Sixth Centrepiece Lecture from “The World Explored, the World Suffered: The Exeter Lectures”(Jude Sutton)

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Jude stood ready at the front of the lecture hall waiting for the students to arrive. He had not had a drink for a few days and he was feeling strange: a combination of anxiety and a numb trance- like state. He was looking down at his rather sparse notes which he had fished out of his waste paper basket, when Robert and Sophia arrived. He began the lecture exactly on time:
“Today I am going to talk about Science and the Theory of Knowledge. I begin with a quote from Aristotle’s “Nichomachean Ethics” which I believe I have mentioned before:
“Every art and every inquiry and similarly every action and choice seems to aim at some good, accordingly the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.”
“Let me say right away for those of you who have heard firstly, my ethical criticisms of some forms of science and, secondly, my criticisms of those scientists who believe that science is more concerned with exploration and experimentation than explanation and understanding, that I believe the pretensions of this subject exceed its achievements especially when it concerns the understanding of the human sphere of existence. I, of course, acknowledge the considerable achievement of scientists in the realm of physics, chemistry and biology and am keenly awaiting the general unified theory of all regions of Science, which is lacking at present
Let me also say that I am largely in agreement with both Plato and Aristotle’s definition of knowledge as Justified True Belief. In spite of the modern remonstrations of many scientists claiming that their theories only provide models of reality, which is probably true in the absence of a general unified theory, their aim must surely be at the good that in this context must be, understanding the truth. Aristotle as part of his method asks us to take heed of what the common man regards as the truth, because even here amongst common men if someone claims something to be true which they know to be false, it is said that such men lack understanding. Another aspect of Aristotle’s method is to consult the wise man who uses the same criterion as the common man, the only difference being that the wise man will be considerably more rigorous in his examination of his beliefs and will not cease his investigations until an understanding of principles is reached: principles which can be philosophically defended and justified.
Understanding is also aimed at in the so called practical sciences such as ethics where it is claimed that the good to be aimed at is related to our understanding of action and its relation to ultimate ends such as the flourishing life. The term used by the Greeks was eudaimonia that as mentioned earlier has unfortunately been problematically translated into the English term “happiness”. According to Aristotle the flourishing life lacks nothing and will therefore include both theoretical and practical understanding of reality. Through the flourishing man’s theoretical understanding of reality there will be an understanding of reality as an infinite continuum that brings with it a realisation that one of the problems with searching for a general unified theory of all physical phenomena, is that these phenomena are conceptualisable in different ways. It may be useful in this respect to talk about the mathematical scientists’ activity of describing and explaining motion in the world. He regards the motion as starting at a particular point and as coming to rest at another. These points divide the infinite continuum of space into a discrete length or unit. The motion thus traces a line in infinite space between the two points. The distance may be measured purely spatially in terms of length or more complexly in terms the time the motion takes. The scientist may proceed further and using a category of his understanding, namely causality, ask the question “What caused the motion?” In the inanimate physical world the cause would lie outside the object that was moving. If the object moving was a billiard ball, and had been caused by the impact of another billiard ball, we can continue asking the causal question until we arrive at a cue striking the ball, and a man acting to bring about the first movement. We can, that is, map a history of motion in a theatre of space all the way to the biological flexions and contractions of the muscles of the billiard player’s body, the chemical actions and reactions, in and amongst the cells involved, and the chemical elements involved. Notice how the transcendental question of causation that, by the way, is not directly derived from experience as Hume so acutely proved, is organising this whole field of experience. The field can also be organised by so called metaphysical laws such as matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed and, which like transcendental categories such as causality or transcendental intuitions of space and time, cannot in themselves be experienced but function as conditions of experience. If we wished to completely map the psychological theatre of human space we might begin to look at a non- physical elements such as the choice of a human to play billiards, to focus their attention on just this segment of the billiard table in order to play their shot, in order to score points in order to win the billiard game, in order to win some money, in order to pay the rent, in order to have a safe base to bring up the family etc. etc. Had the billiard player lost the game and lost his money for the rent we could have then posed the ethical ought- question: “ought he to be gambling and risking the security of his family?” Notice now the difference between the physical and non- physical chains of causation: notice how the former seem to move backward in time until we encounter a source and notice how the former “causes” stretch forward in time in order to rest at an end. With the introduction of the action and choice of an agent we leave the domain of the forever fluctuating continuum of the physical world and enter into the world of the mind or soul which can perceive think and reason in relation to its actions. We encounter therewith a stream of reality where the principle of movement no longer lies outside of the object moving but rather within the moving object. The human billiard player is not caused to move by outside forces as he would be if he fell off a cliff, but rather causes himself to move by amongst other things his tactical and strategic thoughts concerning which ball to play and how to position his white after the play in order to pot as many balls as possible and win the game. His actions occur in the field of physical causes and these can be investigated by the sciences mentioned above. The billiard ball of course is an artifact and has therefore a mixed theoretical and practical history that would take us outside the immediate theatre of the game of billiards. The same is true of the agent who is a composite of causes of different kinds. We have referred in earlier lectures to the importance of Aristotelian hylomorphism in our explanations of such diverse kinds of phenomena. In a complex human situation such as the game of billiards all 4 causes or kinds of explanation will be needed for a complete explanation and understanding of all of the phenomena involved. Two kinds of explanation will be needed for the material involved in the motion and the immediate proximal causes of the bringing about of motion in the game. Two of the causes or kinds of explanations will refer to the intentions, tactics and strategies tied up with the agents involved in the game and also perhaps to life projects and plans extending beyond the space-time continuum of the game. These latter two types of explanation will combine what Aristotle called the formal and final causes. All 4 causes are interwoven.”
Robert raised his hand and asked:
“Is there a science of game-playing?
“Interesting question given the fact that you major in Physical Education. Aristotle used the term “Science” much more broadly than contemporary science would countenance. For him there were the theoretical sciences, the practical sciences and the productive sciences. We moderns need to bear in mind that the word “aitiai” in Greek, which we translate as “cause”, actually bears the meaning of the basis or ground for something. Aristotle’s 4 cause’s schema then translates into 4 kinds of foundation or explanation. Modern science would probably reject at least one if not two of these foundations. The formal cause or foundation in contemporary science is certainly of secondary importance in comparison to the material cause or foundation. The inner structural organisation of the material will explain the forms it takes and not vice versa. To the physicist the teleological movement forward to an end instead of backward to a source will be an anthropomorphic view of the process of material motion. To the biologist the study of animate forms of life must involve teleological explanation that in its turn perhaps involves a hierarchy of principles all moving the organism towards maturity or a flourishing life or telos. Perception and locomotion needs are integrated with nourishment growth and reproduction needs. If one needs the language of mathematics to express everything here perhaps one can say that the flourishing life equation will be composed of the values of these variables. Now to directly answer your question: animals do not engage in game playing in general or billiards in particular but in terms of our human playing billiards, Aristotle would examine these activities in accordance with their contribution to a form of life which has a need for theoretical understanding of the world, a need for acting with the best practical intentions, and he would investigate how these higher level activities transform and integrate with such lower level activities as nutrition, growth and reproduction. To take just one example: the flourishing human life would engage in having friends for dinner and conversation where all manner of things would be discussed and reasoning about these things would occur. After dinner activities may include billiards or cards or other games where the point of the activities will be to show ones knowledge or skill by playing well: winning or losing gracefully and in the latter case hopefully having learned something in the process of losing. All of this will occur as part of the flourishing life—the full account of which we will get only by combining both Aristotle’s and Kant’s thoughts about the matter. For Aristotle, Ethics is a practical science and involves practical modes of understanding. For Kant, Ethics is logical and systematic and the following of principles of action is not merely connected to pleasure, as is the case with game playing: for Kant one has an obligation to follow the principles of ethics as a matter of character. So, in answer to your question, there can be a science of game playing but only in relation to the broader meaning of “science” embraced by Aristotle. But someone who thinks that theoretical science with the rules of procedure which constitute its method can explain game playing is confusing the theoretical with the practical.”
A Science major raised their hand and asked:
“But surely has not science shown time and again that reducing a whole to its parts and examining the functioning of those parts is the road to discovering important things about the whole. Was it not Aristotle who divided the phenomenon of the weather into four elements and two processes: earth, water, air, fire, hot and cold, wet and dry?
“In a sense the infinite continuum has to be divided but the question is how and into what kinds of parts. Perception obviously begins the process on the basis of discriminating differences, and the understanding subsequently unites the manifold parts under a basic unit of thought whose basic function is to connect things. Thought can connect particulars such as those that make up the meaning of the name Socrates, and particulars which have something in common with each other such as the past present and future exemplars of wise people…”
The Science major interrupted:
“It would be useful to know what mechanisms are involved in the thinking of universals.”
“The process begins with experience and memory of, for example, manifold exemplars of men which are initially discriminated by the processes of perception but then subsequently these differences are abstracted away and the exemplars are subsumed under one concept or term which we call “man”. Perception itself becomes organised in this process and we learn to perceive wholes on the basis of having conceived these wholes. These processes or mechanisms allow us then to move on to the next stage of thought when we say or think that “Socrates is mortal”: this latter is a true judgment that has the structure of thinking something about something. This stage of the process allows propositions to be connected in valid arguments and it also allows demonstrations or proofs to be constructed and understood. This would very roughly be Aristotle’s account. The point of all processes for Aristotle must be connected to actualising forms potentially contained in the material concerned. Remember that he was committed to an idea of matter that lacked form and as such matter was something fundamentally indefinite, which cannot therefore be thought to have a nature. To return to your weather example: a weather system is obviously an organised system containing 4 elements and two processes. Take any of these elements or processes out of the system and the remaining elements would behave in different ways. The so called elements in themselves will not be pure material but rather be form-ed . This can actually be more clearly seen if we focus our attention on biological life forms: on animals and their parts, for example bones, limbs, heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, brain etc. which in themselves are composites of form and matter. Confronted with these parts we have a choice posed by the modern chemist or the ancient biologist, Aristotle: we can move backward in time linearly and look for the material cause, eventually resting at the material of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen nitrogen, sulphur, phosphate and a few trace materials: we could, however on the other hand look instead for the formal and final cause, proceeding forward in time and discovering that these parts are in service of the life principle of the organism if we are dealing with the parts of non- rational animals or, alternatively, the flourishing life principle if we are dealing with the parts of rational animals.
Robert raised his hand:
“So Aristotle is definitively saying that the body is there for the sake of the soul”
“Yes, this would be essential to his holistic program. He would seriously question any analysis of the whole into parts that did not have reference to the whole. Saying as some scientists do that bodies are merely swarms of particles would have been incoherent as far as Aristotle was concerned.”
Robert continued:
“What about the slogan “Mens sana in corpore sano”?”
Well Latin may be regarded as a classical language but its translation of Greek terms has not always been very useful for scholars seeking to academically reconstruct Greek thought. The above quote seems to be neutral on the question of the priority of its elements. It may, that is, be purely descriptive and translatable into the dualist statement “A healthy mind in a healthy body” or more neutrally “a healthy mind healthily embodied”. The quote also, I suppose raises the question of the relation of the mind to the soul. Some commentators feel the two terms are identical, but I think that identification is mistaken. The soul, for me, is the more universal comprehensive idea because it more naturally includes the idea of something physical as a substrate and bearer of potentialities that will be actualised during a complex process of development. I say, “includes” here but perhaps the better term would be “regulates”, not in the way something physical regulates something else physical but rather in the way in which a law regulates an event. On this continuum of development powers will build upon powers and lead the organism from merely being alive to the possession of a flourishing life. These powers or capacities will include discriminatory perception, conceiving, the perceiving of something as something, the thinking of something and the thinking something about something, and finally, acting, in order to bring about the various forms of the good. To use the concept of a mind here appears to be unnecessarily cumbersome because it seems more difficult to think of the mind as containing an idea of the body as Spinoza hypothesized. It also seems difficult to believe that the mind can be the bearer of powers or capacities. The term “mind” goes back to Old English and perhaps there was this non- physical spiritualist aspect already present in the old English use of the word, or alternatively, it could have been the Latin translation which introduced the spiritualist connotation. There also seems to be a natural tendency to attribute minds to humans only. It does not, for example, make sense to say of animals that they have lost their mind. This particular fact inclines one to the position that mind is a power, but a power of what? The body? The person? I do not deny that some of these difficulties will also haunt the idea of the soul. If animals cannot lose their minds in the way humans can, then this may suggest that frogs either are not capable of leading flourishing lives or that the word “flourishing” in the context of animals has purely a biological significance.
Let me conclude by distancing myself from the flat world of the billiard table, where the event of one billiard ball impacting another encourages the idea that we are witnessing two events happening and not just one holistic change. Aristotle takes us to the building- site to reflect upon such matters: houses are built on building sites, and, according to Aristotle there is only one activity going on and that is the builder building the house. One change is occurring. The divided whole, namely, the builder building and the finished house are theoretically possible at a descriptive level. But we should not then proceed from this theoretical possibility to ask about the practical relation between the two events. Answers will necessarily be two-dimensional and appeal to billiard- ball kinds of mechanisms linking these two “imaginative hypotheticals”. This process of the house being built is teleological. The process is conceptualized in terms of the end of the activity, or the good being brought about by the activity. Proceeding in the opposite direction in search of a linear regression and asking about the event preceding the part of the activity one is currently perceiving will cut the whole process into unrecognizable ribbons. One terminus of such a scientific regression could end somewhat paradoxically in Platonism. Here the search may end up at an idea of the house in the builders mind. Another possible outcome of this scientific regression is that the process is broken into so many fragments that no principle uniting them into a whole activity can be thought of or imagined. In the attempt to frantically re-introduce the whole into the fragments, mereological fallacies are committed such as “the brain understands language”: which a number of brain researchers believe to be true. A brain is a part of a man but only a man understands language. You can try, as some have, to avoid the issue by placing “understand” in quotation marks but that will not help matters. You will also need to make highly artificial stipulations to the effect that “by “understand” I mean that such and such brain circuits will jump into operation. Neural circuits of course jump into operation when I perceive a cat, or move a muscle or eat my food or when I am pricked by a pin. When this is pointed out the neural scientist then sets out to find differences between neural circuits. That is, he tries to find an Aristotelian form embedded in the neural circuits. The whole investigation at this point has become so convoluted that the philosopher does not have the heart to tell the scientist he is looking in the wrong place. Next week we will continue this Odyssey when we ask whether the Human Sciences or Psychology can contribute anything to this epistemological debate. Psychologists, when they detached themselves from Philosophy in 1870 took two life rafts with them: one was the method of science which we have discussed almost ad infinitum not to mention ad nauseam, and they also took a second life raft: the concept of consciousness. Will this method and the concept of consciousness permit a reunification of the two subjects or will we find in this concept, the attempt to restore dualism in more modern dress. What we will find is that there is a refusal to reduce red to anything physical: whether it be angstrom units or neural circuits but there is also a subsequent problem of defining consciousness so that it can be the home of holistic powers such as reasoning and the home of simple qualities such as the perception of the quality of redness. Now, the perception of red whilst being very physically dependent upon physical substrata is nonetheless never identical with such substrata.
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts or, perhaps more accurately the parts are less than the sum of the whole.

Finally I would like to recommend two impending events. Tomorrow our resident Welsh genius Dr. Glynn Samuels will be giving a lecture entitled “The World suffered and the world explored”. This will be the opening lecture of a series of four on Religion, Philosophy, and Education. The first lecture is open invitation in the lecture hall but the following lectures will require a signing up process. I believe there are only eighty places available. The second event will be a series of seminars given by Dr. Harold Middleton on “The Psychological aspects of the world suffered and the world explored”.

Critique and Commentary of “Homo Deus”(Yuval Noah Harari) from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part One: Humanism and the new human agenda.

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Humanity, Harari argues, is in the process of recreating itself during the twenty first century. It is no longer threatened by the kinds of catastrophe that have haunted mankind for tens of thousands of years namely, famine, plague and war. These are problems, it is claimed, that are fading into insignificance because man with his pragmatic/scientific approach to problems has largely eliminated them as global threats. Harari concedes firstly, that there are still hundreds of millions on the earth living below what is regarded by civilised countries as the “existence minumum”, secondly that there is still the risk, however small of locally restricted infections(Ebola–responsible for 11000 deaths). He must surely also admit to there being the risk of a conventional war in some regions of the globe and also to the fact that this possibility has probably marginally increased since his work was published. We are in agreement, however, that insofar as the humanist view of these matters is concerned there has largely been significant progress in world affairs.

The difference between the humanists perspective and that of the author’s is that the humanist is, in spite of what they see to be the slow march of progress, acutely aware of the fact that there are many important respects in which man is not living up to his potential. The humanist is aware that in this disenchanted world, there is a great deal of suffering and injustice which cannot be addressed by the mechanisms and methods that have brought about the changes in our physical well-being and health Harari refers to. The humanist is aware improvements have been made in the material quality of our life by knowledge of general biological, medical and political facts such as that bacteria and viruses cause disease, famines can be avoided with better political organisation, and even conventional wars have disastrous consequences for everybody. But the humanist is also acutely aware that these achievements have not been characterised by an corresponding level of psychological contentment: a fact which probably has its explanation in the “mythical” Apollo’s two challenges for humanity and the humanist, namely “nothing too much” and “know thyself”. The claim, for example that the peace we are experiencing today is not merely a temporary respite from war but is rather a peace based on the assumption that war is almost inconceivable today may manifest a misunderstanding of what might transpire in the future if Apollo’s warnings of “nothing too much” and “know thyself” are not heeded. Ignorance of both of these ethical imperatives were certainly among the causes of the two first world wars of the last century and just because 70 years have elapsed with a manifestly downward trend in the statistics of violence this in itself is not cause for celebration or the announcement of new human agendas. The global forces that are operating in global development (and ethics and knowledge(in the Aristotelian sense) are two of these forces) are involved in an unseen war the outcome of which is uncertain because outcomes from this kind of conflict of global processes are measured in millennia rather than centuries(causing Kant to tentatively suggest that the conflict will be resolved in 100,000 years)

Harari in an attempt to explain our “good fortune” claims the following:

“We have managed to bring famine plague and war under control thanks largely to our phenomenal economic growth, which provides us with abundant food, medicine, energy and raw materials. Yet this same growth destabilises the ecological equilibrium of the planet in myriad ways, which we have only begun to explore.”(p23)

Not to mention the effect on our psychological equilibrium which Freud was beginning to register in his consulting rooms at the end of the nineteenth century. Apollo must be heaving a melancholic sigh at the sight of “too much” and “Ignorance of oneself”.

This work formulates a definition of humanism which inexplicably includes a desire to become divine. This is a misunderstanding of what key humanist thinkers such as Aristotle and Kant have had in mind when they spoke of the divine. Both thinkers through reasoning(neither believed in revelation) arrived at the conclusion that our reason was the presence of the divine in us in a finite form(Kant referred to what was holy about our will). Our finitude necessitated observing imperatives such as those uttered by Apollo or found in our religious texts. These imperatives were not, however orders which we blindly obeyed but rather prescriptions for which there were good reasons to obey that we could fathom if we led the life of contemplation that both philosophers recommended.The finite could never become the infinite and anyone possessing the desire to actually become divine would for these thinkers have been a sign of insanity and a candidate for treatment on Freud’s couch.

So, given our “good fortune” and the fact that three of the major threats to humankind are no longer global threats, what will humankind use its cognitive capacities to focus on in the future?:

“What else will humanity strive for? Would we be content merely to count our blessings, keep famine, plague and war at bay, and protect the ecological equilibrium?That might indeed be the wisest course of action, but humankind is unlikely to follow it. Humans are rarely satisfied with what they already have. The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more. Humans are always on the lookout for something better, bigger, and tastier. When humankind possesses enormous new powers and when the threat of famine plague and war is finally lifted, what will we do with ourselves?…humanity’s next targets are likely to be immortality, happiness and divinity.”(p23)

Harari has no clear conception of normative values to assist in the interpretation of the phenomena he discusses. The conception of normative value we need to appreciate if we are to evaluate the phenomena discussed correctly comes from the mythical figure of Apollo and from Aristotle , Kant and their followers. The imperative mode of normative discourse proclaims what ought to be the case. Apollo probably saw countless examples of the hubris of man all around him and his imperatives were explicitly designed to mobilise the normative knowledge of the wise men of the community to lead flourishing lives instead of the lives of restless pursuit of a cluster of desires which were multiplying out of control. This normative knowledge is necessary if a correct diagnosis of the human conditions is to be recorded. Apollo might have been mildly surprised that our hubris had in fact infiltrated one of the branches of our knowledge to such an extent that it had produced weapons of mass destruction which had actually been used for the annihilation of non combatant civilians but he would also have been able to point to his imperatives as the reasons for this state of affairs.

Of course it is a fact that humans in general crave more and more if the culture around them does not normatively via the use of imperatives and reasoning regulate this vicious multiplication of desires. But facts are not themselves regulative in this situation. That is, it is not true that just because this is how humans in general behave that this is how they ought to behave. Normative knowledge is what regulates this states of affairs and allows humankind to know the facts about themselves but transcend these facts with what Harari refers to as wise judgement and behaviour. Speculating upon what excesses and deficiencies will lead to in terms of the cause-consequences frameworks of the businessman and the scientist, will merely ignore the role of the normative(the ethical) and the role of knowledge in the bringing about of happiness as a result of leading the flourishing life.

Humankind will seek after immortality Harari argues because death is no longer an ethical telos at the end of life but rather a technical problem which science(wearing the same white coats they wore whilst splitting the atom) will eventually “solve”. Fear of death or the survival instinct(the wish not to die under any circumstances) are equated and perhaps those are the only alternatives if one regards the human condition as primarily determined by its biology. There is, however, a psychological level above that which may even wish to die peacefully or be prepared to even die violently by ones own hand. The one level is related to the other and the relation is complex, far more complex than is acknowledged in this work. This notion of levels does not stop here but reaches up to the social and political conditions of our existence. Reducing the human condition to its biological substrate of course enables one then to regard death as a scientific problem to be solved. It also enables one to view the acceptance of death as a result of leading a full life which has been , as the Bible puts it, “full of years”, and those committing suicide by their own hand, as anomalies to be explained by the physiological sensations these groups of people feel.

Of course one needs more than a primitive utilitarian theory to explain what is going on in the complex human relation to death but this is what we are provided with by Harari. He cites Bentham’s Psychological theory of being ruled by two sovereign masters, pleasure and pain. Harari concedes that the happiness principle which subsequent utilitarians have extracted from Bentham’s pleasure-pain rule at some point will have to admit that happiness is determined by expectations. Yet, contrary to the humanist position that peoples expectations are real and determining factors of almost everything important that we engage in, Harari wants to regard these expectations as subjective and reduce them to our biochemistry:

“On the biological level, both our expectations and our happiness are determined by our biochemistry, rather than by our economic, social or political situation…We never react to events in the outside world but only to sensations in our own bodies. Nobody suffers because she lost her job, because she got divorced or because the government went to war. The only thing that makes people miserable is unpleasant situations in their own bodies…people are made happy by one thing and one thing only–pleasant sensations in their bodies.”(p40-41)

Firstly one ought to note that there is a difference between situations where expectations are embedded in a cognitively structured situation such as education where one is learning much because of the expectations of the teacher and emotional situations such as those described by Harari. Emotions are as we have learned from William James producing psychological effects from physiological disturbances. But not everything psychological is caused by a physiological disturbance. The “psychological” use of Knowledge, for example is related to truth which in its turn refers to an object and not the sensations which the objects cause to occur in us. Normative knowledge, i.e. knowledge of what we ought and ought not to do is based on action and its intentions and not on the kinaesthetic sensations accompanying action or sensations(if there are any) connected to the formation of intentions.

Harari rightly points out the transitoriness of sensations:

“The bad news is that pleasant sensations quickly subside and sooner or later turn into unpleasant ones.”(p42)

This is the “fault” of evolution it is claimed because our biochemistry is attuned not to our happiness but rather to our survival. Let us be clear here about the nature of our criticism. It is not being denied that underlying everything we do is a physiological substrate. Humans are, as Piaget pointed out, sensory-motor systems. Piaget was influenced both by Aristotelian assumptions(being a biologist himself) and Kantian Philosophical Psychology which distinguished between that which happens to man(which involves sensations and sensory experiences) and that which man freely does(involving the sensory-motor system). This means for example that action involving the motor system can regulate the sensory system. The role of thought in this process is not sensation related but rather related to the objects of action, that is to the reality one is intending to change. Aristotle and Kant, both believed that what we do is subject to an evaluation system much more complicated than the survival imperative and also that this evaluation system is more a matter of thought and its objects than the private sensations of individuals. It is also worth pointing out in this case that were emotions to be based only on sensations and not also the behaviour elicited, third person descriptive language about them would not be possible, as Wittgenstein and many other philosophers have pointed out.

Harari then argues that if it is true that happiness is essentially a biochemical matter then “the only way to ensure lasting contentment is by rigging this system”. We could also, it is argued, send electrical signals to the brain.

There is a then a brief discussion about the efficacy of Buddhist meditation and its supposed goal of merely reducing our craving for pleasant sensations the following is the conclusion:

“At present humankind has far greater interest in the biochemical solution. No matter what the monks in their Himalayan caves or philosophers in their ivory towers say, for the capitalist Juggernaut, happiness is pleasure. Period.With each passing year our tolerance for unpleasant sensations decreases, and our craving for pleasant sensations increases. Both scientific research and economic activity are geared to that end.”

So, the new human agenda is going to be determined by the capitalist juggernaut and the norm-free scientist who has never probably even heard of the mythical thousand headed monster of the ancient Greeks whose heads keep multiplying in accordance with the growth of the desires of the monster.

These scientists will be engaged on reengineering the mind of Homo Sapiens and at this point we will achieve the status of gods. Homo Sapiens will become Homo Deus. This is inevitable it is argued because, if we apply the brakes to this process, the economic systems of the world will collapse based as it is on a logic of endless growth and an endless number of projects. Apparently Eugenics the favourite project of the Nazis will also make a comeback.This in spite of the fact that it is claimed that we study history in part in order to shake ourselves free from its “logic” based on the assumption that the past must be like the future.

In this discussion it is clear that Humanism is a straw man erected for the purposes of the impending bonfire. It is not true as is claimed that the projects of humanism have been a striving for immortality divinity and happiness. The humanism of Aristotle, Kant and Wittgenstein all acknowledge the essential finitude of man, they all acknowledge an inevitable death and a long long period of time before mankind as a species can achieve lasting happiness. The humanist is not an atheist nor is he a blind believer in the popular idea of God. He is a believer in blind justice which does not distinguish between classes or races in the dispensation of justice. He is a believer in knowledge and ethics both of which are steered by reason and both of which are global processes required to achieve a global community: in other words he believes in norm defined progress. The humanist is not a desperate pessimist or a reckless optimist, he is a man leading a contemplative reflective flourishing life.

INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY COURSE: Aristotle Part 6 ( Productive Sciences: Art and Tragedy)

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Jonathan Barnes in an essay entitled Rhetoric and Poetics in the Cambridge Companion to Aristotle argues the following:

“An art is a body of knowledge, practical in aim but systematic in organisation, in which particular theorems and precepts are shown to follow from a relatively small set of fundamental truths.”

This may be an over-theoretical account of a realm of human activity which resembles more the realm of practical science than the realm of theoretical science but it has the advantage of manifesting the relation of art to truth which is often forgotten in the hasty retreat to the realm of experience which is a key concern of the arts. Aristotle insisted upon a threefold distinction of sciences: Theoretical, Practical and Productive. But he did not envisage that the practical and the productive sciences would have no connection with the truth.
The human activity of Art, is an activity of mimesis or imitation. Art is imitation Aristotle argues, not of external nature but rather of mans mind, in particular his character, emotions and actions. But why does one desire to imitate? Because firstly,there is both an instinct to imitate demonstrated in the fact that humans distinguish themselves from animals partly in the fact that they learn from other humans by imitating them and secondly because we take delight in imitations. But what then is the telos, the purpose of these mimetic productions? The creation and appreciation of art must be related of course to the flourishing life and its explorations of regions of our mind that seek for understanding with universal intent. The idea of the good object is obviously of major significance in the arena of artistic activity and must be related to both its intellectual and emotional aspects. “Universal intent” here obviously refers to organising our experiences such that we connect emotions and actions that should be connected and differentiate between emotions and actions where there are real differences. Such organisation also entails an understanding of the role of the subject and the role of the object in this process of trying to fathom the depths of the mind. If we are to believe Psychoanalysis, at the bottom of these depths lie the shipwrecks of our experience scattered on the ocean bed and the connection of these fragmented experiences are often not real or as Freud put it, in accordance with the Reality Principle. Death trumps life in such scenes of the unreal.

According to Adrian Stokes in his essay “The Invitation in Art”:

“Structure is ever a concern of art and must necessarily be seen as symbolic, symbolic of emotional patterns, of the psyche’s organisation with which we are totally involved……Patterns and the making of wholes are of immense psychical significance in a precise way even apart from the drive towards repairing what we have damaged or destroyed outside ourselves……in every instance of art we receive a persuasive invitation…we experience fully a correlation between the inner and the outer world which is manifestly structured. And so the learned response to that invitation is an aesthetic way of looking at an object.”

The common element tying all three sciences together is , according to Jonathan Lear in his work on Aristotle, the desire to understand. Man is not satisfied by facts alone, Aristotle claims, he seeks the justifications for these facts, man wishes to know both what and why. The Why could be the principle which would be revealed by the four kinds of explanation outlined in the Metaphysics.

Hylomorphic theory has been haunting aesthetics from the time of Aristotle up to and including the Critical writings of Adrian Stokes. In this theory we have a theory of how the complex human being is teleologically driven in a process of actualisation/development where powers build upon and integrate with other powers beginning from the level of the biological moving to the level of self consciousness via perception, memory and language and terminating in the telos of the actualisation of the potential of rationality in the spheres of practical and theoretical reasoning. This process will obviously involve the holistic organisation of the sensible and intellectual parts of the mind that occurs in symbolic aesthetic encounters with symbolic aesthetic objects. The Desire to understand these parts of the mind is for Aristotle part of the idea of the flourishing life. In a discussion of the representation or imitation of terrible events like death Aristotle points to the interesting fact that even if pity and fear may be involved this occurs under an all encompassing attitude of the desire to learn something from these represented events. Indeed this may be the “mechanism” of the famous Aristotelian “catharsis” where it is insisted that pity and fear are purged or purified. The suggestion here is that the situation of these negative emotions in a positive context transforms them into positive elements of the experience.

The Arts are divided by Aristotle into two categories: those associated with material such as paint stone etc and those associated with “voice”: the former being spatial objects and the latter temporal objects which, include the use of music which is suggestive of various uses of language. The use of language however is not demonstrative as is the case with the theoretical sciences but rather the artistic use of language is in accordance with a technical process designed to instrumentally bring about an effect which given our instinctive delight in imitations must be related to the experience of pleasure. The pleasure involved would seem, however, to be a contemplative reflective pleasure and presumably not the kind of pleasure that we might get at the technical creation of a table for a particular use. Such an act of creating a table will not require the kind of systematic knowledge required for the production of an art object. This is connected to the fact that tables are generic objects whereas art-objects have a uniqueness condition tied to their creation. A table can be an imitation of another table but an imitation of another art object merely encourages a negative judgment and a loss of interest in the object. Also a table is not symbolic of anything else as is a classical image of a man in a classical pose of serenity. Such classical images symbolise the importance of the contemplative or reflective life as well as the importance of the independent self sufficiency of ideal humans in an ideal world. Both of these aspects are so important to the Aristotelian ideal of the flourishing life. One imagines obviously a connection to Philosophy and a reflective use of language in accordance with the slow measured music of self sufficient independent argument Contrast this with our modern art which Stokes claims issues from a depressive anxiety reaction to the loss of good objects in an environment dominated by gasometers and towers. All one can aesthetically do in such an environment is to ignore or accept the offending objects. The invitation of such objects is very different to that of the environment containing the Parthenon. Stokes , in this context, quotes the writings of Renoir’s son:

“We know that in Renoir’s opinion the ugliness of buildings towards the end of the nineteenth century and the vulgarity in design in articles in common use were of far greater danger than wars.”

Renoir himself says:

“We get too accustomed to these things and to such a point that we do not realise how ugly they are. And if the day ever comes when we become entirely accustomed to them, it will be the end of a civilisation which gave us the Parthenon and the cathedral of Rouen. Then men will commit suicide from boredom, or else kill each other off, just for the pleasure of it”(Renoir 1962)”

Impressionism, Stokes claims was a response to the aesthetic poverty of the streets of our cities and the desire in art to shock its audience thereafter stems, he argues from a response to a disjointed chaotic environment. Such reflections lead us to the inevitable conclusion that art must be a kind of therapy for both artist and appreciator. A thought echoed in his account of the catharsis of the emotions of pity and fear in our appreciation of tragedy.

Stokes is drawing attention to an aesthetic tragedy in the process of cultural evolution: a tragedy of which we are largely unaware given the momentum of the transformation of the physical transformation of our urban environments. What is the cause of our failure to use the knowledge we have had access to since Aristotle? Is the desensitising of the aesthetic aspects of our mind the major factor or it the case that we are witnessing the same relativism in this arena as we have witnessed in the ethical arena where the assumption of “utility” has trumped the idea of an actualising process that acquires its identity from a telos or end in itself which is unconditionally valuable. The Good aesthetic object and the good ethical action share an attitude toward tragedy which requires us to learn from them both. “Man desires to know” Aristotle claims in the Metaphysics. What can we know about tragedy after reading Aristotle’s “Poetics”?

Aristotle’s definition of tragedy is:

” the imitation of an action that is serious and complete, and which has some greatness about it. It imitates in words with pleasant accompaniments, each type belonging separately to the different parts of the work. It imitates people performing actions and does not rely on narration. It achieves through pity and fear, the catharsis of these feelings.”

A serious and complete action requires attention to both plot, character and thought. In the former the plot must tie all the elements together into a whole in which events occur “because of each other” and not merely in a reported narrative of ones life “after one another” There must be a beginning, a middle and an end in which there is space for the development of the plot where a good character as a result of a flawed action of considerable magnitude experiences a reversal of fortune and towards the end a recognition of what has happened and its causes and consequences. The plot shall not be too long but be of a magnitude which can be taken in by the memory. The beginnings and ends of tragedy should not be arbitrary but appropriate. The middle of the plot must be necessitated by the beginning and necessitate its end. The final cause of the tragedy is its cathartic effect upon the emotions of fear and pity which naturally arise as a consequence of what we are witnessing. The term catharsis obviously has medical connotations and one often forgets that the medical intention of purging was healing and this was the argument Aristotle made against the objection of Plato to the arousal of such emotions. The pleasure that supervenes upon the learning of what there is to learn in the tragedy occurs not in a frenzy of emotion but rather in the calm after the storm..

The resemblance of this process to what goes on in psychoanalytical therapy has often been mentioned. Sir David Ross in his work on Aristotle has the following to say on the process of catharsis:

“The process hinted at bears a strong resemblance to the “abreaction”, the working off of strong emotion, to which psychoanalysts attach importance. There is some difference however, to what they try to bring about in abnormal cases Aristotle describes as the effect of tragedy on the normal spectator. Do most men in fact go about with an excessive tendency to pity and fear?And are they in fact relieved by witnessing the sufferings of the tragic hero? That we somehow benefit by seeing or reading a great tragedy, and that it is by pity and fear that it produces its effect is beyond doubt: but is not the reason to be found elsewhere. Is it that people deficient in pity and fear because their lives give little occasion for such feelings are for once taken out of themselves and made to realise the heights and depths of human experience? Is not this enlarging of our experience, and the accompanying teaching of “self-knowledge and self-respect” the real reason of the value which is placed upon tragedy?”

The above refers to Aristotle’s learning process in the arena of ethical action. The arrival at the golden mean via a process of inductive trial and error learning is here applied to our emotions and their regulation. One can almost imagine that the terminal response imagined by Aristotle of the audience of the tragedy is well depicted in those sculptures of men in a state of contemplation. The reference to “abreaction” is perhaps only apt if it refers to the mental effects of the talking cure on anxiety levels once the troubling traumas or wishes are subjected to transformation in the memory by being consciously talked about. Catharsis in psychoanalysis differs from catharsis in art in that the former process is happening to the hero of the tragedy and the latter is happening to a disinterested spectator who is not viewing or conceptualising the chain of events as a particular series of events happening to a particular person but more generally and hypothetically: namely, “if someone does this kind of action is done then this kind of fate is the inevitable consequence”. Kant referred to this as “exemplary necessity” in his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.
The cathartic process of a patient involves a learning or “recognition” which increases ones own sense of self awareness that one cannot speak with a universal voice about. The cathartic process involved with tragedy on the other hand justifies the use of the universal voice because of the involvement of “exemplary necessity”.

