Jonathan Lear in his work “Aristotle” says the following on p149:
“Freedom is important to us not as one value among others, but as that which constitutes our very being. Other animals may have beliefs and desire but humans distinguish themselves from the rest of nature by the ability to become consciously aware of these beliefs and desires, to consider them and to decide what to do on the basis of that consideration. A human agent need not merely be caused to act by his desires: by his reflecting on his desires and deciding which to satisfy and how, the desires become reasons for him. In acting for these reasons and agent manifests his freedom and humanity but, unfortunately, we have little understanding of what this manifestation of freedom consists in. Since this freedom helps to constitute our humanity, in being ignorant of its working we are ignorant of our essence. We lack an understanding of what it is, fundamentally to be us:”
Now we could be forgiven for believing that the above remarks are about the ethics of Kant but they are rather meant to articulate what Lear thinks is an important implication of Aristotle’s ethics. Lear does however throughout his work on Aristotle articulate support for the claim that Aristotelian ethics is an ethics of freedom. In the course of this “comparison”, however, a surprise is in store:
“According to Kant, a free agent must reflect on his desires from a standpoint outside the desires themselves. The deliberation will not be truly free unless it is carried out from a perspective which can view the desire and so consider it as one factor among others, but which remains independent of its causal sway.On this conception of reflection is a manifestation of freedom precisely because it is a form of detachment. The moral agent, for Kant, is one, who, in thought detaches himself from his desires, particular interests and circumstances and considers solely what a purely rational would will.Hegel, a devoted student of Aristotle, criticised Kant’s conception of free will. Such a will, Hegel argued, would be so detached from its own desires and from the circumstances of deliberation and action that it would be empty: it would never be able to determine what to will.”
Hegel claimed that he would stand the philosophy of Kant on its head ad in attempting to do so may well have turned the worlds of Aristotle, Kant and the common man upside down. Hegel’s dialectical logic replaced the Metaphysical Logic of Aristotle and the Transcendental Logic of Kant. Hegel’s inversion of bottom and top via his dialectical logic remind one of the psychological subjects of Stratton, wearing glasses which invert their retinal images and seeing the landscape upside down on the first day. On the second day these subjects felt that their bodies were upside down until finally after a number of days acting under these strange circumstances everything returned to normal again. Wearing the glasses of Hegel to view the Philosophy of Kant can indeed make the world of Kant seem a strange world itself in need of conversion. It is to say the very least rather surprising to find Lear subscribing to this Hegelian position, succumbing to this Hegelian deconstruction. We need in such a context, to remind ourselves of the texts of Kant which disprove the detachment thesis. Firstly, in the Critique of Judgment Kant clearly claims the existence of an intimate relation between practical reason and desire:
“In the same way reason which contains constitutive a priori principles solely in respect of the faculty of desire gets its holding assigned to it by the critique of Practical Reason.”(Preface)
Lear is apparently failing to register Kant’s claim that there are two kinds of concepts, theoretical and practical which generate separate and different principles of the possibility of their objects. Concepts of nature and concepts of freedom have a reflectively different structure. The application of concepts of nature an acting will generates what Kant calls technically-practical principles in which it is legitimate to conceive of a kind of separation or detachment of the subject and his/her action. Such technically-practical principles regulate and agents skills in accordance with the law of cause and effect and this places such concepts and principles clearly in the realm of theoretical philosophy far from the ream of desire. Kant defines desire in the following terms:
” a faculty which by means of its representations is the cause of the actuality of the objects of those representations.”
This clearly relates desire to practical reason and to the bringing about of states of affairs by means of principles in the practical world. Kant, in this discussion is careful to distinguish between empirical cases in which ones desire for a particular object precedes the practical principle and transcendental cases in which the determining ground of choice is the practical principle. An example of the latter would be in the case where the principle “Promises ought to be kept” determines my choice of what I must do and transmits my desire down a chain of action related reflections. There is no space for any detachment or separation of the agent from his action in such circumstances. In cases of a desire for a material object which is not being directed by a principle, the desire could arise and be abandoned in favour of another desire and in such circumstances one might say that the agent had a detachable relation to the object of the desire and the desire. This possibility on Kant’s view is a result of what he refers to as a lower faculty of desire which he contrasts with a higher faculty in which “promises ought to be kept” is a principle which one cannot abandon as a practical agent. The former lower faculty of desire, argues Kant is concerned with pleasure related to the object desired and its agreeableness. The Latter is concerned with what Aristotle would call the good in itself which in its turn is a concern with our well being and worthiness to be happy. For Kant this is a key condition for an ethical position and this may indicate a key difference between his position and the finality of the happiness condition which Aristotle proposes.
It is therefore puzzling to find Lear asking how a self conscious being on the Kantian account could make decisions at all as if the Kantian self consciousness resembled the Cartesian self consciousness reflecting theoretically upon its own desires. Hegel, we know, did not appreciate the relation of Kantian ethical theory to the ethical theory of Aristotle’s in which we see both adopting the vantage point of reflecting upon the relation of practical reason to its object rather than reflecting on the relation of a state of mind to its object.
One may wish to contradict this account by insisting that Aristotle’s theory of virtue specifically argues that virtue is a state(lexis) rather than a capacity(dunamis) or a feeling(pathos). The question, however, is how would Aristotle wish to characterise the state of the soul. He would not for example countenance this state as a state of consciousness and he would not want to countenance this state being characterised as many modern philosophy of mind theorists do as something “private”(feelings are private and particular). Rather, the “state” Aristotle is referring to here is a state of the soul which for him is differentiated in terms of different principles, defining different kinds or essences. Indeed, the word “disposition” might be a more appropriate term. For these purposes a practical disposition would be construed in terms of a law-like principle that has been sculpted by the processes of training, education and habituation in accordance with social and cultural processes such as that of the “Golden Mean”.
Practical dispositions are given their initial characterisation in the opening remarks of the Nichomachean Ethics:
“Every art and every enquiry, every action and choice, seems to aim at some good:whence the good has rightly been defined as that at which all things aim.”
For Aristotle, we should recall, the good has many meanings depending upon whether it is aiming in discourse at peoples character, their actions, the place or time they live in etc. But all have in common the essence of the good for man or eudaimonia, which for Kant was a part of his ethical religious idea of the summum bonum. It is especially difficult given this rather strong resemblance in their positions to imagine the ethical Kantian agent being detached from his own happiness or flourishing life. There is moreover a hylomorphic element to Kants theorizing which is unmistakeable. In much of his reasoning there is specific reference to matter and form and if we analyse the two formulations of the categorical imperative it would be difficult not to see the formal aspect of the ethical law in the first formulation and the material aspect in the second formulation. Were there to be only one formulation, namely, the first, one might be able to argue more forcefully for if not the detachment thesis Lear proposes, perhaps an accusation of formalism or “emptiness”. The first formulation asks us to “will” that the maxim of ones action be regarded as a universal law and if there is no such universal law then the logical consequence is surely at the very least “emptiness” and more seriously perhaps the impossibility of ethical action. The second formulation however fills the first formulation with content by insisting that we should act so that we treat everyone including ourselves as ends in themselves. This latter formulation is moreover, reminiscent of the kind of respect embedded in the Aristotelian account of friendship in the Nichomachean Ethics. Aristotle speaks here of a kind of fellowship existing between individuals or citizens of a polis which is similar to the the affection that siblings have for one another. In Aristotle the good is in mans character from the beginning in the form of a capacity to be developed by nurturing and education into a disposition. Just as we learn to be builders by building, and teachers by teaching doctors by doctoring, we learn to be brace by doing brave acts in encouraging circumstances. This is the route by which states of character are formed. In this process of forming a good disposition pleasures and pains need to be organised because, as Aristotle claims, “the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain” are the main sources of vicious action. Feelings are originally also capacities and are part of the material that needs to be formed by the nurturing of a virtuous disposition so that one feels the right feeling in the right circumstances at the right time.
It is obvious from the above account that virtue cannot itself be merely a feeling because as Aristotle rightly argues we do not praise or blame men for the feelings they are having, because this is something passive, something that is happening to them, within the privacy of their own bodies. The ethical attitude is an active attitude inextricably tied up with human activity, with action and with choice. Such activity is formed by a method shaped by an aim to hit a target or achieve an end. The difference between the generous man, the spendthrift and the miser is one of an active attitude towards men and money.
We can only choose to act, Aristotle argues if the action is of the kind, voluntary. Actions caused by external factors(compulsions) or ignorance are for him involuntary actions and cannot be freely chosen: such actions can therefore neither be praised nor blamed, i.e the agent cannot be held fully responsible for them. The notion of choice however is not related to the end of the flourishing life because this latter is a rational wish of Eros and is not itself chosen but rather succumbed to in the manner an educational process is succumbed to. Deliberation chooses the means to accomplish the flourishing life. For a holistic view of the process of deliberation stretching from the moment of succumbing to the moment of making the good occur see Sir David Ross’s account in “Aristotle”:
Ross situates choice in the matrix of desire, deliberation perception and Art:
“Desire I desire A
Deliberation B is the means to A
C is the means to B
N is the means to M
Perception N is something I can do here and now
Choice I choose N
Art I do N ”
Ross does not do this but one can describe this process of deliberation in terms of areté which is a term Aristotle uses for both ones moral character and ones skill in thinking. Translating this term as virtue becomes clearer when it is used in the context of “the virtuous life” which when coupled to the term eudaimonia or the flourishing life embraces both the intellectual virtues and the moral/ethical virtues which include phronesis, courage and temperance.
The character of a virtuous man is, then, a set of dispositions(formed capacities) which organise ones desires and feelings in relation to the final end of eudaimonia or the flourishing life which inits turn is also the actualisation of the potential of the rational animal capable of discourse.
The Phronimos, the man possessing practical wisdom which he demonstrates with his correct reasoning , reasoning in the right way, or orthos logos, is the man whose psuche or soul best integrates the rational and the irrational parts of the soul. Aristotle indicates the consequences of falling short in the aim of fulfilling ones potential, namely forms of life which are neither excellent(areté) nor flourishing(eudaimonia. He illustrates this claim by pointing to the life of pleasure pursued by non rational animals, the life of honour pursued by men of ambition and the life of the Phronimos who, one assumes, fulfils his potential most completely because of the Platonic argument that he is the being who has experienced all the three forms of pleasure associated with these different life forms and as a consequence knows which pleasure is the best.Plato would have argued that the pleasure experienced by the Phronimos is pure(more intellectual) and unrelated to pain which by definition is a condition caused by a body striving for homeostasis. The lives of the hedonist, the wealthy man, the ambitious man are all pain avoidance related and therefore dependent on either external or internal causal factors. None of these forms of life meet the criteria of the self sufficient flourishing life.The great souled, Phronimos, on the other hand, is self sufficient because he reasons in the right way about the world of conduct and feelings(the feelings of pleasure and pain, fear and anger).
It is also important not to lose sight of the systematic connections of the above account with Aristotle’s claims about the psuche and human nature. Because humans are animals and organisms they necessarily possess an ergon(inbuilt function)as well as a telos which is dependent upon material and efficient causes. The human however, distinguishes itself from other forms of life through a unique capacity and its potential: rationality. Rationality is a term we attribute to humankind for its disposition to reason well and excellently. Reason is on this account a capacity and rationality a disposition(the well developed capacity of reasoning excellently).
One can wonder, as G E Moore did, whether including the natural, biological material and efficient causes of being a human in the definition of “moral value” condemns Aristotle’s account to committing the naturalistic fallacy, i.e. the fallacy of defining moral value in terms of natural capacities. We have argued above that moral virtue is dispositional and dispositions are formal and developed capacities. If this distinction is observed, there is no fallacy, no contradiction: capacities, we have argued, are actualised into dispositions given the appropriate conditions for the actualisation process to occur. That is to say, there is no logical equivalence between the natural capacities of a human organism and its moral dispositions which are , as has been argued, constituted of the exercise of natural capacities excellently.
Aristotle characterises all forms of activity and art as striving for the good and areté so it is important to point out that even if one possesses the capacity to build a house and do it well this activity of an artisan is not a form of moral excellence but rather a form of aesthetic excellence. Lear points out the fundamental differences between these forms of excellence:
“There are three conditions of acting virtuously. 1. The agent must have practical knowledge. For example for a given act to be courageous(not merely done in accordance with courage) a person must know that in these circumstances taking a stand would be the right thing to do. He must be aware that this is not a case of foolhardiness, bravado, or silliness. 2.He must choose the act and choose it for its own sake. He must be doing it because , in these circumstances, it is the courageous thing to do. 3. The act must flow from a firm character. It should not be a chance event as it would be, for example, if a man fought fiercely because in those circumstances he happened to find no way to flee. Such a person may have a strong survival instinct, but he is not courageous.”(p170)
The pursuit of aesthetic excellence requires only the first condition of the above three conditions. Lear continues:
” A builder needs only know how to build a house–choice and character are essential to virtue.”
There is a further major difference between moral and aesthetic virtue or excellence which is connected to the distinction Aristotle recognizes between acting(praxis) and producing(poesis). This is noted by G J Hughes in his Routledge guidebook: “Aristotle on Ethics”:
“Health is indeed the product of the art of medicine just as a house is the product of architecture, or a statue of sculpture. But eudaimonia is not the product of the actions of a good person. Fulfilment in life is not something over and above someone’s actions which those actions produce. Fulfilment consists in doing what one does just because one sees those actions as noble and worthwhile…. living is not a process one undertakes for the sake of something else which is produced as a result. The point of the good life just is the living of it.”
Hughes continues by pointing out that this puts Aristotle in the deontological camp in our modern ethical debates. He cannot be a consequentialist, argues Hughes, because:
“Aristotle has nothing comparable to Bentham’s definition of an action as a “mere bodily movement” from which it would indeed follow that the value of an action must depend the consequences that action produces, as Bentham says. Instead Aristotle defines an action in terms of how the agent describes or sees their behaviour at the time and draws no particular line between action and its consequences”
The implications of this are devastating for the utilitarian position which finds itself at odds with two of the most important ethical positions. For Aristotle, the agent must adopt a first person perspective to what they are doing and not a third person observationalist perspective which in the absence of the declaration of intention by the agent of the action might well see “mere bodily movement”. Confusion is endemic in this area of debate. We can see one kind of confusion in the utilitarian camp where the theoretical obsession with a reductive-compositive method together with an observationalist/experimental interpretation of that method postulates “atoms” of pure movement which can then be inserted into a theoretical framework of linear causes and effects. The movement “causes” a state of affairs which is logically different from its cause, thus dividing what was a unitary action into two elements which can only be composed into a unity at the expense of the holistic account of deliberative practical reasoning we find in Aristotelian ethics.
Confusions between praxis and poesis may even assist in this attempt to subject this domain to the theoretical framework of scientific reasoning. It is of course easier to dissolve a skill(needed for the production of an object) into movement and the product produced at the end of the activity because here quite clearly the observer can for example see the builder building and the “consequence”, the completed, produced house. Aristotle would immediately criticise this theoretical attempt for failing to appreciate the role of intention in identifying the activity, in correctly describing the activity. This for him could only occur from the first person point of view. The builder sees what he is doing from the point of view of the idea or form of the house he has in mind and this for him logically determines how one can describe such building activity. All art aims at the good, Aristotle declared but there is a difference between the good house being built which is largely an aesthetic matter and leading a good flourishing life which is a broader, ethical/political good. We need also to recall that we are in the realm of forms for Aristotle, forms which are subject to his metaphysical theory of change. Forms for Aristotle were hierarchically structured with sexual reproduction of living forms at the lower end of the scale being followed by the production of artefacts and finally by the learning and teaching of the forms. The production of artefacts as we pointed out involves practical knowledge but not choice and a stable character. Here it seems we are clearly dealing with an activity or work but not fully fledged action(Arendt distinguished in her work between labour, work and action) An organised soul is required to perform the actions which aim at a flourishing life: only work-activity is required to produce the objects of techné.
So, knowledge is involved in firstly, the action as a result of practical reasoning and secondly, in the deliberative calculation of the work activity behind the creation of objects of techné. We need to enquire into the different kinds of knowledge one can encounter in the different kinds of science one can encounter as part of the flourishing life. Aristotle distinguishes between three different kinds of science: the theoretical, practical and productive sciences. In relation to theoretical science he claims, in the spirit of knowledge being justified true belief, that essence specifying definitions or principles are the justifications we find in the theoretical sphere of scientific activity. These both provide a form of logical necessity not to be found in the other two sciences, which are both aiming at something for which, as yet, there are no essence specifying definitions but there are principles. Theoretical sciences aim at the truth and use logical demonstration that move from first principles or essence specifying definitions to logically related conclusions. Practical sciences may be related to the truth and logic or “analytics” as Aristotle called logic, but the primary aim of these sciences is the good. Because of areas of commonality we find in this area that particular conclusive judgments follow from universal and particular premises. Similarly, in the practical sciences “justification” will also involve the elements of Aristotle’s metaphysical theory of change in which reference will be made to 4 kinds of change, three principles and 4 “causes” but here agents, powers and actions will be the focus of attention.
In the “Posterior Analytics” Aristotle gives us an account of the acquisition of knowledge which it has been argued by Jonathan Lear is common for all the sciences:
“Man is not born with knowledge but he is born with the capacity to acquire it. But the world must cooperate with him if he is to exercise that capacity. Man starts life with the ability to discriminate among sensory phenomena, an ability he shares with other animals. His soul retains a record of its sensory encounters. Through repeated encounters with items in the world our sensory discriminations develop into memory and then into what Aristotle calls “experience”. Experience, Aristotle characterises as “the whole universal that has come to rest in the soul”. From repeated perception of particular men, we form the concept of a man, and the knowledge that this thing we see is a man is experience. If the universal or concept were not somehow already embedded in the particular, we could not make the transition from bare sensory discrimination to knowledge of the individual. As Aristotle says, “though one perceives the particular, perception is of the universal”(p2)
The above is a fine account of how the desire to understand involves powers building upon powers and integrating into the unified disposition of mind that we believe generates knowledge. This process, surely is, as lear claims, common to all the sciences. It accounts for how we differentiate animals from each other, of how we differentiate men from each other and also finally how we differentiate objects and actions from each other. The above account does not mention the powers of language and reason but these will certainly be involved in the generation of knowledge. The 4 causes or explanations of the theory of change will also be involved in our judgments of the good man striving to actualise his potential to live the flourishing life. They will also be involved in scientific judgments in relation to the good action which as we have been told plays an important role in the above actualisation process. The desire to understand oneself and know oneself will also probably be a part of this journey of awe and wonder. Aristotle’s idea of the flourishing life is one where both the moral and intellectual virtues form a unity in which knowledge whilst not being perhaps a seamless robe is at least one coat of many colours.
The idea of the good will in this account include both knowledge and understanding of oneself and the world one lives in.
Aristotle did engage in discussion of one aporetic issue which directly highlights the ways in which theoretical and practical knowledge are integrated in ethical action. Socrates argued that if a man knows the good, i.e. really knows and understands the universal idea of the good, then he will necessarily always do the good in his actions. On the fact of it the opening sentences of the Nichomachean Ethics, claiming as they do that all art, activity and enquiry aim at the good suggests that Aristotle too, must accept this Socratic analysis. Awareness of the phenomenon of the man claiming to know the good and then not doing it, however, pushed Aristotle into giving a more nuanced account of this so called phenomenon of akrasia or incontinence. For Aristotle it was necessary for him to acknowledge this phenomenon and give it an acceptable explanation. Now if it was the case that all men as agents aim at the good, it is difficult to understand how an agent can perform an incontinent action where that is defined as an action that is intentional and performed against a background of the knowledge that a preferable alternative action is available to the agent. If we are imagining a rational agent wholly constituted of their beliefs, desires, values and actions then:
“We can see a being as an agent, as acting intentionally, only insofar as we can see his behaviour within the schema of beliefs and desires that we attribute to him. It is among his beliefs and desires that we must find a reason for acting as he does. But we are able to identify his beliefs and desires only via his intentional actions, by what he says and otherwise does.It is in these actions that what is of value is revealed:there is , in principle, no independent access to his values.”(p176)
Socrates was criticized by Lear because he wanted to characterise akrasia in terms of states of the soul but the above quote seems to be a similar attempt, using states of mind and the terminology of analytical Philosophy. Aristotle’s account of akrasia is actually better characterised in terms of his own terminology of the powers of perception, memory, language, knowledge and reason in an organised soul: . On this account it is not possible. If there is an alternative action for which there are good reasons, it must be the case in an organised soul that all things considered and understood this must be the action one chooses to perform(not being aware of what one is doing and being drunk with passion are excluded as possibilities). This suggests that the phenomenon of incontinence must be explained by their either being a lack of knowledge or ignorance of how to act.
The power of judgment will also necessarily play a part in the deliberative process which leads to action. Lear develops this point in the following manner:
“Given that the premisses of a practical syllogism necessitate the action-conclusion, Aristotle needs an account of how the premisses might on occasion be blocked, rendered inoperative. He distinguishes various senses in which one can have knowledge or understanding: there is the sense in which one possesses the knowledge though one is not at present exercising it, and the sense in which one is actively contemplating. Aristotle accepts that a man actively exercising his knowledge could not act incontinently with respect to it, so he concentrates on those cases in which a man may possess the knowledge but somehow be prevented from exercising it. Strong anger r appetites may actually change the condition of the body…strong passions work like a drug which shuts judgment down, just as does wine or sleep.”
The virtuous soul, of course, is a well organised soul and will not allow its powers to be compromised in the above ways. The soul on its way to virtuous organisation may, however, be like an actor on a stage and be going through the motions of knowing, i.e. exercising deficient powers of knowledge by believing that he ought to be doing some alternative better action but because of the confusion in his soul is not able to settle on the completely articulated reason for what ought to be done. We should also remember, considering the fact that we are dealing with practical reasoning and rationality that the soul will not acquire what he calls the logos by merely hearing something and assenting to it: language is not a sufficient power to install the kind of knowledge being referred to. The apprentice knower, that is, must imitate his betters in an environment of ethical guidance and the journey from being an apprentice to being a virtuous man is one in which one is learning about oneself and the world . The possibility of course exists in such circumstances that someone may be right in ones judgments about the world but wrong in ones judgments about oneself, i.e. incontinence will be on display in such a case.
Jude was 10 minutes late to the lesson. Another anxiety attack. He would not have made it if he had not drunk his last two barley wines. Sucking on a spearmint tablet he entered the class.
He threw his pen on my desk again and wrote on the board “The pen is on the table”
“If I say I know the pen is on the table and you Browne ask me on what grounds I know it I might say “On the grounds of seeing the pen on the table, feeling the table and the pen, hearing the pen when it dropped to the table, perhaps smelling the pen if it has a distinctive smell”. In other words, I know, by means of the senses. Now these grounds can be challenged. We know, do we not, that our senses have deceived us in the past and we have been quite surprised to learn that either what we thought to be there was not, for example the seeing of the mirage of water after a long waterless sojourn in the desert: or vice versa, for example, I was certain my gloves were not in the drawer but found out later they were. Further, that what we thought to be an x turned out to be a y, for example I thought I saw a round tower on the horizon but upon approaching it I see it really is square. What sometimes can deceive me can always deceive me. Hark unto the voice of the skeptic ladies and gentlemen for his voice is very convincing. Last night I dreamt that the wind was blowing me toward a cliff and there was nothing I could do about it. I woke up and realized it was only a dream or a nightmare. At the moment I think I am standing and lecturing before this class. I am certain of it as certain as I was of being blown toward the cliff in my nightmare last night. Could it not be the case ladies and gentlemen that I am only dreaming that I am standing in front of you and giving a lecture. The real me, the dreaming me, is back in another location preparing to wake up from this dream. So if I can not trust my senses and I can not be certain about whether what I see is part of a dream, how can I with certainty say I know the pen is on the table? But, on the other hand, surely we know that the pen is on the table. If we don’t know this how could we be said to know anything?” Logically we represent this state of affairs like this.”
He wrote on the board
“Knowledge of P = being able to apply the criteria for P being P
We can infer P from the premises fully specifying the criteria for P
Which means the criteria for P = P”
“But”, Jude continued, “Surely this cannot be so. Surely my knowledge of the pen being on the table amounts to more than the story told about the relation my sensory experiences have with this state of affairs.”
Mark Cavendish, a science major, put up his hand and responded
“ We need to think about the way in which we conceptualize the state of affairs, that is, the language we use to state the fact. There are not two things to be related here, merely two aspects of the same complex phenomenon.”
Jude stopped himself from continuing the lecture and asked
“And how would you describe this complex phenomenon”
“Not in terms of its truth conditions. This may be an infinite set or a very large uninteresting set. Language has a more important communicative function”.
“Are you saying that the communicative function of language has nothing to do with its truth function?”
“No, but I might be saying that if a hammer when it hammers is expressing its true function or its essential function, then this is what makes the thing we are talking about a hammer This would seem to be of greater significance than the fact that all the sensory criteria for this particular act of hammering have been met and are expressed in a theoretical characterization of this fact.”
Jude smiled his little private smile of recognition before his tone hardened:
“You are characterizing the world as a totality of functions or processes which take place in the continuum of time. If I were to take an example of hammering to illustrate my point it would not be a particular occurring in a continuum of change. It would be a timeless truth, which is made true by general criteria relating to the concept of hammering. The question I am asking is :”What is the relation of these criteria to the concept?”
Mark Cavendish, hesitated, unsure that he had understood everything that had been said. He looked at Robert questioningly for help.
“Hammering may not be the best example to take in order to see the difference between the two positions. Imagine instead that you see a birdhouse I have recently built and you add this new fact to your arsenal of knowledge. Whilst it is being built it seems that the only reference point outside of the hammering and other activities occurring to bring the event of a completed birdhouse about, would be in the mind of the builder. His idea of a completed birdhouse would seem to be, at the time of having the idea, free of the physical space-time continuum. That is, anybody anywhere and at any time could build a completed birdhouse using this idea. Amongst other things what seems to be needed are general ideas of the function a birdhouse performs, and general ideas of what building are, before any such activity can take place. Although, by taking such a practical example, we may have wondered away from the original example which seemed to be about characterizing physical states of the world such as the pen being on the table. Dr. Sutton is asking, what the relation of criteria, is to the truth of this idea but I think Mark’s point very relevant anyway. The pen being on the table may not be fully and completely characterized by any set of purely physical criteria, even if we include physical laws, if that is what Dr. Sutton meant when he said that the pen on the table may involve more than my sensory experiences of this state of affairs.”
Cavendish nodded in enthusiastic agreement and Jude had now completely lost the thread of his lecture but something stirred within as he registered the student’s enthusiasm.
“Let us turn away from the abstract account of the criteria for P and away from the state of the physical world which contains Roberts birdhouse but towards an example which I believe can point us in the right direction insofar as ascertaining the grounds for knowledge claims is concerned. Let us imagine that I am in pain and that everybody can see the symptoms of the toothache I am suffering from. Let us further consider this example in the light of the question “What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a pain to be a pain? Gather ye symptoms as ye may, they do not seem to add up to the necessary and sufficient symptoms for a pain to be a pain. That is, it always seems possible that an agent could fully be manifesting all of these symptoms and there be no pain—he might for example be acting a part in a play. Or, alternatively, the agent is in pain but he is in unfriendly circumstances and is using his Spartan training not to display any of his symptoms. He is in pain but only he seems to know it. But have I not in this admission that he knows he is in pain given the game away to Descartes and his followers who might at this point say in the most skeptical of voices “Only the person experiencing the pain can know that they are in pain”. Caught in these skeptical pincers one may want to try to deny that the agent “knows” he is in pain. It is too intense for him to know anything, someone may want to maintain: He is in pain, and this means that the experience is not an epistemological state, not a position in which one can know anything. Well, I think the agent does know he is in pain, and claiming that he is not, is only going to change the example we are talking about. Let us give the Cartesian his due: the agent knows he is in pain in spite of the fact that I believe the Cartesian could not give us a good philosophical account of what kind of being possesses a state of mind in which he is both in pain and knows that he is. The Cartesian argument Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, is supported by an argument which is meant to refute the skeptic, namely the argument that one cannot doubt that one is thinking because in order to doubt that one is thinking one would have to be thinking. This is a good argument but not an account of the state of mind of a being that can acknowledge this to be a good argument. And anyway it is at best only an account of how I know myself to be in pain. It is not an account of how I know some other sentient being to be in pain. And since I do not share in his conscious state, his conscious state, by logic, therefore, could not be attributed to me. We can rule out that I am conscious of his pain in the way he is. Well, then, how do I know? By observation, by using my senses and the application of criteria to ones observations, is one possible position. But this is only going to lead us back to the position previously referred to: we might settle for a large set of symptoms and find that they will not suffice and then we will add others and they will not suffice and eventually we will throw up our hands in dismay and agree that no theoretical set of symptoms will ever amount to the pain itself. I am told that Socrates left his studies of the physical world because of this kind of problem after having read the work of a pre-Socratic philosopher who claimed that the foundation of everything was Mind. The attempt to ground knowledge on the nature of matter will always fail philosophically because we will, in Kant’s words never arrive at its nature however complex the set of symptoms for it are. Aristotle claims matter is infinitely mysterious and we can only know its forms –the result of its apprehension by the mind: or in other words, the way in which we conceptualize it. Some ancient philosophers thought that the problem resided in the fact that all we could know of matter are its mathematical properties and since these are provably infinite, when considering it in its quantitative dimension, there can never be a complete set of symptoms for its state. Be that as it may, I think it suffices from the point of view of logic to merely point out that all that needs to be the case is that some given physical phenomenon is alternatively conceptualisable, say as a wave, or as a particle:- and if this is the case we clearly have a logical problem unless we rest with the idea that alternatively conceptualizing this phenomenon is a matter of characterizing different forms or ideas of matter.
A Mathematics major raised their hand and asked:
“Can you elaborate on the proof, that the number of mathematical properties of any material thing will be necessarily infinite?”
“Yes, There are a number of paradoxes, most of which are attributed to Zeno, in which it is maintained that objects in space are totalities or collections of potential points. Take any two points AB on their surface and calculate the number of potential points between AB and it will be an infinite number. These paradoxes even point to the difficulty of quantifying motion once the variable of time is added into the equation”.
The Mathematics major nodded, satisfied with the answer
“Is there, then, no way out of this labyrinth except the ancient resort to forms in the mind?
Wittgenstein discusses this issue in his Investigations and arrives at the position that the forms in the mind have been put there by some objective process. We were not born with them. We may have been born with Aristotelian powers but not Platonic forms, and even Aristotle made fun of the theory of forms in spite of his abiding respect for his teacher.
