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.
Action and Agency are form-creators for Aristotle because they issue from a form of life which can build a world around itself. As a rational animal capable of discourse I go forth in a world of physical events such as a storm at sea. After throwing the cargo overboard I can but sit and wait for the consequences to play themselves out on this watery stage. As a rational animal capable of discourse I am of course a form of life that can act but one whose actions have consequences I cannot control. The sun was shining and the weather was fine when I embarked on this sea voyage. The possibility of a storm at sea was a piece of knowledge I had but it was not active at the time of the choice. I am now trapped in this situation and if I was an ancient Greek,the “action” of praying to the gods would follow the action of throwing the cargo overboard. Is it irrational to begin to pray or is prayer an assertion of agency as such when natural events play with our lives? For Aristotle, the world-creating forms occur in the media of change(space, time and matter) and they find their explanation in a theoretical matrix of 4 kinds of change three principles and 4 causes. The material and efficient causes of the storm are forms situated in the infinite continuum of the media of change: the forms of water(the high seas) the forms of air(high winds) the forms of fire( the lightning issuing from the heavens) and the wooden earth-like form of the ship being tossed about and being prepared to rest finally in peace on the earth at the bottom of the sea. In such a situation can we talk about praying in terms of rationality? Well, I had the knowledge that this fateful outcome was a possibility and did not use this knowledge. For Aristotle, this was a failure of deliberation and therefore of rationality. So all that is left of the definition of such a being is his animality expressed in his fear and apprehension and his attempt to communicate via prayer with the “agency” expressed in the storm. For those who found themselves in such situations and prayed and survived to tell their story, it might seem as if some divine agent had now a reason to save the souls on the ship. Aristotle would not have sanctioned such an explanation. He would have pointed to all those skeletons lying on the floor of the sea-bed, resting, who undoubtedly prayed and who lost their souls in storms at sea. Aristotle’s theory of action, agency, and powers would not permit the world of the human to become confused with the physical forms of the infinite continuum. That is one can rationally say that I should have considered the possibility of the ruin of my hopes in a storm at sea and ought not to have decided to board the ship but one cannot rationally say that the Storm ought not to have sunk the ship and extinguished the life of all the souls on board. For Aristotle, there is a categorical distinction to be observed here, a logical boundary that one only crosses on pain of the loss of one’s rationality. This does not necessarily mean that Aristotle would have thought that it was irrational to pray as the ship’s mast was broken by the tempestuous winds. Indeed he would have thought that we are active world creating forms and a structured form of discourse was, of course, preferable to quivering and weeping or rushing around like the ship’s dog howling at the wind. We are forms of life embedded in a world of physical forms and some forms of action are appropriate and some forms of behaviour not: or in other words, when we are dealing with free voluntary choices there are actions which ought to be chosen and actions which ought not to be chosen. The oughts here are rational and can be formulated in value-laden premises and conclusions with logical relations to each other, thus forming rational valid arguments for action. We are clearly exploring the foothills of ethics and morality or as Jonathan Lear so clearly put it in his work “Aristotle: the desire to understand”, we are exploring the “Mind in action”.
Lear believes that understanding Aristotle’s philosophical theories of Psychology are a necessary pre-requisite to understanding both his ethics and his politics. So the man on board the ship is acting and the ship’s dog is just behaving. Why the difference? The difference lies, Aristotle argues in our ability to think and create higher level desires which as a consequence creates a region of the soul which is rational and a region which is irrational. But we need to consider how the human higher form of desire is integrated with our knowledge if we are to fully understand the complexity of the human form of life. The desiring part of the human soul is the acting part because man is capable of acting rationally and behaving irrationally, i.e. he is capable of both reasoning that he ought not to drink water which might be poisoned, but he is also capable of drinking the same water. It is perhaps the existence of these parts of the soul which generates all those desires which we express in value laden ought statements. The dog’s soul is perhaps a seamless unity. Indeed one can wonder whether dogs have minds in the sense of a mental space in which Aristotelian deliberations can take place. Deliberations are rationally structured but are also value or desire laden:
“Aristotle’s theory of deliberation is a theory of the transmission of desire. The agent begins with a desire or wish for an object. The object of the wish appears to be a good for the agent. But the appearance helps to constitute the wish itself. So a wish is both a motivating force and a part of consciousness. That is, an agents awareness that he wishes for a certain end is itself a manifestation of that wish. The wish motivates the agent to engage in a process of deliberation whereby he considers how to obtain his desired goal. Aristotle describes deliberation as a process of reasoning backward from the desired goal through a series of steps which could best lead to that goal until the agent reaches an action which he or she is in a position to perform”(Jonathan Lear Aristotle:the desire to understand, p144)
This reference to consciousness is very modern and this of course is a term Aristotle never used: he preferred to use the term awareness instead and many modern commentators build a notion of reflexivity into this awareness, that is, they claim there is a self-awareness implied in Aristotle’s usage of this term. What this in turn implies is that there is a self that is aware of itself. Does this imply the presence of two selves? Not necessarily. There are in the actualising process of the human organism striving to be rational, earlier and later stages of development. There is no logical contradiction in the self at a later stage confronting in discourse oneself at an earlier stage during the process of moving from one stage to the other. But this is a different kind of deliberation to that involved in performing an action. The process of reasoning involved is characterised by Aristotle in the “Metaphysics” as follows:
“…health is the logos and knowledge in the soul. The healthy subject, then, is produced as the result of the following train of thought: since this is health, if the subject is to be healthy, this must first be present, e.g. a universal state of the body, and if this is to be present, there must be heat: and the physician goes on thinking thus until he brings the matter to a final step which he himself can take. Then the process from this point onward, i.e. the process towards health, is called a “making” “(Metaphysics VII, 7, 1032B5-10).
This process of reasoning is then compared by Aristotle to the reasoning one finds in the activity of geometers. In geometry, synthesis is the name of a process of construction by iteration of elements and construction of relations between elements: a straight line is thus synthesised or constructed by the placing of a second point at a distance from the first and the connecting of these two points by a straight line. The analysis of this straight line would then break the process down in a set of orderly steps until one arrives at the stage at which one begins the synthesis again. The analysis reverses the process. In the example of the doctor planning to act above the initial desired goal has been synthesised and the deliberation “analyses” or “deconstructs” the goal to that point at which the doctor/agent fetches some warm blankets from the cupboard to warm the patient. The forming of the desire to warm the patient is of course not deliberative reasoning it is more like the effect of Eros on the mind, more like a learning or succumbing process issuing from an attitude of mind of awe, love for the world or desire to understand the world. Of course, one is aware of this desire and to that extent one is certain about it in the same way as one is certain of any other manifestation in the consciousness of any mental event. It is the self-reflexive act of contemplating the desire which allows freedom into the Aristotelian process of deliberation. The agent decides whether and/or how to satisfy his desire and once this process is completed the desire to keep one’s patients healthy is transformed into a reason for acting. We are of course ignorant of the workings of this freedom to choose and to this extent we are ignorant of part of the essence of what it is to be human. Kant would later dub this region the region of noumenal being, the region of the noumenal self.