Our modern tragedy of course is related to the failure of our present day culture to be able to speak with a universal voice about itself. Culturally, i.e. politically, ethically and aesthetically we appear to live in a disenchanted tragic world in which the voices of Aristotle, Kant and Freud and their followers are drowned out by the collective contradictory voices of the popular mythical thousand headed monster. The knowledge spoken of at the beginning of this lecture is no longer being taught. There are no rescuing heroes anymore and there is no catharsis for anyone in such circumstances, only disenchantment.

Critique and Commentary of “Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Ten: Intelligent Design

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A genetically engineered fluorescent green rabbit and a mouse with an ear on its back are cited as examples of the presence of intelligent design as a principle of life forms. Evolution, it is argued, as a biological limit and explanation comes to an end in the twenty first century. This so called principle of intelligent design is of course “scientific” intelligent design which raises the obvious question as to whether this is in accordance with the philosophical concept of intelligence. William James argues in his work “The Principles of Psychology” that the concept of intelligence is a descriptor of the “way” an intelligent life form does something or solves problems. His citation illustrates the principle of the freedom humans possess in choosing how to act. A magnet attracts iron filings but if you insert a cardboard strip in between the magnet and the strip the filings will never reach its goal. On the other hand, if Romeo is attracted by Juliet but her family places a fence between his goal and himself, he will find a way to eliminate the obstacle of the fence and find a way to his goal, Juliet. Intelligence, then, does not refer to any particular goal but rather to the way in which we achieve that goal which will include thinking critically about how to solve the problem. The iron filings when it reaches the magnet without any intervening obstacle is not intelligent.
In the light of these reflections one can wonder whether the use of the word “intelligent” in this principle of intelligent design is an appropriate term to use in relation to the insertion of genes into organisms that do not naturally possess these genes. If rabbits needed to be found in the dark or mice were hard of hearing then of course these feats of “engineering” would be motivated and may deserve the term “intelligent”. Indeed it seems difficult to even say whether there was any point to the “goal” that was achieved considering that no natural processes were involved. On the contrary, these experiments appeared to require disruption of natural processes. Of course these “experiments” are revealing of the practical reasoning capacities(or lack thereof) of the scientist. The whole process positively reeks of the lack of intelligence of earlier “experiments” such as the splitting the atom which managed to produce a weapon that could destroy humankind in a world war(One must admire the consistency of Science: if the universe began with a Big Bang human life might as well end with a little bang). There is, as has been pointed out on a number of occasions nothing in the scientist’s assumptions or methodology which will enable him to evaluate whether just because something can be done, it ought to be done or ought not to be done. The author has on a number of occasions used the term “imagination” in relation to nations, human rights etc which are intelligent “creations” of moral and political agents respecting the processes of cultural evolution from families to villages to city states to nations. For Aristotle this process was both organic and intelligent. It is exactly because science lacks the “tools” and concepts to describe the process of cultural evolution that Freud was forced to resort to mythology and its “Intelligent ” theory of what is important to mankind. Since the ancient greeks it has been observed that as soon as one divides a whole into its parts, its parts inevitably become opposites which then somehow need to be reconciled again. The “Intelligence” of the early Greek thinkers is revealed in the thoughts of those who had succumbed(as Socrates finally did) to the axiom of Anaxagoras that “All in mind” and everything that is not mind are finite things shaped from an infinite medium such as the major oppositions between hot and cold , wet and dry. This could be sustained theoretically because of a logic of the values of the finite in its relation to the infinite. Human minds are the principle of the carving of the manifold of finite things and processes out of the infinite mass of possible matter, energy, and experience. Here you will find no “imagination” of singularities such as the big bang where no laws of nature were operating because there was no time in which they could operate. For the Greeks and their way of thinking there may have been a Big Bang but something caused it and there was a time before the Big Bang when the conditions for the Big Bang were assembling themselves . The medium for this scenario was the infinite One, about which nothing could be said or thought. This idea can be found in some religions and mythologies. Freud’s use of the Platonic opposites of Eros(the creative force of life) and Thanatos(the destructive force of life) in an arena where the outcome will be determined by this infinite One or Ananke was an attempt to inject the philosophical spirit into his barren scientific hypotheses relating to the well being of his mentally ill patients. Nothing is said in this work by Harari of the miserable record of Science in the arena of mental illness. It took Freud and a number of other humanistically inclined therapists to clean this particular mess up. Even after the theorizing of Freud it is still a question as to whether the “scientists” dispensing their medicines today know what the goal is for those who are mentally ill. Remember this work “Sapiens” has maintained that ideas about the meaning of life are “delusions”. Women, of course, made up the largest number of the victims of “science” and its barren venture into the realm of mental illness.

In this final section of the book there are experiments suggested that bear the quality of schizophrenic hallucinations: the resurrection of Neanderthal man, the end of Homo Sapiens when the final singularity of our lives arrives at that point when all the concepts that make our lifeworld meaningful have become irrelevant:

“Anything happening beyond that point is meaningless to us”

The author here is imagining the scientific success of the creation of a race of Gods.

The problem with believing that almost everything of value is imagined is that almost anything can be imagined and value disappears in this process. Whatever criticisms one wishes to bring to bear on the process of mythical thinking it manages to preserve a world of value. The Freudian picture of the battle between the life creating forces and the aggressive destructive forces is an apt one to apply to the history of science, and by history I do not mean the virus the author takes it to be but that philosophically based intelligent narrative of the existence and value of things. One can imagine something good and under the influence of the dialectical logic of the opposites imagine the bad is an opposite that can never be related to any object that is good. Something that is good cannot be bad at the same time in the world of the imagination. These are two different things. And yet the mature ethical outlook of those leading flourishing lives is that there can be wholes that are both good and bad in different respects. Indeed these opposites are united in the wholes that are the source of different kinds of good once the explanation for what is imagined bad has been given. Psychoanalysis is the domain for this philosophical discussion of the holistic attitudes housing the practical reasoning concerning the good and the imagination of opposites that seem to demand the functioning of different instincts: the life instinct controlling what is good and the death instinct destroying or denying what is bad. Object relations theory operates in accordance with this logic of the wholes, the parts and the meaningful life and replaces the role of myth in the task of the explanation of value.

Critique and Commentary of “Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Nine: The Meaning of life

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The Industrial revolution, Harari argues :

“..opened the way to a long line of experiments in social engineering and an even longer series of unpremeditated changes in everyday life and human mentality. One example among many is the replacement of the rhythms of traditional agriculture with the uniform and precise schedule of industry. Traditional agriculture depended on cycles of natural time and organic growth. Most societies were unable to make precise time measurements, nor were they terribly interested in doing so. The world went about its business without clocks and timetables, subject only to the movements of the sun and the growth cycles of plants.”)pp394)

These experiments in social engineering dominated by the scientific methodology and scientific materialistic assumptions decoupled from both religious ethical and the ethical theories of philosophy that led to the concept of human rights eventually resulted in the bizarre totalitarian “experiments of Hitler and Stalin. What exactly is meant by an experiment relating to human mentality, however, is not clear. Is the suggestion that the Industrial revolution changed our mentality? If so, Science, which was a precursor and one of the theoretical conditions of the industrial revolution must have been a contributor to this change.Does Harari mean that we shifted to a state of discontentment because of the new disenchanted world we were forced to live in?

In practical terms, prior to the Industrial Revolution, the institution of care was the family which was:

“also the welfare system, the health system,the education system, the construction industry, the trade union, the pension fund, the insurance company, the radio, the tv, the newspapers, the bank and even the police.”(pp399)

What the family could not deliver was left to local community. Did this produce a general mentality or was it the case that there was merely a generalised attitude toward the family which caused Aristotle, for example, to characterise the family as the fundamental political unit of the society? According to Aristotle the family is not sufficient insofar as the needs of the individual is concerned and for him the meeting of these needs motivates the association of families into villages. Even villages cannot meet the complex needs of the human individual and this in its turn necessitates association into a city state which can meet even his more luxurious needs. For Aristotle it is the city that best provides the conditions necessary for Eudaimonia, the flourishing life.

Psychoanalysis was the psychological theory which truly examined the development of the emotions and personality in the context of the family but it also extended its theorising to examining “civilisation and its discontents” ending in a question as to whether all the work involved in building a civilisation is worth the effort. Freud’s analysis reached back into ancient Greek philosophy for its overarching powers or capacities of Eros, Thanatos and Ananke. These three mythical “forces” shape the battlefield of civilisation and the mentality of the individuals who are subject to fate as a consequence of the psychological powers of the life instinct and the death instinct(manifested partly in aggression). Freud’s theory, as we know moved from resting uneasily on quantitative considerations relating to energy distribution and the experience of pleasure and pain to the realm of meaning which better characterised analytical discourse. He refused to acknowledge that the world should be purified of its myths although of course he led one of the battles against religion in the name of “scientific psychology”. Later on in the work Harari is going to speak of delusions. In the light of the hallucinatory wish fulfilment connotations of this term in psychoanalytical theory we will return to Psychoanalysis when considering this claim. We will also return to Psychoanalytical theory when we consider the role of art(compared with science) in the shaping of our civilisation.

The collapse of the institutions of the family and the local community was motivated by Harari in the following manner:

“”Life in the bosom of family and community was far from ideal. Families and communities could oppress their members no less brutally than do modern states and markets, and their internal dynamics were often fraught with tension and violence–yet people had little choice. A person who lost her family and community around 1750 was as good as dead. She had no job, no education and no support in times of sickness and distress. Nobody would loan her money or defend her if she got into trouble. There were no policemen, no social workers and no compulsory education…..All this changed dramatically over the last two centuries. The Industrial Revolution gave the market immense new powers, provided the state with new means of communication and transportation, and placed at the governments disposal an army of clerks, teachers, policemen and social workers. At first the market and state discovered their path blocked by traditional families and communities who had little love for outside intervention. Parents and community elders were reluctant to let the younger generation be indoctrinated by nationalist education systems, conscripted into armies or turned into a rootless urban proletariat.”(pp401-2)

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, in 1781 Immanuel Kant wrote his first major work, “The Critique of Pure Reason” which pointed to the displacement of the idea of God with the idea of Freedom . This is of course a more positive observation in relation to the change of “mentality” of individuals: mentality here probably refers less to states of consciousness or moods of the individual and more to the individuals attitudes. On Kant’s theories this social change was a positive phenomenon although he was already pointing out the inadequacies of the nation state in relation to human rights and war. Just over one century, well into the era of the Industrial Revolution, Freud begins to address the issue of the mental health of citizens of nation states just at the time when they were embracing an “expansion at any price” business and marketing policy. His work “Civilisation and its Discontents” was a kind of judgment on the mentality of modern man living in his relatively modern industrialised nation states.Freud’s individual cases however very often exposed the shortcomings of the family and it was partly his work that contributed to the later movements which consequently thought in terms of the right a child has to a non-oppressive or brutal upbringing. Thanks to Freud’s work children too could free themselves from oppression and repression.But:

“..the liberation of the individual comes at a cost. Many of us now bewail the loss of strong families and communities and feel alienated and threatened by the power the impersonal state and market wielded over our lives. States and markets composed of alienated individuals can intervene in the lives of their members much more easily than states and markets composed of strong families and communities…..The deal between states, markets and individuals is an uneasy one. The state and the markets disagree about their mutual rights and obligations, and individuals complain that both demand too much and provide too little. In many cases individuals are exploited by markets and states employ their armies, police forces and bureaucracies to persecute individuals instead of defending them.”(pp403)

Insofar as states an markets interfere with the human rights of the individual there should be no doubt that this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. The medium of the market is finance and those who have finances to invest are obviously favoured over those that do not but this is not a matter of human rights or justice as long as the state has provided everyone with equal opportunity in the form of education etc States have signed the universal declaration of human rights and are subject to sanction if their citizens rights are systematically violated. Some people may feel alienated by not being able to be active investors or by unjustly treated but in the former case where the middle class capable of active participation in the investment market is growing and where there are more and more opportunities for education this is clearly an improving situation. These are clearly examples of the progress we are making. Feeling alienated in such a context may be a signal for one to contact ones therapist for a diagnosis. Harari argues that this alienation is the result of millions of years of living in families and communities: a result of evolution. We have become alienated individuals, he claims. He does not see what Kant already saw in the American and French revolutions that the individual is being freed from his chains He further argues that the market is putting chains on our ideas of romance and sex and here again he underestimates the power of freedom and knowledge to recognize and criticise the kind of stereotyping that occurs in the advertising world. There are dangers for the youth of the day but educational systems are well aware of this problem and tailor their messages accordingly.

Imagined communities, Harari argues are communities of people who do not know each other but imagine they do. He gives as examples kingdoms, empires and churches. But he also claims that the nation is an imagined community in which we imagine a common past, common interests and a common future:

“Like money, limited liability companies and human rights, nations and consumer tribes are inter-subjective realities. They exist only in our collective imaginations, yet their power is immense..”

These realities have been brought about partly by historical processes and physical factors that have nothing to do with the power of my imagination, for example, living in the same geographical territory for a long period of time under a government that both in one sense stays the same and in another sense changes. It is not even clear that we imagine in any sense the people we do not know. Is that even possible?

Many examples of the progress of our existence are discussed including the reduction in human violence both in state context and in a community context. States no longer invade each other after the second world war(with a few exceptions) partly because of what the author calls Pax Atomica: the guarantee of mutually assured destruction if the countries in question possess atomic weapons of mass destruction. This is, it is argued, “real peace and not just the absence of war”

The question that naturally emerges next is “Are we happy?” The author admits that this is not a question historians discuss. Perhaps not. But insofar as there are ethical assumptions operating in history is there not therefore indirectly a concern with happiness? The difficulty of answering this question is related to its ambiguity, i.e. related to the fact that happiness is a terms that means many different things. Harari to some extent acknowledges this:

“most current ideologies and political programs are based on rather flimsy ideas concerning the real source of happiness. Nationalists believe that political self determination is essential for our happiness. Communists postulate that everyone would be blissful under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Capitalists maintain that only the free market can ensure the greatest happiness of the greatest number by creating economic growth and material abundance and by teaching people to be self reliant and enterprising.”(p422)

Harari asks whether scientific research could contradict these assumptions and admits that there are few studies looking at the long term history of happiness and also that both scholars and laypersons only have a vague idea of what happiness is:

“In one common view, human capabilities have increased throughout history. Since humans generally use their capabilities to alleviate miseries and fulfil aspirations, it follows that we must be happier than out medieval ancestors, and they must have been happier than Stone Age hunter-gatherers. But this progressive account is unconvincing. As we have seen, new aptitudes, behaviours and skills do not necessarily make for a better life. When humans learned to farm in the Agricultural Revolution, their collective power to shape their environment increased, but the lot of many individuals grew harsher. Peasants had to work harder than foragers to eke out less varied and nutritious food, and they were far more exposed to disease and exploitation. Similarly the spread of European empires greatly increased the collective power of human kind by circulating ideas, technologies and crops, and opening new avenues of commerce. yet this was hardly good news for millions of Africans, Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians…Power corrupts..and as humankind gained more and more power it created a cold mechanistic world ill-suited to our needs.”(pp423)

Counterarguments to this position are presented and we only arrive at the crux of the matter which is that humankind ought to use their powers and capabilities ethically in the following quote:

“Philosophers, priests and poets have brooded over the nature of happiness for millennia, and many have concluded that social ethical and spiritual factors have as great an impact on our happiness as material conditions. Perhaps people in modern affluent societies suffer greatly from alienation and meaninglessness despite their prosperity. And perhaps our less well to do ancestors found much contentment in community, religion and a bond with nature.”(pp425)

The ethical factor will contest the primacy of happiness related as it is to desire rather than reason which determines how we use our capacities and powers. the discussion of happiness as the product of material factors such as health diet and wealth is rightly seeing that happiness is the consequence of a kind of activity of man but is wrongly identifying that activity in materialistic terms. It is, the Greeks and their followers and Kant and his followers claim, a product of rational/ethical activity. What it is that determines whether or not one is going to lead a flourishing life is the worthiness of the agent experiencing the happiness or flourishing life.

The worth of the agent will not be determined by the power of his imagination but rather the power of his practical reasoning in the sphere of ethical action.

The idea of a persons worth is not a subjective inner state but rather an objective universal matter to be determined by either virtue theory or Kantian deontological ethics. The definition:

“happiness is “subjective well-being.”

is subjectivizing an entire area of philosophy, namely, practical reasoning.
Having defined the flourishing life as something subjective we are then asked to attempt to “measure” this subjective well being by questionnaires which reveal that money brings happiness but only to a point: that family and community have more impact on our happiness than money or even our health. Apparently freedom which we value , according to these studies , is working against us because we may freely choose our spouses but they in turn may use their freedom to leave us. The outcome of this long and meandering discussion is that the questionnaires do not reveal causation but can only speak about the correlation of variables. The cause if happiness it is argued is chemical:

“determined by a complex system of nerves, neurones, synapses and various biochemical substances such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.”)pp432)

and then the following incredible statement is made:

“A person who has just won the lottery or found new love and jumps from joy is not really reacting to the money or the lover. She is reacting to various hormones coursing through her bloodstream, and to the storm of electric signals flashing between different parts of the brain.”

This is, to cut a long story short according to Wittgensteinian analytical philosophy, a confusion of the object of our state with its cause. It is true that in a sense the brain structures and chemistry are the to switch to an Aristotelian objection, material causes of our states but these do not enter into our consciousness of these states which is directed towards its teleological objects such as the money it has won or the person one loves. So, for Aristotle the confusion is between the different types of explanation or “causes” that can be used in relation to the phenomenon to be explained.

The author returns to a more philosophical account when he cites some research which seems to suggest that happiness is not related to desire or pleasure nut rather :

“consists in seeing ones life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile. There is an important cognitive and ethical component to happiness.”)pp438)

In the ensuing discussion, however it is suggested that any meaning which people ascribe to their lives is delusional!:

“So perhaps happiness is synchronising ones personal delusions of meaning with the prevailing collective delusions.”(pp438)

Psychoanalysis is the “science”(in the Kantian sense) of the states and processes of our mind and provides us with our best account of delusional states and processes. In this account it is very clear that the delusional states of mind which schizophrenics for example, experience, are primitive dysfunctional affairs in which there is an inadequate relation to reality. Suggesting that all ideas of a flourishing life or the meaning of life are delusional is a popular use of the term which undermines its more objective meaning. Of course one of the “mechanisms” of the schizophrenic’s delusional state of mind is the “imagination” that other people for example are listening to their thoughts. Given that for this author human rights, money, the nation state etc are figments of the imagination the whole account risks falling into a kind of psychological reductionism that serious psychologists like Freud manage to avoid.

Critique and Commentary of “Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Eight: The creed of greed in a disenchanted world.

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Max Weber claims that the Enlightenment creed of reason has failed to replace traditional religious world-views that once gave meaning and unity to life. All it has managed to do, Weber argues, is free us of our superstitions, prejudices and errors and create what he describes as ” a disenchanted world”: a world in which we solipsistically and selfishly pursue materialistic goals that have freed themselves of more universal value perspectives.
Thomas McCarthy the translator of Jurgen Habermas’ work “The Theory of Communicative Action” has the following to say about the Enlightenment:

“The Enlightenment’s belief in progress rested on an idea of reasons modelled after Newtonian physics which, with its reliable method and secure growth was thought to provide a paradigm for knowledge in general. The impact of the advance of science on society as a whole was not envisioned in the first instance as an expansion of productive forces and a refinement of administrative techniques but in terms of its effect on the cultural context of life. In particular the belief –for us today, rather implausible–that progress in science was necessarily accompanied by progress in morality, was based not only on an assimilation of the logics of theoretical and practical questions but also on the historical experience of the powerful reverberations of early modern science in the spheres of religion, morals and politics. The cultural rationalisation emanating from the diffusion of scientific knowledge and its emancipatory effect on traditional habits of thought–the progressive eradication of inherited “superstitions, prejudices, errors”–formed the centre of an encompassing rationalisation of social life, which included a transformation of political and economic structures as well.”

Habermas’ response to this modern “disenchanted” state of affairs was to–as he saw it–shift the centre of gravity of theory from the explorations of the powers of consciousness to an exploration of the powers of action and language or communicative action. Communicative action aims at consensus as a result of arrival at a situation of mutual understanding in our common lifeworld. The problem is that there are also steering media in society which attempt to coordinate actions. Habermas characterises this state of affairs in the following manner:

“the transfer of action coordination from language over to steering media means an uncoupling of interaction from lifeworld contexts. Media such as money and power attach to empirical ties: they encode a purposive-rational attitude toward calculable amounts of value and make is possible to exert generalised strategic influence on the decisions of other participants while bypassing processes of consensus-oriented communication. Inasmuch as they do not merely simplify linguistic communication but replace it with a symbolic generalization of rewards and punishments, the lifeworld contexts in which processes of reaching understanding are always embedded are devalued in favour of media steered interactions:the lifeworld is no longer needed for the coordination of action.”(Volume two of “The Theory of Communicative Action”, p183)

Money and Power are steering mechanisms of the systems of economics and Politics. Habermas is continuing a long tradition of philosophical criticism of these instrumental tools of money and power stretching from Socrates Plato and Aristotle and their followers to Kant the Enlightenment Philosopher and his followers to those modern Philosophers attempting to build upon the structures that have been constructed by the aforementioned thinkers. Habermas’ only contribution to engaging with this tradition is a modernist Philosophers criticism of Kant which falsely equates Kantian theoretical philosophy with a Cartesian or empirical epistemology of consciousness. This in spite of the fact that Kantian theoretical philosophy clearly criticised both the epistemological rationalism of Cartesianism and the empirical epistemological tradition of Hobbes Hume et al. Kant’s metaphysics transcended any and all epistemological approaches with its logical insistence on the principles of non contradiction and sufficient reason. Metaphysical and Transcendental logic are the real accomplishments of this Enlightenment Philosopher. The Metaphysics of action have an Aristotelian hylomorphic structure which has not been addressed by either of the above epistemologically oriented traditions of Philosophy. Habermas’ criticism is however not primarily philosophical but more in the tradition of social science: Systems theory, Weber and Talcott Parsons being important reference points. A systems environment colonises the lifeworld and turns into into an almost technological/instrumental arena.Insofar as there is a cultural “system” functioning in accordance with the “mechanism” of a trust in knowledge such a decoupling of lifeworld and system cannot occur because here, it is argued, use has to be made of the “resources of consensus formation in language”. Habermas does not argue this but it is almost as if language itself is a systematic “steering mechanism” rather than something organically embedded in a lifeworld with diverse functions amongst which is of course its rational use. The idea of rationality being a value in itself is regarded in modernist and post modernist discourse as contentious from both theoretical and practical perspectives. In practical perspectives Habermas seeks to replace this idea of logical rationality with an idea of strategic rationality which necessarily gives rationality both an instrumental and causal structure This violates a crucial Kantian distinction between instrumental and categorical reasoning. The tactic that seems to be operating here is a reduction of the categorical to the instrumental on the grounds that the categorical does not really exist: it only possesses a subjective form.

“Communicative action” might be a perfect technical disguise for the rhetoric used in ideological exchanges where the aim is “systematic” persuasion. The most reliable perspective on the role that science plays in this unholy alliance between money power and science comes from Hannah Arendt’s work “The Origins of Totalitarianism in which she has the following to say on this topic:

“Few ideologies have won enough prominence to survive the hard competitive struggle of persuasion, and only two have come out on top and essentially defeated all the others:the ideology which interprets history as an economic struggle of classes and the other that interprets history as a natural fight of races….free public opinion has adopted them to such an extent that not only intellectuals but great masses of people will no longer accept a presentation of past or present facts that is not in agreement with either of these views. The tremendous power of persuasion inherent in the main ideologies of our times is not accidental. Persuasion is not possible without appeal to either experiences or desires, in other words to immediate political needs. Plausibility in these matters comes neither from scientific facts, as the various brands of Darwinists would like us to believe, nor from historical laws as the historians pretend, in their efforts to discover the law according to which civilisations rise and fall. Every full fledged ideology has been created, continued and improved as a political weapon and not as a theoretical doctrine…Their scientific aspect is secondary and arises from the desire to provide watertight arguments, and second because their persuasive power also got hold of the scientists, who no longer were interested in the result of their research but left their laboratories and hurried off to preach to the multitude their new interpretations of life and world….The blame is not to be laid on any science as such, but rather on certain scientists who were no less hypnotised by ideologies than their fellow citizens.”(p159)

Could it be that the very attitude that Harari praises: the hypothetical attitude which in professing its own ignorance and refusing the certainty of the moral law, made the scientist more susceptible to the arguments of these times? Can we be certain that murder is wrong when it is so commonplace in animal kingdoms, wars and primitive societies. Perhaps our system of moral convictions constitute only a hypothetical theory awaiting further evidence which might prove its falsity? Perhaps life is a struggle for survival red in tooth and claw. The Philosophy of Science of Aristotle and Kant would reject this hypothetical observation based relativism but as we all “know” science has conclusively disproved the validity of these theories via the empirical revolution and its economic and technological benefits(are these part of the system of rewards and punishments Habermas referred to in his discussion of the steering media). Money and power steer us blindly unless we are persuaded by the communicative action of influential ideologists. Arendt describes the period immediately after the end of the first world war as a period after a devastating explosion that had destroyed the world as we knew it. There was no longer anything to be certain of except perhaps that we cant be certain of anything ever again. This was the perfect environment for the steering media of money and power to “colonise” what was left of our lifeworld. Hannah Arendt points out how Imperialism was preparing for the advent of totalitarianism in the three decades prior to the first war from 1884 to 1914. Amongst these preparations was the challenge of the bourgeoisie to the nation state and its inability to provide a framework for the further growth of capitalist economy. The ensuing struggle for power was indecisive. the nation state with its institutions resisted “the “brutality and megalomania of imperialist aspirations”(Cecil Rhodes’s desire to colonise even the planets). The bourgeoisie pointed to the obvious fact that trade and economics had already involved every nation in world politics. In the resultant “communicative action” there was no quiet and reflective weighing of philosophical ideas of justice and morality but only a restless desire to get what one wanted whatever the cost.

Harari points to the creed of growth and places a positive spin on what Arendt has described and explained in her philosophical and historical reflections:

“Money has been essential both for building empires and for promoting science”(p341)

It has certainly never been essential in Philosophical activity. The paradigmatic attitude of Philosophy toward this “steering mechanism” is to acknowledge its existence in the lifeworld but firmly limit its influence in accordance with the more important virtues which structure our life in society. Socrates pointed out that the medical doctors primary concern is the good of his patient and payment for his work is only a secondary concern. This “institution of care” begun in ancient Greece is still with us today. No doctor will refuse to treat someone whose life is in danger at a road accident or in an aeroplane. The doctor is a breed of ethical scientist. He may be ignorant of many things including what to do about viruses but he is not ignorant about what needs to be done when his patients lives are in danger. The nation state obviously supports such ethical institutions. To the extent that the nation state was seduced by the businessman’s persuasive arguments the concept of “expansion” became political despite the fact that conquest and empire building had very few political arguments in their favour. There were political parties and movements, however that were more than ready to push this concept to its limits.

“Growth” is an economic reality argues Harari. From 1500 up until today the total production of goods and services have expanded from 250 billion dollars to 60 trillion dollars today. The economic pie has increased in size and Credit, Harari argues is the main driver of economic expansion. The modern scientist with his prejudice in favour of induction and its role in the growth of knowledge through the accumulation of observations also believed in “growth” and quantitative progress. The bank giving its businesses credit and the scientist both trust in this growth and progress principle. The bank has a revolutionary theory of mankind which Harari traces back to 1776(the era of the Enlightenment):

The belief in the growing global pie eventually turned revolutionary.In 1776 the Scottish economist Adam Smith published “The Wealth of Nations”, probably the most important economics manifesto of all time.In the eighth chapter of its first volume Smith made the following argument…an increase in the profit of private entrepreneurs is the basis for the increase in collective wealth and prosperity. This may not strike you as very original because we live in a world that takes Smith’s arguments for granted…Smiths claim that the selfish human urge to increase private profits is the basis for collective wealth is one of the most revolutionary ideas in human history..revolutionary not just from an economic perspective but even more so from a moral and political perspective. What Smith says is, in fact that greed is good, and that by becoming richer I benefit everybody, not just myself. Egoism is altruism.”(p348)

I am not sure that Smith is claiming everything Harari says he is claiming here
but let us comment on Harari’s commentary. Now interrupting ones holiday to attend medically to someone having a fit on an aeroplane is disrupting ones holiday and may give rise to the urge not to help the patient. But this urge is not to be indulged but rather denied if the doctor is to do the right thing here. A community of doctors giving in to their private urges at the expense of the lives of their patients would not be a lifeworld most of us would wish to be a part of.
The above argument is very typical of our modern period. Take something morally questionable like greed or egoism and reverse its polarity(because we can never be certain of anything can we?) and then find some argument that will appeal to the personal desires of the mob and persuade them that the very negation of what they thought to be true is really true. It is of such stuff that our modern revolutions are made of. The logical conclusion of this kind of thinking is that this greed can result in devastating consequences for the finances of the world as was the case of the Lehman brothers crash in 2007 and no one will be held legally responsible: this state of affairs prompted an economic criminal emerging from prison just after the crash to say “I see greed has become legal while I have been away”.

Capitalism colonised our lifeworlds and Ancient Greek institutions and ideas and the Enlightenment Philosophy of Kant which provided a counterargument to Smith’s revolutionary thesis were submerged in a mainstream popular movement which Harari describes well:

“Capitalism began as a theory about how the economy functions. It was both descriptive and prescriptive–it offered an account of how money worked and promoted the idea that reinvesting profits in production leads to economic growth. But capitalism gradually became far more than just an economic doctrine. It now encompasses an ethic–a set of teaching about how people should behave, educate their children and even think. Its principal tenet is that economic growth is the supreme good because justice freedom and even happiness all depend on economic growth.”(p351)

Now whilst the characterisation of Adam Smith is questionable, this description of a theory of how capitalism functions and how this theory has colonised the arena of our ethical beliefs and convictions is certainly accurate. Not only has this “new ethics” colonised out everyday lifeworlds it has also brought about significant historical events. Harari describes brilliantly how “companies” using this “new ethics” contributed to the building of empires with mercenary armies and engaged in the disgusting practice of buying and selling human beings in the service of the supreme good as characterised by economic theory. Toward the end of the chapter the author raises a question:

“much like the Agricultural Revolution, so too the growth of the modern economy might turn out to be a colossal fraud. the human species and the global economy may well keep growing, but many more individuals may live in hunger and want.”(p372

Capitalists respond in two ways to this. Firstly, the capitalists have now created a word that only capitalists can run. Communism the only serious alternative has failed miserably to demonstrate that it can run societies. These kinds of society, Harari argues, “are worse in every way”. Secondly, we need to trust the Capitalist a little longer. Soon everyone will be satisfied with their slice of the pie:

“true, mistakes have been made such as the Atlantic slave trade and the exploitation of the European working class. But we have learned our lesson, and if we just wait a little longer and allow the pie to grow a little bigger everybody will receive a fatter slice”(p372)

Weber talked about our disenchanted world and the above quote is an excellent example. Compare the above image from the bakery with Socrates great speeches about justice and virtue, or with Kant’s writings about the awe and wonder we experience in the presence of the starry heavens without and the moral law within. These great moments in our intellectual history do now seem to be part of a lost world which we are mourning in silence.

Critique and Commentary of “Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Seven.

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The section entitled “the Marriage of Science and Empire” raises immediate normative issues for the philosopher searching for an analysis of the anomalies of the modernism and post-modernism eras of our History. This work certainly falls into one of these two categories. Having said this it must be added that this is one of the most interesting chapters of the book and it provides a great deal of empirical explanation relating to the material and efficient causes of the phenomena of these periods.

The author begins by pointing out that British exploratory expeditions beginning with Captain Cook’s in 1768, were in the habit of transporting scientists of various kinds to conduct both inductive scientific investigations in new and strange environments and to verify more deductively structured theories which predict the existence of events objects etc that have not yet been observed. Harari does not in this discussion make the traditional philosophical distinction between Science in the context of Discovery and Science in the context of explanation. Indeed his talk in the last chapter of “new knowledge” appears to highlight the observational activity of the scientist at the expense of the theoretical activities of thought and reason.

Harari reports how the causes of diseases like scurvy which had been responsible for the deaths of large numbers of sailors were discovered on the voyages of discovery. Experiments on different groups of sailors were conducted by Lind in 1747 and these proved the efficacy of citrus fruits, an old folk remedy. Cook apparently saw some kind of relation of citrus fruits to sauerkraut and took both on his voyage and did not lose a single sailor to the disease. This event was of historical significance for the British control of the oceans of the world and the transportation of armies that would help build the Empire. This expedition laid the foundation for the conquest of Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, an event that had devastating consequences for the indigenous peoples of these areas. Harari refers to the comfortable alliance of Science and empire building with more than just a hint of normative criticism:

“The corpses of the last Tasmanians were seized in the name of science by anthropologists and curators. They were dissected, weighed and measured and analysed in learned articles. The skulls and skeletons were then put on display in museums and anthropological collections. Only in 1976 did the Tasmanian Museum give up for burial the skeleton of Truganini, the last native Tasmanian who had died a hundred years earlier.”(P310)

The justification of Normative criticism of course requires the kind ethical theory that science cannot provide. It is clear from the above that the scientists of the time were on a blind search for the facts even if observationalism was the guiding “philosophy”. There are historians(Hannah Arendt) who seek to minimize the normative criticism of this period of History by claiming that the British Empire was acquired in a state of absent mindedness in which the intentions were good. Harari partially acknowledges this in his remark that whilst the evil deeds could full an encyclopaedia, the achievements of the era could fill another encyclopaedia. So in the end even he agrees that using his infrastructure of Science and his normative free view of history we cannot justify neither the blame nor the praise that has been levelled at the British of this period. The words from the work of the earlier Wittgenstein that “The world is the totality of facts” naturally emerge here in spite of the fact that they were written in 1922. Wittgenstein finally abandoned this position and one of the reasons was that the philosophical importance of value judgments was significantly diminished. His earlier work was a part of the “scientific revolution” against the work of Aristotle which then needed to backtrack in his later work in order to justify normative discourse.By this time(1951) the global centre of power had shifted towards Europe and was already shifting westwards towards the the “New World”, the USA. Harari asks the salient question “Why Europe? and gives the answer:

“The global centre of power shifted to Europe only between 1750 and 1850, when Europeans humiliated the Asian powers in a series of wars and conquered large parts of Asia. By 1900 Europeans firmly controlled the worlds economy and most of its territory. In 1950 western Europe and the US together accounted for more than half of global production whereas China’s portion had been reduced to 5%. Under the European aegis s new global order and global culture emerged. Today all humans are, to a much greater extent than they usually want to admit, European in dress, thought and taste. They may be fiercely anti-European in their rhetoric, but almost everyone on the planet views politics, medicine, war and economics through European eyes, and listens to music, written in European modes with words in European languages. Even todays burgeoning Chinese economy, which may soon regain its global primacy, is built on a European model of production and finance.”(p312)

In partial answer to this question of “Why Europe?” the author cites military-industrial-scientific factors which matured faster in Europe. Science for the philosopher is more than observation-experiment and technological innovation in the context of discovery but we should reiterate this is not the position of the author of this work. Industrialisation obviously occurred much faster in Europe than elsewhere and the economic and political consequences were significant. The author talks of the development of railroads, the steam engine and machine guns as examples of the first wave of the revolution:

“The Chinese and Persians did not lack technological inventions such as steam engines(which could be freely copied or bought). They lacked the values, myths, judicial apparatus and sociopolitical structures that took centuries to form and mature in the West and which could not be copied and internalised rapidly….The Chinese and Persians could not catch up as quickly because they thought and organised their societies differently.”(p 314-315)

Values finally appear as an important factor in the attempt to answer this question. Ethical values are implied in the working of the judicial apparatus and observation-experiment and the manipulation of variables are largely irrelevant in the context of justification in the realm of law. It would be absurd to claim that the system is searching for new laws and new experiences. They emerge but immediately subside into obscurity very quickly and Harari points to the European capitalist and scientific behaviour underlying key technological innovation and he regards this as the legacy of European Imperialism. It is noted that between 1500 and 1950 the Far East and the Muslim world did not produce “minds as intelligent and curious as those of Europe”, “did not produce anything that comes even close to Newtonian physics or Darwinian biology.”