In learning language, we fall and hurt ourselves as children, and are in pain. Our linguistic mentors then teach us to say that “We are in pain” and we move from the world of instinct, where animals are in pain and other animals sympathetically lick their wounds, to a kind of intellectual game in which I say “I am in pain” and other members of the community commiserate and offer me their sympathies, helping me over the pain. When I am initiated into this new form of life of talking about pain rather than the bare experiencing of it we are led into the human arena of caring for one another and the forms of life that are associated with this. If there is a principle behind all this it is the principle of Care—a very practical principle, which I would like to connect to the previous ethics lecture but for the moment I will restrict myself to the point brought up earlier about the language we use. It is a language relating to Humanity and Society not persons in abstraction from their relation to each other in communities…”
The Council of Europe has a long history of facilitating International cooperation since its inception in 1948. The history of international cooperation via business and trade goes back to The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
In recent times beginning in 2008 the Council of Europe has suggested a framework of educational levels(called EQF) ranging from 1-8 which are intended to be used for the purposes of evaluating educational qualifications internationally and thus facilitating the free movement of people between different sovereign nations
The Global Educational Reform Movement is a modern educational movement partially initiated by so called “progressive” pedagogues in the USA. This movement has swept the globe and produced devastating consequences for educational systems around the world. It is important to note however, that the movement actually has a very long academic history which goes all the way back to Hobbes and Descartes who heralded the beginning of the modern scientific and political age by dismissing the works of Aristotle: works which had actually been the foundation of all progress in Europe. Many philosophers throughout the ages have argued that the reason why Scientists have pursued their subjects so systematically is due to the systematic and universal approach to the subject. If this is so one must be wondering how two Philosophers of the modern age can have succeeded in dismantling Aristotle’s thousand year influence. Unfortunately, during the Middle Ages in the course of translation by Religious authorities who controlled the flow of ideas in the world. the work of Aristotle was falsely represented for reasons we do not yet fully understand. This was followed by a time when academic scientists with one eye on the treatment of Galileo sought to free themselves of the chains that were confining their scientific theorising about the structure and origins of the universe. The feeling was that we needed to reinvent the wheel of knowledge in a space free from Religious intervention. The Scientist wanted to be left alone to pursue his observations and formulate his theories in order to provide us with explanations of the origins and structure of the universe. This picture of the lone scientist completely disregarding the history of his subject and setting off into the desert and mountains of the universe with his instruments was the image which actually inspired the American revolution in Education that in turn suggested the child should adopt this a-historical backwoodsman mentality in the classroom. The teacher’s role should be as an advisor and guide and learn about the child’s mind via this uniquely revolutionary approach to education. We know now that this was a disaster and a number of generations of pupils instead of experiencing a truly progressive historical educational system based on the Philosophy of Aristotle with its amendments and improvements by Kant and the work of the later Wittgenstein, have been forced to participate in a romantically inspired adventure which has to my surprise not yet ended. It is my suspicion that, of all places, the Council of Europe are still more influenced by the limited perspectives of Hobbes and Descartes than they are by the systematic theorising of Aristotle Kant and Wittgenstein.
First we should point out that it is thanks to the work of Aristotle that we have the framework of the differences between theoretical, practical and technological science. It is thanks to Aristotle that we have the divisions between the sciences we have today, e.g. the physical,the biological, the psychological, the theological. It is thanks to Aristotle that academics do not believe the “stories” about ethics we get from theoretical scientists in which it is claimed that theories about ethical behaviour are not as objective as their theories about natural events and processes. This latter point is not an expression of a position in an academic quarrel but rather is an expression of the fact that our educational systems maintained their strong ethical focus for so long. For Aristotle, Education aims at the philosophical: it aims at universal knowledge which flows from the structure of the human mind which he examined in a way which to this day dwarfs all other examinations. The range of complexity of his theory is still being written about by scholars today. It took great minds like Kant and Wittgenstein to accept his framework and make improvements upon it. All three philosophers were highly critical of the scientifically inspired “framework” that developed as a consequence of the “modernisation of Philosophy and knowledge by Hobbes and Descartes. A framework which would eventually lead to the GERM.
The Council of Europe were undoubtedly influenced by Descartes lonely meditative figure reflecting on himself and by the materialist Hobbes and his vision of the good life which was the bourgeoisie businessman’s life dedicated to commodious living and occupied with a hedonistic calculation of the value of human life. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle would have scoffed at this simplistic vision of the complexity of man as would have Kant and Wittgenstein. They would have suggested that if one followed such a vision one would end up with a society of the kind we currently see in the USA–the businessman’s paradise. If this is true, is this not a fascinating thought that the Council of Europe shares its values with a USA that largely ignores the ICJ and the UN and spreads the GERM everywhere it can.
So, in the light of the above considerations let us examine one of the latest products of the Council its EQF “instrument of evaluation”. There are eight levels in the EQF system. Level 4 is the level of gymnasium education, level 5 is a level between Gymnasium and University and there we see an amazing anti- Aristotelian thought, namely that as education advances it “specialises” into ONE area and as we progress toward doctoral studies at level eight we are dealing with a part of a subject. The very title-name of Ph.d is Aristotelian: it refers to a doctor of Philosophy and philosophy in Ancient Greece was the most universal of all the subjects. It was the subject which examined the mind which sought to understand everything about the universe,and not just the internal organs of the coffin worm which could be the topic of a science Ph.d. Aristotle that is, was using philosophical and first principle thinking when he identified all the domains of study which would later become the subjects we are studying. So for Aristotle the doctoral level of study should not be specialising but universalising. This is not reflected in the criteria we see for level 8.
Now the GERM has also all but destroyed our once excellent European University systems. It has definitely destroyed the University system in Sweden. When I was attending Universities in England in the 1970’s the GERM was just beginning to make its presence felt and I can honestly say I was given the original Aristotelian education at two Universities in England. Arriving with these qualifications in Sweden in 1979 I was forced to “alter” my Aristotelian, Kantian and Wittgensteinian attitude in order to obtain a Swedish doctorate. That is, I was forced to write a worse doctorate than the one I would have otherwise written.
I am sure the Swedish University system is even as we speak requiring the same behaviour of students who come into the system with a genuine philosophical background and the difference is that they today are now able to point to two Council of Europe decisions and the EQF evaluation instrument in support. The dreams of Hobbes and Descartes of men and institutions created in the image of their Philosophies have come true. Sciences proliferate in accordance with the spirit of specialisation like the mythical thousand heads of the monster of the ancient Greek imagination. In the last 50 years the Humanities subjects in the spirit of philosophy have constantly diminished in stature and teaching hours at University level. These are the concrete consequences of the GERM with the added support of the EQF instrument and an ever increasing population of scientists at these “Universities”. How long before we call them by the more appropriate name: “Specialities.”?
I am a product of the English A level system and have been teaching in the Swedish Social Sciences/Economics and Natural Science programs as well as the International Baccalaureate Programme. All four programs would be placed in the current EQF system at the EQF 4 level. One program (the A level system) was a pre-GERM system and has with one qualification which we will not discuss here have a claim to be a higher level educational system than level 4.
On the basis of an Aristotelian/Kantian/Wittgensteinian framework where knowledge does not proceed in a specialising direction but rather a philosophical holistic universal direction one might conceive that the above 4 programs should be placed at three different levels ranging from 4 for the Swedish programs to low 5 for the IB AND 6 for the Olde English A level system before it was contaminated by the GERM. IB is currently placed at 5 because at its inception it had truly Philosophical intentions and should have been placed at a 6 in my new proposed system but with the expansion of the system in America and other non English speaking countries, the GERM system has managed to affect the quality of education produced and a current realistic estimate would be that the Ib system should be on the boundary between a 4 and a 5.
Let us note here that that the argument being put forward is not that science is not an important subject in the gamut of subjects we learn and teach. It is rather that, according to Aristotle, Science had characteristics which would firstly, explain its differentiation into different parts in accordance with the segments of physical reality it seeks to describe and explain and secondly would explain the universal nature of the subject where universal principles organise these descriptions and explanations. Science,in other words proceeds universally in accordance with the principle of non contradiction and other universal principles outlined by the Philosophies of Aristotle, Kant, and Wittgenstein. Proceeding in the direction of universalisation at University level might also have resulted in more research into the relations between the biological, psychological and theological “universal” sciences.
The IB deserves a place above normal gymnasium systems for three reasons. Firstly because of its attempt to incorporate its philosophy of education in a course given to the students called the Theory of Knowledge course. Secondly because of its inclusion of the subject of Philosophy amongst the range of options it offers in its humanities section. Thirdly because of the essay based approach which is assessed in terms of criteria which are intending to evaluate not specialist understanding of concepts but universal understanding of principles and systems of concepts.
The problem with this suggestion of a new scale and the new criterion of universalisation rather than specialisation is the problem of how we are going to find differentiating criteria for the higher levels. Again I would suggest turning to the ancient Greeks and the hierarchy of understanding that is involved in study over a period of time: the young man(bachelour) studying for three years at the Academy or the Lyceum is obviously learning how to make judgments on the material he is presented with in accordance with principles. The more mature man(master) who has studied somewhat longer has mastered the concepts and principles and is not merely capable of making judgments in accordance with the principles but can make judgments on the principles, i.e. can make critical judgments. The doctoral level is a more mature position,and involves the application of a critical approach for the benefit of the subject and its relation to all other subjects and the society one is part of as well as other societies. This would be a hierarchical escalation on an evaluative scale in accordance with the principle of universalisation rather than specialisation.
All the reasons for this approach can not be given in a short lecture of this nature and would require amongst other things also studying the work of Philosophers working with the same or a similar theory of knowledge. It would also require the study of the History of Psychology/Social Science and the History of Education as well as the History of the subjects of a school and university curriculum.
Let me in conclusion appeal to the study of two Psychologists whose work has been in the spirit of Aristotle, i.e. in the spirit of a holistic understanding of man, namely Maslow and Freud. Maslow’s work we know appeals to the businessman who is frantically searching for a theory which he can apply to his fickle customers or unreliable business partners but it is in fact an academic theory inspired by Aristotle’s theories. Maslow is trying to describe and explain what it is that motivates man and why. We are animals, as Aristotle pointed out, and as such we are motivated by physiological needs(which include the sexual) and safety needs: a place in a territory we have defended where we feel safe.
As animals capable of discourse and reason we also experience the need for a kind of love which animals do not possess. According to Maslow once we receive the required amount of love which occurs over a long period of time over a long childhood, a need at the next level of the motivational hierarchy emerges namely the need to feel self esteem and receive respect or esteem from others in ones environment. In Maslow’s earlier theory it was enough to fulfil needs at this level in order to become self actualised, i.e. reach ones full Aristotelian potential of being the fully functional rational animal. In order to test his theory he applied the criteria of his theory to his university students and discovered to his surprise that they fulfilled the criteria for esteem but not for self actualisation. Maslow asked himself why this was the case and realised that his theory was missing a dimension which is very relevant to my thesis, namely experience in the attempts to answer three universal questions that have come down to us from Greek Philosophy in general and Aristotle in particular, namely What is true? What is the Good?, and What is beauty?.
These are the universal questions one attempts to answer at University and one supposes that Maslow may also have reasoned in the light of the GERM that there was no guarantee that these questions receive satisfactory answers at many Universities.So Maslow believed in universalisation rather than specialisation in his motivational theory.
Sigmund Freud was a brain researcher of significance at Vienna University before he founded the universal psychoanalytical movement which lay completely outside the University system.His earliest theories attempted to use purely scientific concepts and principles in order to explain why people were not mentally healthy and he failed monumentally to such an extent that he even attempted to hide this embarrassing fact from future generations by burning his “Project for a Scientific Psychology”. As he progressed in his theorising, it is not difficult to see how he used definitions and concepts which were Aristotelian in order to develop a framework from which to treat his patients. Toward the end of his career he even turned to Plato for the concepts of Eros, Thanatos and Ananke when he sought to explain mans futile attempts to embrace the rationality principle of Aristotle in the wider context of life in so called civilised societies. This is an escalation from specialisation toward the universal.
My last argument is that the very word “university” means “universal” and all education aims at universal knowledge if we all are to understand the world in all its forms. It is without question useful to specialise and understand the functioning of the internal organs of the coffin worm at the extreme ends of this universal-specialisation spectrum but it is a finer thing to wish to understand the mind of man and the universal principles that determine the shape and form of the infinite starry universe above and all around us.
I am the bearer of bad news in these times of good news from the football arena because I am a subscriber to the theory that rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen and football is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans. The game against Columbia proved this theory correct –7 yellow cards before the referee saw no point in continuing the warning process. Anyway, my major point for those looking forward to the next victory for England is that they probably will not win because of a curse. The football gods placed a curse upon England called Dr Arnolds curse: they cursed the country and the school which dared to blaspheme and pick up the ball and run with it. One pupil at rugby school, a gentleman, picked up the football and was running away with it presumably out of concern for his fellow gentlemen and other gentlemen tried to stop this rude interruption by tackling him . Apparently he was quite difficult to catch and thus was born the game of rugby. The football gods from that time on have cursed the country which gave birth to this game where you try to stand up when you are tackled and respect the referees decision. At least hopefully we can look forward to a more gentlemanly performance in the Sweden/England game but apart from predicting a win for Sweden I also predict there will be at least one incident where one wonders whether the person tackled should be given a free kick or an oscar.
This 4th lecture in the lecture series is entitled “Cold War in the Middle East”. It begins by referring to President Bush Senior’s overwhelming use of force in Kuwait and the consequent increased presence of US forces in the Middle East. Bush Junior, in 2001, followed in his fathers footsteps by using overwhelming force to invade and dismantle the state of Iraq. These events raise the following question for Khalidi:
“Is the US an Empire?”
This question relates to the concept of “The New World Order” which we raised in the last lecture. When President Bush senior used the above words he was apparently thinking about the Primacy of America but when Kissinger used these words in his work “Diplomacy” he was referring to a new Balance of Power situation involving 6 major countries, namely the US, Europe, China, Japan, Russia and India. In relation to the question “Is the US an Empire?” we need look no further Kissinger’s work “World Order” and the following words:
“No truly global “world order” has ever existed”.
Kissinger is no stranger to the concept of overwhelming force. He refers in the first chapter of the above work to President Truman and the Atomic attacks on the Japanese and the fact that this was a moment Truman was proud of because it brought his enemies back into “the community of nations”.
This suggests that the US only uses overwhelming forced conditionally and instrumentally in order to restore order amongst the community of nations which in its turn suggests that the US possesses no absolute Imperial intentions. This may be true but this fact does not however, suffice to give the US the right to bear the title of “the beacon for the world” as Kissinger suggests in his earlier work, “Diplomacy”.
Khalidi in his argumentation points to the British Historian Nial Ferguson’s analysis that the US is de Facto an Empire because of the following considerations:
1.The US has always had a global mission
2.The power of mobilising the armed forces remains with the President and has not been devolved back to the people as is the case with other warring countries.
3. There are US fleets on all the seas.
4. There are US bases on all continents
5. Weapons manufacture has remained at high levels of production.
Ferguson argues that the US should wake up to its role in the world and take its responsibility, though exactly what this means is not clear in this lecture.
Paradoxically, Khalidi maintains, the principal threat to the US is not coming from any of the other big 5 nations but rather from the challenge to American power by Iran in the Middle East. Recent events in the relation between Iran and the US now appear to suggest that the US is responding to this threat more unilaterally than it has done in the past. Sanctions and a possible threat of overwhelming force is attempting to cause Iran to adopt a posture of submission. This latest policy from the Trump administration is a distinct departure from the earlier “community of nations” approach sanctioned by the UN.
Khalidi points to lessons that should have been learned in SE Asia: that military power may not be “capable of determining the outcome of conflicts always and everywhere”, thereby suggesting, without specifically saying so, that the current system of International Relations is the Westphalian balance-of-power-amongst- nation-states-system. This is Kissinger’s position and neither position is sensitive to one of the underlying mechanisms of globalisation: a globalisation process that is moving us away from the Westphalian system toward Cosmopolitanism via the intermediate stage of the European union and other regional state, defense and economic organisations.
Khalidi, points out quite correctly that the amount of money spent on weapons and war(under the current Westphalian system) could be used for education. Universal education of the individual is one of the mechanisms we need to move us toward Cosmopolitanism. In this context consider Kant’s account of the role of the education of the individual in the journey from a natural antagonism toward ones fellow man:
“The means which nature employs to bring about the development of innate capacities is that of antagonism within society, insofar as this antagonism becomes in the long run the cause of a law governed social order…..All man’s talents are now gradually developed, his taste cultivated, and by a continued process of enlightenment, a beginning is made toward establishing a way of thinking which can with time transform the primitive natural capacity for moral discrimination into definite practical principle: and thus a pathologically enforced social union is transformed into a moral whole.”(Fourth proposition from essay “Idea for a Universal History” in “Kant’s Political Writings, p45)
One can wonder what Kant is referring to here when he talks of a “pathologically enforced social union”. He is certainly referring to social unions that are not in accordance with practical principles of the kind he is talking about in his moral and political works. He is probably also talking about the “commonwealths” of his time where antagonism is projected onto outside enemies and we thus as a consequence, find ourselves locked into a cycle of war and preparation for war which seems never-ending. But even this process has, according to the hopeful Kant, a positive telos or purpose:
“Wars, tense and unremitting military preparations, and the resultant distress which every state must feel within itself, even in the midst of peace..these are the means by which nature drives nations to make initially imperfect attempts, but finally after many devastations, upheavals, and even complete inner exhaustion of their powers, to take the step which reason could have suggested to them even without so many sad experiences—that of abandoning a lawless state of savagery and entering a federation of peoples in which every state, even the smallest, could expect to derive its security and rights not from its own power or its onw legal judgment, but solely from this great federation, from a united power and law governed decisions of a united will.”(ibid p47)
Today we find ourselves not quite in the Westphalian-balance of power political situation thanks to Kant’s foresight. The UN exists. It is a Kantian institution created for the purpose of regulating international disagreements. This lecture series has in earlier lectures expressed skepticism with respect to the efficacy of the UN in the arena of international disagreement. Kissinger has also expressed his skepticism. This state of affairs may actually have its explanation in an earlier proposition of Kant’s which points out that man needs a master but does not want a master. This dialectic of authority and subject which man wrongly conceives of along the lines of master and slave is a dialectic that is currently playing itself out on the world stage. Kant’s account is tied up with his transcendental account of the relation between the future subject of the coming kingdom of ends and the future justice system. There is no dialectical relation between these two fundamental elements but rather a relation in transcendental logic which states that the subject and the legislator of the legal system are in a relation of identity: these are the laws that the subject would have created were he in the legislators position and the legislator, in turn, regards himself as a subject which must obey these laws. This is a relation of identity. Justice in such a kingdom of ends requires knowledge both on the part of the subject and the legislator and this in our contemporary societies is not something which is yet actualised. One reason for this state of affairs is that our educational systems are not yet cosmopolitan, they are rather, in Kant’s words, pathologically national. What we need are Cosmopolitan educational systems financed by the money which otherwise would have been spent on war and preparation for war. The situation looks hopeless but it is not so for the eagle eyed Kant whose gaze spans hundreds of thousands of years. He sees that in our contemporary situation, for every war that occurs the germ of enlightenment survives. He detects in the manifold of political phenomena that there is a plan of nature which will eventually realise the cosmopolitan goal. He can see a state of affairs in which wars cease and cosmopolitan educational systems can actualise the moral whole.
In this context, Kant has the following to say on p49:
“We are cultivated to a high degree by art and science. We are civilised to the point of excess in all kinds of social courtesies and proprieties. But we are still a long way from the point where we could consider ourselves morally mature. For while the idea of morality is indeed present in culture, an application of this idea which only extends to the semblances of morality, as in love of honour and outward propriety, amounts merely to civilisation. But as long as states apply all their resources to their vain and violent schemes of expansion, thus incessantly obstructing the slow and laborious efforts of their citizens to cultivate their minds, and even deprive them of all support in their efforts, no progress in this direction can be expected. For a long internal process of careful work on the part of each commonwealth is necessary for the education of its citizens.”
This position is in accordance with the positions of both Plato and Aristotle who tie the character or personality of the individual to the kind of state he inhabits. So, the question of whether the US is an Empire or not is largely irrelevant in the Cosmopolitan process. The Paradox of the US as the beacon of all political value and as the commonwealth using overwhelming force on other commonwealths is a modern paradox which we all live with and prevents us from regarding the US as the saviour of the New World Order. Paradoxically for the Americans we Europeans believe that the beacon of all political value is the much older Kantian beacon shining through the fog and mists of time into the future. Whether or not this beacon will light the way into the future will also depend on whether the European Project can live up to its Kantian hopes and provide commonwealths of peace and prosperity via cosmopolitan educational institutions.
I will be answering questions on the AMA feed tomorrow , 28th June 2018, in the areas of Political Philosophy, Philosophical Psychology, Philosophy of Education and Ancient Greek Philosophy.
Jude Sutton turned up 5 minutes late to the lecture on a windy March afternoon. The lecture room was diagonally opposite his offices and he was obviously not having an easy time making headway against the winds sweeping off the moors. His long coat flailed in the wind and whipped his legs. His hair was completely disheveled upon arrival in the lecture-room. Even his cigarette had gone out and he seemed to have come without matches. He took a long time to decide what to do with the residue of his home -made cigarette. At last the moment for decision came and he crumpled up the cigarette and put it in his coat pocket. Jude Sutton was suffering. He had almost decided not to come to the lecture. Without a cigarette to distract his nervous system it would not be long before his hands would begin shaking with anxiety. It would not be long before his headache made it impossible to talk without it seeming as if his voice was coming from somewhere far away in the distance. He steeled himself for the opening of the lecture:
“What is our relation to the world as a whole? Surely it cannot be what the scientist claims it to be, a relation to physically measurable events related by causal mechanisms obeying laws we cannot formulate accurately. Surely it cannot be, as the idealist would like us to believe ,a matter of mental states and processes obeying laws of thought we cannot formulate, all relating back to the Cartesian Cogito ergo sum, “I think therefore I am”? How have we been led to this impasse? Is it because of what we will take up in our next week’s lecture, namely the influence of epistemology? Or is the problem instead the influence of the so- called theory of knowledge, upon the three central metaphysical issues in Philosophy: 1. of the existence of the world, 2.The nature of our souls, and 3. The being or processes we call God.
Surely our relation to the world is not merely a knowing relation, which always puts us at a kind of psychical distance to reality. Yet we surely know something about the world. What about our relation to our own souls or even more interestingly given our topic today of Ethics, our relation to other souls. Is the mere concept of knowing sufficient to characterise this relation?. This relation to other souls, which is the concern of all ethical theory?
The major enemy of Philosophy or the major disease it suffers from is skepticism that has the mission not just of questioning everything we claim to know, but, in the course of that questioning mission, skepticism dismantles our world, reduces it to primeval dust. And when we are standing there with dust in our hands the skeptic says nihilstically “ See! it was all clouds of thought, castles in the air”. True, philosophers know you can never reduce a cloud to dust, and the forms of the castle and the house are just as real as the primeval dust the skeptic wants everything reduced to. Philosophy has learned from many skeptical attacks in its history that the existence of the world is not a problem of knowledge. The claim to know places us too far away from the core of the problem. The other major disease that Philosophy has suffered from historically is dogmatism. Sometimes one disease is a cure for another but not very often. Dogmatism is the tool of the tyrant and skepticism the tool of his tyrannical subject and the discourse in such a kingdom can only reduce the truth to dust. At funerals we hear “Man, dust thou are, and to dust shalt thou return.” The intention was to humble us but instead the dust blinded us, filled up our ears and mouth, caused deafness and struck us dumb. What we are, could never be returned or reduced to primeval stardust. This is the source of the ancient idea of the immortality of the soul, itself, related to the Platonic forms which exist sub specie aeternitatis: timelessly. In that handful of dust is our human relations, the relation of one soul to another or the relation of a soul to his community. Skeptics are clever. In dismantling the relation we have to each other they will pretend to believe in the certainty of our private consciousness or sentience, which no one by definition could ever publicly define. They will ask what it is we actually know about other people and we will be forced to answer that what we know of others is based on the behavior we see. I infer, on the grounds of their possessing bodies, which seem the same as mine, that their behavior is connected to their consciousness or sentience in the same way as mine. This is the so- called famous argument from analogy. Other people possess consciousness or sentience by analogy. I can never see anyone’s pain only infer it. And here the skeptic makes his match- winning move. Surely he argues, someone can be behaving as if they are in pain and not be in pain at all. That’s how much we know! And surely, he again argues, someone can be in an enormous amount of pain but, being the true Spartan they are, they show the world nothing of the pain. That is how much we know, the skeptic claims, triumphantly.
Well, Ladies and gentlemen we should not be overly impressed with these snippets of philosophical drama. All the argument shows is that the existence of the world and other souls are not to be characterised in epistemological terms. They are not, in other words, problems of knowledge. We do know of the existence of others, and the criteria of us knowing what we do know, is how they behave, what they say etc. Of course the metaphysical status of this physical and linguistic behavior is a critical philosophical problem and it is part of how we know that someone is in pain.
And someone being in pain, the suffering soul, ladies and gentlemen is one of the key phenomena that ethics needs to deal with.
But before we take up this issue let us talk about language. We obviously see something as something when we see certain physical movements of a man’s face and the sound he emits as a wince of pain. Where does this ability come from? One suggestion is that we see something as something because we are language- users, and it is a major function of language in virtue of its possessing a subject predicate structure, to say something about something. This translates eventually into thought and in virtue of this linguistic capacity we can think something about something. The capacity also transforms our animal like perception into the more human form in which see something as something, for example, I see those physical movements and that sound as a wince of pain. And here we have the later Philosophy of Wittgenstein overturning the earlier, and producing what has been referred to as the Wittgensteinian Copernican revolution. All Philosophical problems , Wittgenstein now argues, can be resolved by investigating the philosophical or as he calls it grammatical structure of our language.
Language does not disguise thought, it manifests thought:-If we would only disengage the skeptical and dogmatic voices within us for a moment and understand what there is to understand. When these skeptical and dogmatic voices within us take over, we are bewitched by the language we use and we can even believe things that are impossible to believe, that is, there can even be contradictions dwelling in our belief systems, which become impossible to detect. Wittgenstein urges us in our “Philosophical Investigations” to ask, “Under what circumstances or in what particular cases do we say that someone has winced in pain, or someone loves someone?” His idea here is that we make conceptual judgments for which there are criteria. We make judgments in the same way as does a dance-judge or an ice skating-judge. In their minds is the idea or form of the perfect dance or perfect ice skating program. In our minds we don’t quantify but judge in virtue of the quality of truth. “What is this physical movement I see before me, how shall I conceptualise it?” The sixty four thousand dollar question is “Where do the criteria for our judgments come from?”. I am afraid I only have a thirty-two thousand dollar answer but it is what we have thus far in the middle of a work in progress, The criteria of judgment come from the agreement over what counts as what, in our language. This linguistic agreement is a work in progress that has been formed of tens of thousands of generations of speakers influenced in every generation by the best minds. If we cannot value or have respect for that, then there is not much we can respect. This language we speak has been over these generations interwoven with forms of life that have transformed our animal existence into human being. We learn our language at our mothers knee and when we see everything we see in our modern concrete jungles there is a thread longer than Ariadne’s flowing back all the way to the cave paintings, fire, the first tools and the dusty paths we walked along in bare feet, eons ago. Agreements over what is to count as what form the structure of how we think about the world. This is the starting point of the Wittgenstein’s revolution.
And so we arrive at the criteria for what is ethically good.
Here is an ethical judgment: “Murder is wrong”. How are we to analyse such a statement philosophically. Aristotle thought there are many meanings of Good two of which were “the good action” and “ the good person”. I am going to concern myself with these during the rest of the lecture.
Charles Stevenson in his work “Ethics and Language” claims that there are two kinds of disagreements that people generally have when talking about the good, Disagreement in belief and disagreement in attitude. Disagreement in belief occurs when verification procedures of the facts can resolve the disagreement. Disagreement in attitude occurs when we agree about the facts but one finds the set of facts good and the other does not. According to Stevenson we can do nothing about the latter. No rational procedure will change attitudes.
I want to maintain, ladies and gentlemen that in analysing “Murder is wrong” on Stevenson’s analysis it turns out that if we submit this to the first pattern of his analysis we must analyse the judgment into “I disapprove of murder (an attitude) and you should do so as well(an imperative). On his second pattern of analysis he would claim that we are on the level of principle and that the analysis of “Murder is wrong” should refer to the principle that murder creates a considerable amount of unhappiness in the society in which we live. This amounts to, what we call in philosophy, a non-cognitive analysis of the moral judgment since disagreements in attitude have no logical relation to facts. Well I am sure, ladies and gentlemen, that disagreements in attitude have a conceptual and therefore logical connection to facts. “Murder is wrong” not just because I disapprove of it and urge you to do so, but for good philosophical reasons, and our individual happiness is only marginally involved in the point of the language game we play with ethics. Stevenson is wrong in insisting that a disagreement in attitude occurs when we agree about the facts. True, we might agree that A killed B on the basis of medical criteria relating to the occurrence of the event of death. But some would doubt that we agree with the murderer over the judgment “Murder is wrong” especially in those cases where the murder is premeditated. Aristotle claims that we all aim in our actions at the good. In an instrumental sense the murderer sees his action as the achievement of an instrumentally structured goal. But, for the sake of a complete argument, were this the only structure by which to judge the value of the action of murder we would as a practical consequence be living in a state of nature and living the kind of life Hobbes described as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. A war of all against all.The difference in the judging procedures in these two cases is that in the first case, we are concerned with the difference between the instrumental value of the achievements of my life-goals and the happiness of my life and in the second case with the categorical value-judgment of the same action. These, when submitted to the practical reasoning process of Kant’s categorical imperative would arrive at the logical consequence that “One ought not to murder”, because the universal law justifies the “Murder is wrong” judgment. I am saying ladies and gentlemen that when we say that “murder is wrong” this is amongst other things a first move in a language game in which we place a responsibility on the hearer to approve, to adopt the correct attitude. We are not inviting our interlocutor to a debate about the concept of murder.
Now it is important to realise the difference between an ethical judgment about what is good in the world of action, and an aesthetic judgment about what is good in the world of fashion and taste, in which the winds of change blow our taste first in one direction and then in another. In the language game of aesthetic judgment we concern ourselves with things such as strawberries and raspberries and how things appear rather than what they are in themselves. Any imperative or ought –judgment in the aesthetic language-game does not relate to our obligations to do something but rather to our desires for pleasure and happiness. Ethical obligations, on the other hand, do not arise from how the world appears to us to be, but rather from how it ought to be for everyone.
The agreement relating to the judgment “Murder is wrong” is mandatory. What that means is that if you do not agree, you are compromising your rationality in the whole sphere of moral value judgment. The advertisement of such a phenomenon of disagreement in a world filled with the noise of advertisements is interpreted by people who understand the workings of practical reason as being indicative of the aimless wanderings of a stranger in the polis of good ethical action. Perhaps, it might be surmised, such a stranger is confusing what is aesthetic with what is ethical. Such a stranger is confusing the appearance with what is real.
But all of this is somewhat obscure unless some account is given of the criteria I have been talking about. What are they? Well, ladies and gentlemen I believe that they are Kantian .The first criterion is conceptual universality, i.e. if something is to be conceptualised as murder it is necessarily wrong. The attitude of disapproval is written into it. Killing, in self defence when no other alternative is available is not, some would claim, murder, although Dr. Glynn Samuels our resident Welsh genius would certainly disagree. For him you should allow yourself to be murdered under the Christian value system whose only real commandment, according to Leo Tolstoy, is “Do not resist evil”.
The second criterion is connected with how we ought to universally treat people. According to Kant we ought to treat everyone as ends-in -themselves—as dignified bearers of ultimate values with a right to everything humans have rights to. The third criterion is connected to the fate of our society. According to Kant there is a kind of law of historical progress operating and we will eventually reach a point in the development of society, which he calls the kingdom of ends, in which everyone who has reached the age of consent or the state of mind of a knowing, consenting being, will fulfil their obligations to each other. In such a society there may not even be any widespread need for legal and justice systems given the fact that all relations and actions in that society would be regulated by Kant’s moral law. This of course would be to the liking of Dr. Samuels and his source of inspiration Mr. Tolstoy.
