Dare one take the risk of a love so great that the loss of the object would be simply the end, the death, of the lover. Kant has an interesting choice of words for his philosophical response to the nature of the external world we dwell in: a choice of words which registers the level of his expectations and hopes. He talks about “the melancholic haphazardness” of the events of the world. He imagines Eros padding melancholically about our cities, perhaps with a lantern during the dark nights, trying to find a virtuous mind. This is the image that inspired Freud to answer the Kantian question “What is a man?” with a theory that Plato would have gladly embraced had it not been for the Aristotelian hylomorphic
elements of Instinct, biological homeostasis mechanisms, and a teleological development process of capacities building upon capacities, powers building upon and integrating with other powers.

The strong ego is the best we can hope for in our human condition, Freud argues but even this will not be enough to bring contentment. Man will still be in a state of discontentment with the so-called civilization of the madding crowd and its attempts to build societies that are humanly habitable. Freud is, of course, remembering that the societies with the greatest of human intentions put both Socrates and Jesus to death. So not only the Eros of the Symposium but also the Socrates of the Apology are Plato’s images of what the world does to virtuous men in return for what these virtuous men have done for the world. Speaking about the concept of justice in such circumstances seems a hollow almost irrelevant appeal. The tragedies being referred to here belong in the realm of the sacred and the divine.

In his speech to Eros in the Symposium Socrates searches for truth and knowledge of the good. He picks up an important thread in Agathon’s speech which insisted upon making a distinction between the character of Eros and the effects or consequences of such character. Agathon has been guilty of deifying Eros, attributing to Eros the perfect qualities of beauty and goodness. Socrates uses elenchus on Agathon to force him to agree that Eros or love is the name of a particular kind of relation to an object and that the name better describes the activity of the agent than that of the object loved or desired. This fits in well with Freud’s intuition of the dangers of loving because of the dangers of losing the object of ones love. The loved object can be entirely passive in a process that aims at reciprocity, requiring the fulfillment of two sets of expectations over a long period of time, perhaps over a lifetime. Diotima instructs Socrates that true love transcends a series of stages moving through the love of beautiful bodies, love of beautiful minds, love of beautiful laws to run cities, to the end of wisdom. We sense the movement toward the sacred, toward the dwelling place of the Gods and Heraclitus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Jesus, and Kant. On his journey, the lover strives after an understanding of the beautiful and the good which they attempt to possess forever. Yet because we know that all men are mortal and that we are men we know we cannot transcend our natures and strive for substitute satisfactions(in Freudian language). We strive to live vicariously through the children and the works we reproduce. The medium for this is sexual desire or desire generally: Eros. Diotima, in the process of Giving Socrates a dose of his own elenctic medicine notices how in the matter of sexual activity all animals become sick with an excitement so powerful that it prepares even the weakest of animals for the fight with stronger opponents in defence of their children or their work. Diotima wisely. Also points to those people who love honour as being “sick with excitement” and who are consequently prepared to risk everything, even their children for the immortality of being famous and the remembrance this involves a remembrance they may never experience. The father of Eros’s father Resource was Invention and Diotima refers to men who are pregnant with forms in their mind that help to create the artefactual world we inhabit, as well as the spiritual/cultural/political world designed and created by men who are loved like Solon and Socrates: men who have devoted their lives to produce beauty and goodness in their love of their cities. Presumably, the Platonic ego will be one in which these three types of forms ) children, works, and ideas are actualized and instantiated in the ever-changing. Heraclitean, infinite, visible world. The objects of these forms were referred to by Adrian Stokes as “good objects” and he pointed to the importance for everybody to experience such “good objects” as part of the task of strengthening the ego.

Freud’s theory of the sexual etiology of the neuroses were controversial during 19th century Vienna. Many commentators have argued over the centuries that Freud was projecting this sexual aetiology into his theory. We do not want to blindly defend Freud against every attack but let us ask in the light of the above reading of Eros and the Platonic origins of the idea whether Freud may have been reasoning in the spirit of Diotima Socrates, Plato and even Aristotle about these matters. Freud probably experienced this “sickness of excitement” in his patient’s reminiscences and their current judgments. His cool and technical language may, in fact, disguise the desires that were being talked about: the pleasure-pain principle creates an epistemological distance here that may be misleading. It seems we just have to characterize both pleasure pain in terms of their objects and causes and this places the behaviour of the patients in the wrong category of substance and its attributes. What we need is a principle that can be characterised in terms of the categories of powers and agency: Eros is an agent with certain powers. Freud’s Ego is an abstract characterization of Eros in relation to other agencies and powers but like Eros is but a messenger of the Gods padding about our cities anonymously and is fundamentally discontented. trying to bear all the losses of a lifetime.

The “sickness of excitement” that Diotima speaks about in the Freudian clinic possessed both obsessive and addictive characteristics which by necessity centre all the agent’s activity narcissistically upon the self. She also refers to the narcissistic and addictive components of our sickly longings after the trappings of power. Freud would have been thinking about these characteristics when he was reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The “sickness of excitement “involved in both sexuality and the desire for power are like brothers in the same family. There are, for both Plato and Freud connections between sexual and tyrannical behaviour: both share the telos of an unrealistic striving for immortality in terms of compromise formations, in the one case the formation centres around bodily likeness and in the other the formation centres around the remembrance involved in the reports of the exercise of power on the pages of history books.

Thanatos, son of Nyx, the goddess of night and brother to Hypnos was for Freud hidden in the dark and mute, only emerging into Freudian theory when it became clear that there was something else operating in the mind of his most difficult patients. Freud’s use of hypnosis as an initial attempt to confront the powers and agents operating in his patient’s minds must have originated in his love of the classics. Here we have a Heraclitean clash of opposites requiring a Logos. Freud suspected the presence of the so-called death instinct very early on in his theorizing. As his thoughts matured he searched for this Logos in both the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle. Remember he was working in the field of Biology in his early days. The use of hypnosis proved not to be sufficiently erotic, connected as it was to a reduction in the field of consciousness—almost the exact opposite of the expansion of the field of consciousness Freud was searching for. As early as “The Interpretation of Dreams” Freud clearly saw the connection of language to becoming conscious as did his patients one of which referred to Psychoanalysis as “the talking cure”. Freud also very quickly saw the limitations in relying on a language based association under hypnosis where the analyst was the tyrant ordering the patient to get better whilst he was at his mercy in a diminished state of consciousness. He retained a language of desire which was designed to strengthen the patient’s Ego with resources such as dream interpretation, free association, and rejecting the desires involved in the transference neurosis: the state in which the patient seeks a master to hate.

This hate is attributed to Thanatos and Freud expands the sphere of influence of Thanatos into the regions of violence and destruction, probably as a consequence of the discovery of the self-destructive behaviour of some of his patients. Thanatos is like his mother, like night, the inhibitor of constructive and creative activity: he is like an eternal night without any sun destructive of life and consequently of Eros. Freud also connects Thanatos to Ares, the God of War and highlights the active destructiveness of violent action on the world stage. Culture, argues Freud, is the battlefield upon which Eros and Thanatos and Ares and Ananke do battle for the possession of the world.

Ricoeur argues that the symbols of myths require something more than the theories of Freud if their existential implication is to be revealed and understood. Ricoeur locates consciousness in the practical sphere of our activities and begins a quarrel with Kant over what is required in this task of becoming conscious which is set for man as part of the answer to the question “What is a man?” Ricoeur is thinking about the philosophy of Kant when he says:

“reflection is not so much a justification of science and duty as a reappropriation of our effort to exist: epistemology is only part of that broader task: we have to recover the act of existing, the positing of self in all the density of its works” (Freud and Philosophy p45).

For Plato, the work of living in a city-state and the duty and responsibility of doing the right thing at the right time in the right way is the fundamental work that a citizen must engage in on pain of suffering discontentment with the very condition of his existence. This work is fundamental because the city-state is the arena for all the forms that are reproduced through man’s work and desire: children, artifacts, truth, the good, and justice. Both terms: “work” and “desire” are important components of Ricoeur’s definition of Reflection which is :

“the appropriation of our effort to exist and desire to be through the works which best witness to this effort and desire”(Freud and Philosophy p 46)

There is in Ricoeur’s accusation of Kant a suspicion that Kant is responding epistemologically to both the empiricists and Descartes when he offers his reflections on the question “What is a man? Ricoeur appears here to be basing his claim upon the three critiques and not on the works on politics, history and religion that Kant has also written. Ricoeur’s claims certainly seem to be appropriate to the Cartesian project where the argument is solely epistemological and theoretical: I know that I think. Ricoeur comments upon this project in the following way:

“But this first reference of reflection to the positing of the self, as existing and thinking, does not sufficiently characterize reflection. In particular, we do not understand why reflection requires a work of deciphering, ad exegesis and a science of exegesis or hermeneutics, and still less why this deciphering must be either a psychoanalysis or a phenomenology of the sacred. This point cannot be understood as long as reflection is seen as a return to the so-called evidence of immediate consciousness. We have to introduce the second trait of reflection, which may be stated thus: reflection is not intuition, or, in positive terms, reflection is the effort to recapture the Ego of the Ego Cogito in the mirror of its objects, its works, its acts. But why must the positing of the Ego be recaptured through its acts? Precisely because it is given neither in a psychological evidence, nor in an intellectual intuition, nor in a mystical vision. The first truth—I am, I think—remains as abstract and as empty as it is invincible: it has to be “mediated” by ideas, actions, works, institutions and monuments that objectify it.”(Freud and Philosophy, p43)

Kant stands on the other side of the divide between the will and the “objects” of the will. His claim is metaphysical and man in his philosophy is revealed by reflection not just upon the epistemological question “What can I know?” but on all 4 questions which embrace not just metaphysics but ethics and political Philosophy as well. Being, as Aristotle maintained is revealed in language in many ways.

The Third Centrepiece Lecture on Philosophical Psychology from “The World Explored, the World Suffered; The Exeter Lectures”

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“Last week’s lecture involved taking an empirical anthropological excursion into the hinterland of the origins of consciousness. In this last lecture I wish to return to the home counties of philosophical Anthropology.
Jean Paul Sartre once arrived at a café in Paris and looked for his friend Pierre only to conclude that he was not there! Now there have been philosophical accounts of nature that insist that there cannot be any negation in nature. There is only a lack of something if a consciousness lacks something. Only a conscious being could know that Pierre was not in the café. For Descartes and for Kant, when we are in relation to the natural world in itself we are in relation to a three dimensional homogenous extension in space which cannot be understood by the mind. But in one of his Meditations Descartes begins to talk about the space of a lived human body. He begins to talk of the unity of the body in relation to the soul. But in other places he adopts the point of view of the pure natural observer and talks of the human body as if it is a machine. When he does so he points to a place in space, which is responsible for the unity of the body and the soul: the pineal gland in the brain. It is not easy to derive a humanistic position from the philosophy of Descartes, or even meet the demands of common sense. The problem being eluded to here, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem of the nature of living organised beings, a problem that appears to demand a Copernican revolution in which the unity or finality of the body and the soul does not conflict with the pure operation of natural, physical causality. This unity can be exemplified only if consciousness results from the phenomenon of language and if, furthermore language is transformed by consciousness. Kant’s Copernican revolution took us back to the human being as the home of such unity and finality. The human being, according to Kant, surpasses or transforms nature with its freedom to both change and oppose nature. Bergson, another French philosopher claims that there are two contradictory orders in reality, what he calls the physic-mathematical which consists in the constancy of certain laws where the same causes lead to the same effects: and the vital order in which the same results can be attained even when the conditions are different. This is the idea of finality and unity in a nutshell. Julian Jaynes has a magnificent example of this in one of his interviews. A man is knocked down by a car and killed: during his autopsy it is discovered that his limbic system was radically deformed, probably from birth. On physic-mathematical principles this man should have been a violent monster at odds with everything human. On investigation it turned out that he had led a perfectly normal life as a family man and insurance salesmen—these are the kinds of relations between facts we find in the human vital order. Jean Paul Sartre would have said “The damaged limbic system is not there”: he might even have called it a pool of nothingness which he thought was, together with negation, the defining feature of consciousness. Merleau-Ponty in a series of lectures on Nature makes the point that the two orders of matter and life are positive and continuous and not discrete orders which leaves us with the dilemma of what to call the continuity. Merleau-Ponty calls it Nature, Sartre calls it Being. The idea that there could absolutely be nothing, must be an impossible idea, and this must be the defining limit of both Being and Nothingness, the title of Sartre’s greatest work. Heidegger discussed this in relation to a question “Why must there be something rather than nothing?” There can only be something and we can only think something. To say that something is not there is to say that something else is. Pierre may not be there where he promised to be and the café is where it should be. This also suggests that History would not exist were it not for negation. A historical event must surely be something which is not happening now…”
A History Major raised their hand:
“And yet we do sometimes say of important events that are happening now “This will be a historical event.”
“Yes and the “will be” in your formulation demonstrates this point: we need to move on in time so the event will be a past event before it can be considered a historical event. But we can see from the “Pierre is not in the café” example that at least insofar as the material reality of the café is concerned not everything is possible. It is not possible for Pierre to be there in the café when he is clearly not. All this sounds very abstract but is actually a demonstration of the role of reason in knowledge of reality. We naively believe in reality and the above are the arguments for our so -called naïve belief. The above are the theoretical reasons for believing that Pierre is not in the cafe. We also have practical reasons for performing the actions we do and some of these fall into the category of “the ought” and some fall into the category of “the is”. If I think to myself Pierre ought to be here in the café and I take action in going to fetch him, then I make it true that Pierre is in the café. Husserl inspired both Sartre’s and Merleau-Ponty’s existentialism. The Kantian world of ideal concepts and idealizations rests on what Husserl calls the life-world, which has an aesthetic, perceptive character. If we are to know what motion is, for example, we must have an experience of it. It is this experience that is the source of all science and philosophy. Merleau-Ponty extends this thinking and argues that the living body is at the source of all experience. He claims that the body does not use theoretical or practical knowledge but rather is an awareness of a power to do certain things. The body appears on the boundary between fully fledged thought about reality, and that reality itself: that is, it appears in my visual field alongside other things but is also the “field” in which my gestures, sensations, and perceptions are located. The lived body, Merleau-Ponty argues, is not the meeting point of a myriad of causal agencies the sum of which create the whole but rather encapsulates a meaning or what Sartre called a “synthetic totality” which it is the task of Phenomenology to unfold.
The body speaks and spoken language is not using a set of signs corresponding to a set of ideas but is rather a unique whole in which each word gathers its signification in a system of differences in meaning. Different gestures have of course different meanings and Merleau-Ponty’s idea is that language is more of an active gestural phenomenon than a passive representational or epistemological matter. The way in which we know what we are doing is very different to the way in which we know that the grass is green (knowing what one is doing is amongst other things a non-observational form of awareness), although even in this latter epistemological example of the grass being green, the linguistic, gestural meanings of the words will be a component in the final analysis of its meaning.
Earlier in the lecture series, I referred to the History of Psychology and its adolescent aspiration to become an observational-experimental science aiming at establishing quantitative relationships between variables. I spoke about how impossible it was to apply such a method to humans in experimental situations. Let me demonstrate my meaning in more detail. Experiments with dogs and rats rapidly became a subject of mirth when the experimenter’s futile attempts to generalize the results obtained to human beings resulted in absurd claims. Some experimenters were driven higher up the evolutionary scale in order to demonstrate the efficacy of experimental science. Wolfgang Koehler embraced the scientific method and performed a set of rigorous experiments on apes in order to determine their problem-solving abilities: partially in homage to Darwin and his claim that the higher mental processes could be found in the higher primates. Koehler discovered very rapidly that solely attending to the measurable aspect of the behavior observed, is insufficient for a complete description of the phenomena he was observing. He was forced to use so-called “anthropomorphic” terms such as “the ape solved the problem” and “the ape found the solution by chance”. In other words, he used terms that are qualitatively distinct and belong to the domain of the human vital order. His experiments whatever else they proved, demonstrated that the life of an animal, could not be reduced to pure quantitative experimental observations. Koffka, a fellow animal experimenter agreed that the experiments needed to include a “phenomenological component” which could help to clarify the “functional characteristics” of the behavior under observation. This qualitative knowledge describes what is observable by all and is objective in virtue of being inter-subjectively valid. Merleau-Ponty, in a similar spirit, claims that the scientific inductive method should not be used to study a language. Science purportedly studies the facts in order to verify some theoretical hypothesis that transcends the meaning of these facts. Only a phenomenological method, more synthetically inclined, asking prior questions concerning the meaning of the facts, can explicate such meaning. This is the method used by Psychologists such as Goldstein in his studies of aphasia and agnosia. Here we find no mass testing of subjects but rather use of the case study method where one subject is exhaustively analyzed by a synthesis of facts and assumptions. Goldstein’s experiments are of interest to the phenomenological investigation into language because they demonstrate that aphasia, for example, is not the loss of a word, nor the loss of the idea, but is rather the loss of that holistic capacity which renders the word appropriate for expression: it is the loss of what he refers to as the “categorical attitude” which is a very similar idea to Merleau-Ponty’s idea of language having a fundamentally gestural significance. Both researchers believe that language has an active signifying power rather than passively picturing reality.
With these thoughts in mind let us now turn to Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological account of language development in childhood: Babbling is the first sign of this language capacity during the first few months of life. At first it seems purely spontaneous but soon the infant imitates sounds, without of course grasping the significance of what it is imitating. Prior to this event, the infant has probably learned the efficacy of sound when it learns that it’s instinctive crying consistently brings the attention necessary to relieve its distress and the attention it begins to enjoy. In imitative babbling, the child eventually as a result of a “contagion-effect”, is trying to speak. At 4 months the child lingers on some sounds and modulates them trying to find the accent of the language. At 8 months the child repeats words that are spoken to him with the expectation that he should repeat them. At 12 months the child utters a large number of pseudowords and varies them. Gregoire noted that his child at this age spoke his first word when a train passed in front of their house. It appeared to him that this was meant as a word-sentence and translated an affective state within the child. Helen Keller testified to the importance of her first word-sign and some psychologists claim this to be a revolutionary change in the attitude of the child to the world: the child has learned that everything has a name and that words have meanings, This, however, does not account for the long period of stagnation after the first word and the difference there is between these first words and the adult words. We should remember Helen Keller had already learned some language prior to being afflicted with her partial deaf/dumb/blindness syndrome. The research results appear to be equivocal but agree that up to 5 years the child does not as such seek dialogue as much as talk to himself, as Piaget pointed out, but only a phenomenological investigation of this long process of imitation in the first 6 years of life would help explain how progress is made. Guillaume claims that before imitating others the child imitates the behavior or the acts of others. Imitation of the behavior of others presupposes that the child grasps the meaning of the body of others as a source of meaningful behavior: it also presupposes that he grasps his own body as a source or power capable of engaging in behavior with meaning. In this imitative stage the child grasps himself as “: “another other”: in other words, other people are the centre of his attention and interest. His self is lived but not thematically grasped: the child is egocentric in the sense of not being aware of the meaning of his self. The evidence adduced for this comes from the development of language: the confusion of pronouns, the predominance of other people’s names over his own: the delayed appearance of his own name which is used much later than the names of those around him. Piaget points to how conversations between children of this age generally are monologues even if they “seem” to be answering one another, clinical studies show they are ignoring each other’s reactions and merely engaging publicly in a monologue. Piaget’s view here is that there is no thematic grasp of the distinction between self and others. The child believes that his thoughts and sentiments are universal. The child is more possessed by language than a possessor of it. It is only after 7 years that genuine dialogue enters into his repertoire of behavior. Merleau-Ponty wonders whether Piaget has fully understood the way in which we communicate in the language and therefore proposes that we turn to psychological investigations into the disturbance of language and its development in order to understand the nature of language better. He maintains that the child is engaging in a kind of dialogue of learning, what Wittgenstein would call the form of life of the world of discourse and the language games that occur in that world. Piaget and much psychological research, whilst providing much valuable insight into the investigation into the life of the child, is too Kantian in approach, Merleau-Ponty argues. A truly phenomenological and existential investigation would explore the intimate relationship between thought and language. Thought, in the speaking subject is not, in his opinion, a representation of speech. This is a passage from Merleau-Ponty’s work, “The Phenomenology of Perception”:
“The orator does not think before speaking, nor even while speaking: his speech is his thought. In the same way, the listener does not form concepts on the basis of signs. The orator’s thought is empty while he is speaking and, when a text is read to us, provided that it is read with expression, we have no thought marginal to the text itself, for the words fully occupy our mind and exactly fulfill our expectations, and we feel the necessity of the speech. Although we are unable to predict its course, we are possessed by it. The end of the speech or text will be the lifting of the spell. It is at this stage that thoughts on the speech or text will be able to arise…The speaking subject does not think of the sense of what he is saying, nor does he visualize the words which he is using.”
Language forms a field of action or gestures endowed with a certain style around me as a consequence of the linguistic powers of a body. The word is an instrumentality of a certain kind in a field of instrumentalities: I can only represent the word by uttering it as the artist represents what his work is about by creating it. Our body takes up a “linguistic attitude”. Our relation to others is a relation to speaking subjects who articulate the form of their being in the world. There is a reciprocity of intentions and gestures involved in this process. “It is”, as Merleau-Ponty says, “as if his intentions inhabited my body and mine his”. This is what is involved in the presence of human bodies in the shared space of the linguistic meanings of words.
The point of this anthropological reflection on the nature of language is of course a partial response to Sartre’s idea of consciousness which can, if misunderstood cause as many problems as Descartes “I am certain I am thinking” argument, the grounds for which were given as my being unable to doubt that I am thinking. “I am thinking” or “I am conscious”, is of course not an empirical proposition but in Kantian terminology a proposition in Transcendental Logic which has no negation that makes sense. In Wittgenstein’s format, these statements are so-called “grammatical propositions” which cannot be sensibly denied if one is using a language as it ought to be used. Merleau-Ponty talks above about the linguistic powers of a “body” and probably means by this to indicate the whole person and not just his body. It is, however, more Aristotelian and Wittgensteinian to speak of a body adopting a certain attitude in the act of expressing itself in a world of already constituted significant meanings determined by rules of the language we speak. It is more Cartesian to speak of a mind thinking thoughts or a consciousness becoming conscious of itself.”
Robert raised his hand:
“But there surely must be a sense in which I am aware of the rules which will guide my choice of words and if I am, what kind of thought or consciousness is this?”
“It is not a propositional or theoretical awareness of the kind, “I think” but rather a kind of awareness which manifests itself practically in the form “I can…follow the rules of language…”
“At which level are the rules operating? Are the rules operating at the level of words? If so we are heading for logical atomism again, or at the level of sentences? We still seem to be in the hands of the logicians and their truth tables, that is, we still seem to be in the hands of those who believe the world is a totality of facts. On this kind of view rules will just be facts”
“Quite. According to Merleau-Ponty, meaning is constituted not by words having particular meanings that together are summated in some kind of strange linguistic thought operation. Rather every sign in language is defined by its different practical use in comparison with other signs. The awareness of this synchronic system of differences is supposed to be a holistic matter, but I must admit to not quite seeing Merleau-Ponty’s position clearly here. All I can offer is the reflection that “the whole” Merleau-Ponty is thinking of is in some respects Platonic and in some respects anti-Platonic. In his work “The “Prose of the World”, he points out that the project of the ideal theoretical language has been jettisoned. Science and Logic cannot reduce the expressive creative act of saying something to the sedimented result of what is said. On the other hand, there is a clear similarity to Plato when Merleau-Ponty talks about someone coming to give me the news of the death of a relative in a catastrophe. I would not understand this news, it is argued, unless I already understood what death and catastrophes are, unless, that is, I understood what the words refer to. It seems I must understand language before I can be using or comprehending its use. Of course, there are difficulties relating to how one can, if this is the case, ever learn a language. I personally think these difficulties can be resolved in the way that Aristotle resolves the difficulty of how we come to understand the principle of a thing. We have a number of experiences of the same things, which form memories. Somehow we abstract from the differences of these things and the principle is formed in our thought.”
Sophia coughed to draw attention and asked:
“And yet surely your account does not abolish logic. It must still be the case that if all men are mortal and if Socrates is a man, then he must be mortal. I am wondering how we might have abstracted from the differences between mortal and immortal things in order to arrive at the principle “all men are mortal”? Would we have had to possess an idea of some living immortal thing like God or the gods?”
“I can see where you are going with this. You are going to follow up by asking how we acquired the idea of God or the gods. But remember in Aristotle’s chain of being, the immortal could be the non-mortal, i.e. physical rocks and ocean waves do not fall into the category of the mortal. If I am going to abstract from the differences between mortal and non- mortal things I can anthropomorphize the physical world or alternatively I can “physicalize” the organic world: this latter alternative will explain materialism and reductionism, for example, the reduction of life to its elements of carbon, hydrogen oxygen nitrogen, etc…”
Sophia raised her hand indicating a follow-up question:
“…yes, but the problem is if our idea of God is of an infinite being how can I abstract from the differences between him and finite living beings. The infinite by definition must be beyond experience…”
“..there would have to occur a move in the other direction, namely, an anthropomorphism of the idea of God and the abstraction process has to work with the vaguely determined concept of “non-mortal”
Sophia nodded. Glynn was writing furiously in his notebook. A clock from a clock tower nearby rang out the hour and everyone began dispersing to various venues.