What is not mentioned is the context of these works, a context of the agenda of justification of theories which we inherited from the Greek philosophers. These theories emerged as a consequence of a critical spirit just as important as the spirit of curiosity and exploration seeking for new experiences. It has been claimed by philosophers, for example, that Oxford university have never ceased to teach Aristotle since its inception when Aristotle was the major thinker dominating the university syllabus. The work of Darwin obviously surfed on the wave of Hobbesian anti-Aristotelianism in spite of the respect that Darwin had for the biological works of Aristotle. Darwin was probably aware of Aristotle’s ethical and political works and famously manifested his modern ambivalence to some of these ideas by refusing to defend his work from ecclesiastical attack leaving that task to Thomas Huxley. The same ambivalence was probably behind his initial reluctance to publish his work during his lifetime. Darwin was not an Imperialist, he did not want to conquer the world with his ideas. The mentality of conquerors shared the mindset of the technological innovators. Both, argues the author, admit their ignorance but not in Socratic manner where Socrates knows what he does not know but knows for example that the kind of instrumental reasoning manifested by conquerors and tyrannical rulers is not the kind of reasoning that will reveal the essence of justice or the good. Rulers who rule instrumentally in their own interest do not possess the kind of normative knowledge needed to justify just actions. Instrumental reasoning is not only used by imperialists, it is also the mindset of technological innovators, Heidegger, for example, has argued. Instrumental reasoning for Heidegger will never reveal the real concern of our curiosity which seeks a metaphysical understanding of the nature of being in general and our own being in particular: a variation on an old Aristotelian theme. It is possible the continuity of this kind of metaphysical curiosity is that which accounts for the power of scientific and Historical explanation. Given the ethical orientation of the metaphysics of action this historical continuity of variations on a theme is also responsible for the stability of our political and legal systems which the author claims lies behind the way in which our societies function. Historical knowledge informed by this metaphysical spirit in which categorical assumptions and explanations provide the framework for the having of new experiences and discovery of new events and knowledge has always been a part of the British and European mentality. It is this spirit which it is necessary to understand if one is to correctly interpret the following observations:

“When the Muslims conquered India, they did not bring along archeologists to systematically study Indian history, anthropologists to study Indian cultures, geologists to study Indian soils, or zoologists to study Indian fauna. When the British conquered India, they did all of these things. On 10th April 1802 the Great Survey of India was launched. It lasted 60 years. With the help of tens of thousands of native labourers, scholars and guides, the British carefully mapped the whole of India, marking borders, measuring distances, and even calculating for the first time the height of Mount Everest and the other Himalayan peaks. The British explored the military resources of Indian provinces and the location of their gold mines, but they also took the trouble to collect information about rare Indian spiders, to catalogue colourful butterflies, to trace the ancient origins of extinct indian languages, and to dig up forgotten ruins.”(p332)

It was, for example, a British officer named Rawlinson that eventually managed to decipher the Sumerian cuneiform script by using an understanding of Modern Persian to understand the ancient Persian the script was using.. Rawlinson is described as a modern European Imperialist and one wonders whether this is a fair description of this feat of interpretation which enabled us to understand “the bustle of Sumerian bazaars, the proclamations of Assyrian kings, the arguments of babylonian bureaucrats”. In education one, as a result of the influence of Ancient Greek philosophy, is accustomed to acknowledging a distinction between understanding something in order to do something else, i.e. understanding the structure of the atom in order to construct a bomb. This is a very different attitude to seeking understanding just for the sake of understanding itself in the way Pythagoras did in relation to his mathematical investigations. The Imperialist uses knowledge instrumentally, the educated man like Rawlinson seeks knowledge as a value in itself.

“another notable imperialist scholar was William Jones. Jones arrived in India in September 1783 to serve as a judge in the Supreme Court of Bengal. He was so captivated by the wonders of India that within less than 6 months of his arrival he had founded the Asiatic Society. This academic organisation was devoted to studying the cultures, histories and societies of Asia, and in particular those of India. Within two years Jones published his observations on the Sanskrit language, which pioneered the science of comparative linguistics.In his publications Jones pointed out surprising similarities between Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language that became the sacred tongue of Hindu ritual, and the Greek and Latin languages, as well as similarities between all these languages and Gothic,Celtic, Old Persian, German, French and English…Jones’ study was an important milestone not merely due to his bold (and accurate) hypotheses, but also because of the orderly methodology that he developed to compare languages. It was adopted by other scholars, enabling them systematically to study the development of all the world’s languages.”

William Jones was undoubtedly an educated man and one wonders why one would wish to focus on the the obvious fact that “Knowledge of Linguistics was necessary to understand ancient languages” and interpret this in terms of instrumental necessity rather than logical necessity. Of course the Europeans knew their empires very well, in the same way as they understood their own countries very well as educated people are wont to do. So what makes this an activity of Imperialism? This superior knowledge, according to the author brought obvious practical advantages. Normative judgments of blame involving the term “imperialism” require an attribution of evil intentions. The educated man concerns himself with knowledge of principles which have a value in themselves. What is the evidence for assuming that such neutral or good intentions were not in play in the desire to understand the origins of Sanskrit? Of course one can observe that the misuse of this research which came afterward( in the Nazi misappropriation of this research in their “biological” thesis of the superiority of the Aryans). Does just this fact of the observation that one thing came after the other mean that the original intentions of the research were evil? There is some kind of causation linking these two events but it is not an ethical link in which evil intentions generate evil consequences and good intentions generate good consequences. One cannot reason back from a evil consequence to an evil intention without asking oneself exactly how the intention should be correctly described and whether the relation to the consequence is an ethical relation. One thing following another in time in accordance with ones observations is not sufficient to logically and ethically unite these two events into one ethical activity. What is at issue here is a scientific view of ethics which claims that what makes an action ethical is its consequences. This challenges the traditional “old” view, a more philosophical Aristotelian and Kantian account in which the reason given by the agent of the action in the form of his/her intention is what ontologically defines the action,, is what gives the action its ontological identity. Both of these philosophers have produced decisive arguments against consequentialism. Even Aquinas in the spirit of Aristotle acknowledges the complexity of human reality when it claims that if consequences are linked in terms of the one coming after the other then it is conceivable that one consequence of an action could be good and the one following it could be bad which is exactly the case with the Sanskrit example. The scientist will of course, indoctrinated by a materialistic theory of mind, dogmatically claim that intentions cannot be observed because they are “in” someones mind. The mind is not a spatial container. It is according to Aristotle the form which is embodied in actions and speech and observers can certainly observe actions. In simple actions like the hailing of a taxi across the road by the raising of my arm it is clear that this is intentional and this might be occurring whilst the person hailing the taxi is thinking anxiously about a speech he/she is about to give.

The question to ask here is whether the Imperialists actually had Imperialist intentions, whether they actually intended the exploitation and oppression of conquered populations. Inhabiting a sparsely inhabited continent like Australia which had no organised government to defend its borders is not clearly an ethical matter. Kant has claimed in his moral writings that the earth belongs to no one. Marking the boundary of ones territory clearly signals ones intentions to inhabit and work the area and to the extent that indigenous peoples who did this were removed from the area this is clearly only illegal if there is a government to pass laws to that effect. We are dealing here with what Thomas Hobbes called a “state of nature” in which life is solitary poor nasty brutish and short up until that point when men form governments to regulate their lives together. For some political philosophers it is at this point that human rights occur. This has been the verdict of history too. There were large numbers of stateless people in the world prior to the second world war and there were no governments or a united nations organisation prepared to defend their rights. All the countries that are members of the UN have signed documents which state the conditions under which they have responsibility for the human rights of people in their territory. They have made promises in their applications to be a member of this organisation and whilst they are members they have a duty to honour their commitments. This line of reasoning is behind the position in Political Philosophy which reasons that a right only exists if someone(a government, the United Nations) has a duty to protect it. This political position assumes a Kantian ethical position in which intentions play a decisive role in contradistinction to consequences.

The author produces a number of examples of new rulers in India who it is claimed were concerned only with enriching themselves. It is not clear from the text whether the author believed that this was encouraged or sanctioned by the British government and it is in this context that he claims :

“Due to their close cooperation with science these empires wielded so much power and changed the world to such an extent that perhaps they cannot be simply labelled as good or evil. They created the world as we know it, including the ideologies we use in order to judge them”(p337)

It is not clear what the author means by ideologies but one suspects that they are not connected to what he would regard as the “old” knowledge of the good which comes from the Philosophies of Aristotle and Kant that eventually gave rise to the objective idea of human rights that rules the world today.

It is, however, admitted that science can be used for “sinister ends”:

“Biologists, anthropologists and even linguists provided scientific proof that Europeans are superior to all other races, and consequently have the right)if not perhaps the duty) to rule over them.”(p337)

What did this so called “proof” look like, one wonders. Philosophically , it is quite clear that the relative concepts of “superior and inferior” are constructs of what Philosophers call the “naturalistic fallacy”. The so called “proof” moves from the acknowledgment of a number of facts(so called is-statements) to an ought statement, namely that a particular group of people “ought to rule”. This realm of value judgments is a realm that science and its concern with observation and collecting the totality of facts is something that as Wittgenstein claimed “must be passed over in silence” because the assumptions do not allow anything to be said. The problem is that scientists want to use their assumptions in an area they cannot be used and consequently end up producing “proofs” of the above kind which proved very useful for Hitler and Stalin. Wittgenstein in his early work at least had the academic honesty to stay silent on the issue of values and he realised in his later work that he needed to abandon his “scientific” assumptions if he was to say anything meaningful in this area of Philosophy. Hitler and Wittgenstein apparently attended the same Gymnasium school. The Post modernist form of this “scientism” is the contention that human rights are a figment of our imagination and science and culture are viruses that care nothing for their hosts.

“Culture” or “culturism” is also discussed in the above context:

“There is no such word, but its about time we coined it. Among today’s elites assertions about the contrasting merits of diverse human groups are almost always couched in terms of the historical differences between cultures rather than biological differences between races. We no longer say, “Its in their blood”. We say “It’s in their culture” “(p338)

So according to this we should pass over in silence all comparative judgments based on our knowledge of what is good and what is not. We shall not for example think it is meritorious to have learned to build railroads before the Indians and then use this meritorious skill to improve the infrastructure of India (exactly because their culture did not possess this instrumental and scientific knowledge). We should not have used the skills we historically acquired in order to map out the area of india for the purposes of government, law and defence.

This of course does not necessitate historicism as Marx’s theory did but culturism does remind one of the Marxist view of the historically determined fate of the proletariat which only historical laws could rectify. The cultural difference between classes is blamed for many of the ills of society.. This is a position which is at least as divisive for a society as racism. What this bring to our attention is the fact that looking blindly for differences rather than for what humans have in common leads to divisions which cannot be reconciled without conflict. Elevating this thinking to the cultural/national level results in the same deterministic difficulties which can only be escaped by reference to the importance of the Kantian idea of Freedom and more controversially perhaps presages a globalist community which has a duty to validate the idea of the equality among nations, thus actualising the idea of the universality of human rights which may be part of the globalisation project. Hannah Arendt claimed that Imperialism and its ambiguous spirit of “Expansion” was not sufficiently controlled and formed by the nation state and that one of the results was the totalitarianism we saw in the 20th century. If this is true then the will to extend ones activities beyond national borders may have positive as well as negative characteristics.

Critique and Commentary of “Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part Six “Uno Sola Ochiata”

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On several occasions in this work it has been suggested that the infrastructure
of history and biology has been unable to provide adequate accounts of the complex holistic phenomena that are being discussed. This chapter at the beginning of a section entitled the Scientific Revolution, “The Discovery of Ignorance” interestingly focuses its attention on a negative(ignorance) as many other relativists and post modernists are inclined to do. Knowledge for the Greeks was defined at the birthplace of mans search for understanding and knowledge as “justified true belief” and the telos or the endgame of knowledge was “holistic”, an attempt, that is to say, to perceive the world in the realm of thought “uno sola ochiata” at one glance. The impression of this work is of a series of fragments which one approaches linearly and consecutively and if the aim of the work is to present humankind uno sola ochiata then the work has singularly failed in this task.

The term “uno sola ochiata” comes from a work by Adrian Stokes entitled “Art and Science”. It arises in the work as part of a larger discussion of the relation of these two branches of our knowledge in the 1500’s, the date the author of “Sapiens” sets as the beginning of the Scientific Revolution. The historical time period is that of the Renaissance, the rebirth of mans holistic consciousness of the project of understanding and knowledge. Interestingly the historians who named this period like those that named the period of the “Enlightenment” did not share the flair for the dramatic of those historians who see revolutions under every stone of history. The Renaissance, according to Adrian Stokes, a reputable art historian, involved an intensification of all forms of cultural and exploratory activity which had been discontinued under the auspicious bureaucratic eye of a church which refused to explore the physical and human world with what we moderns would call an open mind. Religious dualistic justifications had been called into question in Aristotle’s work and religious authorities refused to translate Aristotle from the Greek until Aquinas could “domesticate” the ideas to the satisfaction of church authorities but not to the satisfaction of serious Aristotelian scholars for whom the definition of knowledge as “justified true belief” required an intensification of all forms of human activity if it was to be understood completely and holistically. The Renaissance, then could be seen as the rebirth of an Aristotelian attitude toward the past, the present and the future: it was a Proto-Enlightenment period. Aristotle had no difficulty integrating Art and Science, Religion and Philosophy, Rhetoric and Politics, Physics and Metaphysics. His thought processes surveyed the world uno sola ochiata.

Let me illustrate this point with a dispute between the painter Giorgione and a group of sculptors who claimed that the art of sculpture was superior to the art of painting:

“The phrase(uno sola ochiata) occurs in a story Vasari tells about Giorgione and some sculptors on the subject of the Colleoni statue(at the time of its unveiling?). The sculptors claimed their art to be superior because a statue could show all aspects to anyone walking around it. Giorgione replied that painting was superior in just this respect because all the positions could be apparent in a painting for one glance, for una soal ochiata, instantaneously, without perambulation. And he proved it by a picture he then pained of a nude in a turning position. Clear water before the nude, polished armour to one side and on the other a mirror, reflected more aspects.”(Volume 2 “the Critical Writings of Adrain Stokes”, p202)

Such an attitude toward revealing the aspectual multi-dimensionality of physical objects in a physical world was also presented in architecture, in the Tempio at Rimini for example and in another painting of the Three ages of man by Giorgione which painted the same man as a boy, a man and an old man on the same canvas. What Giorgione and the Quattro Cento artists were drawing attention to here was an attitude which in thought was promised and made possible by Aristotle’s Philosophy. It was this attitude which was being reborn in a world teeming with fragments and contradictions needing integration into understandable Humanistic wholes. Northrop Frye in his theorising about the act of reading texts suggests a thought-equivalent of una soal ochiata when all the events of the narrative are present in the mind of the reader completing his reading. Is this a kind of pre-conceptual understanding that Art is about?

Harari opens with a story of the life of a Spanish peasant peasant who falls asleep in 1000 AD and awakes again 500 years later and claims that the world would be totally unfamiliar to such a man. This is probably true and since he probably would have been unaffected by the desire to understand his world and probably would not have been able satisfy his curiosity even if it did cause a certain restlessness in his soul we can legitimately claim that he would be in a different position to that of Aristotle had he fallen asleep in the Lyceum and awoke in a modern school building where the pupils were surfing on their computers and mobile phones while the teacher is talking about a biological problem related to evolutionary theory. The former Spanish peasant may be feel forever estranged in his relatively similar situation whereas I would wish to maintain that it would not be very long before Aristotle understood pretty much everything that was going on around him. It would not take him very long to take in the whole of the Modern Greek culture uno sola ochiata(once he had mastered modern Greek), exactly because he knows what knowledge is and what ignorance is and because there is an Aristotelian core operating in the continuity of History. He would look at the laws, talk to the politicians and University Professors, spend all his days at the library catching up with History Philosophy and Literature.
The Literary landmark of the so called Scientific Revolution was according to Harari, Newton’s “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy” which claimed that the book of nature was written in the language of mathematics, The events of physical nature were quantified in accordance with what Kant would call metaphysical and transcendental principles thus justifying the term “philosophy” in what otherwise is a scientific Tractatus which inspired many attempts to apply these essentially physical principles to areas of investigation requiring more Aristotelian formal and teleological kinds of explanation. There was a universalism expressed in this work but it was not necessarily a scientific or mathematical universalism. Newton’s “Principles” focussed on only two out of the four kinds of Aristotelian explanation(material and efficient “causation”)

Two other technological landmarks are discussed. The landing of a space vessel on the surface of the moon might have sent an anticipatory subjective shiver down the spine of the capitalist Cecil Rhodes who wished that man could colonise the planets in the spirit of capitalism and colonisation but it certainly objectively was a clear signal that almost anything was possible to achieve in the sphere of technological innovation. If this was not sufficiently self evident we are taken to the concluding moments of the Manhattan Project and the testing of the atomic bomb which provoked Robert Oppenheimer to utter the words from the Bhagavad Gita: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”. Words which were to haunt the scientific community long after the dropping of two atomic bombs on the civilian population of two Japanese cities soon after. The universal message of science driven technological innovation was that man had entered the gates of the sub atomic world within the world and there was nothing which he could not master. The power of life was dwarfed by the power of the splitting of an atom and the political decision to drop the bomb on civilian populations. The share price of life fell on stock market of knowledge. In a sense Harari is right to claim as he does that capitalism is a factor in both the unholy alliance of science with technology against more humanistic forces and an expression for globalisation processes. These scientific-economic instrumental anti-humanistic sentiments were used very skillfully by totalitarian leaders and President Truman and Harari’s description of viruses aptly characterises these utilitarian sentiments. Heidegger pointed to the essentially instrumental nature of technological activity and the relation of this instrumentalism to a scientific materialist linear principle of causality. This is a complex attitude that uses the scientific strategy of resolution-composition that divides up wholes into parts and an experimental method that mirrors this structure mathematically by isolating variables and dividing them up into dependent and independent variables in the search for the magic relation of causality. In the humanistic field of education it is not unusual to hear the complaint that the results of the experimentation in this area seldom proves causation and one has to base ones judgments on correlation. In a field demanding holistic solutions to holistic problems this is obviously less than satisfactory. This of course fits in with the claim that the scientific community is collectively aware of its ignorance and is therefore a much more credible alternative in epistemological pursuits to, for example, religion because of its admirable attitude of humility. A distinction between old and new knowledge is made which disregards the philosophical definition of knowledge as justified true belief which would claim that, because the hoi polloi believed it to be true that the world to be flat and thought that they could justify this fact with their observations, that this so called “old knowledge” is in fact not knowledge at all. According to the philosophers, the conflict being referred to here is one between false belief and knowledge that the world has the shape revealed by the observations of astronauts orbiting the earth. Science is not dogmatic it is claimed but dogmatically ignores the philosophical definition of knowledge on the grounds that it is searching for new knowledge as man was searching for new experiences by flying to the moon.
So much is almost admitted when Harari claims on p283 that:

“Mere observations , however, are not knowledge. In order to understand the universe, we need to connect observations onto comprehensive theories.”

The difference between the old religious theories and modern scientific theories is that the former use stories to formulate their theories and Newton used mathematics. The philosophical character of Newtons theories seems to have escaped the attention of the author. He is not immune, however to the subsequent philosophical debates which limited these theories to certain kinds of motion and change in the physical world. Acknowledging this with reference to more complex aspects of reality(the human sciences) he points to the use of statistics which as we claimed above might work in the instrumental world of economics where measuring the quantities and movement of money are important(in the world of the calculation of widows pensions for example) but clearly does not work in the categorical holistic field of education where the variable of homework is so intimately intertwined with a great number of other variables that it is impossible to make categorical causal judgments regarding its role in relation to the academic results of pupils. There seems that is no way to divide the continuum of education up into logically discontinuous events.

The best argument for the usefulness of statistics is that it is part of basic university requirements in a number of subjects, including psychology. At the same time the argument is made that most people find modern science “difficult to digest” because of its mathematical language. This language often, it is argued, contradicts common sense. We should not worry too much about this because the author claims “knowledge is power” and even if:

“Presidents and generals do not understand nuclear physics..they have a good grasp of what nuclear bombs can do.” (p288)

So we can disregard the categorical philosophical definition of knowledge in favour of the thesis that “knowledge is power”. This “tool” theory of knowledge stemmed from Francis Bacon’s “revolutionary” idea of linking science and technology. Wars use science: QED. The author claims that so called “old knowledge” cannot prove its positions and that is correct on his terms if this is the standard of proof of “new knowledge”. A more nuanced philosophical discussion such as that conducted by Jurgen Habermas in his work “the theory of Communicative action” would however point to a confusion in the identification of knowledge with power. Both, he would claim are steering mechanisms of human activity and judgments but power is an instrumental tool used by the political system whereas knowledge is not just a tool but also a telos or aim of the cultural system of society.

The author quotes Jesus as saying that “the poor will always be with us” and points to the latest findings from the sciences of agronomy, economics medicine and psychology which claims that poverty can be eliminated. It may be that Jesus did not intend this as a prediction but rather as a rhetorical strategy to reorient the disciples critical attitude toward a woman who was intending to do a good deed. The philosophical “science” of hermeneutics would be better able to resolve the exact meaning intended by words which would seem to me require a less dogmatic interpretation. Even if the authors interpretation can be sustained which I believe it cannot be, erecting a straw man to represent “old knowledge” rather than engaging with the theories of the iron men of philosophy is a puzzling strategy for a work that is attempting to give us an account of the activities of humankind, There is, however, an Oz-like atmosphere over much of what is said in this chapter.

The chapter concludes with the problem of death and the so called “Gilgamesh Project”. An ancient Sumerian myth claims that Gilgamesh suffered from hubris and was determined not to die but was eventually forced to recognise the truth that when the gods created man they created a being that must necessarily die. Upon learning this Gilgamesh is forced to accept his mortality. The “new knowledge” we have of the success of science in the treatment of disease and investigation of genetics, the author argues, does not entail this acceptance:

“How long will the Gilgamesh Project–the quest for immortality– take to complete? A hundred years? Five hundred years? A thousand years?When we recall how much we knew about the human body in 1900, and how much knowledge we have gained in a single century, there is cause for optimism. Genetic engineers have recently managed to double the life expectancy of Caenorhabditis elegans. Could they do the same for Homo Sapiens? Nanotechnology experts are developing a bionic immunity system composed of millions of nano-robots, who would inhabit our bodies, open blocked blood vessels, fight viruses and bacteria, eliminate cancerous cells and even reverse ageing processes. A few serious scholars suggest that by 2050, some humans will become a-mortal(not immortal, because they could still die of some accident), but a-mortal, meaning that in the absence of fatal trauma that their lives could be extended indefinitely.”

It is difficult to know exactly what to say about this kind of speculation filled with hypotheticals. No one would question the usefulness of not dying prematurely. We all understand the wisdom of the Biblical words which suggests that one should be “full of years” before we die and the extent to which science can help to prevent a premature death would to most people be a valuable contribution to their lives. A question that arises for those who are full of years is whether these individuals would wish to have their lives extended. The universal generalisation “All men are mortal” which is being discussed here may refer to the fact that those individuals who are full of years and do not wish for life to be unnaturally extended are obeying a normative universal that men who are full of years know that they ought to die. The life instinct is of course a biological instinct but even an instincts power may fade over long periods of time and transform a wish to live to a wish to die. If this is the case then the wish for immortality is merely a young mans dream powered by a life instinct which will after a long period of time lose its motive force.
Perhaps as there is more and more to experience in the world the term “full of years” may change its meaning from four score years and ten to 8 score years and ten but this would still be in accord with the universal generalisation “All men are mortal”, which is knowledge of the most ancient kind.

Critique and Commentary of “Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part five

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The Chapter entitled “The Secret of Success” makes an interesting claim that the move toward the telos of globalisation is due to historical processes or forces. Three mechanisms are postulated:

“Commerce, Empires, and universal religions eventually brought virtually every Sapiens on every continent into the global world we live in today. Not that this process of expansion and unification was linear or without interruption. Looking at the bigger picture, though, the transition from many small cultures to a few large cultures, and finally to a single global society was probably an inevitable result of the dynamics of human history”.

Harari raises the issue of determinism in his subsequent discussion of how and why it was that Christianity took over the Roman Empire and claims that whilst historians seem to have no difficulty describing how this process occurred they have considerably more difficulty explaining why it occurred. He distinguished between these two questions in the following manner:

“What is the difference between describing “how” and explaining “Why”? To describe “How” means to reconstruct the series of specific events that led from one point to another. To explain “why” means to find causal connections that account for the occurrence of this particular series of events to the exclusion of all others. Some scholars do indeed provide deterministic explanations of events such as the rise of Christianity. They attempt to reduce human history to the workings of biological, ecological or economic forces. They argue that there was something about the geography genetics or economy of the Roman Mediterranean that made the rise of a monotheistic religion inevitable. Yet most historians tend to be sceptical of such deterministic theories.This is one of the distinguishing marks of history as an academic discipline–the better you know a historical period, the harder it is to explain why things happened one way and not another.”

The above explanation of the difference between describing how something happens and explaining why it happens does not clarify the issues raised relating to what philosophers refer to as the logical status of “future contingent” statements. Describing is obviously something one does in accordance with the principles of judgment which are operating at a conceptual level and where the correctness of ones judgments are determined by the correct use of the criteria for the concepts one is using in ones description. These criteria will inevitably use various categories of being which may or may not include causation which links events together in a narrative like structure that has a beginning , a middle and an end. This narrative will largely be composed of what one takes to be the facts. We can see how history has an important descriptive role in our knowledge of the events of the past. Explanation however, is at another logical level. It presupposes “something described” and gives a “reason” for the fact or facts as presented. Here a logical structure supplants a narrative structure and we do indeed find reference to explanatory theories in many historical texts. Justification will not be at the conceptual level composing individual judgments(did these happenings meet the criteria for a revolution?) but rather at the level of the relation between judgments and “causation” here will not be solely restricted to what Aristotle refers to as the material and efficient causes but will include the more complex formal and final causes which arise in logical structures where justifications are not merely at the conceptual level but at the level of combinations of claims which produce an argument for a conclusion. The claim that Christianity took over the Roman Empire is a descriptive judgment. Asking the question why it succeeded is a reasonable question to ask but it is probably not a question we can answer definitively as yet. We may need first to establish its role in the bringing about of globalisation, for example. But we are, if Kant is right, only at the beginning of the process of globalisation and whilst its ethical essence was clear for Kant(but not for the author of this work), and whilst Kant regarded the end of this process as necessary, many historians regard the end of this process as a future contingent and adopt an unfinished narrative attitude towards Kant’s claim. What for Kant was a future necessity is for historians a future contingent except perhaps for that small tribe of historians who believe that some states of the world are predictable and not chaotic. Plato Aristotle and Kant all believed that logical explanation transcended a fact retrieving narrative but that narrative would not to take a philosophical/historical example, ever reveal that man is not essentially a potentially rational animal. This, for the philosophers is a future necessity and transcends the workings of the imagination so important for this author. Philosophically one cannot imagine a human being that did not possess a rational potential. One can of course imagine a man that is factually not rational: an insane cannibal for example, but the explanation for why this man is an insane cannibal will presuppose what he lacks, namely rationality. The explanation will presuppose a potential that did not actualise for a number of reasons. Without this presupposition we are left with chaotic narratives.

The issue being raised is determinism and Aristotle rejected determinism for future contingents but not for his theoretical explanations. Human beings are necessarily rational animals capable of (non post modernistic) discourse. Four different kinds of explanation will fully explain why anything with an essence has that essence it has. A human being rationally discussing with himself or others the reasons for a future action or a future judgment and carrying out that action or making that judgment is a “causal” sequence. These are not examples of a material cause related to a material effect. One of the forms of explanation(or “causes”) relates to human action which according to Aristotle is to a large extent “determined” by the final cause or intention of the action(and to some extent by material and efficient and formal causes). Voluntary action is “chosen”. The Emperor Constantine could have chosen a number of religious cults as the religion which would unify the Roman Empire but he chose Christianity, Harari, argues. One can wonder whether Constantine’s choice was “rational” because his choice helped to convert Christianity into a so called “universal” religion. Did he fully understand what he was doing? We no longer have access to his thoughts but we do have access to documents recording his actions and thoughts that contain the trace of his thoughts. If those documents contain direct or indirect proclamations of the future importance of Christianity, it would be a valid historical judgment to claim that it was his intention to create a universal religion.In such a case the choice was fully voluntary and the intention of the action explains why it was performed. Could we say before the choice that the factors to determine the action were present in the mind of Constantine and that the outcome of his action was already determined before it happened? Constantine is not available to answer any questions which might arise concerning his intentions as recorded in the documentation relating to this choice so it is conceivable that there was something in this situation which would speak against the judgment that Constantine had the intention to convert Christianity into a so called “universal” religion. In the end the evidence may be incomplete and the status of the judgment has to be regarded as “hypothetical”: i.e. it is “possible” that his intention was to create a “Holy Roman Empire”but we do not know. To the extent that determinism decrees that only material and efficient causes are the ” real” causes of change is the extent to which Aristotle would disagree with such forms of determinism. The bones and muscles pushing the quill belonging to Constantine which signs decrees relating to the institutionalisation of Christianity are material causes of such an action but they are of no particular interest for the historian. In this form of material reductionism the cause effect relation requires two separately perceptually identifiable events which can be related. Intentions as reasons for doing x are not known observationally. They are as Anscombe pointed out known non-observationally. Aristotle Kant and many modern followers would therefore argue that for every fact there is a justification or explanation which is in a sense a “cause”. Future contingents such as whether or not there will be a nuclear war are literally situated in a field of thousands of variables all of which may not be known or knowable at a particular time. Categorically saying either there will be a war or there will not( cf Aristotle’s example there either will or will not be a sea battle tomorrow) is assuming first that we can have complete knowledge of all the variables and also that we can also have knowledge of the very large set of consequences that follow from such extensive knowledge. There is moreover more than a reasonable doubt about whether this is the way our minds naturally work(computer programs begin by defining the field of variables that will define the scope and limits of the program).
There is a strange passage in the book which claims that the more knowledge one has the harder it becomes to explain why things happened one way rather than another because it is argued the future is a fog. Insofar as future contingents are concerned the future is a fog but this does not suffice to destroy the deterministic position that one can in principle explain why there was not a nuclear war when it has become a fact(The Cuban Missile Crisis). The people at the time might not understand the reasons why there was not a war but it does seem somewhat paradoxical to insist that after the work of historians has been done we will still find ourselves in the middle of a fog. And yet this is the position of the author:

“Historically cannot be explained deterministically and it cannot be predicted because it is chaotic. So many forces are at work and their interactions so complex that extremely small variations in the strength of the forces and the way they interact produce huge differences in outcomes. (p267)

This is classic post modernistic thinking. Aristotle in our position today would gesticulate towards the tens of thousands of history books we possess and challenge us to find the four kinds of explanations if we wish to cease to live in a fog about our past. There are satisfactory descriptions of the facts in these books and satisfactory explanations and justifications of these facts. We should bear in mind that Hobbes and Descartes were the originators of the modernist rejection of Aristotle. Post Modernism needs to reject not only Aristotle but Kant and his Enlightenment position as well. Rejecting Aristotle for scientific reasons is just about understandable if not justifiable but rejecting both Aristotle and Kant for “chaos theory” is not coherent:

“Not only that, but History is what is called a “level two” chaotic system. Chaotic systems come in two shapes. Level one chaos is chaos that does not react to predictions about it. the weather, for example, is a level one chaotic system. Though it is influenced by myriad factors, we can build computer models that take more and more of them into consideration and produce better and better wether forecasts. Level two chaos is chaos that reacts to predictions about is and therefore cannot be predicted accurately. Markets, for example are a level two chaotic system. What will happen if we develop a computer program that forecasts with 100 per cent accuracy the price of oil tomorrow? The price of oil will immediately react to the forecast, which would consequently fail to materialise.”

Because everyone, it is argued will rush to buy oil and the price will rise. Buying oil is a future contingent and not a past fact so it is difficult to immediately see the relevance of this example of history being a level two chaotic system. It is not even certain that there is in principle any difference between a computer program that predicts weather patterns and a program that predicts prices. All a programmer would need to do in this situation is define a future buying pattern variable(based on empirical data) and which calculates the likely buying response and the likely responses to that. The field of variables would of course be much larger than those defined in a weather system program but in principle there is no significant difference since we here are dealing with quantitatively definable variables in both cases. An exact cost prediction might be possible but a range prediction might be.

Harari, to support his chaotic suggestion of levels of chaos points to what “people” living in Constantine’s time(the hoi polloi?) would do in the face of the suggestion that an esoteric Eastern sect religion was about to become the official Roman Religion. They would laugh the oracle out of the room. The Greeks which are conspicuously absent in this entire account of the history of mankind let the oracles operate in temples and the hoi polloi would laugh at them at their peril. Post modernist’s are modern populists and anyone(the people) saying just anything seems sufficient to count as an argument against the best argued positions exactly because the people referred to above do not understand what a good argument or good history is and their opinion is as good as anyone else’s.

This ethical relativism is confirmed in this quote which follows shortly after a claim stating that we do not study History to make predictions but rather to understand that something other than what happened could have happened:

“Different cultures define the good differently and we have no objective yardstick by which to judge between them.”(p269)

The assumption is that the yardsticks provided by Aristotle and Kant and the generations of Aristotelians and Kantians over thousands, or hundreds of years have obviously been proven to be inadequate by theorists who believe for no good reason that both the future and the past are foggy.

Relativism is often accompanied by anti Humanistic theories and we see this unholy alliance in this work too:

“There is no proof that history is working for the benefit of humans because we lack an objective scale on which to measure such benefit.”(p269)

Anti humanistic theories take many forms but this one uniquely compares our cultures to viruses living parasitically upon host bodies, caring nothing for them and sometimes even killing them. Relativism allows anyone to say anything so one cannot say anything about this except perhaps to agree with Aristotle that such descriptions and claims become like the meaningless noise of grasshoppers in the trees.

This chapter concludes with a discussion of memetic theory, post modernist theories of discourse and game theory and these are called upon to prove that

“the dynamics of history are not directed towards enhancing human well being.”

Auspiciously, the author then illustrates this argument by referring to the Scientific Revolution which began around 1500. History and the scientific revolution, it is argued cares not for human happiness and well being, both proceed blindly on an uncaring path, indifferent to the fate of the human species. They are viruses. Aristotle would have agreed with this verdict insofar as modern science and chaos theory is concerned but would have contested this point of view insofar as history was concerned. He would have claimed that the essential function of history was to understand the past and use this understanding to philosophically attempt to understand the future.

Critique and Commentary of “Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part four

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In a section entitled “The Law of Religion” Harari argues from a definition if religion which is as follows:

“…a system of human norms and values that is founded on a belief in a superhuman order”

In defence of this definition it is claimed that:

“today religion is often considered a source of discrimination disagreement and disunion. Yet, in fact, religion has been the third great unifier of humankind, alongside money and empires.Since all social orders and hierarchies are imagined, they are all fragile and the larger the society the more fragile it is. The crucial historical role of religion has been to give superhuman legitimacy to these fragile structures. Religions assert that our laws are not the result of human caprice, but are ordained by an absolute and supreme authority. This helps place at least some fundamental laws beyond challenge, thereby ensuring social stability.”

The Kantian Philosophy of the Enlightenment situated religion squarely in the matrix of an ethical based humanism based on the concept of freedom and this account, in contrast to Harari’s work, fully explains why religion has been a great unifier of humankind in spite of its factual errors and sometimes faulty assumptions about the nature of the physical world. “Religio” means binding together and the way in which this binding occurs has been the theme of philosophical Psychology since its inception in the metaphysical system of Aristotle the first philosophical biologist and the first systematic unifier of the areas of ethics, politics, religion and philosophical psychology. Aristotle’s philosophical psychology discusses a range of psychological powers and in this discussion the nature of the imagination is clearly distinguished from the powers of language and reasoning that are operating in the arena of norms and values. Aristotle firmly relates the rational activity of law making to the stability of our social orders and he claims that the extent to which the laws do not create the desired stability is a failure of rationality which may be related to a failure to eliminate imagined equalities or inequalities.

The presence of the term “superhuman” is loaded with reactionary anti-religious assumptions. It is not a term we will find embedded in myths or religious documents which are only access to early mans beliefs and consciousness of fault. Paul Ricoeur in his work on “The Symbolism of evil” explores the latter dimension philosophically. Whatever one scientifically believes about myths it remains the case that they are the objectification in discourse of the anguish associated with fault and the awe associated with beliefs that are embedded in mans relation to what he once considered sacred. The language we find in myths is not a factual structure in which the meaning of the terms are related directly to physical states of affairs. It is rather a language of value in which a manifest meaning is related to a latent meaning of mans relation to the sacred. We encounter here a structure of double meaning requiring acts of interpretation to clarify. Myths and religious documents are not merely records of what man believed but rather also expressions in the imperative mode of discourse relating to what we ought to believe or how we ought to act. This imperative mode is nevertheless universal, that is it relates to all men in a real relation to the sacred object whether it be a God, gods, or a desired state of understanding. Ricoeur’s work is of particular interest here because of the claim of the author of “Sapiens” that Humanism is a modern religion. If we use Ricoeur’s work as a guide in this matter we will clearly see that Philosophical Humanism follows Kant’s and Aristotle’s lead in retaining a place for the divine or the sacred or holy in ethical and political reflections. This move acknowledges that there is a rational core in religious discourse which cannot be attributed to the fragile acts of imagination. Ricouer’s work testifies to the fact that this rational core has survived the bureaucratisation of religion, romanticism, scientism’s attempts to reduce everything non material to the “Subjective” and the more general post-modernist onslaught on practical rationality: a period of over 2000 years. The ideas of the sacred and Freedom are not figments of the imagination but real holistic ideas that bind communities together into holistic entities by pointing to what man ought to do in the realm of norms and values. This indicates that philosophical humanism has a very different conception of norms and values to the definition in this work which risks dehumanising the human and subjectivising the role of the rational in what Ricoeur refers to as the human beings desire to be and effort to exist. Reference to the superhuman order is the work of an imagination which has dismissed the value of practical rationality we find in the works of Aristotle, Kant and Ricoeur.