But it is not only obligation or duty, which is the key idea in Kantian ethics. The practical idea of freedom defines the difference between the theoreticians belief in the spatiotemporal world of deterministic causation and the practical philosophers faith in the freedom from causal determination of the ethical agent when acting ethically: Aristotle’s good person and good action in other words. The ethical subject and the ethical action are striving not to be happy but, rather, to be deemed worthy, on the basis of their actions, of happiness. There are basically four kinds of action in the Kantian practical system and the ethical is the highest and most complex . The second most complex kind of action are instrumental actions which are structured in accordance with the principle of prudence: a principle which aims to strive for the individuals good and the individuals happiness. The next kind of action in Kant’s hierarchy are customary or traditional actions which rely on the wisdom of generations and finally there are expressive actions which are normally positive emotional responses but can even be completely detrimental to the agents well being, even if they are, as Aristotle put it, “aimed” at the agents good. And here again we must cast out the skeptical voice in us which tries to suggest that theoretical knowledge is the standard by which to measure whether a reason is good or not, whether a judgment is good or not, whether a person is good or not. Kant talks of faith in this context: faith in the good processes of the world, promoting and sustaining the good ethical actions of the good agent judging wisely. Here, for Kant, the belief in the Good and the belief in freedom are fundamentally practical concerns. These ideas of the Good and Freedom, according to Kant take us deeply into the world as it ought to be in itself: allow us to glimpse the kingdom of ends which is what some will maintain is the aim of all religion. In this line of reasoning we can see a Kantian modification of Christ’s claim that “The truth will set you free”. It is the truth of the above ideas, which above all will set you free. We may not all be sinners but we all certainly live our lives with an inadequate idea of the structure of the world and inadequate ideas of the structure of our souls”
A mature English major, raised his hand and said:
“The lesson ended some time ago we only have 15 minutes for lunch.”
“Yes doesn’t time fly when one is having fun. Next Fridays unit in the series “Philosophy of Education” will be “Epistemology”—Theory of Knowledge for you non Greek speakers. In this unit we will ask how we know facts such as “The pen is on the table” and “How could I know that you were all hungry?”
Jude Sutton ended the lecture angry at himself for not completing the lecture. One or two students immediately rushed to the canteen next door but I, and a number of others stayed to ask follow up questions. Amongst these, I was surprised to see Sophia, who must have come in after me and sat at the back of the lecture room outside my line of sight
“What implications do these ideas have for the legal institutions of society?” asked the friend I had seen Sophia together with in the library.
“It is a perennial philosophical question whether these institutions of justice are themselves fundamentally just. They are all designed to punish the bad man and the bad action. If one goes back to Socrates’s discussions of justice in the Republic he argues that punishing a bad man will not produce the good, it will only make him worse and that will be worse for everybody. But the Kantian position recognises “the evil” in man, if I can put these words in quotation marks for the moment: that is, these words recognise mans disposition not to look at the world with a good will. Kant also recognises that the work of convincing man to approach the world through his judgments and actions with a good will cannot be done via the traditional biblical means of revelation of the miraculous and a pseudo-inference to an all powerful super-sensible being at the source. So Kant views punishment as, not in the spirit of an “eye for an eye”, but rather in the spirit of depriving the agent of his freedom and waiting for that fundamental condition of approaching the world with a good will to occur, namely seeing the world as a place where the good produces the benefits of a good life and seeing ones actions to be part of the processes which lead to such a good life. So, to answer your question the statues of justice should not just have a sword and scales in their hands, they should try to find some way of carrying a book, perhaps under their arms, and my suggestion for the book concerned would be Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”. Some humanists believe that the sword should be removed from the hand of the statue of justice but this would be to override an important Kantian intuition about justice, namely that the consequences of murdering someone is that evidence becomes public that a human being has lost his humanity and every murderer must symbolically live with the consequences of that. This of course does not necessarily mean that all murderers should be put to death as useless animals who no one wishes to own are, but it does raise the interesting question of what we should do with murderers.”
Sophia stepped forward, her long golden Swedish hair decorating her shoulders:
“We are sorry but we joined the course late. We were doing Sociology of Education but thought that this elective might be more useful to organize our thoughts about education. I am sorry if I am asking questions you have probably answered earlier in the course but today you talked about the existence of the world and its reality. What do you mean? Is this a silly question?
Jude Sutton gave a little smile and answered:
“Not at all my dear, your question cuts right to the heart of the course which began by asking about the nature of the world. We are , according to Aristotle, the rational animal, and it is our reason that enables us to understand a world rather than live in a segment of it: in an environment. There are other regions of our mind, which help to build up this awareness. Firstly there are our innate intuitions of space and time, which are involved in the perception of the things in the world as we build up our experiences Secondly there is our understanding of the world when we begin to organize these experiences into a coherent whole with for example, the principle of causality and other categorical principles. But Reason is the crowning moment for our minds. It allows us to believe that we can systematically understand the world as systematic whole. When all our principles of experience are laid out in plain sight we still do not have an adequate idea of the world—one that allows the smooth operation of language and logic. Reason makes reasonable assumptions, which may be the consequences of inferences from different regions of the mind. One of these assumptions is a presupposition of reality as a given continually changing infinite continuum out of which the world emerges, as a space for all possible human experience and awareness. In order for this to make sense there is a presupposition of an infinite original being which is just the name of existence as a whole. This grounds the possibility of the experience and awareness of everything, both the possible and the actual. This is why the world cannot merely be the totality of things, because the principles of the experience of objects will never enable us to understand important regions of the world: for example the human regions of the world. Considering man as a network trapped in a deterministic network of causes transforms him into an object and denies the fundamental law of his subjectivity, namely his freedom. But freedom is a recent idea of Reason. The practical idea of reason that took us from our animal existence to our divine humanity was the theoretical idea of God. The reasoning went something like this. The things in the world are different. This difference is a function of the fact that they are not some other thing: things are as they are as a result of the negations attaching to them. The negation is only possible if there is an understanding of a whole of things and their negations. This whole is then conceived to be an original being from which all things are derived. One can immediately see that this is not an objective necessity but is a necessity that arises as a consequence of our thought processes about the world. It is then a natural extension of theoretical reasoning to connect this to causality and regard this being as the first cause of all contingent things which owe their existence and essence to him, if we wish now to anthropomorphize this being- Thus was God born. I have no problem with believing in the Philosopher’s God . For the philosopher the idea of God would have made more sense if God was characterized as the whole from which all processes of change flow”
Jude Sutton appeared almost on time for the lesson and the lesson began with the words:
“Education is a noun but the key to the whole problem as to what education is, lies in the primary verb form ”educe” which, according to the “Cambridge” English Dictionary means to bring out, to lead, develop from latent or potential existence, a process of inference of principle from the matter which it explains.
This ladies and gentlemen is a very different idea to that we have discussed earlier, namely, the world being the totality of facts. In the idea or form of education the Aristotelian notion is of a world being a totality of facts and explanations or justifications, where these explanations and justifications in many areas of discourse have a fact- determining role.”
The Science major raised his hand and asked.” I don’t quite understand. Surely a fact is a fact independently of what anyone thinks about it”
“I am inclined to agree, a wolf can kill 3 sheep in 7 days independently of whether there is anyone to see these events or talk about them, but that is only part of the story of what makes a statement to that effect true. The wolf has become a linguistic entity as soon as he became a bearer of the name “wolf”… but this is all too theoretical to be of immediate relevance for us. If for no other reason than the fact that the concept of Education is not close to the physical events occurring in the world and not close to the thoughts that furnish one’s mind but is rather an umbrella term for a group of action-related processes whose telos or function will only become clear when we have sketched the logical geography of the associated concepts in this terrain.
Let me give you an example of the way in which principles determine reality in the practical sphere of ethics. No one, I hope will question the importance of ethics for Education. In theoretical contexts if I claim that “water boils at 100 degrees centigrade” and someone discovers that it does not at great heights above sea level, then my statement is not a principle, and must be rejected on the grounds of lacking support in reality.
But take the ethical principle “Murder is wrong” and imagine you are standing in a bus queue and two people begin quarrelling bitterly with each other. One pulls out a gun and shoots the other. We have witnessed what is called a murder and we are bearers of the attitude towards this event expressed in the words “Murder is wrong” Now note that the argument for murder being wrong is not to be found in reality as is the case with the wolf eating 3 sheep in 7 days. That is, the argument is not to be found in the fact that the murder occurred in front of my eyes whilst I was standing in a bus queue.
It is to be found in what philosophers call principles in the ought system of concepts, one of which is “Murder is wrong”. This principle is fact-determining. The principle itself also has the function of justifying the attitude we take to the event and all explanation and justification ends there. So, at least in the world of how things ought to be, in the world of value, this is the end of the process of justification. Once we have reached the rock bottom of the justification process we can but appeal to our fundamental attitudes and to what we do and this is why the Greek philosophers and Kant placed their bets on practical philosophy in their search for solutions to metaphysical problems
But I digress, yet only ever so slightly, for the answer to the question “ What is education?” resides in how we characterize what we do and the attitudes underlying what we do”
The drama student raised her hand and asked
“But does that not make what we do, relative, and not in accordance with, the universality principle. After all the murderer thinks what he did is right. That is his attitude toward what he has done”
“True, but since this is not how he ought to think, this is not an argument against the principle. How we ought to think, of course, is as much of a logical matter as is how we do in fact think, and this may be why the world is not just the totality of facts. The younger Wittgenstein was wrong and he has admitted as much and written a work entitled “Philosophical Investigations” in which we shall find the beginnings of the answers to some of the questions that will be thrown up in this course. Education is the name for a family of activities conducted in accordance with criteria for a value system which ought to be universally true, but are not, because we are not ethically mature beings. Yet ethics is there bubbling under the surface of everyday relations and legal systems. It is there ready to erupt when the time is right. It erupts daily in these systems but it has not resulted in what I would like to call the ethical attitude because we , unlike Socrates, do not understand what we do not know. We do not fully understand ourselves. The claim of the later Wittgenstein and Gilbert Ryle is that we will only reach full understanding when, after analysis of all the relevant concepts and possible judgments we will stand in a strategic part of the educational terrain and see everything stretched out before us.
The Greeks felt that education was the universal key to unlock all doors: the doors of moral virtue, good government, the soul, and the world. Kant felt that the educational project was necessary for the perfection of mans human nature, a project that might take one hundred thousand years. According to him, man can only become truly what he is destined to be when the project is nearing completion..
The major problem about education in particular and values in general is that , as Wittgenstein wrote, values are not to be found in the world, they lie at the origins of it and also in the attitudes men bring to bear upon the world via their actions and judgments. When it comes to certain kinds of events, it has been argued, men seem to create the world they live in.
“But”, the questioner persisted, “Surely attitudes differ. You like strawberries and I like raspberries. What citizen A does in Polis P is different to what a citizen B does in Polis Q”
“True, on both counts. There are different kinds of actions and different kinds of judgments. Liking Strawberries and Raspberries are a matter of judgments of taste. And citizen P may drive a certain kind of car to work and citizen Q a different kind of car. These latter two examples are examples of what philosophers call instrumentalities: actions whose essence is to be instrumental to achieving a goal, such as going to work. The goal in itself may also be an instrumentality and be part of achieving another goal further on in time, such as saving to buy a house. But at some time in the acting process we come upon value, the origin and terminus of the process of practical reasoning: the categorical reason for doing what we do–and these reasons reveal our attitude toward the world in general. Such attitudes usually relate to what Plato and Aristotle called “The Form of the Good”. To return to our example from the realm of ethics, “Murder is wrong”. This is, according to Kant, a moral law which can be universalized(that is, everyone ought to believe it and act in accordance with it) and has to do with a fundamental attitude towards people and the kind of society it is necessary to build if we are to complete “The Human Project”
“But people clearly do not universally believe in it or act in accordance with it. The prisons are filled with murderers”, the mature English major asserted.
“And the point is to understand why they are there, sitting in their prisons, thinking about their deeds. In murdering someone, the agent gives up their humanity, according to Kant, and this suffices as an argument for him to give murderers the death penalty. But actually putting murderers in prison might be sufficiently Kantian, even for Kant, because in prison we lose what he regards as part of the essence of humanity, namely ones freedom. Kantian philosophy permeates the legal system: Murderers are found guilty of murder in legal processes because we all have powerful minds, part of the structure of which is to choose between right and wrong, or even more basically: the man in the bus queue in front of me could have chosen not to pull out his gun and shoot his antagonist. We all possess this ability to distance ourselves from our own acts. In modern brain research parlance: the frontal lobes inhibit instinctive action and bring reasoning to bear upon what we may, deep in our animal souls, wish to do. However it is important to question the principle of justice our system of law is in fact operating with. Leo Tolstoy thought it was a primitive quid pro quo system based on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and his Kingdom of the utopian future contains no legal system. Christian Morality takes care of everything. In this we hear the strains of an old Socratic song from the early books of Republic.
We digress, yet ever so slightly, since education is fundamentally concerned with the project of Humanity, and if the preceding argument is correct, Education is fundamentally in its nature, a process obeying the laws of the categorical imperative, to use Kants language. And with that I think we can rest our case for today.” Since we have pointed out the similarities between the language we use for education and ethical language we shall during the next lecture take up the issue of ethics and language.”
Aristotle’s contribution to establishing a philosophical method was extensive and profound. Philosophy up to and including Plato included the discovery of elenchus and dialectic methods both of which were essentially designed for a face to face debating approach that often took place in the presence of an audience expecting areté(excellence)
Aristotle, in contrast to most of his predecessors, viewed the historical development of Philosophy more systematically perhaps exactly because of the methods he had discovered. Where Plato in his central work, “The Republic” resorted to allegory and myth at crucial moments in his theorising, Aristotle used Categories of existence and logical argumentation. This resulted in the substitution of the dialectical interaction of different thinkers such as Heraclitus and Parmenides by a more theoretical panoramic view of all the thinkers of the Greek age, including the so-called “natural philosophers”. The result of this historical-methodological approach was of course firstly, the “invention” or “discovery” of logic and, secondly, the emergence of hylomorphic theory from the metaphysical investigations into being qua being(the first principles of Philosophy). With these developments a panoramic view of the landscape of thought was made possible.
Given that metaphysics begins with the asking of aporetic questions the definition of which refers to the phenomenon of there being apparently equally strong arguments for both the thesis and the antithesis of the issue, there appears to be a need for an overarching theoretical framework in which elements of both answers can be accommodated without contradiction. Indeed one is given the impression that the canvas Aristotle was using was considerably larger than that used by previous philosophers. In Raphael’s painting “The School of Athens”, Plato is pointing upwards toward the ethereal heavens and Aristotle is pointing straight ahead, perhaps at future audiences and the demand for more systematic systems of representation. He was of course hoping that his works influence including as it did the practice of incorporating the insights of previous systems of thought into present ones would not diminish over time.
Descartes and Hobbes were both anti-Aristotelian theorists and the result of their works was to return us to a dialectically inspired resurrection of materialism and dualism. These modern philosophers and many modern philosohers philosophising in their spirit failed to understand that hylomorphic theory transcended these alternatives with a systematic world view.
Aristotle embraces Heraclitus to a much greater extent than Plato did in his work and as a consequence we will find in Aristotle a more satisfactory explanation of the material aspect of reality, partly because matter is a part of the medium of change in Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory. Matter was conceived as infinite by the materialists of the Greek age which included the early Socrates in their number. Aristotle conceived of matter as infinite because it appeared to him that the number of forms matter could take was unlimited. One arrived at the fundamental elements of reality, i.e. an ontological understanding of what there was by dividing the infinite continuum up either into abstract “atoms” or more concrete elements such as earth, water, air and fire. In Aristotle’s view, early materialism did not provide a sufficiently complex explanation for the desire to understand the world which he claimed all human beings possess. At best we are given a view of what might exist, e.g. atoms, elements etc, without any principle for their existence. This form of principled existence or explanation of existence refers to the question “Why?” and this question transports us very quickly into the realm of the aporetical which Descartes and Hobbes were so keen to abandon in favour of a methodology of investigation. For Descartes this method was purely rational and was based on the givennes of thought or consciousness in the activity of thinking: his method was purely rational. Hobbes on the other hand was intellectually skeptical of the world of thought and its wild and wonderful ontological structure. For him observation as part of a method of resolution and composition eliminated the wild flying creations of the intellectual imagination and allowed the philosopher like the scientist to slow the pace of investigation down to a pedestrian earthly speed. Wholes were carefully resolved into their parts and parts were composed into wholes. This method when applied to the human sciences then also gave birth to the resolution of holistic human activities into two kinds of events which were logically independent of one another—cause and effect. Given that human activities are logical composites of the actions of agents and the objects they produce this of course places an enormous obstacle in the path of the task if explaining human activities. When the above method reigns the domain of explanation , the question “Why?” tends to focus on the cause of the activity in accordance with a principle of causation which states that “every event has a cause.” This principle literally means that one cannot rest in ones explanatory task with another event because that in turn must have a cause and it says nothing about resting ones explanation on a foundation which is not of the kind: event. With this principal we are literally on the path to an infinite regress which will logically prevent the kind of explanation needed if for no other reason than the fact that the direction of the explanation is archeological, proceeding backwards in time. Aristotle was one of the first to point out that explanation of human activity which aims at the good is teleological, aiming in the opposite direction, namely forwards in time. This kind of explanation starts with the aim of bringing something, a holistic state of affairs, about and will only be resolved into sub goals if there is a logical relation between these sub activities and the overall aim of the holistic activity. There cannot be a cause-effect relation as envisaged by analytical philosophy of the kind practised by Hobbes and Hume simply because a cause is logically independent of its effect. From a modern perspective, Sciences like Physics and non-organic chemistry have great use for this method of resolution –composition without too much distortion of the phenomena being studied. It is, to take an example, more easy to see how dead rabbits decompose into particles but , staying at the level of particles it is much more difficult to use them to account for how these particles help to teleologically keep live rabbits alive. These particles at the very least need to be composed into organs or the dandelions the rabbit eats. This example illustrates that decomposition into parts actively discourages teleological thinking. Aristotle’s starting points for the rabbit were its teleological ends of growth, survival, and reproduction, and these “ends” are used to conceive of the parts of the rabbit, namely, its organs and limbs. The same modus operandi is used for conceiving of the why’s and wherefores relating to human beings. For Aristotle, a particular form of life requires a particular constellation of organs and limbs functioning teleologically to keep the rabbit growing, alive and reproducing. Aristotle also recognises the principle of rabbithood in his comparisons of the form of the life the rabbit leads and the form of life the human being leads. The rabbit, Aristotle notes moves itself in accordance with this principle of rabbithood which rests not inside the rabbit but “in” the rabbits activity. For Aristotle all life forms are, to use Ricoeur’s terminology “ desiring striving and working to be, to survive”. Organisms are in a sense causa sui(the (logical)cause of their (continued) existence). This causa sui-principle is not in any sense the end point of the explanation Aristotle requires. He believes we also need to provide a categorical framework other than material and efficient causation in order to “describe” the forms of life we encounter in the world. Aristotle’s “forms of life” are defined by the characteristic features of the activities engaged in by these “forms of life”. Plants, for example, are characterised(described and explained) by their growth and reproduction: animals by growth, reproduction, perception and purposeful movement and human beings by all these “characteristics plus talking, remembering and reasoning. One sees very clearly here how life forms are defined by not just their organ systems but also by characteristic powers, each building upon the other teleologically until the form of life the animal is destined for is actualised in accordance with an actualising process determined by its telos or end. This life form is determined by factors internal to the organism and not caused to come into existence by some outside agent as a table is caused to come into existence by the craft of the table maker. The parents of the organism pass the art of living on to their offspring by the creation of an internal principle which in turn will from the inside create the form of life typical of the organism. Matter does not drop out of the account completely. It is potential and it actualises its potential by being formed by some principle, e.g. the matter of living beings is formed into flesh bone and organs. This system of matter produces a system of powers that in term generates the form of life typical of the organism. These two systems together suffice to place living beings in a categorical framework. It is important to note here, however, that the telos or end of the actualisation process is the key to describing and explaining the function of the “parts” or the “elements” of the living being. This telos, before it is actualised is potentially present as part of the principle of the organism. What the organism is and what it strives and works to become define the nature of the being that it is. For Aristotle, this essence or form can be captured by an essence or form specifying definition. The categorical framework outlined above supersedes but does not eliminate the earlier division of the material world into earth, water, air, and fire, each of which, according to Aristotle,also possesses an essence or a form partly defined by what it can become or its telos, which in the case of these 4 elements is determined by the final resting place(T S Eliot, the death of earth, water, air and fire?). The earth is at the centre of the system of elements and is the source of all life which also requires water and air and the sun to thrive in accordance with the form of life determined by the system of organs and the powers generated thereby. When the organism dies its parts are returned to the earth, its resting place. Death, on this account is defined in terms of the lack of a principle of change in the organism: the organism now “possesses” in an empty sense, organs and limbs that lack the power of movement or change.
Life, in relation to the long term tendency of the physical elements to return to their source and place of rest, is paradoxical because it is composed both of “that for the sake of which” the process of growth occurs, and the principle or form determining this process.
Thus, forms or principles are, for Aristotle, the constituents of the universe: constituents which allow us to understand the truths of materialism, and the truths of Heraclitus, Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Socrates, and Plato.
When the principle or form is imposed externally upon matter as is the case with Art by the craftsman painting a painting or building a building it appears as if form and matter can be separated. If the art concerned is the art of building it almost seems as if the material of the bricks and wood is waiting around at the building site for the builder to shape into the form of a house. Several weeks later the material is standing high above the earth in the form of a house. In cases of living forms, however, the principle and the matter are , so speak, “intertwined” and inseparable and give rise to powers which the whole organism manifests. Matter, in itself, is therefore only understood in terms of its principle of organisation. The organs and limbs of flesh and bone are not the pure or prime matter of a human form. The organs and limbs themselves dwell in a hierarchy that rest on the elemental matter of earth water and heat. The powers of the organism in their turn rest on the formed matter of the organs and limbs.
Jonathan Lear in his work: “Aristotle:the desire to understand” has the following to say on the topic of the actual presence of powers in the living being:
“However, if this power is not a functional state of material structure, how can its presence be observed? Are natural powers beyond the realm of empirical inquiry? No, they are not: but it takes some care to spell out the conditions under which they can be observed. Obviously, powers are not immediate items of sensory perception. Nor can they be seen under a microscope. If an intelligent scientist were permitted to observe only one immature natural organism in his life, having been kept in ignorance of the general facts of generation and destruction, then there would be no way he could detect the presence of a power in the organism.. The first dawning of the idea that a power is present could only occur in retrospect. From the perspective of the fully developed organism we realise that there was a force present in the immature organism which directed its growth and activity toward this mature state. However, although the original idea of the presence of power is necessarily backward looking, this does not imply that powers are unobservable.”(p22)
Aristotelian teleological explanation has often been misinterpreted by the inductive scientist using the methodology of resolution and composition. Such scientists set about dividing the whole into its parts and then attempt on the basis of the observation of the actions and reactions of the parts and their relations, to re-compose the whole. A power could never emerge with this inductive method especially if this method is accompanied by a resolution of the whole into two logically independent events of the cause and effect kind. Sometimes we hear from the scientist the complaint that teleological final causes are using an impossible mechanism of “backward causation” and that this violates the logic of causal explanation.
The way to short circuit such objections is to situate teleology in its holistic context of form, potentiality and power. Lear has this to contribute in his discussion of the connection of these three terms:
“In Aristotle’s world form as a potentiality or power does help to explain the growth, development and mature functions of living organisms. And there are empirical tests for the presence of form. Were there no structure in an immature organism or regularity in the processes of development there would, in Aristotle’s eyes be no basis for the attribution of a power, regardless of the outcome.”(p24)
The power which differentiates man from other organisms, according to Lear is the power of asking the question Why? in the search for understanding of the world and oneself. This obviously builds upon other powers of talking, remembering, thinking and reasoning and the question is rewarded with answers provided by a naturally ordered and regulated world. This is the question that for Aristotle reaches into the cave of our ignorance, like the sunlight, and the world in turn provides an explanation in terms of the form, principle, or primary cause of whatever it was that provoked the question. In our desire to be and effort to exist(to use Ricoeur’s terminology) we are all engaged on this search for understanding, argues Aristotle. This Why question can be answered in 4 different ways, Aristotle claims, and the suggestion is that all 4 kinds of answer are required if our explanation is to be adequate or complete: i.e. all 4 kinds of answer are needed for the explanation to meet the conditions required by the principle of sufficient reason as understood by Kant. Three of the types of non materialistic explanation, the efficient, formal and final causes(aitiai) are different ways of giving the same answer: they are, that is, in Aristotle’s terms different aspects of the formal component of hylomorphic theory. These three types of explanation do not, however, meet the conditions of the principle of sufficient reason. An explanation of nature incorporating the truths of materialism is also required for a complete explanation. Many later philosophers such as Hobbes and Hume were interpreting the central idea of “cause” physically and materially and they were convinced that the other explanations were either fictional creatures of the imagination or alternatively could be reduced to a physical idea of linear causation.
Jonathan Lear interestingly discusses the Aristotelian complex idea of cause(aitiai) or explanation in relation to the Humean linear concept of the two event account. He argues that it is the scientific obsession with observation which in its turn generated the dualistic approach that took, for example, the unitary event of a builder building a house and resolved this unity into a cause and an effect which are merely contingently and not logically connected. Lear points out that Hume claimed we cannot observe the transition from the cause to the effect.
Lear claims that:
“What is at issue is a disgrace, not only about causes but about what constitutes an event. It is important to realise that events are not unproblematically given. It is easy for us to overlook that because we think we can locate any space-time point and call what is going on there an event. But Aristotle had no such matrix to isolate and identify events. He did not have a watch, and when he specified the place of an object it was not in terms of its location in a unique all-encompassing field. The place of an object was characterised in terms of the boundary of the body which contained it. The way Aristotle chose to identify events was via the actualising of potentialities: the potentialities of substances to cause and suffer change…..while for Hume causation must be understood in terms of a relation between two events for Aristotle there is only one event—a change…and causation must be understood as a relation of things to that event.”(p31)
Lear’s otherwise excellent work on Aristotle is somewhat incomplete in terms of the simplicity of the account of Aristotelian thought in relation to place and space, i.e it is not clear that Aristotle did not make the assumption that reality could be characterised mathematically). A mathematical point, after all is not anything actual: it is something potential. It only appears in reality or becomes actual if something concrete or abstract happens at that point, e.g. one begins at that point to perhaps represent motion in a straight line until that motion or represented motion comes to rest at another resting point which is actualised as the motion or represented motion comes to an end.
Space is also represented in the above example. Matter may be represented if one imagines a physical body or particle in motion. Space, Time and Matter were, for Aristotle, essential media for the experience or representation of reality and these media for change played a very important role in his conceiving of reality as an infinite continuum. Returning to our example of the line defined as the shortest distance between two points, we know that there are potentially an infinite number of stopping points between the starting and stopping points on the line. We can clearly see the role of the concept of potentiality in this context. Indeed, one might even wish to argue that the Aristotelian matrix was far more complex than our modern space-time-causation matrix given that it can embrace human reality in the form of a builder building a house starting from the point at which a pile of bricks and wood is located and ending with a completed house occupied by a family living a flourishing life. Dividing this reality up by using our modern matrix of space-time-causation where we end up with two events such as the building activity of the builder and the product of a house rather than one Aristotelian event of change uses the resolution-composition method of science unnecessarily to create insoluble ontological and metaphysical problems. Hume, as we know , was a victim of this mode of observational thought and apart from the above mistakes arrived at the paradoxical result of cause being a conventional idea—simply on the grounds that he thought that causation could not be observed. He did not believe, that is, that we can observe a builder building a house until its completion.
Aristotle’s view is that his Causation, space-time matrix of reality is part of of a larger matrix of kinds of change and principles provided by his metaphysical presentation of “First Philosophy”. First philosophy is here understood as the first principles of any kind of change in the universe. We mentioned above that the power or capacity of a rational animal capable of discourse—a human being—begins in awe in the face of the existence of the world and its ever changing nature. We see and conceive of what is there and we spontaneously seek to understand the why. This desire to understand the why entails all of the following components:4 kinds of change, three principles of change and four causes/explanations(aitiai) being provided to the searcher for understanding of the changing reality.
There has been much ado about the latter component of the above account, namely the 4 aitiai or kinds of “explanations”. The Scientific matrix and method, for example conceives of matter, not as potential to be formed, but rather as “events observed” in accordance with the cause-effect rule. This conception insists that teleological explanation is incoherent: it cannot be observable when the builder is in the process of building the house. Science, in other words, cannot conceive of potentiality because potentiality is not actual and real—because it has resolved the one event of change into the two events of cause and effect which are, according to Hume connected because of the regularity of the world and the “conventional” way in which we characterise the world. Science sees these events in terms of observation and any reasoning about unobservables(such as the thought of the house “in” the mind of the builder cannot be observed )therefore does not exist. What is being imagined here is that the metaphorical “in” is a spatial characterisation. There is nothing “in” the mind of the builder: rather there is a principle related to the builders powers operating in the movement of the materials from one location to another. The scientist who is committed to denying the Aristotelian account just does not know how to characterise the holistic event of “the builder building a house”.
Descartes, Hobbes and Hume managed to turn our Aristotelian ideas of the world upside down in the name of a matrix of dogmatism and skepticism directed at common sense and its judgments about reality. Christopher Shields in his work on Aristotle illustrated excellently how down to earth Aristotle’s “explanatory framework” is:
“Suppose that we are walking deep in the woods in the high mountains one day and come to notice an object gleaming in the distance. When it catches our eye our curiosity is piqued: indeed Aristotle thinks so much is almost involuntary. When we come across an unexplained phenomenon or a novel state of affairs, it is natural—it is due to our nature as human beings—that we wonder and fall immediately into explanation seeking mode. What we see glistens as we approach it, and we wish to now what it is. Why do we wish to know this? We simply do: so much is unreflective , even automatic. As we come closer, we ascertain that what is shining is something metal. Upon somewhat closer inspection, from a short distance, we can see that it is bronze. So now we have our explanation: what we have before us is polished bronze. Still, if we find a bit of bronze in the high mountains we are apt to wonder further about it, beyond being so much bronze. We will want to know in addition what it is that is made of bronze…..as we approach closer we ascertain that it has a definite shape, the shape of a human being: it is a statue..We also know further, if we know anything about statues at all that the bronze was at some point in its past deliberately shaped or cast by a sculptor. We infer, that is, though we have not witnessed the event that the shape was put into the bronze by the conscious agency of a human being. We know this because we know that bronze does not spontaneously collect itself into statues… So now we know what it is: a statue, a lump of bronze moulded into human shape by the activity of a sculptor. Still we may be perplexed. Why is there a statue here high in the mountains where it is unlikely to be seen? Upon closer inspection we see that it is a statue of a man wearing fire fighting gear: and we read, finally a plaque at its base: “Placed in honour of the fire-fighters who lost their lives in the service of their fellows on this spot, in the Red Ridge Blaze of 23 August 1937”. So now we know what it is: a statue, a lump of bronze moulded into human shape by the actions of a sculptor placed to honour the fallen fire fighters who died in service.”
There would seem to be little to object to in the above description of the natural course a natural investigation into the identity of a temporarily concealed object might take. There is, however, nothing aporetic about this investigation or this object. This is nevertheless one form of aletheia, a simple form but a form of the search that aims to uncover the truth. Were the questions to concern objects or events or actions which do not carry their meanings on their surfaces: for example, an investigation into ones own being, which in Heidegger’s own words should result in the characterisation of us as beings for whom our very being is in question, the question would most certainly fall into the category of aporetic questions and the answers we uncover would not be as obvious as they were in the above investigation. In the case of an investigation into our human nature the search for aletheia would be difficult and filled with philosophical debate and dispute, but it would remain the case, however, that the Aristotelian hylomorphic theory of change would be the best guide to lead us out of the cave of our own ignorance.