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lecture 15,16 and 17: Locke

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Locke is regarded as one of the founding fathers of America in virtue of the fact that Jefferson incorporated his ideas into the American constitution: “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a modification of Locke’s claim that man has a natural right to life liberty and the possession of his estate(property). The basis of this latter claim is a belief in natural law theory which regards man as a product of divine workmanship in possession of a body which no one can own(because it belongs to God?). Even the products of the body, mans work, cannot be owned by anyone other than himself but they can perhaps be sold and rented with his consent. Smith argues that Locke combines Christian ideas with those of Stoicism. But it is the ownership of our body which generates the rights to it and its work and this is an idea that may actually be taken from some other source. Value, Locke argues, is generated by our work. The value of an apple is largely constituted of the labour involved in growing the tree and nurturing it and then finally picking the apple and whatever is done with the apple before it is bought and eaten. Professor Smith elaborates upon this point:

“The Natural Law dictates a right to private property and it is to secure this right that governments are ultimately established..”The World was created in order to be cultivated and improved.”(Locke) “God gave the world to man in common…for our convenience”(Locke). He gave it for the use of the industrious and the rational and not to the fanciful and covetous, or the quarrelsome and contentious” Locke seems to be suggesting that the state will be a commercial state or Republic. Plato and Aristotle in many ways considered commerce to be of subordinate importance in the life of the citizen. Plato would have instituted a kind of communism for a part of the populace, the guardians of the Callipolis. Economics was always subordinate to the Polity. Locke turns this doctrine on its head.”

I don’t know when and why the apple became the Biblical symbol of knowledge but Plato’s Republic is an ode to the hypothetical state that is built on the foundations of knowledge. The Greeks of this time and we may suppose Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle among them considered the earning of money to be a secondary art necessary for the maintenance of the private household(oikonomous). The Primary art was connected to areté and the doing of the right thing at the right time in the right way and this was the standard man was measured against in the public realm. He could be a pauper and wander the streets barefoot but if he fought bravely in defense of his polis and did philosophy in the marketplace he was subjected to the standards of the primary art and judged thereafter(Socrates). One’s life might be at stake but that was why a man needed to know himself if he was to end his life prematurely in dignity. Attending to ones body for no other reason than it is ones body would have struck these philosophers as narcissistic. Claiming that the origin of value lies in our bodies would have been considered egotistical. It was this vision of life in the Greek state that Locke was attempting to overturn.
One wonders whether what we are reading here is Hobbesian, whether what we are witnessing with these two Philosophers was the logical consequence of the Reformation and the proposal of a Protestant work ethic as a central concern of the emerging middle class(the bourgeoisie) Hobbes and Locke arrived at their respective positions from radically different starting points, Hobbes from a scientific perspective which would regard the body as a mere machine running on the fuel of pride and fear, and Locke from a religious natural law perspective in which ones body is one’s temple because it housed God and was created by him. This was what Jefferson presumably was thinking of too when he claimed that we were all created by God with the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a poorly kept secret that natural law theory cannot generate an acceptable idea of the common good which is logically located in the domain of ought judgments: the good is what we ought to bring about(in the right way, at the right time).The domain of the good is the domain of prescriptive judgments. Natural law theory focuses on how things are and makes an inexplicable leap into the domain of the prescriptive via an action which it can only characterize descriptively. Yet it is action characterized prescriptively that should be the major premise of an argument which has an ought as a conclusion.

The major puzzle with Locke’s position is how he begins his reasoning in the realm of natural law and religion and ends in the domain of the polis, in the domain of the government which is the institution whose reasoning always begins with an ought major premise: for example, the people ought to know, the people ought to be free, the people ought to be treated equally. Smith articulates this transitional step elegantly in terms of the idea of the origin of value:

“For him, the world belongs to the industrious and the rational who through their labour and work increase the plenty for all. It is but a short step from Locke to Adam Smith(a century later). There are no natural limits on property acquisition. The introduction of money makes capital accumulation not merely possible but a kind of moral duty. By enrichening ourselves we unintentionally work for the benefit of others.Labour, not human nature becomes the source of all value.”

There seem to be two sides to the fence of commerce. On the one side is the working man renting out his body and skills, and on the other, there is the man of commerce from the middle class who owns the capital and the means of production and it is clear from Smiths next quote which side of the fence Locke is on:

“Commerce softens manners and makes us less warlike, it does not require us to spill blood or risk life–it is a thoroughly middle-class pursuit. The task of government is to protect not just the right to property but the right to acquire and build upon the property we already own.”

Smith portrays Locke as a libertarian who demands the government serves an almost entrepreneurial role. Without government, given the fact that man is this property acquiring animal, there is no property, and nature is available for all to do with what they will. In such circumstances, disputes arise and the government’s role is to set up an apparatus whose purpose it is to resolve such disputes:

“The great and chief end of men uniting into commonwealth is the protection of their property.”(Locke Two Treatises of Government)

For Locke, it is not the war of all against all in the state of nature that leads to the social contract with the government. It is rather the state of affairs of the restlessness of the human spirit and the haphazardness of social events where expectations are continually flouted, that demands an organizing agency. The contract is between the middle class and the government as if the upper and working class had disappeared into thin air or had been absorbed by the middle class. Given Arendt’s analysis of the Origins of Totalitarianism and her reference to mass movements emerging from the organization of mobs, one can wonder whether this idea of classes absorbing other classes was truly the beginning of the dismantling of the idea of an authority which would use knowledge and phronesis to rule. The social contract did not seem to have any paragraph pertaining to the right to education or the right to be led by educated leaders. Arendt pointed to the risks of a tyrannical rule when the political party system representing the interests of various classes collapses and a mass movement takes its place. Locke is traditionally regarded as in favour of a commercially founded meritocracy that largely governs itself, looking to government for legislation to regulate commerce and crime and provide a peaceful environment for business activity. He either uses or abuses(depending upon one’s view) an Aristotelian assumption relating to the advantages of “the many” in the process of decision making of all kinds. A feast in which many contribute is superior to the feast arranged by one cook argues Aristotle at a time when a 500 citizen jury had relatively recently sentenced Socrates to death and was waiting in the wings to try any other Philosopher who dared to challenge the comfortable relationship between the state and the gods. Could Aristotle see through current events to a time when there would be supporting procedures and practices which would minimise miscarriages of justice? Could he see through current events to a time when philosophical argumentation integrated into educational systems would produce a middle class that would via the Lockean mechanism of the consent of the majority ensure stable and enduring government? Without these Aristotelian institutions and assumptions,Lockean consent of the majority could just as well refer to the mass movements of the 20th century which helped produce two world wars, the use of weapons of mass destruction and a cold war in one “terrible century”(Arendt)

Professor Smith discusses this issue in relation to Lincoln on the slave issue:

“Lincoln felt that the doctrine of consent did not constitute a blank cheque, rather it implied a set of moral limits or restraints on what a people might consent to. Consent was inconsistent with slavery because no one can rule another without that others consent (Informed consent or rational consent?) We have seen throughout history popular majorities choose by will, whim and arbitrary passion and we do not approve. There must be moral restraints on what majorities can consent to–otherwise what is to prevent a majority from acting despotically?”

Locke’s notion of consent is obviously tied up with his conception of the social contract and this raises the question of how this consent arose, or, in other words, at which point in a citizens life is consent to the current regime given? Being born in a country is not sufficient, according to Locke, to create the consent and subsequent allegiance to the regime of the country one is born into. Smith argues the following:

“It is only when the child reaches the age of discretion, 18, or 21, that they are obligated to choose through some sign or mark of agreement to accept the authority of government.Locke, however, is not altogether clear about how such a sign or mark is to be given. One suspects that from what he is saying that he is referring to some sort of oath or pledge of allegiance so that once you have given your promise, word, or agreement, you are perpetually and indispensably obligated to that state.”

Locke does not commit himself to the above concrete manifestation of consent. Instead, he maintains that a concept of “tacit consent” is operating, a concept similar to but different from that embraced by Socrates in the dialogue”Crito”. For Socrates protection under the law suffices to owe allegiance to the law. For Locke, if you enjoy the protection of the law for a sustained period of time and your property is secure this is tacit agreement and is sufficient to constitute the social contract between yourself and the state. There is still, however, some ambiguity as to exactly when this moment of constitution arrives.

In line with empirical skepticism, Locke affirms the risk of being devoured by the Hobbesian Lion of the sovereign who will inevitably become licentious because he is not subject to the law and this requires an organization of the government in terms of a principle of a separation of the executive and legislative powers. This measure introduces a failsafe mechanism into the system of government, i.e. provides an insurance against tyrannical rule. The executive power is there, argues Locke, merely to carry out the will of the legislative authority. Smith points out a strength in the Lockean account insofar as the occurrence of special emergency circumstances require swift action which the legislative authority with all its emphasis on “due process” is incapable of. In such circumstances, the executive branch of the government through so-called prerogative powers can suspend for example habeas corpus and even take the country to war. The people, in turn, can deem these actions to be a breach of the contract and begin a revolution as an “appeal to heaven”, which presumably means as part of an appeal to the divine legislative system which governs natural law.

Smith points out that many commentators including Louis Hartz

“have complained of America’s irrational Lockeanism, its closed commitment to Lockean principles. Why has there not been any socialism in the USA, no Labour or workers party?—because of the commitment to Locke Hartz argued.”

In the same spirit Smith refers to Rawls’ book “A Theory of Justice” in which Rawls opposes the Lockean Body/property principle with a principle derived from the Kantian moral law:

“Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of the society as a whole cannot override. For this reason, justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others.”

This juxtaposition of Locke and Kant and of the different foundations of our human rights are a fascinating conclusion to this lecture. Smith summarizes Locke’s position in the following way:

“A person has an identity–a Moral Personality by the fact that we alone are responsible for making ourselves through our own actions. We are literally the products of our own making. We create ourselves through our own actions and our most characteristic activity is our work. Locke’s fundamental doctrine is that the world is the product of our own free activity.. not nature, but the self, the individual is the source of all value for Locke–the “I”, the “me” which is the unique source of rights.”

The above seems to be a curious combination of the Protestant work ethic and an existentialism which we know from the work of Sartre had great difficulty in producing an ethical Philosophy. The individual being referred to, however, is not the lonely existential I trying to make sense of its own existence but rather the I that is not subject to any idea of the truth or the good, the I that regulates its possessions with contracts. Locke’s idea of the middle-class man is indeed a far cry from the Aristotelian conception of the middle-class man driven by areté and the common good. Both Locke and Aristotle support meritocracies but the differences between them could not be greater. The major difference being that the Lockean system would be implemented in the coming centuries and the Aristotelian system would have to stand in the wings of the world theatre waiting its turn to manifest its virtues.

Smith asks us to compare the Lockean position to Rawls who is counter-arguing that we are not in possession of our talents and abilities or the advantages and disadvantages which create my fortune, but rather we are the recipients of these characteristics as part of an arbitrary haphazard process, an unjust lottery in which the fortunate prosper and the unfortunate are left helpless. Smith summarizes this well:

“No one has the moral right to interfere with the products of our labour, which may also include what we do with our endowments such as our intelligence. Rawls, on the other hand claims that our endowments are never our own, to begin with:they are part of a common or collective possession to be shared by society as a whole: your capacities for hard work, ambition, intelligence, and good luck do not really belong to you, they result from upbringing and genetics and are not yours or mine in any strong sense–they are a collective possession that can or should be distributed to society as a whole”

This has concrete consequences for government which must be structured for the least advantaged in this “genetic lottery of society” The structure would involve a hypothetical thought experiment in which no one would know the result of this lottery as far as they were concerned but would be called upon to organize society in accordance with the principle of benefitting the least advantaged of the society:

“according to this theory, redistributing our common assets does not involve the sanctity of the individual because the fruits of our labour were never really ours, to begin with. Unlike Locke, whose theory of self-ownership provides a justification–Rawls maintains we never owned ourselves and that we are always part of a larger social weave, a social collective.”

Modern European government is rights-based government and part of the expression of this is the attitude toward the least advantaged workers in terms of ensuring political representation for their interests in the party system. There is also a concern for those who do not have work and the state steps in to help the helpless who have lost their jobs. There is consensus on this Rawlsian position. It is clear that these ideas have been more influential in Europe but not necessarily because of Rawls’ book. The route to the European position may have been connected to the Greek emphasis on a philosophical education and Kant’s, moral law which for the European mind appears to be the ultimate foundation for any system of rights. Rawls claims that his position is Kantian but this should be taken with a pinch of salt. It is Kantian in its denial of the self-ownership thesis but it still has an emphasis on the contract and a form of instrumental reasoning which is not the basis of the Kantian Categorical Imperative.

PS: According to Locke we “possess” our bodies. This obviously flies in the face of Aristotelian theory, common sense and Phenomenological Philosophy. Merleau-Ponty claims in his work “The Phenomenology of Perception” that the body does not have the unity of a physical object. It resembles more the unity of a work of art which can only be interpreted in terms of the phenomenological concept of meaning. The body is that which creates my relation to physical objects through an “Eros or a Libido which breathes life into an original world, gives sexual value or meaning to external stimuli and outlines for each subject the use he shall make of his objective body.”(Phenomenology of Perception p180) This use for Merleau-Ponty is “lived” and it breathes life into the world enabling us to engage with and represent objects which we can possess. The body is not to be found among such “possessions”. Linguistic philosophers would also object to the use of this term. One can lose a possession. Does it make sense to say that one can lose ones body? Only if one is a dualist and believe that the soul possesses the body and can lose its relation to the body at death. If there is possession there must be an owner separable from the possession. We do not find this dualism in the Philosophy of Aristotle which Locke was so keen to turn upside down. It is indeed paradoxical that in his attempt to correct Hobbes and his mechanistic view of the body Locke should fall back into the Catholic position of Descartes in his use of this concept of “possession”. Phenomenology was also reacting to the causal analyses of science and was inspired by Descartes but it fixated on the concepts of meaning and intentionality in order to resolve the philosophical problem of the relation that I have to my body. Yet it has to be said that even the Phenomenological solutions to this problem are less convincing than the original solutions provided by Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory.


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Even if it was the case that for many hundreds of years Aristotle was referred to as “The Philosopher” and the “Master of those that know”, his teacher was Plato and his alma mater was the Academy. We do not know enough to be certain but a fair conjecture would be that Socrates did not have a navigational star or mentor in his philosophically formative years as a young thinker. We do witness in the Symposium Socrates being given a lesson in methodical argumentation(philosophy?) by Diotima and in these early moments of Philosophy it may have occurred to Socrates that a reliable method of questioning and argumentation are necessary prerequisites to leading the examined life. It is of course a tribute to the love of demonstrating excellence in the public realm of the ancient Greeks that we are able to today to bear witness (via preserved texts that have survived millennia) to the importance of discussion and debate in the life of the polis. Gilbert Ryle in his work “Plato’s Progress” suggests that Plato might have composed his elenctic and dialectical dialogues for competitions attached to the Olympic games. If so there must have been relatively large audiences which is another tribute to the Greek mind and culture that was the womb of such activity.

We have been made aware via the works of Plato and Aristotle that there is a body of knowledge which it is important to communicate and learn as part of being a citizen in a polis. For Plato this was a body which can be written down as well as performed in arenas reserved for such purposes. Plato, more than Socrates, perhaps was concerned with the search for a theory which could explain the mysteries and puzzles brought to the attention of the public via such forums. Philosophy seemed to Plato to be the natural home or theatre for the kind of investigation we are presented with. Out of this womb of Greek Culture and the theatre of theoretical investigation the Aristotelian quintuplets of metaphysics, ethics epistemology, aesthetics and political Philosophy would eventually be born. As we know Socrates thought of himself as some kind of midwife in the process of bringing philosophical offspring into the world. His method of elenchus was probably modeled on a public method of competitive argument called dialectic, which was a form of a verbal duel between two people. A questioner asks an answerer what Ryle terms “conceptual” “ what” questions and the answer is only allowed to respond in the affirmative or the negative in the name of defending a thesis which is the theme of the interrogation. The questioners task is to entice from his opponent an answer that is not compatible with the thesis the answerer is defending. An audience judges the competition. It is not to difficult to see how such an action could be the source of many of the aporetic philosophical problems both Plato and Aristotle attempt in their various ways to provide solutions for. If this is true there might have been two sources of the dynamics of Greek Philosophy: dialectic(eristic and elenchus) and the recorded thoughts of the great thinkers.
Ryle’s “Plato’s Progress” has this to say on the relation of this rhetorical activity to such issues as they are taken up in Aristotle’s work “The Topics”:

“The Topics is a training manual for a special pattern of disputation governed by strict rules which takes the following shape. Two persons agree to have a battle. One is to be the questioner, the other answerer. The questioner can, with certain qualifications only ask questions:and the answerer can, with certain qualifications only answer “Yes” or “no”. So the questioner’s questions have to be properly constructed for “yes” or “no” answers. This automatically rules out a lot of types of questions, like factual questions, arithmetical questions, and technical questions. Roughly, it only leaves conceptual questions whatever these may be. The answerer begins by undertaking to uphold a certain “thesis”, for example, that justice is in the interests of the stronger, or that knowledge is sense perception. The questioner has to try to extract from the answerer by a series of questions an answer or conjunction of answers inconsistent with the original thesis and so drive him into an “elenchus”. The questioner has won the duel if he succeeds in getting the answerer to contradict his original thesis, or else in forcing him to resign, or in reducing him to silence, to an infinite regress, to mere abusiveness, to pointless yammering or to outrageous paradox. The answerer has won if he succeeds in keeping his wicket up until the close of play. The answerer is allowed to object to the question on the score that it is two or more questions in one or that it is metaphorical or ambiguous. The duel is fought out before an audience…The exercise is to have a time limit.”

The above form of dueling is one form upon which the Socratic method of elenchus may have been modeled. During per-Socratic times and during the time of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle the above form of elenctic interaction went under the name of “eristic”. Now it is important to note that the above form of elenchus differed from the Socratic method in one very important respect. The aim of the Socratic method was primarily pedagogical, i.e primarily aimed at getting his interlocutors to acknowledge some truth about justice or themselves or both. Whereas the dueling parties engaged in eristic are primarily seeking victory and prestige, via the winning of a competition. In spite of this fundamental difference, we should recognize that eristic presupposed considerable powers of reasoning. Yet it should also be remembered that the Sophists used this form of dialectic for financial gain, thus turning something essentially pedagogical into a solipsistic narcissistic secondary art form. Socratic elenchus whilst not aiming at victory over one’s interlocutor did, unfortunately, have the secondary effect of humiliating ones opponent, largely owing to the fact that Socratic refrained from exposing his own assumptions and knowledge in the light of the discussion. He has some idea of what justice is but is reluctant to expose it to his interlocutors. Plato may be registering his concern over this fact in the Republic when he allows Socrates the lecturer(was this a part of Socrates’ repertoire or was this a literary creation by Plato?) to expound on the theory of forms, the allegory of the cave and the waves of change that need to sweep over a polis if it to avoid ruin and destruction. This after 4 displays of elenchus in relation to Cephalus, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus and Glaucon. In the lecture that follows everything is laid open to the eyes including hidden assumptions noble lies and even justifications for infanticide. Ryle points out as so many other commentators have, that the conception of Philosophy Plato has changes in significance between the early and the late dialogues. In the work of the Republic, we may be witnessing the dialogue in which the shift actually occurred.
Indeed it may also be necessary to point out that the shift from eristic to the Socratic method in itself may also signify a shift in the conception of the nature of Philosophy.
A dialectic of the Socratic kind, i.e. the Socratic method, was aiming at the truth and knowledge and taking a position in the battle of pro and contra reasons in relation to a thesis. This was clearly a development of eristic. We should also note, however, that Socrates himself was accused of trickery(a common complaint in dialectical “duels” and even in modern debating) in his argumentation by at least two interlocutors(Euthyphro and Thrasymachus) and we find him characterising what he is doing as “barren of offspring”, as “maieutic”, in spite of the fact that his method distinguished itself from that of eristic, and that it was in search of a quarry best characterised in terms of a definition. Socrates’ elenctic method was in that sense both teleologically and formally rigorous. It was probably the case that behind the formulation of Socrates’ questions there was an awareness of structured assumptions and their logical consequences. The dialogue of Plato’s Republic clearly adds a dimension to this Socratic rigor and underlying structure(The theory of Forms). The method, assumptions, explorations and subsequent definitions were now in the lecture of Socrates forming themselves into a theory of a world of things, artifacts, souls, cities, and Gods. Socrates in the later books of the Republic is exploring the world in a different manner which commentators identify with the Philosophy of Plato. The world was now being subjected to a questioning that demanded answers that would fit into some kind of system. Dialectic becomes logic and demands systematic reflection of a Parmenidean rather than Heraclitean kind: reflection upon that which endures through change, reflection upon that which is the principle that determines what a thing is in its nature and also ultimately a principle that determines what the soul is in its nature. These changes also signify an increased concern with the general ideas of Truth and The Good.
The major theme of Ryle’s book “Plato’s Progress” suggests that Plato’s progressive path led from eristic and dialectic where the emphasis is upon negatively defending a thesis by not abandoning it in the face of counterargument if you are an answerer, or aiming to destroy a thesis or force a defender to resign, to the formulation of an aporetic question which demanded systematic resolution via theoretical justifications. In this phase, we also see in the later dialogues of Plato a concern with the history of a problem, something we have not encountered before.

Also in this work, Ryle fascinatingly suggests a hypothesis that Plato was sued for defamation of character by a group of the leading figures criticized in his dialogues. The suit, Ryle claims, cost Plato his fortune and resulted in some kind of ban on Plato teaching eristic dueling and dialectic to students under 30 years of age. We can note that in the Republic Plato still believed dialectic to be important as a prelude to understanding the ideas of justice and the good and the true and this becomes part of the training of potential rulers when they are over the age of 30. Plato may well have abandoned the theory of forms in his late thought but retained the view that the true and the good were timeless standards by which to evaluate thought, action, and forms of life. From some points of view, it is a credit to Plato that he positions the Good as the highest standard of evaluation in Philosophy thus indicating the important role of practical reasoning.