An interesting historical analysis of religion begins with an account of animism as the dominant belief system of hunters/gatherers:

“When animism was the dominant belief system, human norms and values had to take into consideration the outlook and interests of a multitude other beings, such as animals, plants, fairies and ghosts. For example, a forager band in the Ganges valley may have established a rule forbidding people to cut down a particularly large fig tree, lest the fig tree become angry and take revenge. Another forager band living in the Indus valley may have forbidden people from hunting white-tailed foxes, because a white tailed fox once revealed to a wise old woman where the band might find precious obsidian. Such religions tended to be very local in outlook and to emphasise the unique features of specific locations, climates and phenomena.”It was pointless to try to convince inhabitants of some distant valley to follow the same rules”(p 235-236)

Harari dates the Cognitive Revolution to 70,000 years ago and what is claimed to be the emergence of fictive language. This is not in accordance with linguistic and psychological/anthropological theories. Julian Jaynes in an article entitled “The evolution of language in the Late Pleistocene” published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science” offers an interpretation based on current evidence and brain research which suggests that insofar as language is concerned fictive language comes relatively late in its evolution. First come the stages of modifiers, then the stage of imperatives. The first sentence with a noun and predicate modifier probably occurred between 25000 and 15000 BC. he argues:

“this period corresponds, I suggest, to the invention of pottery, pendants, ornaments and barbed harpoons and spearheads, the last two tremendously important in spreading the human species into more difficult climates.”

There is another serious question as to whether the cognitive operation of following rules is possible before the later stages of the evolution of language: possibly at the so called “age of names” sometime between 10000 and 8000 BC. It is this age, well into the next revolution(the Agricultural Revolution) which is conditionally necessary for narratives to begin and this would seem to be necessary for an awareness of fictive language to be possible. What level of awareness is required for the establishment or following of rules? Rules in Wittgenstein are connected with the mastery of techniques and rational agreements. Could Hunters and gatherers before 10000 and 8000 bC be said to be “Masters” of any technique? One wonders here whether Harari is projecting relatively advanced mental states onto relatively primitive behavioural patterns. Prior to the systematic functioning of language the medium of cultural transmission, according to Jaynes is imitation of someone else’s behaviour. This cannot be construed as following a rule which requires a level of consciousness beyond that required to follow a command by someone or imitate their behaviour.
The use of the linguistic shifter “I” comes even later than the age of names and signifies an even higher level of consciousness in which first person avowals become possible which may be necessary for the operation of following a rule. The avowal “Now I understand” may be necessary if one is to be able to follow a rule and this cognitive level may also be necessary for the understanding of fictive language.

Animism began to weaken during the agricultural revolution, Harari argues and animated rocks springs ghosts and demons gave way to a polytheistic collection of gods:

“While the king in his capital city sacrificed dozens of fat rams to the great war god, praying for victory over the barbarians, the peasant in his hut lit a candle to the fig tree fairy, praying that she help to cure his sick son.”(p237)

We can see a difference in the conceptualisation of life forms in the above example. Animals and natural phenomena are “mastered” during the agricultural revolution and the result is a consciousness of the difference between the kinds of existence of physical phenomena and animal forms of life. Polytheism then develops into a stage on the way to monotheism where there is an acknowledgment of of a power superior to these gods, Fate, Moira, or Ananke.
It would be pointless to ask such a power for a victory in a local war because such a power has no concern with human desire to be or effort to exist. Kingdoms and Empires may rise and fall in the purview of this power. Such events are ephemeral and whilst undoubtedly events of significance such significance might not be what we think it is because of the span of infinite time.

Local and regional gods waned in importance possibly because of the cognitive awareness of the inefficacy of “deals” with the god of war. The humanist will see this as a natural progression in an awareness of ones own active responsibility. If one wishes to win a war acquire knowledge of how wars are won and prepare accordingly. This is not Harari’s position who praises polytheism in the following terms:

“Polytheism is inherently open-minded, and rarely persecutes “heretics” and “infidels”. Even when polytheists conquered huge empires, they did not try to convert their subjects.”

Harari rightly points out that monotheists saw other monotheists as heretical or as infidels and responded very often in violent terms but does not explore the possibility that there were a number of reasons for this states of affairs. Harari points out that polytheism also gave birth to dualistic religions which divide the empire of the world into two:the good and the bad but he does not explore the extent to which this dualism infected monotheism to the extent that this battleground of the good and bad was fought by “us vs them”. He points out how difficult it was for monotheists to accommodate the assumption of dualism. The God of monotheism was a god of order and order cannot be produced on a battleground that seeks to divide up the empire of the world into two camps. The monotheist Aristotle believed in a God of order who was necessarily good and conceived of the fight between good and evil as an activity in some sense “aiming at the good”. There cannot be a battle therefore between what is good and what is evil, there can only be a battle between what is “good” and what is “evil”. This is the message of humanism but for Harari Religious humanism would be a kind if contradiction which it is clearly not.

Harari points to the phenomenon of the emergence of religions during the first millennium BC which were characterised by a disregard of gods: Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Stoicism, Cynicism and Epicureanism:

“These creeds maintained that the superhuman order governing the world is the product of natural laws rather than of divine wills and whims. Some of these natural law religions continued to espouse the existence of gods, but their gods were subject to the laws of nature no less than humans, animals and plants were…Gods could no more change the laws of nature than elephants can.”(249)

For the humanist like Aristotle it is not the case that his idea of the divine was subject to the natural laws(the laws of physics?) It is indeed not out of the question that for Aristotle there is a conceptual identity between laws of change and the divine.

There is a very interesting discussion of Buddhism in which the central figure is as Harari says is “not a god but a human being” who sought for explanations behind the various forms of human suffering:

“He saw that men and women, children and old people, all suffer not just from occasional calamities such as war and plague, but also from anxiety, frustration, and discontent, all of which seem to be an an inseparable part of the human condition. People pursue wealth and power, acquire knowledge and possessions, beget sons and daughters, and build houses and palaces. Yet no matter what they achieve, they are never content. Those who live in poverty dream of riches. .. Even the rich and famous are rarely satisfied. They too are haunted by ceaseless cares and worries, until sickness old age and death put an end to them. Everything that one has accumulated vanishes like smoke.”(p249-50)

The restless mind seeks to escape suffering and can do so this work argues only be putting an end to ones craving by training the mind to stoically accept reality as it is, accept Fate, Moira, and Ananke. It is not clear what exactly is meant here. If it is the case that the desire for enlightenment is motivating all our activity and our restless activity then is this too a fire that must be put out? If so this as we know is the motivator of the reincarnation thesis and this Harari says nothing about in his evaluation of this “religion”.

The most startling claim in the book is contained in a section entitled “The Worship of Man”:

The last 300 years are often depicted as an age of growing secularisation in which religions have increasingly lost their importance. If we are talking about theist religions, this is largely correct. But if we take into consideration natural law religions, then modernity turns out to be an age of intense religious fervour, unparalleled missionary effort, and the bloodiest wars of religion in history. The modern age has witnessed the rise of a number of new natural law religions such as liberalism, Communism, capitalism, nationalism and Nazism.”(p254)

Humanism is not on this list but it might be implied by liberalism. If so we are being asked to regard Humanism, Capitalism, Communism and Nazism as “religions”. This is the clearest consequence of the failure of this work to include a consideration of philosophical ethics in its reflections upon the history of mankind. It is clear that the idea of “the good” and the “Sacred” are being bracketed in the production of the above incredible members of the category of “religions”. The question is whether any restless activity craving change of any kind does not qualify for membership of the above very tenuously constructed class. The problem arises because of the separation of the idea of god and the good from so called “laws of nature and not recognising the conceptual connections between these notions which have been discussed by Philosophers for over 2000 years. Harari does not care much for the cognitive structure of language which stops one using just any term for any phenomenon one wishes to name and in that respect his work falls clearly into the niche of post modernist writings. here is an example of this same kind of carelessness:

“If it makes you feel better, you are free to go on calling Communism an ideology rather than a religion. It makes no difference.”(p255)

There are no clear boundaries between these concepts he claims but he does not motivate an abandonment of a number of long traditions of inquiry which would insist on the difference between a political system and a religion between a system of monetary distribution(capitalism) and a religion. It is not as if Harari is advocating for the importance of religion.

Finally Harari, ignoring the counterexamples of Humanism of Aristotle Kant, Ricoeur and Wittgenstein claims that humanists believe that humans are the most important thing in the world and the supreme good. This may or may not be an acceptable account depending upon whether the limitations of human rationality which all the above humanists share an opinion on is included in the account. More contentiously Harari divides humanism into liberal humanism, social humanism(Communism?) and evolutionary humanism(Nazism).
Totalitarianism was characterised by Hannah Arendt as an ideology which inverts the good into evil and vice versa. Hitler and Stalin were mass murderers and placing them in the same humanistic category as the above philosophers is an example of both post modernist and totalitarian thinking: a fine revisionist view of history, philosophy and language.

Critique and Commentary of “Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part three

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The title of this book is ” a brief history of mankind” but there are major historical omissions which probably relate to a) a limited view of the role of Philosophy in our History and b) a limited view of philosophical politics. The Ancient Greek contribution to ethical and political universalism is mysteriously conspicuous by its absence in this account as is the Kantian account of the universalism and objectivity of the moral law which turned out to be the moral argument for universal human rights. The following quote illustrates this point:

“The first millennium BC witnessed the appearance of three potentially universal orders, whose devotees could for the first time imagine the entire world and the entire human race as a single unit governed by a single set of laws. Everyone was “us” at least potentially. There was no longer “them”. The first universal order to appear was economic:the monetary order. The second universal order was political: the imperial order. Te third universal order was religious:the order of universal religions such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Merchants, conquerors and prophets were the first people who managed to transcend the binary evolutionary division “us vs them”, and to foresee the potential unity of humankind. For the merchants, the entire world was a single market and all humans were potential customers. They tried to establish an economic order that would apply to all, everywhere. For the conquerors, the entire world was a single empire and all humans were potential subjects, and for the prophets, the entire world held a single truth and all humans were potential believers. They too tried to establish an order that would be applicable for everyone everywhere.”

Aristotle is reputed to have claimed, in the name of political philosophy, which does not aim military conquest but rather emphasises the role of knowledge of truth and the good in the flourishing life, that the Greeks “armed” with its political philosophy could rule the world. It is not clear whether Alexander the Great was attempting to instantiate this Aristotelian idea but Jonathan Lear in his work on Aristotle focuses not on belief but rather on the desire we all universally posses to understand our world. Lear argues that this is the telos of rational human activity. If he is correct, it is a short step to propose that this might be the basis of all human and political activity everywhere. Knowledge and understanding of the truth and the good are not the primary concern of merchants or conquerors but it is the concern of prophets even if the approach of the latter very often clashes with philosophical ideas of justice. We are all familiar with the Platonic dialogue “Euthyphro”in which Socrates contested an action done in the name of the “holy” arguing that it was “unjust”. There is, in the desire to understand, a concern with abstract knowledge that we will not find in the activities of merchants working in their markets or conquerors building their Empires. Socrates began a tradition in Philosophical reasoning which attempts to achieve an understanding of the truth and the good in all areas of activity. He also emphasised the perception and understanding of differences between for example fact and fiction, myth and religion, the wealthy life vs the examined life. This spirit was again embraced fully by Kant in his Enlightenment Philosophy in which knowledge of human nature, ethics,and political philosophy are central concerns in the formation of the idea of the Cosmopolitan citizen. The interesting question to ask is why Harari in a work on mankind chooses to ignore such an important part of the history of mankind in this work. It might even be the case that the philosophical view of universalism is the most important mechanism driving the world in its global or cosmopolitan direction. The kingdom of ends for Kant was neither a market nor an empire nor a purely religious phenomenon, although we find that in Kant’s kingdom there is room for a belief in God grounded not in mythology but in ethical understanding and reasoning.

In a section entitled “The New Global Empire” there is some historical comment on nation-states but not as much as one would have expected. It is correctly pointed out that mankind has spent most of its time living in Empires. The nation state is a relatively recent phenomenon and Harari also rightly takes the position that the signs are that we are heading in the direction of a new global empire. Nationalism exploded in our faces during the last century which Hannah Arendt described as “this terrible century” where she argued nationalism, capital and military expansionism contributed to the emergence of a new form of totalitarian government based on class and race which set the world on fire. There is no mention of this aspect which religious prophets and philosophers may claim to have foreseen. Arendt quotes the story of Cecil Rhodes expressing a wish to colonise the planets as an illustration of the excesses that drives capital searching for investment and men searching for their fortunes. This aspect of capitalisms insatiable desire for greater and greater accumulation is not mentioned in this sweeping historical account. The argument presented for the new global empire is however, occasionally philosophical with a biological twist:

“As the twenty first century unfolds, nationalism is fast losing ground. More and more people believe that all of humankind is the legitimate source of political authority rather than the members of a particular nationality, and that safeguarding human rights and protecting the interests of the entire human species should be the guiding light of politics. If so, having close to 200 independent states is a hindrance rather than a help”(231)

Pragmatism and instrumentalism also makes an appearance:

“….The appearance of essentially global problems such as melting ice caps nibbles away at whatever legitimacy remains to the independent nation states. No sovereign state will be able to overcome global warming on its own. As of 2014, the world is still politically fragmented, but states are fast losing their independence. Not one of them is really able to execute independent economic policies, to declare and wage wars as it pleases or even to run its own internal affairs as it sees fit…States are obliged to conform to global standards.. “(p231-232)

Philosophers would in this context refer to global understanding and the importance of knowledge of the truth and the good in naming the underlying mechanisms of the global transformation we are witnessing. These are the tools of the progress we are now seeing after the terrible twentieth century and its economic and political excesses. After excess comes the inevitable return to the golden mean, Aristotle would argue. Kant specifically claimed that this progress away from excesses was not toward a world government because such a government would inevitably be tyrannical and be forced to tyrannise minorities. We know he suggested an organisation such as the United Nations where countries would participate voluntarily and cooperate for the common good. Such an organisation is indeed an embodiment of the global understanding of the importance of peace in the world if Progress is to continue unhindered. But we should also bear in mind that this march of progress is a slow affair and we should not expect the ethical and political notion of a perpetual peace in the world in the next one hundred thousand years. The golden mean is even in historical terms a long way beyond the historical horizon and unfortunately in this work we get no indication of the time scale for the emergence of the new global empire or the reasons why states feel obliged to conform to global standards.

Critique and Commentary of “Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part two

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Yuval Noah Harari has this to say in his chapter “Building Pyramids” by way of comparing the acts of imagination which lay behind the building of the pyramids and the acts of imagination that he claims constitute our idea of Human Rights:

“Homo Sapiens has no natural rights, just as spiders, hyenas, and chimpanzees have no natural rights….A natural order is a stable order. There is no chance that gravity will cease to function tomorrow, even if people stop believing in it. In contrasts an imagined order is always in danger of collapse, because it depends upon myths, and myths vanish once people stop believing in them. In order to safeguard an imagined order, continuous and strenuous efforts are imperative. Some of these efforts take the shape of violence and coercion. Armies, police forces, courts and prisons are ceaselessly at work forcing people to act in accordance with the imagined order.”(p125)

Harari does admittedly qualify this extreme Hobbesian position by saying that belief in the objects of the imagination is also needed. Once again we see the distorted results of a bi-polar characterisation of the world in terms of myths and facts. What is needed to correctly describe the above state of affairs is a whole universe of discourse with large numbers of interconnected concepts possessing logical relations to each other and an Aristotelian/Kantian Philosophical psychology which will recognize imagination to be a power that principally is connected to our powers of perception and emotion but can also be connected to two powers that radically transform its function: the powers of language (discourse) and reason. This latter claim is behind why we believe in both gravity and human rights. There are , however, probably many more reasons to believe in the existence of human rights than the existence of gravity and whilst there is absolutely no reason to doubt the existence of the latter law, there may be philosophical reasons to doubt one or more of its underlying assumptions: The claim that space is curved for example for some philosophers may contain a contradiction forced upon us by a belief that space has real mathematical properties. Is this latter belief a result of the mathematical imagination? Could it be a myth? If so the bi polar division of our experience of the world into imaginative myths and real facts is otiose. What puzzles me is that Harari in his determination to involve using philosophy in the infrastructure of his argument is providing old discredited philosophical pictures of our social and political realities. Hobbes we know was passionately anti- Aristotelian for no good reason and talked about violence and coercion as means the state can use to bring about order in society. The Aristotelian/Kantian picture of man being a rational animal capable of discourse bringing about order in society by educational processes using argument and logic is undermined by the simplistic distinctions of the imagined and the real: belief and knowledge.

Echoes of the Hobbesian picture of a middle class businessman seeking to lead what he called a commodious life are present also in the following continuation:

“it does not take much to provide the objective biological needs of Homo Sapiens. After those are needs are met, more money can be spent on building pyramids, taking holidays around the world, financing election campaigns, funding your favourite terrorist organisation, or investing in the stock market and making yet more money…”(125-6)

Aristotle was the first biologist and embedded his biological theory in a philosophical theory of immense scope and complexity which included four different kinds of explanations for all physical social and political change in the world. This theory was built upon a view of man as attempting to fulfil his potential as a rational animal by the systematic use of discourse aimed at shaping minds. Aristotle would have scoffed at the commodious life of the Hobbesian middle class businessman which Harari provides a sketch of above. Bi-polar explanations may satisfy such a Hobbesian man or the man Harari claims wishes to please his wife by building a pyramid for her. It is important to note however that such bi-polar explanations are not exactly educational, i.e. they do not shape minds. Arguments and explanations shape minds in the Aristotelian universe where the ideal is the middle class man whose mind is shaped by educational argument and discourse: for example, by the middle class man who leads an examined life which might include taking a holiday to a)further ones knowledge of the different forms such an examined life might take and b) to communicate ones knowledge of the world and ones culture.For Socrates, Plato and Aristotle the life of the wealthy man failed to actualise the potential of a man to lead a flourishing life and whilst they may have agreed that imagination played a large role in the life of such a man they would have pointed to failures on the part of such men to submit their beliefs to a tribunal of rational, critical scrutiny. Such a scrutiny may reveal a belief in myths such as that making money can shape ones mind or that the gods are smiling upon such activity but such myths cannot be compared to the reasons someone influenced by philosophical reasoning may give for their belief in the importance of knowledge and human rights. The distinctions between what is a good reason to believe in something and a myth completely disappear in this part of Harari’s work. The distinction between the CEO OF Peugeot who faces the tribunal of his shareholders every quarter with his power point presentation and the leader of a political party who faces with his arguments the tribunal of critical discussion of his/her ideas every day also disappears.

Justice and human rights are inextricably linked so it is no surprise to find Harari in his chapter entitled “”There is no Justice in History” claiming that
justice is an imagined order which historically has been neither neutral nor fair. The problem with his reasoning is again that his simplistic infrastructure of history plus biology does not enable him to make historically and philosophically established distinctions between social and political structures. He points out that Hammurabi’s code was hierarchical where the law specifically refers to the social classes of the superiors, the commoners and the slaves and he points to the American Constitution which although saying that all men are equal was accompanied by continuing social practices of owning slaves. A modern political analysis would philosophically establish that the intention of the constitution was clearly egalitarian and its role was to signal to the social system that discrimination and oppression ought not to occur on the grounds of colour creed or wealth: a wealthy white Christian stands before the law and ought to be viewed in the eyes and principles of the law in exactly the same terms as a poor black muslim. This may not always work in practice because judges and juries are people who allow their prejudices to cloud their understanding of the law but this does not permit the degradation of the reasoned body of doctrine we call the law into a figment of the imagination. The problem here does not lie with the law or our concept of the law but with the individuals and social processes enforcing the law. Equating this body of doctrine with myth is confusing individual and social practices with political ideals. Laws do not work immediately on individuals and social practices, rather, they work at the pace of history which is a quicker pace than evolution but a slower pace than many critics imagine or wish for. The American civil war was fought over the Enlightenment idea of the dignity of all men which had been argued for Philosophically in the 1780’s and 1790’s by Kant using the idea of a moral law. The American civil war did not immediately enforce the Kantian moral law which was based on the teleological assumption that all men are ends in themselves and were therefore to be valued equally and respected equally. This moral law amounted to saying that they ought to be valued and respected which does not actually logically entail that they are. It does not, either, on the other hand, logically warrant the claim that there is no ground for engaging in the desired behaviour. The moral law is one of the assumptions of our modern legal systems in Europe where the wealthy white Christian stands accused and is subjected to the same neutral regard until found guilty as is the poor black muslim. Notice that I am not denying that social practices involved in the implementation of the law sometimes disobey the moral law or the intention of the laws of the land. But also notice we do not, as a consequence of our disappointment, change the law because it cannot be universally applied in all cases. We attempt to correct the social processes causing deviations from its universal application, and we continue to do so sometimes with social and sometimes with political processes. Martin Luther King used social processes to force an alteration of laws which were in fact not in accordance with the moral law or the US Constitution and he used a combination of moral and religious argumentation to do so. So, one civil war and one civil rights movement has undoubtedly improved the social situation but it is still dysfunctional. What we are witnessing here is the slow rate of change of social processes in accordance with the Kantian and philosophical idea of “progress”. Kant wisely spoke of a future state of affairs as the kingdom of ends” and claimed that such a kingdom would take one hundred thousand years to establish. What is occurring here is a process of change which is not evolutionary(taking millions of years) or historical(taking hundreds of years) but something in between. Such processes bear witness to the fact that the rationality of the species of homo sapiens will take a long time to fully actualise. That it was however a telos guiding our activities was never, however, doubted by Kant or by Aristotle. In the light of such considerations the title of this chapter “There is no Justice in History” is paradoxical or at the very least unnecessarily ambiguous.

Social processes may well contain contradictory activities but it is difficult to fathom how the political ideas of equality and liberty are contradictory. Firstly it is important to note that equality does not mean “equal with respect to every characteristic”: something “equal in every characteristic” to something else would be identical with that thing and the two hypothetically postulated things would in fact be one. The idea of equality is related to a social context and a legal context. In the social context it refers to equality of opportunity and in the legal context it refers to equality in relation to the way in which the law treats two individuals of differing characteristics(the wealthy white Christian and the poor black muslim). Harari claims the following in relation to this debate:

“Unlike the laws of physics which are free of inconsistencies, every man made order is packed with internal contradictions. Cultures are constantly trying to reconcile these contradictions. For instance , in medieval Europe the nobility believed in both Christianity and chivalry. Another example is the modern political order. Ever since the French revolution, people throughout the world have gradually come to see both equality and individual freedom as fundamental values. Yet the two values contradict each other. Equality can be ensured only by curtailing the freedom of those who are better off. Guaranteeing that every individual will be free to do as he wishes inevitably short changes equality.The entire political history of the world since 1789 can be seen as a series of attempts to reconcile this contradiction.”(p182)

Kant did not see any contradiction once one recognises the necessary distinctions between the absolute values of freedom and equality embodied by a moral law that respects the absolute value of the dignity of man and the relative values of a French aristocracy defending its class related privileges. Richer than..or poorer than… are obvious relative values and can best use the quantitative instruments of the mathematician and scientist to measure the differences. No such instrument can be used to measure the dignity of man which is a concept that does not behave like a variable looking for a value.The dignity of man is an idea that cannot be quantified.

Critique and Commentary of “Sapiens, A brief history of humankind”(Yuval Noah Harari) from a Philosophical Perspective(Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein) Part one

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This is an enthralling and interesting book taking us on a journey across enormous spans of time with a minimum of infrastructure of History and Biology. The timeline given at the beginning of the work sketches both the enormous scope of this work as well as its enormous limitations.
13.5 billion years ago Dr Yuval Noah Harari claims matter and energy “appeared” together with atoms and molecules. Earth it is claimed formed 4.5 billion years ago with the first organisms appearing 3.8 billion years ago. 2.5 million years ago saw the emergence of the genus “Homo” with “Homo Sapiens developing around 200,000 years ago in East Africa. All of these are scientific claims and one presumes that these are facts in spite of philosophical concerns about the grounds for saying that matter and energy appeared at these dates. Is this a description of what the scientist imagines must be the case because of a host of facts or is there some calculation which would tell us the time of the emergence of matter and energy from some primeval source? If there is a “proof” that the universe began to exist at some point in time and everything “exploded into existence then Philosophers would be able to free themselves of the antonymy of the claims that the universe has always existed versus its coming into existence ex nihilo without a cause that itself must have had a cause. It is not as if it is possible to believe the one or the other because even if there is a scientific proof or calculation it is made on the assumption of a kind of causality that appears to be contradictory. Imagining this ex nihilo form of causality is indeed a feat of scientific imagination which the philosopher believes may not be cognitively possible. Indeed it may be the case that the Philosopher is more inclined either to believe that nothing significant can be said about the beginning of the universe exactly because it is logically possible that the universe has always existed in some form or another and the dramatic forms imagined by the scientist are merely changes for which there are causes. Aristotle would of course probably have insisted that some kind of unknowable cause or telos could well be operating along with other kinds of cause(material, efficient, formal) With events as vast as the size of the infinite universe it is of course almost impossible to estimate or guess what such a telos might be. It becomes easier with the emergence of life where one can survey the possible telos of the end of all life because of the ability of the logical imagination to conceive of a world without life and a world where life forms begin to exist. Life, this great biological concept, according to Aristotle must be conceived partly teleologically because its essence or formal cause must include the end of the condition that allowed it to come into being. There are of course also the material and efficient causes of life which is the concern of the scientist to chart (without the use of any ex nihilo concept of “cause”)
Dr Harari places several “revolutions” on his timeline, the first of which is “The Cognitive Revolution”( 70,000 years ago) which he associates mysteriously with the emergence of the language of fiction and which he claims “kick-started” history. Two of the characteristics of the use of language are its abilities to claim what is true as well as the ability to claim things which are false or fictional. Harari puts a premium for some reason on the latter rather than the former power in spite of the fact that the former must have been the “original intention”, namely to say something or proclaim something that is the case. Both powers are dependent upon one another but it does seem somewhat perverse to emphasize a secondary power at the expense of the primary power. If Julian Jaynes is right and the original source of language is exclamational, a shout of warning, there has to be something which the shout is about(a present danger) if we are to make sense of this otherwise instrumental form of communication. Jaynes claims in his work”The Origins of Consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind” that “narratisation arose as a codification of reports of past events requiring a number of previous stages of language. Julian Jaynes speaks of exclamational shouts and possible modifier functions of language(40,000 bc) to indicate the nearness or farness of the tiger and the development of this to nouns(25,000-15000 bc)and the commanding of actions. Names for people, argues Jaynes came late around 10,000-8000 bc. This is probably the key to narratization because it does seem to be a logical requirement that one has a name before one can be imagined in ones absence. Jaynes points to the Natufians at Eynan and the burial practices dating from 9000 bc in towns of about 200 people in contrast their ancestors who were hunters living in caves. This is around the time of the second revolution, the so called Agricultural revolution in which wild species of wheat were domesticated and cultivated. But Jaynes insists that no narratization was as yet possible because that required a more complex cognitive skill of forming in ones mind an analogue self in which they could “see” themselves in relation to others. This required in Jaynes’s view an advanced form of mental development in which individuals could begin to plan their futures, a skill involving involving an analogue I that could do x or y. Jaynes thinks that this is the moment of of the advent of consciousness which he dates very late , certainly after the 1470 bc earthquake and eruption of Santorini. The guiding influence of this period Jaynes, argues are the hallucinated “voices” of God operating in the context of a rigid hierarchical structure which often collapsed when unusual events demanded unusual actions requiring perhaps a more methodical and reasoned form of consciousness.It is only at this point a long time after 70,000 years ago that we can indeed begin to think of a cognitive revolution involving narratization and intentional historical record. Dating the Cognitive revolution from 70,000 years ago when it probably occurred well after the start of the Agricultural revolution is therefore probably misleading. A command and control form of language with a putative source in the procession or pantheon of Gods was probably occurring for most of this period when there was no linguistic condition for the truth or falsity of these utterances. The procession of dead kings or Gods(the memory of a dead king, according to Jaynes) begins to become a more historically structured phenomenon after writing was invented but this was an event a long time after 70,000 years ago, the so called beginning of the revolution. The word “revolution” is an interesting one in this context. One can wonder whether it is a purely cognitive matter as T S Eliot suggested when he claimed that at the end of all our explorations we will return back to the beginning and know the place for the first time. Or we can move back in time to that age of intellectual exploration par excellence and reason with Kant that revolution has to do with the kind of change that is “progressive”. History, for Kant, in other words is “teleological” and aiming for a better future. It is not as Harari appears to suggest a bare record of the facts moving toward a totality of facts. History is a value-laden cognitive adventure which has its roots in many of the ancient Greek ideas of what is good and what is Just, formal and final causes. This brings us to a major limitation of this work. There is on this timeline nothing from ancient Greek world which launched our investigations into reasoning and consciousness, the basic elements of any so-called “Cognitive revolution”: basic elements of the so called “intelligent design” of our societies and world order. The date 70,000 probably refers to the migration of Sapiens from Africa due to what Harari refers to as new ways of thinking and communicating(caused by genetic mutations affecting the functions of the brain) which enabled them to 1. displace the Neanderthals from their place of supremacy in the Middle East and Europe and 2.crossing the sea to Australia and 3 the invention of boats lamps bows and arrows and needles and 4 speak a new type of language . There is a strange discussion of Peugot and the Stadel lion found in the Stadel cave in Germany dating from 32000 years ago. The figure is of a lion-man and this is evidence as far as Harari is concerned of the ability of the human mind to imagine things that really do not exist and indicate what he refers to as the “fictional narrative language referred to earlier. These new linguistic skills, it is claimed, enabled Sapiens to gossip for hours on end(the “gossip theory”)and enabled the organisational group to increase in size to ca 150 individuals. This theory plus the exclamation theory are valid accounts, Harari concludes from a discussion that makes absolutely no reference to Philosophy of language or linguistics. Fiction, Harari argues enables man to imagine things that do not exist collectively. It enables us to transcend the limitations of the gossip theory. The traditional philosophical view that the sizes of the group increased due to the teleological needs of the individual and group and the rule of just laws is not even mentioned. Somehow Harari, the scientist and historian who should be guided by facts and objective values and needs resorts for his explanations instead to Mythology and Religion which he thinks is on a par with mythology in contradistinction to philosophers who believe that religious thought transcends mythology with its proclamatory functions of language which embody judgments of what the community values.Paradoxically Peugot enters this discussion because as Harari claims: “Modern businesspeople and lawyers are in fact powerful sorcerers”. The fact that the average life span of a company is 30 years may support the sorcerer theory but the inclusion of lawyers in this category is an astounding view of the nature of the validity of law in the process of holding communities together since the time of the Code of Hammurabi. Apparently some lawyers have taken to calling joint stock companies “legal fictions” on the grounds that it is not a physical object but has legal rights. This is not the controlled use of language that we expect from legal thinkers and we are not far from asserting that because we cannot “see, hear touch, measure a human right” it too must be a fiction. If one is working with a primitive non philosophical theory of language one should not be surprised at such absurd conclusions. If something is not a fact it is a fiction. What other logical alternatives are there? Well, there are literally thousands and it is extremely puzzling to be confronted by an either /or theory of bipolar extremes. Aristotle would not have made such a logical mess of describing non physical states of affairs.He would not have thought of Athens as an imagined entity without reality.

Harari uses History as a part of the infrastructure he needs in order to move beyond the limiting confines of Biology when it comes to talk of the forces and powers that enable large communities to exist as unities. Paradoxically, given the total absence of Philosophy in this discussion it is argued that it is the ability of Sapiens to play games which enables Sapiens to transcend his biological limitations. Aristotle has a hylomorphic theory which enables him to integrate the biological life of the body firstly with with the imagination of the emotional spirit of man and secondly the truth functional and rational nature of mans cognitive nature. This is a more panoramic view of the arena of mans existence which does not constrain us speak either in terms of facts or in terms of fictions/games.

Our actions historically evolve in terms of our cognitive powers which for Aristotle include perception, memory, language, emotion, imagination, and reason. Imagining on its own as a mental function can certainly weave a fabric of fantasy around a carved man-lion and tempt us into believing that the people who made this object are much like us. According to Jaynes’ more philosophically based theory, the people who carved this object were not conscious and were not aware of the difference between reality and fiction. If they could speak to us we probably would not be able to understand them.

Harari also mentions evolutionary psychology in his attempts to “get inside the heads” of our ancestors in order to understand our present day social and psychological characteristics.

Wittgenstein is a philosopher one can use to try to understand why we should not try to get into someone else’s head if one wishes to understand them. The final justification for him is what we(groups of humans) do. Writing was invented around 3000 bc and at the same time we see the emergence of the first Egyptian kingdom and the Great’s Akkadian empire comprising more than one million subjects. Are these two facts merely accidentally related or is there some kind of causal relation between them. Could it be that proclamations of laws in writing (and not something going on in individuals heads like imagining entities that do not exist) are necessary conditions for the existence of real kingdoms and empires? Is it really tenable to argue that the myths people believed in played a larger role in the maintenance of kingdoms and empires than the laws that regulated peoples judgments of each other? If Jaynes is correct in his assumption that gods are just dead past kings then are not their judgments just as real as the present day kings who apply their judgments in their legal systems?

Harari uses the example of the Code of Hammurabi in order to illustrate human cooperation in groups. The code was from around 1776 bc and was used as a model for all legal codes in coming generations. It was used to regulate the largest city on earth at the time, Babylon.. Reference was made to previous gods who laid down the framework for the code:
“to make justice prevail in the land, to abolish the wicked and the evil, to prevent from oppressing the weak”

There is no need to describe these beings as imagined entities that do not exist, just because they are previous dead kings. This code is very hierarchical and places monetary values on the lives of women and slaves. Jaynes referred to the instability of hierarchical theocracies that often collapsed when reality became too difficult to deal with. According to Harari, these proclamations are associated with imagines entities and cannot therefore possess any different status to the Proclamations we find in a document created during 1776 AD in which it is claimed that all men are created equal in the eyes of God. Men have evolved argues Harari, therefore they cannot have been created. The document is therefore fictional. The problem with Harari’s bi-polar one dimensional theory of human cooperation is that one cannot see the law of progress operating between the two codes, especially in terms of the idea of the good and justice. The American Declaration of Independence sufficed to hold millions of citizens together for hundreds of years. One cannot, that is , on Harari’s view take a Kantian view of the teleological processes operating in History and mans historical existence in groups. Harari basically objects to the Constitution on biological and scientific grounds. One cannot measure happiness, only pleasure he argues and we therefore cannot regard this as anything more than something inside someones head. Aristotle had no difficulty in characterising conceptually what happiness was and laid down the axiom that in order to be happy a rational language using animal must use his power of rationality. Man is not yet collectively happy but that is because rationality is in the process of installing itself in the species. It is in thoughts such as these that we see the integration of Philosophy, Biology, History, Psychology, Epistemology, Physics and Metaphysics: something we cannot see in the very limited infrastructure of Biology, evolutionary psychology and History that Harari attempts to use in his attempts to characterise Aristotle’s “rational animal”

Fifth Centrepiece lecture by Jude Sutton from the work “The World Explored, the World Suffered: The Exeter lectures.”