The answers produced in response to questions concerning the being of human beings via the use of the scientific method of resolution-composition and its space-time linear causation method has now had several hundred years to produce a theory to rival Aristotle’s. The best it has achieved is either a kind of Quinean dualism of observation sentences and theoretical sentences based on a crude behaviouristic account of stimulus meanings, or alternatively, the more sophisticated dualism of Wilfred Sellars in which he, in the spirit of Plato, distinguishes between the Scientific image of the world and the Manifest Image of the world which he attributes to Aristotle.
If the world is the totality of facts is a position the scientist and analytical philosopher could take, we may legitimately ask for the Aristotelian response to this proposition. For Aristotle his response is his entire hylomorphic theory but one key element of that would contain the claim that the world is constituted of potentially evolving forms which use three “mechanisms” of transmission. Jonathan Lear summarises these mechanisms in the following manner:
“There are at least three ways in which forms are transmitted in the natural world: by sexual reproduction, by the creation of artefacts, and by teaching . The creation of artefacts remains a paradigm. The craftsman has his art or techné in his soul: that is, the form which he will later impose on external matter first resides in his soul. We have already seen that form can exist at varying levels of potentiality and actuality. The form of an artefact, as it resides in a craftsman’s soul, is a potentiality or power. It is in virtue of this power in his soul that we can say that he is a craftsman. The full actuality of the craftsman’s art is his actually making an artefact. Thus the builder building is actually the form of the house in action…this activity is occurring in the house being built. In short, the primary principle of change is the form in action. When Aristotle cites the builder building or the teacher teaching as the actual cause of change it is not because he is trying to focus on an antecedent causal event—i.e. on what for us would be the efficient cause. It is because he is trying to cite the primary principle of change: the form in its highest level of actualisation. Aristotle identifies the agent of change with that which determines the form: “The change will always introduce a form, in which when it moves, will be the principle and cause of the change: for instance an an actual man makes what is potentially a man into a man”.. If we are being more precise we must think of the cause as being the form itself—thus man builds because he is a builder and a builder builds in virtue of his art of building. This last cause is prior….the art of building at its highest level of activity is the builder building. This is occurring in the house being built.. As Aristotle says: “architecture is in the building it makes” “(pp33-34)
The above quote in Wilfred Sellars’ terms would be an account of the Manifest Image of the world. A world view in which potentiality requires a forward looking future oriented teleological perspective as opposed to an archeological antecedent event. If the Manifest view of the world looks backward in time it looks for an agent possessing powers and capacities. The teacher teaching in his classroom, for example, is expressing the power or form of teaching which was sometime in the past transmitted to him via an organisation of forms that were passed to his teachers. In his teaching he passes on the forms of geometry and number on to his pupils until these forms dwell in their souls to such an extent that we can call his pupils geometers and mathematicians. A scientific observer who claims that causation must be actually observable might have great difficulty in attributing the names of “geometer and mathematician” to these students talking about politics in the agora. It might only become obvious if one of these students begins to teach a slave boy the intricacies of the Pythagorean theorem. The form of geometry would then be actualised in this activity of a teacher teaching. In these processes of acquiring knowledge building houses or reproducing there is a striving or aiming for an end or telos which is a primary structure of the Aristotelian world. Attempting to investigate such phenomena by trying to observe actual material or functional structures(his brain for example) of the agent or his actions or by trying to see how one structure “moves” another as a bone moves a muscle will never allow us to explain how striving is determined by the end it is striving toward. The method of resolution-composition requires a movement backward in time to search for causes. But even if one lands at the brain as a cause, this starting point for Aristotle would be a form which is a result of a teleological biological process(Aristotle did not in fact understand the actual function of the brain but this would not have affected his point). Brain matter, organs, bone and flesh were for him already “formed matter” which themselves require the kind of explanation he is providing. There is no infinite regress in Aristotle’s theory although there is reflection upon the nature of the infinite and its place in his space-time, matter-causation matrix.
Matter, for example, is infinitely continuous, argues Aristotle
“The infinite presents itself first in the continuous”(Physics 3, 1, 200b 17-18)
Space, time and matter are all continuous. Aristotle’s notion of the infinite is however, complex. Space, for example is not infinite in extent but it is infinitely divisible. The same is true for matter. Time, on the other hand, has no beginning and no end as well as being infinitely divisible. The infinite is formless and is a pure un-actualised potentiality. Pure form and potentiality for Aristotle is God who is not actually anything but pure potential to be anything that has happened, is happening and will happen. Aristotle’s thought is difficult interpret here but he appears to regard God as the ultimate principle or law of all change. God operates in the realm of thought which for Aristotle is also a power or a potential we possess. Our thought, however is located in time and God’s thought on the other hand, is a -temporal , eternal, and not at all similar to the temporality of human consciousness Thought in a great souled being like God will differ considerably to human thought. God.s relation to reality as we conceive it is also problematical. It sometimes seems as if he is reality and this reality is for him included in the realm of thought . If this is correct then Gods thinking about himself is what produces change in the world but this thinking is infinitely continuous, without beginning and without end and not part of what we experience to be actualising processes. If he has a relation to time it must be that he is a condition for the existence of time. His thinking is not in “nows” as is the case with human beings but rather is a condition of the eternal movement of the heavenly bodies which we choose as a standard of measurement by which to measure time.
Newton’s distinction between absolute time which flows on continuously and of itself and the relative time created by human mind’s measuring the eternal flow may well have its roots in Aristotelian reflections. We cannot, however, on Aristotelian grounds, make absolute time intelligible because it is at the end of the Aristotelian spectrum extending from pure matter at one end to pure form on the other.
Jonathan Lear has an excellent account of how our human relative time is generated:
“It is only when we have perceived a before and an after in change that we say that time has elapsed. It is that perception that enables us to number it. But the number of change or motion is just what time is. But is that number itself objective? Usually when Aristotle talks about numbering, he is concerned with te enumeration of discrete items of a certain sort. It is a plurality of discrete things which are numerable. This would suggest that Aristotle had in mind that one picks out a certain unit of time—say the passing of a day as marked by the heavenly movement—and then pronounces a “Now”. The number of days will be measured by the pronouncement of the nows. It is change, then, as well as our recognition of it that grounds our recognition of a before and after and the interval which the distinct nows mark. This recognition—the making of distinct nows—itself recognises the reality of time and is also a realisation of time itself. For time is nothing other than a number or measure of change.”
Time is related to the soul and is “in” everything including the earth the sea and the heavens. Aristotle argues that were there no one to count there would not be anything to count, thus suggesting that without souls there would not be time but given the considerations raised above it is I believe clear that Lear is correct in his observation that:
“the reality of time is partially constructed by the soul’s measuring activities.”(p79)
Time is not change insists because presumably change is more fundamental such that without it time would cease to exist. Heraclitus, it seems was closer to the truth(aletheia) than Parmenides. Aletheia or logos may be true of the ideas that are involved in change since truth or logos is revealed over time. This however leaves us with a notion of pure change and how to characterise it: the aporetic question par excellence.
I remember the strangeness of the thought “The world is all that is the case” when I first heard these words in a Philosophy of Education class, in the nineteen seventies, in England. I had applied to and been accepted at a reputable teacher training college in Exeter after completing my education in a Grammar school and working as an insurance clerk for just over a year.
The lecturer, Jude Sutton, paused upon saying these words and waited expectantly, almost dramatically, for a few seconds before heaving a sigh of abandonment and continuing the lecture.
“The world is the totality of facts and not of things” (Wittgenstein)” was then written on the board, and the lecturer rounded upon us like an animal defending its territory and waited expectantly, again without result, before saying:
“Perhaps people of your generation believe that the world is made of sugar, spice, all things nice, slugs snails puppy dog tails. Or perhaps you all believe the world is made of many things, ships, shoes, ceiling wax, cabbages and kings.”
One of the students attending the lecture felt the need to ease the tension and responded by calling out
“Everyone knows that knowledge can only be composed of facts—facts are what the world is made of. Facts are the atoms of the world”
The lecturer paused to consider what was said and finally responded:
“And what if everyone in the world believing such a thing is confused and what if confusion causes great world catastrophes such as world wars and the young logical atomist Dr. Ludwig Wittgenstein, from Vienna, from the same school Mr. Adolf Hitler attended, was just wrong”
He paused and then continued
“And what would a fact, or this so called atom of the world, look like?”
The student felt the need to defend himself but did not know how, and responded in a less confident voice
“A fact is a fact”
“ Let me ask you all, these questions. Does this world you are thinking about change? If it does, is change one fact or many facts? Does the whole world change when something changes in it or does it remain the same and only parts of it change? Is all change of one kind, or are there different kinds of change? Surely if a change is to occur there must at the very least be something that changes. We talk about the atoms of the world as if they are responsible for the formation of these things and perhaps everything that happens everywhere. But what if there are processes of change occurring, within these indivisibles, which are partly responsible for their behavior when they do whatever they do. And if this is so, does this not commit us to thinking that these so-called indivisibles are in fact divisible. And if this is so, does not the process of dividing up the world seem an infinite one that could never be completed. What, ladies and gentlemen, if the world is infinitely divisible and is therefore infinitely conceptualisable or what if the world is alternately conceptualisable as a particle or a wave and facts depend on the structure of the minds of the humans thinking about them. Or what if facts are formed by many generations of thinkers discussing them?”
I raised my hand to ask a question:
Could one not say that the structures of our minds are explanatory facts which psychologists will discover one day, and could one not say that sociologists or anthropologists will discover the facts of social explanations that explain other facts we claim to know.? I think I agree with Dr. Wittgenstein.
The lecturer, Dr. Jude Sutton, looked inquisitively at me before answering:
Well, let me firstly inform you that Dr. Wittgenstein did not in his later work agree with himself but even in his early work from which I am quoting, namely, the “Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus”, he tried to acknowledge the importance of the mind, the self, and the importance of aesthetic, social, ethical and religious values..”
I raised my hand again to follow up my question, Jude Sutton’s expression changed from an expression of curiosity to an expression of mild amusement:
“What do you mean that he tried to acknowledge?
“I mean that he said that the Self is outside the world and that all other values flowing from the self such as aesthetic, social, ethical and religious values are also outside the world..”
“Surely a value is just another fact reflected in what we say and what we do?”
“That would entail that there two different classes of facts: one for the truthful account of events that occur in the world, and one for the kind of event that incorporates actions and persons who live very concretely in our world and not outside it”
The class looked confused and began to fidget impatiently. Jude smiled and continued:
These ideas are the most difficult and important you will ever encounter during your very privileged and sheltered lives. The kinds of questions I am raising are philosophical questions, what the Greeks called aporetic questions.”
He wrote a-poria on the board and continued:
“A-poria in Greek means “difficult journey”. Dr. Wittgenstein left Vienna and its culture of looking for the facts and made his difficult journey to England, to Manchester University, to study the dynamics of the aeroplane. Perhaps he was thinking that a birds-eye view of the world would reveal the nature of the world. Perhaps he was not thinking at all, some would say. Whilst at Manchester he became interested in the tools he was using to solve concrete engineering problems relating to air-flight. He moved to Trinity College Cambridge to study Logic and Mathematics under Bertrand Russell who was convinced that Logic would solve all the problems of Philosophy. Wittgenstein, under Russell, left the world of concrete problems and became genuinely puzzled by how ideas of the facts, of what is true, seemed to form an idea of the world as a whole, the totality as he called it, and he wanted to investigate this phenomenon. Let me give you an analogy of what he meant when he said the self is outside the world. When we wake up in the morning and open our eyes, a visual field appears. Now to a consistent thinker who has decided for his definition of the world as a totality of facts, and has decided that the truth of the facts are determined by scientific observation, that is, by someone using their visual fields to discover the facts, an obvious problem arises. A scientist is bound by a scientific oath, to use the scientific method of observation to look for the causes of phenomena and the cause of our visual fields are obviously our eyes, which lie outside our visual fields. So unless the scientist is prepared to give up his commitment to observation as the means that he uses to acquire and verify his knowledge, we have an aporetic problem, a logical problem. Some would say the scientist is faced with a contradiction in his reasoning. This problem occurs also at a higher level than that of the analogy of the visual field. If one says that it is a fact that the self and its consciousness lies behind our explorations of the world and our suffering in the world, then I should be able to observe this self and verify this fact. Yet this appears to not be logically possible. Even the Buddhists realized that you would be using your self to find your self and that the suffering self would no longer be suffering if it was exploring the world. You can see that these problems are not easy to solve. “
A student studying History raised their hands:
“But I don’t understand your references to Hitler and the War.”
“That was partly to arouse your desire to explore these issues but it was a serious suggestion relating to the terrible events that have occurred this century: the events of two world wars, the dropping of two atomic bombs on civilian populations and a cold war in which there is a serious threat of a nuclear holocaust between two non philosophical superpowers. I don’t mean to imply that Mr. Hitler was bright enough to formulate a theoretical definition of the world. I mean merely to suggest that he came from an Austrian and a European culture that had influenced the world with its blind faith in science. The assumption that the world is the totality of facts may lie behind everything we have suffered so far this century.”
“Surely the causes are more specific and diverse. Hitler was not sane”, the student responded.
“Perhaps it is a fact that Hitler was insane. Even if that is a truth determined by Psychology on the basis of available historical evidence, this still does not explain the facts, as we know them. Were all of the Germans carrying out the orders to murder the Jews, insane? I don’t believe that we are dealing with the matter of mass insanity and anyone who maintains that understands neither Psychology nor Philosophy. Let me take a concrete example. Eichmann was tried and hanged 14 years ago in Jerusalem. He lied but not compulsively. When confronted with evidence proving that he lied, he acknowledged the truth. Psychologists at his trial noted flat affect in his voice and lack of remorse for what he had done but he was not diagnosed as insane. Hanna Arendt attended his trial and read the 3500 pages documenting his testimony and wrote a book in which she definitely stated that Eichmann was neither insane nor evil. In her judgment, Eichmann had never been taught to think about value. He went to the same school as Hitler and no doubt left with the assumption that the world is merely the totality of facts. For him the world did not contain ultimate values such as “Murder is wrong” and according to Arendt, he did not know how to talk about what he had done. She referred to this phenomenon as the “banality of evil” which angered many Jews at the time.
I raised my hand:
“If Wittgenstein claimed that the self was the source of value and value lay outside the world did he not acknowledge the importance of value?”
“Good reasoning. Wittgenstein had said and believed to the end of his life that an investigation of language is necessary to answer aporetic questions. In the “Tractatus” however, he located the importance of language in the self and claimed that the limits of my language are the limits of my world. He claimed that values could not be talked about but only shown in our language. This appears solipsistic and suggests that our values are not inter-subjective, not objective. It was only in his later posthumous work, ”Philosophical Investigations”, that he realized that the self existed in a public and historical world and that language was public and historical. That is, he understood finally that we could talk objectively about values and claim with justification that “Murder is wrong”.
Jude paused and noted with satisfaction the interest he had aroused and left the lecture room abruptly. The group gradually dispersed leaving me looking transfixed at what had been written on the blackboard: “The world is all that is the case”
I remember feeling that this lecture was different from all the others we had experienced. It felt as if the lecturer had reversed the polarity of the world within the lecture-room and everyone was strangely looking for where north was instead of using it to fly off into their own private worlds. The atmosphere was loaded with anticipation and every thought was like a sudden bolt of lightning striking and splitting our world apart in the name of something ineffable, something which could not be talked about but which everyone mysteriously knew or thought they knew. This experience felt like an awakening, like stepping off from a rolling, swaying ship onto the rough hard ground of real, solid earth.
Professor Smith began this lecture series with the thesis that Political Philosophy is about “Regimes” and he then proceeded to support his position via lengthy accounts of the Political Philosophies of Plato and Aristotle both of whom would have denied his thesis. Both Philosophers would have maintained that Political Philosophy is about “The Good”, “Epistémé and self-understanding”. Aristotle may have added that knowledge of the good requires an adventure of reflection into the realm of the divine and the holy. Smith appears to regard the political realm as having more to do with technai, a realm in which straightforward questions are posed which have straightforward solutions. This, of course, is a different world to the metaphysical realm that Aristotle is referring to when he argues that the philosopher’s task is to pose aporetic questions. In the realm of technai practical reasoning takes the form of firstly, calculating particular means to achieve particular given ends and secondly it uses judgment to determine something general about the particular.
The faculties of understanding and reason, on the other hand, are used in reasoning about the good, in general, and formal terms. These faculties do not function in the straightforward manner in which the faculty of judgment does.
In the use of judgment, the mind submits to the world like a student of nature in contrast to the use of understanding and reason where the mind is more actively thinking like a judge, reflectively, about the laws that will be imposed upon the world. When a political judge or a statesman considers the phenomena of reality as he must do when people act either in accordance with or in contravention of the law he does not waver for a moment in the cases of contravention of the law and consider the abandonment of the law as would a student of nature exploring the world tentatively with his tentative concepts. The political judge or statesman is not a student, he is not building a theory but rather using a conceptual system to make judgments from the point of view of a political theory: If all promises ought to be kept and Jack promised Jill to pay the money back that was lent to him, then Jack ought to pay the money back. The ought in these statements are categorical and signify the necessity that follows from the objective and universal law that All promises ought to be kept. A student confronted with the phenomenon of Jack breaking his promise might be led to the conclusion that the law is illegitimate or false because it is not universal but this would be to misunderstand the peculiar universality and necessity of the ought in the sphere of “the good” and ethics. The field of human conduct is manifold and varied but when it is concerned with answering the Kantian question “What ought I to do?” in the sense Kant intended, we will find that both the political and moral realm has a law like structure. The political judge on the grounds of this structure will steadfastly question the transgressor Jack with a view to obtaining a full understanding of the situation. Once that understanding is reached, i.e. once it is clear that Jack never intended to keep the promise he made the judge then uses his knowledge of the law to judge that Jack’s intention and reasoning is flawed and that he ought to pay the money back in accordance with the law (that all promises ought to be kept). The judge or statesman(who is in the business of making and keeping promises) will not be impressed with the argument “But people do not always keep their promises”. His response to this argument will be simply to insist that he knows that it might be the case that people sometimes do not keep their promises but that it nevertheless ought not to be the case.: they ought to keep promises. The law here, in other words, is a standard that is being used much like the standard metre bar in Paris. The bar itself cannot be said to be one metre long since it is that which we use to determine the length of a metre. Similarly, we cannot ask sensibly whether the law which itself is used to determine what is right and wrong is right or wrong in itself. We can, however, as Kant did point out the logical consequences of abandoning the law which in practical terms would mean abandoning the institution of promising in our communities.
Life in a community is living in a field of desires. Both Kant and Aristotle in their different ways believed that desires need to be shaped and organized in accordance with the telos of “the ought” and in accordance with the principles and value of areté(virtue):i.e. doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. This requires a stable organized soul which Aristotle characterizes in terms of “character” Wisdom is a virtue requiring the understanding of oneself and one’s world. Wisdom is manifested in the wise man being able to reason both theoretically and practically about the nature of man and the nature of his community. In Aristotle’s terms, the wise man will reason well about the good, the true, the beautiful, prime matter and prime form(the Philosophers god). Included in his practical reasoning will be reasoning about the laws of the city. The wise man’s reasoning will precede the judgments he makes and deductively supports the judgments that have been made. Aristotle also distinguishes between substantive justice and procedural or formal justice. Substantive justice requires a general understanding of metaphysics, epistémé and ethics and procedural justice will fall into the realm of technai(particular cases must be handled in accordance with the rule: similar cases have to be treated similarly). For Aristotle, Political Philosophy is substantially ethical and contains the wise law-like statements of the statesman and the judge but it is also technical, i.e. composed of particular judgments which follow from both the law like structures and the particular facts of the particular cases that are being judged. When one is in the realm of the law one is, in Aristotle’s eyes, in the realm of the divine or the sacred. One must take the law seriously and respect its wisdom. Furthermore if one organizes the field of one’s desires in accordance with the principles of areté, one can look forward personally to a flourishing life. This is a judgment about a particular life based on the law-like structure of the virtues in one’s soul.
Kant, we are told by Hannah Arendt, did not produce a political Philosophy. This is a curious statement to make given the following facts:
1.) that our system of human rights is probably based on Kant’s formulations of the Categorical Imperative and
2. The United Nations was suggested by Kant in one of his essays on Political Philosophy.
Arendt wishes to make the case that we should look to Kant’s remarks on Judgment if we are to apply Kantian ideas to the realm of the political. For Arendt, the understanding and the kind of practical reasoning being used in ethics and the formulation and defense of the categorical imperative are irrelevant to the particularities one encounters in the political realm. This means that Judgment cannot command categorically what one ought and ought not to do. It can, in Kantian terms only ask and hope for an agreement by speaking in a universal voice as one does in our judgments of beauty. The grounds of our judgment then become obscurely the non-conceptual common sensibility(the feelings and emotions) we share with all humans. That is instead of beginning in our reasoning with an ought statement, we begin with an is-statement about common feelings and sensibility and then somehow mysteriously jump to the ought conclusions that are required by political judgments, ignoring logical restraints associated with the naturalistic fallacy. The categorical nature of the understanding is implied by the phrase “Categorical Imperative” and reasoning that about ends in itself rather than means to ends is also what Kant thinks of as “categorical”.
Professor Smith also fixes upon this notion of particularity and transports us into the realm of judgment and away from the law-like structure of the political and ethical realms. Sensibility unregulated by understanding and reason will for both Kant and Aristotle stay forever mired in the swamp of particulars. Although in judgment we are saying something about something the subject of the judgment is always a particular. Looking at man as a particular and excluding understanding and reason will only result in an individual story where individual desires or facts reign. Using such judgments results in a history of particular events which we may find interesting or even beautiful but which we can only tentatively judge with our “universal” voices. The generality is not achieved by recasting our actor’s role in a society for society too can be thought about in the particular, as being a polis situated in a particular place and at a particular time. We begin to think categorically only when the major premise of the argument begins “All Societies are…” or just in case Kant is right in his claim that no society is completely free and completely just the argument rather should begin “All societies ought….”
Smith is cognisant of the fact that Political science or Philosophy is in a considerable state of disarray but he mistakenly thinks that Aristotle and Kant have contributed to the chaotic situation he experiences in the Universities. He refers to Aristotle but fails to pursue Aristotle’s categorical path where the laws of reason shape and organize mans desires. He refers to Kant but fails to pursue the hylomorphic quality of Kant’s theorizing. An individual Man, for Kant, is only potentially rational. Rationality will eventually actualize in the species because man’s desires are so unorganized that they need a master to organize them. Man understands what is right, he understands the virtues and admires them but his self-interested desires are always working to avoid the law-like structure of our political and ethical communities by making an exception of himself. This is why he needs a master. He lives in the field of desires or sensibility where pleasure reigns. Most men, as a matter of fact, argues Kant, have their own self-interest firmly fixed before their eyes. The laws of ethics and the laws of politicians are aimed at regulating the consequences of this pursuit of self-interest. Looking at this situation in one way provokes the description that justice is merely the regulation or distribution of pleasures and pains(benefits and burdens) and that is a correct description from a third person point of view which avoids the first person question of the role of self-understanding in this process: the role, that is of mans awareness of what he ought to do and what he ought to be. It is in the spirit of this self-understanding that Kant claims that a society in which sensibility is unregulated by either understanding or reason gives rise to the judgment that life in such a society is “melancholically haphazard”.
Arendt and Smith are almost on the same page. Both seem to criticize Aristotle for placing bios theoretikos above bios politikos, of placing the contemplative life of the eternal and universal above the political life of the sensible and particular. Arendt, in the context of this debate presents the following quote from Pascal(talking about Plato and Aristotle) in her “Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy”:
“They were honest men, like others, laughing with their friends, and when they wanted to divert themselves they wrote, “The Laws” or “The Politics” to amuse themselves. That part of their life was the least philosophic and the least serious. The most philosophic was to live simply and quietly. If they wrote on politics it was as if laying down rules for a lunatic asylum: if they presented the appearance of speaking of great matters it was because they knew that the madmen to whom they were speaking thought they were kings or emperors.”
This may not exactly capture the spirit in which both authors wrote about politics but it does point us to the reason my Kant referred to life in society as “melancholically haphazard”. What was there to be melancholic about? We know that Plato thought that the final the final separation of the soul from the body was the moment of death and that the only response to such a state of affairs was to do Philosophy until the inevitable happened. This touches upon the great issue of the value of life. Kant raises 4 questions by way of defining Philosophy thus uniquely defining Philosophy by the questions it asks but all 4 questions raise the Platonic question of the value of life. The 4 questions are “What can I know?, What ought I to do? , What can I hope for?, and What is man?” His answers to two of these questions that one ought to do what is right and if one does so one can hope for a flourishing life raise the question that Aristotle sought to answer, namely “What is the flourishing life?” Aristotle’s answer was the contemplative life but he must have had in mind the Delphic oracles answer to this same question which referred to “taking on the colour of the dead”. Smith avoids according religion a prominent position in his reflections on bios politikos and thus avoids Aristotle’s answer to the question of the value of a flourishing life. He does, however, in his 25th ad final lecture return to Aristotle’s Ethics and asks whether “patriotism” might be a virtue located on a continuum of excess and deficiency the one pole of which would be nationalism and the other pole Kantian Cosmopolitanism: a strange ending given the almost complete absence of Kantian reflections in the rest of his lectures. Smith points out that an important consequence of Cosmopolitanism is that there is no significant difference between human beings because their humanity is the primary normative characteristic of their being. He goes on to suggest:
“This is the Cosmopolitan ethics of humanity which could only hold true of a confederation of Republics overseen or ruled by international law– a league of nations.”
Smith Pursues his Aristotelian discussion of whether patriotism could be a virtue with Carl Smitt’s reflections from “The Concept of the Political” in which it is claimed that bios politikos is the antagonistic life a dangerous animal leads. This antagonistic life is founded upon a Plemarchean theory of justice which claims that one ought to do good to one’s friends inside the polis and harm to one’s enemies outside the polis. Smith comments upon this in the following manner:
“The political life contains the most intense and extreme antagonism. Friend and enemy are the inescapable categories through which we experience the political: Athens versus Sparta. All attempts to rights, free trade etc are attempts to avoid the above fact.”
Smith points out that the “Friend-enemy” schema would be self-contradictory because if it also operated on the domestic front we would be dealing with a divided city. He then goes on to criticize the Kantian position:
“Kant confuses politics with morality. Kant wishes to transcend the sovereign state with known international rules of justice. If Schmitt believed man to be the dangerous animal Kant believed him to be the rule-following animal. Kant’s desire to transcend the state with a kind of international future is both naive and anti-political. If Hobbes was right when he said that covenants without a sword are but words, then on Kant’s view the question becomes, who would enforce these international norms of force. Kant’s conception of global justice is a wish for a world without states…International bodies like the UN have been notoriously ineffective in curbing and restraining the aggressive behaviour of states and International courts of justice have been highly selective in what they choose to condemn”
It is true that Kant deliberately and systematically relates ethics to politics and demands that the latter conform to the norms of the former. Statesmen have to keep treaties. Countries have to honour treaties. Kant would in this context certainly have disagreed with Hobbes on the question of combining covenants with the sword. Violence may be one of the terminal points of instrumental reasoning because this system of reasoning has no moral principle which it can use to judge the morality of the chains of ethically and logically unrelated events which defy the double effect principle. Given the fact that the dignity of man is what provoked Kant’s ethical reflections in the first place and also the fact that freedom and autonomy are central concerns of his theory as is the categorical nature of the ought system of concepts he would have firmly maintained that one ought not to coerce agents to keep their promises. If self-understanding is a part of the ethical adventure then words are the “swords” that one uses in the discourse with oneself over the Socratic issue of whether one can live oneself or not. International organizations such as the UN are Kantian to the core. They expect states to impose norms of justice upon themselves and the Hobbesian sword is sometimes used when all other alternatives are exhausted but the more likely route of persuasion will be sanctions enforced by the world community which send the message “If we cannot live with you how will you live with yourself”. Kant did not necessarily believe as Marx did that the state would necessarily wither away. If he did his concept of a league of nations would have been self-contradictory. States would not be dissolved by a world government because he believed such a government would be necessarily tyrannical. His concept of a kingdom of ends is Aristotelian in the sense that it is a construction of bios theoretikos and the Philosophers conception of God must be included in the summum bonum of a flourishing life. Smith is a secular political Philosopher. He follows Aristotle but only so far and he refuses to follow Kant at all. The kingdom of ends is a humanistic idea and Hobbes’ position is about as far as one can get from Humanism. Kant may have believed that when our ethical and humanistic cares and commitments are no longer operative(in a state of nature or a state of war) politics and legislation can step in to try and regulate matters. Kant was well aware of the fact that the unsocial sociability and antagonism between men can be difficult to regulate with moral laws. Smith’s remarks on the efficacy of the UN flies in the face of the facts. The UN is an incredibly complex structure of organizations and many of these organizations are contributing to world peace and stability on a daily basis by doing work which typically produces long-term results. Popular media likes to focus on the security council and the failures to reach agreements and this often dramatizes conflicts unnecessarily. If the UN is Kantian to the core than we should realize that the media presents the news of the day, politicians think in terms of the duration of government between elections, historians think in terms of centuries, oracles probably thought in terms of millennia, Philosophers like Aristotle and Kant, however, think in terms of hundreds of thousands of years. The kingdom of ends is one hundred thousand years away which conceivably could imply that although progress is being made in straightening out the crooked timber of humanity that progress will be necessarily slow.
Smith attempts to extract the truth from his dialectical opposites and claims somewhat surprisingly that America is the embodiment of the Aristotelian golden mean principle:
“Although neither extreme view is complete in itself the question is how can they be combined? These two are very much combined already in the American regime. America is the first truly modern nation– a nation founded upon the principles of modern philosophy….Our founding documents are dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
And yet relatively shortly after the founding of this Golden State it was torn apart in a civil war exactly over this issue of equality of master and slave. A war which by the way did not end the subjugation of one race by another. Smith is here committing the naturalistic fallacy, at least as far as his argument relating to Cosmopolitanism is concerned. Kant appeals to Cosmopolitanism as a teleological concept and claims nothing more than that it is the long-term goal that man ought to strive for. There is, he argues, progress toward the fulfillment of this goal but there are no guarantees that we will arrive at the terminus of our striving.
Smith, as part of a discussion of the issue of the universal versus the particular in Politics, appeals to History and the struggle for power:
“it concerns the political uses of power or the two great ends to which power can be put: freedom and empire. Political philosophy is reduced to political history. Both presuppose one another and are in some relation to the universal and particular. The Political Philosopher examines the underlying principles of the regime and the political historian examines the way these principles have been applied in practice. Where the philosopher is concerned with the best regime–that which is best according to underlying principles, the historian is concerned with what is best for a particular people at a particular time and place, Athens, France, America.”
It is not certain that Aristotle or Kant would have appreciated the above account of the distinction between the universal and the particular in relation to Philosophy and History. Certainly, Aristotle in his work on Poetry contrasted History and Poetry in terms of the particular and the universal but he would certainly have appreciated the historians search for the material and efficient causes of the particular events studied and surely some true generalizations could be the result of such investigations. But the question to be asked here is “Are historians relativistic in their judgments about what is best?” This sounds more like poetry. Aristotle would not have subscribed to any view which attempted to relativise the idea of the best.