Socrates’ progress moved in a line leading from investigating the physical world in a “What is this in its nature” frame of mind, sifting through physical phenomenon as numerous as the grains of sand in a desert. He went in search of answers that would fall into the category of Causality and in the spirit of Heraclitus and Anaxagoras. The latter influence led to a change in the direction of his investigations. “All is mind” was the new assumption and Socratic investigations began to search for parts of the mind (soul) and meaningful forms of life. This journey required developing the method of elenchus. This method led to the form of life Socrates characterized as “the examined life” which in the mind of Socrates was infinitely superior in terms of the criterion of self-sufficiency to the wealthy or powerful forms of life so attractive to everyone. For Socrates, these latter forms of life were so filled with Heraclitean flux, change and reversals of fortune because of an unhealthy dependence on ever-changing elements of life which we all know is going to end. The examination of forms of life and the question of the meaning of life raises the question of death. In the dialogues of Crito and Phaedrus, we find Socrates sitting in his cell awaiting death by execution. He reasons that however one regards death it must be a good and therefore nothing to be afraid of. This in itself suffices to praise Plato’s emphasis upon the standard of the good which ought to be used to evaluate all forms of life and even death. The event of Socrates’ execution thus might have provided Plato with the inspiration to formulate a theory of forms in which the form of the good is the supreme form. Another key Philosophical relationship, that with Aristotle, perhaps beginning from a joint sojourn in Syracuse may have subsequently led Plato to abandon the theoretical forms in favor of practical laws. Plato’s work “The Laws” is not an elenctic dialogue but rather a lecture and constitutes Plato’s second attempt to create a Callipolis. Plato speculates about a small hypothetical city called Magnesia run by a Nocturnal Council that has responsibility for the cities laws. This council of wise men, paradoxically, contains no philosophers but only officials trained in maths astronomy, theology and law. Many of the Republic’s “constructions” and “social restrictions” are present. Families and marriage are encouraged but procreation of children is determined in accordance with some mysterious eugenic standard and excommunication is the penalty for adultery.The recommended relation of citizens to God is also set out in the Laws which is a school text licensed by a powerful Minister of Education who sits on the Nocturnal Council. This text has the purpose of reinforcing the belief in God and his goodness. Heresy and impiety are illegal. The interesting question here is whether Socrates would have been permitted to live in Magnesia and live his examined life subjecting other citizens to bouts of elenchus. Socrates is no longer the prime mover in Plato’s later dialogues/lectures. At approximately the same time as he was composing the Laws which he was rewriting until his death, Plato was engaged in a project of religious and scientific significance—the composition of a work called “Timaeus”. This dialogue sees Socrates as the witness to a lecture on the history of the universe. Here the Demiurge of Anaxagoras organizes the initial indescribable chaos into an order containing the good and the beautiful. There are recognizable Aristotelian aspects in the 4 elements and prime matter, with life emerging at a certain stage of the creative process from prime matter. There are also non-Aristotelian elements such as an atomism in which differently shaped atoms explain the different elements. Space is somehow involved in the transformation of the elements into more complex forms. This narrative includes an account of our bodily organs and bodily functions such as perception, in a manner very reminiscent of Aristotle. We also encounter in this dialogue/lecture a listing of diseases of body and mind evoking the spectre of Freud especially given the fact that we know it was the work of Plato which was the inspiration for the final phase of Freudian theorizing about a stoical mind located on the terrain of the battle between Eros and Thanatos. The impression we are given is that Plato is moving away from his earlier Socratic commitments,and the later theory of forms, in an entirely new direction which reminds us of Aristotle. There appears to be a form of hylomorphism emerging to reconcile the world of ideas with the physical world and the soul with the body. Anthony Kenny in his work “Ancient Philosophy (Vol 1 of his New History of Western Philosophy) points out that Plato’s work the “Timaeus” became Plato’s most influential work up to the period of the Renaissance:

“Plato’s teleological account of the forming of the world by a divinity was not too difficult for medieval thinkers to assimilate to the creation story of Genesis. This dialogue was a set text in the early days of the University of Paris and 300 years later Raphael in his “School of Athens” gave Plato in the centre of the fresco only the Timaeus to hold”

In this Fresco we find Plato pointing upward to the heavens and Aristotle pointing ahead of him. Was Aristotle pointing to the natural and social world or was he pointing to the viewers of the future? One can wonder. There have been many interpretations of this constellation of Philosophers from the school of Athens. The predictions of things to come is also found in Plato’s dialogue /lecture “Parmenides” in which the central character Parmenides produces a very Aristotelian criticism of the theory of the forms in the course of a dialogue with Socrates. In this dialogue it very much looks as if the master of elenchus is being given a dose of his own medicine. At the close of the dialogue, Parmenides, probably seeing in the position of Socrates more than just a trace of Heraclitean thought compliments Socrates upon his powers of argumentation, at the same time suggesting a more thorough training whilst Socrates is still young. Parmenides suggests that Socrates should not attempt to rest with premature conceptions of justice beauty and goodness in case the truth about these standards is lost because this will have the consequence that the multitude will cease to believe in the existence of these ideas.
Perhaps, Plato might argue, Parmenides should have been at the centre of Raphaels fresco pointing forward to the future.


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The philosophicial triumvirate of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle presented itself in Athens at roughly speaking the same historical period and this in itself is a remarkable fact of History. Exploring the relationship between the thoughts of these great thinkers presents an awesome task but it is not a task that is, even two thousand years later, nearing completion. In contrast to that other triumvirate of Philosophers: Kant, Hegel, and Marx who never shared that almost holy relation of teacher-pupil we seem with our three ancient Greek philosophers to be wandering the same territory, the same Callipolis. Yet they occupy distinctively different regions of this territory. Aristotelians obviously feel that Aristotle is the key to the understanding of the other two and it is not certain that the other two philosophers would disagree with this position. We certainly feel that important contributions to understanding could be made if philosophical investigations focused upon firstly,the connections there were between the respective positions of Socrates and Aristotle and secondly the difference that both positions manifest in relation to the different positions Plato adopted throughout his long career. The first section of this part of the Introduction took up the matter of the identity of the historical Socrates and we argued for the traditional view. The view namely that Socrates is most accurately portrayed in the earlier dialogues and especially those connected with his trial and death. This is the Socrates whose thoughts we will be comparing with the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle
The Demiurge, for Socrates, is the power that will ensure that ”The Good” exists and prevails in the world. This power seems to have a Heraclitean ancestry: it seems, that is, to be a monolithic transformation of the Erinyes, Diké Moira and Lightning. The Demiurge is not conceived along the lines of a physical power or capacity: it is a religious power and perhaps one might argue that the belief that Socrates had in this power was not fully consistent with a belief in the Platonic Theory of Forms. If this is correct, then a paradox presents itself. Both Socrates and Aristotle had similar views relating to the Demiurge and a monotheistic God that is mysteriously connected to thought. If this is true then they would appear to, in a certain sense be more religious than Plato. Another paradox given the facts that Socrates was indicted for religious offenses and Aristotle was threatened with an indictment on the same grounds. Plato seems to have escaped suspicion in spite of the fact that his Theory of Forms was more of a threat to the gods of the state than the practice of elenchus in the marketplace or the goings on in the Lyceum.
The Early books of the Republic have Socrates constructing a healthy city without philosophers or warriors or the theory of forms. What comes subsequently is a defense of the “fevered” city which requires warriors Philosophers And their theories of the Forms. It Is at his point we believe that the literary Socrates Is born. Socrates becomes less the philosopher working in the interrogative mode and more the philosopher working in the lecturer/assertoric mode of discourse.

Given these condtions it could be argued that Socrates was not fully committed to Plato’s Theory of Forms as an explanation or account of ”The Good” as he understood it. For Socrates ”the good” must be ”out there” in the visible chaotic, ever-changing Heraclitean Anaxogorean infinite external world: a world organized by something cosmic resembling the way in which a mind works.

This essay is arguing for the position that we need to take pre-Socratic and Aristotelian positions into account when interpreting the thought of Socrates. Plato was the teacher of Aristotle and from what we can see in the early dialogues we know he respected the integrity of his teacher, Socrates’ views. These facts suggest that Aristotle was probably in contact with the views of Socrates via his teacher Plato and this, in turn, might suggest more of a resemblance between the underlying assumptions of Socrates and Plato than is normally suggested. If this is the case then the idea of a Demiurge or a God as a divine thinking being whose thought is present in the movement of every atom, movement, and action in the universe would seem to be present in different forms in the thoughts of both philosophers.

There has been much discussion relating to the historical Socrates and the Platonic “constructed” Socrates lecturing Plato’s brothers on the Theory of Forms. We have argued that it is possible to separate the historical from the literary Socrates on the basis of the available evidence. There is also, we would add a considerable amount of evidence for the above position. Surely, some kind of “triangulation” is possible given the existence of the writings of Plato, Xenephon and Aristotle?
Let us begin with the account of Socrates’ thought which we find in Aristotle who claims that Socrates provided us with inductive arguments and general definitions. Initially, this seems to be a very short review of the figure that by the time of Aristotle’s writings must have achieved the status of a very important thinker. If, however one pays attention to the resemblances in the thinking of these two figures in relation to “the divine mind” and their parallel positions in ethics on the nature of the Good, the review may seem less dismissive and more a case of abbreviation as a consequence of familiarity with the position that is being reviewed. In the Nichomachean Ethics Aristotle has the following to say:

“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice is thought to aim at some good: and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. But a certain difference is found among ends: some are activities, others are products apart from the activities that produce them. Where there are ends apart from the actions, it is of the nature of the products to be better than the activities.”

Socrates and Aristotle on this account would not immediately agree with resorting to the theory of forms in determining the significance of ethical judgments. Both appear to be committed to the “practical” nature of the ethical, i.e. they believe that practical wisdom is concerned with what we ought to do in order to achieve a state of eudaimonia: the good flourishing life. In such a state every art, inquiry and action aim at the good and use practical reason to do so. Practical wisdom for both of these Philosophers is related to being excellent at a particular kind of thinking which is aiming at or intending a good flourishing life. Both Socrates and Aristotle have argued that there is an unconditional form of practical reasoning that is not identical with the kind of thinking involved in those productive activities where reason is being used to give rise to an intention that is instrumentally aiming at objects which relate atomistically and perhaps accumulatively to the idea of the instrumental good.(e.g. good health, safe house in a safe neighborhood, good marriage etc). This unconditional kind of practical reasoning aims at the flourishing life via a way or form of action which is logically and not in our modern sense “causally” related to the self-sufficient life. The intentions involved in this categorical form of action will be “good” in the sense of being what we ought to do non- instrumentally and unconditionally to achieve this moral aim. The agent understands this activity in a particular way which is not theoretical. In this context doing what is required to be done is understood as logically necessary for living the good life. In this context the means are not causally related to the end but rather, the moral worth of the end must also attach logically to the means one uses to achieve this end. But what is the connection of this good life to the divine mind thinking about itself or the Socratic Demiurge? It is not clear, for example, whether we can do more than aim at the good. We are rational animals capable of discourse for Aristotle and both our animal nature and our need to debate the good in the agora separates us significantly from the picture of the divine mind we get from Socrates and Aristotle. But why argue that we even aim at the good given the fact that we are animals red in tooth and claw? Once we have learned what is good and been habituated to the good we will do the good according to both Socrates and Aristotle, i.e. once we can holistically understand the ultimate value of a self-sufficient flourishing life where means and ends are logically related. Aristotle, as we know complained that Socrates did not in his account sufficiently acknowledge the phenomenon of akrasia: i.e. the weakness of the will which leads an agent who believes a course of action is good to do something else instead. But in spite of this complaint both philosophers agree that if one knows the good as instantiated by a number of general and particular premises, one will do this good. If the phenomenon of akrasia occurs, Aristotle claims, it is because the agent does not understand the full meaning of at least one premise or, alternatively the full implication of the argumentatively structured premises. The passions cannot, as Socrates pointed out, drag knowledge and reason about like a slave.
The implication of the above is that both Socrates and Aristotle shared the conviction that practical reason and the ideas we have of what we should or ought to do are the steering mechanisms of moral action. As we have argued the Platonic Socrates emerges after the early uses of elenchus against the claims and general definitions of Cephalus, Polemarchus and Thrasymachus. When the Platonic Socrates then turns to engage with Plato’s brother’s elenchus is replaced by a lecturing explorer who will in the later books surprise everyone not just with a definition of justice but a complete theory of justice and the practical consequences of leading an unjust life. We are suddenly transported to the Academy and are reminded of Plato lecturing to his students. The parts of the soul argument is obviously a foundation stone for the Theory of forms and it is uncertain to what extent, if any, Socrates would have embraced this form of argumentation. The argument claims that the reason why one person can both want to drink a glass of water because they are thirsty and not want to drink because the water might be poisoned is that there are different parts of the soul desiring different things on different grounds. If the soul were one indivisible whole, it is argued, then to want to drink and to want not to drink would look like a contradiction. On the Aristotelian characterization of the law of noncontradiction, however, the assertion of these contraries might not be contradictory because the law states that one can claim contraries to be true at different times and in different respects. Aristotle did claim that the soul could have parts but he only talked about its rational and irrational “parts” and it might be the case that he meant “aspects” and not parts in the Socratic sense. He consequently would have thought that one and the same person could both want to drink and want not to drink at different times and on different grounds. So, if we are right to insist on the close relation of the Socratic and Aristotelian positions it might be that Plato is the odd man out in this triumvirate of Philosophers and the parts of the soul argument was taken from the Platonic political handbook. The argument, i.e, may have been needed for the construction of Plato’s hypothetical kallipolis. This Platonic “fevered” city looks very different to the Socratic healthy city of craftsmen doing the work they are best suited for and minding their own business. In the healthy city, commerce and areté appear to be the engines generating the energy necessary for the meeting of the needs of the citizens. The healthy city is a small city without soldiers or Philosophers. One assumes there will be laws but these will probably be in place to ensure the working of the so-called principle of specialization. One presumes there will be rulers who have the interests of the city as a whole at heart. Socrates uses the principle of specialization to justify the role of the captain on a ship and refers to the captain’s holistic vision or knowledge of the ships telos to justify his position of authority. There is nothing to suggest that this analogy is a Platonic invention although one can see how the analogy could be used to justify the role of the Philosopher in Plato’s kallipolis.

We have seen, however, the consequences that Socrates was forced to endure in the course of leading a philosophical examined life. Perhaps Plato viewed the failure of Socrates to convince his fellow Athenians of the importance of such a life as a failure of practical reason. Could this be the explanation for the intensive theoretical training of the Philosopher-rulers? The rulers were to be trained in mathematics and dialectic but it is never made clear how these skills will benefit the city as a whole. Plato feels the need to abolish wealth and the family from the lives of the warriors and philosopher rulers suggesting that spirit and reason in itself were not sufficient for the self-control that was needed in these areas of existence. When these suggestions are made by the Platonic Socrates Glaucon and Adeimantus ask for more detail about such waves of change in the city and the type of justification forthcoming from Socrates appears to become more and more mythological and at times as fantastic as a science fiction narrative. To get the populace to cooperate in this bold endeavor noble lies about their past and their memories of the past are to be told. As if the argument of the parts of the soul was not sufficiently materialistic we are then told that the souls will contain the metals of either gold silver or the base metals. Analogies and allegories abound and elenchus all but disappear as the theory of forms appear to support an otherwise hypnotic account of the perfect Republic. The Socratic narrator of these books of the Republic is a very different figure to the character we find arguing with his accusers in the Apology.
Looking to the writings of Xenophon for the literary creation of Plato will serve no useful purpose but Xenephons account does to some extent support the picture of Socrates we have from the early dialogues.

What we are suggesting is nothing more than an avenue of research where more is made of the connection of Socrates’ views to the views of the pre-Socratic Philosophers: Heraclitus, Anaximander etc on the one hand and the resemblance of many of the Socratic and Aristotelian positions on the other.
A further argument for the above opening up of an avenue of research comes from the borderlands between the ethical and religious. Prof T J Saunders in his work “Early Socratic Dialogues” points to what he calls “Socrates’ Teleological view of the world”. Saunders claims that this account views man as having a telos or function which describes the world as “ a rationally ordered structure in which man has a function to fit in with the whole”.
We should recall in this context Aristotle’s claim to have discovered the role of teleological explanation as a genuine mode of explanation amongst the modes of explanations at our disposal. If our claim that the resemblance of these two philosophers has been underestimated in the past has credence than we could see Socrates’ teleological view as an inspirational predecessor of Aristotle’s “final cause” discussion. It is clear that Socrates is at the very least “operationally” using teleological explanation when in his use of elenchus he confronts a position A with a position B which leads demonstratively to a contradiction in relation to some premise constituting position A. The Euthyphro contains an example of this strategy. It is clear in this dialogue that Socrates is using the above holistic perspective to convince Euthyphro that his indictment of his father in the name of piety may not be just and if justice and piety have some kind of conceptual relation it may turn out that the gods or at least some of them might not agree with what Euthyphro is doing. In the minds of these gods, justice and religion are holistically connected.

Whatever the differences, and there are many, between Socrates, the first generation philosopher , and Aristotle, the third generation philosopher of the triumvirate, the resemblances in a number of key areas of discussion suffice for us to believe that the short review Aristotle gives of Socratic philosophy is not dismissive but rather a consequence of the fact that they agreed upon so much of importance.
Both agree, to take a further example, on the importance of the terms areté and eudaimonia. Prof T J Saunders claims that the best translation of the Greek term areté is excellence. Both Philosophers agree that the man whose actions can be described with the term areté is the man who has a particular kind of knowledge. He is the man “who is excellently equipped to fulfill his function and be happy”. Such a man will weave his way toward his goal through the crowds in the marketplace where many lead the lives of pleasure, luxury, and power. Areté enabled Socrates to go resolutely to his death in the face of being shouted down at his trial by crowds who could not see the holistic connections between justice, religion and the philosophical examined life.

Perhaps we can also mention in this context the contrast between those who live life in accordance with the Freudian pleasure-pain principle manically seeking pleasure and manically avoiding pain. Freud sought inspiration at the end of his theorizing in the pages of Plato but it is not clear whether it was the historical or the literary Platonic Socrates that most interested him. The Pleasure –pain principle and its elder brother, the reality principle certainly make an appearance in the last books of the Republic after the introduction of the allegories and the theory of forms. These books may see the reappearance of the historical Socrates, especially when it is a question of the arguments relating to the pleasures of the wealthy man and the powerful tyrant where the implication is that such lives are really being blindly directed by a maniacal striving after the pleasure that accrues from the absence or avoidance of pain. The man of excellence, on the other hand, who strives after leading the examined life is resolute in the face of pain: he “knows” that nothing can harm a just man and that there is, therefore, no reason to fear the actions of an unjust man—even if the consequences are death. In this sequence of reasoning, we do not encounter the tripartite soul—merely the rational and irrational processes at play in a mans life.

Aristotle, of course, thought the contemplative life was the good and therefore what we should aim for. He also thought the soul was a principle somehow related to thought. But how would he have characterized thought? In terms of thinking about something or in the more complex terms of thinking something about something. Surely the latter. How could one think something unconnected to anything else? Yet surely this brings us back to the question of how can one think something about something. Hannah Arendt refers to thinking as talking to oneself. Socrates called his voice his daemon. When he was transfixed in what looked to be thought he was “in communication” with his “daemon”:

Here is how Socrates refers to his daemon in the Apology:

“You have often heard me speak of an oracle or sign which comes to me, and is the divinity which Meletus ridicules in the indictment. This sign I have had ever since I was a child. The sign is a voice which comes to me and always forbids me to do something which I am going to do, but never commands me to do anything, and this is what stands in the way of my being a politician.” 

Could this voice, Oracle or sign not speak or signify? Could one be forbidden to do something without being told in language that one ought not to do this something? Aristotle also might have conceived of the divine mind as talking to itself when it was thinking of itself. And since the divine mind is essentially itself thinking we arrive at the meta-level of this discourse about this divine mind that it is thinking about thinking. If God is talking to himself what would such a language look like?

Aristotle claims at the beginning of the metaphysics that all men by nature desire to know. What was it that Socrates failed to know in claiming that he knows that he does not know? Was he referring to this meta-level of divine thinking that Aristotle outlined? Was this why his sign could not positively command? Was this why he could stand transfixed in thought for hours, attempting to interpret the sign?


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In an article entitled “The Rise and Fall of the Socratic Problem” written by Louis-André Dorion in the “Cambridge Companion to Socrates” there is the suggestion that there is a contradiction between the assertion that the soul is divided into parts and the assertion that akrasia is a real phenomenon: the phenomenonon namely manifested in a person saying that they knew that what they were doing was wrong but they were forced to do it anyway. The contradiction is assumed to arise because akrasia places in question the idea of one unified active agent striving to obtain the good. If this is true then it would seem impossible for an agent to know the good and not do what they know to be good.
Now Socrates is supposed to have argued that the phenomenon of akrasia is incoherent, although given the current confusion of the identity of the historical Socrates with the identity of the Platonic literary creation of the Socrates of the dialogues, we might well wonder whether we can talk about Socrates at all anymore. Perhaps one should instead describe Socrates by saying “There is an x such that x exists and x insisted the phenomenon of akrasia is incoherent”? But should we succumb to the suggestion that Historians of Philosophy have not known what they have been talking about when they discussed the views of the Philosopher Socrates? Now if any if these comentators/historians had insisted that Socrates had argued that the soul is divisible into three parts, then it is acceptable to question such an attribution. We do know that these words were uttered by Socrates in the dialogue entitled “The Republic” but the suspicion of many philosophers is that by this stage of the proceedings of the Republic, Socrates had become the mouthpiece for the coming theory of forms which most commentators believe we have no reason to attribute to the historical Socrates. Knowing the historical Socrates as we do there is also, it has been argued, every reason to doubt whether the very practically minded historical Socrates could espouse any advanced theory about the reality or existence of everything. The limits of his theoretical speculation on one account seem to have Socrates searching for general definitions of general concepts. Many commentators point to Aristotle to support this picture of the Historical Socrates but I will provide evidence in part 2 of this section to suggest that though it is correct to believe that it was Plato and not Socrates who wanted to divide the soul, Socrates was at least as wide-ranging in his speculations about the world as Aristotle was, at least in relation to ethical, political and religious matters.

Now whilst we believe “The Republic” to be a key document in this discussion relating to the identity of the Historical Socrates” we also believe there is less reason to doubt the veracity of the dialogue entitled “The Apology” than many have claimed. If one believes that Plato respected the identity of his mentor in the Republic as we believe he did then there is also every reason to believe that this was also the case in “The Apology” which is probably the most historical of all of the dialogues given that it was tied very tightly to a historical event important to Athens and to the whole Ancient world. There are many claims in this dialogue made by Socrates in his defence of himself and Philosophy which were made exactly because they were common knowledge in Athens. The Delphic Oracle’s prophesy “that no man is wiser than Socrates” if incorrectly reported by Socrates at his trial would have sealed the philosopher’s fate and would have resulted in an overwhelming vote to convict and probably further ensured a rapid dwindling of interest in the exploits of a “boaster”. The reports of what Socrates did subsequent to receiving the news of the oracle’s prophecy was also public knowledge and this would certainly seem in the average mind to be explained by Socrates´relatively humble interpretation of the meaning of the prophecy(that he should try to find someone wiser than he himself). Engaging in such a practical response to the prophecy also testifies to the practical intent of Socrates’ philosophical questioning and his development of the method of elenchus.

Plato’s division of the soul into parts, on the other hand, was both theoretical and mathematical and strangely atomistic given the dualist and idealist nature of some of his assumptions. Aristotle would have opposed this materialistic or mathematical division of the soul into its parts and was more inclined to think in terms of the rational and non-rational aspects of the whole person that he assumed to be the true subject of philosophical examination. Aristotle also clearly distinguished practical reasoning from theoretical reasoning, practical science from theoretical science and ethics from epistemology. All of these were distinguished from each other by the kind of principles which guided the reasoning and investigative processes conducted in their name. Indeed Aristotle’s conception of the soul was that of a substance or form which in his thought system was something more akin to a principle and could not, therefore, be something which could be divided either mathematically or materialistically into parts. Aristotle suggests that in ethics the agent is capable of rational and irrational action in the name of a principle guiding reasoning in the ought system of concepts but he would definitely not agree with substantification of the principle and insisting that the rational action can in some sense like a charioteer control the irrational forces dwelling in a persons body. This would be for him the worst kind of metaphysics and psychology. We do find Aristotle picking a quarrel with Socrates over the phenomenon of akrasia: the phenomenon of an agent knowing that X is the good/right thing to do in circumstances C but mysteriously choosing not to do X. Aquinas, for example, was supposed to have known that it was wrong to steal pears from a strangers pear trees but did so anyway. How do we correctly describe and explain this phenomenon? Aristotle claims that Socrates failed to acknowledge the phenomenon of someone having knowledge but failing to use that knowledge, i.e. failing to allow that knowledge free play in the arena of the action to be considered. What we are witnessing in this phenomenon, according to Aristotle is not full-blown practical knowledge which must issue in action in a unified agent but rather a belief which may be held theoretically: a belief such as “yes it is wrong to steal pears generally but these circumstances are particular to me and to my action and suffice for me to regard this as an exception to the rule,” i.e. the rule was not to be used in these circumstances. But surely it might be argued that some ought premise must be behind the stealing of the pears and that these premises must be true: “one ought in certain circumstances to feel the thrill of doing forbidden things”. One can clearly see here the presence of feeling in this arena of action and the absence of practical reasoning. There is a kind of technical reasoning involved of carrying out the task of stealing efficiently which in its turn involves a kind of selection from differing acts of efficiently stealing the pears but this is not practical reasoning in Aristotle’s sense of the phrase. The contrite thief in these circumstances typically argues without contradiction that he knew that one ought not to steal the pears but because he needed to experience this thrill of doing what is forbidden he ignored what he ought to have done morally in favour of the ought of his appetites, in favour of the pleasures and pains of the situation.