Reason, action and consequence are concepts in complex relations to each other. Insofar as in Aristotle forms constitute the world, the forms interacting in the matrix of space-time-material and causation must contribute to the creation or “forming” of this world. In a previous essay I pointed to the three different kinds of forms that constitute this world: the forms produced by and in relation to sexual reproduction, the forms produced by work of man in the building and construction of his artefacts, homes and cities, and the forms produced by teachers in the process of communicating knowledge. Reason, action and consequence are of course related to human activities insofar as they are knowledge driven. Such activities aim at the good they desire and analyse what is needed in order to bring about the changes in the world they desire. Such human agents have reasons for their actions in the same way as the archer has a reason for his action. The archer who hits the centre of the bulls-eye is like the geometer arriving a the point at which his whole reconstruction is to begin. We are in awe of his performance: the object of the action and the intention are in such cases in full almost divine congruence. The consequence is a logical consequence as is the recovery of the patient with the cold after the doctor restores the homeostasis of the body with the warm blankets. Many of our actions, however, do not achieve the desired result on the part of the agent but this is no reason to doubt the logical relation in thought between the object and the intention. Human desire is generated in a human body. The desire to understand or contemplation may be an activity that involves no bodily activity although it is difficult to even here to conceive of this activity taking place without correlative brain activity. It seems that only God the divine can think without a correlative underlying physical activity generating the thought. The mind-body problem obviously surfaces at this point in Aristotle’s philosophical psychology. Sir David Ross in his work on “Aristotle” defines Psychology in terms of its objective “to discover the nature and essence of the soul, and its attributes” So on this characterisation Psychology will cover plant and animal behaviour as well as human action. There is sufficient resemblance between the forms of life these different forms of soul lead to, to call soul “the principle” organising the nutritive and reproductive activity, perceptive and motor activity, reasoning activity respectively. We mentioned in a previous essay the relation between these form of soul. David Ross puts the matter thus:
“Geometrical figures may be arranged in an order beginning with the triangle and proceeding to more and more complex forms, each of which contains potentially all that precedes. So too, the forms of soul form a series with a definite order, such that each kind of soul presupposes all that come before it in this order, without being implied by them.”(Ross, “Aristotle”, p135)
The physical substrate or matter underlying the above is obviously a simple physical organisation of parts of a plant to a more complex organisation of the organ systems of different species of animals enabling them to “sense” their environment or alternatively reason about their environment. It is as important to know about this material substrate which is as inseparable from its mental aspect as the shape of the ax is inseparable from its function of “chopping”. The soul and the body for Aristotle are in the human inseparable aspects. Ross has this to say on this topic:
” Most mental phenomena are attended by some bodily affection….Mental phenomena, therefore, are “formulae involving matter. The true definition of them will omit neither their form or end(their rational causation) nor their matter(their physiological conditions”(Ross, p137)
The soul has its rational and irrational parts and also its various faculties which Ross explains in the following way:
“He is simply taking account of the fact that the soul does exhibit a variety of operations and that behind each of these intermittent operations we must suppose a permanent power of so operating. But these faculties do not exist like stones in a heap. They have a definite order, an order of worth, and a reverse order of development in the individual. Further, they have a characteristic which we may roughly call interpenetration. Thus, for instance , intellect and desire are distinct faculties, but the highest species of desire is of a kind which can only occur in beings which have intellect, and is itself intellectual. Choice or will may equally well be called desiring reason and reasoning desire, and in it the whole of man is involved.”(Ross, p139)
The language of potentiality and actuality is particularly important in the Psychology of Aristotle because of Aristotle’s insistence of categorical distinctions between the operations of the soul: Firstly,there are feeling operations and secondly operations which actualise the possession of capacities and thirdly operations which actualise the possession of dispositions. Dispositions are higher level capacities, they are rationally regulated capacities. The virtues are examples of dispositions and language is an example of a capacity. Reason is a faculty and its relation to the other faculties is regarded by many commentators as a mystery. With reason we approach the contemplative life of God, the divine life but this contemplative life does not appear to have any links with the body, according to Aristotle.
Philosophical Psychology also deals with Perception. Given what has been said previously about the nature of the physical body being defined by its system of organs we can draw the conclusion that the senses are obviously materially connected with organs. One of the accusations traditionally directed at Aristotle is that he confuses the purely physiological with the psychological. The physical eye of course is connected to the organ of the brain and Aristotle states that perception takes place in the head as a result of the eye taking on the sensible form of whatever it is perceiving. The eye somehow identifies itself with the brown and green colours of the tree and the shape of the tree and the outcome, probably involving the brain is an awareness of seeing the tree which in itself does not have to be brown and green and possess a shape of a tree. The language of actuality and potentiality are important here in order to establish the relation of the object to its perception. The tree, in its turn, has the potentiality to be seen , that is, has the potentiality as a second level and higher actuality to affect the faculty of sight(which would include the relation of the eye to the brain) in this way. It is not the tree that is present in the soul but its form.
A by-product of perception or the faculty of sight is the imagination or the faculty of the imagination rendered by the greek term phantasia. Ross characterises this faculty in the following manner:
“”Usually phantasia(which has the meaning of “to appear”) is describes as operating only after the sensible object has gone. The “movement of the soul through the body” which perception is sets up a repercussion both in the body and in the soul—though as regards the soul the effect, until recollection takes place, is potential, i.e. not a conscious state of mind but an unconscious modification of the mind. At some later time, owing, for instance to the suppression of sensation in sleep, the movement becomes actual:i.e. an image similar to but less lively than the sensation, and less trustworthy as a guide to objective fact, is formed and attended to: and this is the act of imagination”
Phantasia has two main functions, according to Ross. The first function is the pure formation of after images and the second function:
“Memory, Aristotle begins by emphasising the reference of memory to the past, and infers that it is a function of the faculty by which we perceive time, i.e. of the “Primary faculty of perception”, the sensus communis. Memory, he adds is impossible without an image. It is therefore a function of that part of the soul to which imagination belongs. But it is not the present image but the past event that is remembered: how can this be? Aristotle’s answer is that what is produced in the soul by perception is a sort of picture or impression of the percept, like the impression of a signet ring. Now in seeing a picture we may become aware of its original: and similarly it is possible, in becoming aware of an image, to be aware of it as the image of something, and of something past. When these two conditions are fulfilled we have not mere imagination but the more complex act called memory.
Freud obviously based his analysis of the condition of “shell shock”on the above theory. For Freud bringing something into consciousness via the process of recollection and persuading the patient to talk about the cause of the images recollected, in the therapeutic situation, suffices to turn the phantasy of the traumatic event into a memory which would fade over time. We should remember in this context that for Freud language was a secondary sensory surface related more to thought than to perception. For both Aristotle and Freud Thought was more reliably related to reality than imagination because it followed what Freud called the reality principle.
This is the final lecture in this series.
The lecturer is clearly a quantitatively based data driven lecture which is, however, trying to make ideological and ethical criticisms of existing global structures and processes.
Ocampo begins by noting that he is going to adopt a critical perspective of global structures and processes from the point of view of the opportunities and difficulties experienced by the developing world. There are, he claims two views of global economic development. Firstly there is the claim of David Ricardo who views the International Economy as an entity in which all participants are equal partners. Secondly there is the alternative view which Ocampo appears to argue for, in which the International Economy is a system in which unequal participants relate to each other on unequal terms.
Ocampo then produces an overhead highlighting three critical issues:
“* Uneven liberalisation of markets
* Uneven distribution of benefits
* Global institutions lag behind Global Markets”
He then supplements the information on the overhead relating to the uneven liberalisation of the markets by pointing out firstly that industrialised countries have an enormous advantage in the system because they have developed institutions which can mange what he calls “the down sides of markets”. He notes that there are three critical issues relating to the institutions of the International Economic system:
“* An incomplete and biased agenda
* An incomplete set of institutions
* Asymmetry between the agenda and the instruments for actions
* Unsettled relation between globalisation and the nation state
* Developing countries have limited voice and limited participation”
Ocampo having argued for the first two points earlier in relation to the third point mentioned above points out that the UN millennium goals clearly had an agenda but the instruments of action to achieve these goals were lacking. In relation to the fourth point concerning globalisation and the nation state he provides a detailed overhead of what he regards as the three different stages if globalisation: The first stage between 1870 and 1913, the second between 1945 and 1973, and the third between 1974 and the present time(2007). The missing years are the war years in which he argued all global activity ceased. He notes that in the current period for example there are high levels of capital mobility and a growing volume of labour mobility and trade and that there is growing interdependence of national institutions. The major problem he notes is that the development of international institutions is lagging behind what the International economy requires. As a consequence he disagrees with the previous speaker and argues that there is continuing divergence between the economic growth of industrialised and developing countries especially in those developing countries outside of Asia which is part of a trend of longer term increase in International Inequality. He does, however note a statistic that might be a counterargument against his position:
“Between 2004 and 2007 there was for the first time a faster rate of growth in the developing countries than in the developed countries. Is this a trend?We do not yet know, for example if the economies of China and India can function as locomotives and pull the growth of the world economy forward. According to a recent UN University study, 88% of the world lives in countries where inequality is increasing”
Ocampo points out in relation to this research that the amount of social spending on health, education and social protection is highly correlated with the level of income of the country concerned.
Ocampo then shows an overhead relating to three inequalities. In the quote below is both the information contained on the overhead plus the verbal commentary on it:
“Inequalities of Global order: Three asymmetries.