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Sophia and Robert sat waiting for their Philosophy lecture to begin. The notice board had announced the fact that today’s lecture entitled “Epistemology” would be a double lecture to compensate for the previous cancellation. There were two minutes remaining but no one in the class expected the lecture to begin on time and Jude’s entrance as a consequence passed almost unnoticed. The lecture began exactly on time:
“Epistemology, or Theory of Knowledge is one of the traditional divisions of Philosophy along with Metaphysics, Ethics, Political Philosophy, and Logic. It has been the area of Philosophy most susceptible to influence from Science. It may be too soon to tell, but this century may go down in history as being the Third Major Revolution in the History of Philosophy: the first two revolutions having been initiated by Aristotle and Kant respectively. It is always notoriously difficult to point to exactly when a revolution began, and by the way, as revolutions go this one compared with the other two is a minor affair, but I would suggest that, when Bertrand Russell tried to reduce Mathematics to Logic and then subsequently Logicians went on to use Logic to dismantle much of what had been previously established in Metaphysics and Ethics, this was the firing of the first shot by rebel troops across the bows of traditional philosophy. Prior to this of course Science had been surreptitiously undermining the above key areas of thinking and this state of affairs culminated in the establishment of the school of the Logical Positivists. Science allied itself with Logic and Epistemology in the positivist school, and proceeded to colonise every area of knowledge: dismantling religion, politics, and aesthetics on the way. The resultant philosophical landscape was as open and barren as a desert, with cultural sand-atoms lying juxtaposed ad infinitum in all directions and being shifted only by the winds of scientific and logical methodologies. Almost everything erected by the architects of Aristotle and Kant and their followers had been levelled and all that could be heard in the desert was the wind of the talk of the existence and quantities of X. An American logician by the name of Willard van Orman Quine, inspired by logic and the scientific project claimed: “To be is to be the value of a variable”. In such terminology one can detect the presence of the wraith of a Philosopher who distrusts European metaphysics. Philosophy then responded with the work of Wittgenstein who, in his earlier work spoke for the opposition, but was stopped in his tracks by the collective tonnage of argument from the traditional philosophers. The later Wittgenstein subsequently began restoring the landscape of traditional Philosophy from his base at Trinity College Cambridge where I met him. His restoration of archaic concepts and arguments from the ancient Greeks and the Enlightenment period, occurred in his posthumous works. This restoration work was performed of course with the tools from Wittgenstein’s toolbox.
In last week’s lecture we talked of certainty and the difficulty of specifying the criteria that provide the truth conditions of the physical world. Descartes in response to scientific and mathematical methodologies felt the philosophical landscape being eroded and began to dig the grave of metaphysics by locating certainty epistemologically in an “I”, which thinks. “Cogito ergo sum”, he famously argued: “I think therefore I am. Perhaps he too, like at least one of the pre-Socratics who were responding to the natural philosophers of their time, thought that everything of importance was located in the mind. But like Plato, a fellow traveler, Descartes was a mathematician who surpassed his predecessor by resting his case on methodology. He rested his case on what some commentators have referred to as a skeptical methodology that may be a contradiction, if a methodology’s primary purpose is to coordinate facts and principles systematically. In connection with this point we should also note that a certain kind of mathematician seems to believe only in those ideas he has constructed himself. He “knows” 7+5=12 because he knows the rule for the construction of seven, he also knows the rule for the use of “the plus operation” which requires moving sequentially in the system of numbers, five times. The answer “twelve” then presents itself for inspection like the time on the face of a clock. In this constructed world there is no room for mistakes. Everything works with the precision of the military. We should not forget that Descartes was also a military man who would sometimes search for wars to fight in. The man who could die the next moment, ladies and gentlemen, has no use for ethics or metaphysics. Everything is a variable with a possibly varying value. Logically, a variable is a quantity. What else is a desert, ladies and gentlemen, than a quantity of sand? The desert traditionally is the place to look for God. For Descartes, only God could assure us that our calculations and thought-experiments were not the doings of an evil-demon intent upon imprisoning us in a bubble of false certainty. On Descartes’ right shoulder sat a priest in clerical robes calling out in a desert for God. On his left shoulder sat a philosopher in Grecian robes calling for justice and wisdom, trying to navigate away from the desert of atoms and numbers to a human world. But Descartes never made it out of the desert and settled firstly, for a lone thinker thinking about his landscape, and secondly, for the importance of his own thinking. Descartes’ “Cogito” argument, ladies and gentlemen, was the result of this cocktail of Religion, Mathematics, Science, Psychology and Philosophy. “I think therefore I am” is an epistemological argument, an argument in the theory of knowledge. The argument is solipsistic, a lone predator in a philosophical wilderness and because of this it is unable to acknowledge any of the ethical truths of Socrates, Plato or Aristotle.”
Mark Cavendish, raised his hand and asked:
“But surely there is a great deal of truth in the solipsistic system of Descartes. Take the 30 people sitting here with their thoughts. For all we know everyone is interpreting what you are saying in their individual ways and everyone will take their own truths from this class”
“Well”, “Jude answered, “If that were true, teachers would be redundant: at best our words would be stimuli to be responded to. A collective of solipsists does not a class or a society or a course in philosophy make. We are all sitting here for a collective reason or purpose. The words I utter have a collective reason or purpose because of their content and context. I am, however, inclined to agree with you that there is an individual, psychological component that probably relates to the way in which we understand the content. But there is a very important ethical element in this collective image and that refers to the products of reason that relate to how we ought to live and perhaps also, to how we ought to think. Aristotle made significant philosophical contributions to both of these aspects of our collective image of the teaching situation via his writings on Logic and Ethics.”
A Mathematics major raised his hand tentatively and asked:
“I do not quite understand your objection to the Mathematical claim that reality contains quantities best measured by our number system.
“It’s a long story, but one of my objections would consist in questioning whether we can, in fact, reduce the qualities we are experiencing in reality to quantities. I am sure some of you have come across the following example in the literature for this course: It is claimed by scientific reductionists that “Red is 690 Angström units”. The “is” in that formulation functions logically more like the “is” of identity than the “is” of predication simply because the units must logically be quantities and the quantities involved here seem to be quantities of angstrom units rather than the quality of red. Put more simply, I do not believe that scientific or mathematical characterisation or quantification of qualities are in any sense, essence specifying. The only sensible way to analyse the statement “Red is 690 Angström units”, in my opinion, is to regard it as a “hypothetical”, for example, “If color is measurable in a particular measuring system then red may be 690 Angström units..”. However in retreating to the realm of the quantitatively possible or the hypothetical, we lose the relation to the categorical truth that Aristotle maintained it was the task of science to demonstrate. According to Aristotle, Science should tell us categorically what kind of thing is in the universe. Imaginative hypotheticals belong to the realm of the possibly true and the possibly false.”
The student continued:
“Let’s confine ourselves to Mathematics and the Pythagorean claim that reality is mathematical. Surely there is nothing hypothetical about that claim”
“Good point. The Pythagoreans claim that the qualitative experiences we have of the harmony of harp strings is describable by the relation between numbers and there is also as you say a categorical claim to the effect that reality is mathematical. I pluck the strings of the harp and the sound waves emitted are then measured by a scientist in the vicinity of the vibrations. He also notes, or knows, that the sound waves are an effect of the vibration of the strings. These are the first links in a chain of phenomena which are required if we are to be permitted to speak categorically about the qualitative harmony of the qualitative notes heard by a listener in the vicinity of the vibrations. Of course the listener may have been listening to a novice learning to play the harp and the sound/notes may not have a harmonic quality at all: but even in this case there is no motivation to reduce the experience to its quantitative measurable characteristics. Why? The scientist is actually measuring waves of vibration and in doing so could conceivably ignore the sound as heard by any listener. If this makes sense then the two are not identical. Sound is received and processed by our perceptual system that can of course operate quantitatively. We complain, for example, that the sound is too loud or too low. Notwithstanding this observation, the primary purpose or telos of our perceptual system, is to detect change in general but also to discriminate, to detect differences between entities. We hear, for example, that one note is different to another, that these notes are harmonic and those are not. In arguing about the differences between the quantitative and the qualitative we refer to what Aristotle called categories of being. For him, Being had many meanings of which the meaning “substantial being”, was at one point in his work the most important. The quantitative and the qualitative are two aspects of being or reality. The quantitative aspect of reality is certainly the concern of the physical or natural scientist. The mathematician, for example, may concern himself with the structure of space and time that may well be infinite if Pythagoras is right about our number and geometrical systems being a reflection of reality and its infinite structure. Another aspect of reality is qualitative: this aspect is concerned with the way in which our perceptual system organises physical phenomena into a system of differences, using perceptual difference as the criterion: red is different to blue which is different to yellow, which is different to green and each is different to every other. This is just one chapter of a long story. So, to cut this long story short I will just say that in answer to your question I would admit that space and time is probably best described quantitatively using the tools of the mathematician. I might be prepared to concede that matter is also potentially infinite in a number of respects and is best described and explained using the instruments of the scientist. But this admission does not rule out that space and time can and perhaps should be investigated qualitatively—in terms of our experience of them. Here the long stories of the great novelists might contribute to this kind of investigation. The lived space and time of the body and its body image might, to take another example, be usefully investigated by phenomenological psychologists such as Merleau-Ponty. Finally, the lived space and time of a consciousness oriented towards the memory of its past and towards the future of its projects might be usefully investigated by existential psychologists such as Sartre and Heidegger.
In short I agree with Aristotle that there are many different kinds of explanation as to why reality is as it is. Some explanations will have a quantitative character and some will have a qualitative character. As a matter of fact, one might believe, as many philosophers have done, that the qualitative explanations may be more philosophically interesting.
Robert put up his hand and asked:
“Have you given us a complete argument for the existence of qualities and how is this relevant to the relation between epistemology and metaphysics?”
“Upon being confronted by something which is aqua-marine blue a philosopher might ask “What is aqua-marine blue?” and receive the obvious answer that it is a shade of a colour. The philosopher may then ask: “What is colour?” and receive the answer “A quality”. The answers up to this point may be within the scope and limits of our knowledge. The further question: “What is a quality?” and its answer: “A quality is a quality of something real” may take us into the realm of metaphysics, the realm which Heidegger designates as the study of being qua being. So, in answer to your question the answer “A quality” may be an epistemological terminus of the questioning. In other words that something is a quality is an epistemological justification for it being a colour. An epistemologist may not be able to justify that colours exist but he can justify that red or aqua marine are colours. The interesting question here is whether it makes sense to ask whether qualities exist. I will leave this open.
The Mathematics major raised his hand again:
“Ok I understand it is difficult to state categorically what the relation of Mathematics to reality is, but it seems to me that Mathematics is a system of knowledge that has its own methods of justification for the truth of its claims, if we exclude for the moment the ultimate justifications for mathematical truth. Surely there is not much doubt that 7+5=12 is true”
“Yes I take your point but let me in the name of leaving that question open, challenge you with a question on an epistemological level: Would you want to claim, for example, that “7+5=12 is true” has a more secure justification than the statement, “Michelangelo’s sculpture “Times of the Day” is a beautiful work of art”
“Well disputes about 7+5=12 don’t break out amongst mathematicians as they seem to do among art critics or the general population”
“Good point. You are appealing to the principle of inter-subjective agreement amongst mathematicians who are in agreement over the methods they use to solve even more difficult problems than that raised by the issue of what the sum of 7 plus 5 amounts to. Thus far we are in agreement. With respect to the judgment about whether an art object is beautiful or not, I think we are in the realm of whether a technical activity has uniquely created a universal feeling that one can speak with a universal inter-subjective voice about. This realm requires an understanding of the Greek terms techné and arête as well as how the ideas of the good or the excellent organises perception and action. Art as distinct from craft is curious in that it is a deliberated-upon series of action which does not call for action on the part of the spectator: the call is for a suspension of any commitment to action, an activation of perception and thought which in turn should “quicken”(to use Kant’s term) in the appreciator a general attitude about our lives. This attitude is referred to in Wittgenstein’s earlier work by the term sub specie aeternitatis, a term that means looking at the world in wonder and seeing it under the aspect of the timeless. Kant in his work the “Critique of Judgment” described this attitude in terms of a boundless happy outlook on life. Now perhaps a mathematician may wish to claim that 7+5=12 is a timeless truth, a truth for all time. What the mathematician means by this is that nothing can happen in the world to change a 7 into a 6 or into an 8: similarly nothing could happen in the application of the operation +5 so that instead of landing on 12 when applied to 7 it lands on 11 or 13 instead. The happenings in the world are irrelevant to numbers once they have been inserted into a framework of calculation. A temperature may change from 15 degrees centigrade to 20 degrees centigrade but the number 15 cannot change into the number 20, unless it is inserted into an equation: e.g. 15+5=20. But even in this case it does seem somewhat odd to insist that the number 15 has changed into the number 20. Numbers are differentials, discrete entities, and it would seem therefore to be more natural to insist that the number 15 retains its identity even after undergoing the operation of the addition of 5. To illustrate this, imagine I am given the task of counting the cows in two towns. I discover 15 cows in Plymouth and 5 cows in Exeter. In the report I write that there are a total of 20 cows in the two towns but surely somewhere in the report I refer to the 15 cows in Plymouth and the 5 cows in Exeter. Here it seems that the number of objects engages with the concept of identity but I nevertheless think it is an open question whether the identity of the number, the 15 cows from Plymouth, is part of the space time continuum, or whether it is part of the thought quantifying the space time continuum. Many philosophers in relation to this question would side with the critical idealists against the Pythagorean realists, the latter rather than the former “
Robert raised his hand again:
“But is it merely the agreement of a community of mathematicians which justifies the truth of 7+5=12? Surely the mere existence of an activity or group of activities cannot make something true? Is it not rather the Scientist who is the true follower of Pythagoras? If a scientist claims that All Swans are white and reality throws up a non-white swan, the claim has to be abandoned. Reality is the standard by which he measures his truth claims.”
“And yet Plato, dedicated follower of Pythagoras that he was, seeks his standard not in the fluctuating ever changing stream of reality but rather in the forms the mind uses to understand reality. But I take your point, because perhaps it is Aristotle who is the true follower of Pythagoras and because Plato could not philosophically explain how the forms came to be in the mind. His pupil Aristotle took the plunge and insisted that the forms are out there in the ever-fluctuating river of reality. He saw the order in these processes of fluctuating change, an order he claimed was produced by the essence of things: essences that make things what they are. This order is tracked by our thought enabling the concepts we use to classify and categorise events in the world to be combined in what Heidegger called a veritative or truth making synthesis. Reality gives rise to classification and categorisation that in turn gives rise to the truth of our statements. Aristotle saw that the problem with Plato’s forms was the fact that they disguised the different metaphysical weights different forms possessed. The two statements “Heraclitus is pale” and “Heraclitus is human” have basically the same metaphysical status for Plato. There is this metaphysical form of paleness and Heraclitus is a part of this form or participates in it. He participates in the form of Humanity in similar fashion. Aristotle saw that these two statements have very different logical implications. Heraclitus spends a day on the beach and is tanned as a result and everyone complements him on his healthy tan. No one regrets the loss of his paleness. On the other hand, were Heraclitus to lose his humanity everyone who knew him would regret this loss. Confronted by the non-human remnant of Heraclitus, there may even be a reluctance to use his name to call him. Whatever we are now confronted with would belong to some other category of reality than human substance. We know that Heraclitus himself thought that he had lost his humanity and had become a divine being. Aristotle’s world is constituted of a manifold of essences and in this account reality is quite clearly the standard bearer of our knowledge of the physical world. My objection to your claim that modern scientists are the true followers of Pythagoras is simply that I wonder whether Pythagoras would subscribe to the reductionism we see in modern science. The categories of substance, quality, action, time and place are ruthlessly reduced to the categories of quantity and relation. Pythagoras made no statements about the humanity of harp players. He was concerned to describe and explain the physical vibrations of the harp strings and the relation of these vibrations to the experienced harmony of sounds produced.
Sophia raised her hand
“Can you give us a concrete example of how the combinations of terms belonging to different categories can generate Truth?”
Take the two expressions “Parmenides” and “is swimming”. Hopefully we all agree that these two expressions refer to different kinds of things in reality—firstly, what Aristotle called human substance and second, the action of a living creature possessing a body with arms and legs. Combine these two terms into one and you get “Parmenides is swimming”: this is a proposition that claims something to be true of or in reality. This can be demonstrated by asking what makes this statement true. Clearly Parmenides walking up a hill will not make the statement true and the observation that Heraclitus is swimming in the river will also not make the statement true: only certain very specific events occurring in combination in reality will suffice to make the statement true. Parmenides, that particular form of human substance possessing arms and legs that he uses to swim across the river is what is needed. In other words reality needs to manifest firstly the criteria for the existence of this particular form of human substance we call Parmenides and secondly the criteria for that activity or action we call swimming.
Robert raised his hand:
“How would you characterise human substance? Does it take the place of Platonic forms in Aristotle’s system?”
“In a sense, yes. All other categories depend upon substance for their existence. You cannot, for example have swimming without some human or animal-like substance doing the swimming. The substance that Parmenides possesses is not shareable amongst a number of things but this substance is a bearer of properties that are shareable. Parmenides may, for example weigh more than 65 kilograms and this may be true of many other human substances. If we see him walking up the hill after his swim we may ask the question “What is it?” and there are two possible answers: “Parmenides” or “a human being”. The latter answer refers to what Aristotle would refer to as the formal cause of “Parmenides”.
The Mathematics major raised his hand:
“What kind of substance is number, then?”
“Mathematicians speak of the cardinal and ordinal aspects of the number system and some have defined its cardinal aspect in quantitative terms and some have defined the ordinal aspect of the number system in relational terms. The philosopher when confronted with these two aspects, of course begins to wonder whether one aspect is the primary aspect and the other secondary. One route we can use to investigate this matter would be to ask the questions “Quantities of what?” “Relations between what?” The answer some mathematicians have been inclined to give in both cases is “Units”. The quantities are quantities of ones and relations are relations with respect to a sequence of ones. Quantities seem then to be generated by an operation or rule n plus one. This rule can be seen to be ruling the idiosyncratic fluctuations of the stream of events in reality by measuring it in terms of the same plus the same. Thus, imposing a unitary measure on the before’s and after’s in relation to time. We should notice here the relation of the terms “unit” and “unitary”. It was an ancient dream of Parmenides and perhaps of some philosophers coming after him to gather all difference and plurality in the world into the “One”, the “unitary”. Condense everything into one point. Now we can imagine the entrance of Pythagoras and his reflections into the debate on the relations between a starting point and a resting point: an operation, which generates an actual straight line from two potential mathematical points. And from lines we can generate triangles and even circles and every imaginable and conceivable shape except perhaps square circles. So what we have is a continuous space made up of points lacking extension and a time made up of mathematical units each following upon one another, capable of measuring vast extents of past and future time, maybe even up to infinity. This space can of course be divided up into discrete parcels with both concepts and numbers and the continuous motion of certain physical processes is clear evidence that time is continuous. Some mathematicians believe of course, that the structures of space and time have been “discovered”. Perhaps it has been easier to explore their discreteness rather than their continuous nature. And if everything that happens, must happen in space and time, then it is small step to take, to claim that what has been discovered is the structure of the world, is a structure which has been constructed by points and numbers out of given continua. The claim is that everything in space and time is measurable and the question then becomes, are things determinable in their existence only because they are measurable, or are the forms of things more than the quantities and relations that can be predicable of them. To return to one of the examples discussed earlier we can now ask: does the sound of the harp require not just the form that organises vibrations in the air when strings are plucked, but also the form of a perceptual apparatus that can experience sounds: sounds which are not just experienced as too loud or too low but also harmonious: as organised in time in accordance with qualitative rules which state, for example, that the three sounds I am now hearing build a harmonious theme together and are therefore more than just noises occurring in the world.”
A music major raised his hand and asked:
“But where is the substance? Are you saying it is the human musician that chooses to create three sounds. Is substance the human intention to produce a harmonious constellation?”
“Excellent answer to your own question. The human musical agent familiar with the art he has been trained in, that is, the musician, has been trained to realise or actualise the musical forms he has learned, perhaps as a consequence of a lifetime of striving to produce melodious or harmonious themes pleasant to the ear and congruent with that attitude of mind Kant described as a boundless outlook onto a happy future. On the basis of this training the artist intends to produce pleasure with his creations. Aristotle, in similar vein, might have claimed that the pleasure which supervenes upon the hearing of the musicians melodious or harmonious creations is partly caused by the appreciator learning how sound can be organised in time and is partly constitutive of eudaimonia or the flourishing life.
“But”, the music major continued, “Not everyone appreciates good music”.
“Agreed. I don think we can suggest that 7+5=12 is good mathematics. It is just mathematics. But I am sure a mathematics teacher might put a comment on a student assignment: “ a good answer”, “ a good proof” etc. In doing this he is probably expressing an attitude towards the skill the pupil is demonstrating. What we need to bear in mind here, however, is that the comment by the teacher is designed to initiate the pupil into the form of life of mathematics. I think I have been unclear here and you have as a consequence shifted amongst the meanings of good. The harmonious three notes from the harp is good music in a different sense from the sense of “good” you are referring to. But since my lack of clarity has caused this, let me stipulate that we are talking about a good piece of music in your sense. Could we then reasonably say that there could be disagreement in attitude toward the music? So, let us take an example of Mozart’s music. Surely one could imagine different attitudes to the music, one listener, finding it boring, another finding the music wonderful. I don’t think that any appreciator would be able to argue coherently that Mozart’s music is not good in the sense you mean. I do not deny that it is possible for someone to personally not like the piece in question. But such a response in the above circumstances must be a personal response and by definition fails to meet the criteria of the general disinterested attitude great composers expect from their audience. This disinterested attitude entails that one abstract from one’s personal likes and dislikes and apply established norms and standards to the art works one encounters. One may also be speaking comparatively and believe other music is more interesting. But even this would probably be a personal comparison and not meet the criteria of the general disinterested attitude that constitutes good taste. There may be radical disagreement over the work of a composer who does not set out with the intentions to create in their audience this general disinterested attitude but instead is perhaps aiming to arouse a nationalistic sentiment. In this case, one could imagine a critic criticising the music for not possessing a genuine artistic intention. We are now in the realm of aesthetic judgments, which are judgments about artistic action or activity. Music is interesting in that it can be performed. This fact introduces an interesting aspect of Art, namely, that a great violinist of the day can imitate Mozart. Shakespeare’s plays are also imitations of great tragedies from which we can learn much about reality. Perhaps someone might want to say that we can learn more from history than we can from Shakespeare’s plays and I would question this by pointing out that the narratives of art explore the continuum of everyday life more than narrative history does. History we should bear in mind dissects the continuum into discrete events and focuses on events of magnitude which politicians for example must pay attention to. However, the everyday continuum is the medium in which most people live their lives and it is partly the responsibility of Art to present events which everyman can learn something from. It should also be pointed out that we could learn theoretically by coming to understand something and we can learn practically by appreciating for example that good actions have good consequences and tragic actions have tragic consequences. This is the practical and ethical logic which inhabits much of our literary and performing arts.”
An Arts student asked:
“But is all art attempting to imitate reality in order to learn something from it. Is there not art which has a purely cathartic intention—purifying the emotions of the tribe, so to speak”
Interesting question. Which takes us into the realms of Psychology and the emotions. There is a psychological theory, which is not defended by academics but maintains that the mere experiencing of an emotion is beneficial for mental health. Let’s take a crude example. Say someone insults me. It is better, it is argued, for me to demonstrate my anger in response to the insult than to bottle it up, either going home and then beating up my wife or not expressing the anger at all and dropping dead of a heart attack at 50. This is called popular comparative psychology and it certainly does not meet the criteria of more academic philosophical psychology which believes that emotions can and should be tempered by reason, i.e. it is better to view the insult with the right attitude: either disdain or indifference if it is unmotivated, and either embarrassment or of purely cognitive interest if it is motivated. But in response to this it might be claimed that if one is going to teach a temperamental child to control their emotions, art may be able to play a role here. Seeing King Lear trying to call forth love from his three daughters by the bribe of a kingdom and the tragic consequences of such an act might be a useful learning episode in a man’s ethical development. Everything depends here on what is meant by “cathartic”. The mere repetition or feeling of an emotion produces no desirable effect unless it occurs in some kind of reflective or intellectual context enabling the experiencer to create a psychological distance to the feeling. Indeed habitually expressing anger at insults, for example, may merely serve to habituate the behavior which, in accordance with practical and ethical logic and over long periods of time lead to misfortune”
Robert raised his hand:
“You referred to ethical development and you have argued previously that ethics is objective and its objectivity is connected to concepts embedded in what you called the ought-system of concepts. But surely our aesthetic judgments must be subjective, a matter of feeling or emotion!”
“Yes, thank you Robert for your point. I have been using a large brush to represent emotion when much finer strokes are needed. Firstly let me say that emotions, though subjective are cognitive, that is they are purposive if I am acting, and they manifest an attitude both when I am acting and perceiving something emotionally. The putative insult, if it is not childish, may have mature intent, to call into question my character or my agency in the world. Now above I claimed that I could respond with indifference or embarrassment. I may be indifferent because I do not feel that I need to demonstrate my integrity or agency but suppose I become angry and demonstratively strike the table in my anger as a challenge to the person behind the insult. I might even shout out “Who do you think you are?” Now one can imagine an argument ensuing in which the insulter motivates his insult, and indifference or embarrassment supervene on my part. If, that is, the argument calls attention to something I had not realised about one of my actions which was the focus of the insult, e.g. “Did you not realise that when you said what you did about Mathematics it offended her because she was a Mathematician”. What we have here is a subjective exchange about people’s feelings but I would maintain that it is nevertheless cognitive. The cognitive lesson I learned was the following: theoretical objections to the assumptions of Mathematics could be regarded as offensive in the opinion of individual Mathematicians. That is, I learned a lesson in practical logic, namely, that one ought not to say what I had said. Your question has shifted us nicely onto the grounds of “Action” and “Judgment”. “Action”, as we have seen was one of the categories of Aristotle and “The Critique of Judgment” was the title of one of the works of Kant. Now neither Kant nor Aristotle specifically set about classifying kinds of actions but both philosophers operatively referred to kinds of actions in their various theories. Aristotle’s virtue theory, for example, discussed the Greek term arête that is variously translated as virtue or excellence, in an attempt to characterise “the good” as definitive of what action is striving to achieve. He also talked about eudaimonia or the flourishing life. This term “action” in relation to the flourishing life introduces a possible philosophical problem into the discussion, namely that “action” is a psychological term, which cannot be objectively characterised. This mistake is also sometimes connected to a mistaken psychological view of logic that believes that logic is descriptive of how we do reason and not prescriptive of how we ought to reason. We find certain popular philosophers reasoning that “If logic prescribes laws of thought and there is evidence that there are people who do not reason logically, then the laws do not hold universally” After all, it is argued if stones in a normal gravitational field failed to obey the law of gravity we would abandon the law. What has been argued in previous lectures is that someone committing a murder does not suffice to overturn the law relating to murder. Here as in logic, the law determines how we ought to judge the action. Now the point of this in the context of the Arts is that of course not everyone appreciates good music but they ought to, and even though this is a subjective matter we judge them correctly to be insensitive, meaning that they ought to have a feeling they do not have. Furthermore we believe that sensitivity of this kind probably leads to flourishing lives. Kant’s analysis of aesthetic judgment relies on a theory of mind he defends in earlier works. This theory maintains that sensory experiences of the world can be ordered by the rule-governed concepts of our faculty of understanding and it is this dualistic interaction that underwrites our knowledge claims. In aesthetic contexts, however the sensory manifold is ordered by a general emotion or attitude which emerges from the activity of understanding, and functions subjectively or self- reflectively as exemplary and universal. In answer to the earlier question relating to the inter-subjective nature of mathematical agreement, I agree it is easier to arrive at agreement in relation to a conceptual rule governed activity such as mathematics than it is in relation to an intuitively organised activity such as art but nevertheless the exemplary universality of our thought in the aesthetic case surely demands agreement even if in fact that agreement is more difficult than agreement over objective rules. Furthermore there are notorious disagreements amongst mathematicians when they discuss their theories. Mathematicians are not, for example in agreement over whether non Euclidean geometry is dependent upon certain truths of Euclidean geometry. This disagreement looks purely theoretical but brought down to earth will affect the relation of the theory to space. One can wonder in the light of non- Euclidean assumptions whether the statement “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line” is necessarily true. I see by the clock on the wall that we have overrun by 20 minutes so we will stop at this point. Some of what I have alluded to today will be relevant to next week’s lecture on “Science and the Theory of Knowledge”

Introduction to Philosophy Course: Aristotle Part 5–Politics(The city state, the nation state, the global community)

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Aristotle’s work “Politics” is an awe inspiring work. It is clear that it is one of his greatest pieces of practical Philosophy. The language of the work is clear and distinct but its structure reveals itself in its entirety only to scholarly investigations which reveal the work to have an iceberg-like structure with metaphysical theory, epistemological theory and Philosophical Psychology lying concealed beneath the water line and political and ethical issues manifesting themselves above the water-line. Similar remarks could have been made about his work on “Ethics” which also resembled a mammoth like iceberg with much of its structure lying unconcealed beneath the water line.
In the light of such remarks the modernist ambitions of Philosophers like Hobbes, Descartes and Hume who chose to deliberately ignore much of the hidden Aristotelian structure and sail into the Arctic circle of Aristotelian Philosophy, were monumental examples of philosophical misjudgment.

Aristotle’s “Politics” is a hylomorphic metaphysical work seeking to summarise the work of a large number of political thinkers and the practical work of statesman embodied in over 150 constitutions from city states of the developed world.
The opening words of Book 1 are:

“Every state is a community of some kind and every community is established with a view to some good, for everyone always acts in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.”

Aristotle then proceeds to resolve the whole of the state into its parts in accordance with his hylomorphic strategy:

“He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin,whether a state or anything else will obtain the clearest view of them.”

The assumption behind these words is an assumption that many early modernist philosophers such as Hobbes and Hue would reject, namely, that the state is a natural organic entity thus falling into a category of things distinct from artefacts. Neo-Aristotelians see this to be a key distinction between the concepts which we use to describe ad explain the human realm of work and the concepts we use to describe and explain the human realm of action. On the other hand, reductionist attempts by Hobbes Hume and other modern behaviourist psychologists to reduce action to what can be observable from a third person point of view, namely “bodily movement” clearly rejects Aristotle’s claim that different realms of human activity require different assumptions and conceptual frameworks for the description and explanation of whatever is changing in these realms.

Aristotle’s Politics according to Ross in his work entitled “Aristotle” employs the virtue nurturing mechanism of “the Golden Mean” in attempting to navigate a course between the iceberg’s of Thrasymachus’ materialistic conventionalism and the Cynic’s world view where citizens are citizens of a world in which states have withered away. Aristotle certainly held a more idealistic and principled view than Thrasymachus’ who would have scoffed at the idea of a great-souled citizen dwelling in a great souled city-state. The latter idea obviously involves the idea of a soul embracing the Platonic assumption that there is a fundamental relation between the soul of an individual and the soul of a city. Aristotle’s hylomorphism would certainly have articulated this relationship differently in terms of the matter and form of persons and states. The matter of a city state would include the population and territory of a city and the latter the character of its citizens and institutions.

The good referred to in the opening quote from book one has , as he would say, many meanings but in this work he specifically categorises the good into three areas: external goods, the goods of the body, and the goods of the soul with this last area obviously being the prime focus of the other two: external goods and the goods of the body are for the sale of the goods of the soul. Here again, we see emphasis placed upon a developmental or actualisation process leading to a telos or an end which is valuable both in itself and for its possible logical consequences:- the great souled man.

The stages on the way of this actualisation process are its “parts” , namely the elements of the family: male, female, children, slaves. Male and female reproduction is necessary for the continuity of the species in accordance with the drive of an instinct which desires to leave behind a physical form of itself in the material of ones children. Slaves were necessary for the survival of the family. This family quartet provides, then, the models for the kinds of rule we will encounter in the polis, Aristotle argues. The master slave relation is the elemental source of despotic rule in spite of the fact that Aristotle urges the master to befriend the slave, at the same time adding that this kind of friendship of utility cannot be mutual. We should recall in this context that slavery was an institution which Aristotle criticised claiming that the only natural slave was the person who could not take responsibility for their life owing to some kind of mental or physical dysfunction. Also relevant in this context is the fact that the Greek institution of slavery was more humane than its more modern forms during Roman or American times.The slave in ancient Greece was a member of the family. The husband-wife relation, for Aristotle was a constitutional relation and this presumably entailed mutual friendship: an important element of Aristotle’s ideal state. Much has been made of Aristotle’s view of women using a few ambiguous comments which state that whilst man is better at exercising his deliberative faculties than a woman but this could be interpreted to mean, “given the institutional role of women at the time”. Aristotle clearly states that the woman possesses a deliberative faculty but does not use it authoritatively. The father child relation is characterised as monarchical and here too there is room for mutual friendship presumably later on in life.

The interesting philosophical question to pose is “What is the motivation for claiming that the household contains the forms of rule which will then manifest themselves at the higher level of city states?” To understand this one must really appreciate the extent to which Aristotle means what he says when he speaks of the naturalness of the formation of the city-state. By “natural” is meant “biological” in the sense in which biology as a discipline aims at an account of life forms. Now another interesting question to pose is “Can a city state be regarded as an advanced form of life?” or is it as is sometimes viewed through our modern lenses merely an artificial concrete jungle of asphalt streets and buildings. A city is clearly partly conceived thus but even this conception requires some reference to the living “builders” of this so called “jungle”.
A city is alive in the sense Aristotle intended. This life has been transmitted over manifolds of generations through the elements of the household and the village in accordance with actualisation processes and conditions.
The city is certainly the place in which external goods, the goods of the body and the goods of the soul are best catered for. It is certainly, in many senses more alive than the village which in comparison is often designated as “sleepy”. The metaphysical principles of “that which a thing changes from”, “that which a thing changes to” and “that which endures throughout the change” is certainly operating in the transformation of households into villages and villages into city-states. Constitutional rule is obviously the telos of this process much as the frog is the telos of the tadpole. One should not be misled by physical dissimilarities which disguise the underlying formative processes.

Constitutional rule, therefore, has its material and efficient conditions as well as its formal conditions. It is the “final cause” or explanation of the phenomenon of the city state. Aristotle in this context speaks of the “organs” of the city state and refers in Socratic fashion to the “functional occupations” which are part of the “life” of the city. The occupations mentioned are: judges, warriors, traders, mechanics, priests, elected officials. Amongst the conditions necessary for the existence of ideal city-states, Aristotle cites Education and insists that this should no longer be a private matter but rather be a matter for public concern and institutionalised. Given this proclamation it is however, rather surprising that teachers are not included in the list of “functional occupations” or “organs of the state” above.

We need, however, to bear in mind that the nation states we currently inhabit are different structures to what Aristotle imagined in terms of what he thought to be the maximum size of governable entities. Although he spoke in favour of representative government for those occupations such as mechanics and traders who do not have the available time to participate in the political activities of the city, he nevertheless envisaged a city whose furthest limits could be reached by the voice of a town crier.

Aristotle acknowledged, somewhat reluctantly, that democracies were here to stay but he would certainly have raised questions in relation to the sizes of our current nation-states. We can imagine him offering the opinion that unless the educational system is excellent, the size of our states make them very difficult to govern.

Hannah Arendt, too, was a critic of the nation state. In her earlier works she claimed that the terrible events of the terrible 20th century point to the conclusion that the nation state has failed. Clearly, our educational institutions have not been able to bear the Aristotelian responsibility that has been placed upon them. In Aristotelian terms our educational systems ought to have been concentrating their attention on the liberal and humanistic virtues, developing both our theoretical and practical reasoning capacities to such an extent that political participation at high levels are regarded as obligations to the constitution of the state. By “participation” in this representative context is probably meant “acquisition of knowledge” and informed debate using that knowledge, perhaps also close contact with ones representative over the issues of the day and of course an obligation to vote. The word “obligation” shall here be construed not in its modern sense in terms of social contract theory where the relation between the rulers and the ruled is conceived to be a significantly artificial, conventional, non organic affair. For Aristotle, the “obligation” of the rulers and the ruled would be to ensure the common good prevailed for the whole city rather than the limited goods that are conferred upon two contracting parties where freedom is bartered for security. The idea of giving up ones freedom(an essential part of ones human nature, according to Kant) so that a “policeman state” can regulate the hustle and bustle of city life is a very un-Aristotelian position. For him modern men ought to regulate themselves socially and individually by developing capacities into virtuous dispositions with the assistance of the polis and its provision of public education. There is state regulation but of a liberal.humanistic and academic kind. On this model there is no need for a “contract” to be used in a tribunal in case one of the parties to the contract reneges on “the deal”. Aristotle’s citizens and rulers trust each other: they are “friends”. If the size of a nation state is such that virtuous dispositions cannot be the result of education, then this, for Aristotle, would be an argument against communities which are too large for such ventures.

How might Aristotle otherwise have responded to our large industrialised economically driven conurbations? Well, firstly, he would have raised his eyebrows at two characteristics of our “concrete jungles”. Firstly, he would have been more than a little surprised at the dependence on the nation state on a plethora of economic institutions and secondly he would have wondered about the use of technology. “Oika” is the Greek root of economics and it refers to regulatory activities of the household in the financial sphere. Aristotle, in this context was specifically against the universalisation of the wealth accumulation principle which was the duty of the head of the household. He would have insisted that oikonomous ought to be limited of course by the principle of the golden mean which regulates all virtuous development. Wealth accumulated beyond the needs of the household would have been anathema for Aristotle unless of course the excess was disposed of for the sake of the common good as was the case when rich families sponsored public meals and events and even entertained foreign dignitaries as a service to the state. Celebrating the richest people in the world as we do irrespective of their charitable activities would not be in the service of the common good. Both Socrates and Aristotle would have agreed that the art of acquiring wealth was an art of secondary importance. The doctor practising the primary art of medicine would feel obliged, given the Hippocratic oath to treat any patient needing emergency treatment even there was no money for the treatment. The existence of vast business empires(corporations) would exist for the sake of wealth acquisition would have been a form of life that both Socrates and Aristotle would have criticised. It is not, however, clear what Aristotle would have thought about our modern banking institutions and the business idea of lending money for interest. He would certainly have disapproved of the practice of lending money to the poor at interest rates which they could not afford, thus turning them into slaves of their debts.The banking function of financing industry and thereby creating jobs for the jobless and indirectly financing education through the taxes imposed on profits would probably have been in his eyes for the common good. Extreme behaviour of such institutions would have met with disapproval especially behaviour which required large amounts of taxpayers money to keep such institutions in existence..