Yet for Aristotle obeying the ought premise related to one’s feelings in this context is a clear breach of rationality in relation to the unity of agency required to lead the examined or flourishing life. We can also recognise this form of reasoning in Socrates’ discussion of the issue of akrasia.
Part of the problem of correctly understanding this situation occurs when we divide the agent into a rational part and an irrational part and imagine a conflict in the form of that which occurs between a master and a slave or an angel and a devil. There is for Aristotle one agent for whom the knowledge of it being wrong to steal pears is present in the knowledge/belief system but is not used and there is another different phenomenon of another different agent for whom the knowledge is both present and active. These agents could only be the same person if some kind of actualising process occurred in the first agent a process that allowed the latent knowledge to become active at some later time in the agent’s arena of action.

It is interesting to note in this discussion the difference between the teacher Socrates and his pupil Plato with respect to the historical conditions necessary for the production of ethical and otherwise instrumental involvements which in their turn are necessary to lead the examined life in the context of a city or totality of life involvements. Socrates in the early books of the Republic outlines the process of the emergence of the principle of specialisation critical to the final account of justice. The emerging of the simple community in the course of Socrates’ account is on the foundation of the condition that everyone in the community works with the craft or work-activity which best suits their ability and refrains from any activity which interferes with the activity of others engaging in their respective specialisations. Socrates describes this as his healthy city and is clearly reluctant to go on to describe justice in what he calls the “fevered” city which requires a military and philosophical presence to ensure the provision of conditions to lead the examined life. Plato in depicting Socrates in the early books of the Republic in this manner is clearly respecting the integrity of his teacher and yet two things from the earlier dialogues are clearly missing from this account: firstly, the presence of Socrates famous “voice of conscience” operating in the individual soul and secondly, the presence of rulers passing just laws to regulate irrational activities in the city. In the “healthy city” of Socrates, one’s conscience would be the principle or the law which ensured for example that one would keep one’s promises or not steal the pears from our neighbors’ pear tree. We would not do what we ought not to do because of our practical principle based knowledge. The laws would regulate the activities of those agents who did not know what was wrong and what was right.

How would Socrates describe the situation in which there was no corrective voice telling us that for example we ought not to murder the neighbour that has wronged us? Socrates’ favoured image is an image of someone thinking about doing or not doing something, a thinking which is, to use Aristotelian language, not actualized. What we have here is an image of living in a divided house which cannot easily house contradictory values. It would be, to take an extreme case, like living together in the same house as a murderer which in Socrates’ view would be sufficient punishment for him to say that irrespective of what the law and its punishment system says about this phenomenon, that one should never respond to evil with evil. One would have to live with a value that one did not respect. In this connection we find the otherwise reticent Socrates giving the moral advice, “Resist not evil”. This is obviously a recommendation on the individual level to abandon the commonly accepted lex talionis principle which in itself has two different inconsistent formulations. In the first formulation one claims an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and here we can easily see how such a principle can easily escalate to a murder for a murder. Socrates is clearly against this formulation or definition. The second formulation would insist that a just punishment must be proportionate to the crime committed and there might be a sense in which Socrates might accept this when one considers his remark that we should in our lives get what we deserve. It is, however, doubtful whether Socrates would have, in the name of the advice “resist not evil”, agree that a state had the right to murder a murderer, much less murder someone for doing philosophy in the marketplace. In spite of this fact we see Socrates prepared to accept his fate at the hands of the laws of Athens. Given the facts that Athens had provided the legal framework for his birth, upbringing and education it would not be giving Athens what it deserved if Socrates had conspired to escape the sentence of death. Had he escaped he would have continued to live in a divided house and this would in his view have been to refute the Delphic prophecy that he was the wisest man in Athens: Living with himself in such a divided state of value would be a refutation of the oracle’s challenge to each man to “know thyself”. This reminds one of a prophecy from the Bible hundreds of years after the death of Socrates, namely that the truth will set one free. It is sometimes claimed that the ancient Greeks did not realize the importance of the idea of freedom in their philosophizing and their discussions of justice. It certainly is true that the idea of freedom is seldom mentioned in Socratic discussions but insofar as the idea of “choice” is definitely referred to many times in Aristotelian discussions this seems to be a questionable judgment in relation to Aristotle’s discussions of justice. It is even questionable in relation to Socratic discussions of ethics and justice. It would seem to be more accurate to claim that the idea of freedom was not thematized but was operational in Socratic discussions of justice and ethics. In this context it would be appropriate to say that one is free to choose what one ought to do and also to choose one what ought not to do by choosing to live the examined life. This picture is somewhat clouded by the biographical information that we have of Socrates seeking assistance from his daimon when it came to making difficult decisions. Here we have an image if a man submitting to the power of the demiurge to lead him in the right direction. He would not have needed this voice to advise him what to do in the case of murder where it is doubtful whether the thought of murdering Thrasymachus would have even occurred to him but he certainly seemed to need the help of the demiurge in the decision of what to do in relation to his indictment. We as moderns celebrate our freedom from the demiurge but struggle for example to correctly characterise the state of mind of mass murderers like Hitler, Eichman and the Nazis, and Stalin and his henchmen.

The philosopher we usually immediately think of in relation to the search for essence specifying definitions is, of course, Aristotle but a cursory examination of the method of elenchus should also lead our thoughts to Socrates. There are always moments of the method which can be characterised as the search for the nature of something. It is almost as if the moral of the method of elenchus is the normative imperative: “Ask of everything what it is in its nature.”. Socrates’ interlocutor is asked to give a general definition which inevitably fails to specify the essence of the matter that is being discussed, whether it be piety or poetic inspiration or courage or justice. Socrates points out a contradiction: sometimes it is something which follows from the negation of an assumption that Socrates’ interlocutor is making. There is much in this method that reminds us of Aristotles general search for essence specifying definitions and it is a relatively easy matter to pick out the differences between the first generation Philosopher Socrates and his third generation critic, Aristotle but the difference is not in our opinion sufficient to deny a thread of continuity that connects these two philosophers. If this thread is as thick as we believe it is then this should in its turn suffice to establish with more clarity the contours of the figure of the Historical Socrates.

A. Kenny in his work referred to above “Ancient Philosophy” examines the similarity of the above discussion of the Historical Socrates versus the literary creation of Plato to the difference long noted between Mark and Johns gospel accounts of the Historical Jesus. To some it almost seems as if these two different accounts identify different people and concentrating on the differences to the exclusion of the similarities can easily create the impression that a once public figure is in fact a creation of someones literary imagination. Xenephon’s account of the character of Socrates creates similar doubts about the identity of the Historical Socrates but only if one ignores the evidence of Aristotle, the key evidence of the Apology and the early books of the Republic.

INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY COURSE: The Pre-Socratics, part two Heidegger and Fink

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Fragments at an archeological excavation are attended to by being placed in the midst of a circle of instruments and encircled by a group of concerned viewers.
Such has not been the case with the fragments of ancient texts from the Early Greek Philosophers which are often found embedded in other authors texts hundreds of years after their production. Martin Heidegger’s “Early Greek Thinking” gives one the impression that the 4 fragments he discusses is examined by a certain kind of philosophy using certain kinds of instruments designed to force this kind of fragment to give up its meaning to concerned interpreters. Heidegger in Delphic Oracle fashion points out that the process of translating a fragment requires a certain amount of self-translation before the meaning of the fragment is revealed. We moderns, it is claimed, think in terms of having the right attitude toward whatever object we confront or are confronted with, and this does not seem to Heidegger to capture the spirit of the meaning of the fragments which seem to have orbited in a different universe of discourse to ours: one in which one has sought to talk about an all inclusive reality or being which is the source of all existence and thought about existence.
For Heidegger, we moderns appear to have forgotten something or at the very least appeared to have been transformed into beings for whom our very being is an issue. Only religious thinking appears to have retained this sense of man having fallen from a greater understanding and this not via texts composed of argument and evidence but rather via texts composed of myths, legends and prophecies. On this view we once lived in a paradise and engaged in actions which compromised our being in that world and that in turn set us in search of a lost and promised land, set us off on a journey along a road we are still wandering today.
The oldest of the fragments that Heidegger discusses is a fragment of
Anaximander which reads:

“But where beings have their origins, there also their passing away occurs: for they pay recompense and penalty to each other for their injustice according to the assessment of time.”

Readers of the Republic will surely detect an echo of the ancient prophecy Socrates referred to, namely that everything which comes into existence is fated or destined for ruin and destruction. A prophecy which appears to reflect upon the ultimate beginning and end of all things.
An understanding of Language is, of course, an important key for translating the words the Greeks used for Being or reality. But the problem with this requirement is that the Greeks used a language which inhered in a mind, context or landscape of thought which are largely lost to us. Aristotle was one of the key bearers of this tradition of thought and therefore a standard by which to measure the fragments of Anaximander, Heraclitus, and Parmenides. Heidegger questions this traditional assumption, however, on the grounds that Aristotle takes the essence of substance, being or reality for granted in his system of categories.
Aristotle assumes, that is, that the continuum of reality is divided or categorised in the way depicted by his system of categories. Aristotle, Heidegger claims, looks at being through the lens of the proposition which fixes upon what is present and seen as an end in itself rather than as a process of unconcealment: a process in which being presences and thinking originates because thinking in accordance with the process of unconcealment is the thinking of Being. When thinking is not in accordance with this process of unconcealment there is a falling away from reality, as is the case in our modern thinking, according to Heidegger. This is nothing less than a tragedy, a tragedy with far-reaching consequences. Perhaps this tragedy was already foreseen in the fragment of Anaximander cited above. This also cannot but remind the Theologian and Christian of the falling away from the Grace of God and simultaneously give us pause for thought, considering that the theoretical characterization of “the fall” is usually regarded as a product of myth.
Heidegger’s view is that this falling away is a tragedy and who can but mourn the passing away of a value that one does not fully understand. In the fragment of Anaximander there appears to be a vision of a state of disorder prevailing when beings come into existence, and a restoration of order when they pass away.
This appears a reversal of everyday attitudes toward the passing away of valued existences. Fallen man apparently dwells imperfectly in a realm of objectless anxiety—anxious about his own and everyone’s death: events of which he cannot have a complete conception. This is part of the mystery of the prophecy of the oracle that everything which has come into being shall pass away and be transformed into the stuff of the universe from which it arose. Heidegger has an image in relation to Anaximander of someone journeying on a woodpath in the middle of a wood and the path suddenly comes to an abrupt end. What disorder! we exclaim and for Anaximander, this may not be mans justice but it is cosmic justice. Cosmic justice appears then to be an almost divine matter/energy regulation principle searching for cosmic equilibrium: a principle for which the death of man is a part of the chain of necessity, whether or not man knows himself in accordance with the more anthropomorphic challenge of the prophecy of the oracle.

Heidegger also discusses a number of fragments from Heraclitus’ literary remains but the one which is in accord with the anthropological prophecy is the fragment which Diels translates as :
Eugen Fink discuss the fragment above in relation to fragment 64 which Diels
translates as :
“Lightning steers the universe”
which on the face of it appears as a cosmic prophecy. Heidegger and Fink attempt in their discussion to combine these notions with a number of other ideas such as Logos but initially they seek a cosmological description/explanation which attempts to provide us with a Heraclitean holistic understanding of being. Lightning is, of course, not to be identified with an event of lightning in the universe but rather it manifests the light of the universe by virtue of which all things appear. Steering is again not an activity in the universe like the steering of a ship but is rather connected to lightning illuminating the outline and surfaces of things and a holistic “logical”(Logos) connection to thought is also indicated. Thought enlightens and steers through wisdom and rationality—an effortless steering very different to the hard work of the helmsman who is steering a vessel over the waves into the wind in order not to founder on the rocks. It is uncertain whether these fragments would suffice to build a theory of meaning but Snell translates fragment B50 as follows:
“When you have listened not to me but to the meaning, it is wise within the same meaning to say “One is All””.

Heidegger goes on to ask in chapter 2 of “Early Greek Thinking” whether there is an origin of meaning or reason as Logos. In this context he discusses the Greek “legen” which he claims means “bringing together” and “saying and talking”. This latter leads on to an interpretation of the Greek term “lesen” which adds to the above meanings the meaning of laying or putting things together and this cannot fail to arouse images of the classroom in which the teacher gathers things together in order to lay them before the pupil. One might also wish to insist that lessons are events in the world in which saying and talking articulate the essence of what is being talked about or said.
Heidegger is in these texts exploring the very origin of words and the origin of the term Aletheia emerges very early and is interpreted as meaning “to bring into unconcealment”. The pupil hears the lesson when he understands the meaning of the sounds that are being articulated and he tarries or dwells or belongs in the realm of Being that is being talked about. This hearing is determined by Logos. Heraclitus, Heidegger argues is claiming that Logos and proper hearing are the same for us mortals and this hearing is simultaneously Legen. Logos non-instrumentally belongs to a realm of discourse which includes Aletheia and the idea of oneness implied by both these terms. These latter two terms and Logos appear to me to be more philosophically significant than the “binding together” of legein which is susceptible to an instrumental interpretation. The oneness being talked about appears to be “logical”—that which unites opposites and reveals simultaneously. This logical characterization
seems to be very appropriately described in the fragment of Heraclitus which refers to “The road up and the road down are the same”. The road is the One that reveals its different aspects of being traversable in opposite directions. “Legen” as saying and talking needs to be linked in some way to the matter of what is being talked about or said or named, e.g. the road.
This is part of Heidegger’s journey back to the origin of Thought, Language, and Western Thinking and his position is that the thinking of the Being of beings is unique to the Western world. Words here appear to be like the lightning: they steer, illuminate and reveal Being. According to Heidegger “The Fall” away from the understanding of Being occurred sometime after the establishment of this origin. In the course of this transition, language and the lightning of being shifted in its function from expressing oneness and the All, to the instrumental expression where something expresses something else. The arena for all cosmological and anthropomorphic thinking became the arena for the thinker to use language instrumentally to express thought.
During the Pre-Socratic era, the thought of Heraclitus was eclipsed very quickly by the thought of Parmenides and as we all know Parmenides was Plato’s choice of the Pre-Socratic philosophers. Socrates, his pupil, was perhaps closer to Anaximander and Heraclitus. He began his life as a philosopher by investigating cosmological issues and in the beginning he was probably more inspired by the prophecy that all created things are doomed to destruction and ruin, doomed to return to the stuff from which they emerged. As news of Socrates’ wisdom spread even to the oracle at Delphi it seems that a shift was occurring toward the oracular challenge or prophecy to “know thyself”, perhaps as a response to understanding the cosmological and anthropomorphic implications of the judgment “All men are mortal”. In this seismic shift from the cosmological to the anthropomorphic, one detects a shift from thinking about the Being of beings to thinking about the relation of thinking to Being.
Heidegger in chapter 3 of “Early Greek Thinking” discusses exactly this issue in relation to fragment 8 of Parmenides in which it is startlingly claimed that Thinking and Being are the same. For us modern mortals this takes us back to Shields’ claim in part one of this chapter, namely that it is possible to think nothing. If it is really possible to think nothing, one of the primary premises of the Parmenidean argument is overturned. Parmenides was adamant that one cannot think nothing: that without the something that one is thinking about, there can be no thinking. In modern analytical language thought and its object are logically related. Heidegger’s treatment of this issue is consistent with his earlier work. He rehearses the position that separates the elements of the whole—the thought and the object(that which one is thinking about). We have the thought of the cat present at hand and the thought of the cat lounging on the living room mat also present at hand(presented theoretically). In the spirit of this reflection Heidegger
“Seafaring, temple building, conversation at social gatherings, every kind of human activity belongs among beings and is therefore identical with Being”(Early Greek Thinking p80).
This, Heidegger argues, cannot be what Parmenides means. Objects present at hand are part of the whole and at best can only symbolize the One and the All, e.g. through the activity of philosophy, religion, and poetry. Thought in such a context loses its universal steering character when reduced to beings present at hand. The relation “representation” is then called upon to resolve the problem of the relation between the divided elements thought and its object.
Epistemology is then, in turn, called upon to transform what was essentially a metaphysical and logical investigation of reality into a pursuit to know objects present at hand. “Being is being represented”(EGT p82). Thus is born the idealism of modern philosophy which culminated in the Philosophy of Hegel, a philosophy that was determined to stand the philosophy of Kanton its head. For Hegel, it appeared that the road up could be represented as the road down in the stream of thought which had curiously become somehow identical with the Being of beings that were being thought about. Kant, following Aristotle, rejected this Platonic consequence of “a thinker in relation to his thought” that in its turn was in some relation to some part of reality. The idea of thinker thought and object that in itself is a condensation of the relation between things present at hand dominated what Heidegger called the process of presencing in which Being and beings is revealed. Logos, as we saw is related to the hearing of the pupil. Heidegger interprets Parmenides’ opening statement that Thinking and Being are the same in terms of them belonging together but probably not in terms of the modern theory of logical identity which links two terms in virtue of the fact that the predicates of A must be identical with the predicates of B for A to be the same as B: but is this the same meaning of “same” as we find in Parmenides? Logos is also concerned with the saying of Being. It is not just concerned with the object, with what is said. Saying here is concerned with bringing something into view, as lightning does when it illuminates or reveals.
Saying is also concerned therefore with aletheia. Parmenides claims that “Aletheia is a goddess” disclosing all in a natural light. Moira, on the other hand, is the destiny and governing principle of the presencing of All. Both aletheia and Moira are involved in the so-called “appropriating event” where thought is the thought of the Being of beings.
Time is never far from the thoughts of Heidegger given the title of his first major work “Being and Time”. In experience, time is the great discloser of the meaning of events. Fragment 114 is translated by Diels in the following way:
“If one wants to talk with understanding, one must strengthen oneself with what is common to all, like a city with the law, and even more strongly.”
Fragment 100 complements this thought with reference to the clock of the world, the sun, or Helos. We should not, it is argued, think of helos as a measuring instrument of the time of the world but rather that which makes the seasons possible and which brings everything into being. The “fallen” form of thinking presents time as a line and as a bare succession which somehow manages to abstract the content of time from the sequence. Such an abstraction of time is impossible with the seasons which are defined by their content and not by their succession one upon the other. Time is the bringer of things:
“We have seen that the hours and times are not to be taken as a stream of time or as a temporal relation that, subjected to metric leveling down, is measurable and calculable”.

“Helos and times are not to be taken as the empty form in contrast to the content of time, but as filled time which begets and produces each thing in its own time—but rather the times of the day and the seasons. Helos brings forth growth”(EGT)

“A time of” and “a time for” reflect descriptive time and
explanatory/justificatory time. “For” differs from “of” in containing a suggestion of an explanation for, or a justification of the time content. A “time to” on the other hand seems definitively more anthropological and action-oriented and related to the way in which Moira , the goddess of fate and meaning who steers the lightning that reveals what conceals in the darkness of a clearing and uses cosmological and anthropological scales to dispense justice to the satisfaction of Dike, the Erinyes and the guardians at the boundaries of the north, south, east and west. The expressions we find in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible are in this anthropological spirit: in particular the expression that

“There is a time for every purpose under heaven”.

This is clearly related to the Delphic oracles prophecy or challenge to “Know thyself” in response to the forlorn cries of humans from the wilderness of their existence: cries of “What shall we do?” which are calmly and stoically answered by the words of Ecclesiastes. What follows from this prophecy is a picture of existence in which anthropomorphic choices reveal the importance of freedom for the being for whom his being is in question. For the Heidegger who wrote “Being and Time” human beings dwell in the realm of what he calls the “ready-to-hand” where each instrument and action is embedded in a whole, in a context of involvements which is practically complete: a context of meaning. The teacher teaching in her classroom, the builder building a house, the husband making love to his wife are all activities for the transmission of what Aristotle calls “forms”(or principles). These forms or principles are world-forming and fall under the prophecy or challenge of “Know thyself”. It should be pointed out, however, that this challenge is not a challenge to know myself as an individual but rather a challenge to know my place as a human being in the above context of involvements. It is a challenge to know the forms or principles that drive the world forming process. It is a challenge to understand the world forming moods or attitudes of Ecclesiastes when it is claimed, for example, that there is a time to rejoice(cf the Kantian boundless outlook onto the world) and a time to mourn(cf the Kantian melancholic haphazardness of everyday life).
Emerging from these reflections on the fall of man, the telos of man over the two thousand years since the Pre-Socratics, is a picture of the being for whom his being is in question. What emerges is a portrait revealed by Aristotle, Kant, Freud, Heidegger, and possibly Wittgenstein amongst others. A portrait that is revealed in a dark clearing by a flash of lightning. A portrait that appears to be awaiting a figure like Diogenes to pass by with a steadily burning lantern or awaiting a Platonic sun to rise and gather everything into being and mark out the boundaries of a time-space in the eastern morning, the western evening, the northern bear and the southern boundary stone laid by Zeus. The Platonic sun is a time allotting time according to Heidegger and creates the dimensions of time of having been, being now and coming to be which in turn structures our cosmic understanding of the darkness and lightning and the Ecclesiastical anthropomorphic time for every purpose under heaven. A heaven arching over Dike, the Erinyes, Moira and the guardians in waiting.
Returning to the modern world, Heidegger and Fink together ask the world exploring question “Where is the time that is being referred to when someone says the time is 12 o clock”. With this question “where?” we seem to find ourselves at the boundaries of what can be said of time perhaps partly because it is being said in time. The question stands unanswered and we wait for an answer to descend upon us from the realm of meaning created by Helos, the Platonic sun.

INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY COURSE: Pre- Socratic Philosophy part one

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Philosophy is a profound symbolic and logical activity with a particular history, areas of exploration, and a methodology. All three of these components are necessary to take into consideration if one is to portray accurately philosophical activity for curious bystanders or peripatetic spectators. Two ancient prophecies probably from oracles are important navigational tools if one is to understand the depth of what we read, especially in the cases of Heraclitus, Anaximander, and Parmenides where we are dealing with fragments of whole works. The first is the prophecy cited by Socrates in the Republic which claims that everything created is destined to fall into ruin and decay and be destroyed. The second is the prophesy or commandment from the Delphic oracle to “Know thyself”. This latter commandment must be understood to be broader than a piece of epistemological advice: it must be understood against the background of the first prophecy, i.e. as a matter of life and death and it also needs to be understood against the background of Aristotle’s epistemological remark that this is the knowledge most difficult to attain.

The First philosopher, Thales, was what one might now call a natural philosopher, concerned with the starry sky above him and predominantly driven by the poetic classification system of all the elements of the world, namely earth, air, water, and fire. He was principally concerned to discover which element was more fundamental than the rest. We do not quite understand his choice of water over fire(energy) but we can see certainly the importance of water to life, and perhaps we have always been able to understand this particular relation. This is the first “materialist” explanation but without any detailed account of the role of physical processes such as heat and cold, wet and dry which later allowed Aristotle to formulate the first meteorological system. Although it has to be mentioned that Thales was able to predict the weather many months in advance. There is a famous story of him predicting favorable weather for the olive trees, buying up all the olive presses and making a considerable amount of money to make a point to the community he lived in. This action of Thales is also in itself interesting because it suggests that a state of tension existed between the exploring spirit of the first philosopher and his religiously inspired community where lightning striking trees was best explained in terms of the anger of the Gods. This dualistic bipolarity of the natural and the supernatural world was probably to persist not just in the communities of Ancient Greece but also in the minds of all the philosophers up to and including Aristotle.

It is, however, firstly in the thoughts of Anaximander Heraclitus and Parmenides that we begin to feel we are dwelling in the city-state of philosophy. For it is in the fragments that we have of their works that we first begin to sense that these thinkers are not just concerned with the physical world but rather with the world as a whole in a critical spirit which methodologically avoided supernatural references to the mythical Gods: concerned with what Heidegger would call our relation to Being.

Anaximander is a transitional figure, seemingly perpetuating the materialistic spirit of investigation: investigating eclipses and meteorological events and at the same time introducing the speculative idea of “Apeiron” or the infinite into his reflections on existence. Some commentators wonder whether this was a nod in the direction of the divine immortal gods but some like Christopher Shields in his work, “Classical Philosophy” points to the possibility that Anaximander was reflecting upon the infinity of space and time. Our world has its origins in the Apeiron Shields claims on behalf of Anaximander.