1. financial and macroeconomic: The available finance in the International Economic system flows from the industrialised countries and this is what constitutes the international currencies we trade in, the dollar, pound,yen etc. This in its turn produces market segmentation , i.e. a market of good and bad borrowers in which the developing countries are regarded as risky borrowers who as a consequence have to pay more for the money they borrow. This cost prevents them from being able to manage the cyclical downturns in the market(flow of capital followed by dry weather). This is a characteristic feature of the third wave of globalisation and is a cause of the divergence of economies
2.Technological and Productive inequalities: Only a few countries generate new technologies and they are very protective of their discoveries. This prevents a smooth process of distribution: diffusion is a very slow process
3. Limited labour mobility. There is discrimination in the system against unskilled labour mobility and an asymmetrical flow of labour toward the industrialised countries
Ocampo elaborates upon point one by pointing out that there are no instruments to counter financial swings in the market insofar as the non OECD countries are concerned and while the expectation is that water and funds should trickle downward, it looks very much as if the developing countries are funding the industrialised countries.
This in turn connects to point two above. With these funds the industrialised countries can make their agricultural and manufactured products more competitive which results in faster growth
In relation to point three Ocampo claims that migration, with the exception of Western Europe, is in fact more limited in the third stage of globalisation than it was in the first stage.
Ocampo then shows an overhead entitled “Three Basic Objectives of International Cooperation”:
“* Interdependence, guaranteeing an adequate supply of global public goods
* Equality of Nations which would help overcome the asymmetries in the world
* Equality of citizens which would be based on a world system of Human Rights,
i.e. global citizenship
In relation to point one and point two on the overhead the lecturer points out that nations are a part of a hierarchical system which by its nature generates unequal opportunities for some participants.
In relation to point three the lecturer asks the question: How do we build an international system of rights and he answers at the institutional level rather than the individual citizen or nation level.He posts an overhead entitled “Improved Governance Structures”:
“* Should be based on a network of world, regional and national institutions forming a dense network of systems
* Whilst retaining a “policy-space” for individual nations where diversity is respected
* Developing countries must participate on equal terms”
The level of the individual is perhaps incorporated in the political and educational institutions that he participates in but what is missing in the above account is the language of individual action in the description of institutions which have been formed by human beings for human beings. There is an underlying complaint in the lecture which refers back to the level of unjust action which would have produced a more nuanced discussion.
There is paradoxically a theoretical bias in this discussion, as there is in economics generally: a bias which works on the assumption that there is a constant or uniform state of the system which all actions of the system attempt to create or maintain. The interesting question to ask is what is the best concept which we should use to describe this system. Is it the concept of the system of the healthy body of Aristotle in which there is an energy regulation system striving to maintain a uniform/constant state of the body giving it a healthy glow and allowing it to lead a healthy life. Or is the system best described in psychological or subject like terms in which the actions will be striving not just to achieve something uniform and constant but rather something better, something desired, something excellent(areté), something which will be good and just for the generations of the future.
The theoretical view of economics quite often uses a hybrid concept of body and mind and mixes these fundamental categories in a theory of the so called enlightened self interested subject whose choices would be enlightened from all points of view.
In the arena of philosophical practical reasoning the key concept is that of action which has two Aristotelian aspects , that of deliberation before the process of acting, and the process of “production of the action” after the deliberation process is over. These two aspects cover two regions of reasoning or “science” for Aristotle , neither of which are what he would term “theoretical reasoning” which is defined as the transmission of knowledge via a series of premises. The two forms of reasoning involved in the two aspects of action which Aristotle discusses involve a transmission of human desire to a final premise which describes an action which ought to be immediately taken, or an object of pleasure. Ocampo is arguing for such a premise relating to an action which presupposes a transmission of desire after a process of deliberation by a network of international institutions(in the name of equality) without the requisite premises, i.e. without the presence of premises of the requisite logical form. In other words Ocampo is attempting to argue for an ought value laden premise conclusion without any major premise containing an ought value-laden statement, thus committing the naturalistic fallacy. Also amongst the is-premises there ought to be recognition of the appropriate categories under which to categorise his theoretical notion of a system. The prevailing category is that of equality: but equality in a physical system where each part or participant in the system should receive equal benefits and opportunities. If , for example, the category assumed is that of a physical system like a living body, Aristotle of course believes that equal treatment of participants should prevail unless there are significant differences between the recipients of benefits. If trying to maintain a uniform or constant state of ones body required distribution of oxygen,nutrition and antibodies to ones organs the function of the organ will determine how much oxygen nutrition and immunising antibodies should be received. It would for example be absurd to claim that every organ in the body should benefit equally: the benefit any particular organ receives will probably be in proportion to the work it performs in the body. The principle of distribution then is related to the contribution to the whole which the particular organ or participant in the system makes, i.e the equality principle does not apply. So this cannot be the type of system that Ocampo has in mind. What he appears to have in mind sometimes is that the larger industrialised countries are the beneficiaries of the work and financing of the non industrialised countries. But is this true? The evidence for this thesis is not presented. There are implied complaints about industrialised countries preventing the free flow of technology but there is no recognition of the work and effort which resulted in the technological innovation. In what Ocampo refers to as “this hierarchical system” this work is, according to Aristotle the significant difference which justifies the fact that a larger proportion of benefits should accrue to the workers behind this work. It might be in fact that in an Aristotelian economic system, work is the value which is being measured. Hannah Arendt argued for a threefold distinction to be observed in this arena of discussion: labour, work and action. Ocampo talks much about labour but not of work or of action,areas of activity which are more complex than labour. If it is these two latter categories, work and action, that are the real generators of value in our society then it is not helpful to construct economic systems based on the value of equality which at best measure the value of labour. The issue of the rights of non industrialised nations presuppose the responsibility of the industrialised nations to assist in the process of the development of non industrialised countries. This issue or rights can only be discussed in relation to the ethical ideas of justice which relate to action. Ocampa wishes for a system of institutions to work and to act in the interests of the non industrialised actors but there is no coherent model for the justification of this work and action coming from the field of economic theory. There is more than an echo here of an old complaint from Socrates who pointed out that doing what is just and understanding what is just requires knowledge.
The 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.
Professor Anderson begins the lecture with a discussion of the definition of a nation-state:
“There can no longer be any doubt that globalization forces impinge upon and influence the shaping of individual entities sometimes even at the expense of the relation between the individual and the community. How one defines a nation or nationalism will be important for questions relating to ethnicity and one should also remember that policy recommendation are likely to flow from such definitions. There is a very important relationship between how you define the terms you are using and the conclusions of what ought to be done about the situation referred to in the definitions.”
Two points need to be raised in relation to the above opening statement. Firstly, globalization forces are postulated as theoretically embedded in a third person matrix of causality instead of from the more obvious and relevant point of view of a matrix of agency and its powers. Secondly, and relatedly, policies are characterized as following from definitions which can only be the case if the major premises of the above-proposed argument are normative premises, i.e. premises from the ought system of concepts. Kant pointed to an archetypal form of ethical/normative argumentation and in this form we see that the definition of the issue concerned comes after the normative generalization, e.g.
Promises ought to be kept
Jack promised Jill he would pay the money back that he was borrowing from her
Therefore, Jack ought to pay the money he owes back to Jill.
Notice that in this formulation there is no risk of the naturalistic fallacy occurring. There is, that is, no risk of attempting to illicitly derive an ought conclusion from an is-premise or set of premises. Norms clearly define the arena the definition is meant to perform in. Norms define both the context of the descriptive judgment and the context of the definition. This discussion should be connected to the first discussion above in relation to globalisation. In this respect, Kant’s Philosophical Psychology points to the importance of an ontological distinction between what happens to one(the forces and causes that impinge upon us) and what one does(our agency and powers). Anderson at the beginning of this lecture series constructed a classification of political positions that fails to accommodate the above discussion and fully utilize the full range of Kantian Political Philosophy. The three positions that are referred to, namely realism, liberalism and constructivism are not conceived in accordance with either Kantian or Aristotelian political theory, thereby foregoing the insights that these political philosophers can bring to any discussion relating to the nature of the nation state and globalisation processes
Anderson then leaves what she calls “policy issues” aside and continues with a description of our modern era:
“The current structure of the modern world would seem to demand that we identify ourselves with a nation and not a region of the nation. Nationalism in the last 150 years has been a powerful provider of identities and provided vehicles for political action. The only other powerful identity provider has been that of “class”: “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains.”…The beginning of the modern system of states began with the treaty of Westphalia. It is after this that you begin to encounter nationalism. Here we have, it is argued, an identity with substance which celebrates the variety of different kinds of people in the world, speaking a particular language, enjoying a particular history and traditions…We identify with other people who share this language, history and culture. Viewed in this way Nationalism was a way to assert value.”