One could also wonder what Aristotle would have thought about the omnipresence of useful and aesthetic artefacts in our cities: luxury cars and limousines, televisions, computers, mobile telephones, internet, washing machines, dish washers kitchen and household appliances etc. Some of these technological artefacts obviously are labour saving devices and make the need for domestic help by slaves no longer necessary. Such possibilities might have changed his position on slavery especially given the institutions society has created to help the mentally and physically members of our society, making it possible for them, with assistance to take some limited form of responsibility for their lives.

Would Aristotle view our communities as monstrous creations, a great Leviathan to use Hobbes’ description? Would Aristotle believe that the “concrete jungles” we inhabit are no longer “natural creations”? Man is the best of animals ruled constitutionally but in some environments, alienating environments man can be the worst of animals using his considerable mental and physical capacities for evil rather than good. In the sphere of technology and the way it has made war a massively destructive phenomenon on the scale of the worst of the worst natural catastrophes, man has certainly demonstrated that he is the worst of animals, for example, developing atomic weapons of mass destruction threatening the existence of all life on earth. Aristotle, if asked to comment on such a state of affairs might well have pointed out that we have become the slaves of our own technology and perhaps he might have said the same of the economics of those countries with large economic debts. It is almost certain that he would have viewed most of the population of our communities as not meeting minimum standards of political participation and thereby calling the whole concept of “representation” into question. He might, of course, as was suggested above, lay the responsibility for this state of affairs at the doorstep of our educational institutions which have failed to actualise or develop the virtuous dispositions required of the citizens of a nation.
He might that is see our nation states as natural organic developments of the city state, in spite of the modern experience of “alienation” by many of the inhabitants of concrete and technological jungles.

It has been argued earlier in this series of lectures that Kant has a claim to be called a “Hylomorphic” philosopher whose philosophy embodies many Aristotelian assumptions. Kant, in this spirit, argued in favour of a progress of mankind toward a final kingdom of ends, thus supporting Aristotle’s idea of the “naturalness” of actualisation processes. This idea of a teleological process moving to an end was of course called into question by the events of the terrible twentieth century.

Aristotelian naturalism could then be seen as the foundation for the telos of this march of progress which according to Kant is the very Cosmopolitanism that Aristotle might have thought too large to govern. It should be pointed out however that the Cosmopolitanism of the Greek Cynics and the Cosmopolitanism of Kant are very different prospects. The latter does not necessarily entail the dissolution or withering away of the nation state. The nation state for Kant and perhaps for Aristotle could well be a necessary stage on the way to the final political end.. Kant, interestingly, was the Cosmopolitan philosopher from Königsberg, a “Cosmopolitan city”. The idea of Cosmopolitan cities have been on our minds since the writings and times of Shakespeare’s portrayal of Venice in his plays in which Jews and Moors could perform, albeit somewhat tragically, on the Shakespearean world stage. As we know Königsberg was a part of Prussia which ceased to exist in the terrible twentieth century. This is an example of the destruction and demise of a city: a direct consequence of the military ambitions of the German nation state: a military tradition far removed from the practice of the Teutonic Knights that ruled from the 13th century to the 18th century. In normal circumstances, however, the city has a remarkable staying power requiring war on a massive scale to threaten its existence: perhaps suggesting that the city and its surrounding supporting countryside might be the primary entity in a future Cosmopolitan world. This, of course does not necessarily entail the withering away or demise of the nation state which might be the repository of communication organisational and educational functions necessary for the well being of the city.

The nature of the city state for Aristotle is plurality. We know he rebuked Plato’s Republic for attempting to artificially unify the state…”similars do not constitute a state”. This principle in fact contributes to the ultimate goal of the city state which is its self sufficiency. Plato’s Republic was written in despair at the sight of the failings of both oligarchical and democratic rule. For Plato both of these forms of regime were examples of the evils of the divided city in which neither would accept the rule of the other.Plato’s solution was to ignore the empirical state of affairs and instead impose a 5 regime blueprint on all forms of regimes: rule of the philosophy class, rule of the warrior class, rule of the rich class, rule of the poor class and finally rule of a tyrant who represents no class , only himself. With the proposal of this structure, the idea of class becomes an important consideration in political discussion. Plato, as we know leaves the productive class alone and they do not seem to figure as important elements in his blueprint of regimes, probably because they do not have the time to participate at the levels necessary. In his ideal Republic, the Callipolis, the ruling class are philosophers, the middle class is composed of warriors whose function it is to maintain internal order and defence from external threat, and the lower class is composed of the productive class. Plato put his faith in philosophers to solve the problem of the unity of the city. Aristotle does not accept this solution and instead proposes that philosophy itself should be involved in ruling the pluralistic city impartially in accordance with a principle of justice. This principle of justice is built upon virtuous dispositions acquired as a consequence of the principle of the Golden Mean.
We should bear in mind that Aristotle collected over 150 different constitutions from the governments of the civilised world and consequently saw the operation of the golden mean principle in actual constitutions which were not militaristically inclined(e.g. Sparta). Aristotle viewed military regimes as coercive. A warrior led society, even if subjected to a Platonic training in the Idea of the Good would probably not understand their citizens sufficiently to permit the forces of pluralism to, for example, spread philosophical ideas of value throughout the community. In communities like Athens in which power swung continually between democrats and oligarchs, the phenomenon of Socrates merely caused confusion. Was Socrates a fiend of the democrats or was he a friend of the oligarchs were questions which circulated on the grapevine of Athenian rumour. Athens, with its community of 50,000 citizens(200,000 inhabitants) was probably in the eyes of Aristotle too small for the principle of the golden mean to operate on a political level. A polis of 100,000 citizens was probably the optimum size for the principle to function effectively. There certainly was no friendship of the right kind operating between the democrats and the oligarchs. In the light of these facts Aristotle arrived at the conclusion that only a state with a large middle class would contain the best conditions for leading the most satisfactory political life. Here are his arguments:

“Thus it is manifest that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, and that those states are likely to be well administered in which the middle class is large, and stronger if possible than both of the other classes, or at any rate than either singly, for the addition of the middle class turns the scale,and prevents either of the extremes from being dominant.
Great, then, is the good fortune of a state in which the citizens have a moderate and sufficient property: for where some possess much, and the others nothing: there may arise an extreme democracy or pure oligarchy: or a tyranny my grow out of either extreme–either out of the most rampant democracy, or out of an oligarchy: but it is not so likely to arise out of the middle constitutions and those akin to them. I will explain the reason for this hereafter, when I speak of the revolution of states. The mean condition of states is clearly best: for no other is free from faction and where the middle class is large there are less likely to be factions and dissensions. For a similar reason large states are less liable to faction than small ones because in them the middle class is large, whereas in small states it is easy to divide all the citizens into two classes who, are either rich or poor and to leave nothing in the middle. And democracies are more permanent than oligarchies because they have a middle class which is more numerous and has a greater share in the government: for where there is no middle class and the poor are excessive in number, troubles arise, and the state soon comes to an end. A proof of the superiority of the middle class is that the best legislators have been of a middle condition: for example, Solon as his own verses testify:and Lycurgus, for he was not a king: and Chorendus, and almost all legislators.)1295b 35-40 1296a 1-21)”

Aristotle might well have pointed to the fact that certainly Socrates and himself fell into what he refers to above as the middle class both in terms of their philosophical views and their positions in society as determined by both economics and education. All of Aristotle’s views speak from a position between extremes and Socrates’ use of elenchus was a tool that he often used to extract contradictions from extreme contradictions such as that proposed by Thrasymachus.

The Metaphysics presents a theory of change which incorporates the processes of the destruction and preservation of things that change, e.g states. In this context revolution emerges. Presumably as a result of his empirical investigations of the available constitutions Aristotle appears to reject Plato’s blueprint of 5 different forms of regime. Instead, Aristotle prefers to speak of 6 regimes which exclude timocracies(one of Plato’s 5 regimes). The grounding concept of Aristotle’s blueprint is the Socratic idea of the common good combined with 3 types of ruling authority, namely rule by one man, rule by a few men , and rule by many men. If rule is in accordance with the common good we are then in the presence of three legitimate forms of government. If, however, the ruling authority rule in their own interests or in the interests of the group they represent we are in the presence of what Aristotle calls “perversions” of legitimate government.The two most common forms of government, oligarchy and democracy are in fact perversions because they operate with a perverted concept of justice. Democrats, for example, believe that:

“because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal.”(1300a 29-30

Oligarchs claim that:

“”those who are unequal in one respect are in all respects unequal: being unequal, that is, in property, they suppose themselves to be unequal absolutely”(1300a 31-32

Revolution is a natural consequence of the perversions of government. There are two kinds of revolution Aristotle argues. Firstly there are revolutions which aim at constitutional change in accordance with a different concept of justice, and secondly there are evolutions which take over the political administration without altering the constitution.
There are a number of causes of revolution some of which are related to the states of mind and motivations of the revolutionaries. Firstly, as has already been mentioned there is the desire for equality or inequality:

“desire for good or honour, or fear of dishonour or loss.” 1302a32

Other causes are :

“insolence, fear, excessive predominance, contempt, disproportionate increase in some part of the state:causes of another sort are election intrigues, carelessness, neglect about trifles, dissimilarity of elements”1302b 41-44

“Another cause of revolution is difference of races which do not at once acquire a common spirit: for a state is not the growth of a day, anymore than it grows out of a multitude brought together by accident. Hence the reception of strangers in colonies, either at the time of their foundation or afterwards, has generally produced revolution.”1303a25-29

“Revolutions also break out when opposite parties , e.g. the rich and the people are equally balanced and there is little or no middle class: for, if either party were manifestly superior the other would not risk an attack upon them. And for this reason, those who are eminent in excellence usually do not stir up insurrections, being always a minority. Such in general are the beginnings and causes of disturbances and revolution to which every form of government is liable” 1304b 1-6

This is a comprehensive list of causes. We can safely assume that Aristotle’s investigations of over 150 constitutions together with historical evolution of these constitutions played a large role in the compiling of this list. D W Ross
summarises the preventatives of revolutions in the following words:

“The preventatives of revolution are next considered. The most important thing is to maintain the spirit of obedience to law especially in small matters: the beginnings of change must be watched for. The second rule is not tto rely upon devices for deceiving the people, which are proved by experience to be useless. Further both aristocracies and oligarchies may last, not from any inherent stability in the constitution but because the rulers are on good terms with their subjects, never wronging the ambitious in a matter of honour nor the common people in the matter of money but introducing the leading spirits to a share in rule and adapting to some extreme democratic institutions. The ruler should always keep before his people the danger of foreign attack and should if necessary invent dangers to alarm them.” (p270)

This last reference to “invented lies” appears to contravene the earlier advice relating to the uselessness of deception: a very un -Aristotelian and Machiavellian recommendation..

The term “revolution” suggests a circular process in which the process returns to its beginning point in order to begin the process anew. It suggests a kind of evolution with the emphasis upon a change in the quality of life in the state that undergoes it: a change in which freedom from oppression is experienced. T S Eliot’s words:

“And at the end of all of our exploration we will arrive at the beginning and know the place for the first time.”

indicates also an increase in knowledge as a consequence of the revolutionary journey.

Hannah Arendt in her work “On Revolution” discusses the term “revolution” in relation to religious change in particular the “Reformation” which she regards as the beginning of the process of questioning authority and the beginning of the process of loss of respect for authority. The French and Russian revolutions went far beyond the peaceful nailing up of theses for public information which we witnessed in the case of Luther. This for Arendt was the beginning of a new era, the era of secularisation which would also spawn other peaceful revolutions such as the Industrial Revolution.
The word “revolution”, however, is usually associated with violence and in this respect perhaps the only violent revolution which produced something of benefit(knowledge and freedom?) over a longer period of time, was the American revolution.
The nation state emerged in this era of secularisation and perhaps the jury is still out considering its verdict as to whether we are dealing with a structure that will survive into the future or a pathological entity that will devolve into city states or evolve into a global community.

Introduction to Philosophy Course: Aristotle Part 4: Ethics(Phronimos, logos, areté, eudaimonia, akrasia)

Hits: 476

Jonathan Lear in his work “Aristotle” says the following on p149:

“Freedom is important to us not as one value among others, but as that which constitutes our very being. Other animals may have beliefs and desire but humans distinguish themselves from the rest of nature by the ability to become consciously aware of these beliefs and desires, to consider them and to decide what to do on the basis of that consideration. A human agent need not merely be caused to act by his desires: by his reflecting on his desires and deciding which to satisfy and how, the desires become reasons for him. In acting for these reasons and agent manifests his freedom and humanity but, unfortunately, we have little understanding of what this manifestation of freedom consists in. Since this freedom helps to constitute our humanity, in being ignorant of its working we are ignorant of our essence. We lack an understanding of what it is, fundamentally to be us:”

Now we could be forgiven for believing that the above remarks are about the ethics of Kant but they are rather meant to articulate what Lear thinks is an important implication of Aristotle’s ethics. Lear does however throughout his work on Aristotle articulate support for the claim that Aristotelian ethics is an ethics of freedom. In the course of this “comparison”, however, a surprise is in store:

“According to Kant, a free agent must reflect on his desires from a standpoint outside the desires themselves. The deliberation will not be truly free unless it is carried out from a perspective which can view the desire and so consider it as one factor among others, but which remains independent of its causal sway.On this conception of reflection is a manifestation of freedom precisely because it is a form of detachment. The moral agent, for Kant, is one, who, in thought detaches himself from his desires, particular interests and circumstances and considers solely what a purely rational would will.Hegel, a devoted student of Aristotle, criticised Kant’s conception of free will. Such a will, Hegel argued, would be so detached from its own desires and from the circumstances of deliberation and action that it would be empty: it would never be able to determine what to will.”

Hegel claimed that he would stand the philosophy of Kant on its head ad in attempting to do so may well have turned the worlds of Aristotle, Kant and the common man upside down. Hegel’s dialectical logic replaced the Metaphysical Logic of Aristotle and the Transcendental Logic of Kant. Hegel’s inversion of bottom and top via his dialectical logic remind one of the psychological subjects of Stratton, wearing glasses which invert their retinal images and seeing the landscape upside down on the first day. On the second day these subjects felt that their bodies were upside down until finally after a number of days acting under these strange circumstances everything returned to normal again. Wearing the glasses of Hegel to view the Philosophy of Kant can indeed make the world of Kant seem a strange world itself in need of conversion. It is to say the very least rather surprising to find Lear subscribing to this Hegelian position, succumbing to this Hegelian deconstruction. We need in such a context, to remind ourselves of the texts of Kant which disprove the detachment thesis. Firstly, in the Critique of Judgment Kant clearly claims the existence of an intimate relation between practical reason and desire:

“In the same way reason which contains constitutive a priori principles solely in respect of the faculty of desire gets its holding assigned to it by the critique of Practical Reason.”(Preface)

Lear is apparently failing to register Kant’s claim that there are two kinds of concepts, theoretical and practical which generate separate and different principles of the possibility of their objects. Concepts of nature and concepts of freedom have a reflectively different structure. The application of concepts of nature an acting will generates what Kant calls technically-practical principles in which it is legitimate to conceive of a kind of separation or detachment of the subject and his/her action. Such technically-practical principles regulate and agents skills in accordance with the law of cause and effect and this places such concepts and principles clearly in the realm of theoretical philosophy far from the ream of desire. Kant defines desire in the following terms:

” a faculty which by means of its representations is the cause of the actuality of the objects of those representations.”

This clearly relates desire to practical reason and to the bringing about of states of affairs by means of principles in the practical world. Kant, in this discussion is careful to distinguish between empirical cases in which ones desire for a particular object precedes the practical principle and transcendental cases in which the determining ground of choice is the practical principle. An example of the latter would be in the case where the principle “Promises ought to be kept” determines my choice of what I must do and transmits my desire down a chain of action related reflections. There is no space for any detachment or separation of the agent from his action in such circumstances. In cases of a desire for a material object which is not being directed by a principle, the desire could arise and be abandoned in favour of another desire and in such circumstances one might say that the agent had a detachable relation to the object of the desire and the desire. This possibility on Kant’s view is a result of what he refers to as a lower faculty of desire which he contrasts with a higher faculty in which “promises ought to be kept” is a principle which one cannot abandon as a practical agent. The former lower faculty of desire, argues Kant is concerned with pleasure related to the object desired and its agreeableness. The Latter is concerned with what Aristotle would call the good in itself which in its turn is a concern with our well being and worthiness to be happy. For Kant this is a key condition for an ethical position and this may indicate a key difference between his position and the finality of the happiness condition which Aristotle proposes.

It is therefore puzzling to find Lear asking how a self conscious being on the Kantian account could make decisions at all as if the Kantian self consciousness resembled the Cartesian self consciousness reflecting theoretically upon its own desires. Hegel, we know, did not appreciate the relation of Kantian ethical theory to the ethical theory of Aristotle’s in which we see both adopting the vantage point of reflecting upon the relation of practical reason to its object rather than reflecting on the relation of a state of mind to its object.

One may wish to contradict this account by insisting that Aristotle’s theory of virtue specifically argues that virtue is a state(lexis) rather than a capacity(dunamis) or a feeling(pathos). The question, however, is how would Aristotle wish to characterise the state of the soul. He would not for example countenance this state as a state of consciousness and he would not want to countenance this state being characterised as many modern philosophy of mind theorists do as something “private”(feelings are private and particular). Rather, the “state” Aristotle is referring to here is a state of the soul which for him is differentiated in terms of different principles, defining different kinds or essences. Indeed, the word “disposition” might be a more appropriate term. For these purposes a practical disposition would be construed in terms of a law-like principle that has been sculpted by the processes of training, education and habituation in accordance with social and cultural processes such as that of the “Golden Mean”.

Practical dispositions are given their initial characterisation in the opening remarks of the Nichomachean Ethics:

“Every art and every enquiry, every action and choice, seems to aim at some good:whence the good has rightly been defined as that at which all things aim.”

For Aristotle, we should recall, the good has many meanings depending upon whether it is aiming in discourse at peoples character, their actions, the place or time they live in etc. But all have in common the essence of the good for man or eudaimonia, which for Kant was a part of his ethical religious idea of the summum bonum. It is especially difficult given this rather strong resemblance in their positions to imagine the ethical Kantian agent being detached from his own happiness or flourishing life. There is moreover a hylomorphic element to Kants theorizing which is unmistakeable. In much of his reasoning there is specific reference to matter and form and if we analyse the two formulations of the categorical imperative it would be difficult not to see the formal aspect of the ethical law in the first formulation and the material aspect in the second formulation. Were there to be only one formulation, namely, the first, one might be able to argue more forcefully for if not the detachment thesis Lear proposes, perhaps an accusation of formalism or “emptiness”. The first formulation asks us to “will” that the maxim of ones action be regarded as a universal law and if there is no such universal law then the logical consequence is surely at the very least “emptiness” and more seriously perhaps the impossibility of ethical action. The second formulation however fills the first formulation with content by insisting that we should act so that we treat everyone including ourselves as ends in themselves. This latter formulation is moreover, reminiscent of the kind of respect embedded in the Aristotelian account of friendship in the Nichomachean Ethics. Aristotle speaks here of a kind of fellowship existing between individuals or citizens of a polis which is similar to the the affection that siblings have for one another. In Aristotle the good is in mans character from the beginning in the form of a capacity to be developed by nurturing and education into a disposition. Just as we learn to be builders by building, and teachers by teaching doctors by doctoring, we learn to be brace by doing brave acts in encouraging circumstances. This is the route by which states of character are formed. In this process of forming a good disposition pleasures and pains need to be organised because, as Aristotle claims, “the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain” are the main sources of vicious action. Feelings are originally also capacities and are part of the material that needs to be formed by the nurturing of a virtuous disposition so that one feels the right feeling in the right circumstances at the right time.

It is obvious from the above account that virtue cannot itself be merely a feeling because as Aristotle rightly argues we do not praise or blame men for the feelings they are having, because this is something passive, something that is happening to them, within the privacy of their own bodies. The ethical attitude is an active attitude inextricably tied up with human activity, with action and with choice. Such activity is formed by a method shaped by an aim to hit a target or achieve an end. The difference between the generous man, the spendthrift and the miser is one of an active attitude towards men and money.

We can only choose to act, Aristotle argues if the action is of the kind, voluntary. Actions caused by external factors(compulsions) or ignorance are for him involuntary actions and cannot be freely chosen: such actions can therefore neither be praised nor blamed, i.e the agent cannot be held fully responsible for them. The notion of choice however is not related to the end of the flourishing life because this latter is a rational wish of Eros and is not itself chosen but rather succumbed to in the manner an educational process is succumbed to. Deliberation chooses the means to accomplish the flourishing life. For a holistic view of the process of deliberation stretching from the moment of succumbing to the moment of making the good occur see Sir David Ross’s account in “Aristotle”:

Ross situates choice in the matrix of desire, deliberation perception and Art:

“Desire I desire A
Deliberation B is the means to A
C is the means to B
N is the means to M

Perception N is something I can do here and now
Choice I choose N
Art I do N “

Ross does not do this but one can describe this process of deliberation in terms of areté which is a term Aristotle uses for both ones moral character and ones skill in thinking. Translating this term as virtue becomes clearer when it is used in the context of “the virtuous life” which when coupled to the term eudaimonia or the flourishing life embraces both the intellectual virtues and the moral/ethical virtues which include phronesis, courage and temperance.
The character of a virtuous man is, then, a set of dispositions(formed capacities) which organise ones desires and feelings in relation to the final end of eudaimonia or the flourishing life which inits turn is also the actualisation of the potential of the rational animal capable of discourse.
The Phronimos, the man possessing practical wisdom which he demonstrates with his correct reasoning , reasoning in the right way, or orthos logos, is the man whose psuche or soul best integrates the rational and the irrational parts of the soul. Aristotle indicates the consequences of falling short in the aim of fulfilling ones potential, namely forms of life which are neither excellent(areté) nor flourishing(eudaimonia. He illustrates this claim by pointing to the life of pleasure pursued by non rational animals, the life of honour pursued by men of ambition and the life of the Phronimos who, one assumes, fulfils his potential most completely because of the Platonic argument that he is the being who has experienced all the three forms of pleasure associated with these different life forms and as a consequence knows which pleasure is the best.Plato would have argued that the pleasure experienced by the Phronimos is pure(more intellectual) and unrelated to pain which by definition is a condition caused by a body striving for homeostasis. The lives of the hedonist, the wealthy man, the ambitious man are all pain avoidance related and therefore dependent on either external or internal causal factors. None of these forms of life meet the criteria of the self sufficient flourishing life.The great souled, Phronimos, on the other hand, is self sufficient because he reasons in the right way about the world of conduct and feelings(the feelings of pleasure and pain, fear and anger).

It is also important not to lose sight of the systematic connections of the above account with Aristotle’s claims about the psuche and human nature. Because humans are animals and organisms they necessarily possess an ergon(inbuilt function)as well as a telos which is dependent upon material and efficient causes. The human however, distinguishes itself from other forms of life through a unique capacity and its potential: rationality. Rationality is a term we attribute to humankind for its disposition to reason well and excellently. Reason is on this account a capacity and rationality a disposition(the well developed capacity of reasoning excellently).

One can wonder, as G E Moore did, whether including the natural, biological material and efficient causes of being a human in the definition of “moral value” condemns Aristotle’s account to committing the naturalistic fallacy, i.e. the fallacy of defining moral value in terms of natural capacities. We have argued above that moral virtue is dispositional and dispositions are formal and developed capacities. If this distinction is observed, there is no fallacy, no contradiction: capacities, we have argued, are actualised into dispositions given the appropriate conditions for the actualisation process to occur. That is to say, there is no logical equivalence between the natural capacities of a human organism and its moral dispositions which are , as has been argued, constituted of the exercise of natural capacities excellently.

Aristotle characterises all forms of activity and art as striving for the good and areté so it is important to point out that even if one possesses the capacity to build a house and do it well this activity of an artisan is not a form of moral excellence but rather a form of aesthetic excellence. Lear points out the fundamental differences between these forms of excellence:

“There are three conditions of acting virtuously. 1. The agent must have practical knowledge. For example for a given act to be courageous(not merely done in accordance with courage) a person must know that in these circumstances taking a stand would be the right thing to do. He must be aware that this is not a case of foolhardiness, bravado, or silliness. 2.He must choose the act and choose it for its own sake. He must be doing it because , in these circumstances, it is the courageous thing to do. 3. The act must flow from a firm character. It should not be a chance event as it would be, for example, if a man fought fiercely because in those circumstances he happened to find no way to flee. Such a person may have a strong survival instinct, but he is not courageous.”(p170)

The pursuit of aesthetic excellence requires only the first condition of the above three conditions. Lear continues:

” A builder needs only know how to build a house–choice and character are essential to virtue.”

There is a further major difference between moral and aesthetic virtue or excellence which is connected to the distinction Aristotle recognizes between acting(praxis) and producing(poesis). This is noted by G J Hughes in his Routledge guidebook: “Aristotle on Ethics”:

“Health is indeed the product of the art of medicine just as a house is the product of architecture, or a statue of sculpture. But eudaimonia is not the product of the actions of a good person. Fulfilment in life is not something over and above someone’s actions which those actions produce. Fulfilment consists in doing what one does just because one sees those actions as noble and worthwhile…. living is not a process one undertakes for the sake of something else which is produced as a result. The point of the good life just is the living of it.”

Hughes continues by pointing out that this puts Aristotle in the deontological camp in our modern ethical debates. He cannot be a consequentialist, argues Hughes, because:

“Aristotle has nothing comparable to Bentham’s definition of an action as a “mere bodily movement” from which it would indeed follow that the value of an action must depend the consequences that action produces, as Bentham says. Instead Aristotle defines an action in terms of how the agent describes or sees their behaviour at the time and draws no particular line between action and its consequences”

The implications of this are devastating for the utilitarian position which finds itself at odds with two of the most important ethical positions. For Aristotle, the agent must adopt a first person perspective to what they are doing and not a third person observationalist perspective which in the absence of the declaration of intention by the agent of the action might well see “mere bodily movement”. Confusion is endemic in this area of debate. We can see one kind of confusion in the utilitarian camp where the theoretical obsession with a reductive-compositive method together with an observationalist/experimental interpretation of that method postulates “atoms” of pure movement which can then be inserted into a theoretical framework of linear causes and effects. The movement “causes” a state of affairs which is logically different from its cause, thus dividing what was a unitary action into two elements which can only be composed into a unity at the expense of the holistic account of deliberative practical reasoning we find in Aristotelian ethics.

Confusions between praxis and poesis may even assist in this attempt to subject this domain to the theoretical framework of scientific reasoning. It is of course easier to dissolve a skill(needed for the production of an object) into movement and the product produced at the end of the activity because here quite clearly the observer can for example see the builder building and the “consequence”, the completed, produced house. Aristotle would immediately criticise this theoretical attempt for failing to appreciate the role of intention in identifying the activity, in correctly describing the activity. This for him could only occur from the first person point of view. The builder sees what he is doing from the point of view of the idea or form of the house he has in mind and this for him logically determines how one can describe such building activity. All art aims at the good, Aristotle declared but there is a difference between the good house being built which is largely an aesthetic matter and leading a good flourishing life which is a broader, ethical/political good. We need also to recall that we are in the realm of forms for Aristotle, forms which are subject to his metaphysical theory of change. Forms for Aristotle were hierarchically structured with sexual reproduction of living forms at the lower end of the scale being followed by the production of artefacts and finally by the learning and teaching of the forms. The production of artefacts as we pointed out involves practical knowledge but not choice and a stable character. Here it seems we are clearly dealing with an activity or work but not fully fledged action(Arendt distinguished in her work between labour, work and action) An organised soul is required to perform the actions which aim at a flourishing life: only work-activity is required to produce the objects of techné.

So, knowledge is involved in firstly, the action as a result of practical reasoning and secondly, in the deliberative calculation of the work activity behind the creation of objects of techné. We need to enquire into the different kinds of knowledge one can encounter in the different kinds of science one can encounter as part of the flourishing life. Aristotle distinguishes between three different kinds of science: the theoretical, practical and productive sciences. In relation to theoretical science he claims, in the spirit of knowledge being justified true belief, that essence specifying definitions or principles are the justifications we find in the theoretical sphere of scientific activity. These both provide a form of logical necessity not to be found in the other two sciences, which are both aiming at something for which, as yet, there are no essence specifying definitions but there are principles. Theoretical sciences aim at the truth and use logical demonstration that move from first principles or essence specifying definitions to logically related conclusions. Practical sciences may be related to the truth and logic or “analytics” as Aristotle called logic, but the primary aim of these sciences is the good. Because of areas of commonality we find in this area that particular conclusive judgments follow from universal and particular premises. Similarly, in the practical sciences “justification” will also involve the elements of Aristotle’s metaphysical theory of change in which reference will be made to 4 kinds of change, three principles and 4 “causes” but here agents, powers and actions will be the focus of attention.

In the “Posterior Analytics” Aristotle gives us an account of the acquisition of knowledge which it has been argued by Jonathan Lear is common for all the sciences:

“Man is not born with knowledge but he is born with the capacity to acquire it. But the world must cooperate with him if he is to exercise that capacity. Man starts life with the ability to discriminate among sensory phenomena, an ability he shares with other animals. His soul retains a record of its sensory encounters. Through repeated encounters with items in the world our sensory discriminations develop into memory and then into what Aristotle calls “experience”. Experience, Aristotle characterises as “the whole universal that has come to rest in the soul”. From repeated perception of particular men, we form the concept of a man, and the knowledge that this thing we see is a man is experience. If the universal or concept were not somehow already embedded in the particular, we could not make the transition from bare sensory discrimination to knowledge of the individual. As Aristotle says, “though one perceives the particular, perception is of the universal”(p2)

The above is a fine account of how the desire to understand involves powers building upon powers and integrating into the unified disposition of mind that we believe generates knowledge. This process, surely is, as lear claims, common to all the sciences. It accounts for how we differentiate animals from each other, of how we differentiate men from each other and also finally how we differentiate objects and actions from each other. The above account does not mention the powers of language and reason but these will certainly be involved in the generation of knowledge. The 4 causes or explanations of the theory of change will also be involved in our judgments of the good man striving to actualise his potential to live the flourishing life. They will also be involved in scientific judgments in relation to the good action which as we have been told plays an important role in the above actualisation process. The desire to understand oneself and know oneself will also probably be a part of this journey of awe and wonder. Aristotle’s idea of the flourishing life is one where both the moral and intellectual virtues form a unity in which knowledge whilst not being perhaps a seamless robe is at least one coat of many colours.
The idea of the good will in this account include both knowledge and understanding of oneself and the world one lives in.
Aristotle did engage in discussion of one aporetic issue which directly highlights the ways in which theoretical and practical knowledge are integrated in ethical action. Socrates argued that if a man knows the good, i.e. really knows and understands the universal idea of the good, then he will necessarily always do the good in his actions. On the fact of it the opening sentences of the Nichomachean Ethics, claiming as they do that all art, activity and enquiry aim at the good suggests that Aristotle too, must accept this Socratic analysis. Awareness of the phenomenon of the man claiming to know the good and then not doing it, however, pushed Aristotle into giving a more nuanced account of this so called phenomenon of akrasia or incontinence. For Aristotle it was necessary for him to acknowledge this phenomenon and give it an acceptable explanation. Now if it was the case that all men as agents aim at the good, it is difficult to understand how an agent can perform an incontinent action where that is defined as an action that is intentional and performed against a background of the knowledge that a preferable alternative action is available to the agent. If we are imagining a rational agent wholly constituted of their beliefs, desires, values and actions then:

“We can see a being as an agent, as acting intentionally, only insofar as we can see his behaviour within the schema of beliefs and desires that we attribute to him. It is among his beliefs and desires that we must find a reason for acting as he does. But we are able to identify his beliefs and desires only via his intentional actions, by what he says and otherwise does.It is in these actions that what is of value is revealed:there is , in principle, no independent access to his values.”(p176)

Socrates was criticized by Lear because he wanted to characterise akrasia in terms of states of the soul but the above quote seems to be a similar attempt, using states of mind and the terminology of analytical Philosophy. Aristotle’s account of akrasia is actually better characterised in terms of his own terminology of the powers of perception, memory, language, knowledge and reason in an organised soul: . On this account it is not possible. If there is an alternative action for which there are good reasons, it must be the case in an organised soul that all things considered and understood this must be the action one chooses to perform(not being aware of what one is doing and being drunk with passion are excluded as possibilities). This suggests that the phenomenon of incontinence must be explained by their either being a lack of knowledge or ignorance of how to act.
The power of judgment will also necessarily play a part in the deliberative process which leads to action. Lear develops this point in the following manner:

“Given that the premisses of a practical syllogism necessitate the action-conclusion, Aristotle needs an account of how the premisses might on occasion be blocked, rendered inoperative. He distinguishes various senses in which one can have knowledge or understanding: there is the sense in which one possesses the knowledge though one is not at present exercising it, and the sense in which one is actively contemplating. Aristotle accepts that a man actively exercising his knowledge could not act incontinently with respect to it, so he concentrates on those cases in which a man may possess the knowledge but somehow be prevented from exercising it. Strong anger r appetites may actually change the condition of the body…strong passions work like a drug which shuts judgment down, just as does wine or sleep.”

The virtuous soul, of course, is a well organised soul and will not allow its powers to be compromised in the above ways. The soul on its way to virtuous organisation may, however, be like an actor on a stage and be going through the motions of knowing, i.e. exercising deficient powers of knowledge by believing that he ought to be doing some alternative better action but because of the confusion in his soul is not able to settle on the completely articulated reason for what ought to be done. We should also remember, considering the fact that we are dealing with practical reasoning and rationality that the soul will not acquire what he calls the logos by merely hearing something and assenting to it: language is not a sufficient power to install the kind of knowledge being referred to. The apprentice knower, that is, must imitate his betters in an environment of ethical guidance and the journey from being an apprentice to being a virtuous man is one in which one is learning about oneself and the world . The possibility of course exists in such circumstances that someone may be right in ones judgments about the world but wrong in ones judgments about oneself, i.e. incontinence will be on display in such a case.