Heraclitus is famous for his claim that “Everything is changing all the time”. We cannot, he insists, step into the same river twice because if the river is constituted of the water that is flowing by(which is a questionable premise) we will certainly be wading in different water the second time we enter the river. With this almost oracular proclamation the agenda of philosophical explanation is changed and from then on the second prophesy from the Delphic oracle moved into the central arena of philosophical thought and joined the materialist prophesy that all created things are doomed to destruction. “Change” becomes the focus of thought: what needs to be explained. The world is viewed through the lens of the image of the water of a river: it is something that is constantly and forever changing. Shields points to a distinction that Heraclitus draws between synchronic change such as that which occurs in relation to the waters of the river or a pile of pebbles A. Remove one pebble from the pile and replace it with another and this, Heraclitus would claim is an example of diachronic change or flux, whereby we are forced to say that we are now dealing with a different pile B of pebbles. Synchronic change or flux is demonstrated in two examples in which Heraclitus begins to play with the thought that contradiction can actually be used philosophically to demonstrate our relation to reality or Being. The first example is that “the road up and the road down is one and the same”. Here we have opposites which might seem contradictory but are not in virtue of the fact that a road is traversable in both directions: the road is the hidden uniter of these seeming opposites. It is here, however, that the fragmentariness of the fragments becomes a problem. How shall we interpret these claims?- We will suggest that Heraclitus should be interpreted as meaning that the essential activity of a human being is their thought and it is in the thought of the thinker that the road is one and it is only because of this fundamental fact that we are able to understand that walking up and down the road are one and the same. This is a clear move toward the prophecy of the Delphic oracle and the primacy of thought. The principle of contradiction regulates thought first and only by implication the object of the thought(which is doomed to decay and destruction. But Heraclitus is also famed for his discussions of Aletheia and a fragment which claims that Aletheia reveals what is hidden. This fragment should be viewed together with the fragment which claims that what is hidden is the logos of the one rather than the many.

Parmenides is an interesting thinker from many different perspectives but we are going to concentrate on his critical relation to Heraclitus whose aphoristic style of proclamations must have irritated the Philosopher who was possibly one of the first to believe that proclamations must be replaced by demonstrations or arguments that something is the way it is and not in some other way. Parmenides’ argument is complex but on the assumption that we are in the realm of thought and that we must think something, Parmenides argues that this something must be the bearer of change if it is to be thought about at all. Change is an illusion. Plato used this fragment as the guiding light for the construction of his theory of forms or ideas. Aristotle also referred to this fragment in his Metaphysics and transformed it into a principle of all metaphysical reflection whilst at the same time acknowledging the fragment of Heraclitus relating to change by insisting that of course change is real and it is so because we perceive change in the bird hopping from one branch of the tree to another. But Aristotle would have agreed that change without any reference to some enduring thing that is changing cannot be thought about. It is after all the bird that is hopping and not a nothing. The Delphic oracle’s prophecy was almost fully actualized in Aristotle’s Metaphysics. The counterargument to this position is one that Heraclitus may have embraced in order to save his position from the Aristotelian attack. It is contained in Shields’ argument that it is, in fact, possible to think nothing. This is a complex argument which cannot be resolved here but suffice it to say that the assumption of this work will be in this respect at least, Aristotelian through and through. The next Philosopher to be considered in this unit will be that towering figure of Socrates which followed upon the Parmendiean demand that one demonstrate the validity of one’s thinking in arguments. We will discuss Socrates the next but one issue of the journal.

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lecture 12, 13 and 14 :Hobbes

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Hobbes and Aristotle: Lectures 12, 13, 14(Prof Smith)

Hobbes was a product of his troubled times in more senses than one, forced to flee England to Paris where he would write his greatest work Leviathan.

Prof Smith introduces Hobbes with the following historical information:

“The modern system of European states was just beginning to emerge. In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia brought an end to more than a century of religious war ignited by the Protestant Reformation. The treaty ratified two doctrines: firstly, individual states would henceforth become the highest level of sovereign authority, putting an end once and for all to the universalist claims of the Holy Roman Empire. Secondly the head of each state would have the right to determine the religion of the state, thus putting an end to the claims of a single universalist church. In 1651 Leviathan was published.

This introduction deserves discussion from the point of view of the Kantian Enlightenment because it was in Kants work that universalism in the form of Cosmoplitanism was restored along with a renewed respect for Religious universalist ethics that aimed to create a brotherhood of all mankind transcending the so-called sovereignty of nation states. Kant pointed clearly and distinctly to the failure of the nation state to achieve a peaceful coexistence of nations. Wars would continue he predicted until international cooperation and law was an acknowledged regulator of interstate activity. Apparently, Napoleon’s troops visited the site of Kant’s grave shortly after he died but as to the reason why we can but speculate. And so wars continued into the 20th century where we witnessed two world wars, the use of weapons of mass destruction twice on civilian populations, and a cold war which with its threat of mass destruction brought the world to the brink of annihilation. Given this look at these events through the Kantian telescope, one can but wonder whether there is a case for embracing a Kantian Cosmopolitanism: a Kantian kingdom of ends transcending any kind of temporary peace that any nation state can promise its citizens. Such a kingdom is, of course, reminiscent of Aristotle´s proposal of a kingdom of friendship among citizens in a unit of political organization much smaller than the state. Aristotle possibly saw this as a model for cooperation between city-states but the model was obviously going to fail once city-states with cultures very different to one’s own were encountered. What grounds could there be for regarding the citizens of such states as siblings which one trusts? One of Aristotle’s pupils, Alexander the Great, attempted to solve the problem of warring city-states with the idea of an Empire of city-states but the idea failed probably because of the absence of a universalist ethics transcending the instrumentalism of a military occupation. Alexanders Project would certainly be more sympathetically appreciated by a Hobbesian political philosopher interested in analyzing the Alexandrian phenomenon into the components of security and power, although Hobbes may have been dumbfounded by an absolute sovereign who insisted on dressing in the same way as the inhabitants of the parts of his Empire he is visiting.

What evidence is there for the Kantian Cosmopolitan view of the world? In a lecture given by Edward Luck we are provided with some very interesting data for the thesis that International Organizations(our “homeless institutions”) have proliferated in the 20th century and further, there is considerable evidence in spite of spectacular failures, that they are doing the moral and legal work they were intended for. Hobbes is often placed firmly in the realist camp of political science which believes that power and security of the individual state will always trump the liberal and constructivist internationalist viewpoints which prioritise morality and idealism. Luck points to the activity of the International Organizations, including the United Nations Security Council, and the facts are overwhelmingly against the realist/materialist thesis that these organizations do not function:

“There has been progress. The number of wars between states is down strikingly since the end of the cold war. The number of wars within states are also down. The number of refugees is significantly down. The number of internally placed are down. Economic trends suggest that growth rates are going up in the developing countries: infant mortality is down and life expectancy is up. The number of people in poverty is significantly down.”

Luck also points to the obvious violations of the Hobbesian sovereignty principle:

“The UN clearly is violating sovereignty yet there are very 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 the citizens under its own steam.”

The European Union Peace project which includes the four freedoms of freedom of movement for goods, capital services, labour is another unit of political organization that transcends the sovereignty of the nation-states. It began as a trading union and soon grew into a Kantian peace project. Whatever the fate or destiny of the European project it is at least testimony to the thesis of universalism albeit of a limited European variety. It has also in recent times become fashionable to look upon the European colossus as a Leviathan or artificial artifactual construction of the children of pride yet out of step with the Hobbesian view of the sovereignty of nation-states and the Hobbesian view of human nature.
We are, Hobbes maintained, creatures dominated not by good intentions as Aristotle proposed but rather by two passions that dominate our existence; fear and pride. Smith has this to say on the topic:

“It is not reason but our passions that is the dominant force of our psychology. Two main passions dominate human nature: pride and fear. How then do we tame these passions…Part of the educational function of the Leviathan is to get us to see the dangers of pride and the advantages of peace. Fear, when properly directed leads to peace and to civil society. It is because of fear that we reason. The first and fundamental law of nature is to seek peace and preserve it. In order to achieve it we have an obligation to lay down our arms under the condition that others do so too Hobbes has 19 laws which he claims constitute a framework for the establishment of a society. These laws raise a moral problem as to their moral status. They are not physical laws but rather rules forbidding anyone to do anything that is life- destroying. If, for example, these laws are meant to be moral laws or rules then presumably we have the freedom to either obey or disobey them…These laws are not descriptive, describing how people behave but prescriptive of how people ought to behave.”

The closing words of the above quote focus on the major problem with Hobbes’ theory very clearly. His view of human nature is given in descriptive language, characterising it in terms of the necessary psychological laws of the passions. Yet at the same time, he seems to be aware that one can only build the optimal society(which presumably does not yet exist) with a set of prescriptions which will then need to have some close logical relation to the psychological descriptions that were presented. With Hobbes, we are hearing an old siren song sung by Thrasymachus and Glaucon in the early books of the Republic: a song about the problem of the logical relation between descriptions and prescriptions. It must be a form of psychological reasoning that in Hobbes’ view will lead to theories of how people will predictably behave when being subjected to the pride and fear. It looks very much as if Hobbesian men will be egoists as David Philips(Houston Univ) claims in his lectures on Ethics. The descriptive theory relating to these men Philips refers to as “Psychological egoism”. Psychological egoism claims that men as a matter of fact and a matter of human nature put their own interests and desires first. Philips also, in this context, refers to the theory of ethical egoism in his discussion of Hobbes. The implication is that ethical egoism is the theory that Hobbes(and Thrasymachus and Glaucon) subscribes to, namely that “Men ought to be selfish”. In all three cases(Hobbes, Thrasymachus, and Glaucon) it appears as if the argument for ethical egoism is psychological egoism. This argument suggests that we can deduce or otherwise derive an ought from an is-statement, or alternatively, reduce an ought- statement to an is -statement. A Kantian or Wittgensteinian investigation into this problem in accordance with either the methods of critical philosophy or the method of grammatical investigations would very quickly reveal the fact that the above arguments in defense of Hobbes are confused.

Putting the above discussion aside for the moment let us ask how Hobbes imagines that his 19 laws will work to lift people out of a state of nature in which there is a war of all against all, preventing men from engaging in the long-term projects that build societies or civilizations. Why would anyone, according to the Hobbesian theory, do anything for anyone else?. Why to take David Philips’ example, would a New York fireman enter a burning tower of offices to save his fellow man? The mechanism which supposedly motivates the fireman to perform a life-threatening action is the social contract. In this contract, Hobbes argues, man has traded away some of his liberty for security to a sovereign power who would employ firemen to risk their lives in burning high rise tower blocks. But the theory does not support this. These individuals have given up their freedom for a security which is egoistic, a theory that entails a selfish guarding of one’s own life. Why under these terms of the contract would anyone risk their lives for other egoists? A Hobbesian theory has no coherent answer to this.

The motivation that Hobbes does give for a man to abandon a state of nature for a more peaceful form of existence is basically consequentialist. The consequences of living in a state of nature, Hobbes argues, are that there is no society building activity:
“ no condition for industry because the fruit thereof is uncertain, no agriculture of the earth, no sea trade, no commodious building, no knowledge of the face of the earth: no account of time: no arts: no letters, no society: and which is worst of all, continual fear of violent death, and the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty brutish and short.”(Leviathan, 84)

Hobbes was an empiricist and in that spirit some commentators of asked whether there was ever a time when man lived in a Hobbesian state of nature. Hobbes does not point to any period of history to justify his hypothetical state of nature but merely refers to his present time. He asks us to reflect upon the facts that:

“when taking a journey, he arms himself, and seeks to go well accompanied: when going to sleep he locks his doors: when even in his house he locks his chest: and this when he knows there be laws and public offices.”(Leviathan 84)

Hobbes’s materialism may have been nurtured at the bosom of Cartesian rationalism. Together with Bacon, Hobbes is considered one of the fathers of English Empiricism. Both thinkers shared with Descartes a contempt for Aristotelian thought and both would have been highly suspicious of Cartesian rationally based metaphysics. Both Hobbes and Descartes stand at the gateway to the modern world in their wish to discard the chains of the past. Kenny reports in his History of Western Philosophy that neither were learned men and both possessed modest libraries. Now given the fact that Hobbes regarded Descartes’ philosophy of mind as fanciful metaphysics it may have come as a surprise for him to learn that later commentators of his work have regarded the sovereign of the Leviathan as a metaphysical construction. Hobbes’ sovereign is both the source of the law and subject to the law and the very idea of social contract binding rulers and ruled was also regarded by David Hume as metaphysical.
Smith has this to say about the concept of the Sovereign:

“The Sovereign is not a person but an office, an artificial person brought into being by the social contract. It is the creation of the people and the consent of the governed. Hobbes’ sovereign is more equivalent to a modern executive authority. The state is not the possession of the sovereign, rather the sovereign is authorized to secure for the people the limited ends of peace and security. The power of the sovereign for Hobbes is unlimited and yet it is the creation of the people it represents. Hobbes is neutral to the question of what form the sovereign should take. Among the sovereigns powers are control of the laws concerning property, the rights concerning peace and war(foreign policy), the rules of justice concerning life and death(criminal law), what books and ideas should be made public(censorship)…..the sovereign can never act unjustly.”

What, one wonders, would Aristotle have made of this theory with its absence of the virtues of courage and beneficence. What did Kant think of this reduction of a man’s freedom to the status of a bargaining chip in a commercial business relationship which reduces reason to the calculation of consequences? Perhaps when Kant referred to man’s dignity as being “beyond any price”, these words may have been a response to Hobbes. We know that Locke and Hume were more of an inspiration to Kant than Hobbes. Locke certainly believed in the social contract but not in a Hobbesian state of nature where all are fighting with all. Locke’s state of nature was a pastoral affair with men engaging in long-term projects but requiring a legal system to resolve disputes. These disputes were resolved in an atmosphere of evidence and reason far from the madding crowd where passions are sovereign.

Perhaps we should pause at this point to consider the hiatus both Hobbes and Descartes wished to create between their philosophies and the philosophy of Aristotle. In this context we need to note that Aristotle was not the Philosopher of choice by religious authorities until Aquinas came on the scene and parsed away(from a religious perspective) the less palatable aspects of Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory. Subsequent to this event the madding crowd demanded Reformation of the Church and when the reformation came it came in the spirit of modernism, inspiring a Counter-Reformation which merely served to emphasize the already deepening divide that in its turn created an almost perfect environment for religious warfare. The conflicts lasted until 1648 when a war-weary group of statesmen met in Westphalia to end this modern chain of religious consequences: a chain of consequences reaching back to the universalist intentions of a Holy Roman Empire which in its turn had its militaristic universalist origins in the Roman Empire.

This chain of events should have sufficed for the abandonment of any form of universalist intention altogether but this did not happen in spite of the fact that divisive war creating forces did not disappear with the treaty of Westphalia. On the contrary, divisive forces remained operative in the new nation-state system both between states and within states. Plato and Aristotle had attempted to use a non-consequentialist form of rationality to address the latter question but neither had an answer to the former question of war between states.

The theoretical world mirrored the practical, and the empiricists and the rationalists divided the theoretical world accordingly. This state of affairs would continue for over one hundred years until Kant produced his brilliant critical synthesis of these antithetical positions. In practical terms, Kant restored faith in an ethical universalism that would be a consequence of rationality becoming a universal standard for the human species at least to the extent that wars would no longer be fought and regulatory bodies would be handling international affairs in accordance with laws which would meet both legal and moral criteria. In other words with this synthesis, a solution to the problem of universalism was produced. Man as a species was simply progressing toward a state of existence in which less money would be spent on wars and more on education to begin our long journey of progress toward a goal we may never reach because of the possibility that whatever form of life one imagines improvements can always be conceived: a journey that Kant imagines will be at least one hundred thousand years long. For Kant, this process would be steered by two imperatives and one attitude: the ethical categorical imperative and world-building knowledge imperatives which would include instrumental and technical imperatives and a philosophical view of education.

Both Kant and Aristotle recognize the resultant pluralism of forms of life if people are granted the freedom to live as they wish. Aristotle’s ethics bears other resemblances to the ethics of Kant. Both positions realize the necessity of integrating ethics with theories of human nature and politics. For Aristotle too, man is not always rational but ought to be, and according to him, the chances increase if he lives in a city-state of the right kind. Men may not be universally rational but they can recognize rational processes when they participate in them. Participation in such processes in fact assists in the bringing about of phronesis and Sophia in the populace who are well able to recognize the virtues of self-control, courage, honesty, and beneficence. All realize that the rational man ought to possess these virtues and if they do they will lead flourishing lives(contrary to the observations of Thrasymachus and Glaucon that just men do not lead good lives). According to Aristotle, participation in state building activities will also emphasize the virtues which will include trusting in the judgment and ability of one’s fellow citizens as one does in the relation to ones siblings. The city will be a kind of extended family in which the Eros of sibling affection will be counteracted by the natural sibling rivalry there is between citizens of an optimal constitutional state. Aristotle’s focus is on the potential rationality of the citizen of a state committed not to honour and pride but rather to the phronesis involved in doing and saying the right thing at the right time in the right way. Rationality will, of course, be actualized in these rational processes which of course take place against the background of egoism, fear, and pride. The constitutional state will hopefully also be actualized and it ought to distribute the benefits and burdens of goods services, privilege, and power in the spirit of formal justice where similar people will be treated similarly before the laws and judgments made by the state. That is, the law will also recognize the fact of pluralism and argue against for example paying someone less because they are of non-Grecian origin or because they are a woman.

Hobbes does not engage with many of the above issues unless of course one regards his declaration of materialism to be in itself a self-evident argument against prescriptivism of the above kinds or unless perhaps he regards the deduction of ethical egoism from psychological egoism to be equally self-evident. Psychological egoism is a natural theoretical position for a materialist committed to the causal explanation of perception, behaviour and the passions/emotions, i.e. those aspects of human existence best regarded by what Bentham would later call the two sovereign masters of man: pleasure and pain.
As we have seen, thought and rationality, as described and explained by Descartes, is not easily integrated into the Hobbesian account. Indeed the very search for a non-materialistic first principle of Philosophy by Descartes would have seemed too Aristotelian for Hobbes to even contemplate committing himself to. Indeed one wonders why Descartes himself did not recognize that his Cogito argument might have seemed to an Aristotelian to be an acceptable attempt to characterize the form of the human being. Aristotle’s definition of man as being the rational animal capable of discourse clearly implies thought processes and thought states. Hobbes’ was an early form of scientific materialism and it was not yet evident to anyone that the natural progression(or regression) of such theory would be backward in time toward our animal ancestors and Darwin’s theory of evolution in this respect is a very logical result of a backward-looking materialistically caused search for the origins of man. Teleology, in the eyes of these researchers, is simply illogical. Backward linear causation from an effect to a cause was logically impossible. It was not clear to these researchers that it might have been illogical to divide a holistic process into artificial atomistic parts. Aristotle’s examples of human activity provide the counterargument against the above unnatural atomisation of a process. For Aristotle, the builder building a house or the teacher teaching a student was one holistic event not naturally divisible and best explained by 4 different kinds of aitiai (cause/explanation). To temporally dissect this whole into the parts of linear causes and effects is to take two of the forms of explanation needed for a complete explanation to be irrelevant to what the builder or teacher is doing. If, for example, the builder is surrounded by a pile of bricks and he is asked what he is doing his reply “building a house” will contain a reference to both the formal and final causes/grounds of the change we are witnessing. The bricks and his motor activities are of course the material and efficient grounds and without them, there would, of course, be no house. The house for Hobbes would be a shelter for fearful and proud beings but if their sovereign desired to take their house this would be perfectly acceptable for Hobbes. The insistence that a house is essentially a shelter from the elements for a man and his family and a location for the activities of thought (rational thinking and rational discourse) would be nothing that follows from Hobbes’ theory.

It is sometimes argued that Aristotle does not pay enough attention to man’s world building activities but this is not fair comment. The form of the house that the builder has built is a part of the Aristotelian theory of forms that is contained in his all-embracing hylomorphic theory in which the generation of new substances or new entities takes place in three ways:
1.Sexual reproduction generates beings with a)nutritional and reproductive capacities(plants) b)with additional perceptual and locomotive powers(animals) and c) powers of discourse and powers of rationality(human beings)
2. Artefactual reproduction generates equipment which requires ideas and understanding of the equipment´s form and purpose
3.Reproduction of ideas is generated in the teaching/learning environment where a non-instrumental study of ideas as cultural forms of equipment takes place.
Our world, according to Aristotle is composed of the above three kinds of forms. Where does the state fit in here? Is it merely an idea? Does it fit into forms 1 and 2 or both? Perhaps it fits into all three categories of forms given Aristotle’s insistence upon the fact that the state is organically generated. Individuals form families and families form villages and villages form city-states in search of self-sufficiency. The city will be a place in which nutrition, growth, reproduction, perception locomotion, rational discourse and rational thinking can all take place naturally and unhindered. The closer the city organises itself in accordance with the constitutional blueprint provided by Aristotle the more flourishing it will become.

Hobbes objects to all this and is not clear why. For Hobbes the state is some kind of artefact created by the work of man out of the chaos of his passions with the help of an instrumental calculating egoistic reasoning process. There is in Hobbes no eros desiring an understanding of the world we live in, no telos directing the process in accordance with a metaphysical idea of the good.

It was left to Kant to clean up the mess left by the anti-Aristotelians but the anti-Kantians who were either supreme rationalists like Hegel or materialists like Marx managed to swamp the hylomorphism of Kant and prepare the world for the 20th century(what Arendt called “this terrible century”).

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lecture 10 and 11 Machiavelli

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Machiavelli followed in the footsteps of Thrasymachus who was perhaps the first recorded Political realist to actually claim that when the stronger rule a city-state in their interest, such a political state is a just state. Plato immediately constructs a city of Logos, an ideal city, as an antidote to what both he and Socrates regarded as the poisonous argument that refers to the fact that in almost all of the regimes of the time the rule of the stronger was the status quo, implying that what is the case ought to be the case. Yet history has shown that only Aristotle and later Kant had the theoretical resources to undermine this argument with complex positions constituted of an understanding of the conceptual nature of ought, i.e. they realized that concepts are related to the possibilities of phenomena and therefore have a more complex relation to what is the case than either Thrasymachus or Machiavelli realized.

Machiavelli is a complex character, represented in the popular mind as the devil but perhaps represented in his own mind as an unarmed political philosopher and prophet, conjuring up in his imagination the times to come in Italy. He would not have qualified as an Aristotelian great-souled man partly because of his poverty and financial dependence upon others. He aspired to higher things every evening when he would dress in special clothes to read about ancient courts and statesmen, imagining himself discoursing with them about their times and the times to come.

Smith has this to say by way of introduction to his major work:

“The Prince is a deceptive book–especially from a man whose name has become synonymous with deception. We might think we already know what he knows. This is false. Machiavelli claims to have discovered new modes and a new order of things, a new world which will require the displacement of the one he writes in. The dominant form of organisation had been the Christian Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, that succession to the older Roman Empire. Both of these Empires aspired to a kind of universality which was given good expression in Dante’s De Monarchia, a work about monarchy that sets out a model of a Universal Christian rule under a Christian ruler. Machiavelli rejected this and harked back to the model of a small autonomous republican state. Hr challenges his readers to go the effectual truth of things and claims that many before him have imagined Republics that are far from the truth. “He who thinks what should be instead of what is, learns his ruin rather than his preservation” Not for him any Platonic cities of speech or Augustinian cities of God. Here we have the essence of his political realism–in his appeal from the ought to the is.”

Machiavelli argues that the Republic requires a Prince who will dare to create their own authority. The Prince will be a prophet and a man of war. He will be “an armed prophet” Smith continues:

“It was the armed prophets that prospered and the unarmed prophets that were ruined. Politics, on this view, grows out the barrel of a gun.”

Both Thrasymachus and Machiavelli use consequentialist arguments for the justification of force in the state reminding us of the demand Glaucon made upon Socrates in the Republic to prove that justice was both a good in itself and something good in its consequences. Earlier in the dialogue, Socrates had dismissed an argument from Polemachus to the effect that Justice is doing good to one’s friends and harm to one’s enemies. Harming one’s enemies Socrates argued would have the consequences of making a bad man worse, thus dismissing violence as just action in any circumstances. Socrates also produced arguments in other dialogues in relation to the internal consequences of perhaps harming or even murdering an enemy: one would be forced to live oneself and might not be able to do so.