Notice in the above quote the reliance on the idea of a psychological mechanism of identification. Freud was one of the first psychologists to examine this idea systematically in a paper entitled “Group Psychology and the analysis of the Ego”. We should bear in mind also here that Freud claimed that his Psychological reflections were Kantian. In this paper Freud points to pathological psychological mechanisms at work in groups that gather together in public in an attempt to express their collective power to act in the name of some cause under the leadership of a narcissistic leader whose rhetoric is essentially emotional and instinctive and not in accordance with the dictates and inhibitions of our conscious personality as is the case when it is operating in accordance with the demands of ethics and the superego. The infantilism of the group naturally submits to the leader, it is argued, in much the same fashion as the small child submits to his father, except in this case the positive aspect of this relation in which the father consciously and ethically relates to his child and the world in general is foregone.
One can wonder whether Anderson means to refer to the above first mentioned idea of pathological identification or rather the idea of non pathological identification between a father and a child. There is a difficulty, however, with either of these suggestions because Anderson specifically claims that it is possible to identify psychologically with a nation or a class. She calls this form of identification an identity with substance and seems to be forgetting here that this mechanism in its pathological form led to enormous conflicts in the 20th century nationalist movements.
Apart from this problem there is also a problem with identifying with an abstract collective like a class or nation. At the very most it appears that the identification must be with the individual leader of the class or nation. If this is the case then we do appear to be discussing the pathological form of identification related to the personality “strong leader” cults of the various nationalist movements of the twentieth century. In such circumstances the leader takes the collective where he wants them to go like some kind of pied piper, whether it be to war or into isolation or both. It is quite amazing that this phenomenon could occur in the twentieth century, a period of heightened conscious awareness of almost everything it seems except the workings of political processes. Such a phenomenon would have been more to be expected at the dawn of civilisation and consciousness when educational systems and socialising processes were in their infancy and strong conscious leaders were trying to lead their collectives toward the common good. Our modern democracies have very consciously and deliberately limited the power of individual leaders thus limiting the role of identification in the political process. Emotion and instinct have been replaced with a healthy skeptical trust. Indeed the presence of skepticism in our relation to modern day politicians may be a result of the pathological political processes of the last century. Indeed, a reversal of roles appears to have taken place one which demands that the leaders in a positive sense “identify” with their constituencies: these constituencies no longer gather to express their collective power but rather individually express their opinion of their representatives in a private voting booth every 4-5 years. Further when this voting ceremony occurs one is no longer voting for a charismatic leader but rather for a party of leaders with a consciously intended party program for the future common good of the country as a whole. The Freudian superego will be firmly represented in democratic party programs and pathological identification mechanisms will be conspicuous by their absence. Democracy, indeed, does not appear to be in any sense nationalistic in the pathological sense and the only occasions when we see pathological identification mechanisms operating in democratic systems is in times of war when the almost infinite power of the masses are mobilised to fight. In such moments we can clearly see otherwise rational political processes degenerating to the level of the pathological. With these considerations in mind the words “Nationalism is a way to assert value” seem oddly anachronistic. Add to these considerations the records of nationalistic governments of the twentieth century in relation to law-in-general and international and domestic law in particular and we move from the realm of the anachronistic to the realm of the paradoxical.
Aristotle’s preference for the regime of Polity or “constitutional rule” which was defined as rule by the many in accordance with the common good relates to a political philosophy which is recognisably instantiated by the more advanced democracies of the Western world. The “many” in the above context would not be the masses but rather a large middle class which would have rejected the more extreme political policies of the rich and the poor and accepted the importance of education. This group of the many-in-the-middle would necessarily avoid the extreme policies that strong personality cult leaders would have inclined towards. Aristotle’s reasoning that the many are more likely to understand the common good than the one idiosyncratic leader is reflected in not just our political systems but also in our legal system. The Western concept of a jury of our peers embodies rationality in every utterance and decision of the trial process whose navigational star is that of the common good.
In relation to the second objection we raised to the opening statement one might also in the spirit of Kant wish to claim that the above navigational star of the common good is what is really at issue in the agency and powers of government. That is, the principle of practical reason, namely freedom,is the major principe underlying globalisation, or to use Kant’s more appropriate term Cosmopolitanism. Here our description, unlike Lisa Anderson’s will not be of patients enduring forces but rather of agents freely and powerfully acting to bring about the common good or justice.
The question of what a nation is is obviously important if we are to determine what nationalism is and Anderson at this point in the lecture asks for a definition of a nations. She begins by referring to Benedict Andersson’s definition:
“a nation is an imagined political community that is limited and sovereign”
She continues in the following way:
“Nations aspire to sovereignty which many communities do not.””
Apparently my membership of a community is an imagined one and this suffices as an argument against Cosmopolitanism because:
“No nation imagines itself as co-terminous with mankind”
So, identification and now imagination respectively have been suggested as (psychologically?) important in nationalism and citizenship respectively. Both of these terms are of course twentieth century psychological terms which seek to distance themselves from the language of objectivity that permeates Kantian ethical and political thinking. For Kant it is not a question of imagining Cosmopolitan obligations such as keeping promises and telling the truth. One understands these things and our reasoning both justifies our categorical and objective position and aims at bringing about actions for the benefit of the common good.
Reference is made to the USA and its mode of nationalism in relation to which it is claimed:
“The nationalism of the USA is a civic nationalism more concerned with consensus around common political values legal norms and moral commitments than with a common language and cultural tradition..Contrast this with ethnic nationalism”
In this context Anderson then asks the very interesting question: “When did the Irish living in the USA decide that they are Americans of Irish heritage?” and suggests there was a type of rational calculation in accordance with rational calculus. One recognises the spectre of utilitarianism in this passage and rather surprisingly no mention is made of the avalanche of criticism that was unleashed by this attempt to substitute casuistry for ethical reasoning. No further exploration of this interesting question occurs. Anderson is reluctant to use the term “Culture” in this debate but it would appear that culture defined in Aristotelian terms, namely in relation to the institutions of the family, the neighbourhood(the village) and the city must all play their role as must the more global Kantian institutions of keeping ones promises and telling the truth.
There is, toward the end of the lecture a section which attempts to acknowledge the normative features of nationalism. It is, however, mundanely descriptive:
“Nationalism seems to be morally ambivalent. On the one hand we feel solidarity with oppressed peoples and sympathise with their nationalist aspirations but, on the other hand are also repulsed by the crimes perpetrated in the name of nationalism, notably ethnic cleansing. Nationalism creates dilemmas for International Justice. Do we privilege existing sovereign states or do we take a cosmopolitan view which limits sovereignty. Or do we believe that we have a responsibility to protect emerging nationalist movements? This is a vexed area of debate.”
Surely it is possible, Anderson argues, to imagine a world of content sovereign nations with all the goods and values they require. She thus brings to bear both her psychological account and the utilitarian account recently mentioned. Perhaps I can imagine such a state of affairs but her description demands that we abandon the attempt to see nationalism in relation to the democratic form of government inspired by Aristotle referred to above and also involves abandoning the attempt to see the state of affairs in a wider context of a possible Kantian progression toward a morally constituted Cosmopolitan world. It would be without further debate refusing to countenance the truth of the progression of our existence from our life as an individual struggling to survive, to our life in a family, to our life in the village, to our life in the city, to our life in the nation, to our life in the cosmopolitan world.
I will be answering questions on the AMA feed tomorrow , 28th June 2018, in the areas of Political Philosophy, Philosophical Psychology, Philosophy of Education and Ancient Greek Philosophy.