For Kant, the historian must be concerned withnhistorical truth and this in turn must have some relation to the notion of progress and the postulated telos of Cosmopolitanism, an end state which may or may not be reached and in relation to which the state may or may not “wither away”. The events of history would be susceptible to both causal and teleological explanations and these explanations would not be subject to the criteria of identity one applies to judgments about particular events or particular cases. Indeed for Kant such judgments would require more general universal premises relating to underlying principles, if they were to generate the kind of knowledge we expect from history.
Professor Smith concludes his lecture series by asking where the teahers of these underlying principles are to be found. Not in most Universities he claims because the respect for tradition has been lost:
“Modern Professors of History often appear to teach everything but a proper respect for tradition. In my own field, civic education has been replaced by game theory– a theory that regards politics as a market place where individual preferences are formed and utilities are maximized. Rather than teaching us to be citizens, the new political science teaches us to be rational actors who exercise preferences. By reducing all politics to choice and all choice to preference the new political science is forced to accord legitimacy to every preference, however vile, base or indecent it may be.”
Smith acutely touches upon a major issue in education: the colonization of the humanities by firstly science and then the science of economics. His complaint is somewhat puzzling in the light of the fact that game theory would seem to be a logical consequence of the rejection of the relation of ethicsto politics that Kant proposes. It would also seem to be a logical consequence of the modernism that the very modern USA embraces.
“The Newton of the Moral Universe”, “The product of the ancien regime” and “The man from Geneva” are all phrases Professor Smith uses to describe our next Political Scientist: Jean Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau is a figure of the Enlightenment and even in that era he must be regarded as the most incandescent of the thinkers after Immanuel Kant. Kant, we know, was significantly influenced by the writings of Rousseau. Prior to reading Rousseau Kant was focussing principally on Theoretical Philosophy and the modification of Cartesian rationalism and subsequent to that a defense of Rationalism against Hume who he saluted with the words “Hume awoke me from my dogmatic slumbers”. Kant’s Categorical imperative is probably a formalistic characterization of Rousseau’s position which was attempting to criticize the earlier positions of Aristotle Hobbes and Locke. Man, argues Rousseau, is not a rational animal as Aristotle would have us believe but rather a sensitive compassionate animal who cares about his fellows in a state of nature to an extent difficult to fathom upon observing his behaviour in contemporary society. Already we can perhaps suspect Rousseau of resembling Diogenes, sensing in the dark recesses of European society a discontentment which Rousseau both describes and explains brilliantly. The theories of Hobbes and Locke did not, he argued, improve our understanding of the fact that “Man was born free but everywhere in chains” simply because these philosophers failed to appreciate the complexity of what they referred to as “the state of nature”. The following is Professor Smiths introduction:
“What did he believe? Was he a revolutionary? He believed that people in their collective capacity are the only legitimate source of sovereignty and “Man is born free but everywhere in chains”. Did his writings, then, seek to release us from the bonds of society as it appears to do in the second discourse “On Inequality”. His writings provide the base for romantic individualism: a celebration of the simplicity of peasant life and rural life. He helps to bring to completion the intellectual movement we know as the Enlightenment whilst at the same time being its severest critic. He defended the savage against civilized man and took the side of the poor against the elite. The Second Discourse is a conjectural history, a philosophical reconstruction of history but not of what has actually happened in the past: it is a history of what had to have happened for humans to have achieved their current condition.”
This introduction(brilliant that it is) does not quite, in my opinion, capture the full historical significance of Rousseau’s work for the History of Philosophy in general and Political Philosophy, Philosophical Psychology and Ethics in particular. Kant was not particularly impressed with romantic and poetic images of savage and oppressed man or the plight of any class in the “battle for civilization”. He did, however, see and appreciate the extent to which Rousseau’s speculations, descriptions and explanations would fit into his metaphysical and epistemological claims about man and his relation to Reality. The very terms “”romantic” and “conjectural” belie the power of philosophy to, as Kant puts it, in his “Conjectural Beginnings of human history”, “fill in the gaps in the record” For Kant part of the record is contained in the Bible, the book Rousseau would not let Emile read as part of his early adult education
firstly because of the fear of attachment to other men’s opinions, fear of dependence upon other opinions, and secondly because such works excite the imagination unnecessarily in terms of desires, hopes, and fears. The only book Emile is allowed to read is Robinson Crusoe which seems to be approved of by Rousseau because as Alan Bloom points out in his introduction to his translation:
“Robinson Crusoe is a solitary man in a state of nature, outside of civil society and unaffected by the deeds and opinions of men. His sole concern is his preservation and comfort. All his strength and reason are dedicated to these ends, and utility is his guiding principle, the principle that organizes all his knowledge. The world he sees contains neither gods nor heroes: there are no conventions. Neither the memory of Eden nor the hope of salvation affects his judgment… Robinson Crusoe is a kind of bible of the new sciences of nature and reveals man’s true original condition.”
Rousseau’s work Emile impressed Kant enormously but it does sometimes remind one of the lonely soul of Descartes “Meditations” and the citizens of Hobbesian and Lockean societies striving to lead instrumental lives of comfortable self-preservation. Aristotle, another so-called authority disliked by Rousseau, begins his political inquiries with the formation of the family and points to its lack of self-sufficiency. The starting point of the Kantian account is the Biblical first family (Adam Eve, Cain and Abel) who are clearly capable of discourse and thought which they had to acquire. Kant gives an account of how this process of civilization begins in the comparison of foodstuffs which prior to the functioning of the thought process is done instinctively. This comparison, Kant claims, is “beyond the bounds of instinctual knowledge”. He notes, interestingly, that these processes of thought and reasoning are aided by the imagination which also has the power, according to Kant and the Greek philosophers, to create “artificial and unnecessary desires” which in their turn generate a sense of luxuriousness that absolutely alienates our natural powers. In discussing the powers of the imagination Kant discusses the Socratic/Platonic/Freudian theme of sexuality. For instinct, sexuality is a periodic phenomenon which disappears as quickly as it appears. Reason and imagination struggle to achieve a mastery over the impulse and the transition from animal desire to human love were made possible by a moderation of the sexual impulse via the discipline of refusal which in its turn enhanced the value of love, the binding force of a family. This in its turn, according to Kant:
“enables man to prepare himself for distant aims according to his role as a human being. But at the same time, it is also the most inexhaustible source of cares and troubles, caused by the uncertainty of the future–cares and troubles of which animals are altogether free. Man, compelled to support himself, his wife and future children, foresaw the ever-increasing hardships of labour. Woman foresaw the troubles to which nature had subjected her sex and those additional ones to which a man, being stronger than her, would subject her…..Both foresaw with fear…death”(Conjectural beginnings..Kant p58)
Once this point is reached, Kant argues, instead of appreciating the power of reason the family begin to fear it as the cause of all ills and a decision is made to live in the present and vicariously through the lives of one’s children. Yet, in the course of a life made even more difficult by the absence of reason many artificial and unnecessary desires arise, occupying the mind to the extent that even death is forgotten in the process:
“mans departure from that paradise which his reason represents as the first abode of his species was nothing but the transition from an uncultured, merely animal condition to the state of humanity, from bondage to instinct to rational control–in a word from the tutelage of nature to the state of freedom.”(Conjectural beginnings… Kant p59)
Kant’s complete account of the transition of the species from being slaves of nature(“in chains”) to being masters of our destiny is meant to take place in a series of complex stages over extremely long periods of time(100,000 years) but it is clear that during this process the common good will be constituted as a concern of the human species and thus of all individuals belonging to the human species. This is a different more optimistic account than the one we find in Rousseau who has a more pessimistic analysis of the human condition and its Discontents. For Rousseau man led the life of a noble savage or a solitary Robinson Crusoe in the state of nature which in his view was transformed the moment men began to gaze at each other and gather around huts and trees for the company. The gaze must have been experienced as a questioning of one’s moral value and resulted in many different forms of artificial strivings motivated by the imagination in order to gain recognition. Included in this “work of the imagination” is the transformation of natural judgment into artificial and mythical interpretations of the world:
“the one who sang or danced the best, the most handsome, the strongest, the most adroit and the most eloquent became the most highly regarded and this was the first step toward inequality and at the same time toward vice. From these first preferences were born vanity and contempt on the one hand and shame and envy on the other.”(Second Discourse “On Inequality”-Rousseau)
This does not necessarily contradict the Kantian account which also bears the traces of the collective memory of the Philosophy of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and the rejection of the picture of a man living a solitary life in a state of nature as a starting point for political or educational beginnings. Yet the trace of Rousseau’s Emile is present in the Kantian reflections of the moral individual on the quality of the maxims of his actions involved in all ethical decision making. The atom of the ethical system is the individual using his freedom to decide what to do. This atom joins with the rest of the moral universe however when he reasons, not in accordance with instrumental hypothetical imperatives but in universalistic non-relativistic categorical terms in which humanity and knowledge about humanity are treated as ends in themselves. Kant’s individual is not the instrumental Robinson seeking a safe comfortable Hobbesian haven for himself. He is part of an ideal network of moral agents and thinkers striving for the common good and doing what they ought to do without coming together in the Agora to discuss the matter. This reminds one of the moments in Emile when he is lost and hungry in the woods and uses the science of astronomy to find his way home. This for Rousseau was what science was for, an instrument for a comfortable life. For the Greeks, all knowledge was an end in itself and they honoured this status with the creation of schools like the Academy and the Lyceum which lay symbolically in grounds far from the madding discontented crowd. Although one does have to admit that the hypothetical structure of our modern empirical, anti-Aristotelian natural science does lend itself to Rousseau’s account. Aristotle’s categorical characterization of the kinds, principles, and causes of change is a stark contrast to the more tentative hypotheses of our modern community of scientists doing their science in the scientific Agora as part of the search for fame and recognition in the spirit of “amour-propre”. The picture of an independent thinker like Socrates and Aristotle refusing to be influenced by the madding crowd and being guided by reason alone is a picture that Kant certainly would have appreciated as part of the larger vision of the examined or contemplative life but it is not certain that this was Rousseau’s vision in the education of Emile. Certainly, Socrates’ communion with his daemon and his deference to the gods of the community would prevent Rousseau using him as an exemplary figure to be studied. Kant, as we know, was also religious and found a place for religion in his critical philosophy: a religion that did not instill a fear of dying and thereby mobilize the imagination into the realm of unnecessary and superstitious belief about the after-life or pursuit of power and riches “so as to forestall death’s assaults”(Bloom, Introduction to Rousseau’s Emile). Death as imagined perverts the natural formation of consciousness. This is Rousseau’s clear and distinct message in Emile’s education which is to allow his natural courage in the face of death not to be tainted by opinions to the contrary: opinions that carry unnatural and illusory images of death. Bloom puts the matter succinctly:
“The simple lesson is that man must rely on himself and recognize and accept necessity….Although fear of death makes it difficult to accept necessity, amour-propre is what makes it difficult to recognize necessity. This is the murky passion that accounts for the “interesting” relationships men have with one another, and it is the keystone of Rousseau’s psychological teaching.”(p10).
In this context, Rousseau discusses the meaning of a baby’s tears of discomfort and cries/screams of help in response to some pressing need which normally immediately bring an adult who relieves the discomfort by meeting the need causing the condition. The baby can learn from this Rousseau argues that his will can instrumentally bring about the satisfaction of his desires by the use of others as a mean to his ends. This is the moment when such children lose their independence and become dependent on their ability to manipulate others to do their bidding. Here a desire to control others is born, emotions connected to the use of power emerge. Bloom describes the matter in the following terms:
“His concern with his physical needs is transformed into a passion to control the will of adults. His tears become commands and frequently no longer are related to real needs but only to testing his power. He cannot stop it from raining by crying but he can make an adult change his mind. he becomes aware of will, and he knows that wills, as opposed to necessity, are subject to command, that they are changing. He quickly learns that for his life, control over men is more useful than adaptation to things…Every wish that is not fulfilled could, in his imagination, be fulfilled if the adult only willed it that way. His experience of his own will teaches him that others’ wills are selfish and plastic. He, therefore, seeks for power over men rather than for the use of things. He becomes a skillful psychologist, able to manipulate others….the child learns to see the intention to do wrong in that which opposes him. He becomes an avenger….His natural and healthy self-love and self-esteem (amour de soi) give way to a self-love relative to other men’s opinions of him: henceforth he can esteem himself only if others esteem him. Ultimately he makes the impossible demand that others care for him more than they care for themselves. The most interesting of psychological phenomena is this doubling or dividing of self-love: it is one of the distinctively few human phenomena(no animal can be insulted): and from it flow anger, pride, vanity, resentment, revenge, jealousy, indignation, competition, slavishness, humility, capriciousness, rebelliousness and almost all the other passions that give the poets their themes. In these first seeds of amour-propre, as seen in tears, one can recognize the source of the human problem.”(Blooms Introduction to Emile p11).
The tears being referred to above are instrumental crocodile tears. Rousseau is venturing into the sphere of Anthropology or what today we might call Philosophical Psychology. The moment referred to above precedes the institution of property which according to Hobbes and Locke it is the duty of government to protect and keep safe. Smith comments on these points in the following manner:
“For Rousseau just as important as the idea of property is the attitude and beliefs shaped by the inequalities produced by wealth and power. Rousseau, like Plato, finds his voice when discussing the complexities of the human soul.He talks about a disposition toward inequality which is untranslatable and he called “amour-propre”. It is related to a whole range of psychological characteristics such as pride, vanity, conceit egocentrism–and it only arises in a society as the true cause of all our discontent. Rousseau distinguishes it from other dispositions, e.g. amour de soi-meme, which is a sort of self-love, a natural sentiment which moves all animals to be vigilant in the cause of their own preservation and which is directed in many by reason, modified by pity and can produce humanity and virtue, but “amour-propre” is a very different kind of sentiment that is relative, artificial and born in society. It leads an individual to value himself more than anyone else and inspires in men all the evil they cause one another and which is the true source of honour(the desire to be esteemed and recognized by others). For Hobbes, this sentiment of vanity, pride,and glory is natural to us, it is a natural desire to dominate. For Rousseau it comes about after the state of nature… how could pride have arisen in a state of nature which is defined by Hobbes as solitary?”
Smith goes on to point out that Rousseau can see the positive aspect of this passion of amour-propre, namely, “the desire to be accorded some kind of recognition or respect by those around us”. This aspect, he reminds us “is at the root of our sense of justice”. The problem with this passion is that it is a law unto itself because if this esteem is not given voluntarily it is seen as contempt. Smith refers in this context interestingly to the international controversy over the cartoon of Mohammad drawn by a Danish artist and claims that the passion of amour-propre lay at the root of the cartoons lack of respect for and recognition of the Islamic Religion. Smith claims the protestors had a point. We in the West claimed that the cartoon was not a political act on the grounds of the way in which we separate politics from religion. We do not require of our governments any protection for the practice of any particular religion nor do we require that governments ensure that any particular religious view is respected. Smith concludes this discussion almost prophetically with:
“Amour propre is the desire to be esteemed and to have your values and points of view esteemed by those around you: it is, in fact, a violent and uncontrollable passion..So much of its civilization and discontent grows out of this passion.”
Rousseau, however, might have shared some of the animus if not the particular motivation of the Islamic protest. According to him, amour-propre plays a role in the establishment of all governments and inequalities are instituted. The relation between people and their government are as a rule flawed relationships. Smith summarizes his Rousseau’s position excellently:
“Rather than bringing peace as Hobbes and Locke claimed the establishment of government had the effect of establishing existing inequalities. For Rousseau, there is something deeply troubling and deeply shocking about the fact that men who were once free and equal are so easily led to consent to the inequalities of property and to rule by the stronger. For Rousseau, the Hobbesian Social Contract is a kind of swindle. The establishment of government is also a kind of swindle that the rich and powerful use to control the poor and the dispossessed: rather than instituting justice this compact merely legitimizes past usurpations.Government is a con game that the rich play on the poor. Political power simply helps to legitimate economic inequality. The government may operate on the basis of consent but the consent that is granted rests on falsehood and lies. How else can one explain why the rich have lives that are so much freer and so much easier, much more open to enjoyment than the poor. This is Rousseau’s critique. The establishment of government is the last link in the chain of Rousseau’s Conjectural history–the last but the most powerful links in the chains that bind us.
Governments, Smith continues, have created and favoured a middle class, bourgeoises, that are not quite the phenomenon envisaged by Aristotle: namely a golden mean class using knowledge and reason to avoid the extremes of firstly,a wealthy life wallowing in the luxury of unnecessary desires and secondly, the life of poverty wallowing in the cesspools of lack of dignity. The Governments envisaged by Hobbes and Locke have been called “liberal” and have favoured the wealthy, seeking to distribute that wealth more broadly to a middle class with the values of the upper class. This kind of economic focus by governments would have been frowned upon by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. For them, government by necessity would have to concern itself with areté:–doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. Economics, for these philosophers, was a secondary art that ought to be confined to the running of households and the private sphere of a citizens existence. Kant shared this vision to some extent. In his work the “Anthropology” he discussed the passions and their detrimental effects on our lives:
“Desire is the self-determination of a subject’s power through the representation of something in the future as an effect of this representation. Habitual sensible desire is called inclination. Desiring without power to produce the object is wish…Inclination that can be conquered only with difficulty or not at all by the subject’s reason is called passion..To be subject to affects and passions is probably always an illness of the mind because both shut out the sovereignty of reason.”(Kant’s Anthropology p 149)
Kant continues in the same vein on page 166:
“passions are cancerous sores for practical reason, and for the most part they are incurable because the sick person does not want to be cured and flees from the dominion of principles, by which alone a cure could occur.”
Kant is not, however, in complete agreement with Rousseau in relation to the industriousness of the middle class. Ambition can be an inclination determined by reason and the need for social intercourse in which there is a mutual striving for recognition and esteem. It is only passionate ambitions that becomes hated by others and which in turn leads to the mutual avoidance of each others company.Passions enslave man in chains and are antithetical to freedom according to Kant and in this respect, Kant and Rousseau agree. All desires are not necessarily passionate as we can see from Kant’s definition above. The relation between desire and passion is illustrated in the following quote:
“The desire to be in a state and relation with ones fellow human beings such that each can have the share that justice allows him is certainly no passion but only a determining ground of free choice through pure practical reason. But excitability of this desire through mere self-love is just for one’s own advantage and not for the purpose of legislation for everyone: it is the sensible impulse of hatred, hatred not of injustice but rather against him who is unjust to us. Since this relation is based on an idea, although admittedly the idea is applied selfishly it transforms the desire for justice against the offender into the passion for retaliation which is often violent to the point of madness, leading a man to expose himself to ruin if only his enemy does not escape it, and (in blood vengeance) making the hatred hereditary between tribes…”
Kant, in the above quote, is drawing an interesting distinction between a power and its object. One cannot hate injustice it seems because hatred is logically or grammatically an object relation term and injustice must be defined in terms of a principle of justice. Hatred seems to be an appropriate logical consequence of the way in which people’s gazes operate when amour-propre is the motivating power of relations between people(Rousseau). Hatred, according to Kant, is impermeable to reason. Freud in his Conjectural speculations upon the beginnings of Civilization also deals with the issue of hatred. The band of brothers is, on this account, ruled by a tyrannical father who uses everyone in the extended family as a means to his own ends, attributing no esteem or respect to them. The brothers unite in their hatred and kill the father and consequently are forced to face up to the meaning of their action which is: anyone assuming the father’s mantle of rule can expect the same fate as their father. This for Freud is the moment in which the light of reason dawns and a connection is made between what is done, and the past and the future of the tribe. In this new dawn, the band of brothers agrees that principles or laws are needed to regulate the activities of the tribe. In this instance, Eros wins a major battle against Thanatos and an important milestone of civilization is established–the rule of law. That particular moment comes a little later in Kant’s Conjectural speculations, when Cain kills his brother Abel, probably in a fit of “amour-propre”
Smith wonders what solutions Rousseau has to the problems caused by the inequalities that have been in their turn caused by amour-propre and the installation of a property protecting government. Smith points t the following:
“The General Will concept is the concept Rousseau thinks will be important in the answering of the problem of inequality in society…The General Will is the foundation of all legislative authority and he means by this that literally, all standards of justice have their origins in the will or free agency. It is this liberation of the will from all transcendent sources or standards, whether found in nature, custom or revelation, or any other source that is of importance. It is the liberation of the will from all such sources which is the true centre of gravity of Rousseau’s philosophy. His world is a world that emphasizes the privacy and primacy of the will, the moral point of view(Kant). Given Rousseau’s liberation conception of human nature his description of the actual mechanisms involved, the Social Contract, comes as something of a surprise.”
Everyone, according to Rousseau must embrace the following aims: protection of the property and persons of the society and protection of the right of every person to “obey only themselves”. There seems, however, to be at the very least a tension if not a fully fledged contradiction in this conception of the Social Contract. Rousseau, however, is envisaging a Hobbesian like sovereign at the root of the conception. Smith summarizes this as follows:
“The General Will is not the sum total of all individual wills but is more like the general interest of the rational will of the community. Since we all contribute to the shaping of this general will when we obey its laws, we obey ourselves. This is a new kind of freedom which brings about a transformation of human nature….it is a new kind of freedom to do what the law commands.”
The above position is reflected in the third form of Kant’s Categorical Imperative which claims that the kingdom of ends is a kingdom in which the citizen-subject identifies with the legislator and treats the law as an end in itself. We are now in the sphere of the Aristotelian “common good”. The law does not need to be liked but given the fact that it is partly shaped by the activities and debates of the citizens, it has to be respected. If the processes involved are somehow at fault then it is, of course, possible for the citizen body to change then. What is being imagined here is the Aristotelian ideal of the many debating an issue by bringing many different perspectives to bear upon the process of the formation of the law. The process is a synthetic one and will involve extracting the truth from many theses and antitheses presented in the debate. A process, that is, that is designed to produce the good, the whole good and nothing but the good.
In this context, Rousseau argues, perhaps paradoxically, that:
“we need to return to Rome and Sparta to find models of citizenship where the spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion to the common good were important.”
Sparta was also paradoxically a model that Plato referred to and although it was not a divided regime as was the case with oligarchies and democracies, the military code of honour certainly would have reminded Plato of “amour-propre” as it would have reminded Kant of the rule of the passions over the sovereignty of reason. The Spartans, after all, were haters of philosophy.
Prof Smith concludes the lecture with a section entitled “Legacies”. He includes amongst these the influence Rousseau’s work had on the French Revolution, the fact that he was approached to assist in the formations of the constitutions of Poland and Corsica, the influence on Jefferson in the USA, the influence on de Tocqueville, the influence on the kibbutz movement in Israel. He ends with the following:
“”Kant was taught by Rousseau to respect the rights and dignity of man. Kant called him “The Newton of the Moral Universe”. Kant’s entire moral philosophy is a kind of deepened and radicalized Rousseauism where the General Will is transmitted into the rational will of the categorical imperative.”
The sense in which Kant’s philosophy is deeper is probably the sense in which Kant continued in the tracks of Aristotelian philosophy and was prepared to investigate the benefits that religious discourse has had for mankind, even if the concept of God the creator and cause of the universe is not in itself responsible for the cultural progress of mankind toward a kingdom of ends. For according to Kant, all that is required for this cultural and moral journey is freedom which is an idea of reason.
Professor Smith could also have mentioned under the heading “Legacies”, Rousseau’s influence on our educational systems everywhere in the world but perhaps the jury is still out in relation to this issue. Opinion is divided about this vision of a lonely Robinson being educated by a tutor supposedly unaffected by the more destructive social passions.
“Last week’s lecture involved taking an empirical anthropological excursion into the hinterland of the origins of consciousness. In this last lecture I wish to return to the home counties of philosophical Anthropology.
Jean Paul Sartre once arrived at a café in Paris and looked for his friend Pierre only to conclude that he was not there! Now there have been philosophical accounts of nature that insist that there cannot be any negation in nature. There is only a lack of something if a consciousness lacks something. Only a conscious being could know that Pierre was not in the café. For Descartes and for Kant, when we are in relation to the natural world in itself we are in relation to a three dimensional homogenous extension in space which cannot be understood by the mind. But in one of his Meditations Descartes begins to talk about the space of a lived human body. He begins to talk of the unity of the body in relation to the soul. But in other places he adopts the point of view of the pure natural observer and talks of the human body as if it is a machine. When he does so he points to a place in space, which is responsible for the unity of the body and the soul: the pineal gland in the brain. It is not easy to derive a humanistic position from the philosophy of Descartes, or even meet the demands of common sense. The problem being eluded to here, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem of the nature of living organised beings, a problem that appears to demand a Copernican revolution in which the unity or finality of the body and the soul does not conflict with the pure operation of natural, physical causality. This unity can be exemplified only if consciousness results from the phenomenon of language and if, furthermore language is transformed by consciousness. Kant’s Copernican revolution took us back to the human being as the home of such unity and finality. The human being, according to Kant, surpasses or transforms nature with its freedom to both change and oppose nature. Bergson, another French philosopher claims that there are two contradictory orders in reality, what he calls the physic-mathematical which consists in the constancy of certain laws where the same causes lead to the same effects: and the vital order in which the same results can be attained even when the conditions are different. This is the idea of finality and unity in a nutshell. Julian Jaynes has a magnificent example of this in one of his interviews. A man is knocked down by a car and killed: during his autopsy it is discovered that his limbic system was radically deformed, probably from birth. On physic-mathematical principles this man should have been a violent monster at odds with everything human. On investigation it turned out that he had led a perfectly normal life as a family man and insurance salesmen—these are the kinds of relations between facts we find in the human vital order. Jean Paul Sartre would have said “The damaged limbic system is not there”: he might even have called it a pool of nothingness which he thought was, together with negation, the defining feature of consciousness. Merleau-Ponty in a series of lectures on Nature makes the point that the two orders of matter and life are positive and continuous and not discrete orders which leaves us with the dilemma of what to call the continuity. Merleau-Ponty calls it Nature, Sartre calls it Being. The idea that there could absolutely be nothing, must be an impossible idea, and this must be the defining limit of both Being and Nothingness, the title of Sartre’s greatest work. Heidegger discussed this in relation to a question “Why must there be something rather than nothing?” There can only be something and we can only think something. To say that something is not there is to say that something else is. Pierre may not be there where he promised to be and the café is where it should be. This also suggests that History would not exist were it not for negation. A historical event must surely be something which is not happening now…”
A History Major raised their hand:
“And yet we do sometimes say of important events that are happening now “This will be a historical event.”
“Yes and the “will be” in your formulation demonstrates this point: we need to move on in time so the event will be a past event before it can be considered a historical event. But we can see from the “Pierre is not in the café” example that at least insofar as the material reality of the café is concerned not everything is possible. It is not possible for Pierre to be there in the café when he is clearly not. All this sounds very abstract but is actually a demonstration of the role of reason in knowledge of reality. We naively believe in reality and the above are the arguments for our so -called naïve belief. The above are the theoretical reasons for believing that Pierre is not in the cafe. We also have practical reasons for performing the actions we do and some of these fall into the category of “the ought” and some fall into the category of “the is”. If I think to myself Pierre ought to be here in the café and I take action in going to fetch him, then I make it true that Pierre is in the café. Husserl inspired both Sartre’s and Merleau-Ponty’s existentialism. The Kantian world of ideal concepts and idealizations rests on what Husserl calls the life-world, which has an aesthetic, perceptive character. If we are to know what motion is, for example, we must have an experience of it. It is this experience that is the source of all science and philosophy. Merleau-Ponty extends this thinking and argues that the living body is at the source of all experience. He claims that the body does not use theoretical or practical knowledge but rather is an awareness of a power to do certain things. The body appears on the boundary between fully fledged thought about reality, and that reality itself: that is, it appears in my visual field alongside other things but is also the “field” in which my gestures, sensations, and perceptions are located. The lived body, Merleau-Ponty argues, is not the meeting point of a myriad of causal agencies the sum of which create the whole but rather encapsulates a meaning or what Sartre called a “synthetic totality” which it is the task of Phenomenology to unfold.
The body speaks and spoken language is not using a set of signs corresponding to a set of ideas but is rather a unique whole in which each word gathers its signification in a system of differences in meaning. Different gestures have of course different meanings and Merleau-Ponty’s idea is that language is more of an active gestural phenomenon than a passive representational or epistemological matter. The way in which we know what we are doing is very different to the way in which we know that the grass is green (knowing what one is doing is amongst other things a non-observational form of awareness), although even in this latter epistemological example of the grass being green, the linguistic, gestural meanings of the words will be a component in the final analysis of its meaning.
Earlier in the lecture series, I referred to the History of Psychology and its adolescent aspiration to become an observational-experimental science aiming at establishing quantitative relationships between variables. I spoke about how impossible it was to apply such a method to humans in experimental situations. Let me demonstrate my meaning in more detail. Experiments with dogs and rats rapidly became a subject of mirth when the experimenter’s futile attempts to generalize the results obtained to human beings resulted in absurd claims. Some experimenters were driven higher up the evolutionary scale in order to demonstrate the efficacy of experimental science. Wolfgang Koehler embraced the scientific method and performed a set of rigorous experiments on apes in order to determine their problem-solving abilities: partially in homage to Darwin and his claim that the higher mental processes could be found in the higher primates. Koehler discovered very rapidly that solely attending to the measurable aspect of the behavior observed, is insufficient for a complete description of the phenomena he was observing. He was forced to use so-called “anthropomorphic” terms such as “the ape solved the problem” and “the ape found the solution by chance”. In other words, he used terms that are qualitatively distinct and belong to the domain of the human vital order. His experiments whatever else they proved, demonstrated that the life of an animal, could not be reduced to pure quantitative experimental observations. Koffka, a fellow animal experimenter agreed that the experiments needed to include a “phenomenological component” which could help to clarify the “functional characteristics” of the behavior under observation. This qualitative knowledge describes what is observable by all and is objective in virtue of being inter-subjectively valid. Merleau-Ponty, in a similar spirit, claims that the scientific inductive method should not be used to study a language. Science purportedly studies the facts in order to verify some theoretical hypothesis that transcends the meaning of these facts. Only a phenomenological method, more synthetically inclined, asking prior questions concerning the meaning of the facts, can explicate such meaning. This is the method used by Psychologists such as Goldstein in his studies of aphasia and agnosia. Here we find no mass testing of subjects but rather use of the case study method where one subject is exhaustively analyzed by a synthesis of facts and assumptions. Goldstein’s experiments are of interest to the phenomenological investigation into language because they demonstrate that aphasia, for example, is not the loss of a word, nor the loss of the idea, but is rather the loss of that holistic capacity which renders the word appropriate for expression: it is the loss of what he refers to as the “categorical attitude” which is a very similar idea to Merleau-Ponty’s idea of language having a fundamentally gestural significance. Both researchers believe that language has an active signifying power rather than passively picturing reality.