Machiavelli notwithstanding the arguments above is clearly a consequentialist:

“Children are brought up to believe that one should not do wrong even if good consequences follow. But virtue in its Latin root means manly self-assertion and in a man’s world calculated acts of cruelty achieves one’s end.”(Smith)

The end of a strong rule even if it requires violence, justifies the means. The Prince will be seeking to go to war because war brings with it prosperity. Machiavelli refers to Cesare Borgia and the ruthless execution of his cruel lieutenant to gratify and confuse the hoi polloi. The Prince will get his hands dirty and Machiavelli’s book is a deliberate attempt to teach the Prince not to be good:

“The Prince should cultivate the appearance of being religious, of being merciful, of being faithful and honest. The appearance of Religion is good whilst its practice is harmful.” (Smith)

Machiavelli says little about the ethical content of Religion which in itself had produced at least one decisive argument against consequentialism. Aquinas argued that Consequences rarely occur in isolation: consequences have consequences and it is perfectly conceivable that one consequence in the chain is good and the next evil. This would make the act behind the consequences both good and evil. This double effect, as Aquinas pointed out, is contradictory. An example of such an argument in the political context might be that of a Prince
attempting to kill the Nobles of a Principality and survivors return to depose the Prince.

The Prince, Machiavelli, argues shall pay more heed to the people of the Republic than the Nobles whom he shall murder if they stand in his way. But heeding the people does not mean that one is the tool of their expression, rather it means that one should manipulate and deceive them too in order to keep their faith. This is an ambivalent message considering the fact that the people will obviously be less likely to trust Princes after reading Machiavelli’s work. This could be another example of double effect theory. Indeed Kenny in his New History of Western Philosophy refers to how a Prince should utterly destroy any city in which the populace had been accustomed for a long period to living freely in order to counteract memories of living freely with the terror of terrible consequences. Without the understanding of such possible consequences, the Prince would be merely inviting rebellion and revolution.

Smith ends lecture 11 by asking:

“What did Machiavelli achieve?Did he found his new world, his new political continent? He preached that one must use religion and not be used by it and men have to learn how to use their passions. Politics, he argued, must be worldly and autonomous and not guided by any transcendental moral code. He introduced a new kind of populism, he was a proto-democrat who sought to create a new kind of Republic. When he imagines this new kind of Republic he imagines a city at war, armed with expansive ambitions–feeding on conquest–an imperialistic republic–the USA? Has the USA become Machiavelli’s republic?”

This is a surprizing claim but there is one thread of argument which might support such a position. American pragmatism and instrumentalism do appear to support consequentialism in the ethical and political spheres of philosophical discourse. Another thread, perhaps connected to the first relates to the GERM(Global Educational Reform Movement) which interestingly in the name of freedom as a reaction to authoritarian teaching allows young children to explore the domain of knowledge unfettered by the conceptual understanding their teachers may bring to the process in order to school their students understanding. The consequences of this kind of teaching were apparently unacceptable because all the parts of the mind should be free from the reign of the other parts. The understanding limited the operation of the imagination and emotions and this was somehow an unnatural unwanted consequence. Progressive education was consequentialist through and through attempting to speculate on the internal consequences of a traditional Machiavellian educational system. We in Europe have experienced the consequences of this consequentialist educational system and they have not been good.

Machiavelli’s thought might have played a part in the growing criticism of the universal intentions of Religion which conceived of the world as united in one city of God or Holy Roman Empire. As we know the wars in the 1600’s played a significant role in the Treaty of Westphalia which sought a guarantee for the nation-state’s sovereignty from such universalist intentions. Religious universalism was merely an antithetical response on one level to the military universalism of the kind begun by Alexander the Great and continued by the Romans. But the question is whether an abandonment of the idea of a united world is not fundamentally a result of the consequentialist arguments that have been skeptically undermining the cosmopolitan intentions of ethics and political Philosophy that people intuitively embrace on the grounds that a world divided against itself will always produce war. Did the consequences of Westphalia take three hundred years to play themselves out, in the two world wars of the last century the dropping of two atomic bombs on civilian populations and a cold war which almost ended in nuclear disaster? Did the treaty of Westphalia unleash a wave of consequences which we almost failed to control? The Philosophy of Kant was both non-consequentialist and cosmopolitanism, identifying war as the natural and inevitable consequence of a world that cannot live under a common commitment to law and human rights. According to Kant, if humanity does not destroy itself it will continue on its hundred thousand year-long journey to the promised cosmopolitan world in which human rights and the law would be more important than power and deception. The Kantian argument then demands that we register with approval everything that takes us further along the road of progress. We may not have any great-souled cities or nations but perhaps a prior condition to these cities or nations existing is the building of an international educational system with cosmopolitan intentions. Plato once thought that we are destined for ruin and destruction unless philosophers become kings or kings become philosophers. Aristotle thought that the virtues must be embodied in a large middle class for a city to prosper and education was, of course, one of the instrumental means to achieve such a city-state. Certainly a reflective and critical knowledge of ourselves, ethical Philosophy and Political Philosophy would inevitably have to be a part of that education but unti it is we may have to satisfy ourselves with mass-demonstrations aagainstwars and weapons of mass desruction.

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lecture 9:Aristotle

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One advantage of studying Aristotle is that everything appears to hang systematically together in the same web of relations. Everything he says seems to follow logically from his metaphysical theory of change. Aristotle’s ethics defines even today the domain of ethics: its focus is the virtues of the great-souled man living his flourishing life in the great-souled city. One cannot, for example, escape the importance of the fact that ethics ought to be defined by the answers to three interrelated questions:
What is it to lead the flourishing, meaningful life?
What is it to be a great-souled man?
What constitutes a good action?
Answering each question completely ought also to provide the answers to the other questions. Such is the nature of a logical relation. In particular, Aristotle’s ethics and political philosophy have a very close relation to each other because Aristotle has accepted an old Socratic assumption of the isomorphism of the soul and the city. The difference between the Socratic and Aristotelian positions is that the soul for Aristotle is not some kind of spiritual substance occupying a realm of its own but more like a form or organizing principle which will help us understand the holistic entity of a person. There is a therefore greater justification for using the same language of virtue and vice for the characterization of the activity of the person and the charaterization of the activity of the city.
Of one thing one can be sure, Aristotle’s view of the soul and the flourishing life in a flourishing city was not a theoretical product of his theory of change. Any theory of Aristotle’s would have been preceded by intense practical activities of observation, experimentation hypothesizing and research. Aristotle’s Callipolis and Plato’s Callipolis have therefore different origins and motivations. Aristotle is reputed to have collected the constitutions of 150 different city-states. After a period of intensive research, we find him saying very different things to Plato who postulated 5 kinds of state: the Callipolis, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. Aristotle, in contrast, used the idea of areté and a belief in collective wisdom and the common good to postulate six kinds of state, three of which were virtuous regimes(the constitutional, aristocracy and monarchy and three of which were corrupt(vice-ridden) regimes(democracy, oligarchy, and tyranny). Aristotles subsequent analysis included the claim that democracy(not tyranny) and oligarchy were extreme forms of regimes because they were tied to two of the most important classes that historically constituted city-states. Neither of these classes had ever succeeded in creating a just regime or serving the common good of the city because whenever the one class reigned the other actively and bitterly opposed this rule and caused division in the city. In Aristotle’s time, it was also the case that there were a class of people who had tired of these extremes and wished for a moderate rule in which justice and knowledge of the common good were the norms for the rulers. Aristotle called this class who had knowledge of the virtues the middle class. He further stated that only when the middle class becomes sufficiently numerous and influential will they be able to neutralize the faction between the oligarchs and the Democrats. The question that immediately arises is what form of life would this middle-class desire. We know the class must be knowledgeable and that elements of the democratic life and elements of the oligarchic life would contribute to their lifestyle and we know because of his criticisms of Plato’s Republic that there will not be one homogeneous form of life but that the city contains ” a multitude of forms of life”. We know that this class will favour a liberal education and will be represented by great-souled men who are statesmen.
Smith has this to say on the topic of the telos of the city:

“The aim of the city is not the production of wealth as was the case with the Phoenicians. One American President has claimed that the business of the USA is business. Aristotle would have disagreed: the business of the city is rather activities for the sake of noble acts performed well”

Noble acts performed excellently characterize the great-souled city and this will also be the focus of the liberal education preferred by the middle class who will fill their lives with both studying the thoughts of noble men about noble acts and studying what noble men think of each other. This is very much along the lines of a popular conception of Gods consorting and discoursing with other gods. The young men of the middle class will largely imitate these noble men in their lives until they can live as virtuously as the noble men themselves. They will lead contemplative lives of peace and leisure aiming to be statesmen or Philosophers far from the madding crowd which we must suppose will be composed of oligarchs and Democrats demanding riches and unbridled freedom. Smith summarizes Aristotle excellently:

“In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle gives us a list of the characteristics of the great-souled man: a lofty detachment to pettiness, slow to act unless the matter is important, not obligated to others, speaks his mind without fear or favour, may hurt others but is not deliberately cruel, will possess beautiful and useless things, walks slowly for to rush is undignified, is tall and speaks with a deep voice.”

Smith continues and asks:
“Is this a picture of a statesman?”

Or is this a picture of a gentleman, or are they one and the same? Smith continues:

“This gentleman/statesman possesses a certain kind of knowledge: a practical understanding and capacity for judgment necessary for the administration of affairs. Phronesis.Someone possessing phronesis is a Phronomos. This kind of ability is not the same as that which is demonstrated in abstract and speculative feats of reason. Insight and discrimination is a different kind of intelligence to that manifesting theoretical ability.”

This cannot but remind us of the reason why Aristotle claimed that we cannot demand certainty in the realm of politics and ethics.
But it also reminds us of Kantian Philosophy in which there is the suggestion that ethics is objective and universal and requires the use of practical reason in accordance with a supersensible principle, whereas the phronomos or statesman in dealing with particular situations requiring particular actions needs to use not reason but judgment which at best only aspires to universality via wise words spoken in a universal voice expecting agreement but without possessing fully constitutive grounds to fall back upon if justifications are demanded. The phronomos proposes a judgment which has a different status to the determinative universality of the moral law. The judgment serves as a guide to our reflection upon our attempts to achieve the flourishing meaningful life via a multitude of empirical laws. Such judgments allow us to think about our life in holistic terms, in terms of what Kant calls ideal causes which are teleological and ideal, echoing Aristotles 4 causes in his theory of change:

“In so far as the causal connection is thought merely by means of understanding it is a nexus constituting a series, namely of causes and effects, that is invariably progressive. The things that as effects presuppose others as their causes cannot themselves, in turn, be also causes of the latter…On the other hand, however, we are also able to think a causal connection according to a rational concept, that of ends, which, if regarded as a series, would involve regressive as well as progressive dependency. It would be one in which the thing, that for the moment is designated as effect deserves none the less, if we take the series regressively, to be called the cause of the thing of which it was said to be the effect…Thus a house is certainly the cause of the money that is received as rent, but yet conversely, the representation of this possible income was the cause of building the house. A causal nexus of this kind is termed that of final causes….The concept of a thing as intrinsically a physical end is, therefore, not a constitutive conception either of understanding or of reason, but yet it may be used by the reflective judgment as a regulative conception for guiding our investigation of objects of this kind.”(Kant’s Critique of Judgement pp20–24)

Kant goes on to point out that it is the teleology of organisms that provide full objective reality to the idea of an end. But Kant also reminds us that to find the telos of the existence of nature we require a knowledge of the final end of nature which lies beyond our understanding in a principle of a supersensible kind that transcends nature itself(the unconditional condition). So our concepts and laws of judgment in this respect are not constitutive but regulative.
The phronomos is a practical man and action is fundamentally teleological in that it is what it is in virtue of its telos, in virtue of that which it is aiming to bring about in accordance with its representation (intention). He is a man who knows that the will operates in the realm of practical concepts some of which bring about the existence of the state of affairs represented. Hence there is connected to such concepts an ought condition(ought to be actualized) He is a Kantian man who knows that there are concepts operating in accordance with the understandings concept of progressive causation which helps us to regulate our understanding of nature as a realm of phenomena. He also knows there is a realm of concepts connected with the will and the law of freedom which pulls the will out of the realm of phenomena and progressive causation and places it in a realm of the ought system of concepts in which the self is a causa sui which brings about what it ought to. It is in this realm of concepts that the phronomos is most at home for it is in this realm that everything is created: our artifacts our education, our laws, our friendships our even more objectively our obligations and duties. It is from this realm that our great-souled city is created, or ought to be created. That it might never have existed is not an argument against the reality of its concept. The phronomos knows that there are conceptual grounds for this city’s existence and that is a good enough argument for him. He will never commit the naturalistic fallacy and move from the fact that it has never existed to the conclusion that it ought not to exist.

Returning to the argument of Smith: he asks the following question:

“Does Aristotle have a political science?…Political Science today is part of the social sciences each of which examines a particular set of actions and interactions. What, then, does Political Science study? The core of this branch of study is the regime. It is the science which discusses the ordering principle which makes all the other social sciences possible. It is a master Science which determines the rank of all the others. The Science of the Sciences….What is the purpose of Political Science? To gain more knowledge?Of what? For What? Of wars revolutions and elections. It involves the gathering of data and the organizing of information. But what is this knowledge for? It seeks knowledge for the sake of praxis and action and for the sake of the Good:”All human activity and action aims at the Good”(Aristotle). All political action aims at preservation or change and implies a standard of better or worse which in turn implies a standard of the Good. And it is this knowledge which serves the regime, which preserves and improves the regime. This knowledge helps us to keep the ship of state afloat and helps us to navigate to port. Unfortunately Political Science today regards this craft as subjective.”

I am not convinced that this is a decisive criterion of differentiation for the different areas of the social sciences, namely that “each of which examines a particular set of actions and interactions”. That seems to need a more sustained argument which includes the presentation of the history of these different areas of inquiry. Is Philosophy a social science on this criterion? If it is on what grounds do we differentiate ethics and political Philosophy? These two areas of inquiry must be different on Smiths terms because ethics is not about regimes. Is political Philosophy merely the application of ethical ideas to regimes?

According to Kant’s Critique of Judgment, the Phronomos when he speaks with a universal voice is grounding his reflections upon a subjective principle of the harmony of the cognitive faculties. If this is so then Political Philosophy is subjective. If so does it them deserve the status of a science? Is it not as Kant suggested more of an art form?

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lecture 8:Aristotle

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In the opening book of the Republic elenchus was used to dismiss a number of definitions of justice and Thrasymachus at one point challenges Socrates to provide his own definition without referring to the notion of the common good. Socrates’ response to this was to first, theoretically construct a healthy city, and then go on to justify the goodness of a fevered city. The common good falls away as a focus and a theoretical idea of the good is used by the Philosophers to rule the fevered city. Socrates probably regards the healthy city as the natural organic product of natural processes and the fevered city as some kind of arbitrary human artifice which requires knowledge of a special kind if it is to be preserved. In this context, Socrates refers to a prophecy(of his own?of Plato’s? by an oracle?) that “everything created by man is doomed to ruin and destruction unless philosophers become kings or kings become philosophers”. Now Plato never made a conscious effort to collect a large number of constitutions as did Aristotle and yet Plato submits for our attention a system of 5 different kinds of regime subjected to this prophecy. The rulers make mistakes and the consequences take on a life of their own resulting in the downward spiraling journey to ruin and destruction. The journey begins with the perfectly constructed Callipolis which actually contains lies, deception, and even infanticide. Yet is a theoretical eugenic miscalculation which takes it down to the next level of a timocracy which in its turn then degenerates into an oligarchy and then down into the regimes ruled by unnecessary desires(democracy) and finally unlawful desires(tyranny). There is much talk about the happiness of the city as a whole but the practical idea of the common good which structures Aristotle’s system is not clearly articulated. The logical consequences of this exercise are that only one kind of city is wholly good and that it the one ruled by Philosophers. It is not clear as some commentators have claimed whether only one form of life is permitted since the productive classes are largely left to their own devices. Life for the auxiliaries and the philosopher-rulers certainly appears to be monotonously uniform and Spartan with communal meals and sleeping together in barracks: minimal contact with money and minimal contact with the opposite sex. No such restrictions apply to the members of the productive classes. For Aristotle however, there is no need for a theoretical proof-like reference to a theoretical idea of the good emanating from a Parmenidean world in which all change and even motion is an illusion. Aristotle’s starting point is his theory of change. A regime that endures through change can be of 6 different kinds according to Aristotle depending upon whether or not it is ruled by the one, the few or the many in accordance with the common good or alternatively merely in the interests of the rulers. He classifies these as follows: the well-ordered forms = monarchy, aristocracy or constitutional(polity): the corrupt forms =tyranny, oligarchy or democracy.In accordance with his doctrine of the golden mean Aristotle points out that the constitutional form of a regime is the mean between the extremes of oligarchy and democracy. A constitutional regime contains a commitment to excellence typical of an oligarchy but also contains a commitment to democratic decision procedures or processes which manifest greater wisdom. The strength of democracies, Aristotle argues is:

“The multitude has many hands and many feet and many senses which become like a single human being with an even greater character and mind.”

The many are also less corruptible than the few or the one both of whom can more easily be bribed. Smith asks whether Aristotle is favouring democratic rule but then points out that he also favours rule by the one excellently wise man who acts in all things according to the principle of his own wise will. Smith asks whether this is support for figures like Alexander the Great whom Aristotle once tutored as a young man. It should also be added to Smiths account that Aristotle can also see that the rule of a few wise men may also lead to rule in the spirit of the common good.

The major difference between the Platonic and Aristotelian account resides in the contrast between Platonic Dualism and Aristotelian hylomorphism in which Aristotle incorporates a respect for the infinite possible forms of the material and physical world. The forms which he largely views as an aspect of our experience of matter resembles the essence of the thing: it is what is specified by an essence along with its material, it is in other words, the essence specifying definition of a thing. Just as a wall is not a pile of bricks lying in the yard, so the city is not to be identified materially with a group of people occupying the same physical territory. Neither can a city be defined by its walls, nor as a military alliance or an area in which trade occurs. The matter which is formed is rather at a higher level of abstraction. Smith claims the following:

“The citizen body is held together by friendship–a kind of political friendship which does not require us to give up our identities as some kinds of love and friendship do. This friendship may be rivalrous and competitive in a way similar to sibling rivalry. Siblings, according to Aristotle, are the best of friends competing for the attention, esteem, and recognition of the city. The city is a surrogate parent held together not by a series of rational transactions governed by economic game theory but rather the city is held together by bonds of loyalty similar to those that hold together the members of a team or a club.”

This fascinating image of Aristotle’s obviously looks forward to Freud’s band of brothers murdering their tyrannical father and then regretting their action after a deliberation upon the contradictory logical consequences. No one can rule safely in a realm of violence without laws forbidding violence

The form of the regime, however is defined by a set of institutions or formal structures determining how power is shared and distributed amongst citizens.
Smith comments upon this aspect in the following way:

“Political relations are for the sake of noble actions because the city exists not for the preservation of life but for the production of the good life. Citizens share in participating in decision-making processes and in taking important office. A citizen shares in the preservation of the law and the shaping of the law.”

This passage also looks forward to Kant and his matter-form theory of the categorical imperative. The first formulation of the categorical imperative runs: “So act that you can will that the maxim of your action can become a universal law”. This is Kant’s formal characterization. The second formulation of the categorical imperative is his material characterization. It runs: So act that you can treat humanity never merely as a means but also as an end-in-itself.” We can see both these aspects of the common good in Aristotle’s formal and material accounts above. The difference between the two philosophers is illustrated in Kant’s justification for the third formulation of the categorical imperative which refers to the free subject’s relation to the law. The subject in a kingdom of ends is not a passive submitter or Stoical accepter of legislation but is rather simultaneously the sovereign or legislator of the laws. His rationality is such that he recognizes the rationality of the common good in the laws that hold the city together. This third formulation is a synthesis of the thesis and antithesis of matter and form. This is an instance where Kant’s ethical philosophy transcends that of Aristotle’s at the same time as it accepts many of the fundamental tenets of Aristotle’s metaphysical theory of change.
Kant’s theory also transcends that of Aristotle’s in another fundamental respect. A theory of the regime needs to specify a fundamental political attitude rooted in empirical reality which can bind large groups together. Love and friendship are obviously limited in that they are both intense emotions that can easily transform themselves to opposite more hostile emotions if the object of the emotion is perceived as significantly different to the object loved. That is, even if German Jews are in everything except their origin and religion the same as the Germans, these differences are deemed relevant to the inhuman treatment that was meted out to them during the Nazi regime. This would, of course, have been unacceptable from the point of view of Aristotelian political and ethical philosophy which would have claimed that the differences were not relevant and the treatment ought therefore not to have been so hostile. But was it not Freud who pointed out how difficult it was to love one’s neighbour in view of the nature of this emotion and its tendency to form an exclusive bubble of fantasy around the parties to the experience?:– a bubble which had little to do with the reality principle. The reality principle for Freud requires a more stable attitude to sustain the relationships between larger groups of men that are required in our modern regimes.

Kant’s attitude of respect sustains the moral law. We both respect people and their differences and respect the law that enables large populations to dwell together in harmony. Respect is present of course in the categorical form of friendship that Aristotle referred to and if we transform this term into “fellowship” perhaps we retain the best of both the Kantian and Aristotelian accounts.

The logical consequences of this regime sustaining attitude of fellowship is not just related to how large a regime can be but rather to the question of whether Kant’s vision of a future Cosmopolitan world is possible: a vision of a kingdom of ends in which all men are fellows and treat each other as ends in themselves. Plato probably did not have any such vision in mind when he was constructing the Republic but opinion is divided as to whether Aristotle did not believe his hylomorphic theory of the regime could become a universal world regime ruled by Aristotelian Greek principles. Was it purely accidental that Alexander launched his world empire project relatively shortly after his tutorials with Aristotle? There is some evidence in Aristotle’s work “The Politics” that Smith refers to:

“Aristotle also discusses the golden mean in relation to regions of the world. He claims, for example, that nations of the North are filled with spirit but lacking in deliberative qualities and that Asian nations are deliberative but lacking in spirit. Only Greeks, he argues excel in the use of both of these qualities. This makes them candidates for ruling the rest of the world. Aristotle claims that under the right circumstances the Greeks could exercise some kind of universal rule.”

It is not clear what Aristotle means here. We should recall that when Alexander conquered the territories which were to become part of his Empire, he would go to extreme lengths to respect the customs of the different peoples he was ruling, dressing as they would dress, to take just one example. Yet one could not imagine Kant’s kingdom of ends being ruled by Greeks, Germans, Russians or any other nationality. Kant seems to be imagining a world in which national differences are no longer relevant and perhaps Aristotle was also imagining this though not in his work on the Politics. Smith has this to say on this topic:

“Politics, Aristotle argues deals with the less than best circumstances. A perfect regime may be wished for but most regimes will be mixtures of oligarchies and democracies.”

Aristotle is silent on the question of what the best or perfect regime would look like. Perhaps it would also be a regime in which even national differences are irrelevant.

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lecture 7:Aristotle

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Wittgenstein is not mentioned in this lecture but for someone trained in the school of Wittgenstein the school of the Lyceum is a necessary education if one is to avoid using Wittgenstein’s earlier and later Philosophy dogmatically and skeptically. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is indeed a dogmatic document carrying with it the logician’s conviction that the solutions to Philosophy have all been provided in this 10,000-word work. Wittgenstein’s later work cannot, against this background seem to commentators to be anything but a skeptical reaction to his earlier commitment to a scientific brand of logical atomism. Wittgenstein, however, acknowledged the faults of his earlier work without violating the Aristotelian norm of the golden mean and flying off to another extreme, that of skepticism. Wittgenstein’s later work I am maintaining had a distinctly Aristotelian quality about it. Here I am thinking in particular about his remarks on language-games and forms of life as well his remarks concerning the final court of appeal or justification for a concept or a practice. “This is what we do” he claims is the termination of all justification. Our justifications come to an end in what we do. He also suggests in his examination of language games that some kind of termination point is reached in “This is what we say”:–This is how language is used.
Wittgenstein was part of the movement to establish a central concern for language in Analytical Philosophy which largely inherited its assumptions from previous empirical philosophers whose task was to overturn Aristotle and make a fresh start. This “new beginning” very quickly condensed the cloud of empirical Philosophy into a drop of truth conditions. The meaning of language being logically connected to truth conditions, of course, dismantled broader concerns for the diverse uses of language which would have included the way in which the word “good” is used in both ethical and political science contexts to praise whatever is being referred to in connection with the term. Wittgenstein’s language-games and the concept of forms of life retreated from this position back to something very similar to an Aristotelian position in which language comes to be examined by practical rather than theoretical reasoning.