Jude Sutton turned up 5 minutes late to the lecture on a windy March afternoon. The lecture room was diagonally opposite his offices and he was obviously not having an easy time making headway against the winds sweeping off the moors. His long coat flailed in the wind and whipped his legs. His hair was completely disheveled upon arrival in the lecture-room. Even his cigarette had gone out and he seemed to have come without matches. He took a long time to decide what to do with the residue of his home -made cigarette. At last the moment for decision came and he crumpled up the cigarette and put it in his coat pocket. Jude Sutton was suffering. He had almost decided not to come to the lecture. Without a cigarette to distract his nervous system it would not be long before his hands would begin shaking with anxiety. It would not be long before his headache made it impossible to talk without it seeming as if his voice was coming from somewhere far away in the distance. He steeled himself for the opening of the lecture:
“What is our relation to the world as a whole? Surely it cannot be what the scientist claims it to be, a relation to physically measurable events related by causal mechanisms obeying laws we cannot formulate accurately. Surely it cannot be, as the idealist would like us to believe ,a matter of mental states and processes obeying laws of thought we cannot formulate, all relating back to the Cartesian Cogito ergo sum, “I think therefore I am”? How have we been led to this impasse? Is it because of what we will take up in our next week’s lecture, namely the influence of epistemology? Or is the problem instead the influence of the so- called theory of knowledge, upon the three central metaphysical issues in Philosophy: 1. of the existence of the world, 2.The nature of our souls, and 3. The being or processes we call God.
Surely our relation to the world is not merely a knowing relation, which always puts us at a kind of psychical distance to reality. Yet we surely know something about the world. What about our relation to our own souls or even more interestingly given our topic today of Ethics, our relation to other souls. Is the mere concept of knowing sufficient to characterise this relation?. This relation to other souls, which is the concern of all ethical theory?
The major enemy of Philosophy or the major disease it suffers from is skepticism that has the mission not just of questioning everything we claim to know, but, in the course of that questioning mission, skepticism dismantles our world, reduces it to primeval dust. And when we are standing there with dust in our hands the skeptic says nihilstically “ See! it was all clouds of thought, castles in the air”. True, philosophers know you can never reduce a cloud to dust, and the forms of the castle and the house are just as real as the primeval dust the skeptic wants everything reduced to. Philosophy has learned from many skeptical attacks in its history that the existence of the world is not a problem of knowledge. The claim to know places us too far away from the core of the problem. The other major disease that Philosophy has suffered from historically is dogmatism. Sometimes one disease is a cure for another but not very often. Dogmatism is the tool of the tyrant and skepticism the tool of his tyrannical subject and the discourse in such a kingdom can only reduce the truth to dust. At funerals we hear “Man, dust thou are, and to dust shalt thou return.” The intention was to humble us but instead the dust blinded us, filled up our ears and mouth, caused deafness and struck us dumb. What we are, could never be returned or reduced to primeval stardust. This is the source of the ancient idea of the immortality of the soul, itself, related to the Platonic forms which exist sub specie aeternitatis: timelessly. In that handful of dust is our human relations, the relation of one soul to another or the relation of a soul to his community. Skeptics are clever. In dismantling the relation we have to each other they will pretend to believe in the certainty of our private consciousness or sentience, which no one by definition could ever publicly define. They will ask what it is we actually know about other people and we will be forced to answer that what we know of others is based on the behavior we see. I infer, on the grounds of their possessing bodies, which seem the same as mine, that their behavior is connected to their consciousness or sentience in the same way as mine. This is the so- called famous argument from analogy. Other people possess consciousness or sentience by analogy. I can never see anyone’s pain only infer it. And here the skeptic makes his match- winning move. Surely he argues, someone can be behaving as if they are in pain and not be in pain at all. That’s how much we know! And surely, he again argues, someone can be in an enormous amount of pain but, being the true Spartan they are, they show the world nothing of the pain. That is how much we know, the skeptic claims, triumphantly.
Well, Ladies and gentlemen we should not be overly impressed with these snippets of philosophical drama. All the argument shows is that the existence of the world and other souls are not to be characterised in epistemological terms. They are not, in other words, problems of knowledge. We do know of the existence of others, and the criteria of us knowing what we do know, is how they behave, what they say etc. Of course the metaphysical status of this physical and linguistic behavior is a critical philosophical problem and it is part of how we know that someone is in pain.
And someone being in pain, the suffering soul, ladies and gentlemen is one of the key phenomena that ethics needs to deal with.
But before we take up this issue let us talk about language. We obviously see something as something when we see certain physical movements of a man’s face and the sound he emits as a wince of pain. Where does this ability come from? One suggestion is that we see something as something because we are language- users, and it is a major function of language in virtue of its possessing a subject predicate structure, to say something about something. This translates eventually into thought and in virtue of this linguistic capacity we can think something about something. The capacity also transforms our animal like perception into the more human form in which see something as something, for example, I see those physical movements and that sound as a wince of pain. And here we have the later Philosophy of Wittgenstein overturning the earlier, and producing what has been referred to as the Wittgensteinian Copernican revolution. All Philosophical problems , Wittgenstein now argues, can be resolved by investigating the philosophical or as he calls it grammatical structure of our language.
Language does not disguise thought, it manifests thought:-If we would only disengage the skeptical and dogmatic voices within us for a moment and understand what there is to understand. When these skeptical and dogmatic voices within us take over, we are bewitched by the language we use and we can even believe things that are impossible to believe, that is, there can even be contradictions dwelling in our belief systems, which become impossible to detect. Wittgenstein urges us in our “Philosophical Investigations” to ask, “Under what circumstances or in what particular cases do we say that someone has winced in pain, or someone loves someone?” His idea here is that we make conceptual judgments for which there are criteria. We make judgments in the same way as does a dance-judge or an ice skating-judge. In their minds is the idea or form of the perfect dance or perfect ice skating program. In our minds we don’t quantify but judge in virtue of the quality of truth. “What is this physical movement I see before me, how shall I conceptualise it?” The sixty four thousand dollar question is “Where do the criteria for our judgments come from?”. I am afraid I only have a thirty-two thousand dollar answer but it is what we have thus far in the middle of a work in progress, The criteria of judgment come from the agreement over what counts as what, in our language. This linguistic agreement is a work in progress that has been formed of tens of thousands of generations of speakers influenced in every generation by the best minds. If we cannot value or have respect for that, then there is not much we can respect. This language we speak has been over these generations interwoven with forms of life that have transformed our animal existence into human being. We learn our language at our mothers knee and when we see everything we see in our modern concrete jungles there is a thread longer than Ariadne’s flowing back all the way to the cave paintings, fire, the first tools and the dusty paths we walked along in bare feet, eons ago. Agreements over what is to count as what form the structure of how we think about the world. This is the starting point of the Wittgenstein’s revolution.
And so we arrive at the criteria for what is ethically good.
Here is an ethical judgment: “Murder is wrong”. How are we to analyse such a statement philosophically. Aristotle thought there are many meanings of Good two of which were “the good action” and “ the good person”. I am going to concern myself with these during the rest of the lecture.
Charles Stevenson in his work “Ethics and Language” claims that there are two kinds of disagreements that people generally have when talking about the good, Disagreement in belief and disagreement in attitude. Disagreement in belief occurs when verification procedures of the facts can resolve the disagreement. Disagreement in attitude occurs when we agree about the facts but one finds the set of facts good and the other does not. According to Stevenson we can do nothing about the latter. No rational procedure will change attitudes.
I want to maintain, ladies and gentlemen that in analysing “Murder is wrong” on Stevenson’s analysis it turns out that if we submit this to the first pattern of his analysis we must analyse the judgment into “I disapprove of murder (an attitude) and you should do so as well(an imperative). On his second pattern of analysis he would claim that we are on the level of principle and that the analysis of “Murder is wrong” should refer to the principle that murder creates a considerable amount of unhappiness in the society in which we live. This amounts to, what we call in philosophy, a non-cognitive analysis of the moral judgment since disagreements in attitude have no logical relation to facts. Well I am sure, ladies and gentlemen, that disagreements in attitude have a conceptual and therefore logical connection to facts. “Murder is wrong” not just because I disapprove of it and urge you to do so, but for good philosophical reasons, and our individual happiness is only marginally involved in the point of the language game we play with ethics. Stevenson is wrong in insisting that a disagreement in attitude occurs when we agree about the facts. True, we might agree that A killed B on the basis of medical criteria relating to the occurrence of the event of death. But some would doubt that we agree with the murderer over the judgment “Murder is wrong” especially in those cases where the murder is premeditated. Aristotle claims that we all aim in our actions at the good. In an instrumental sense the murderer sees his action as the achievement of an instrumentally structured goal. But, for the sake of a complete argument, were this the only structure by which to judge the value of the action of murder we would as a practical consequence be living in a state of nature and living the kind of life Hobbes described as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. A war of all against all.The difference in the judging procedures in these two cases is that in the first case, we are concerned with the difference between the instrumental value of the achievements of my life-goals and the happiness of my life and in the second case with the categorical value-judgment of the same action. These, when submitted to the practical reasoning process of Kant’s categorical imperative would arrive at the logical consequence that “One ought not to murder”, because the universal law justifies the “Murder is wrong” judgment. I am saying ladies and gentlemen that when we say that “murder is wrong” this is amongst other things a first move in a language game in which we place a responsibility on the hearer to approve, to adopt the correct attitude. We are not inviting our interlocutor to a debate about the concept of murder.