With these thoughts in mind let us now turn to Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological account of language development in childhood: Babbling is the first sign of this language capacity during the first few months of life. At first it seems purely spontaneous but soon the infant imitates sounds, without of course grasping the significance of what it is imitating. Prior to this event, the infant has probably learned the efficacy of sound when it learns that it’s instinctive crying consistently brings the attention necessary to relieve its distress and the attention it begins to enjoy. In imitative babbling, the child eventually as a result of a “contagion-effect”, is trying to speak. At 4 months the child lingers on some sounds and modulates them trying to find the accent of the language. At 8 months the child repeats words that are spoken to him with the expectation that he should repeat them. At 12 months the child utters a large number of pseudowords and varies them. Gregoire noted that his child at this age spoke his first word when a train passed in front of their house. It appeared to him that this was meant as a word-sentence and translated an affective state within the child. Helen Keller testified to the importance of her first word-sign and some psychologists claim this to be a revolutionary change in the attitude of the child to the world: the child has learned that everything has a name and that words have meanings, This, however, does not account for the long period of stagnation after the first word and the difference there is between these first words and the adult words. We should remember Helen Keller had already learned some language prior to being afflicted with her partial deaf/dumb/blindness syndrome. The research results appear to be equivocal but agree that up to 5 years the child does not as such seek dialogue as much as talk to himself, as Piaget pointed out, but only a phenomenological investigation of this long process of imitation in the first 6 years of life would help explain how progress is made. Guillaume claims that before imitating others the child imitates the behavior or the acts of others. Imitation of the behavior of others presupposes that the child grasps the meaning of the body of others as a source of meaningful behavior: it also presupposes that he grasps his own body as a source or power capable of engaging in behavior with meaning. In this imitative stage the child grasps himself as “: “another other”: in other words, other people are the centre of his attention and interest. His self is lived but not thematically grasped: the child is egocentric in the sense of not being aware of the meaning of his self. The evidence adduced for this comes from the development of language: the confusion of pronouns, the predominance of other people’s names over his own: the delayed appearance of his own name which is used much later than the names of those around him. Piaget points to how conversations between children of this age generally are monologues even if they “seem” to be answering one another, clinical studies show they are ignoring each other’s reactions and merely engaging publicly in a monologue. Piaget’s view here is that there is no thematic grasp of the distinction between self and others. The child believes that his thoughts and sentiments are universal. The child is more possessed by language than a possessor of it. It is only after 7 years that genuine dialogue enters into his repertoire of behavior. Merleau-Ponty wonders whether Piaget has fully understood the way in which we communicate in the language and therefore proposes that we turn to psychological investigations into the disturbance of language and its development in order to understand the nature of language better. He maintains that the child is engaging in a kind of dialogue of learning, what Wittgenstein would call the form of life of the world of discourse and the language games that occur in that world. Piaget and much psychological research, whilst providing much valuable insight into the investigation into the life of the child, is too Kantian in approach, Merleau-Ponty argues. A truly phenomenological and existential investigation would explore the intimate relationship between thought and language. Thought, in the speaking subject is not, in his opinion, a representation of speech. This is a passage from Merleau-Ponty’s work, “The Phenomenology of Perception”:
“The orator does not think before speaking, nor even while speaking: his speech is his thought. In the same way, the listener does not form concepts on the basis of signs. The orator’s thought is empty while he is speaking and, when a text is read to us, provided that it is read with expression, we have no thought marginal to the text itself, for the words fully occupy our mind and exactly fulfill our expectations, and we feel the necessity of the speech. Although we are unable to predict its course, we are possessed by it. The end of the speech or text will be the lifting of the spell. It is at this stage that thoughts on the speech or text will be able to arise…The speaking subject does not think of the sense of what he is saying, nor does he visualize the words which he is using.”
Language forms a field of action or gestures endowed with a certain style around me as a consequence of the linguistic powers of a body. The word is an instrumentality of a certain kind in a field of instrumentalities: I can only represent the word by uttering it as the artist represents what his work is about by creating it. Our body takes up a “linguistic attitude”. Our relation to others is a relation to speaking subjects who articulate the form of their being in the world. There is a reciprocity of intentions and gestures involved in this process. “It is”, as Merleau-Ponty says, “as if his intentions inhabited my body and mine his”. This is what is involved in the presence of human bodies in the shared space of the linguistic meanings of words.
The point of this anthropological reflection on the nature of language is of course a partial response to Sartre’s idea of consciousness which can, if misunderstood cause as many problems as Descartes “I am certain I am thinking” argument, the grounds for which were given as my being unable to doubt that I am thinking. “I am thinking” or “I am conscious”, is of course not an empirical proposition but in Kantian terminology a proposition in Transcendental Logic which has no negation that makes sense. In Wittgenstein’s format, these statements are so-called “grammatical propositions” which cannot be sensibly denied if one is using a language as it ought to be used. Merleau-Ponty talks above about the linguistic powers of a “body” and probably means by this to indicate the whole person and not just his body. It is, however, more Aristotelian and Wittgensteinian to speak of a body adopting a certain attitude in the act of expressing itself in a world of already constituted significant meanings determined by rules of the language we speak. It is more Cartesian to speak of a mind thinking thoughts or a consciousness becoming conscious of itself.”
Robert raised his hand:
“But there surely must be a sense in which I am aware of the rules which will guide my choice of words and if I am, what kind of thought or consciousness is this?”
“It is not a propositional or theoretical awareness of the kind, “I think” but rather a kind of awareness which manifests itself practically in the form “I can…follow the rules of language…”
“At which level are the rules operating? Are the rules operating at the level of words? If so we are heading for logical atomism again, or at the level of sentences? We still seem to be in the hands of the logicians and their truth tables, that is, we still seem to be in the hands of those who believe the world is a totality of facts. On this kind of view rules will just be facts”
“Quite. According to Merleau-Ponty, meaning is constituted not by words having particular meanings that together are summated in some kind of strange linguistic thought operation. Rather every sign in language is defined by its different practical use in comparison with other signs. The awareness of this synchronic system of differences is supposed to be a holistic matter, but I must admit to not quite seeing Merleau-Ponty’s position clearly here. All I can offer is the reflection that “the whole” Merleau-Ponty is thinking of is in some respects Platonic and in some respects anti-Platonic. In his work “The “Prose of the World”, he points out that the project of the ideal theoretical language has been jettisoned. Science and Logic cannot reduce the expressive creative act of saying something to the sedimented result of what is said. On the other hand, there is a clear similarity to Plato when Merleau-Ponty talks about someone coming to give me the news of the death of a relative in a catastrophe. I would not understand this news, it is argued, unless I already understood what death and catastrophes are, unless, that is, I understood what the words refer to. It seems I must understand language before I can be using or comprehending its use. Of course, there are difficulties relating to how one can, if this is the case, ever learn a language. I personally think these difficulties can be resolved in the way that Aristotle resolves the difficulty of how we come to understand the principle of a thing. We have a number of experiences of the same things, which form memories. Somehow we abstract from the differences of these things and the principle is formed in our thought.”
Sophia coughed to draw attention and asked:
“And yet surely your account does not abolish logic. It must still be the case that if all men are mortal and if Socrates is a man, then he must be mortal. I am wondering how we might have abstracted from the differences between mortal and immortal things in order to arrive at the principle “all men are mortal”? Would we have had to possess an idea of some living immortal thing like God or the gods?”
“I can see where you are going with this. You are going to follow up by asking how we acquired the idea of God or the gods. But remember in Aristotle’s chain of being, the immortal could be the non-mortal, i.e. physical rocks and ocean waves do not fall into the category of the mortal. If I am going to abstract from the differences between mortal and non- mortal things I can anthropomorphize the physical world or alternatively I can “physicalize” the organic world: this latter alternative will explain materialism and reductionism, for example, the reduction of life to its elements of carbon, hydrogen oxygen nitrogen, etc…”
Sophia raised her hand indicating a follow-up question:
“…yes, but the problem is if our idea of God is of an infinite being how can I abstract from the differences between him and finite living beings. The infinite by definition must be beyond experience…”
“..there would have to occur a move in the other direction, namely, an anthropomorphism of the idea of God and the abstraction process has to work with the vaguely determined concept of “non-mortal”
Sophia nodded. Glynn was writing furiously in his notebook. A clock from a clock tower nearby rang out the hour and everyone began dispersing to various venues.
Even if it was the case that for many hundreds of years Aristotle was referred to as “The Philosopher” and the “Master of those that know”, his teacher was Plato and his alma mater was the Academy. We do not know enough to be certain but a fair conjecture would be that Socrates did not have a navigational star or mentor in his philosophically formative years as a young thinker. We do witness in the Symposium Socrates being given a lesson in methodical argumentation(philosophy?) by Diotima and in these early moments of Philosophy it may have occurred to Socrates that a reliable method of questioning and argumentation are necessary prerequisites to leading the examined life. It is of course a tribute to the love of demonstrating excellence in the public realm of the ancient Greeks that we are able to today to bear witness (via preserved texts that have survived millennia) to the importance of discussion and debate in the life of the polis. Gilbert Ryle in his work “Plato’s Progress” suggests that Plato might have composed his elenctic and dialectical dialogues for competitions attached to the Olympic games. If so there must have been relatively large audiences which is another tribute to the Greek mind and culture that was the womb of such activity.
We have been made aware via the works of Plato and Aristotle that there is a body of knowledge which it is important to communicate and learn as part of being a citizen in a polis. For Plato this was a body which can be written down as well as performed in arenas reserved for such purposes. Plato, more than Socrates, perhaps was concerned with the search for a theory which could explain the mysteries and puzzles brought to the attention of the public via such forums. Philosophy seemed to Plato to be the natural home or theatre for the kind of investigation we are presented with. Out of this womb of Greek Culture and the theatre of theoretical investigation the Aristotelian quintuplets of metaphysics, ethics epistemology, aesthetics and political Philosophy would eventually be born. As we know Socrates thought of himself as some kind of midwife in the process of bringing philosophical offspring into the world. His method of elenchus was probably modeled on a public method of competitive argument called dialectic, which was a form of a verbal duel between two people. A questioner asks an answerer what Ryle terms “conceptual” “ what” questions and the answer is only allowed to respond in the affirmative or the negative in the name of defending a thesis which is the theme of the interrogation. The questioners task is to entice from his opponent an answer that is not compatible with the thesis the answerer is defending. An audience judges the competition. It is not to difficult to see how such an action could be the source of many of the aporetic philosophical problems both Plato and Aristotle attempt in their various ways to provide solutions for. If this is true there might have been two sources of the dynamics of Greek Philosophy: dialectic(eristic and elenchus) and the recorded thoughts of the great thinkers.
Ryle’s “Plato’s Progress” has this to say on the relation of this rhetorical activity to such issues as they are taken up in Aristotle’s work “The Topics”:
“The Topics is a training manual for a special pattern of disputation governed by strict rules which takes the following shape. Two persons agree to have a battle. One is to be the questioner, the other answerer. The questioner can, with certain qualifications only ask questions:and the answerer can, with certain qualifications only answer “Yes” or “no”. So the questioner’s questions have to be properly constructed for “yes” or “no” answers. This automatically rules out a lot of types of questions, like factual questions, arithmetical questions, and technical questions. Roughly, it only leaves conceptual questions whatever these may be. The answerer begins by undertaking to uphold a certain “thesis”, for example, that justice is in the interests of the stronger, or that knowledge is sense perception. The questioner has to try to extract from the answerer by a series of questions an answer or conjunction of answers inconsistent with the original thesis and so drive him into an “elenchus”. The questioner has won the duel if he succeeds in getting the answerer to contradict his original thesis, or else in forcing him to resign, or in reducing him to silence, to an infinite regress, to mere abusiveness, to pointless yammering or to outrageous paradox. The answerer has won if he succeeds in keeping his wicket up until the close of play. The answerer is allowed to object to the question on the score that it is two or more questions in one or that it is metaphorical or ambiguous. The duel is fought out before an audience…The exercise is to have a time limit.”
The above form of dueling is one form upon which the Socratic method of elenchus may have been modeled. During pre-Socratic times and during the time of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle the above form of elenctic interaction went under the name of “eristic”. Now it is important to note that the above form of elenchus differed from the Socratic method in one very important respect. The aim of the Socratic method was primarily pedagogical, i.e primarily aimed at getting his interlocutors to acknowledge some truth about justice or themselves or both. Whereas the dueling parties engaged in eristic are primarily seeking victory and prestige, via the winning of a competition. In spite of this fundamental difference, we should recognize that eristic presupposed considerable powers of reasoning. Yet it should also be remembered that the Sophists used this form of dialectic for financial gain, thus turning something essentially pedagogical into a solipsistic (narcissistic?) secondary art form. Socratic elenchus whilst not aiming at victory over one’s interlocutor did, unfortunately, have the secondary effect of humiliating ones opponent, largely owing to the fact that Socrates refrained from exposing his own assumptions and knowledge in the light of the discussion. He has some idea of what justice is but is reluctant to expose it to his interlocutors. Plato may be registering his concern over this fact in the Republic when he allows Socrates the lecturer(was this a part of Socrates’ repertoire or was this a literary creation by Plato?) to expound on the theory of forms, the allegory of the cave and the waves of change that need to sweep over a polis if it to avoid ruin and destruction. This, after 4 displays of elenchus in relation to Cephalus, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus and Glaucon. In the lecture that follows everything is laid open to the eyes including hidden assumptions, noble lies, and even justifications for infanticide. Ryle points out as so many other commentators have, that the conception of Philosophy Plato has changes in significance between the early and the late dialogues. In the work of the Republic, we may be witnessing the dialogue in which the shift actually occurred.
Indeed it may also be necessary to point out that the shift from eristic to the Socratic method in itself may also signify a shift in the conception of the nature of Philosophy.
A dialectic of the Socratic kind, i.e. the Socratic method, was aiming at the truth and knowledge and taking a position in the battle of pro and contra reasons in relation to a thesis. This was clearly a development of eristic. We should also note, however, that Socrates himself was accused of trickery(a common complaint in dialectical “duels” and even in modern debating) in his argumentation by at least two interlocutors(Euthyphro and Thrasymachus) and we find him characterising what he is doing as “barren of offspring”, as “maieutic”, in spite of the fact that his method distinguished itself from that of eristic, and that it was in search of a quarry best characterised in terms of a definition. Socrates’ elenctic method was in that sense both teleologically and formally rigorous. It was probably the case that behind the formulation of Socrates’ questions there was an awareness of structured assumptions and their logical consequences. The dialogue of Plato’s Republic clearly adds a dimension to this Socratic rigor and underlying structure(The theory of Forms). The method, assumptions, explorations and subsequent definitions were now in the lecture of Socrates forming themselves into a theory of a world of things, artifacts, souls, cities, and Gods. Socrates in the later books of the Republic is exploring the world in a different manner which commentators identify with the Philosophy of Plato. The world was now being subjected to a questioning that demanded answers that would fit into some kind of system. Dialectic becomes logic and demands systematic reflection of a Parmenidean rather than Heraclitean kind: reflection upon that which endures through change, reflection upon that which is the principle that determines what a thing is in its nature and also ultimately a principle that determines what the soul is in its nature. These changes also signify an increased concern with the general ideas of Truth and The Good.
The major theme of Ryle’s book “Plato’s Progress” suggests that Plato’s progressive path led from eristic and dialectic where the emphasis is upon negatively defending a thesis by not abandoning it in the face of counterargument if you are an answerer, or aiming to destroy a thesis or force a defender to resign if you are a questioner, to the formulation of an aporetic question which demanded systematic resolution via theoretical justifications. In this phase, we also see in the later dialogues of Plato a concern with the history of a problem, something we have not encountered before.
Also in this work, Ryle fascinatingly suggests a hypothesis that Plato was sued for defamation of character by a group of the leading figures criticized in his dialogues. The suit, Ryle claims, cost Plato his fortune and resulted in some kind of ban on Plato teaching eristic dueling and dialectic to students under 30 years of age. We can note that in the Republic Plato still believed dialectic to be important as a prelude to understanding the ideas of justice and the good and the true and this becomes part of the training of potential rulers when they are over the age of 30. Plato may well have abandoned the theory of forms in his late thought but retained the view that the true and the good were timeless standards by which to evaluate thought, action, and forms of life. From some points of view, it is a credit to Plato that he positions the Good as the highest standard of evaluation in Philosophy thus indicating the important role of practical reasoning. A move which would much later on be repeated by Kant.
Socrates’ progress moved in a line leading from investigating the physical world in a “What is this in its nature” frame of mind, sifting through physical phenomenon as numerous as the grains of sand in a desert. He went in search of answers that would fall into the category of Causality and in the spirit of Heraclitus and Anaxagoras. The latter influence led to a change in the direction of his investigations. “All is mind” was the new assumption and Socratic investigations began to search for parts of the mind (soul) and meaningful forms of life. This journey required developing the method of elenchus. This method led to the form of life Socrates characterized as “the examined life” which in the mind of Socrates was infinitely superior in terms of the criterion of self-sufficiency to the wealthy or powerful forms of life so attractive to everyone. For Socrates, these latter forms of life were filled with Heraclitean flux, change and reversals of fortune because of an unhealthy dependence on ever-changing elements of life which we all know is going to end. The examination of forms of life and the question of the meaning of life raises the question of death. In the dialogues of Crito and Phaedrus, we find Socrates sitting in his cell awaiting death by execution. He reasons that however one regards death it must be a good and therefore nothing to be afraid of. This in itself suffices to praise Plato’s emphasis upon the standard of the good which ought to be used to evaluate all forms of life and even death. The event of Socrates’ execution thus might have provided Plato with the inspiration to formulate a theory of forms in which the form of the good is the supreme form. Another key Philosophical relationship, that with Aristotle, perhaps beginning from a joint sojourn in Syracuse may have subsequently led Plato to abandon the theoretical forms in favor of practical laws. Plato’s work “The Laws” is not an elenctic dialogue but rather a lecture and constitutes Plato’s second attempt to create a Callipolis. Plato speculates about a small hypothetical city called Magnesia run by a Nocturnal Council that has responsibility for the cities laws. This council of wise men, paradoxically, contains no philosophers but only officials trained in maths astronomy, theology and law. Many of the Republic’s “constructions” and “social restrictions” are present. Families and marriage are encouraged but procreation of children is determined in accordance with some mysterious eugenic standard and excommunication is the penalty for adultery.The recommended relation of citizens to God is also set out in the Laws which is a school text licensed by a powerful Minister of Education who sits on the Nocturnal Council. This text has the purpose of reinforcing the belief in God and his goodness. Heresy and impiety are illegal. The interesting question here is whether Socrates would have been permitted to live in Magnesia and live his examined life subjecting other citizens to bouts of elenchus. Socrates is no longer the prime mover in Plato’s later dialogues/lectures. At approximately the same time as he was composing the Laws which he was rewriting until his death, Plato was engaged in a project of religious and scientific significance—the composition of a work called “Timaeus”. This dialogue sees Socrates as the witness to a lecture on the history of the universe. Here the Demiurge of Anaxagoras organizes the initial indescribable chaos into an order containing the good and the beautiful. There are recognizable Aristotelian aspects in the 4 elements and prime matter, with life emerging at a certain stage of the creative process from prime matter. There are also non-Aristotelian elements such as an atomism in which differently shaped atoms explain the different elements. Space is somehow involved in the transformation of the elements into more complex forms. This narrative includes an account of our bodily organs and bodily functions such as perception, in a manner very reminiscent of Aristotle. We also encounter in this dialogue/lecture a listing of diseases of body and mind evoking the spectre of Freud especially given the fact that we know it was the work of Plato which was the inspiration for the final phase of Freudian theorizing about a stoical mind located on the terrain of the battle between Eros and Thanatos. The impression we are given is that Plato is moving away from his earlier Socratic commitments,and the later theory of forms, in an entirely new direction which reminds us of Aristotle. There appears to be a form of hylomorphism emerging to reconcile the world of ideas with the physical world and the soul with the body. Anthony Kenny in his work “Ancient Philosophy (Vol 1 of his New History of Western Philosophy) points out that Plato’s work the “Timaeus” became Plato’s most influential work up to the period of the Renaissance:
“Plato’s teleological account of the forming of the world by a divinity was not too difficult for medieval thinkers to assimilate to the creation story of Genesis. This dialogue was a set text in the early days of the University of Paris and 300 years later Raphael in his “School of Athens” gave Plato in the centre of the fresco only the Timaeus to hold”
In this Fresco we find Plato pointing upward to the heavens and Aristotle pointing ahead of him. Was Aristotle pointing to the natural and social world or was he pointing to the viewers of the future? One can wonder. There have been many interpretations of this constellation of Philosophers from the school of Athens. The predictions of things to come is also found in Plato’s dialogue /lecture “Parmenides” in which the central character Parmenides produces a very Aristotelian criticism of the theory of the forms in the course of a dialogue with Socrates. In this dialogue it very much looks as if the master of elenchus is being given a dose of his own medicine. At the close of the dialogue, Parmenides, probably seeing in the position of Socrates more than just a trace of Heraclitean thought compliments Socrates upon his powers of argumentation, at the same time suggesting a more thorough training whilst Socrates is still young. Parmenides suggests that Socrates should not attempt to rest with premature conceptions of justice beauty and goodness in case the truth about these standards is lost because this will have the consequence that the multitude will cease to believe in the existence of these ideas.
Perhaps, Plato might argue, Parmenides should have been at the centre of Raphaels fresco pointing forward to the future.
The philosophicial triumvirate of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle presented itself in Athens at roughly speaking the same historical period and this in itself is a remarkable fact of History. Exploring the relationship between the thoughts of these great thinkers presents an awesome task but it is not a task that is, even two thousand years later, nearing completion. In contrast to that other triumvirate of Philosophers: Kant, Hegel, and Marx who never shared that almost holy relation of teacher-pupil we seem with our three ancient Greek philosophers to be wandering the same territory, the same Callipolis. Yet they occupy distinctively different regions of this territory. Aristotelians obviously feel that Aristotle is the key to the understanding of the other two and it is not certain that the other two philosophers would disagree with this position. We certainly feel that important contributions to understanding could be made if philosophical investigations focused upon firstly,the connections there were between the respective positions of Socrates and Aristotle and secondly the difference that both positions manifest in relation to the different positions Plato adopted throughout his long career. The first section of this part of the Introduction took up the matter of the identity of the historical Socrates and we argued for the traditional view. The view namely that Socrates is most accurately portrayed in the earlier dialogues and especially those connected with his trial and death. This is the Socrates whose thoughts we will be comparing with the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle
The Demiurge, for Socrates, is the power that will ensure that ”The Good” exists and prevails in the world. This power seems to have a Heraclitean ancestry: it seems, that is, to be a monolithic transformation of the Erinyes, Diké Moira and Lightning. The Demiurge is not conceived along the lines of a physical power or capacity: it is a religious power and perhaps one might argue that the belief that Socrates had in this power was not fully consistent with a belief in the Platonic Theory of Forms. If this is correct, then a paradox presents itself. Both Socrates and Aristotle had similar views relating to the Demiurge and a monotheistic God that is mysteriously connected to thought. If this is true then they would appear to, in a certain sense be more religious than Plato. Another paradox given the facts that Socrates was indicted for religious offenses and Aristotle was threatened with an indictment on the same grounds. Plato seems to have escaped suspicion in spite of the fact that his Theory of Forms was more of a threat to the gods of the state than the practice of elenchus in the marketplace or the goings on in the Lyceum.
The Early books of the Republic have Socrates constructing a healthy city without philosophers or warriors or the theory of forms. What comes subsequently is a defense of the “fevered” city which requires warriors, Philosophers and their theories of the Forms. It Is at his point we believe that the literary Socrates Is born. Socrates becomes less the philosopher working in the interrogative mode and more the philosopher working in the lecturer/assertoric mode of discourse.
Given these conditions, it could be argued that Socrates was not fully committed to Plato’s Theory of Forms as an explanation or account of ”The Good” as he understood it. For Socrates ”the good” must be ”out there” in the visible chaotic, ever-changing Heraclitean Anaxogorean infinite external world: a world organized by something cosmic resembling the way in which a mind works.
This essay is arguing for the position that we need to take pre-Socratic and Aristotelian positions into account when interpreting the thought of Socrates. Plato was the teacher of Aristotle and from what we can see in the early dialogues we know he respected the integrity of his teacher, Socrates’ views. These facts suggest that Aristotle was probably in contact with the views of Socrates via his teacher Plato and this, in turn, might suggest more of a resemblance between the underlying assumptions of Socrates and Plato than is normally suggested. If this is the case then the idea of a Demiurge or a God as a divine thinking being whose thought is present in the movement of every atom, movement, and action in the universe would seem to be present in different forms in the thoughts of both philosophers.
There has been much discussion relating to the historical Socrates and the Platonic “constructed” Socrates lecturing Plato’s brothers on the Theory of Forms. We have argued that it is possible to separate the historical from the literary Socrates on the basis of the available evidence. There is also, we would add a considerable amount of evidence for the above position. Surely, some kind of “triangulation” is possible given the existence of the writings of Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle?
Let us begin with the account of Socrates’ thought which we find in Aristotle who claims that Socrates provided us with inductive arguments and general definitions. Initially, this seems to be a very short review of the figure that by the time of Aristotle’s writings must have achieved the status of a very important thinker. If, however one pays attention to the resemblances in the thinking of these two figures in relation to “the divine mind” and their parallel positions in ethics on the nature of the Good, the review may seem less dismissive and more a case of abbreviation as a consequence of familiarity with the position that is being reviewed. In the Nichomachean Ethics Aristotle has the following to say:
“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice is thought to aim at some good: and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. But a certain difference is found among ends: some are activities, others are products apart from the activities that produce them. Where there are ends apart from the actions, it is of the nature of the products to be better than the activities.”
Socrates and Aristotle on this account would not immediately agree with resorting to the theory of forms in determining the significance of ethical judgments. Both appear to be committed to the “practical” nature of the ethical, i.e. they believe that practical wisdom is concerned with what we ought to do in order to achieve a state of eudaimonia: the good flourishing life. In such a state every art, inquiry, and action aim at the good and use practical reason to do so. Practical wisdom for both of these Philosophers is related to being excellent at a particular kind of thinking which is aiming at or intending a good flourishing life. Both Socrates and Aristotle have argued that there is an unconditional form of practical reasoning that is not identical with the kind of thinking involved in those productive activities where reason is being used to give rise to an intention that is instrumentally aiming at objects which relate atomistically and perhaps accumulatively to the idea of the instrumental good.(e.g. good health, safe house in a safe neighborhood, good marriage etc). This unconditional kind of practical reasoning aims at the flourishing life via a way or form of action which is logically and not in our modern sense “causally” related to the self-sufficient life. The intentions involved in this categorical form of action will be “good” in the sense of being what we ought to do non-instrumentally and unconditionally to achieve this moral aim. The agent understands this activity in a particular way which is not theoretical. In this context doing what is required to be done is understood as logically necessary for living the good life. In this context the means are not causally related to the end but rather, the moral worth of the end must also attach logically to the means one uses to achieve this end. But what is the connection of this good life to the divine mind thinking about itself or the Socratic Demiurge? It is not clear, for example, whether we can do more than aim at the good. We are rational animals capable of discourse for Aristotle and both our animal nature and our need to debate the good in the agora separates us significantly from the picture of the divine mind we get from Socrates and Aristotle. But why argue that we even aim at the good given the fact that we are animals red in tooth and claw? Once we have learned what is good and having been habituated to the good we will do the good according to both Socrates and Aristotle, i.e. once we can holistically understand the ultimate value of a self-sufficient flourishing life where means and ends are logically related. Aristotle, as we know complained that Socrates did not in his account sufficiently acknowledge the phenomenon of akrasia: i.e. the weakness of the will which leads an agent who believes a course of action is good to do something else instead. But in spite of this complaint both philosophers agree that if one knows the good as instantiated by a number of general and particular premises, one will do this good. If the phenomenon of akrasia occurs, Aristotle claims, it is because the agent does not understand the full meaning of at least one premise or, alternatively the full implication of the argumentatively structured premises. The passions cannot, as Socrates pointed out, drag knowledge and reason about like a slave.
The implication of the above is that both Socrates and Aristotle shared the conviction that practical reason and the ideas we have of what we should or ought to do are the steering mechanisms of moral action. As we have argued the Platonic Socrates emerges after the early uses of elenchus against the claims and general definitions of Cephalus, Polemarchus and Thrasymachus. When the Platonic Socrates then turns to engage with Plato’s brother’s Glaucon, elenchus is replaced by a lecturing explorer who will in the later books surprise everyone not just with a definition of justice but a complete theory of justice and the practical consequences of leading an unjust life. We are suddenly transported to the Academy and are reminded of Plato lecturing to his students. The parts of the soul argument is obviously a foundation stone for the Theory of forms and it is uncertain to what extent, if any, Socrates would have embraced this form of argumentation. The argument claims that the reason why one person can both want to drink a glass of water because they are thirsty and not want to drink because the water might be poisoned is that there are different parts of the soul desiring different things on different grounds. If the soul were one indivisible whole, it is argued, then to want to drink and to want not to drink would look like a contradiction. On the Aristotelian characterization of the law of noncontradiction, however, the assertion of these contraries might not be contradictory because the law states that one can claim contraries to be true at different times and in different respects. Aristotle did claim that the soul could have parts but he only talked about its rational and irrational “parts” and it might be the case that he meant “aspects” and not parts in the Socratic sense. He consequently would have thought that one and the same person could both want to drink and want not to drink at different times and on different grounds. So, if we are right to insist on the close relation of the Socratic and Aristotelian positions it might be that Plato is the odd man out in this triumvirate of Philosophers and the parts of the soul argument was taken from the Platonic political handbook. The argument, i.e, may have been needed for the construction of Plato’s hypothetical Callipolis. This Platonic “fevered” city looks very different to the Socratic healthy city of craftsmen doing the work they are best suited for and minding their own business. In the healthy city, commerce and areté appear to be the engines generating the energy necessary for the meeting of the needs of the citizens. The healthy city is a small city without soldiers or Philosophers. One assumes there will be laws but these will probably be in place to ensure the working of the so-called principle of specialization. One presumes there will be rulers who have the interests of the city as a whole at heart. Socrates uses the principle of specialization to justify the role of the captain on a ship and refers to the captain’s holistic vision or knowledge of the ships telos to justify his position of authority. There is nothing to suggest that this analogy is a Platonic invention although one can see how the analogy could be used to justify the role of the Philosopher in Plato’s Callipolis.
We have seen, however, the consequences that Socrates was forced to endure in the course of leading a philosophical examined life. Perhaps Plato viewed the failure of Socrates to convince his fellow Athenians of the importance of such a life as a failure of practical reason. Could this be the explanation for the intensive theoretical training of the Philosopher-rulers? The rulers were to be trained in mathematics and dialectic but it is never made clear how these skills will benefit the city as a whole. Plato feels the need to abolish wealth and the family from the lives of the warriors and philosopher rulers suggesting that spirit and reason in itself were not sufficient for the self-control that was needed in these areas of existence. When these suggestions are made by the Platonic Socrates, Glaucon and Adeimantus ask for more detail about such waves of change in the city and the type of justification forthcoming from Socrates appears to become more and more mythological and at times as fantastic as a science fiction narrative. To get the populace to cooperate in this bold endeavor noble lies about their past and their memories of the past are to be told. As if the argument of the parts of the soul was not sufficiently materialistic we are then told that the souls will contain the metals of either gold silver or the base metals. Analogies and allegories abound and elenchus all but disappears as the theory of forms appear to support an otherwise hypnotic account of the perfect Republic. The Socratic narrator of these books of the Republic is a very different figure to the character we find arguing with his accusers in the Apology.
Looking to the writings of Xenophon for the literary creation of Plato will serve no useful purpose but Xenephons account does to some extent support the picture of Socrates we have from the early dialogues.
What we are suggesting is nothing more than an avenue of research where more is made of the connection of Socrates’ views to the views of the pre-Socratic Philosophers: Heraclitus, Anaximander etc on the one hand and the resemblance of many of the Socratic and Aristotelian positions on the other.