Professor Smith in this lecture is engaging with the question of our political regimes and whether they are artificial or natural constructions. Aristotle sees a city as naturally constituted through a series of developmental stages of human association: the family, the tribe, the village, up to the telos of the city-state. What is driving this evolution to a higher and more complex form of life is a striving toward independence, a striving toward what Aristotle calls self-sufficiency.Basically what we are seeing here is an argument for the Socratic position in the Republic that there is a fundamental isomorphism between the soul and the city. The soul in its evolution toward its telos learns what it needs to know in previous lives and moves through a number of stages in its actualization process. Aristotle does claim that knowledge of the soul is the most important knowledge we can acquire but he also claims more broadly that the natural essence of the regime is the more holistic concept of human nature. Smith has this to say on the issue:

“In the Politics Aristotle talks about the naturalness of the city and man being a political animal. Every polis exists by nature. This is connected to the fact that man alone is driven by Logos–by speech and reason in contrast to animals who are merely endowed with sounds to indicate their pleasure and pains. Logos enables man to have a perception of the good and the bad, the just and the unjust. It is speech and reason that help to create the family and the city. He offers two accounts of the polis. Firstly, that in terms of the natural organic growth from families to tribes to villages to the city-polis which is in his eyes the most developed form of human association. Secondly, there is a teleological account in which the city provides the conditions necessary to achieve and perfect the telos of man. Participation in the life of the city is necessary for the achievement of our excellence (areté).”

We become what we become partly because we are what we are. Just as the animal organ system is determinative of the form of life the animal will lead so it is with us human beings. Our organ system results in speech and reason and a more complex form of life in which it is not sufficient, as it is in the case of animals, to preserve one’s life in accordance with survival mechanisms. The complexity of our capacities which build upon each other and are integrated with each other results in a form of life in which survival and preservation are important but only because they are necessary conditions of a natural striving which human beings possess to lead the good life, the flourishing life. In the course of the use of these capacities, truth becomes an important aspect of speech because truthfulness is important for the political animal leading his political life. Here the truth function of language will obviously be integrated with the communicative and expressive forms of language we encounter in political discussions. The life of a city-state, then, for Aristotle is not an arbitrary conventional construction brought about by the linear causal mechanisms of science but rather a matter of Logos, a matter of logic. There is a logical relation between Logos and the political form of life expressed thus by Smith:

“Man is a political animal because of Logos–his speech and reason. These capacities provide us with a freedom not possessed by animals. He is not making a causal claim to the effect that Logos causes the political life. Logos, for example also entails the power to know which includes the ability to recognize by sight the inhabitants of our polis. We share a common language of the just and the unjust. Logos also entails the power of love–we love those with whom we are intimately related. Love does not occur as the result of a calculation. Rather it is the case that affection sympathy and friendship are the grounds of our political life. It is these which make us fully human.”

There is no problem (as there may be for the traditional truth-conditions theorist position)for Aristotle insofar as the meaning of political discourse is concerned.Both hypothetical and categorical imperatives will have a prescriptive meaning which will be logically analyzable in the same way in which we can logically analyze descriptive statements. For Aristotle there will be no fundamental difference between the syllogisms “All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal” and “Promises ought to be kept, Jack promised Jill he would pay the money he owed her as promised, therefore he ought to pay the money back.”

The reference to the Heraclitean terms Logos and Love may signify that Aristotle regards Parmenides(Plato’s choice) as an extreme and Heraclitus as a position to use in order to navigate between two conflicting extremes. Another sign in support of this position is the fact that Aristotle’s Metaphysics sees as one of its major tasks to provide a theory of change which of course is also some kind of acknowledgment of the Parmenidean objection that there must be something which endures through change. In the political discourse that which we praise and that which we blame will give us the keys to what is just and what is unjust. Here we are clearly in the realm of not just what is true and false but also in the realm of what it is that we prescribe in our communications with each other as inhabitants of a naturally developed polis. We praise friendships of all kinds, but one kind more than others. There are friendships of pleasure which relate to a basic form of pleasure which is transitory, comes and goes in relation to change in one’s situation or changes in one’s momentary whims appetites and desires. There are also friendships of utility or convenience which probably last somewhat longer but only as long as the “friend” is useful to us. Both are subject to hypothetical imperatives and the rules for the use of the language we use in these situations. And then there is “true” friendship, categorical friendship, which appears to obey the rules of the Kantian categorical imperative(the second formulation relating to treating humanity as an end in itself).In this form we treat the person as an end in themselves.

Smith does go on to argue that Aristotle believes that only a small city-state can house the kind of trust involved in the political form of friendships required for the polis to fulfill its political functions. He asks specifically and rhetorically :

“Does this mean that the city can never be a universal cosmopolitan state?”

The implied answer is in the negative. He goes on to confirm this position:

“It appears that Aristotle’s polis must be small enough to be governed by a common language, common memories, and common customs. This may imply a criticism of our modern societies, this may be a suggestion our cities and nations are not healthy.”

I am not sure that Aristotle would not believe that a form of rule in accordance with the principles of his Politics could not be universalized into a cosmopolitan form of life. A cosmopolitan state with a world government is something Kant certainly felt would inevitably be tyrannical. Much of what we read about the formal conditions of the regime lead us to sense a similarity between these two positions. We should also remember that both Aristotle and Kant used the concepts of matter and form and that Aristotle is referring above to the purely material conditions for the regime to exist as a regime. Amongst the formal conditions, we find reflections on the structure of institutions and classes of the regime. Amongst these reflections we find references to the size of the middle class. Aristotle sees the middle class as embodying the virtues or excellences required for the correct rule of the regime and as far as I know there is no reference to the maximum size of the regime or whether the requisite trust would be able to exist between the classes if they were too large. Modern political science has been tracking this particular claim by Aristotle and there is a sense that the aim of Politics should be Aristotelian, that is many commentators have observed that the political process aims at pulling the parties of the extreme right and left into the middle. That this is an observation of importance has clearly resulted in a strategy amongst a number of contemporary politicians to court what they call the middle-class vote. Perhaps if the material condition of trust between larger human associations cannot exist, this may be an underlying flaw in such strategies. Whichever of these alternatives is the case, it would seem as if an Aristotelian political analysis is still very relevant to the contemporary political scene. My view is that the categorical form of friendship demands a form of love which Kant calls respect and there is certainly no recognition by Kant that this is limited so small associations. Kant clearly thinks that respect for the moral law and each other could build a cosmopolitan world in approximately one hundred thousand years time.

There is a suggestion that Aristotle’s position is an elitist one in virtue of some of his remarks about slavery. My reading of Aristotle’s position is that the only legitimate form of slavery in conditions of peace is what he called “natural slavery”, a form of slavery in which the human is not sufficiently rational to take care of themselves. I do not believe that Aristotle is arguing that some people are more stupid than others but rather that some peoples rationality is so compromised(brain damage severe psychological trauma etc), that if they were left to themselves they would be unable to take care of themselves. They would wander around the countryside homeless until they died of exhaustion, the cold, disease etc. Taking care of these people in your home(as the Greeks did) would basically be an act of charity even if they were expected to contribute with their labour to the upkeep of the property and the family. There were no mental institutions during this time. The Greeks were just beginning to think that hearing voices was a sign that all was not well with those who reported such phenomena.There is another suggested form of legitimate slavery Aristotle refers to which would not have fallen into this category and that is the slaves that are taken in a just war. If another city attacks your city without any provocation and you defeat them in battle, the price that must be paid, it is argued, is that those soldiers who are captured alive should become slaves perhaps until some kind of debt has been discharged. In a state of war normal political and ethical rules are suspended(You may kill the enemy): that the slave is allowed to keep his life seems also in such circumstances to be a charitable act, a sign that hostilities are now over. I do not think any of the arguments presented against Aristotle fall into the category of elitism. Smith refers to Yale and its selection of a small percentage of the population for leadership positions as “Aristotelian” which I think is a mistake if the above reasoning is correct. Aristotle is a believer in excellence and it seems to me that Yale University would not obviously contradict his belief. In this context we ought to point out that he does not exclude the rule of the many from being excellent. Indeed he firmly believes that the multi-limbed, multi-voiced, multi senses of the many provide a surer ground that all aspects of the problem of ruling will be respected.

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lectures four, five and six

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Professor Smith discusses the Republic in this lecture. I wish to complement that discussion by concentrating the focus on some elements of the work which he did not take up, combining these elements with those elements he considered seen through a slightly different set of concerns which involves my complaint that the course was not sufficiently Kantian. One of my concerns below is also the distinction between a Socrates who, even in the Republic had his own idea of the healthy city and thereby differentiated his view from Plato’s which he goes on to present.

The dialogue of the Republic begins with Socrates using the tools of elenchus in search of a definition of justice which he probably only sees through the lens of his method darkly. Polemarchus is a spirited man unlike his father, Cephalus, who is a man driven by appetite. Polemarchus is driven by a Homeric paradigm of a courageous warrior when he claims that justice is doing good to one’s friends and harm to one’s enemies and Socrates has a battery of arguments to counteract this definition, the most important of which from the point of view of the development of the dialogue is that justice must in some sense be related to knowledge and anyone applying Polemarchus’s definition must first know who their friends and enemies are. Failure to do so will result in the opposite effect, namely doing harm to one’s friends and good to one’s enemies.Socrates also points out that common sense seems to suggest that doing harm to a bad man will only make him worse. Thrasymachus also has his arguments demolished by elenchus when he, also in a Homeric spirit, suggests that the strong ruling to their own advantage is just. The argument he offers in support of his definition amazes Socrates. What Socrates would regard as unjust, namely a small group of people ruling to their advantage is defined as just by Thrasymachus. It seems to Socrates as if an inversion of the good and bad is involved in this definition. The argument used to defend the definition is an empirical/observational one, namely, a large number of different regimes actually are ruled by a small group of strong men who pass laws systematically to their own advantage. The argument seems to be a form of functionalism/consequentialism. The system is widespread because it works.

A Kantian objection to this would point out the confusion between descriptive and normative categories of argument. A modern analytical objection would complain about the naturalistic fallacy of deriving a final normative ought statement from a series of is-statements. Glaucon, himself a declared consequentialist(he believes that people obey laws because of the consequences involved if they do not) is not satisfied with the elenctic refutation and demands that Socrates proves that justice is both good in itself and good in its consequences. Socrates obtains approval for his strategy that the soul and the city are in some sense isomorphic with one another and begins to build a city from the elements of what is needed for its survival and preservation, in the process providing the principle of justice which he argues is the principle of specialization: everyone doing the work he is best able to do and refraining from interfering in the work of others. The city Socrates constructs is very small and very simple containing simple souls, no luxuries, no warriors and no philosophers. Glaucon refuses to admit that this “healthy city” of Socrates is the final destination in the search for justice. He is a spirited man and Socrates has built a city which requires sublimation of his ambition and war-like nature. He calls the city a city for pigs and demands in the name of the isomorphism of city and soul that a city be constructed in which spirited souls find a home. Socrates agrees to continue the search for justice in this fevered city which attempts to accommodate competition and war. Haunting the account is, of course, the failure of Socrates to tame the spirit of his interlocutors who have long relied on spirit to control itself with its myths, legends, and stories of spirited heroes. The philosophical hero like Socrates will not easily supplant Achilles and Odysseus in the mind of the hoi polloi.The hero devalues life in favour of love of fame and honour and is prepared to sacrifice himself in the cauldron of activities that precipitate all kinds of secondary emotions such as anger. It is clear when reason is excluded from its mediating role in this situation that the soul is at war with itself. The appetite for life is cast aside and in this cauldron we are treated to the activity of a Leontes, feasting his eyes upon the dead corpses. This is an activity taken from the great war between Thanatos and Eros. How could justice possibly emerge from such a war?

The idea of the harmony of the parts of the soul requires that the parts each perform their specific function. Spirit tyrannizes and dominates unless its desires are tamed by reason. It appears that three major waves are required if we are to make the transition to Plato’s Republic in which each class will perform its proper function. Firstly, the guardians must not own anything and refrain from handling gold. Secondly, they will not be able to form normal families. Thirdly guardians will be selected and given a very specific education. Professor points out that there are definite problems with the soul-city isomorphic thesis when it comes to organizing the city:

“But, one may ask, is the structure of the city identical to the structure of the soul? Another objection to this model is that whilst each of us is composed of three parts we are confined to one part of the hierarchy in the city. Plato argues that one part naturally dominates the others and this part will want fulfillment in a particular kind of work. The implication of this is that the majority will not have just souls if that is defined as the soul controlled by reason. Only a minority of philosopher-rulers will function harmoniously in accordance with reason.”

In spite of all his caveats and objections including perhaps those of Socrates to the fevered city, Professor Smith ends his essay by stating:

“I am not convinced that the idea of the philosopher kings is an impossible one.”

Another form of this brand of idealism, Kants Stoical duty-based theory, would argue that the soul should not be divided Platonically into Reason, Spirit, and Appetites, on the grounds that if the soul is a non-material principle it does not make sense to talk of parts or divisions. The soul disappears as a theoretical entity and Kant talks more holistically in terms of the person or the man who is metaphysically constituted of what happens to him and what he causes to happen in accordance with certain categories of the understanding and ideas of reason. The person becomes more like a university for Kant with a number of faculties performing different functions. The Sensibility, the Understanding, and Reason(Theoretical and Practical) constitute these faculties of the person and this, of course, is a very theoretical abstract picture of the whole of man. Perhaps judgment is also another faculty of the Stoic man which is used for life in the polis and perhaps the harmony of these faculties constitutes the areté of this great-souled man as perhaps Aristotle might call him. For Kant political judgment must fall into the realm of the hypothetical imperative, the world of prudential reasoning where here perhaps we can only expect to see really statesmanlike behaviour in a kingdom of ends where the rule of law is isomorphic with the moral law of our minds. Here Kant and Aristotle may agree that Politics aims at the good in a very uncertain manner and certainty therefore cannot be demanded in the same way it can in other domains. One essential difference between Plato and Aristotle and Kant is that the two former philosophers believe in monarchy as a form of government whereas Kant favours the Republic form of government and specifically criticises Kings for the money that was spent on wars instead of education and indirectly he,as we know, also criticised an Emperor for forbidding him to write about Religion.

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lectures two, three and part of four.

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Professor Smith claims that the best introductory text to the study of Political Philosophy is Plato’s Apology. His introduction to this lecture is:

“Socrates is the founder of Political Philosophy because he engages in justifications of the good life as well as illustrating the vulnerability of the political philosopher in the state. When he is tried for impiety and the corruption of the youth of Athens–philosophy is put on trial. The work suggests a necessary and inevitable conflict between the freedom of the inquiring mind and the requirements of political life. Socrates is a central historical symbol for political resistance to political power. Some people try to defend Socrates on the grounds of freedom of speech but it is important to know that this is not the grounds on which he defended himself. He is rather defending the examined life, which for him alone is worth living. His quest is a quest for self-perfection, not an argument for free speech. He is quarreling with his accusers over who has the right to educate the citizen. This is a dialogue about education.”

We know there were probably many reasons why Socrates was convicted by a 500 man jury. Many were worried about the implications of Socratic “education” for religion and its power of uniting the relatively large community of Athens(ca 200,000 people). The poets like Aristophanes were concerned that Philosophy would replace Poetry as the mediator between religion and the people. The poets also promoted an image of the hero as a warrior inspired by the gods. Socrates was propagating the image of a new kind of hero and a new kind of life: a hero which uses the verbal weapon of elenchus and a form of life which is devoted to questioning everything including the status quo of the fragile democracy of Athens. Socrates was even questioning the Delphic oracles implied claim that he was the wisest man in Athens. Professor Smith also refers to a probable political bias of the jury. The war with Sparta had been lost in 404 BC and the thirty tyrants backed by Sparta began ruling. Amongst the tyrants were associates and pupils of Socrates, the most infamous of which was Alcibiades, the man responsible for the disastrous Sicilian expedition and the man who was later to defect to Sparta. Plato’s Symposium testifies to the close relation between Socrates and Alcibiades.

In lecture three Professor Smith points out a number of paradoxes generated by the case study of Socrates. The examined life, he argues appears to encourage citizens to examine the state of their own soul rather than the institutions and laws of the society. Are these activities compatible? The paradox seems inevitably to lead to tension, especially if one is, as Socrates was, placed in a position of civic responsibility and ordered to assist in the arrest of the Athenian generals who had left bodies of dead Athenian warriors in the sea. Socrates refused on the grounds that the circumstances were not conducive to the carrying out of this responsibility and in an act of civic defiance he refused the order from the 30 tyrants. This was obviously a result of a private examination of his own soul’s integrity. Socrates here appears to be asserting his individual rights in acts of civil disobedience. Professor Smith also points correctly to the Crito dialogue and the Socratic arguments there in favour of obeying the law and refusing invitations to escape an unjust verdict in a system that should know better. Smith suggests that there is a seeming contradiction in this position:

“What we are witnessing here is the clash of two irreconcilable moral codes. His reason frees him from the dangerous influence of the state. But his political life as a citizen requires that he respect the laws and the deepest beliefs and institutions of the society. Why does Socrates choose to stay and drink the hemlock. Why not escape to Crete?”

Professor Smith leaves this question hanging in the air but he was more careful than commentators normally are in his reporting of the Delphic oracle’s utterance in a consultation over who the wisest man in Athens was. He points out that the oracle answered the question with a question,namely, “Is there any man wiser than Socrates?”, practically inviting an investigation into the matter, especially given the Delphic imperative to “know thyself”. Another dialogue the Phaedo might provide more information relating to the putative contradiction Smith referred to above. Could the endgame of dying with dignity have been on Socrates’ mind in the conversation with Crito. Socrates had spent some time consulting his inner “sign” over this matter. socrates had showed us how to live. Was it now time to show us how to die?

The Socratic sign within suggests that we move forward to the role of the moral law within and Kant’s emphasis upon the goodwill of the individual. From this perspective, there is certainly no paradox or contradiction. The society is not yet ready to provide the conditions necessary for justice to reign universally, This Kant can clearly see. Even though one might wish to argue that it ought to be able to administer itself justly. This would seem to imply that acts of civil disobedience directed at the law and the deepest beliefs of the society should be avoided, the possible exception being a state of affairs in which the laws make leading an examined Socratic life difficult or impossible. Aristotle would also consent to the exception. He felt that states should not interfere with peoples choices: objecting to the Republic and its forcing Philosophers to force the citizens to lead a life in accordance with the idea of the common good.

Lecture 4 turns to a consideration of Plato’s dialogue without consideration of the question of the “problem of Socrates”, i.e. the problem of how we are to distinguish the historical Socrates from the literary figure which Plato sometimes uses to convey his post-Socratic theories. Professor Smith claims that:

“Every work of political philosophy is a response in one way or another to Plato’s Republic. It is important to approach this work with the right questions given that this Republic is ruled by Philosopher-kings. What is the Republic about? Justice? Moral Psychology? The right ordering of the human soul? The power of poetry and myth to shape souls and societies? Metaphysics? Education? It is about all of these things.”

Again there is an ancient oracular prophecy operating in the background of the consciousness of Plato the former poet, namely that cities will see no end to destruction and ruin until philosophers become kings or kings become philosophers.

Smith refers in this lecture to Popper’s work “The Open Society and its enemies” and the extraordinary claim that Plato was a fascist. He points out in defense of Popper that in Plato we do not find a separation of powers. The governmental structures are not separated from the civil powers of the judiciary, for example. But Smith defends Plato in an interesting discussion of Plato’s Academy and the fact that it was the model for the first University system:

“We are all heirs of Plato. The institutional and educational requirements of Plato’s Academy share many characteristics of universities today. In Plato’s Callipolis and in Yale today, men and women are selected at a relatively early age because of their capacities for leadership, courage, self-discipline, and responsibility. They leave their parents and sleep together, exercise together, study together. the best go on to further study. If Plato is a fascist then so are we.”

A passionate defense of the spirited examined life. Smith perhaps omits to mention the really academic heritage of the Academy which is related to what these students actually do in their lecture halls. They listen to lectures containing elenchus and various forms of argument. They acquire knowledge of the past for use in the present and future. They are exposed to metaphors and allegories and myths and the major thoughts of thinkers of the past about their present and their futures. They learn to exercise their critical powers and judgment about almost everything under the Platonic sun including Plato’s Republic.

The “Regime” of the Global Callipolis and its relation to Justice(Commentary and Critique of Prof Smith’s Yale lecture series on”Political Science”): Lecture one

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Professor Smith’s Yale lecture-series/course “An Introduction to Political Science” begins thus:

“It is important to note that although the empirical imagination may imagine an infinite number of possible regimes, the actual political field does not present us with an infinite variety of different forms–the field is structured and ordered into a few regime types. A corollary to this insight is that regime is always a particular structure and stands in opposition to other regime types. That is, the very structure of politics entails the possibility of conflict, tension, and war. The regime seems then to need to be partisan and consequently may need to install loyalties and passions. These passionate attachments even take place within government structures where different partners contest for power. Henry Adams claimed that Politics is simply the organization of hatreds. He did not also say, yet it is true, that Politics is also an attempt to direct these hatreds and animosities to the common good. One wonders whether it is possible for such a process to end in friendship, in fellowship? Can we replace conflict with harmony? This gives rise to a major political theme which is echoed in the question: “Is it possible to transcend regimes and organize ourselves around international law and justice?” This cannot be ruled out. But such a world would no longer be a political world.”

This is an excellent opening of an excellent course which I can recommend to anyone interested in deepening their knowledge of Politics.


There are suggestions that obliquely evoke thoughts of the Socratic healthy city which would not require politicians or Philosophers to regulate a community built upon the virtue or excellence of work and specialization. One supposes that apart from the passion for what one has chosen to work with, this healthy regime is relatively passion free. Plato’s Republic is certainly a passionate fevered regime being partly run by the auxiliaries. Their concern for the beauty of a well-ordered state is erotic and passionate but the idea of the form of the good is meant to suggest a non partisan universal idea which can unify the perfect city or Callipolis into a regime which to the extent that it is being run in accordance with this idea of the Good must be a kind of universal city: i.e. the logical consequence would appear to be that a cosmopolitan world must be organized in terms of this universal idea. There is also the suggestion of Aristotelian ethics and its transformation of the spirit of Platonic Eros into a rational community of souls freely choosing the life of a fellowship in a kingdom in which each treats the other as fellows and ends in themselves. Those symbols of war, the auxiliaries have disappeared from the more important political structures. Yet the connection to our human personalities are unmistakably present in Smiths conceptual reflections upon what a regime is:

“A regime is more than a set of formal structures, institutions. It consists of the entire way of life of a people: the moral, religious, habitual, customary and sentimental. The regime constitutes an ethos, a distinctive character that nurtures distinctive human types. Every regime shapes a character type with distinctive traits and qualities. So the study of politics is the study of distinctive natural character types that constitute a citizen body….The regime describes the character and tone of the society and focuses on what the society finds praiseworthy. One cannot understand a regime unless one understands what its people praise.”

This quote evokes the position of Plato in the Republic which argues that justice in the soul is mirrored by justice in the city and that the way in which the parts of the soul and the city interact with each other will constitute a human character type and the ethos of the city. It also evokes the pluralistic vision of Aristotle which sees a multiplicity of kinds of state established for the sake of the common good. For Aristotle, these kinds of state or regimes are the natural outgrowth of those natural processes which gather men together in communities,e.g. families, villages, cities. This is an approach which suggests that the history of the development of the regime will be important for understanding its present and final form. It is also the case here that the empirical imagination could very well imagine an infinite array of species but here too the history of the development of different species has managed to actualize only a finite number(though perhaps a very large finite number).Species which fail to survive are extinguished but have probably played their part in the creation of the new species which do manage the mammoth task of survival. No animal, however, leads a flourishing life unaided by humans for whom the idea of this flourishing life is a real possibility. In the same vein, families have been extinguished and even villages and perhaps the occasional city and state have also failed the survival test. Survival or security then is a ground for praise of a grudging kind. For the task of the city according to Aristotle is not merely to guarantee life but rather to promise the good life. The idea of the common good, then, obviously implies not just a secure life as such but a life filled with eros, esteem, the cognitive and aesthetic values. But if this idea of the common good is indeed universally praiseworthy then it can perhaps create in the imagination an idea of a world which is truly cosmopolitan in which pluralistic differences abound (but only such differences as can be united in one common cosmopolitan regime). There is nothing in Aristotle to directly suggest this line of thinking but it does seem to be a logical consequence of his idea of a regime, the common good and the fellowship of men.