Now it is important to realise the difference between an ethical judgment about what is good in the world of action, and an aesthetic judgment about what is good in the world of fashion and taste, in which the winds of change blow our taste first in one direction and then in another. In the language game of aesthetic judgment we concern ourselves with things such as strawberries and raspberries and how things appear rather than what they are in themselves. Any imperative or ought –judgment in the aesthetic language-game does not relate to our obligations to do something but rather to our desires for pleasure and happiness. Ethical obligations, on the other hand, do not arise from how the world appears to us to be, but rather from how it ought to be for everyone.
The agreement relating to the judgment “Murder is wrong” is mandatory. What that means is that if you do not agree, you are compromising your rationality in the whole sphere of moral value judgment. The advertisement of such a phenomenon of disagreement in a world filled with the noise of advertisements is interpreted by people who understand the workings of practical reason as being indicative of the aimless wanderings of a stranger in the polis of good ethical action. Perhaps, it might be surmised, such a stranger is confusing what is aesthetic with what is ethical. Such a stranger is confusing the appearance with what is real.
But all of this is somewhat obscure unless some account is given of the criteria I have been talking about. What are they? Well, ladies and gentlemen I believe that they are Kantian .The first criterion is conceptual universality, i.e. if something is to be conceptualised as murder it is necessarily wrong. The attitude of disapproval is written into it. Killing, in self defence when no other alternative is available is not, some would claim, murder, although Dr. Glynn Samuels our resident Welsh genius would certainly disagree. For him you should allow yourself to be murdered under the Christian value system whose only real commandment, according to Leo Tolstoy, is “Do not resist evil”.
The second criterion is connected with how we ought to universally treat people. According to Kant we ought to treat everyone as ends-in -themselves—as dignified bearers of ultimate values with a right to everything humans have rights to. The third criterion is connected to the fate of our society. According to Kant there is a kind of law of historical progress operating and we will eventually reach a point in the development of society, which he calls the kingdom of ends, in which everyone who has reached the age of consent or the state of mind of a knowing, consenting being, will fulfil their obligations to each other. In such a society there may not even be any widespread need for legal and justice systems given the fact that all relations and actions in that society would be regulated by Kant’s moral law. This of course would be to the liking of Dr. Samuels and his source of inspiration Mr. Tolstoy.
But it is not only obligation or duty, which is the key idea in Kantian ethics. The practical idea of freedom defines the difference between the theoreticians belief in the spatiotemporal world of deterministic causation and the practical philosophers faith in the freedom from causal determination of the ethical agent when acting ethically: Aristotle’s good person and good action in other words. The ethical subject and the ethical action are striving not to be happy but, rather, to be deemed worthy, on the basis of their actions, of happiness. There are basically four kinds of action in the Kantian practical system and the ethical is the highest and most complex . The second most complex kind of action are instrumental actions which are structured in accordance with the principle of prudence: a principle which aims to strive for the individuals good and the individuals happiness. The next kind of action in Kant’s hierarchy are customary or traditional actions which rely on the wisdom of generations and finally there are expressive actions which are normally positive emotional responses but can even be completely detrimental to the agents well being, even if they are, as Aristotle put it, “aimed” at the agents good. And here again we must cast out the skeptical voice in us which tries to suggest that theoretical knowledge is the standard by which to measure whether a reason is good or not, whether a judgment is good or not, whether a person is good or not. Kant talks of faith in this context: faith in the good processes of the world, promoting and sustaining the good ethical actions of the good agent judging wisely. Here, for Kant, the belief in the Good and the belief in freedom are fundamentally practical concerns. These ideas of the Good and Freedom, according to Kant take us deeply into the world as it ought to be in itself: allow us to glimpse the kingdom of ends which is what some will maintain is the aim of all religion. In this line of reasoning we can see a Kantian modification of Christ’s claim that “The truth will set you free”. It is the truth of the above ideas, which above all will set you free. We may not all be sinners but we all certainly live our lives with an inadequate idea of the structure of the world and inadequate ideas of the structure of our souls”
A mature English major, raised his hand and said:
“The lesson ended some time ago we only have 15 minutes for lunch.”
“Yes doesn’t time fly when one is having fun. Next Fridays unit in the series “Philosophy of Education” will be “Epistemology”—Theory of Knowledge for you non Greek speakers. In this unit we will ask how we know facts such as “The pen is on the table” and “How could I know that you were all hungry?”
Jude Sutton ended the lecture angry at himself for not completing the lecture. One or two students immediately rushed to the canteen next door but I, and a number of others stayed to ask follow up questions. Amongst these, I was surprised to see Sophia, who must have come in after me and sat at the back of the lecture room outside my line of sight
“What implications do these ideas have for the legal institutions of society?” asked the friend I had seen Sophia together with in the library.
“It is a perennial philosophical question whether these institutions of justice are themselves fundamentally just. They are all designed to punish the bad man and the bad action. If one goes back to Socrates’s discussions of justice in the Republic he argues that punishing a bad man will not produce the good, it will only make him worse and that will be worse for everybody. But the Kantian position recognises “the evil” in man, if I can put these words in quotation marks for the moment: that is, these words recognise mans disposition not to look at the world with a good will. Kant also recognises that the work of convincing man to approach the world through his judgments and actions with a good will cannot be done via the traditional biblical means of revelation of the miraculous and a pseudo-inference to an all powerful super-sensible being at the source. So Kant views punishment as, not in the spirit of an “eye for an eye”, but rather in the spirit of depriving the agent of his freedom and waiting for that fundamental condition of approaching the world with a good will to occur, namely seeing the world as a place where the good produces the benefits of a good life and seeing ones actions to be part of the processes which lead to such a good life. So, to answer your question the statues of justice should not just have a sword and scales in their hands, they should try to find some way of carrying a book, perhaps under their arms, and my suggestion for the book concerned would be Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”. Some humanists believe that the sword should be removed from the hand of the statue of justice but this would be to override an important Kantian intuition about justice, namely that the consequences of murdering someone is that evidence becomes public that a human being has lost his humanity and every murderer must symbolically live with the consequences of that. This of course does not necessarily mean that all murderers should be put to death as useless animals who no one wishes to own are, but it does raise the interesting question of what we should do with murderers.”
Sophia stepped forward, her long golden Swedish hair decorating her shoulders:
“We are sorry but we joined the course late. We were doing Sociology of Education but thought that this elective might be more useful to organize our thoughts about education. I am sorry if I am asking questions you have probably answered earlier in the course but today you talked about the existence of the world and its reality. What do you mean? Is this a silly question?