A further argument for the above opening up of an avenue of research comes from the borderlands between the ethical and religious. Prof T J Saunders in his work “Early Socratic Dialogues” points to what he calls “Socrates’ Teleological view of the world”. Saunders claims that this account views man as having a telos or function which describes the world as “ a rationally ordered structure in which man has a function to fit in with the whole”.
We should recall in this context Aristotle’s claim to have discovered the role of teleological explanation as a genuine mode of explanation amongst the modes of explanations at our disposal. If our claim that the resemblance of these two philosophers has been underestimated in the past has credence than we could see Socrates’ teleological view as an inspirational predecessor of Aristotle’s “final cause” discussion. It is clear that Socrates is at the very least “operationally” using teleological explanation when in his use of elenchus he confronts a position A with a position B which leads demonstratively to a contradiction in relation to some premise constituting position A. The Euthyphro contains an example of this strategy. It is clear in this dialogue that Socrates is using the above holistic perspective to convince Euthyphro that his indictment of his father in the name of piety may not be just and if justice and piety have some kind of conceptual relation it may turn out that the gods or at least some of them might not agree with what Euthyphro is doing. In the minds of these gods, justice and religion are holistically connected.
Whatever the differences, and there are many, between Socrates, the first generation philosopher , and Aristotle, the third generation philosopher of the triumvirate, the resemblances in a number of key areas of discussion suffice for us to believe that the short review Aristotle gives of Socratic philosophy is not dismissive but rather a consequence of the fact that they agreed upon so much of importance.
Both agree, to take a further example, on the importance of the terms areté and eudaimonia. Prof T J Saunders claims that the best translation of the Greek term areté is excellence. Both Philosophers agree that the man whose actions can be described with the term areté is the man who has a particular kind of knowledge. He is the man “who is excellently equipped to fulfill his function and be happy”. Such a man will weave his way toward his goal through the crowds in the marketplace where many lead the lives of pleasure, luxury, and power. Areté enabled Socrates to go resolutely to his death in the face of being shouted down at his trial by crowds who could not see the holistic connections between justice, religion and the philosophical examined life.
Perhaps we can also mention in this context the contrast between those who live life in accordance with the Freudian pleasure-pain principle manically seeking pleasure and manically avoiding pain. Freud sought inspiration at the end of his theorizing in the pages of Plato but it is not clear whether it was the historical or the literary Platonic Socrates that most interested him. The Pleasure –pain principle and its elder brother, the reality principle certainly make an appearance in the last books of the Republic after the introduction of the allegories and the theory of forms. These books may see the reappearance of the historical Socrates, especially when it is a question of the arguments relating to the pleasures of the wealthy man and the powerful tyrant where the implication is that such lives are really being blindly directed by a maniacal striving after the pleasure that accrues from the absence or avoidance of pain. The man of excellence, on the other hand, who strives after leading the examined life is resolute in the face of pain: he “knows” that nothing can harm a just man and that there is, therefore, no reason to fear the actions of an unjust man—even if the consequences are death. In this sequence of reasoning, we do not encounter the tripartite soul—merely the rational and irrational processes at play in a man’s life.
Aristotle, of course, thought the contemplative life was the good and therefore what we should aim for. He also thought the soul was a principle somehow related to thought. But how would he have characterized thought? In terms of thinking about something or in the more complex terms of thinking something about something. Surely the latter. How could one think something unconnected to anything else? Yet surely this brings us back to the question of how can one think something about something. Hannah Arendt refers to thinking as talking to oneself. Socrates called his voice his daemon. When he was transfixed in what looked to be thought he was “in communication” with his “daemon”:
Here is how Socrates refers to his daemon in the Apology:
“You have often heard me speak of an oracle or sign which comes to me, and is the divinity which Meletus ridicules in the indictment. This sign I have had ever since I was a child. The sign is a voice which comes to me and always forbids me to do something which I am going to do, but never commands me to do anything, and this is what stands in the way of my being a politician.”
Could this voice, Oracle or sign not speak or signify? Could one be forbidden to do something without being told in language that one ought not to do this something? Aristotle also might have conceived of the divine mind as talking to itself when it was thinking of itself. And since the divine mind is essentially itself thinking we arrive at the meta-level of this discourse about this divine mind that it is thinking about thinking. If God is talking to himself what would such a language look like?
Aristotle claims at the beginning of the metaphysics that all men by nature desire to know. What was it that Socrates failed to know in claiming that he knows that he does not know? Was he referring to this meta-level of divine thinking that Aristotle outlined? Was this why his sign could not positively command? Was this why he could stand transfixed in thought for hours, attempting to interpret the sign? Was he listening to some divine conversation?
In an article entitled “The Rise and Fall of the Socratic Problem” written by Louis-André Dorion in the “Cambridge Companion to Socrates” there is the suggestion that there is a contradiction between the assertion that the soul is divided into parts and the assertion that akrasia is a real phenomenon: the phenomenonon namely manifested in a person saying that they knew that what they were doing was wrong but they were forced to do it anyway. The contradiction is assumed to arise because akrasia places in question the idea of one unified active agent striving to obtain the good. If this is true then it would seem impossible for an agent to know the good and not do what they know to be good.
Now Socrates is supposed to have argued that the phenomenon of akrasia is incoherent, although given the current confusion of the identity of the historical Socrates with the identity of the Platonic literary creation of the Socrates of the dialogues, we might well wonder whether we can talk about Socrates at all anymore. Perhaps one should instead describe Socrates by saying “There is an x such that x exists and x insisted the phenomenon of akrasia is incoherent”? But should we succumb to the suggestion that Historians of Philosophy have not known what they have been talking about when they discussed the views of the Philosopher Socrates? Now if any if these comentators/historians had insisted that Socrates had argued that the soul is divisible into three parts, then it is acceptable to question such an attribution. We do know that these words were uttered by Socrates in the dialogue entitled “The Republic” but the suspicion of many philosophers is that by this stage of the proceedings of the Republic, Socrates had become the mouthpiece for the coming theory of forms which most commentators believe we have no reason to attribute to the historical Socrates. Knowing the historical Socrates as we do there is also, it has been argued, every reason to doubt whether the very practically minded historical Socrates could espouse any advanced theory about the reality or existence of everything. The limits of his theoretical speculation on one account seem to have Socrates searching for general definitions of general concepts. Many commentators point to Aristotle to support this picture of the Historical Socrates but I will provide evidence in part 2 of this section to suggest that though it is correct to believe that it was Plato and not Socrates who wanted to divide the soul, Socrates was at least as wide-ranging in his speculations about the world as Aristotle was, at least in relation to ethical, political and religious matters.
Now whilst we believe “The Republic” to be a key document in this discussion relating to the identity of the Historical Socrates” we also believe there is less reason to doubt the veracity of the dialogue entitled “The Apology” than many have claimed. If one believes that Plato respected the identity of his mentor in the Republic as we believe he did then there is also every reason to believe that this was also the case in “The Apology” which is probably the most historical of all of the dialogues given that it was tied very tightly to a historical event important to Athens and to the whole Ancient world. There are many claims in this dialogue made by Socrates in his defence of himself and Philosophy which were made exactly because they were common knowledge in Athens. The Delphic Oracle’s prophesy “that no man is wiser than Socrates” if incorrectly reported by Socrates at his trial would have sealed the philosopher’s fate and would have resulted in an overwhelming vote to convict and probably further ensured a rapid dwindling of interest in the exploits of a “boaster”. The reports of what Socrates did subsequent to receiving the news of the oracle’s prophecy was also public knowledge and this would certainly seem in the average mind to be explained by Socrates´relatively humble interpretation of the meaning of the prophecy(that he should try to find someone wiser than he himself). Engaging in such a practical response to the prophecy also testifies to the practical intent of Socrates’ philosophical questioning and his development of the method of elenchus.
Plato’s division of the soul into parts, on the other hand, was both theoretical and mathematical and strangely atomistic given the dualist and idealist nature of some of his assumptions. Aristotle would have opposed this materialistic or mathematical division of the soul into its parts and was more inclined to think in terms of the rational and non-rational aspects of the whole person that he assumed to be the true subject of philosophical examination. Aristotle also clearly distinguished practical reasoning from theoretical reasoning, practical science from theoretical science and ethics from epistemology. All of these were distinguished from each other by the kind of principles which guided the reasoning and investigative processes conducted in their name. Indeed Aristotle’s conception of the soul was that of a substance or form which in his thought system was something more akin to a principle and could not, therefore, be something which could be divided either mathematically or materialistically into parts. Aristotle suggests that in ethics the agent is capable of rational and irrational action in the name of a principle guiding reasoning in the ought system of concepts but he would definitely not agree with substantification of the principle and insisting that the rational action can in some sense like a charioteer control the irrational forces dwelling in a persons body. This would be for him the worst kind of metaphysics and psychology. We do find Aristotle picking a quarrel with Socrates over the phenomenon of akrasia: the phenomenon of an agent knowing that X is the good/right thing to do in circumstances C but mysteriously choosing not to do X. Aquinas, for example, was supposed to have known that it was wrong to steal pears from a strangers pear trees but did so anyway. How do we correctly describe and explain this phenomenon? Aristotle claims that Socrates failed to acknowledge the phenomenon of someone having knowledge but failing to use that knowledge, i.e. failing to allow that knowledge free play in the arena of the action to be considered. What we are witnessing in this phenomenon, according to Aristotle is not full-blown practical knowledge which must issue in action in a unified agent but rather a belief which may be held theoretically: a belief such as “yes it is wrong to steal pears generally but these circumstances are particular to me and to my action and suffice for me to regard this as an exception to the rule,” i.e. the rule was not to be used in these circumstances. But surely it might be argued that some ought premise must be behind the stealing of the pears and that these premises must be true: “one ought in certain circumstances to feel the thrill of doing forbidden things”. One can clearly see here the presence of feeling in this arena of action and the absence of practical reasoning. There is a kind of technical reasoning involved of carrying out the task of stealing efficiently which in its turn involves a kind of selection from differing acts of efficiently stealing the pears but this is not practical reasoning in Aristotle’s sense of the phrase. The contrite thief in these circumstances typically argues without contradiction that he knew that one ought not to steal the pears but because he needed to experience this thrill of doing what is forbidden he ignored what he ought to have done morally in favour of the ought of his appetites, in favour of the pleasures and pains of the situation.
Yet for Aristotle obeying the ought premise related to one’s feelings in this context is a clear breach of rationality in relation to the unity of agency required to lead the examined or flourishing life. We can also recognise this form of reasoning in Socrates’ discussion of the issue of akrasia.
Part of the problem of correctly understanding this situation occurs when we divide the agent into a rational part and an irrational part and imagine a conflict in the form of that which occurs between a master and a slave or an angel and a devil. There is for Aristotle one agent for whom the knowledge of it being wrong to steal pears is present in the knowledge/belief system but is not used and there is another different phenomenon of another different agent for whom the knowledge is both present and active. These agents could only be the same person if some kind of actualising process occurred in the first agent a process that allowed the latent knowledge to become active at some later time in the agent’s arena of action.
It is interesting to note in this discussion the difference between the teacher Socrates and his pupil Plato with respect to the historical conditions necessary for the production of ethical and otherwise instrumental involvements which in their turn are necessary to lead the examined life in the context of a city or totality of life involvements. Socrates in the early books of the Republic outlines the process of the emergence of the principle of specialisation critical to the final account of justice. The emerging of the simple community in the course of Socrates’ account is on the foundation of the condition that everyone in the community works with the craft or work-activity which best suits their ability and refrains from any activity which interferes with the activity of others engaging in their respective specialisations. Socrates describes this as his healthy city and is clearly reluctant to go on to describe justice in what he calls the “fevered” city which requires a military and philosophical presence to ensure the provision of conditions to lead the examined life. Plato in depicting Socrates in the early books of the Republic in this manner is clearly respecting the integrity of his teacher and yet two things from the earlier dialogues are clearly missing from this account: firstly, the presence of Socrates famous “voice of conscience” operating in the individual soul and secondly, the presence of rulers passing just laws to regulate irrational activities in the city. In the “healthy city” of Socrates, one’s conscience would be the principle or the law which ensured for example that one would keep one’s promises or not steal the pears from our neighbors’ pear tree. We would not do what we ought not to do because of our practical principle based knowledge. The laws would regulate the activities of those agents who did not know what was wrong and what was right.
How would Socrates describe the situation in which there was no corrective voice telling us that for example we ought not to murder the neighbour that has wronged us? Socrates’ favoured image is an image of someone thinking about doing or not doing something, a thinking which is, to use Aristotelian language, not actualized. What we have here is an image of living in a divided house which cannot easily house contradictory values. It would be, to take an extreme case, like living together in the same house as a murderer which in Socrates’ view would be sufficient punishment for him to say that irrespective of what the law and its punishment system says about this phenomenon, that one should never respond to evil with evil. One would have to live with a value that one did not respect. In this connection we find the otherwise reticent Socrates giving the moral advice, “Resist not evil”. This is obviously a recommendation on the individual level to abandon the commonly accepted lex talionis principle which in itself has two different inconsistent formulations. In the first formulation one claims an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and here we can easily see how such a principle can easily escalate to a murder for a murder. Socrates is clearly against this formulation or definition. The second formulation would insist that a just punishment must be proportionate to the crime committed and there might be a sense in which Socrates might accept this when one considers his remark that we should in our lives get what we deserve. It is, however, doubtful whether Socrates would have, in the name of the advice “resist not evil”, agree that a state had the right to murder a murderer, much less murder someone for doing philosophy in the marketplace. In spite of this fact we see Socrates prepared to accept his fate at the hands of the laws of Athens. Given the facts that Athens had provided the legal framework for his birth, upbringing and education it would not be giving Athens what it deserved if Socrates had conspired to escape the sentence of death. Had he escaped he would have continued to live in a divided house and this would in his view have been to refute the Delphic prophecy that he was the wisest man in Athens: Living with himself in such a divided state of value would be a refutation of the oracle’s challenge to each man to “know thyself”. This reminds one of a prophecy from the Bible hundreds of years after the death of Socrates, namely that the truth will set one free. It is sometimes claimed that the ancient Greeks did not realize the importance of the idea of freedom in their philosophizing and their discussions of justice. It certainly is true that the idea of freedom is seldom mentioned in Socratic discussions but insofar as the idea of “choice” is definitely referred to many times in Aristotelian discussions this seems to be a questionable judgment in relation to Aristotle’s discussions of justice. It is even questionable in relation to Socratic discussions of ethics and justice. It would seem to be more accurate to claim that the idea of freedom was not thematized but was operational in Socratic discussions of justice and ethics. In this context it would be appropriate to say that one is free to choose what one ought to do and also to choose one what ought not to do by choosing to live the examined life. This picture is somewhat clouded by the biographical information that we have of Socrates seeking assistance from his daimon when it came to making difficult decisions. Here we have an image if a man submitting to the power of the demiurge to lead him in the right direction. He would not have needed this voice to advise him what to do in the case of murder where it is doubtful whether the thought of murdering Thrasymachus would have even occurred to him but he certainly seemed to need the help of the demiurge in the decision of what to do in relation to his indictment. We as moderns celebrate our freedom from the demiurge but struggle for example to correctly characterise the state of mind of mass murderers like Hitler, Eichman and the Nazis, and Stalin and his henchmen.
The philosopher we usually immediately think of in relation to the search for essence specifying definitions is, of course, Aristotle but a cursory examination of the method of elenchus should also lead our thoughts to Socrates. There are always moments of the method which can be characterised as the search for the nature of something. It is almost as if the moral of the method of elenchus is the normative imperative: “Ask of everything what it is in its nature.”. Socrates’ interlocutor is asked to give a general definition which inevitably fails to specify the essence of the matter that is being discussed, whether it be piety or poetic inspiration or courage or justice. Socrates points out a contradiction: sometimes it is something which follows from the negation of an assumption that Socrates’ interlocutor is making. There is much in this method that reminds us of Aristotles general search for essence specifying definitions and it is a relatively easy matter to pick out the differences between the first generation Philosopher Socrates and his third generation critic, Aristotle but the difference is not in our opinion sufficient to deny a thread of continuity that connects these two philosophers. If this thread is as thick as we believe it is then this should in its turn suffice to establish with more clarity the contours of the figure of the Historical Socrates.
A. Kenny in his work referred to above “Ancient Philosophy” examines the similarity of the above discussion of the Historical Socrates versus the literary creation of Plato to the difference long noted between Mark and Johns gospel accounts of the Historical Jesus. To some it almost seems as if these two different accounts identify different people and concentrating on the differences to the exclusion of the similarities can easily create the impression that a once public figure is in fact a creation of someones literary imagination. Xenephon’s account of the character of Socrates creates similar doubts about the identity of the Historical Socrates but only if one ignores the evidence of Aristotle, the key evidence of the Apology and the early books of the Republic.
Machiavelli followed in the footsteps of Thrasymachus who was perhaps the first recorded Political realist to actually claim that when the stronger rule a city-state in their interest, such a political state is a just state. Plato immediately constructs a city of Logos, an ideal city, as an antidote to what both he and Socrates regarded as the poisonous argument that refers to the fact that in almost all of the regimes of the time the rule of the stronger was the status quo, implying that what is the case ought to be the case. Yet history has shown that only Aristotle and later Kant had the theoretical resources to undermine this argument with complex positions constituted of an understanding of the conceptual nature of ought, i.e. they realized that concepts are related to the possibilities of phenomena and therefore have a more complex relation to what is the case than either Thrasymachus or Machiavelli realized.
Machiavelli is a complex character, represented in the popular mind as the devil but perhaps represented in his own mind as an unarmed political philosopher and prophet, conjuring up in his imagination the times to come in Italy. He would not have qualified as an Aristotelian great-souled man partly because of his poverty and financial dependence upon others. He aspired to higher things every evening when he would dress in special clothes to read about ancient courts and statesmen, imagining himself discoursing with them about their times and the times to come.
Smith has this to say by way of introduction to his major work:
“The Prince is a deceptive book–especially from a man whose name has become synonymous with deception. We might think we already know what he knows. This is false. Machiavelli claims to have discovered new modes and a new order of things, a new world which will require the displacement of the one he writes in. The dominant form of organisation had been the Christian Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, that succession to the older Roman Empire. Both of these Empires aspired to a kind of universality which was given good expression in Dante’s De Monarchia, a work about monarchy that sets out a model of a Universal Christian rule under a Christian ruler. Machiavelli rejected this and harked back to the model of a small autonomous republican state. Hr challenges his readers to go the effectual truth of things and claims that many before him have imagined Republics that are far from the truth. “He who thinks what should be instead of what is, learns his ruin rather than his preservation” Not for him any Platonic cities of speech or Augustinian cities of God. Here we have the essence of his political realism–in his appeal from the ought to the is.”
Machiavelli argues that the Republic requires a Prince who will dare to create their own authority. The Prince will be a prophet and a man of war. He will be “an armed prophet” Smith continues:
“It was the armed prophets that prospered and the unarmed prophets that were ruined. Politics, on this view, grows out the barrel of a gun.”
Both Thrasymachus and Machiavelli use consequentialist arguments for the justification of force in the state reminding us of the demand Glaucon made upon Socrates in the Republic to prove that justice was both a good in itself and something good in its consequences. Earlier in the dialogue, Socrates had dismissed an argument from Polemachus to the effect that Justice is doing good to one’s friends and harm to one’s enemies. Harming one’s enemies Socrates argued would have the consequences of making a bad man worse, thus dismissing violence as just action in any circumstances. Socrates also produced arguments in other dialogues in relation to the internal consequences of perhaps harming or even murdering an enemy: one would be forced to live oneself and might not be able to do so.
Machiavelli notwithstanding the arguments above is clearly a consequentialist:
“Children are brought up to believe that one should not do wrong even if good consequences follow. But virtue in its Latin root means manly self-assertion and in a man’s world calculated acts of cruelty achieves one’s end.”(Smith)
The end of a strong rule even if it requires violence, justifies the means. The Prince will be seeking to go to war because war brings with it prosperity. Machiavelli refers to Cesare Borgia and the ruthless execution of his cruel lieutenant to gratify and confuse the hoi polloi. The Prince will get his hands dirty and Machiavelli’s book is a deliberate attempt to teach the Prince not to be good:
“The Prince should cultivate the appearance of being religious, of being merciful, of being faithful and honest. The appearance of Religion is good whilst its practice is harmful.” (Smith)
Machiavelli says little about the ethical content of Religion which in itself had produced at least one decisive argument against consequentialism. Aquinas argued that Consequences rarely occur in isolation: consequences have consequences and it is perfectly conceivable that one consequence in the chain is good and the next evil. This would make the act behind the consequences both good and evil. This double effect, as Aquinas pointed out, is contradictory. An example of such an argument in the political context might be that of a Prince
attempting to kill the Nobles of a Principality and survivors return to depose the Prince.
The Prince, Machiavelli, argues shall pay more heed to the people of the Republic than the Nobles whom he shall murder if they stand in his way. But heeding the people does not mean that one is the tool of their expression, rather it means that one should manipulate and deceive them too in order to keep their faith. This is an ambivalent message considering the fact that the people will obviously be less likely to trust Princes after reading Machiavelli’s work. This could be another example of double effect theory. Indeed Kenny in his New History of Western Philosophy refers to how a Prince should utterly destroy any city in which the populace had been accustomed for a long period to living freely in order to counteract memories of living freely with the terror of terrible consequences. Without the understanding of such possible consequences, the Prince would be merely inviting rebellion and revolution.
Smith ends lecture 11 by asking:
“What did Machiavelli achieve?Did he found his new world, his new political continent? He preached that one must use religion and not be used by it and men have to learn how to use their passions. Politics, he argued, must be worldly and autonomous and not guided by any transcendental moral code. He introduced a new kind of populism, he was a proto-democrat who sought to create a new kind of Republic. When he imagines this new kind of Republic he imagines a city at war, armed with expansive ambitions–feeding on conquest–an imperialistic republic–the USA? Has the USA become Machiavelli’s republic?”
This is a surprizing claim but there is one thread of argument which might support such a position. American pragmatism and instrumentalism do appear to support consequentialism in the ethical and political spheres of philosophical discourse. Another thread, perhaps connected to the first relates to the GERM(Global Educational Reform Movement) which interestingly in the name of freedom as a reaction to authoritarian teaching allows young children to explore the domain of knowledge unfettered by the conceptual understanding their teachers may bring to the process in order to school their students understanding. The consequences of this kind of teaching were apparently unacceptable because all the parts of the mind should be free from the reign of the other parts. The understanding limited the operation of the imagination and emotions and this was somehow an unnatural unwanted consequence. Progressive education was consequentialist through and through attempting to speculate on the internal consequences of a traditional Machiavellian educational system. We in Europe have experienced the consequences of this consequentialist educational system and they have not been good.
Machiavelli’s thought might have played a part in the growing criticism of the universal intentions of Religion which conceived of the world as united in one city of God or Holy Roman Empire. As we know the wars in the 1600’s played a significant role in the Treaty of Westphalia which sought a guarantee for the nation-state’s sovereignty from such universalist intentions. Religious universalism was merely an antithetical response on one level to the military universalism of the kind begun by Alexander the Great and continued by the Romans. But the question is whether an abandonment of the idea of a united world is not fundamentally a result of the consequentialist arguments that have been skeptically undermining the cosmopolitan intentions of ethics and political Philosophy that people intuitively embrace on the grounds that a world divided against itself will always produce war. Did the consequences of Westphalia take three hundred years to play themselves out, in the two world wars of the last century the dropping of two atomic bombs on civilian populations and a cold war which almost ended in nuclear disaster? Did the treaty of Westphalia unleash a wave of consequences which we almost failed to control? The Philosophy of Kant was both non-consequentialist and cosmopolitanism, identifying war as the natural and inevitable consequence of a world that cannot live under a common commitment to law and human rights. According to Kant, if humanity does not destroy itself it will continue on its hundred thousand year-long journey to the promised cosmopolitan world in which human rights and the law would be more important than power and deception. The Kantian argument then demands that we register with approval everything that takes us further along the road of progress. We may not have any great-souled cities or nations but perhaps a prior condition to these cities or nations existing is the building of an international educational system with cosmopolitan intentions. Plato once thought that we are destined for ruin and destruction unless philosophers become kings or kings become philosophers. Aristotle thought that the virtues must be embodied in a large middle class for a city to prosper and education was, of course, one of the instrumental means to achieve such a city-state. Certainly a reflective and critical knowledge of ourselves, ethical Philosophy and Political Philosophy would inevitably have to be a part of that education but unti it is we may have to satisfy ourselves with mass-demonstrations aagainstwars and weapons of mass desruction.
Professor Smith claims that the best introductory text to the study of Political Philosophy is Plato’s Apology. His introduction to this lecture is:
“Socrates is the founder of Political Philosophy because he engages in justifications of the good life as well as illustrating the vulnerability of the political philosopher in the state. When he is tried for impiety and the corruption of the youth of Athens–philosophy is put on trial. The work suggests a necessary and inevitable conflict between the freedom of the inquiring mind and the requirements of political life. Socrates is a central historical symbol for political resistance to political power. Some people try to defend Socrates on the grounds of freedom of speech but it is important to know that this is not the grounds on which he defended himself. He is rather defending the examined life, which for him alone is worth living. His quest is a quest for self-perfection, not an argument for free speech. He is quarreling with his accusers over who has the right to educate the citizen. This is a dialogue about education.”
We know there were probably many reasons why Socrates was convicted by a 500 man jury. Many were worried about the implications of Socratic “education” for religion and its power of uniting the relatively large community of Athens(ca 200,000 people). The poets like Aristophanes were concerned that Philosophy would replace Poetry as the mediator between religion and the people. The poets also promoted an image of the hero as a warrior inspired by the gods. Socrates was propagating the image of a new kind of hero and a new kind of life: a hero which uses the verbal weapon of elenchus and a form of life which is devoted to questioning everything including the status quo of the fragile democracy of Athens. Socrates was even questioning the Delphic oracles implied claim that he was the wisest man in Athens. Professor Smith also refers to a probable political bias of the jury. The war with Sparta had been lost in 404 BC and the thirty tyrants backed by Sparta began ruling. Amongst the tyrants were associates and pupils of Socrates, the most infamous of which was Alcibiades, the man responsible for the disastrous Sicilian expedition and the man who was later to defect to Sparta. Plato’s Symposium testifies to the close relation between Socrates and Alcibiades.
In lecture three Professor Smith points out a number of paradoxes generated by the case study of Socrates. The examined life, he argues appears to encourage citizens to examine the state of their own soul rather than the institutions and laws of the society. Are these activities compatible? The paradox seems inevitably to lead to tension, especially if one is, as Socrates was, placed in a position of civic responsibility and ordered to assist in the arrest of the Athenian generals who had left bodies of dead Athenian warriors in the sea. Socrates refused on the grounds that the circumstances were not conducive to the carrying out of this responsibility and in an act of civic defiance he refused the order from the 30 tyrants. This was obviously a result of a private examination of his own soul’s integrity. Socrates here appears to be asserting his individual rights in acts of civil disobedience. Professor Smith also points correctly to the Crito dialogue and the Socratic arguments there in favour of obeying the law and refusing invitations to escape an unjust verdict in a system that should know better. Smith suggests that there is a seeming contradiction in this position:
“What we are witnessing here is the clash of two irreconcilable moral codes. His reason frees him from the dangerous influence of the state. But his political life as a citizen requires that he respect the laws and the deepest beliefs and institutions of the society. Why does Socrates choose to stay and drink the hemlock. Why not escape to Crete?”
Professor Smith leaves this question hanging in the air but he was more careful than commentators normally are in his reporting of the Delphic oracle’s utterance in a consultation over who the wisest man in Athens was. He points out that the oracle answered the question with a question,namely, “Is there any man wiser than Socrates?”, practically inviting an investigation into the matter, especially given the Delphic imperative to “know thyself”. Another dialogue the Phaedo might provide more information relating to the putative contradiction Smith referred to above. Could the endgame of dying with dignity have been on Socrates’ mind in the conversation with Crito. Socrates had spent some time consulting his inner “sign” over this matter. socrates had showed us how to live. Was it now time to show us how to die?
The Socratic sign within suggests that we move forward to the role of the moral law within and Kant’s emphasis upon the goodwill of the individual. From this perspective, there is certainly no paradox or contradiction. The society is not yet ready to provide the conditions necessary for justice to reign universally, This Kant can clearly see. Even though one might wish to argue that it ought to be able to administer itself justly. This would seem to imply that acts of civil disobedience directed at the law and the deepest beliefs of the society should be avoided, the possible exception being a state of affairs in which the laws make leading an examined Socratic life difficult or impossible. Aristotle would also consent to the exception. He felt that states should not interfere with peoples choices: objecting to the Republic and its forcing Philosophers to force the citizens to lead a life in accordance with the idea of the common good.
Lecture 4 turns to a consideration of Plato’s dialogue without consideration of the question of the “problem of Socrates”, i.e. the problem of how we are to distinguish the historical Socrates from the literary figure which Plato sometimes uses to convey his post-Socratic theories. Professor Smith claims that:
“Every work of political philosophy is a response in one way or another to Plato’s Republic. It is important to approach this work with the right questions given that this Republic is ruled by Philosopher-kings. What is the Republic about? Justice? Moral Psychology? The right ordering of the human soul? The power of poetry and myth to shape souls and societies? Metaphysics? Education? It is about all of these things.”
Again there is an ancient oracular prophecy operating in the background of the consciousness of Plato the former poet, namely that cities will see no end to destruction and ruin until philosophers become kings or kings become philosophers.
Smith refers in this lecture to Popper’s work “The Open Society and its enemies” and the extraordinary claim that Plato was a fascist. He points out in defense of Popper that in Plato we do not find a separation of powers. The governmental structures are not separated from the civil powers of the judiciary, for example. But Smith defends Plato in an interesting discussion of Plato’s Academy and the fact that it was the model for the first University system:
“We are all heirs of Plato. The institutional and educational requirements of Plato’s Academy share many characteristics of universities today. In Plato’s Callipolis and in Yale today, men and women are selected at a relatively early age because of their capacities for leadership, courage, self-discipline, and responsibility. They leave their parents and sleep together, exercise together, study together. the best go on to further study. If Plato is a fascist then so are we.”
A passionate defense of the spirited examined life. Smith perhaps omits to mention the really academic heritage of the Academy which is related to what these students actually do in their lecture halls. They listen to lectures containing elenchus and various forms of argument. They acquire knowledge of the past for use in the present and future. They are exposed to metaphors and allegories and myths and the major thoughts of thinkers of the past about their present and their futures. They learn to exercise their critical powers and judgment about almost everything under the Platonic sun including Plato’s Republic.
The seminar room was packed. Robert and Sophia sat in the front row with their notebooks at the ready. Glynn and Jude sat at the rear. Harry drew a deep breath and exhaled before beginning:
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first seminar in the series of the elective “Psychology and Education”. There will be 3 lectures in total.
The title of this course, requires an introduction because it is not obvious what “Psychology” actually is, i.e. it is not obvious what the term means. What is clear, is that many of the thoughts I will be talking about have their origin in other universes of discourse. That said, let’s begin at the beginning and note firstly, that the word “Psuche” in Greek is the etymological root of “Psyche”, which does not exclusively mean “mind” as some commentators have stipulated. The Greek expression has a broader meaning which is going to be important in characterizing the central question or questions the subject is concerned with. Psuche means life. You may wonder, ladies and gentlemen what is meant by life, i.e. what the Greeks were thinking about when they used the expression. The Greek classical narrator, Homer, apparently used the expression to refer to what was lacking in bodies strewn lifelessly on a battlefield. This has been misinterpreted over the ages in two directions. Firstly certain very concrete interpreters thought that it meant “breath”: the dead soldiers were no longer breathing. This was obviously in a sense incorrect, yet life surely cannot be the name of a simple biological phenomenon involving an exchange of gases necessary for activity: surely it must in some sense refer to the activity of living itself in a broader sense. Secondly, some more abstract interpreters thought that “psuche” must refer to some spiritual substance that was no longer present in the bodies of the soldiers, namely, their souls. These interpreters were of course armed with a particular theory about reality as a whole which divides it into two entities, a physical entity like the body which breathes, senses, and moves, and a mental entity which in some curious fashion is able to have experiences even when separated from a physical body. One needs to be in some sense conscious if experience is to be possible, it was argued, and thus was born the idea that Psuche meant something like “consciousness”.