Fourth Centrepiece Lecture by Jude Sutton taken from “The World Explored, the World Suffered:The Exeter Lectures”: Epistemology

Hits: 324

Jude was 10 minutes late to the lesson. Another anxiety attack. He would not have made it if he had not drunk his last two barley wines. Sucking on a spearmint tablet he entered the class.
He threw his pen on my desk again and wrote on the board “The pen is on the table”

“If I say I know the pen is on the table and you Browne ask me on what grounds I know it I might say “On the grounds of seeing the pen on the table, feeling the table and the pen, hearing the pen when it dropped to the table, perhaps smelling the pen if it has a distinctive smell”. In other words, I know, by means of the senses. Now these grounds can be challenged. We know, do we not, that our senses have deceived us in the past and we have been quite surprised to learn that either what we thought to be there was not, for example the seeing of the mirage of water after a long waterless sojourn in the desert: or vice versa, for example, I was certain my gloves were not in the drawer but found out later they were. Further, that what we thought to be an x turned out to be a y, for example I thought I saw a round tower on the horizon but upon approaching it I see it really is square. What sometimes can deceive me can always deceive me. Hark unto the voice of the skeptic ladies and gentlemen for his voice is very convincing. Last night I dreamt that the wind was blowing me toward a cliff and there was nothing I could do about it. I woke up and realized it was only a dream or a nightmare. At the moment I think I am standing and lecturing before this class. I am certain of it as certain as I was of being blown toward the cliff in my nightmare last night. Could it not be the case ladies and gentlemen that I am only dreaming that I am standing in front of you and giving a lecture. The real me, the dreaming me, is back in another location preparing to wake up from this dream. So if I can not trust my senses and I can not be certain about whether what I see is part of a dream, how can I with certainty say I know the pen is on the table? But, on the other hand, surely we know that the pen is on the table. If we don’t know this how could we be said to know anything?” Logically we represent this state of affairs like this.”
He wrote on the board
“Knowledge of P = being able to apply the criteria for P being P
We can infer P from the premises fully specifying the criteria for P
Which means the criteria for P = P”
“But”, Jude continued, “Surely this cannot be so. Surely my knowledge of the pen being on the table amounts to more than the story told about the relation my sensory experiences have with this state of affairs.”
Mark Cavendish, a science major, put up his hand and responded
“ We need to think about the way in which we conceptualize the state of affairs, that is, the language we use to state the fact. There are not two things to be related here, merely two aspects of the same complex phenomenon.”
Jude stopped himself from continuing the lecture and asked
“And how would you describe this complex phenomenon”
“Not in terms of its truth conditions. This may be an infinite set or a very large uninteresting set. Language has a more important communicative function”.
“Are you saying that the communicative function of language has nothing to do with its truth function?”
“No, but I might be saying that if a hammer when it hammers is expressing its true function or its essential function, then this is what makes the thing we are talking about a hammer This would seem to be of greater significance than the fact that all the sensory criteria for this particular act of hammering have been met and are expressed in a theoretical characterization of this fact.”
Jude smiled his little private smile of recognition before his tone hardened:
“You are characterizing the world as a totality of functions or processes which take place in the continuum of time. If I were to take an example of hammering to illustrate my point it would not be a particular occurring in a continuum of change. It would be a timeless truth, which is made true by general criteria relating to the concept of hammering. The question I am asking is :”What is the relation of these criteria to the concept?”
Mark Cavendish, hesitated, unsure that he had understood everything that had been said. He looked at Robert questioningly for help.
Robert responded:
“Hammering may not be the best example to take in order to see the difference between the two positions. Imagine instead that you see a birdhouse I have recently built and you add this new fact to your arsenal of knowledge. Whilst it is being built it seems that the only reference point outside of the hammering and other activities occurring to bring the event of a completed birdhouse about, would be in the mind of the builder. His idea of a completed birdhouse would seem to be, at the time of having the idea, free of the physical space-time continuum. That is, anybody anywhere and at any time could build a completed birdhouse using this idea. Amongst other things what seems to be needed are general ideas of the function a birdhouse performs, and general ideas of what building are, before any such activity can take place. Although, by taking such a practical example, we may have wondered away from the original example which seemed to be about characterizing physical states of the world such as the pen being on the table. Dr. Sutton is asking, what the relation of criteria, is to the truth of this idea but I think Mark’s point very relevant anyway. The pen being on the table may not be fully and completely characterized by any set of purely physical criteria, even if we include physical laws, if that is what Dr. Sutton meant when he said that the pen on the table may involve more than my sensory experiences of this state of affairs.”
Cavendish nodded in enthusiastic agreement and Jude had now completely lost the thread of his lecture but something stirred within as he registered the student’s enthusiasm.
“Let us turn away from the abstract account of the criteria for P and away from the state of the physical world which contains Roberts birdhouse but towards an example which I believe can point us in the right direction insofar as ascertaining the grounds for knowledge claims is concerned. Let us imagine that I am in pain and that everybody can see the symptoms of the toothache I am suffering from. Let us further consider this example in the light of the question “What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a pain to be a pain? Gather ye symptoms as ye may, they do not seem to add up to the necessary and sufficient symptoms for a pain to be a pain. That is, it always seems possible that an agent could fully be manifesting all of these symptoms and there be no pain—he might for example be acting a part in a play. Or, alternatively, the agent is in pain but he is in unfriendly circumstances and is using his Spartan training not to display any of his symptoms. He is in pain but only he seems to know it. But have I not in this admission that he knows he is in pain given the game away to Descartes and his followers who might at this point say in the most skeptical of voices “Only the person experiencing the pain can know that they are in pain”. Caught in these skeptical pincers one may want to try to deny that the agent “knows” he is in pain. It is too intense for him to know anything, someone may want to maintain: He is in pain, and this means that the experience is not an epistemological state, not a position in which one can know anything. Well, I think the agent does know he is in pain, and claiming that he is not, is only going to change the example we are talking about. Let us give the Cartesian his due: the agent knows he is in pain in spite of the fact that I believe the Cartesian could not give us a good philosophical account of what kind of being possesses a state of mind in which he is both in pain and knows that he is. The Cartesian argument Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, is supported by an argument which is meant to refute the skeptic, namely the argument that one cannot doubt that one is thinking because in order to doubt that one is thinking one would have to be thinking. This is a good argument but not an account of the state of mind of a being that can acknowledge this to be a good argument. And anyway it is at best only an account of how I know myself to be in pain. It is not an account of how I know some other sentient being to be in pain. And since I do not share in his conscious state, his conscious state, by logic, therefore, could not be attributed to me. We can rule out that I am conscious of his pain in the way he is. Well, then, how do I know? By observation, by using my senses and the application of criteria to ones observations, is one possible position. But this is only going to lead us back to the position previously referred to: we might settle for a large set of symptoms and find that they will not suffice and then we will add others and they will not suffice and eventually we will throw up our hands in dismay and agree that no theoretical set of symptoms will ever amount to the pain itself. I am told that Socrates left his studies of the physical world because of this kind of problem after having read the work of a pre-Socratic philosopher who claimed that the foundation of everything was Mind. The attempt to ground knowledge on the nature of matter will always fail philosophically because we will, in Kant’s words never arrive at its nature however complex the set of symptoms for it are. Aristotle claims matter is infinitely mysterious and we can only know its forms –the result of its apprehension by the mind: or in other words, the way in which we conceptualize it. Some ancient philosophers thought that the problem resided in the fact that all we could know of matter are its mathematical properties and since these are provably infinite, when considering it in its quantitative dimension, there can never be a complete set of symptoms for its state. Be that as it may, I think it suffices from the point of view of logic to merely point out that all that needs to be the case is that some given physical phenomenon is alternatively conceptualisable, say as a wave, or as a particle:- and if this is the case we clearly have a logical problem unless we rest with the idea that alternatively conceptualizing this phenomenon is a matter of characterizing different forms or ideas of matter.
A Mathematics major raised their hand and asked:
“Can you elaborate on the proof, that the number of mathematical properties of any material thing will be necessarily infinite?”
“Yes, There are a number of paradoxes, most of which are attributed to Zeno, in which it is maintained that objects in space are totalities or collections of potential points. Take any two points AB on their surface and calculate the number of potential points between AB and it will be an infinite number. These paradoxes even point to the difficulty of quantifying motion once the variable of time is added into the equation”.
The Mathematics major nodded, satisfied with the answer
Jude continued:
“Is there, then, no way out of this labyrinth except the ancient resort to forms in the mind?
Wittgenstein discusses this issue in his Investigations and arrives at the position that the forms in the mind have been put there by some objective process. We were not born with them. We may have been born with Aristotelian powers but not Platonic forms, and even Aristotle made fun of the theory of forms in spite of his abiding respect for his teacher.
In learning language, we fall and hurt ourselves as children, and are in pain. Our linguistic mentors then teach us to say that “We are in pain” and we move from the world of instinct, where animals are in pain and other animals sympathetically lick their wounds, to a kind of intellectual game in which I say “I am in pain” and other members of the community commiserate and offer me their sympathies, helping me over the pain. When I am initiated into this new form of life of talking about pain rather than the bare experiencing of it we are led into the human arena of caring for one another and the forms of life that are associated with this. If there is a principle behind all this it is the principle of Care—a very practical principle, which I would like to connect to the previous ethics lecture but for the moment I will restrict myself to the point brought up earlier about the language we use. It is a language relating to Humanity and Society not persons in abstraction from their relation to each other in communities…”

Introduction to Philosophy Course: Aristotle Part three(Philosophical Psychology, Action and Agency)

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Action and Agency are form-creators for Aristotle because they issue from a form of life which can build a world around itself. As a rational animal capable of discourse I go forth in a world of physical events such as a storm at sea. After throwing the cargo overboard I can but sit and wait for the consequences to play themselves out on this watery stage. As a rational animal capable of discourse I am of course a form of life that can act but one whose actions have consequences I cannot control. The sun was shining and the weather was fine when I embarked on this sea voyage. The possibility of a storm at sea was a piece of knowledge I had but it was not active at the time of the choice. I am now trapped in this situation and if I was an ancient Greek,the “action” of praying to the gods would follow the action of throwing the cargo overboard. Is it irrational to begin to pray or is prayer an assertion of agency as such when natural events play with our lives? For Aristotle, the world-creating forms occur in the media of change(space, time and matter) and they find their explanation in a theoretical matrix of 4 kinds of change three principles and 4 causes. The material and efficient causes of the storm are forms situated in the infinite continuum of the media of change: the forms of water(the high seas) the forms of air(high winds) the forms of fire( the lightning issuing from the heavens) and the wooden earth-like form of the ship being tossed about and being prepared to rest finally in peace on the earth at the bottom of the sea. In such a situation can we talk about praying in terms of rationality? Well, I had the knowledge that this fateful outcome was a possibility and did not use this knowledge. For Aristotle, this was a failure of deliberation and therefore of rationality. So all that is left of the definition of such a being is his animality expressed in his fear and apprehension and his attempt to communicate via prayer with the “agency” expressed in the storm. For those who found themselves in such situations and prayed and survived to tell their story, it might seem as if some divine agent had now a reason to save the souls on the ship. Aristotle would not have sanctioned such an explanation. He would have pointed to all those skeletons lying on the floor of the sea-bed, resting, who undoubtedly prayed and who lost their souls in storms at sea. Aristotle’s theory of action, agency, and powers would not permit the world of the human to become confused with the physical forms of the infinite continuum. That is one can rationally say that I should have considered the possibility of the ruin of my hopes in a storm at sea and ought not to have decided to board the ship but one cannot rationally say that the Storm ought not to have sunk the ship and extinguished the life of all the souls on board. For Aristotle, there is a categorical distinction to be observed here, a logical boundary that one only crosses on pain of the loss of one’s rationality. This does not necessarily mean that Aristotle would have thought that it was irrational to pray as the ship’s mast was broken by the tempestuous winds. Indeed he would have thought that we are active world creating forms and a structured form of discourse was, of course, preferable to quivering and weeping or rushing around like the ship’s dog howling at the wind. We are forms of life embedded in a world of physical forms and some forms of action are appropriate and some forms of behaviour not: or in other words, when we are dealing with free voluntary choices there are actions which ought to be chosen and actions which ought not to be chosen. The oughts here are rational and can be formulated in value-laden premises and conclusions with logical relations to each other, thus forming rational valid arguments for action. We are clearly exploring the foothills of ethics and morality or as Jonathan Lear so clearly put it in his work “Aristotle: the desire to understand”, we are exploring the “Mind in action”.
Lear believes that understanding Aristotle’s philosophical theories of Psychology are a necessary pre-requisite to understanding both his ethics and his politics. So the man on board the ship is acting and the ship’s dog is just behaving. Why the difference? The difference lies, Aristotle argues in our ability to think and create higher level desires which as a consequence creates a region of the soul which is rational and a region which is irrational. But we need to consider how the human higher form of desire is integrated with our knowledge if we are to fully understand the complexity of the human form of life. The desiring part of the human soul is the acting part because man is capable of acting rationally and behaving irrationally, i.e. he is capable of both reasoning that he ought not to drink water which might be poisoned, but he is also capable of drinking the same water. It is perhaps the existence of these parts of the soul which generates all those desires which we express in value laden ought statements. The dog’s soul is perhaps a seamless unity. Indeed one can wonder whether dogs have minds in the sense of a mental space in which Aristotelian deliberations can take place. Deliberations are rationally structured but are also value or desire laden:

“Aristotle’s theory of deliberation is a theory of the transmission of desire. The agent begins with a desire or wish for an object. The object of the wish appears to be a good for the agent. But the appearance helps to constitute the wish itself. So a wish is both a motivating force and a part of consciousness. That is, an agents awareness that he wishes for a certain end is itself a manifestation of that wish. The wish motivates the agent to engage in a process of deliberation whereby he considers how to obtain his desired goal. Aristotle describes deliberation as a process of reasoning backward from the desired goal through a series of steps which could best lead to that goal until the agent reaches an action which he or she is in a position to perform”(Jonathan Lear Aristotle:the desire to understand, p144)

This reference to consciousness is very modern and this of course is a term Aristotle never used: he preferred to use the term awareness instead and many modern commentators build a notion of reflexivity into this awareness, that is, they claim there is a self-awareness implied in Aristotle’s usage of this term. What this in turn implies is that there is a self that is aware of itself. Does this imply the presence of two selves? Not necessarily. There are in the actualising process of the human organism striving to be rational, earlier and later stages of development. There is no logical contradiction in the self at a later stage confronting in discourse oneself at an earlier stage during the process of moving from one stage to the other. But this is a different kind of deliberation to that involved in performing an action. The process of reasoning involved is characterised by Aristotle in the “Metaphysics” as follows:

“…health is the logos and knowledge in the soul. The healthy subject, then, is produced as the result of the following train of thought: since this is health, if the subject is to be healthy, this must first be present, e.g. a universal state of the body, and if this is to be present, there must be heat: and the physician goes on thinking thus until he brings the matter to a final step which he himself can take. Then the process from this point onward, i.e. the process towards health, is called a “making” “(Metaphysics VII, 7, 1032B5-10).

This process of reasoning is then compared by Aristotle to the reasoning one finds in the activity of geometers. In geometry, synthesis is the name of a process of construction by iteration of elements and construction of relations between elements: a straight line is thus synthesised or constructed by the placing of a second point at a distance from the first and the connecting of these two points by a straight line. The analysis of this straight line would then break the process down in a set of orderly steps until one arrives at the stage at which one begins the synthesis again. The analysis reverses the process. In the example of the doctor planning to act above the initial desired goal has been synthesised and the deliberation “analyses” or “deconstructs” the goal to that point at which the doctor/agent fetches some warm blankets from the cupboard to warm the patient. The forming of the desire to warm the patient is of course not deliberative reasoning it is more like the effect of Eros on the mind, more like a learning or succumbing process issuing from an attitude of mind of awe, love for the world or desire to understand the world. Of course, one is aware of this desire and to that extent one is certain about it in the same way as one is certain of any other manifestation in the consciousness of any mental event. It is the self-reflexive act of contemplating the desire which allows freedom into the Aristotelian process of deliberation. The agent decides whether and/or how to satisfy his desire and once this process is completed the desire to keep one’s patients healthy is transformed into a reason for acting. We are of course ignorant of the workings of this freedom to choose and to this extent we are ignorant of part of the essence of what it is to be human. Kant would later dub this region the region of noumenal being, the region of the noumenal self.

Reason, action and consequence are concepts in complex relations to each other. Insofar as in Aristotle forms constitute the world, the forms interacting in the matrix of space-time-material and causation must contribute to the creation or “forming” of this world. In a previous essay I pointed to the three different kinds of forms that constitute this world: the forms produced by and in relation to sexual reproduction, the forms produced by work of man in the building and construction of his artefacts, homes and cities, and the forms produced by teachers in the process of communicating knowledge. Reason, action and consequence are of course related to human activities insofar as they are knowledge driven. Such activities aim at the good they desire and analyse what is needed in order to bring about the changes in the world they desire. Such human agents have reasons for their actions in the same way as the archer has a reason for his action. The archer who hits the centre of the bulls-eye is like the geometer arriving a the point at which his whole reconstruction is to begin. We are in awe of his performance: the object of the action and the intention are in such cases in full almost divine congruence. The consequence is a logical consequence as is the recovery of the patient with the cold after the doctor restores the homeostasis of the body with the warm blankets. Many of our actions, however, do not achieve the desired result on the part of the agent but this is no reason to doubt the logical relation in thought between the object and the intention. Human desire is generated in a human body. The desire to understand or contemplation may be an activity that involves no bodily activity although it is difficult to even here to conceive of this activity taking place without correlative brain activity. It seems that only God the divine can think without a correlative underlying physical activity generating the thought. The mind-body problem obviously surfaces at this point in Aristotle’s philosophical psychology. Sir David Ross in his work on “Aristotle” defines Psychology in terms of its objective “to discover the nature and essence of the soul, and its attributes” So on this characterisation Psychology will cover plant and animal behaviour as well as human action. There is sufficient resemblance between the forms of life these different forms of soul lead to, to call soul “the principle” organising the nutritive and reproductive activity, perceptive and motor activity, reasoning activity respectively. We mentioned in a previous essay the relation between these form of soul. David Ross puts the matter thus:

“Geometrical figures may be arranged in an order beginning with the triangle and proceeding to more and more complex forms, each of which contains potentially all that precedes. So too, the forms of soul form a series with a definite order, such that each kind of soul presupposes all that come before it in this order, without being implied by them.”(Ross, “Aristotle”, p135)

The physical substrate or matter underlying the above is obviously a simple physical organisation of parts of a plant to a more complex organisation of the organ systems of different species of animals enabling them to “sense” their environment or alternatively reason about their environment. It is as important to know about this material substrate which is as inseparable from its mental aspect as the shape of the ax is inseparable from its function of “chopping”. The soul and the body for Aristotle are in the human inseparable aspects. Ross has this to say on this topic:

” Most mental phenomena are attended by some bodily affection….Mental phenomena, therefore, are “formulae involving matter. The true definition of them will omit neither their form or end(their rational causation) nor their matter(their physiological conditions”(Ross, p137)

The soul has its rational and irrational parts and also its various faculties which Ross explains in the following way:

“He is simply taking account of the fact that the soul does exhibit a variety of operations and that behind each of these intermittent operations we must suppose a permanent power of so operating. But these faculties do not exist like stones in a heap. They have a definite order, an order of worth, and a reverse order of development in the individual. Further, they have a characteristic which we may roughly call interpenetration. Thus, for instance , intellect and desire are distinct faculties, but the highest species of desire is of a kind which can only occur in beings which have intellect, and is itself intellectual. Choice or will may equally well be called desiring reason and reasoning desire, and in it the whole of man is involved.”(Ross, p139)
The language of potentiality and actuality is particularly important in the Psychology of Aristotle because of Aristotle’s insistence of categorical distinctions between the operations of the soul: Firstly,there are feeling operations and secondly operations which actualise the possession of capacities and thirdly operations which actualise the possession of dispositions. Dispositions are higher level capacities, they are rationally regulated capacities. The virtues are examples of dispositions and language is an example of a capacity. Reason is a faculty and its relation to the other faculties is regarded by many commentators as a mystery. With reason we approach the contemplative life of God, the divine life but this contemplative life does not appear to have any links with the body, according to Aristotle.

Philosophical Psychology also deals with Perception. Given what has been said previously about the nature of the physical body being defined by its system of organs we can draw the conclusion that the senses are obviously materially connected with organs. One of the accusations traditionally directed at Aristotle is that he confuses the purely physiological with the psychological. The physical eye of course is connected to the organ of the brain and Aristotle states that perception takes place in the head as a result of the eye taking on the sensible form of whatever it is perceiving. The eye somehow identifies itself with the brown and green colours of the tree and the shape of the tree and the outcome, probably involving the brain is an awareness of seeing the tree which in itself does not have to be brown and green and possess a shape of a tree. The language of actuality and potentiality are important here in order to establish the relation of the object to its perception. The tree, in its turn, has the potentiality to be seen , that is, has the potentiality as a second level and higher actuality to affect the faculty of sight(which would include the relation of the eye to the brain) in this way. It is not the tree that is present in the soul but its form.

A by-product of perception or the faculty of sight is the imagination or the faculty of the imagination rendered by the greek term phantasia. Ross characterises this faculty in the following manner:

“”Usually phantasia(which has the meaning of “to appear”) is describes as operating only after the sensible object has gone. The “movement of the soul through the body” which perception is sets up a repercussion both in the body and in the soul—though as regards the soul the effect, until recollection takes place, is potential, i.e. not a conscious state of mind but an unconscious modification of the mind. At some later time, owing, for instance to the suppression of sensation in sleep, the movement becomes actual:i.e. an image similar to but less lively than the sensation, and less trustworthy as a guide to objective fact, is formed and attended to: and this is the act of imagination”

Phantasia has two main functions, according to Ross. The first function is the pure formation of after images and the second function:

“Memory, Aristotle begins by emphasising the reference of memory to the past, and infers that it is a function of the faculty by which we perceive time, i.e. of the “Primary faculty of perception”, the sensus communis. Memory, he adds is impossible without an image. It is therefore a function of that part of the soul to which imagination belongs. But it is not the present image but the past event that is remembered: how can this be? Aristotle’s answer is that what is produced in the soul by perception is a sort of picture or impression of the percept, like the impression of a signet ring. Now in seeing a picture we may become aware of its original: and similarly it is possible, in becoming aware of an image, to be aware of it as the image of something, and of something past. When these two conditions are fulfilled we have not mere imagination but the more complex act called memory.

Freud obviously based his analysis of the condition of “shell shock”on the above theory. For Freud bringing something into consciousness via the process of recollection and persuading the patient to talk about the cause of the images recollected, in the therapeutic situation, suffices to turn the phantasy of the traumatic event into a memory which would fade over time. We should remember in this context that for Freud language was a secondary sensory surface related more to thought than to perception. For both Aristotle and Freud Thought was more reliably related to reality than imagination because it followed what Freud called the reality principle.

Conceptual Foundations of International Politics: Commentary and Critique of the Columbia University lecture series at cosmolearning.org/courses/conceptual-foundations-of-international-politics-311/ Lecture Ten: Jose Antonio Ocampo(A Critical View of Globalisation)

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This is the final lecture in this series.

The lecturer is clearly a quantitatively based data driven lecture which is, however, trying to make ideological and ethical criticisms of existing global structures and processes.

Ocampo begins by noting that he is going to adopt a critical perspective of global structures and processes from the point of view of the opportunities and difficulties experienced by the developing world. There are, he claims two views of global economic development. Firstly there is the claim of David Ricardo who views the International Economy as an entity in which all participants are equal partners. Secondly there is the alternative view which Ocampo appears to argue for, in which the International Economy is a system in which unequal participants relate to each other on unequal terms.

Ocampo then produces an overhead highlighting three critical issues:

“* Uneven liberalisation of markets
* Uneven distribution of benefits
* Global institutions lag behind Global Markets”

He then supplements the information on the overhead relating to the uneven liberalisation of the markets by pointing out firstly that industrialised countries have an enormous advantage in the system because they have developed institutions which can mange what he calls “the down sides of markets”. He notes that there are three critical issues relating to the institutions of the International Economic system:

“* An incomplete and biased agenda
* An incomplete set of institutions
* Asymmetry between the agenda and the instruments for actions
* Unsettled relation between globalisation and the nation state
* Developing countries have limited voice and limited participation”

Ocampo having argued for the first two points earlier in relation to the third point mentioned above points out that the UN millennium goals clearly had an agenda but the instruments of action to achieve these goals were lacking. In relation to the fourth point concerning globalisation and the nation state he provides a detailed overhead of what he regards as the three different stages if globalisation: The first stage between 1870 and 1913, the second between 1945 and 1973, and the third between 1974 and the present time(2007). The missing years are the war years in which he argued all global activity ceased. He notes that in the current period for example there are high levels of capital mobility and a growing volume of labour mobility and trade and that there is growing interdependence of national institutions. The major problem he notes is that the development of international institutions is lagging behind what the International economy requires. As a consequence he disagrees with the previous speaker and argues that there is continuing divergence between the economic growth of industrialised and developing countries especially in those developing countries outside of Asia which is part of a trend of longer term increase in International Inequality. He does, however note a statistic that might be a counterargument against his position:

“Between 2004 and 2007 there was for the first time a faster rate of growth in the developing countries than in the developed countries. Is this a trend?We do not yet know, for example if the economies of China and India can function as locomotives and pull the growth of the world economy forward. According to a recent UN University study, 88% of the world lives in countries where inequality is increasing”

Ocampo points out in relation to this research that the amount of social spending on health, education and social protection is highly correlated with the level of income of the country concerned.

Ocampo then shows an overhead relating to three inequalities. In the quote below is both the information contained on the overhead plus the verbal commentary on it:

“Inequalities of Global order: Three asymmetries.
1. financial and macroeconomic: The available finance in the International Economic system flows from the industrialised countries and this is what constitutes the international currencies we trade in, the dollar, pound,yen etc. This in its turn produces market segmentation , i.e. a market of good and bad borrowers in which the developing countries are regarded as risky borrowers who as a consequence have to pay more for the money they borrow. This cost prevents them from being able to manage the cyclical downturns in the market(flow of capital followed by dry weather). This is a characteristic feature of the third wave of globalisation and is a cause of the divergence of economies
2.Technological and Productive inequalities: Only a few countries generate new technologies and they are very protective of their discoveries. This prevents a smooth process of distribution: diffusion is a very slow process
3. Limited labour mobility. There is discrimination in the system against unskilled labour mobility and an asymmetrical flow of labour toward the industrialised countries

Ocampo elaborates upon point one by pointing out that there are no instruments to counter financial swings in the market insofar as the non OECD countries are concerned and while the expectation is that water and funds should trickle downward, it looks very much as if the developing countries are funding the industrialised countries.

This in turn connects to point two above. With these funds the industrialised countries can make their agricultural and manufactured products more competitive which results in faster growth

In relation to point three Ocampo claims that migration, with the exception of Western Europe, is in fact more limited in the third stage of globalisation than it was in the first stage.

Ocampo then shows an overhead entitled “Three Basic Objectives of International Cooperation”:

“* Interdependence, guaranteeing an adequate supply of global public goods
* Equality of Nations which would help overcome the asymmetries in the world
economic system
* Equality of citizens which would be based on a world system of Human Rights,
i.e. global citizenship

In relation to point one and point two on the overhead the lecturer points out that nations are a part of a hierarchical system which by its nature generates unequal opportunities for some participants.

In relation to point three the lecturer asks the question: How do we build an international system of rights and he answers at the institutional level rather than the individual citizen or nation level.He posts an overhead entitled “Improved Governance Structures”:

“* Should be based on a network of world, regional and national institutions forming a dense network of systems
* Whilst retaining a “policy-space” for individual nations where diversity is respected
* Developing countries must participate on equal terms”

The level of the individual is perhaps incorporated in the political and educational institutions that he participates in but what is missing in the above account is the language of individual action in the description of institutions which have been formed by human beings for human beings. There is an underlying complaint in the lecture which refers back to the level of unjust action which would have produced a more nuanced discussion.

There is paradoxically a theoretical bias in this discussion, as there is in economics generally: a bias which works on the assumption that there is a constant or uniform state of the system which all actions of the system attempt to create or maintain. The interesting question to ask is what is the best concept which we should use to describe this system. Is it the concept of the system of the healthy body of Aristotle in which there is an energy regulation system striving to maintain a uniform/constant state of the body giving it a healthy glow and allowing it to lead a healthy life. Or is the system best described in psychological or subject like terms in which the actions will be striving not just to achieve something uniform and constant but rather something better, something desired, something excellent(areté), something which will be good and just for the generations of the future.

The theoretical view of economics quite often uses a hybrid concept of body and mind and mixes these fundamental categories in a theory of the so called enlightened self interested subject whose choices would be enlightened from all points of view.

In the arena of philosophical practical reasoning the key concept is that of action which has two Aristotelian aspects , that of deliberation before the process of acting, and the process of “production of the action” after the deliberation process is over. These two aspects cover two regions of reasoning or “science” for Aristotle , neither of which are what he would term “theoretical reasoning” which is defined as the transmission of knowledge via a series of premises. The two forms of reasoning involved in the two aspects of action which Aristotle discusses involve a transmission of human desire to a final premise which describes an action which ought to be immediately taken, or an object of pleasure. Ocampo is arguing for such a premise relating to an action which presupposes a transmission of desire after a process of deliberation by a network of international institutions(in the name of equality) without the requisite premises, i.e. without the presence of premises of the requisite logical form. In other words Ocampo is attempting to argue for an ought value laden premise conclusion without any major premise containing an ought value-laden statement, thus committing the naturalistic fallacy. Also amongst the is-premises there ought to be recognition of the appropriate categories under which to categorise his theoretical notion of a system. The prevailing category is that of equality: but equality in a physical system where each part or participant in the system should receive equal benefits and opportunities. If , for example, the category assumed is that of a physical system like a living body, Aristotle of course believes that equal treatment of participants should prevail unless there are significant differences between the recipients of benefits. If trying to maintain a uniform or constant state of ones body required distribution of oxygen,nutrition and antibodies to ones organs the function of the organ will determine how much oxygen nutrition and immunising antibodies should be received. It would for example be absurd to claim that every organ in the body should benefit equally: the benefit any particular organ receives will probably be in proportion to the work it performs in the body. The principle of distribution then is related to the contribution to the whole which the particular organ or participant in the system makes, i.e the equality principle does not apply. So this cannot be the type of system that Ocampo has in mind. What he appears to have in mind sometimes is that the larger industrialised countries are the beneficiaries of the work and financing of the non industrialised countries. But is this true? The evidence for this thesis is not presented. There are implied complaints about industrialised countries preventing the free flow of technology but there is no recognition of the work and effort which resulted in the technological innovation. In what Ocampo refers to as “this hierarchical system” this work is, according to Aristotle the significant difference which justifies the fact that a larger proportion of benefits should accrue to the workers behind this work. It might be in fact that in an Aristotelian economic system, work is the value which is being measured. Hannah Arendt argued for a threefold distinction to be observed in this arena of discussion: labour, work and action. Ocampo talks much about labour but not of work or of action,areas of activity which are more complex than labour. If it is these two latter categories, work and action, that are the real generators of value in our society then it is not helpful to construct economic systems based on the value of equality which at best measure the value of labour. The issue of the rights of non industrialised nations presuppose the responsibility of the industrialised nations to assist in the process of the development of non industrialised countries. This issue or rights can only be discussed in relation to the ethical ideas of justice which relate to action. Ocampa wishes for a system of institutions to work and to act in the interests of the non industrialised actors but there is no coherent model for the justification of this work and action coming from the field of economic theory. There is more than an echo here of an old complaint from Socrates who pointed out that doing what is just and understanding what is just requires knowledge.

The Conceptual Foundations of International Politics: Commentary and Critique of the Columbia University lecture series at cosmolearning.org/courses/conceptual-foundations-of-international-politics-311/ Lecture Nine: Jeffrey Sachs: The future of Globalisation

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The Deep Forces of Globalisation
This is a very important lecture and its form and content appear to depart from that which we have experienced so far in this lecture series. There are statistics and interpretations aplenty making this the most data driven lecture thus far. There are however, conceptual and ethical confusions

Sachs begins with a historical observation that the modern era began 200 years ago which given the date of this lecture series in 2007 is around the time of Napoleon just after he entered Königsberg, the home city of Kant who had died one year earlier in 1804. Sachs then wishes to divide this era into two. The first 150 years and the last 50 years. In the first 150 years he argues that the Industrial revolution was the expression of what he called the force of divergence which began to occur in the world between those North Atlantic countries who embraced and drove the industrial revolution for all it was worth and those countries in the world who experienced this revolution through contact with the industrialisers or colonisers and the goods produced by a technological advantage they did not possess. This process of divergence between the industrialisers and those countries affected, opened up a gap between rich and poor which was very quickly experienced as a gaping wound.

In the second period of this 200 hundred year span–the last 50 years–this deep process of globalisation has fundamentally changed its nature from divergence to convergence. Sachs says the following:

“I believe in the last 50 years that process has fundamentally changed to a process of convergence rather than divergence and the mechanisms that triggered this unprecedented period of economic, military and geo-political development before are now a worldwide process. So that China, India, South East Asia, Brazil and Africa can also now experience the advantages of rapid development.”

Technology, Sachs argues, is the key. The developing countries need to find ways and means to adopt the technologies that the developed countries have in their possession. Once this can be done on a large enough scale the gap between the rich and the poor parts of the world will narrow. This prediction from the year 2007 we now in the year 2018 know to be true. Hans Rosling in various lectures and works, e.g. “Factability” have clearly demonstrated this thesis to be fact. Sachs points to the most dramatic example of this development:

“The most dramatic aspect of this is the rise of China principally because of its population of 1.3 billion people. The growth rate per capita is rising at ca 8-10% making the doubling time between 7-9 years. The doubling time for growth in the developed countries is much much slower, somewhere in the region of 35 years.”

This is the argument for the fact that the deep force of divergence has now transformed into a process of convergence which Sachs regards as the first driver of globalisation. The second driver is population increase which as Rosling has pointed out has slowed significantly. Sachs, however is still very concerned with the fact that in spite of this good news we are still adding ca 85 million per year to the total population of the world–a country the size of Germany is being added every year to the population of mostly poor countries. Put this in the context of:

” a world of open borders, mass economies and mass migration”

and, he claims the possible consequences are disturbing. Sachs points to the statistical facts. In 1830 the world population was one billion. by 1930 it was 2 billion. The current projection is that the 9 billion mark will be reached in 2050. Even if we can slow the momentum of this explosion down, Sachs argues the large number of young people in the world will still mean ca 8 billion people in the world by 2050, making the world a very crowded place. For 80% of the world involved in the process of convergence and catching up, this will be a less serious development but for the remaining poor 20% the consequences of strained resources will be felt more acutely. Natural resources are going to be used on a scale never seen before and apart from the natural consequences of shortages of land, water, fossil fuels, available animals to hunt available fish to catch there will be a significant effect on the climate of the planet. Current estimates, Sachs argues are that the predicted level of the use of resources will as he puts it:
“wreck the planet by the end of the century, if not sooner”

of course on the way to doing that will entail witnessing a number of natural disasters. Carbon based emission must be radically reduced he argues.This is the third driver of Globalisation–Ecosystem pressure.

Sachs then elaborates upon this point by referring to the work of Paul Crutzen,the winner of the Nobel prize in chemistry for his discovery of the problems with the ozone layer. Crutzen believes that we are now situated in a new geological era, what he calls the Anthropicine Age. That is he believes that the driver of the earths fate is no longer a non anthropomorphic factor such as the orbit of the world in relation to the sun(the factor that caused the last ice age) but is rather a factor related to mans activity here on earth. The climate threat is man made, a result of human activity on the planet. Climate change is only one consequence of ecosystem pressure.

The fourth and last driver of globalisation is Failed states although I am not sure that it is semantically correct to name this variable a “driver”. In relation to this point Sachs claims that he is an optimist in relation to Technological innovation. He refers to diffusion processes in the world which improve the human condition and claims that both ideas and technology spread rapidly everywhere in the world. This means that even if technology and ideas are generated in the wealthy states these can relatively easily be distributed to the poor states. But it is important to realise that there are regions of the world that are not part of this diffusion process:- the so called failed states. States can fail not just for political reasons but also because they are so poor, i.e. possess very few resources. There have always been failed states throughout our long modern history but in a globalised world the consequences of their presence are felt today as never before. To take just one example..the attack on the twin towers by terrorists working for an organisation based in Kabul, Afghanistan surprised everybody. Who would have thought that a city so far away in such a remote corner of the world would be able to orchestrate such an attack with such devastating world-wide consequences:

“There is no place on earth that is too far away to care about, and this is true in a political sense, and a public health sense. Diseases like Aids started in jungle in West Africa with a chimpanzee hunter. This disease has now killed 40 million people and is responsible for several million deaths per year. In a way one event was a premonition of what was to come–the gunshot in Sarajevo which caused one of the worst wars in history.”

So in summary Sachs produces an overhead listing the 4 deep drivers of the globalisation process:

“1. The end of North Atlantic Hegemony
2. Demographic change
3. Ecosystem pressure
4. Failed States”

Sachs calls these 4 items “phenomena” and he clearly thinks of them as causal agents which can be politically mediated on the condition that we can agree on international political action, given the fact that all of these causal agents are operating across the current borders of our political systems. Sachs recognizes a logical problem here. Our current political institutions are confined to particular countries, with the exception of the UN,Nato, and the EU
which have been formed in recognition of the logical problem Sachs refers to. He does not however refer to these kinds of organisations but has this to say:

“The political decisions we need to take are more global than ever. We need global decision making–we are not good at this. Most of the above issues cannot be solved at national level. The most preposterous site we can witness is that of the US trying to act and decide on these issues unilaterally. This is 19th century thinking which we can clearly see did not work in the 20th century. George Bush may have been a good Sheriff in Texas in 1840.

What is somewhat perplexing is that Sachs does not mention the UN in relation to this demand. Is he, one wonders, a “member of the great platoon of the walking wounded” who believe that the UN inspired by the vision of Kant has had sufficient time to solve the problems of the universe and has significantly failed in its declared missions? Kants response to this would probably be to warn us of raising expectations too high when the problems to solve are so complex.

Sachs then produces an overhead which differs somewhat to his remarks in the introduction. He seems now to wish to talk about the forces of divergence and convergence in relation to a longer time span:

“Forces of Divergence 1750-1950
Concentration of technological capacity, resource endowment. Political conquest

Forces of Convergence 1950-2050
Diffusion of technological capacities”

Sachs also amends his N Atlantic thesis by recognizing Japan as a counterexample. Divergence between 1750 and 1950 does not he now argues include Japan on the side of the industrialised but rather on the side of the industrialisers.