Jude Sutton gave a little smile and answered:
“Not at all my dear, your question cuts right to the heart of the course which began by asking about the nature of the world. We are , according to Aristotle, the rational animal, and it is our reason that enables us to understand a world rather than live in a segment of it: in an environment. There are other regions of our mind, which help to build up this awareness. Firstly there are our innate intuitions of space and time, which are involved in the perception of the things in the world as we build up our experiences Secondly there is our understanding of the world when we begin to organize these experiences into a coherent whole with for example, the principle of causality and other categorical principles. But Reason is the crowning moment for our minds. It allows us to believe that we can systematically understand the world as systematic whole. When all our principles of experience are laid out in plain sight we still do not have an adequate idea of the world—one that allows the smooth operation of language and logic. Reason makes reasonable assumptions, which may be the consequences of inferences from different regions of the mind. One of these assumptions is a presupposition of reality as a given continually changing infinite continuum out of which the world emerges, as a space for all possible human experience and awareness. In order for this to make sense there is a presupposition of an infinite original being which is just the name of existence as a whole. This grounds the possibility of the experience and awareness of everything, both the possible and the actual. This is why the world cannot merely be the totality of things, because the principles of the experience of objects will never enable us to understand important regions of the world: for example the human regions of the world. Considering man as a network trapped in a deterministic network of causes transforms him into an object and denies the fundamental law of his subjectivity, namely his freedom. But freedom is a recent idea of Reason. The practical idea of reason that took us from our animal existence to our divine humanity was the theoretical idea of God. The reasoning went something like this. The things in the world are different. This difference is a function of the fact that they are not some other thing: things are as they are as a result of the negations attaching to them. The negation is only possible if there is an understanding of a whole of things and their negations. This whole is then conceived to be an original being from which all things are derived. One can immediately see that this is not an objective necessity but is a necessity that arises as a consequence of our thought processes about the world. It is then a natural extension of theoretical reasoning to connect this to causality and regard this being as the first cause of all contingent things which owe their existence and essence to him, if we wish now to anthropomorphize this being- Thus was God born. I have no problem with believing in the Philosopher’s God . For the philosopher the idea of God would have made more sense if God was characterized as the whole from which all processes of change flow”
Aristotle’s response to dialectical reasoning and the dialectical interaction between the positions of materialism and dualism was hylomorphic theory and its method of metaphysical logic. This method builds upon a correct understanding of the Principle of non-contradiction(PNC) which he characterises as follows in Book 4, 3-6 of his work Metaphysics:
“It is not possible for one and the same thing both to have and not to have one and the same property.”
There is also a slightly different formulation of the same principle at 1006b 33-34:
“it is impossible that it should at the same time be true to say of the same thing both that it is human and that it is not human.”
The first formulation clearly refers to reality directly and the second formulation appears to take a more circuitous route and refer to what can be “Truly said” of reality thus indicating that the PNC is not merely a logical principle regulating relationships between propositions and statements. For Aristotle the Principle refers directly to reality via our truthful claims about reality. If this is so, and this position is argued by Vasilis Politus in Chapter 5 of his work “Aristotle and the Metaphysics”, then it would appear to follow that logic is subservient to metaphysics and PNC then becomes a principle of what we would call “Metaphysical logic”. PNC on this kind of account, is a source of demonstrative proofs or explanations which itself is not subject to demonstrative proof or explanation. As a corollary of his position in this debate, Politus argues that PNC is not a so called “Transcendental Principle”, i.e. a claim to the effect that something is true of reality because it is true of thought or language. Politus has this to say on p 135:
“Aristotle argues(in Chapter 4,4) that if PNC were not true of things then we could not use thoughts and words to signify things, and in general we could not think and speak about things. He concludes that if PNC were not true of things, then thought and language about things would be impossible. PNC is rue of things because it is a necessary condition for the possibility of thought and language about things.”
This has the logical consequence that there can be no demonstration or explanation of PNC. On our account we wish to maintain, therefore, that PNC is a principle of metaphysical logic and as a consequence a principle about thought and language about things. Aristotelian metaphysics is about the form, essence or primary principle of things. PNC requires that everything in the world has explainable essences or principles. Denying that things have essences or forms or primary principles is a condition of denying PNC. If things are indeterminate(have no essence) then PNC cannot be an applicable principle. However, since PNC is true of all things, all things are determinate and must therefore have essences. Socrates has an essence, namely his humanity, and therefore we can make true non contradictory statements about him, i.e. access his “primary being” to use the expression used by Politus.
Returning to our second formulation of PNC, can we then not say that Socrates’ humanity is the primary principle or form or essence of primary being of Socrates? : and is this not that which explains what Socrates ontologically is? Aristotle believed that all living things possessed souls of different kinds or in his technical language from De Anima a soul is “the actuality of a body that has life”. But living things take different forms and Aristotle therefore constructed a matrix of life forms which defined a living things form or essence partly in terms of the physical organ system it possessed and partly in terms of the power the thing as a whole possessed. He begins with simple plants, their simple physical structures, and their powers of growth and reproduction. The matrix seems to be organised in terms of a continuum of a possible infinite number of forms only some of which are actualised because of the physical conditions of the elements of the world(earth water air fire) and their accompanying processes of wet and cold, hot and dry. The next stage of the continuum manifests itself in animal forms possessing animal organ systems and the powers or perception and locomotion(in addition to the previous plant like power). The penultimate stage of the matrix is that of humanity or the human being which possesses a more complex organ system and also more complex powers of discourse, memory and reasoning(in addition to all the lower powers previously mentioned). This matrix was an attempt to transcend the dialectical discussions of dualists and materialists and present a hylomorphic theory of the soul which would not fall foul of the PNC. This matrix is a matrix of agents and powers which in its turn is of course embedded in an environmental matrix of space, time and causation(discussed in part one).
In a sense Metaphysical Logic was metaphorically placing a curse on both the houses of dualism and materialism in order to stem the reproduction of theories from these sources. However, as we know Platonic dualism defied the metaphorical curse and was one of the motivating assumptions of Old and New Testament Religions and we also know that materialism was one of the motivating assumptions of the rise of modern science which Descartes, Hobbes and Hume were embracing in their anti-Aristotelian theorizing. As a direct consequence metaphysical logic dwindled in importance as the drama of dialectical interaction between Religion and Science played itself out at the beginning of our modern era. PNC was demoted from a Metaphysical principle to a transcendental principle of logic governing thought and language. Dualism was of course as old as the hills and Orphic, pre-Judaic, Judaic and Christian theories of the soul characterised it as a special kind of substance that breathes life into a material body embedded in a space-time-causation matrix. Materialism saved its breath for several centuries before finally claiming in the spirit of dialectical interaction that a non-physical, non extended entity cannot have causal effect in the physical matrix of the material world—this substance can move nothing in the material world because it shares none of its properties. The soul cannot be causa sui, materialists argued, by definition, because it cannot be observed either by itself or by others in its putative causing itself to do things.
With PNC, Metaphysical logic and hylomorphic theory marginalised by a “transcendental” conception of logic, the resultant chaos was inevitable. Metaphysics became identical with dualistic assumptions and Aristotle’s metaphysical logic was categorised as dualistic and it was not long before PNC’s metaphysical implications were entirely forgotten except for those die-hard Aristotelians working in a University system itself in the process of being transformed into institutions for the representation of the houses of dualism and materialism. Kant, thankfully, temporarily halted this process of “modernisation” for a short period of time until Hegel and Marx in true dialectical fashion ensured that both Kant and Aristotle were consigned to the footnotes of their dialectical Philosophies. Both Aristotle and Kant emerged as relevant Philosophical figures once again when the process of “modernisation” was again halted in England by the later Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Modernisation and the scientification of our everyday existence continues but for every halting of the process the followers of the opposition increase in number and help to construct what is now beginning to look like a philosophical tradition composed of the philosophies of Aristotle, Kant, and the later Wittgenstein and their followers.
The problem of the relation of the soul to the body must surely fall into the category of what Aristotle referred to as aporetic questions. It is also one of the key problems that needs to be addressed in the arena of Philosophical Psychology. Aristotle regarded the relation of the soul and the body as a holistic unity similar to that of the relation between form and matter. Jonathan Lear, a commentator on the writings of both Aristotle and Freud characterises this issue in the following way:
“Yet it is precisely because soul and body must form a unity in a living organism that it is difficult to distinguish them. Artefacts provided the original model for the form-matter distinction:and there is a clear sense in which a craftsman imposes form on distinct matter. With living organisms, by contrast, matter and form are intimately bound up with each other: consequently,there is no distinctly existing and persisting matter on which soul can, from time to time, be imposed. Indeed the matter of a living organism seems to depend on being ensouled to be the matter that it is. And a given type of soul, say human soul, seems to require a particular type of matter. The living organism is such a unity but the real challenge for Aristotle is to show how that unity can legitimately be conceived as having two aspect, soul and body.”