In this respect “Anthropology” would have been a more apt name for the subject matter of Psychology. The term, Psuche, interpreted as “Life” or “Consciousness”, appears to be unable to convey the whole of what we are studying, namely, the human being living a human life. “Anthropos” in Greek means “human” and “Logos” means “study” or “systematic investigation”. If we move forward ca 2000 years, a tradition of studying man in a holistic spirit as man-in-society grew up in the German academic literature culminating in a work entitled “Anthropology” by Immanuel Kant. Kant’s work, followed one of the major currents of the stream of Enlightenment thought, and not only studied the human in his human Aristotelian context—his society— but also studied the human being as the proper holistic object of study in the light of the humanistic conviction that the subject of God cannot be studied other than as an idea in man’s mind. God as a theoretical idea had, on Kant’s account, become a hypothetical projection of man’s thinking processes and reasoning. And on this latter issue of man’s thinking processes, and the investigation of the human being, here is a quote, in illustration, from Kant’s preface to the work in question:
“All cultural progress, by which the human being advances his education, has the goal of applying this acquired knowledge and skill for the worlds use. but the most important object in the world to which he can apply them is the human being: because the human being is his own final end…..A doctrine of knowledge of the human being, systematically formulated(anthropology), can exist either in a physiological or in a pragmatic point of view.—Physiological knowledge of the human being concerns the investigation of what nature makes of the human being: pragmatic knowledge is the investigation of what he as a free acting being makes of himself, or can and should make of himself.”
During the Middle Ages and even during the Enlightenment, the idea of the Homeric/Platonic soul as capable of surviving to have experiences after the death of its host body had miraculously disentangled itself from the Aristotelian arguments proving such a conception to be impossible. But another current of the stream of Enlightenment thought, namely science, was operating beneath the surface of academic events and although the assumptions which enabled science to achieve its successes were primarily Aristotelian, it had distanced itself from Aristotle’s metaphysics in general which regarded matter and the material world as infinite and his conceptions of formal and final cause in particular. For Science, the universe could be divided up and reduced to either its material components, whatever they turned out to be, or it could be divided up into all of the possible physical facts, some of which would include reference to the causes of facts. On this latter conception, science collects facts for the book of nature like the zoologist collects butterflies. That is to say, science measures the quantities of things which it assumes is the only way of investigating an infinite homogeneous continuum. Blue is reduced to a certain number on the nanometer scale and red is characterized in terms of another number on the scale: the qualitative difference between red and blue is subordinated to a quantitative frequency of light. These operations of dividing and quantifying which were promising great technological consequences were already, prior to the Enlightenment, serving to diminish the value of humanistic studies which, following Aristotle, were striving to understand the essence of phenomena rather than their causes. So whilst Kant was in the process of undermining the theological-metaphysical God, he was doing so in an environment that would succeed not only in undermining Aristotle’s metaphysics but also the Kantian transcendental metaphysics itself. Both of these are needed to academically understand the essence of Humanity. The non-Kantian, Cartesian idea of consciousness, for obscure reasons which remain to be investigated, prevailed as the major influence and concept requiring explanation. In 1870, some 70 years after Kant’s lectures on Anthropology were published, science launched a major attack on the city-state of Philosophy and in the ensuing battle colonized a suburb of the Humanities which it gave the name “Psychology”. There would no longer be transcendental metaphysical discussions of the human being: man was to be investigated with the empirical method of experimentation and observation: the true road to knowledge. Wundt in Germany defined this new subject as “the science of consciousness” and proceeded, in accordance with the principle of reduction, to reduce all conscious phenomena to the elements of sensation and feeling. Wundt failed, however, to conduct successful experiments demonstrating the usefulness of his definition of psychology. These experiments also failed to justify the concepts of “sensation” and “feeling” in theories about “consciousness”. Science analyzed the resultant chaos it had created and determined that the problem was that no one had ever, or ever would be able to, observe consciousness: and that what was needed was a more tangible, less metaphysical, less transcendental entity which could be observed.
Thus was born the next definition of Psychology: the science of behavior, and the school of behaviorism which was to dominate discussion for decades to come emerged at the beginning of the 1900’s. The subject matter of Anthropology and the possibility of the birth of the subject called Anthropology had been successfully blocked by these developments. These are the reasons that I could not call this course “Anthropology and Education”: no one would have understood why it was not called “Psychology”. The reason I am able to call the course “Psychology and Education” is simply that most people have a general idea of the general intentions of education as a practical activity and expect that such an activity must incorporate knowledge of how human beings learn and develop through such an activity. They believe that there must therefore be a subsidiary study of the conditions and consequences surrounding the learner’s role in this process. I certainly believe that these are two of the essential questions psychologists should be seeking to provide answers to, namely the questions of learning and development. There are, however, other broader questions which Kant’s Anthropology highlighted that as a matter of fact may be more holistically relevant than anything this so-called discipline of “Psychology” has been able to produce. This is not to deny that there have been “psychologists” if you prefer this term to “anthropologists”, whose reflections have proceeded in the spirit of Aristotle and Kant, and I will refer to these figures in the course of the lectures. Basically, Kant believed that satisfactory answers had to be given to 4 fundamental questions if one was to philosophically understand the world: What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope for?. What is a human being? The answers, of course, had to be logically consistent with each other. Kant comments in his work, “Anthropology”, on Descartes’ reflections concerning our mental faculty of memory. Descartes, according to Kant, speculates on the causes of the phenomenon, rather than the phenomenon itself, wandering about the traces of memory in the brain. Kant admits in this speculative process that in reflecting in this way Descartes has ceased to become the one who remembers. He has, rather, become one who observes a remembering process and all that can be observed in this respect are the cranial nerves and fibers involved:- the phenomenon of remembering has disappeared. Kant quite rightly claims as Aristotle would have, that this kind of speculation is a waste of time. And yet it is this scientific endeavor that has come to dominate our speculations about memory even today. There is a lesson for us all here: do not underestimate the power of science, for it has the power to persist in any area of investigation in spite of providing explanations of something different to that which it should be explaining.
We appear to be hypnotized by the magic of science, ladies and gentlemen. The phenomenon investigated disappears by a sleight of hand, too fast for our eyes to follow, and hey presto!, something else takes its place. Of course, we reason, this something has to be identical with the phenomenon we started off requiring an explanation for, because this is what we have been told. Magicians can also be hypnotists, ladies and gentlemen. This method of characterizing everything we experience from a third person or observationalist perspective, is a methodological demand that is especially problematic when it comes to characterizing human activity, especially in the case of the relation of my own first-person perspective to my action. If I am doing something, my attention is usually directed outwards toward what I wish to accomplish. If I want to neutrally “observe” what I am doing, that involves involuting my attention onto the action itself as if I am a third person trying to work out what is being done, i.e. the role of the observer is usually the role of the questioner who is trying to find something out. When I am reaching for a piece of fruit I am not normally in the situation of waiting to see why my arm is moving toward the fruit bowl, rather I know from the first person perspective what it is I am going to do: changing perspective in mid-action is guaranteed to destroy the intentional fabric of the action and if such a change of perspective occurs I will no longer know what I am doing. Furthermore, considerations of measuring the speed of movement of the arm or measuring anything else in this situation will be irrelevant to what I am doing. When science gets involved in psychological phenomena such as memory or action the result is usually comedy, tragedy, or magic. How should the psychologist investigate memory then? According to Kant the investigation should be from a pragmatic point of view. But what does that mean? It may mean asking what role memory plays in the life of a person. Consider the war veteran home from a traumatic term of service at the front, having witnessed the most horrific events. We can ask what role memory is going to play in this state of affairs. Were it to be just a question of leaving traces in the brain, a matter of creating protein templates, memories would just physically form and that would be the end of the matter. The templates would just be a totality of facts about the war and the subject would be a walking part of history sharing his memories at dinner parties, pubs etc. But the mind is normatively structured, ladies and gentlemen. People ought not to experience such terror. The mind is structured for the good: what is not good or evil will probably create a terror-filled mind, an unbalanced mind. The psychologist treating such a patient will not be surprised to learn that the patient does not sleep or eat, that cars backfiring in the street place him back at the war-front in a state of terror. Now such a patient may find that his lust for life has been lost and for most of the time he sits passively like an observer, waiting for things to happen to him, instead of actively living a good and flourishing life. Freud treated such patients, ladies and gentlemen, with a theory that scientists have been lining up for generations to call “unscientific”. Well, if his theory is not scientific then all I can say is “Good!”, because if it was scientific the patient might have been left observing his life go by for the rest of his time. After all, is this not the attitude the scientist wishes people to adapt to everything they experience! All I can say is that what we need is an account containing Principles of Anthropology which can explain how memories which are normally constructive of flourishing lives can play a destructive role in a life. What I am raising here is the question which Anthropology requires an answer to, namely “Why do people do what they do?” As we have seen above this question carries with it a need for an explanation as to why the traumatized war veteran cannot any longer strive for what is good in life and needs help to extricate himself from the passive attitude which leaves him terrorized. The war veteran may not of course be conscious of what is wrong with him. In talks with his psychologist he may invoke a list of symptoms: unable to sleep because of nightmares, nausea, unspecific anxiety, irrational responses to cars backfiring and loud noises, depression. He has “observed” all of these “facts” but he cannot say what is wrong with him. If he is a self-conscious being as I have claimed we all are, should he not be aware of what is wrong with him? This is the kind of question that troubles the “unscientific” psychologist like Freud to such an extent that he spent 50 years trying to find adequate explanations which will fully explain the different forms of mental illness. I am not saying that Freud was right about everything in the field of mental illness or indeed that his theories of man in society cannot be improved upon. Freud was an archeologist rather than a believer in teleology as far as man was concerned. In exploring the theoretical idea of society he takes us back to the mythical band of brothers who, in a Hobbesian state of nature, kill their father who they experience as a tyrant. As the understanding of what they have done sinks in, and the prospect that anyone assuming authority for the community possibly awaits the same fate becomes clear for all concerned—the brothers form a pact and regulating social existence by law seems the obvious response to the dilemmas and paradoxes of living in a state of nature. Such a narrative contains within it a conflict view of man’s relation to the civilization he has created. His instincts are regulated by both Eros and Thanatos, the life and death instinct, and both of these need to be regulated by forces of civilization which seemed to resemble the defense mechanism of repression. And in a famous work with a marvelous title, “Civilization and its Discontents”, Freud asks whether all the effort involved in civilization-building is worth it. He wonders whether, given the fact that we all appear to be enslaved to hedonism, and demand hedonistic satisfaction from cultural activities, a flourishing life is at all possible. Apparently at the age of 75 when most men are fully occupied with the task of staying alive he was still reflecting on the organization of civilization and predicted that from his perspective the future outcome of this organization, might be one which the individual will reject rationally. According to Freud, the psychological mechanisms we see operating in the arena of culture are repression, frustration, sublimation and rational rejection. The kind of life that was possible in such circumstances was one that submitted to the cultural equivalent of the reality principle—Ananke—The life of resigning oneself to a state of affairs one was powerless to change through rational rejection. Rejection is transformed into a smoldering acceptance as Eros, the life instinct, ebbs away and we grow older less than gracefully. There is no comfort of an ethical or religious form of life. For Freud the latter form of life was infected with defense mechanisms which manifested itself in obsessive rituals, childish wish fulfillments and anxieties. The former lifestyle according to Freud was initially going to be subjugated to an authoritarian and sometimes cruel superego (which itself is the result of a defense mechanism Freud refers to as identification) until the point at which the ego could take non-defensive control of the whole structure of the mind including the primary processes of the id. Returning to the theme of self- consciousness it appears on this account that becoming self- conscious is not something which appears out of the blue of existence one fine day, but rather requires considerable effort and work as well as perhaps a non-hedonic form of love which loves a person for themselves. I accused Freud of being more of an archeologist than a follower of the teleological view of the human spirit, but there is a latent negative teleology in the possibility of a strong ego that resigns itself to a civilization that might not be worth the effort. In this work, man is not merely a hedonist in relation to the life instinct, Eros. He is a wolf in relation to the death instinct, Thanatos. The vision of the Stoic bearing life’s miseries with a stiff upper lip looms large. The ego, Freud claims is the repository of lost objects which have been invested with value and as such the ego needs a mourning process before equilibrium once again reigns in what Freud calls the “psychical apparatus” (which includes our neuronal system) before mental life and the life instinct can resume its work and its loving. In the psychoanalytic literature there is this wonderful image of a triangle where the life instinct narcissistically and hedonistically makes its demands on reality. Reality being what it is, with its lack of concern for humanity, and being resistant to change, frustrates the demand, and the final closing of the triangle involves a wounding of desire, and of course a wounding of the ego, or in James’s language, a wounding of Romeo We are all the wounded soldiers of civilization, ladies and gentlemen. We will not find in Freud the flourishing life of Aristotle, the Kingdom of ends of Kant or the life after death of popular Christianity. We will only find a city of Romeo’s in mourning. We can, of course, wonder about the parts of the person such as the id, ego, and superego and we can wonder about the role of sexuality in the development of the individual. At the same time it should be emphasized that Freud had read Kant and he claimed that Freudian psychology is the psychology Kant would have wrote if he had concerned himself with the subject. Was this a reasonable claim, ladies and gentlemen? I think the claim is partly justified when one bears in mind that, in Kant, we find the mind of a person divided into firstly, its receptive capacity where a small number of the conceivably infinite continuum of possible sensations from the external world are actually experienced as a manifold, and secondly the mind manifests its spontaneous or productive capacity where a rule is provided to organize the manifold. The mind, that is, is divided into receptive sensibility and the active conceptual activity of the understanding, which both contribute to forming the cognitive function of the mind. Abstract concepts and concrete sense impressions combine to form our judgments that are truth claims. Apart from referring to the reality principle Freud did not discuss in any detail the conscious cognitive function of the mind but in his discussion of the affective and practical functions of the mind he did provide an important distinction between primary and secondary processes which we will refer to later in the course. One should also not forget the considerable role that the developmental psychology of Piaget played, in our attempt to understand the person and the persons relation to the society. For Piaget, there were fundamentally three stages of moral development, egocentric, transcendental and autonomous morality. Egocentric stage behavior blindly makes its demands and strives in accordance with a hedonistically or narcissistically oriented judgment system. Transcendental stage behavior refers to the judgments of authorities and the tendency to think of such authorities as externally compelling the individual to conform to external norms. Finally, autonomous stage moral behavior is individually based on an internal awareness of rules that will bring rewards to the individual. Here there is an interesting distinction between conventional morality where there is no role to criticize the rules, and autonomous morality where criticism is built into the structure of the mind. Let me conclude by returning to Kant’s anthropology and his stages of development. There is firstly a stage of development where the child is principally passive and learning what to do is primarily imitative. The second stage occurs when the child begins to experience itself as a centre of control for its own activity and a rudimentary form of egoistic self -consciousness is formed. In a third stage the child learns to abstract from the differences between authority and the individual and abstract from the differences between different individuals in order to develop a morality where everyone is equal and free to pursue their own route to a flourishing life.
Now education, ladies, and gentlemen, is concerned with the optimum development of the individual in a learning environment, and it is concerned with getting the individual to share the vision of what constitutes a flourishing life. It bears an ancient message from the gods and Philosophy: that only knowledge will be adequate to the task of developing a rational self- consciousness and a society all can flourish in. I would like to end with a reflection on Plato who is said to have begun systematic psychological reflection. For Plato, philosophical knowledge was needed to run the perfect Republic which would then in its turn form the philosophical citizen who would lead the most flourishing life the Greeks could imagine. Failure to run Plato’s Kallipolis in accordance with philosophical knowledge would result in society spiraling downward via a number of political forms containing correlating psychological character-types to the worst form of tyranny in which the tyrant will meet a tragic end and the society would end up tragically consuming itself. Here we see a fascinating suggestion that our psychological profiles will be determined by what kind of society they inhabit which in its turn will be formed by the quality of philosophical knowledge involved in the decisions and laws of the society. The whole system is teleological and normative ladies and gentlemen and perhaps you can now see why I believe that Psychology, insofar as it willed its detachment in the name of science from a Philosophy which examines all things in accordance with their essential nature, cannot deal holistically with the phenomena of self -consciousness, the flourishing life and the flourishing society. In the next lesson, I wish to deal with the kind of phenomenon that Psychology might be able to investigate, namely the origins of self- consciousness. Civilization has been “evolving culturally”, as we say, for a considerable amount of time since the mythical band of brothers brought the law into man’s hearts, formed cities and defensive protective walls around these cities. Surely one would claim, that it must have been at this moment that consciousness was formed. I attended a seminar some years ago in Washington on the work of a psychologist who claims to believe that the event of the forming of self- consciousness into a unity is a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to this event, we lived in societies, not in discontentment because that presupposes the knowledge of self- conscious beings who are fully aware of the conditions of their existence: we lived, rather, in conditions of subservience ladies and gentlemen because we were not fully aware of an alternative form of life. We were similar to children, captives of the Kantian transcendental stage of moral development. We were not fully self- conscious. We were aware of what we could lose if we did not obey the law but we did not see its relation to our very limited form of life. Julian Jaynes, ladies, and gentlemen claims, as William James, another American psychologist before him, that the core of the person lies in his brain and the seat of his consciousness lies in the cortex region of his brain. He has been impressed in particular by the fact that the two hemispheres of the brain seem to be performing two very different psychological functions. He has further been impressed by the fact that language may have had a command-control function prior to its being used to autonomously narrate stories about self- conscious individuals. In this “transcendental” state, moments of anxiety caused by problems we do not have the psychological resources to solve enslaves individuals in the lower strata of society who are controlled by hallucinated voices of either individuals higher up in society or the internalized voices of dead individuals we called gods or God. Our consciousness, at a particular point in our history, was bi-cameral he claimed, split into a commander and a follower. I will follow this suggestion up in more detail during the next lecture.”
Philosophical/Educational Journal. “The World Explored,the World Suffered”. Contents:
1. Religious contemplation of the human condition surrounded by a sea of infinite suffering, Freud, Bach and Wittgenstein.
2, First lecture from “The Birmingham lectures” by Harry Middleton: The Philosophy of Man: The History of Psychology
3. Introduction to Philosophy: The Historical Socrates.
“And at the end of all our explorations we shall arrive at the beginning and know the place for the first time”
“Let us start at the end of the Philosophical journey, ladies, and gentlemen, with what some doomsday prophets would say is the end of Philosophy: the Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Some have called him the greatest of the philosophers of this century and he might have been prepared to wear this particular crown of thorns in his earlier work where his logical atomism relegated all value, all aesthetic, ethical and religious value from the world constituted of facts. In his later work, however, he has been humbled and offers us some pictures of a part of a landscape that he admits he will not be able to form into a complete philosophy. So let us begin. At the beginning of the Second World War, just after the death of Freud, Wittgenstein has this to say:
“Why is the soul moved by idle thoughts—since they are after all idle? Well, it is just moved by them (How can the wind move a tree, since it is after all just wind? Well, it does move it and do not forget it.)”
This is the philosophical idea of psychogenesis that Freud believed played a role in mental illness. Freud was one of the few Psychologists Wittgenstein would study, perhaps because both believed that surrounding the heart of our understanding was madness, the cure for which was therapy. And what greater madness can there be than war, ladies and gentlemen. War, for both these philosophers was the product of idle thoughts not engaging with the everyday life-world of the context of involvements, and the everyday understanding of language. War, is the product of a childish resistance that refuses to engage with others. Wittgenstein believed that no distress can be greater than that which a single person can suffer:
“one human being can be in infinite distress and require infinite help”.
This is why he was inclined toward the religious. Religion promised the possibility of infinite help if one kept ones part of the bargain and believed and opened ones heart to God in one’s distress and remorse. This may seem to some to be the result of a childish form of love but the child does approach others with an open heart, something that adults seem not to be capable of. Perhaps adults cut themselves off from each other because opening our hearts and minds will not reveal very attractive content. Perhaps we suffer from a form of blindness and cannot see another’s soul, perhaps there is no means of talking about the relation another person has to his soul. It is not easy to see what relation each soul has to its life as a whole or to its own death. When someone dies we do not see the anxiety, depression and remorse the individual felt characterized their life: we are conciliatory and round off the edges of his life in sympathy because we understand how difficult it is to live and understand ourselves. We need to understand that our motives are not always transparent and that sometimes we may believe that our motives for doing X are virtuous but after internal exploration we may well discover they are born from cowardice or indifference or greed. We need this childish open-hearted honesty if our narcissism is to be destroyed, for only then can religion, like the sea, seep into every nook and cranny of our personality. Wittgenstein did not subscribe to the mental illness model subscribed to by Freud and would have preferred a more neutral personality-change model. And no model can have more detrimental effects on an education system run by the state, than that of the mental disease model. The state has historically handled mental illness poorly. First by incarcerating thousands of women in state institutions, with no treatment at all in the late eighteen hundreds, and then by placing its faith in science and incarcerating patients indefinitely in institutions, administering medicines designed to remove the more uncomfortable symptoms such as hallucinations: and finally in desperation when that clearly failed, releasing schizophrenic patients to a fate of homelessness on the streets. But what model does run our current state-run educational systems? All the above measures seemed to aim at reducing suffering. This is, according to Wittgenstein, the aim of education too, which is, to reduce the capacity for suffering. Here is something he wrote in 1948:
“Nowadays a school counts as good if the children have a Good time. And formerly that was not the yardstick. And parents would like children to become the way they themselves are (only more so) and yet they give them an education which is quite different from their own suffering really is out of date.”
You may recognize the medical “Hippocratic” model of reducing suffering at the root of all state run activity. In this regard Wittgenstein points to the industry of Bach, one of my favorite composers, and points out the “logical” or “grammatical” relation of industry to humility and suffering. Bach could really listen to music with the ear of an exploring sufferer and produce it for the hands of suffering explorers too. I personally cannot hear what I hear in Bach in very much of our popular music. Bach in his music is like the tightrope walker who is so high up in our cultural heaven supported by almost nothing but a little thread which seems impossible to walk upon: and yet he is up there moving across the space of our cultural sky. It’s almost as if he has wings. This is why Bach’s music is religious music, ladies and gentlemen. When one reads the Bible one gets the same feeling from the way the language is used. It is used like music, coming from writers who suffer infinitely, moving across the heavens with the greatest of ease, as graceful and as purposeful as an angel: the words of Solomon, the words of Ecclesiastes may sometimes land to the sound of softly flapping angels wings, but mostly these words are like the swifts flying on their secret missions.
And in 1949, a few years before his death, Wittgenstein points out that If Christianity is the truth about being in the world then all the philosophy about it is false. One year prior to his death he also remarks that if Gods essence is said to guarantee his existence, then this indicates that God’s existence, the philosophical question par excellence, is not the issue. What then is the issue? Suffering and how to live heroically yet humbly in the shadow of religion is Wittgenstein’s tentative answer. He claims that life led in the right way, with the right upbringing and experiences of suffering, can lead you to a belief in God or force the concept of God upon your thinking.
I wish now to speak less anecdotally and more theoretically about Wittgenstein’s view of religious language and the religious form of life. I will draw here upon the ideas of our colleague, Donald Hudson’s work.
Learning a language, in general, is learning to play a language –game in which action and language occur in intimate relations with each other. We need to be trained in order to understand the rules and the point of the game in much the same way as we are trained to play chess. Language games have two important logical characteristics: firstly they are part of an activity or form of life, and, secondly, what is done in the language –game always rests on a tacit presupposition On the first point Hudson engages in a thought experiment and asks us to imagine a lion-like form of life in which the lions talk as human beings yet carry on behaving exactly as lions. Imagine, Hudson, asks, a lion exclaiming “Goodness! It is already 3 o clock” but continuing to lounge about and sleep as lions are liable to do. These words would be a prelude to urgent action for a human being but, Hudson argues, we would not understand these lazy lions even if they could speak. The words, isolated from action as they are here, lose all their meaning. Hudson then gives an example of a tacit presupposition in the language game of science in its talk about the moon. The moon is spoken of as a continuous existent and yet our experiences of it are discontinuous: it is tacitly presupposed that our discontinuous experiences of the moon are sufficiently valid grounds for claiming the continuous existence of the moon. Now in discussing religious beliefs, we should not expect the religious man to reason about his beliefs in the same way as the scientist does about his theories. A man believing in the Last Judgment may act every day against the background of the fear or promise of such an event. Is this not then reasonable? Does not the practical belief seem to be stronger than any hypothetical scientific belief? The scientist has his world-view and expects that every event has an explanatory cause in a systematically uniform world in which moons continuously exist. But surely, we would want to claim, a worldview such as the Christian one cannot amount to explaining merely what individuals do in their daily lives. It surely must be able to understand and explain global phenomena such as mass starvation. No Christian would accept the explanation that mass starvation occurs because God does not care whether his creation starves or has food. Now perhaps not every Christian would be able to immediately understand or be able to explain this phenomenon, but we would certainly expect understanding and an explanation of the phenomenon of world starvation from a Christian theologian. The type of explanation we would expect would be something along the following lines: mass starvation is due to human selfishness which is a consequence of God creating man with reason, a free will and a sense of what is good, all of which can then be used to persuade men or let them persuade each other to do something about the phenomenon in question.
Finally, on this issue of the existence and essence of God, let me turn briefly to Kant and his work “Religion within the bounds of mere Reason. According to this work:
“The nature and intrinsic limits of thought and human knowledge preclude any demonstration of the existence of God.”
“non-existence cannot be demonstrated either.”
It is for the above reasons, ladies and gentlemen that knowledge about, or of God, is not possible and that we are left with faith guided by moral, practical reason. This faith assists us in moving toward what Kant called the summum bonum or the highest possible good in the world. This involves striving for the perfection of our own character and experiencing happiness in direct proportion to the goodness of that character.
It is important to point out that Kant is not here merely making epistemological points but is also hinting at a metaphysical framework. Mathematics and Science are only on a sound theoretical footing as long as they do not claim to be true of Being or reality as such: as long, as they claim to be discovering the truth of what appears to the observer possessing theoretical knowledge. Kant’s argument, is that all our experience is structured by basic forms of sensibility and/or categories of thought. Neither space nor time characterize reality as it is in itself, but characterize the receptivity of the sensible faculty of our minds. Furthermore, objects as they are experienced must, in accordance with scientific assumptions, be subject to causal determinism, i.e. no one can experience any change in the world which does not have a physical observable cause. That is how the world must be organized for the scientific observer. If determinism is a universal principle, however, we are immediately going to have a problem characterizing the free will of moral agents, which are not causally determined entities. The resultant paradox of both being in accordance with and not being in accordance with the theoretical demand of determinism is resolved by Kant’s distinction between the self as a phenomenon obeying deterministic causal laws and the self as a noumenon which is free from determinism. Similarly we do not experience God as a phenomenon to be experienced but only as a noumenon free from determinism. God has not been caused by anything, he is his own cause: he is the explanation of himself. The thematic question of religious belief is “What can I hope for?” thereby situating religious phenomena squarely in the field of aspiration, in the field of what ought to be striven for: a good will , a hope for salvation. This is not necessarily the same thing as the theological doctrine of Original Sin which is a highly theoretical claim about the human condition and certainly not compatible with the idea of a free agent with individual responsibility striving for the good, striving for what it ought to do. But what then of what Kant calls radical evil. How can he account for this phenomenon? Firstly he tends to speculate about this matter in terms of the will rather than behavior. An action with good intentions might conceivably have what is regarded as evil empirical consequences, but unqualified goodness is demanded of the will which is capable of noumenal deeds: capable namely of adopting principles of action which are in accordance with the categorical imperative. Such noumenal deeds can be corrupted and a deviant will is thus possible. It is important not to underestimate this possible corruption. We speak of people as good even if we experience deviations from the good, as illustrated above by our speeches at their funerals. The dead person may have felt acutely remorseful and guilty at the memory of their deviation from the good, he may indeed have felt his life as a miserable failure because of a few deviations and yet we, with our knowledge of the human condition round off these embarrassing edges and call the dead person a good man. What we are engaging upon here is nothing less than what Kant would have called “ a deduction” of the idea of a justification of a human being who is guilty of deviations but has through hard work with his character transformed his will into one that would please God. This hard work is enormously demanding and leads to a complete transformation or rebirth of the person. Kant says the following:
“The distance between the goodness which we ought to effect in ourselves and the evil from which we start is infinite, and, so far as the deed is concerned—i.e. the conformity of the conduct of one’s life to the holiness of the law—it is not attainable in any time”
For Kant it is progress along this infinite continuum which counts as good. There is no alternative for Kant given the fact that deeds in the noumenal sphere of our existence escape cognition. But strictly speaking the progress of the will, no matter how far it has come, in its infinite work toward the absolute good, may yet regard its work as a failure. The role of God enters here in the form of his good will and grace: if man has done everything he can, then God imputes righteousness gracefully to us. But what about our empirical societies, is there hope that they too will progress infinitely toward the ideal of a kingdom of ends? Indeed, is not the empirical state of affairs the following: that the growing awareness of cross-cultural and ecological awareness has left us with a lack of conviction in the supposed work for progress: that the individual in such circumstances will feel that there is no hope of producing good consequences in these circumstances. Kant would respond in two ways to this state of affairs: firstly he would insist that moral action is not instrumental, is not a means to an end but rather it is an end in itself: secondly, and relatedly, he would insist that this is not a knowledge issue to be calculated in terms of means and ends but rather a matter of faith that one’s action will constitute progress toward the good.
Finally Kant discusses whether the above very complex metaphysical reasoning could serve as the foundation of an actual ethical community of the form we find in a church. Kant realizes that some form of public experiential condition is needed. There is needed, he argues, some form of historical faith in authority or leadership grounded in actual historical conditions laid down, for example, in the Bible, ecclesiastical literature and historical practices. The historical account of the journey of the Jews and the life of Jesus Christ are obviously important in this respect.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, the world explored is the world suffered actively in the mode of an active faith, reasoning about the world as a whole. There is of course a melancholic air to both exploration and suffering which will always be the case until this untethered buoy with its tolling bell finds a safe harbor and safe shelter: the finite promised waters in a sublime infinite sea of suffering.”
Top customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very worthwhile reading
January 7, 2018
I just finished this book, and I find myself feeling “post-partum”. It is a deep, philosophical meditation on human existence, and is not a “light read”. Prior knowledge of Philosophy, while not required, is helpful. What is required is the desire to grapple with the philosophical questions. The author synthesizes the thinking of Wittgenstein, Kant and Aristotle into a beautiful and quietly melancholic view of the world in the context of a story of people whose lives exemplify that view, and require that view. He moves between clear expositions of the basic questions in Western Philosophy, questions of purpose and meaning in life, the nature of aesthetic judgement and its relationship to truth, the nature of tragedy, to the struggles of individuals living out those very questions. What comes across clearly and unobtrusively in this work, is that the author knows these struggles. It was written from the heart, as much as from the mind.