Sachs notes in this context that the Industrial Revolution driven by the technological innovation of the steam engine powered with coal began around the 1750’s in England. This spread rapidly to N Atlantic countries and gave its possessors a military advantage over those who did not possess this concentration of technological capacity and endowment of natural resources. A wave of colonial occupation swept over the Indian Ocean and the margins of Africa. This military occupation served to widen the gap between those that possessed these technological and military capacities and those that did not. Being subject to colonial rule made it almost impossible to develop ones industry:

“The Colonial system of every power was designed to hinder this process of development. It was designed to extract raw materials from the home country. Educational development was also not encouraged.”

Sachs also mentions in this section the presence of a racist ideology amongst the colonial powers and challenges the position of Niall Ferguson in relation to his claim that the “The British Empire modernised the world”:

“It would have been better if England had stayed put and become just a trading partner.”

Sachs is not a friend of Europe, the home of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle,Newton, Darwin, Kant and Wittgenstein. He recognises that Economic development relies on ideas even more than it does on coal, which was phased out when the internal combustion engine and oil proved more efficient. Ideas were spreading rapidly over the world when , as he rather starkly puts it, Europe went into a process of self annihilation with two world wars in a relatively short period of time. The Great Depression followed the first world war putting an end to Imperialism. Sachs does not mention that the second world war was fought over the issues of racism and freedom or that the United Nations was formed shortly afterwards. It seems that by ideas he means “economic ideas” and he does not appear to see History as Kant did in terms of a progression in the understanding of the political significance of knowledge and freedom. He does not either appear to see History in terms of the development of the democratic form of the rule of law and ethical behaviour. A rule which also involve ideas but of a kind which would subject his “drivers of globalisation” to a philosophical and ethical analysis that would place them side by side with other “influences”. Influences which seen from a philosophical point of view would provide solutions to the logical problem of the decisions that need to be taken if we are to survive the consequences of the spread of economic ideas and destructive technology( such as the invention of the weapons of mass destruction). In the realm of ideas worthy if being distributed the Europeans are not proud of their history of colonisation and recognise that the phenomenon occurred because economic ideas took precedence over the Philosophy of humanistic liberalism which was evolving. Ideas connected to living a life in accordance with this Philosophy are the contributions Europe can make to the world. In this Philosophy the factor of acting so as to actualise the fulfilment of unnecessary desires which economic development encourages is the telos of European development. There is no mention of these “constructivist” “influences” in Sachs’ account.

Sachs moves to 1950 and discusses Japan, claiming that they practically invented the art of imitating and “catching up”via processes such as “reverse engineering” in which one begins with a product and reconstructs all the processes that must have been involved in its production. This latter process combined with a desire to make ones product just that little bit better ensured that Japan in some areas of technology and business have “leap-frogged” over the leaders and become a world leader in technology and innovation themselves. Sachs does not mention that in the realm of the development of Philosophy or Democratic ideas or life-styles the Japanese will remain a footnote to the texts of the world history of ideas.

Sachs points out that Japan becomes the focus of Chinese attention in 1978. Japan in their eyes is the economic example to imitate. With the emergence of China, it is argued , there is not such a gap between the technological leaders and followers anymore:

“The diffusion of good ideas is so fast that even if the US were the leader of all innovation in the world, these innovations would still spread rather quickly to the rest of the world.”

If this is correct then what we are witnessing is the waning of the American empire of science pragmatism and technology simply in virtue of the fact that several other powers in these fields are emerging to share the limelight.

Sachs elaborates on Demographics by pointing out that two thirds of the world population has lived in Asia for the past two thousand years. . He notes that with the arrival of the industrial revolution in Europe and the US that Asia’s share of the world’s wealth fell from 60-20%.We are also, he argues beginning to experience the consequences now:

“At a recent Africa economic conference Europe was courting Africa but was surprised to find China also competing for economic influence in the region. The trends are reversing:

“in 2050 Asia will possess more than 50% of the worlds population and Africa will move up from its current 13% to 20%. At the moment the USA economy is roughly twice the size of the Chinese economy and China has 4 times the population. But by 2025 the Chinese economy should be the largest in the world. By 2050 the Indian economy will be larger than the US economy and there should be a population of 1.6 billion people in India. AlreadY today the country is crowded. The countryside feels crowded.”

ThE above trends are the result of life styles. the rich have few children and invest heavily in each child. The poor have ca 6 children because 2 will probably die before adulthood and there is a tradition of not investing so much time and energy in each child. Children growing up in poor families are normally undernourished and under-educated.

Sachs points also to the demographics of Europe as part of illustrating how power shifted from East to West during the middle ages with the tremendous growth of population in Europe and the stagnation of the growth of population in the Islamic countries. Superior political and legal institutions also played some role in this shift. The industrial revolution in Europe during the 19th century ensured that Europe had superior military capability. But now, Sachs points out, the Islamic population is reaching parity with Europe and by 2050 it will outnumber Europe:

“Geo-Political change”

argues Sachs

“is on the way”

He also points out that there is a greater number of fighting young males in the Middle East compared to Europe and further:

“in a global world the structure of our internal populations will change to reflect external structures..The US is becoming more like the rest of the world ethnically. By 2050 50% of the population will be non white(where nonwhite includes the Hispanics) The same thing could end up being true in Europe because the Muslims living in Europe have high fertility rates. By 2050 Muslims could be between one fifth and one quarter of the population overall but could be between 40-50 % in the cities.”

Finally Sachs takes up possible factors which prove the above predictions to be false. That is growth could be slowed down for the following reasons:

“War, economic global collapse and large scale ecological damage. If one of these “inhibitors” swing into operation then he argues:

“current trends are terribly dangerous”

Yet Sachs points out there is no need to be pessimistic about the future because the solutions to the problems are, economically speaking not that expensive. He argues that it would cost about 2 and a half percent of world GDP to solve the failed states problem and probably only 1% of world GDP to solve the problem of climate change. War is not currently a problem in the rest of the world but it is in the failed states.

The logical problem remains however. We could help economically but there is no agency, it is claimed that can make decisions and organise such solutions effectively. he asks the obvious question:

“Once the technical analysis is done how can we collectively decide what to do? Collective choice involves business, society, government, international organisations and treaties but there is no conductor of this orchestra. The US does not want to lead this process. We need to find a means of collective decision making. We need a new kind of global organisation. The IPCC(an international group of scientists)were given the Nobel Prize for their work on climate change. Perhaps it is in collectives like these that we can find the answer.”

Or the answer may lie closer to hand, in the UN which is already orchestrating much work and effort into many areas of international need. It is after all the organ of peace in the world.

Science has not got the greatest of records for its contributions to the causes of peace. It was after all a similar collective that worked together on the Manhattan project and provided the world the means by which it could destroy itself if it decided to do so. I do not know whether this was on Sachs’ mind when he chose the speech of John Kennedy to close his lecture. The speech below was given shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis where the world stared into the abyss for a few brief moments as the advisors of Kennedy suggested he launch the missiles that came from the collective effort of the scientists of the Manhattan project:

A Presidential speech by a real President on Peace in the World

John Kennedy 10th June 1963

“We need to examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But this is a dangerous defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that War is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man made and they therefore can be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.
Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable. I am not here referring to the absolute and universal concept of peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the values of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our immediate goal. Let us focus instead on a more practical more attainable goal—based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution of human institutions in a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single simple key to his peace—no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic not static, changing to meet the needs of each new generation. For peace is a process, a way of solving problems. So let us not be blind to our differences but let us also direct our attention to our common interests and the means by which these differences can be resolved, and if we now can not end our differences at least we can make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures and we are all mortal.”

A brilliant speech with many Aristotelian and Kantian moments but also containing wonderful moments of American pragmatism where one pretends to forget where all our ideas and key democratic institutions came from.

“GENUINE PEACE MUST BE THE PRODUCT OF MANY NATIONS, THE SUM OF MANY ACTS”

What better definition of structure and purpose of the United Nations could there be!

A speech by President John Kennedy on the air we breathe, war and peace.

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A Presidential speech by a real President on Peace in the World

John Kennedy 10th June 1963

“We need to examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But this is a dangerous defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that War is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man made and they therefore can be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.
Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable. I am not here referring to the absolute and universal concept of peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the values of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our immediate goal. Let us focus instead on a more practical more attainable goal—based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution of human institutions in a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single simple key to his peace—no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic not static, changing to meet the needs of each new generation. For peace is a process, a way of solving problems. So let us not be blind to our differences but let us also direct our attention to our common interests and the means by which these differences can be resolved, and if we now can not end our differences at least we can make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures and we are all mortal.”

The Conceptual Foundations of International Politics: Commentary and Critique of the Columbia University lecture series at cosmolearning.org/courses/conceptual-foundations-of-international-politics-311/ Lecture Eight: Mary Robinson.

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Human Rights and Institutions—-Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson, the ex-President of Ireland, sets herself the task in this lecture of placing human rights in the political coordinate system provided by Lisa Anderson in her previous lectures:

“Where do Human Rights fit on the map of political theory: Realism, Liberalism, Idealism and Constructivism. Well, Human Rights is certainly not a tenet of Realism. For them, the world is dominated and determined by material forces. Liberalism emphasises the advantages of Human Rights in International cooperation. But Human Rights is most often placed in the constructivist camp. Constructivists assert that world peace and stability will only arise from a consensus around shared norms and values. Human Rights are pointed to as proof of the existence of the emergence of a world culture.”

The placing of Idealism in the above quote is ambiguous. Is it meant as a new category, since it was not mentioned by Andersson in her earlier lectures, or is it meant as a kind of qualification of the Constructivist position?Constructivism has been historically discussed in many contexts: it has been asserted as a learning theory in which information is “constructed”: it has also been asserted as an educational theory in which the focus is taken away from the teacher and placed on the constructing mind of the pupil: lastly it has also been claimed to be a literary theory in which interpretations of a text are “constructed”. Given the fact that there is no further mention of this “new category” of “Idealism” as a new coordinate on the political map we assume that what Robinson may be referring to is none of the above forms of constructivism but rather the new research by Christine Korsgaard on Ethical Constructivism in relation to Kant’s moral philosophy which has often been characterised as idealistic in spite of the fact that there are many realist claims contained in his moral theory. The following quote is taken from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“For instance, Christine Korsgaard characterizes Kantian constructivism as a form of “procedural realism” – the view that “there are answers to moral questions because there are correct procedures for arriving at them”; and she contrasts procedural realism with “substantive realism” – the view that
there are correct procedures for answering moral questions because there are moral truths or facts, which exist independently of those procedures, and which those procedures track. (Korsgaard 1996a: 36–37, see also Korsgaard 1983: 183)”

We have not encountered very much of Kant’s thinking so far in this lecture series and we must examine the extent to which this lecture will bring Kant’s ethical and political Philosophy into this debate. The above makes the interesting point which we have referred to earlier, namely that ethical and political thinking is “objective”. Perusing the above account we would question the statement that it is moral facts which lay at the foundation of the so called correct procedures for answering moral questions but we would agree to the term “moral truths”. The only qualification we would make to this claim is that these moral truths must be inserted in an ought system of concepts matrix in which the major premise is always a true ought statement

In the above quote by Mary Robinson there is reference to the “emergence of a world culture” which fits neatly into the Kantian ethical framework of a kingdom of ends which is distinctly cosmopolitan. There is, however, in Robinson no acknowledgment that the concept of Human individual rights probably were grounded and founded in Kant’s moral and political writings. On her account Human Rights are a relatively recent phenomenon, which can be dated back to the post second world war era. There is no recognition of the fact that the institution of the UN was actually suggested in the 1790’s as a response to the extreme nationalistic behaviour of the states of his time. Put this together with the Kantian suggestion of a world cosmopolitan culture which in its turn is a consequence of his law-based moral theory and we can then defend the claim above that “individual human rights were grounded and founded upon Kants moral and political writings”. Some commentators have incorrectly interpreted these writings as suggesting a world government but this was specifically ruled out by Kant who claimed that such a government would eventually become a tyranny. Kant’s theories have often been embraced by humanistic liberals wishing to champion the dignity of man. Robinson refers to such a world creating value in the quote below:

“The world came together out of respect for the dignity of each human being. All human beings are born free and dignified with rights. Human Rights are also the foundation stone for national and international peace.”

The dignity of each human being is, as we will recall, a central concern of Kant’s moral theory and this idea is also involved in Kant’s almost Aristotelian account of the telos of moral theory which is to treat individual men as ends in themselves in the cause of the “construction” of the kingdom of ends. One of Kant’s essays in political philosophy is entitled “Perpetual Peace” and it too links this view of human nature with his moral and political theories whilst simultaneously arguing that Peace is the necessary condition for achieving the environment necessary to establish the free exercise of responsibilities in a kingdom of ends.

Robinson continues to outline her position in the following way:

“One position maintains that a world without human rights is a world in which two world wars could occur, a holocaust, the dropping of two atomic bombs and a cold war. It was after such a failure that the liberal and constructivist theories became more important.”

She is referring here to what Hannah Arendt in her work “The Origins of Totalitarianism” described as “the terrible events of this terrible century” but no mention is made of the specific impact of realist political thinking which dominated international relations from the time of the Treaty of Westphalia. The arena of International Relations where combatants came to fight and survive was a realist “construction”. It was a Hobbesian state of nature where all were at war with all. Aristotelian Philosophy had lost its influence and standing in the world, was temporarily restored during the Enlightenment only to fade away again in the face of the onslaught of realism in the guise of science on its combat mission against Religion. Liberalism has taken many forms over the centuries. The closer we move to our own time the more the humanistic liberal and constructivist positions seem to merge, still beleaguered, however, by the realists on their various combat missions(terrorism is the latest object of their aggression) A certain commitment to if not Cosmopolitanism, internationalism emerged from the terror of the last century only to be submerged in the cold waters of the cold war. Two Hobbesian superpowers emerge with arsenals of weapons of mass destruction and the world became polarised and terrorised as it had never been before. Even human rights became polarised with the East bloc claiming that economic/social and cultural rights were more important to them than the Western ideals of civil and political rights. Robinson has this to say on the issue:

“The Eastern bloc countries claimed that they would first have to build their economies and ensure health and education before they could participate in Western civil and political rights. This split in opinion and ideology split human rights right down the middle.”

After having read Henry Kissinger’s work on “Diplomacy” one can just imagine the negotiations between the blocs over this issue especially after Kissinger insisted that Human Rights should be an essential element of every discussion between the two blocs. One can imagine Kissinger negotiating with the Soviet Union over its treatment of political dissidents in the Gulags. On Kissinger’s mind was probably the fact that the Soviet Union was a totalitarian regime with the blood of millions of its own citizens on its hands. One can also imagine the Soviet union harassing the USA with its record with respect to slavery. Robinson refers to this issue below:

“There is a reason why the US resisted the idea that economic, social and cultural rights were rights which stemmed perhaps from the reluctance of the US Constitution to give slaves economic social and civil rights.”

Robinson introduces this discussion to prove that in the halls of power human rights were the subject of tough negotiations in spite of the fact that outside the halls of power(in the ivory towers of the Universities?)human rights are largely regarded as “soft power”.

It would not, for example, be unusual to hear from the realists in the world of corporations and business that:

“For the realists, international law without the means to reinforce it does not matter on the world stage. In fact reliance upon international law is dangerous and naive in an anarchaic international system of states. For them a states uttermost priority is survival.”

Robinson then asks how we should respond to this state of affairs but before we quote these responses let us discuss that the Neo-Kantian Constructivist believes that the ICJ is a rational organisation whose task it is to both inspire the world with international ideas of justice and enforce these ideas in contexts of due process and sound juridicial judgments. The constructivists, that is believe in the Aristotelian definition of humans as rational animals capable of discourse and because of this fact their actions and thought far transcend the need for survival or the Hobbesian need for commodious living. Constructivists, that is, believe more in the Kantian ethical and religious summum bonum of a good life for human beings.

Robinson then provides a number of defences for the value of International law:

“Almost all nations observe almost all the principles of International Law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time. This is the practical reality. Many of the core concepts of International relations such as sovereignty, non intervention, immunity, were developed through inter state relations and then codified into International Law. International law is the normative system of the world and the standard currency of International Relations. Much of the talk of leaders today about democracy building would be impossible without international law.”

All of the above are, of course practical implications of the Kantian Cosmopolitan ideas of freedom and responsibility(duty). The above points are also an argument for the actual existence of International law and she further claims in the same spirit that a multiplicity of actors have created with their combined and integrated actions a situation in which Human Rights are as she puts it:

“the minimum condition that should be met in the process of globalisation”

However, such a multiplicity of actors, argues Robinson, creates uncertainty concerning who exactly carries the ultimate responsibility for International Law. This is a strange objection because if one is a Neo-Kantian institutions such as International courts of justice and the United Nations are Principle-based institutions. Robinson continues with a quote of Kofi Annan on the shortcomings of International Law which, he argues has :

“Too often it is applied selectively and enforced arbitrarily.”

However, Robinson argues, International Law is a young still maturing system. She notes also what everyone easily forgets, namely that at the millennium shift
273 new treaty signings took place in relation to many different spheres of interest. That is the end goal of a more secure and peaceful world appears to have somewhat closer to fulfilment. Robinson points that the war on terrorism has been a negative factor in the arena of respect for human rights. She rightly criticises the practice of torturing prisoners. Involved in this war is the opening up of ideological and religious differences between large groups of people.

She concludes:

“What we are witnessing is a huge demonstration of soft power”

The Conceptual Foundations of International Politics: Commentary and Critique of the Columbia University lecture series at cosmolearning.org/courses/conceptual-foundations-of-international-politics-311/ Lecture Seven: Edward Luck

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Do International Institutions Matter?”

Dag Hammarskjöld: “The UN was not created in order to bring us heaven but in order to save us from hell.”

Edward Luck argues that the 30 years war and the resulting Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 laid the foundation for the modern system of states, a system based on the principles of sovereignty and non intervention(in accordance with Just War Theory):

He continues as follows:

“This state of affairs worked for a while. At the beginning of the nineteenth century a series of International Organisations were created by the Council of Europe. Thirty broad based International Organisations dealing with various functional issues were created. Dozens of International Organisations for preventing disease were created. As a result of the Hague Conference there was a trade interdependence that was more extensive than that we have today. The theory was that countries would be tied together by these International Organisations in order to prevent them going to war with each other”

Two World wars and a Cold War during the twentieth century, Luck argues, put an end to this state of . After the first world war there were increased attempts to increase the number of International Organisations amongst them the League of Nations but this did not prevent the second world war following very quickly. Many of these Organisations were functioning inefficiently and in need of coordination. Thus, according to Luck was the UN born, in an environment of expectation and confusion. With the advent of the Cold War and into the 1990’s we witnessed many resolutions related to peace keeping missions were passed:

“during the war with Iraq the Secretary General claimed that the UN was being made irrelevant and redundant. The production of Resolutions and Presidential statements have steadily increased from 1988 with 20 resolutions and 8 statements to 2006 when there were 87 resolutions and 59 statements. The number of meetings and consultations increased dramatically. The UN is working 7 days per week 365 days per year. Is this a good thing? There are 19 ongoing peace operations and 40 peace mediations. If we include Nato and other International Organisations, there are 200,000 peace keepers currently deployed on peace keeping missions.”

Luck then asks the question whether the Security Council of the UN has failed: whether the principle of non intervention is a failed doctrine. The Realists, Luck claims, are ready to draw the conclusion that International Organisations have now proved that they do not work and therefore do not matter in spite of the enormous amount of activity they generate.. Luck then counter-argues the Realist with the following statistics:

“The number of wars between states are down strikingly since the end of the cold war. The number of wars within states are also strikingly down. The number of war casualties are down. The number of refugees are significantly down. The number of internally displaced peoples are down. Economic trends suggest that growth rtes are going up in the developing countries. Infant mortality is down and life expectancy is up. The number of people in poverty is down considerably.”

Luck asks whether the UN is equipped to deal with the large range of issues that demand its attention and he also points out that not all states comply with UN resolutions. He notes with skepticism the complex bureaucratic structure of the UN and the presence of 28 sub committees but does not in this context refer to the results of the work of these committees. Indeed he poses the question whether whether these sub committees are an intended distraction from the issue of the lack of influence of the Security Council.

Luck then notes that a number of the articles of the UN Charter challenge a states sovereignty :

“I have always assumed that states were initially framed for the protection of people. This function obviously alters over time. The UN is clearly violating sovereignty yet there are few complaints about this. Why? Some commentators refer to the sovereignty gap–the gap between what the citizens of a state require and what the state is able to provide for its citizens under its own steam. If this is true then other states and international organisations are needed. Environmental issues require inter.state-cooperation as does disease, trafficking, finance, commerce and security. So it is not a question merely of whether sovereignty is going to be overriden but where and by how much. From this perspective International Organisations are not the enemy of sovereignty but its guarantor. The Secretary General claims that strong independent states are important since weak and failing states are the source of many problems.”

Luck discusses the issue of the conditions for just UN interventions and draws the conclusion:

“the direction is very clear.The hands of the powerful are being tied. The powerful are being woven into a network of laws and institutions.”

This final image of being trapped in a spiders web makes it clear that there is little trust for this Kantian institution of the UN.

Kant in his work “Universal History” proposes in his 9 propositions a philosophical psychology and picture of human nature which provides us with a picture of political man that may perhaps explain to some degree this hostility. Kant’s intention is also to explain the more vicious kind of hostility that lies behind acts of war, He claims firstly that much good is achieved by the antagonism which arises when men encounter each other in the world of tasks to be done: this, he claims is a world in which there are disagreements. The consequences of such antagonism are often good he argues. He goes so far as to say that even the consequences of war which are not to be wished for might produce in their wake a redrawing of the boundaries of states which are for the benefit of all concerned. He claims secondly that man is a being who needs a master but does not wish to have one, preferring to resolve all issues pertaining to his affairs himself. In his moral writings, Kant takes up this characteristic again when he points out that man may even agree in general with the law but in special circumstances wishes to exempt himself from the reach of that law. There are in other words tendencies toward antagonism and egoism. Throughout history we have seen these tendencies play out on the world stage. The UN is the master men need but do not want. Men support it with their money and signatures to documents but they wish to exempt themselves from the reach of its sanctions. This is clearly demonstrated by Luck’s lecture.

Aristotle speaks in his work on Politics of man as the social animal possessing the capacities of trust and love. The city-state, Aristotle argues is held together by bonds of trust and friendship. Man is presented here also as a political animal with the capacity of Logos(speech and reason), a capacity which provides us with a freedom not possessed by animals. A capacity which also suggests the role of knowledge in political activities as well as the earlier referred to role of political friendship. Such political friendship is not a romantic idea but rather refers to the kind of relation we find between siblings who we know can be antagonistic toward one another yet be the best of friends. Sibling-love is the kind of love that citizens should have for one another, argues, Aristotle, a love which competes for the attention , recognition and esteem of the city-state/surrogate parent.

This Aristotelian image of our relation to authority is a far cry from the above modern image of a spider weaving a trap for an innocent fly. There is, in Luck’s image a clear substitution of an unfriendly antagonism for the friendly sibling antagonism of Aristotle. Perhaps this difference of mood is one of the markers which distinguish our modern times from the Golden Age of Greek civilization.

Charting the course of this change of mood is no easy task. The spider lives in a state of nature where there is a war of all against all. The philosopher who describes this state best is Hobbes. Man emerges from state of nature with two passions which need to be tamed if civilisation is to be established: pride and fear of death. These two passions rule our attempts to live communally together in civilisations in the best of times and the worst of times. Laws are the means the sovereign of the state uses to tame these passions. The picture is of a restless spirit which rests only in death. Hobbes was together with Descartes a hostile critic of Aristotle . He was a political realist who scoffed at the idealism of life in a state that prized knowledge and recommended the examined life. For Hobbes life was a business and if man possessed reason it was for the purposes of calculating his advantages and the economic value of life. Man should live a commodious life. These ideas are the source of the image of the spider which is sometimes also used as an image of the modern academic. Hobbes’s philosophy was also aimed at dismantling Aristotle’s influence in the university system. he recommended that his works should replace those of Aristotle. Descartes philosophical meditations were also aimed at the dismantling of our trust in all authorities in general but Aristotle’s influence in particular and together these two philosophers sought to transform Universities into “modern” institutions where Aristotle’s ideas were no longer taught. Scholars were forced to become “specialists” plotting and spinning their ideas in their study-dens, critically trusting nothing and no one in a landscape in which the sciences proliferated and the humanities , the truly universal branch of knowledge became imprisoned in a web of specialities.

The European Qualification Framework(EQF) and the Global Educational Reform Movement(GERM).

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The Council of Europe has a long history of facilitating International cooperation since its inception in 1948. The history of international cooperation via business and trade goes back to The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
In recent times beginning in 2008 the Council of Europe has suggested a framework of educational levels(called EQF) ranging from 1-8 which are intended to be used for the purposes of evaluating educational qualifications internationally and thus facilitating the free movement of people between different sovereign nations

The Global Educational Reform Movement is a modern educational movement partially initiated by so called “progressive” pedagogues in the USA. This movement has swept the globe and produced devastating consequences for educational systems around the world. It is important to note however, that the movement actually has a very long academic history which goes all the way back to Hobbes and Descartes who heralded the beginning of the modern scientific and political age by dismissing the works of Aristotle: works which had actually been the foundation of all progress in Europe. Many philosophers throughout the ages have argued that the reason why Scientists have pursued their subjects so systematically is due to the systematic and universal approach to the subject. If this is so one must be wondering how two Philosophers of the modern age can have succeeded in dismantling Aristotle’s thousand year influence. Unfortunately, during the Middle Ages in the course of translation by Religious authorities who controlled the flow of ideas in the world. the work of Aristotle was falsely represented for reasons we do not yet fully understand. This was followed by a time when academic scientists with one eye on the treatment of Galileo sought to free themselves of the chains that were confining their scientific theorising about the structure and origins of the universe. The feeling was that we needed to reinvent the wheel of knowledge in a space free from Religious intervention. The Scientist wanted to be left alone to pursue his observations and formulate his theories in order to provide us with explanations of the origins and structure of the universe. This picture of the lone scientist completely disregarding the history of his subject and setting off into the desert and mountains of the universe with his instruments was the image which actually inspired the American revolution in Education that in turn suggested the child should adopt this a-historical backwoodsman mentality in the classroom. The teacher’s role should be as an advisor and guide and learn about the child’s mind via this uniquely revolutionary approach to education. We know now that this was a disaster and a number of generations of pupils instead of experiencing a truly progressive historical educational system based on the Philosophy of Aristotle with its amendments and improvements by Kant and the work of the later Wittgenstein, have been forced to participate in a romantically inspired adventure which has to my surprise not yet ended. It is my suspicion that, of all places, the Council of Europe are still more influenced by the limited perspectives of Hobbes and Descartes than they are by the systematic theorising of Aristotle Kant and Wittgenstein.

First we should point out that it is thanks to the work of Aristotle that we have the framework of the differences between theoretical, practical and technological science. It is thanks to Aristotle that we have the divisions between the sciences we have today, e.g. the physical,the biological, the psychological, the theological. It is thanks to Aristotle that academics do not believe the “stories” about ethics we get from theoretical scientists in which it is claimed that theories about ethical behaviour are not as objective as their theories about natural events and processes. This latter point is not an expression of a position in an academic quarrel but rather is an expression of the fact that our educational systems maintained their strong ethical focus for so long. For Aristotle, Education aims at the philosophical: it aims at universal knowledge which flows from the structure of the human mind which he examined in a way which to this day dwarfs all other examinations. The range of complexity of his theory is still being written about by scholars today. It took great minds like Kant and Wittgenstein to accept his framework and make improvements upon it. All three philosophers were highly critical of the scientifically inspired “framework” that developed as a consequence of the “modernisation of Philosophy and knowledge by Hobbes and Descartes. A framework which would eventually lead to the GERM.

The Council of Europe were undoubtedly influenced by Descartes lonely meditative figure reflecting on himself and by the materialist Hobbes and his vision of the good life which was the bourgeoisie businessman’s life dedicated to commodious living and occupied with a hedonistic calculation of the value of human life. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle would have scoffed at this simplistic vision of the complexity of man as would have Kant and Wittgenstein. They would have suggested that if one followed such a vision one would end up with a society of the kind we currently see in the USA–the businessman’s paradise. If this is true, is this not a fascinating thought that the Council of Europe shares its values with a USA that largely ignores the ICJ and the UN and spreads the GERM everywhere it can.

So, in the light of the above considerations let us examine one of the latest products of the Council its EQF “instrument of evaluation”. There are eight levels in the EQF system. Level 4 is the level of gymnasium education, level 5 is a level between Gymnasium and University and there we see an amazing anti- Aristotelian thought, namely that as education advances it “specialises” into ONE area and as we progress toward doctoral studies at level eight we are dealing with a part of a subject. The very title-name of Ph.d is Aristotelian: it refers to a doctor of Philosophy and philosophy in Ancient Greece was the most universal of all the subjects. It was the subject which examined the mind which sought to understand everything about the universe,and not just the internal organs of the coffin worm which could be the topic of a science Ph.d. Aristotle that is, was using philosophical and first principle thinking when he identified all the domains of study which would later become the subjects we are studying. So for Aristotle the doctoral level of study should not be specialising but universalising. This is not reflected in the criteria we see for level 8.

Now the GERM has also all but destroyed our once excellent European University systems. It has definitely destroyed the University system in Sweden. When I was attending Universities in England in the 1970’s the GERM was just beginning to make its presence felt and I can honestly say I was given the original Aristotelian education at two Universities in England. Arriving with these qualifications in Sweden in 1979 I was forced to “alter” my Aristotelian, Kantian and Wittgensteinian attitude in order to obtain a Swedish doctorate. That is, I was forced to write a worse doctorate than the one I would have otherwise written.
I am sure the Swedish University system is even as we speak requiring the same behaviour of students who come into the system with a genuine philosophical background and the difference is that they today are now able to point to two Council of Europe decisions and the EQF evaluation instrument in support. The dreams of Hobbes and Descartes of men and institutions created in the image of their Philosophies have come true. Sciences proliferate in accordance with the spirit of specialisation like the mythical thousand heads of the monster of the ancient Greek imagination. In the last 50 years the Humanities subjects in the spirit of philosophy have constantly diminished in stature and teaching hours at University level. These are the concrete consequences of the GERM with the added support of the EQF instrument and an ever increasing population of scientists at these “Universities”. How long before we call them by the more appropriate name: “Specialities.”?

I am a product of the English A level system and have been teaching in the Swedish Social Sciences/Economics and Natural Science programs as well as the International Baccalaureate Programme. All four programs would be placed in the current EQF system at the EQF 4 level. One program (the A level system) was a pre-GERM system and has with one qualification which we will not discuss here have a claim to be a higher level educational system than level 4.

On the basis of an Aristotelian/Kantian/Wittgensteinian framework where knowledge does not proceed in a specialising direction but rather a philosophical holistic universal direction one might conceive that the above 4 programs should be placed at three different levels ranging from 4 for the Swedish programs to low 5 for the IB AND 6 for the Olde English A level system before it was contaminated by the GERM. IB is currently placed at 5 because at its inception it had truly Philosophical intentions and should have been placed at a 6 in my new proposed system but with the expansion of the system in America and other non English speaking countries, the GERM system has managed to affect the quality of education produced and a current realistic estimate would be that the Ib system should be on the boundary between a 4 and a 5.

Let us note here that that the argument being put forward is not that science is not an important subject in the gamut of subjects we learn and teach. It is rather that, according to Aristotle, Science had characteristics which would firstly, explain its differentiation into different parts in accordance with the segments of physical reality it seeks to describe and explain and secondly would explain the universal nature of the subject where universal principles organise these descriptions and explanations. Science,in other words proceeds universally in accordance with the principle of non contradiction and other universal principles outlined by the Philosophies of Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein. Proceeding in the direction of universalisation at University level might also have resulted in more research into the relations between the biological, psychological and theological “universal” sciences.

The IB deserves a place above normal gymnasium systems for three reasons. Firstly because of its attempt to incorporate its philosophy of education in a course given to the students called the Theory of Knowledge course. Secondly because of its inclusion of the subject of Philosophy amongst the range of options it offers in its humanities section. Thirdly because of the essay based approach which is assessed in terms of criteria which are intending to evaluate not specialist understanding of concepts but universal understanding of principles and systems of concepts.

The problem with this suggestion of a new scale and the new criterion of universalisation rather than specialisation is the problem of how we are going to find differentiating criteria for the higher levels. Again I would suggest turning to the ancient Greeks and the hierarchy of understanding that is involved in study over a period of time: the young man(bachelour) studying for three years at the Academy or the Lyceum is obviously learning how to make judgments on the material he is presented with in accordance with principles. The more mature man(master) who has studied somewhat longer has mastered the concepts and principles and is not merely capable of making judgments in accordance with the principles but can make judgments on the principles, i.e. can make critical judgments. The doctoral level is a more mature position,and involves the application of a critical approach for the benefit of the subject and its relation to all other subjects and the society one is part of as well as other societies. This would be a hierarchical escalation on an evaluative scale in accordance with the principle of universalisation rather than specialisation.

All the reasons for this approach can not be given in a short lecture of this nature and would require amongst other things also studying the work of Philosophers working with the same or a similar theory of knowledge. It would also require the study of the History of Psychology/Social Science and the History of Education as well as the History of the subjects of a school and university curriculum.

Let me in conclusion appeal to the study of two Psychologists whose work has been in the spirit of Aristotle, i.e. in the spirit of a holistic understanding of man, namely Maslow and Freud. Maslow’s work we know appeals to the businessman who is frantically searching for a theory which he can apply to his fickle customers or unreliable business partners but it is in fact an academic theory inspired by Aristotle’s theories. Maslow is trying to describe and explain what it is that motivates man and why. We are animals, as Aristotle pointed out, and as such we are motivated by physiological needs(which include the sexual) and safety needs: a place in a territory we have defended where we feel safe.
As animals capable of discourse and reason we also experience the need for a kind of love which animals do not possess. According to Maslow once we receive the required amount of love which occurs over a long period of time over a long childhood, a need at the next level of the motivational hierarchy emerges namely the need to feel self esteem and receive respect or esteem from others in ones environment. In Maslow’s earlier theory it was enough to fulfil needs at this level in order to become self actualised, i.e. reach ones full Aristotelian potential of being the fully functional rational animal. In order to test his theory he applied the criteria of his theory to his university students and discovered to his surprise that they fulfilled the criteria for esteem but not for self actualisation. Maslow asked himself why this was the case and realised that his theory was missing a dimension which is very relevant to my thesis, namely experience in the attempts to answer three universal questions that have come down to us from Greek Philosophy in general and Aristotle in particular, namely What is true? What is the Good?, and What is beauty?.
These are the universal questions one attempts to answer at University and one supposes that Maslow may also have reasoned in the light of the GERM that there was no guarantee that these questions receive satisfactory answers at many Universities.So Maslow believed in universalisation rather than specialisation in his motivational theory.

Sigmund Freud was a brain researcher of significance at Vienna University before he founded the universal psychoanalytical movement which lay completely outside the University system.His earliest theories attempted to use purely scientific concepts and principles in order to explain why people were not mentally healthy and he failed monumentally to such an extent that he even attempted to hide this embarrassing fact from future generations by burning his “Project for a Scientific Psychology”. As he progressed in his theorising, it is not difficult to see how he used definitions and concepts which were Aristotelian in order to develop a framework from which to treat his patients. Toward the end of his career he even turned to Plato for the concepts of Eros, Thanatos and Ananke when he sought to explain mans futile attempts to embrace the rationality principle of Aristotle in the wider context of life in so called civilised societies. This is an escalation from specialisation toward the universal.

My last argument is that the very word “university” means “universal” and all education aims at universal knowledge if we all are to understand the world in all its forms. It is without question useful to specialise and understand the functioning of the internal organs of the coffin worm at the extreme ends of this universal-specialisation spectrum but it is a finer thing to wish to understand the mind of man and the universal principles that determine the shape and form of the infinite starry universe above and all around us.

The curse on the Gentlemen’s Game

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I am the bearer of bad news in these times of good news from the football arena because I am a subscriber to the theory that rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen and football is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans. The game against Columbia proved this theory correct –7 yellow cards before the referee saw no point in continuing the warning process. Anyway, my major point for those looking forward to the next victory for England is that they probably will not win because of a curse. The football gods placed a curse upon England called Dr Arnolds curse: they cursed the country and the school which dared to blaspheme and pick up the ball and run with it. One pupil at rugby school, a gentleman, picked up the football and was running away with it presumably out of concern for his fellow gentlemen and other gentlemen tried to stop this rude interruption by tackling him . Apparently he was quite difficult to catch and thus was born the game of rugby. The football gods from that time on have cursed the country which gave birth to this game where you try to stand up when you are tackled and respect the referees decision. At least hopefully we can look forward to a more gentlemanly performance in the Sweden/England game but apart from predicting a win for Sweden I also predict there will be at least one incident where one wonders whether the person tackled should be given a free kick or an oscar.