Professor Smith makes a very important observation in lecture one concerning the fact that the different regimes will in virtue of their differences be in conflict with one another. Now there is certainly a psychological reason to believe that this is inevitable, namely that differences that are perceived as small in accordance with the idea of the common good can be perceived as great when eros and amour propre are not regulated by reason and its manifestation in practical premises and practical conclusions which are acted upon.Eros unleashed can be envious and jealous and become hypnotized and subjugated by the twin of Thanatos, thus unleashing the hate that could kill 6 million European Jews who were as European as any German. Freud explored this complex alliance of eros and amour propre in his work “Group Psychology and the Ego”
Professor Smith also claims:
“It is as Aristotle and Plato believed, an aristocratic regime in which the few best rule..”

Aristotle in the Politics certainly believes that one form of ruling in accordance with the common good could be a constellation of a few aristocrats but he also specifically talked about two other equally excellent alternatives, namely the monarch ruling in the name of the common good and the many ruling in accordance with the same principle.

If personality is defined in terms of its differences, then different regimes will produce different kinds of human character, different kinds of personality. Kant, however, does not define personality in such terms. He rather defines it in terms of the characteristic that we all ought to possess if we are to live in a kingdom of ends where the fellowship of men is such that everyone treats everyone with respect, as an end in themselves. The question raised by Professor Smith’s introduction is the interesting one of whether we can, in fact, call a cosmopolitan kingdom of ends a regime. I do not, however, believe that it matters whether we can or cannot call such a world a regime. I see no difficulty with calling a cosmopolitan state of affairs a “regime”.
Professor Smith appears to agree and says:

“Whatever is the case, a regime will always favour a certain kind of human being, with a certain set of character traits: the common man found in democracies or the man with acquired taste and money in aristocracies, or perhaps even the warrior or the priest one finds in theocracies.”

So, if the cosmopolitan state of affairs is a “regime”, what kind of character will we find dwelling in such a kingdom? Here we come to my first major complaint about the lecture series: it does not pay enough attention to Kantian political Philosophy, especially in relation to the magnificent “Greek introduction” we are treated to in lecture one.It would have been very interesting to experience the presence of Kant in the political Philosophy out of which Kant’s ethical and political reflections emerge. Stoicism emerged spontaneously and naturally from Greek Philosophy and there does seem to be a clear connection to Kantian ethics and the work on “Anthropology” in which it is clearly suggested that there is an important distinction to be made between what the world makes of man and the ethical process of what man can make of his world. Kant’s claim is that it will take one hundred thousand years for the kingdom of ends to emerge (because reason is needed to meaningfully change the world). Such a use of reason is not actualised fully in the individual but only in the species over a long period of time. The lack of the presence of reason in the individual character will leave the emphasis involved in changes caused by world-events on what the world makes of man rather than on the freedom man has to change the world in accordance with the practical laws of reason.The Stoic is patient, however, and is in the game of life until its end, until it is finally lost. The emphasis in this character-type is on duty but if most events fall in the category of what happens to man then duty will for the Stoic tend to be heterogeneous and relate to some external authority rather than one’s own reason or the moral law within me.
Professor Smith ends his opening quote with the claim that were political organisations to centre on international law and justice such a regime would no longer be political. I think this is a correct diagnosis. What would this reveal? Only what we and Kant already knew, namely, that politics is grounded upon an ethical imperative and this in its turn would justify almost every student demonstration since 1968 that has taken place in an ethical spirit.

Professor Smith ends his lecture in a thought-provoking quote echoing Freud’s “Civilisation and its Discontents”:

“The good human being will have something philosophical about him/her and may feel fully at home only in the best regime. But the best regime lacks actuality–it does not exist! This fact makes it difficult for the philosopher to be a good citizen of any actual regime. He could only be loyal to what is best. This raises a question of loyalty and friendship. This tension between the best and the actual makes political philosophy possible.In the best regime philosophy would be redundant–it would wither away. This is why it is a potentially disturbing activity–because it may transform you! The ancients had a word for the political quest and the quest for knowledge–Eros. The best regime must be driven by Eros. This may be the highest tribute one can pay to love.”

Freud would have pointed to Thanatos and his twin Hypnos and perhaps suggested that Stoicism is the only rational attitude for the hundred thousand year wait for a Global “regime”.

The Second Centrepiece lecture on Philosophical Psychology from “The World Explored the World Suffered:The Exeter Lectures”(Jaynes, Freud, Aristotle, Kant)

Hits: 501

Harry was at the lectern surveying his notes and talking to Glynn beside him as Jude closed the door behind himself. He waved to Harry and Glynn and sat down. Glynn went to take his seat. Harry began:
“During the last lecture I argued, some would claim paradoxically, that “Psychology”, as a subject changed its orientation when it declared itself to be a science. It performed a number of scientific reductions on the notion of “consciousness” in order to perform its experiments, and failed to arrive at results the scientific community could accept as scientific. The definition of Psychology was as a consequence changed to “the science of behavior” and, whilst that appeared to solve the terminological problem, it was quickly discovered that experiments with human self- conscious beings were not able to control all the variables necessary in order to reach results that could be reliably repeated. Experiments with animals were subsequently preferred because it appeared easier to control the necessary variables: but the conclusions often required inferential leaps if and when they were to be applied to human beings. Such leaps could not integrate with the philosophical knowledge of man acquired via “anthropology”. These conclusions often also conflicted with the broader experiential knowledge we have acquired about the social and political life of man. One of the obfuscating conditions most difficult to neutralize was the presence of what came to be referred to as “expectancy effects”. Participants in experiments were responding to the manipulation of variables with different expectations or, alternatively, responding to the experiment by assuming that what was demanded was a particular type of response. Psychologists called these “demand characteristics”. Furthermore the type of inquiry best suited to the experimental method was the type of inquiry relating to our expectations of what will happen in the light of our knowledge of the way in which causes produce effects, e.g. “people are unhappy when promises to them are broken”. This latter judgment is a causal empirical generalization that can be tested by making people promises, not keeping them, and then observing the results. There are, however, two immediate problems with this kind of experiment. Firstly it is unethical to make people promises and not keep them, even in circumstances where one might want to argue that the ensuing knowledge acquired from the experiment justified the unethical behavior of the experimenter. Secondly, how on earth would the experimenter operationally define the variable of happiness? The philosophical literature is densely packed with the problems of defining what happiness is. What makes one person happy is anathema to another, and what makes one and the same person happy, changes with time and circumstance. What this brings to our attention is the fact that where an attitude or our interests are concerned, these may not be quantitatively or experimentally measurable. Where what is at issue are ought-concepts such as “wrong”, “good”, “sacred” there may be a wish for universal agreement but such agreement may not be possible, which roughly means that any such variable cannot be operationally defined in an experiment searching for causal relations between variables. And the logical consequence of this is that, if we are interested in the causal relations between two variables, the possible values of these variables have to be logically determined before they can be manipulated. What has philosophy to say about such a state of affairs? The major problem in the philosophy of action is to connect the particular case of an action with the universal to which it belongs. This is a conceptual matter and not a causal problem, yet all psychologists have to face it because they are observing actions not just moving bodies.
I, therefore, suggested in my first lecture that we orientate our inquiry around the subject of “anthropology”.
More than 3000 years ago Agamemnon had a dream, whilst aware that he was still in his bed, that the time had come to begin the Trojan War and he set about the task. The Gods had told him what to do. This is what we read in Homer’s Iliad. Achilles also responds to the voices of various Gods in dealing with the difficult decision of how to behave in relation to his king, Agamemnon, who had stolen his mistress. This is not Myth. The Trojan War was an actual war and the characters of Agamemnon and Achilles were real. But how are our modern minds meant to interpret these words? Agamemnon and Achilles appear to us to be schizophrenic. How could a great king and a great warrior have suffered from what today we would have called a mental illness?
Julian Jaynes is the source of the above ideas which in turn are a consequence of his following a research path leading from the theory of evolution to tribal societies and the beginnings of language ca. 100,000 years ago. The path continues onto the establishment of theocratic hierarchically structured civilizations ca. 10,000 years ago where there is clearly a communication problem to be solved when groups of people move from ca. thirty to thousands and when the stress of this civilization produced the hallucination of voices in novel situations where it was not clear what ought to be done. Jaynes called this kind of mind the bicameral mind and it was “the norm” up to ca. 1000 BC when suddenly we find Homer writing about Odysseus living around this time who, when faced with stressful novel problems to solve, sits down like you and I would, and thinks about a plan or strategy which will subsequently be enacted, Homer’s writing is the first unequivocal evidence of this transition because although writing appeared around 3000 BC much of it is in languages(hieroglyphics or cuneiform) or signs we have great difficulty in interpreting. But what can have caused the development of the conscious mind of Odysseus who could plan to deceive his enemies? Part of the explanation can be attributed to the invention of writing that appeared to many, to be a better form of social control and communication. This innovation together with a catastrophic eruption of the island of Santorini, around 1470 BC that sent a 700- foot tsunami inundating and destroying many communities around the Aegean, placed great strain on the bicameral mind. Waves of refugees also inundated surviving communities and strained hierarchical structures that were best suited to a status quo that did not change very much. The refugees may have been the first to be forced to think consciously, needing perhaps to sit and plan strategies. The large communities that were disrupted probably resembled the Neolith site that was discovered in Turkey in which houses were designed so that 4-5 rooms clustered around a god’s room in which idols and statues of stone were found. The men of these communities, Jaynes argues, used these idols and images as stimuli to summon the voices that would tell them what to do. The Mesopotamian communities were typical of this form of bicameral community. Individuals heard a voice coming from further up in the hierarchy, perhaps from the king, which commanded or chided in a very similar way to the way schizophrenics voices operate today. If the king happened to die, a statue or symbol could be produced which could serve as a visual stimulus for the voice to appear. In this way dead kings became gods
The Bible, of course, is another source of this transition from the bicameral mind to consciousness. One of the earliest books of the Old Testament is about Amos who transmits the words of God like a medium, ”The Lord saith….”. Moving to one of the later books such as Ecclesiastes brings us into a world where self- conscious beings steer themselves and reflect on the purposes of life and time. Why the change? Jaynes hypothesizes that the voices produced by the right side of the brain were disappearing as a mechanism for coping with novel stressful situations. The voice of Yahweh was not being heard any longer: God had disappeared. Stone carvings have been found testifying to this: the throne that God sat upon is empty. The Psalms are further evidence of men crying out for guidance from a Deus absconditus. The book of Moses also testifies to the problem of finding one’s way to the Promised Land with only images and voices. There is only one possible human creation that could take the place of a hallucinated voice and that is the law that is written down in the name of some authority and we see the transition in action in the book of Moses. He comes down from the Mount with the law written on stone tablets.
Further evidence is that one can find no record in early writings of the kind of dream that conscious men experience. Agamemnon’s “dream” is a hallucinated voice that acts hypnotically upon him whilst he is still lying in his bed. Also, further evidence comes in the form of the examination of Plato’s texts. In the earlier dialogues, someone spiritually possessed by these voices is still a divine matter to be in awe of. By the time we get to the more mature Platonic writings, the “Laws” such people need to be taken care of. The behavior of the community in response to mental illness is anticipated here. Indeed Socrates is also portrayed as standing transfixed on a spot for long periods of time, having “visitations” from his so-called “daemon”
Sophia raised her hand:
“But, surely consciousness is necessary for learning something. It is difficult to imagine large relatively sophisticated communities being run “unconsciously”, if that is the right word. The people you are describing seem almost like robots”
“Yes, there is something difficult to understand here but fundamentally Jaynes’s idea is that we do not need consciousness to learn to form concepts, or to do any of the quite complex things we have learned to do such as driving a car or playing the piano. Indeed if in playing the piano a car backfiring distracts me from the task to the extent that I briefly become a conscious observer of what I am doing, it is difficult to get back into what Freud would have called the pre-conscious flow of the activity. I mention Freud here because Freud was not a fan of consciousness. For him, all knowledge emanates from the pre-conscious mind. Language is also a product of the pre-conscious mind. The reason we are under the “illusion” that we are continuously conscious is that when we are performing these pre-conscious activities we are by definition not conscious of what we are doing. Yet somehow consciousness jumps over these gaps in its operation and presupposes some kind of continuity. Some of the greatest discoveries of science have occurred through preconscious processing of a question where the answer suddenly announces itself to consciousness, perhaps whilst we are shaving or cooking. I think if we came across a purely bicameral man we would describe their behavior in the way you do, as robotic. Our present-day encounters with schizophrenics would not quite be the same thing because they alternate between consciousness and bicameral states.”
Robert raised his hand:
“But what about ancient burial sites? What about the 30,000-year-old cave paintings? Are these cultural monuments not signs of consciousness?”
“We have to be careful not to over-interpret what is happening in these cases. Insofar as the burial sites are concerned, I can see no difficulty in a human grieving for someone who is no longer present using an object, like a gravestone to represent the lost object. A gravestone may have been a late substitute for a statue of the person from which it was easier to hallucinate a voice. Freud, upon discovering the death instinct thought he saw its presence in an infant standing in his cot and throwing a cotton reel attached to some cotton over the side of his cot whilst uttering “Gone!” and drawing it slowly back into the cot whilst saying “There”. According to Freud, this little piece of theatre represented past episodes when the infant’s beloved mother would leave him and return after an extended period of absence. According to some theories, the cave paintings point in the other direction of time, namely the future, perhaps to the future hunt, and perhaps the idea here is that the painting is a kind of plan. One imagines that the artist is consciously or even pre consciously narrating something relating to the hunt that he is trying to represent. Neither Jaynes nor I think that language had yet reached the stage of narration that would have required a kind of mind-space typical of consciousness. If anything the cave paintings are the expression of a kind of pre-conscious practical wish. They might be the precursors of narrative language.”
A female science major raised her hand:
“The evidence provided thus far seems to me to be neither scientifically nor philosophically adequate to the task of explaining what consciousness is or for that matter what it is not.”
“Yes, you are correct in that observation. Thanks for navigating us back onto our course. As I mentioned in the first lecture, Jaynes is a Psychologist who believes that the prevailing mood of the subject of Psychology should be biological. He would, I suppose, regard all the evidence as in some fashion pointing in the direction he describes, but his biological account would begin with the theory of evolution and end with the functions of the brain. He points out that brain size has definitely not changed in the last 100,000 years. In this context, he refers, however, to the two hemispheres of the brain and the anomaly that every major function of the brain is bi-laterally represented in both hemispheres, except for language which for him is intimately related to consciousness and appears to be only located in the left hemisphere. Appearances are however deceptive because a number of experiments have proven that the right hemisphere can, when the left is anesthetized, understand simple language. His account of why this state of affairs exists refers to the differing functions of the left and right hemispheres. The left is the more “analytical” part of the brain that deals with the parts of wholes. Classificatory frameworks are synthetic sets of propositions that have logical relations to each other and probably require some contribution from the holistically oriented right side of the brain when the individual uses the framework to make a left hemisphere-judgment such as “Some water dwellers are mammals.”. Perhaps involved in this activity of the left hemisphere is also the phenomenon of a self, encountering objects observationally in a psychically distanced space. The right hemisphere is more synthetic and synthesizes parts into wholes, notes into a melody, parts of a face into a whole face, an individual act into a narrative, a civil act into the holistic network of laws, or more theoretically a number of propositions into a valid sound argument. Perhaps Jaynes might even say, as others following him have, that the right hemisphere uses holistic judgments to organize facts into theories, or organizes separate activities into a holistic practical context. The cultural evolution of the functions of the brain resulted in the right side of the brain operating as some kind of holistic enveloping function which was coded into language, and, at appropriate times when the individual was confronted by some novel, stressful stimulus requiring action to be taken. In these situations hallucinatory voices from the right hemisphere would deliver “advice/commandments” to the left, relating to what ought to be done in the circumstances. The subject might have been hypnotically “enveloped” by the voice and in turn, hypnotically act in a state of what can be described as pre-conscious awareness. The physiological stressor might have been the build-up of waste products in the blood as a consequence of cortisol release over a period of time. The liver for some reason(probably to do with high-stress levels) was unable to process the amounts of cortisol present in the blood. The coded message from the right hemisphere was, according to this theory, transmitted over the anterior commissure connecting the two temporal lobes, and was experienced as “spoken” by the right hemisphere and “heard” by the left hemisphere: a left hemisphere which at this stage in time had not developed the level of consciousness which we experience today as a consequence of its very advanced linguistic functioning in a culture dominated by the written word. Apparently, research has suggested that when the right hemisphere is electrically stimulated auditory hallucinations are experienced. There is also evidence suggesting that when the corpus callosum connecting the two hemispheres is cut the hemispheres can function like two different individuals.
Perhaps I should end by pointing out that bi-cameral individuals were not very complex. They could not put together a narrative over large segments of reality or even a narrative of their own life stretching from childhood to the end of life. Time-consciousness was very rudimentary. The emotions of shame and fear, for example, were very transitory affairs for the bicameral mind: they would disappear as quickly as they appeared. The conscious mind, on the other hand, because it has a narrative tendency will stretch these experiences over time and experience the same event many times, perhaps even over a lifetime. Shame in such minds gets transformed into guilt. If this is correct we can see exactly the attraction of a religion that will try to envelop or encapsulate these experiences into a grand narrative where these effects can be neutralized by appealing to ideas like forgiveness and salvation. The really interesting anthropological question here is whether psychoanalysis is a symptom of the dawn of a more advanced form of consciousness that refuses to be deceived by grand narratives and is concerned with only one narrative, that of my life: or is psychoanalysis the herald of a more advanced type of thinking which will eventually systematically understand the world?
A history major raised their hand:
“Are you saying that consciousness is basically historical?”
“Yes, in the sense in which history is a narrative, consciousness is a means of organizing a myriad of events into a meaningful structure. There is another perhaps more important sense of history in which we see events causing the creation of new historical structures such as a church and these in turn create unique historical events, such as its reformation. Consciousness has been “caused” in the Aristotelian sense by physical factors in the brain, cultural factors such as certain complex uses of language, and social activities. This in turn creates the capacity of thinking about reality under the aspect of what is true: powers of language building upon physiological powers and powers of thought building upon powers of language: powers building upon powers, capacities building upon capacities,”
Sophia raised her hand:
“A conclusion that can be drawn from the lectures we have attended thus far is that, in terms of History, we are children. This theory seems to fit in with Kant’s idea that we begin to be aware,in a different kind of way when we use the first person pronoun “I”. Can this be empirically tested in any way?”
“Good observation. Jaynes believes that consciousness is learned and that language plays a large role in this learning process. He also believes interestingly that the process begins at about two and a half years and concludes at approximately five to six years. The Freudians amongst us will recognize this to be the phallic phase in which the Oedipus complex works itself out and results in the construction of the superego, which is our moral guide. The Freudian superego is the consequence of internalizing the values of someone we have identified with: of someone we strive to be like. But, to return to your question, we live in a verbal environment with mental words and physical behavior. The child is learning concepts partly by learning the rules of words in language games. The accumulation of the rules creates a language that is more and more complex. The child also uses some kind of projective imagination to creatively use words in new unique contexts. The mother encourages the use of words before the rules are internalized but actually helps in the installation of rules by asking, for example “What should we do today?”, “Do you remember what we did last year for your birthday?” The mother is tagging or conceptualizing events in the time domain that includes clocks and calendars. She is sewing the seeds of consciousness with all these joint activities. Language becomes a retention device, for example, “the funny man next door” can act as a formula and help to form what the psychologists refer to as “episodic memory”, a type of memory the bicameral man did not possess. Kant talks about self-consciousness, a very different concept. Self -consciousness or consciousness of self is a complex cultural object that is the most important part of a person. We become aware of it in answer to the question “Who am I? an extremely abstract, reflective question. The self in technical philosophical language is the object of consciousness, it has a personal history which we infer from two sources, what other people say about us and the conclusion we draw when we reflect upon our own behaviour”
Robert raised his hand
“Consciousness seems to be a complex power, something similar to a function or mathematical operation. Was that not what you were suggesting earlier?”
“Yes, good point. Consciousness is complex. Jaynes calls it “the analogue I”. It is as Robert claims very much like a function. Here is an example. Imagine you are taking an examination and the girl across the aisle interrupts the activity by becoming the object of a short romantic fantasy. The invigilator comes up behind the student, coughs politely, and the student becomes conscious that he has been daydreaming and he must resume answering examination questions if he is to pass. Here the operator is operating twice—firstly, in fantasizing and in becoming conscious of fantasizing. Secondly, the operator is functioning to prevent my mind being taken over by what Freud would call wish fulfillment activity, or primary process activity, where images play freely in a truth-free zone. Returning to the examination is re-engaging with pre-conscious secondary process activity if we are to use Freudian language to describe these phenomena. Having said that, this seems to be a very technical definition of consciousness. A more common sense definition could be given by asking 12 people to tell you what they had been thinking of during the previous minute at the strike of a clock. These people would be introspecting according to Jaynes and their reports will be the typical material of consciousness. The notion of an “analogue I” is also meant to point to the importance of metaphor and analogy in language which according to Jaynes played such an important role in the beginnings of science in attempting to conceptualize matter and motion. Consciousness is not located in any real space but we do imagine it, or “feel” it to be located just behind our eyes. It is the analogue of the real world built up with metaphors or analogues of our behavior and activity in the physical world. This analogue world, however, is more like a world of operators bound up with our wills and decisions. Consider some of the metaphors we use to describe the processes of consciousness: we “see” the answers to questions, approach problems from different “perspectives”: we use spatial metaphors something is “on” my mind, or “burdening” my mind, or at the “back” of my mind. A metaphor for Jaynes is more than x merely being like y: it is a function in which important characteristics of y can then be projected upon x, and by doing so change its nature or function. The consequence of this reflection on consciousness being an analogue is that consciousness must have developed historically later than language and perhaps as a consequence of language. The only evidence we have which could settle this matter is writing which was invented in 3000 BC. This is what Jaynes uses to prove his cultural evolution thesis. His references to brain research are always complementary and never constitutive of what he is striving to demonstrate. His evidence stretches to the examination of thousands of cuneiform tablets where it becomes obvious that everything: cities, buildings, monuments, even people belonged to the Gods who often existed only in idol form. All early civilizations were theocracies without exception. It is important to point out in this context that a primitive tribe living in the jungle does not meet the criteria for a civilization or a theocracy. The bi-cameral age as Jaynes calls it began around 9000 BC, its breakdown occurred during the last centuries of the second millennium BC. In Greece at the time of Solon ca. 600 BC, consciousness emerges. In the Middle East, the prophet, Amos, around 800 BC, is clearly bicameral and Ecclesiastes a few hundred years later, with his conscious reflection upon the purposes of man and time, is clearly not.
Let me conclude with some observations about how important the cultural evolution of language is for this whole theory. Language learning begins with naming, which, as we have learned from Wittgenstein, requires some pre-linguistic stage setting. Responding differently to different objects in the environment results in these objects in their turn becoming discriminable foundations for perhaps more complex behavioural responses. Perceiving an object and naming it trains our attention and concentration. Speechless children like Helen Keller, prior to becoming language users, have great difficulty in focusing attention upon things and concentrating upon what is being said. Not only did Helen Keller’s behavioural repertoire increase in complexity but her memory began also to function, once her language capacities were sufficiently stimulated. Furthermore, comparison of the meanings of words become possible, an important skill needed in writing. Surely no one can deny that the quality of Helen Keller’s life dramatically improved once language learning was underway. The scope and depth of Jaynes’ account is far-reaching, ladies and gentlemen, and extends even to speculation upon how “incidental” early hominid signaling was transformed into intentional signaling, which in its turn then produced a system of differentiated signifiers.
I will not explore Jaynes’ ideas any further but strongly recommend reading the stencils related to his work in the course material.