The soul is an actuality of matter(there can be levels of actuality) and living beings can be regarded as “substance” par excellence by Aristotle. His matrix of different life forms are established in terms of the kind of power that belongs to a particular form. In De Anima 15b 8-14 Aristotle maintains unsurprisingly that the soul is the moving, formal and final cause of the body. He also maintains that a particular constellation of organs are what give rise to particular forms of life. He does not claim that these organs “cause” in any modern sense the form of life—it is rather the case that these forms of life “spontaneously” cause themselves to do what they do, i.e. exercise the powers typical of their particular life form. Aristotle, as we pointed out in part one speaks of a matrix of life forms which form a hierarchy from the simplest to the most complex form: from the simplest form of vegetation to the most complex life form of God. This matrix is constituted by the differentiation of powers but the most interesting observation Aristotle makes is that the more complex life forms incorporate the simpler forms and presumably in so doing transforms their functions into more complex activities. At the level of the human being, the next most complex form of life, Aristotle provides us with three different characterisations:
1.The first characterisation is in terms of an essence specifying definition: a rational animal capable of discourse. This is clearly a kind of summary of the most important powers a human possesses.
2.The second characterisation is in terms of a careful account of how we acquire knowledge through the uses of the powers of perception, memory and reasoning which also appear to be related to powers of language and imagination.
3. The third characterisation is in terms of mans ability to reason both theoretically and practically.
There does not appear to be any conflict between the three characterisations. Hughlings Jackson a theorist who influenced Freudian theory, claimed that areas of the brain have the above kind of hylomorphic hierarchical structure. Freud used these hylomorphic ideas when he suggested his three principles of “psychic” functioning:–the energy regulation principle, the pleasure-pain principle, and the reality principle. Each of the higher principles “colonises” some of the territory of the lower principles thus transforming the human activities associated with them. Eating a meal, for example, primarily an energy regulation activity, is transformed into a civilised activity aiming at the pleasures of sitting down for a period of time with ones family. This is a clear example of the transformation of an instinctive/biological activity into a social event which may involve other powers of the mind such as engaging in discourse and reasoning at the dinner table. Freud claims that one function of language and discourse is to bring “psychic” material into the field of consciousness(where all our powers appear to be integrated). Indeed, his later therapeutic techniques appear to be presupposing the hylomorphic principle of powers building upon powers with the intent of integrating all powers in the mind. Freud is ambivalent on the question of whether consciousness itself is a power or an inherent function of the brain probably partly because of the fact that he was fighting for hylomorphism against the predominating Cartesian model of consciousness. Freud obviously also benefitted from the work of Kant. He is reputed to have said that his was the Psychology that Kant would have written had he concerned himself with this subject which had broken its moorings from Philosophy in 1870. Kant’s work had obviously recreated the space for reflection upon the hylomorphic soul and the power of thinking that Aristotle had established earlier. The Dualism-materialism dialectical interaction continued however with the appearance of the Hegelian criticism of Kantian philosophy which it must be admitted was not straightforwardly hylomorphic. Freuds work began in materialistic mode but soon rejected these assumptions and attempted to restore the Aristotelian principle based approach in the arena of what today we would call Philosophical Psychology. Even during the later phases it must also be admitted that Freud’s work is also not straightforwardly hylomorphic. There is clearly a dualistic tendency in Freud’s work which manifested itself when in his last phase of theorising he turned towards the theories of Plato for some of his key concepts(Eros, Thanatos, Ananke). In spite of these reservations however, it is clear that Freud’s theory is a theory of agency, principles and powers set in a practical context of the search for a flourishing life. The Aristotelian notion of substance implies agents that can do things and act upon things. Powers, for Aristotle, are potentialities to bring about changes in reality and this idea is clearly at work in the Freudian Reality Principle. A power is actualised as part of a cure and then belongs to the agent. Hume would probably have objected that just as we cannot observe the cause of building a house, we cannot observe powers and that therefore they are highly dubious entities. This is a logical consequence of his position that whatever happens is the only thing that can happen.
P.M.S. Hacker in his work “Human Nature:The Categorical Framework” argues that this Humean position is absurd:
“The incoherence of the position was already espoused by Aristotle. For if a thing can do only in fact what it does, then we can no longer speak of skills, since a man cannot do what he is not doing: nor can we speak of learning(acquisition of skills). We shoud be deemed blind when we are not seeing and deaf when we are not hearing.”
Hacker is of course one of the foremost commentators and interpreters of the work of Wittgenstein who, he claims, restored hylomorphic theory in the seminar and lecture rooms of our dialectical Universities. Consciousness in its non- Cartesian form enters into modern post Wittgensteinian discourse in terms of the reflective nature of the human being that possesses an awareness of their powers(unlike a magnet or snake which possess powers unreflectively). This reflectiveness, in its turn, according to Hacker, gives rise to powers that can be willfully used, i.e. powers that we can choose to exercise or not. It was this mental space that appeared to be absent in the mental space of many of Freud’s patients and it was this lack that drove Freud to postulate that the principle driving much of their activity was unconscious and in accordance with the so-called pleasure-pain principle. Hacker calls “volitional powers” in which choice is involved, “two-way powers”. Included among such powers were the powers to perceive, remember, think and reason. He further argues that both Descartes and Hume conflate empirical and conceptual issues and thereby provided assumptions for an emerging neuroscience which were incoherent and confused. As we pointed out earlier Kant attempted to correct the influence of Descartes and Hume by claiming as an axiom of his philosophical psychology(Anthropology) that human beings know a priori the difference between what they are doing and what is being done to them. Kantian accounts as we now know gave rise in the process of modernisation, to volitional theories which in attempting to classify our actions in terms of the modernist matrix of space-time-linear causation resolved a holistic activity into a causal relation between two occurrences which the process of composition could not logically unify.
Schopenhauer was already experiencing the pull of modern volitionism back into a non-Aristotelian matrix of space-time-linear causation when he claimed that:
“we certainly do not recognise the real immediate act of will as something different from the action of the body and the two are connected by a kind of causality: but both are one and indivisible….thus actual willing is inseparable from doing, and, in the narrowest sense, that alone is an act of will which is stamped as such by the deed.”(World as Will and Representation).
It is not difficult to see how volitionism is connected to the dualism-materialism dialectic and in particular Cartesianism and its pernicious form of dualism that paradoxically ends up in the brain. Platonic dualism is not pernicious in this way. It distinguishes between a world of forms and a physical world—a world of representations and the world of that which the representations are of—which Schopenhauer addresses with his distinction between the world of will and the world as representation, where the former world is connected to a priori knowledge that is non observational.Hylomorphic theory with its levels of actuality seems to be the only theory capable of “saving the phenomenon” of willing without reduction or reification. Freudian theory, we should remember, maintained that one can act involuntarily.
Hacker connects teleology to voluntary action and two way powers in the following passage:
“Human beings, like other sentient animals with wants, have the power to move, to act, at will. “to act” in this context does not signify causing a movement, but making one. We acknowledge a special role for such so-called basic actions not because they are a causing of a movement that may be the first link in a causal chain, but because they are the first act. The first thing for which a purposive or intentionalist explanation may be apt. To say that a human being moved his limb is to subsume behaviour under the category of action. It earmarks behaviour as being of a kind, that is under voluntary control, as something of a kind which is a sentient agent can choose to do or not to do, and hence indicates the propriety of asking whether there is an intentionalist explanation of the deed. The attribution of the movement to the agent is not causal. But it is an action, and therefore is of a kind that falls within the ambit of the variety of teleological explanation appropriate for human action. The agent may have moved his hand in order to… or because he wanted to…..or because he thought that….or out of fear, and so forth. Aristotle’s movement is to be understood to be liable to the range of explanations of the exercise of two way powers by a rational agent.”
This, of course, calls into question the observationalist use of the method of resolution and composition(the behaviourist psychologist). Saying on the basis of observation something about another agents movement that “His arm moved” is a description which leaves it open whether this was something he did(raise his arm to call a taxi) or whether this was rather something that happened to him(raising his arm in a fit of cramp). If the phenomenon was of the latter kind there are absolutely no grounds for calling what happened “action”.
Modernization of Aristotelian theory resulted in the scientist reasoning in the spirit of Hobbes and Hume, as part of the process of the dismantling of hylomorphic theory, that teleological explanation is not a form of explanation at all. Two reasons are given for this claim. Firstly the telos cannot be observed and secondly telos disappears in the methodical resolution of activity into linear cause-effect events. Events can then be comfortably described a-teleologically. That scientists should have spent so much effort and time in this composition and subsequent destruction of this “straw man of teleology” or “ghost of teleology” is indeed thought provoking. What is even more thought provoking is the success of their “mythologizing of teleology” and the fact that this process could prove so devastating for Psychological theories such as Freud’s and Piaget’s. Because this process was so successful it might prove useful to remind ourselves of what teleological explanation is via Hacker’s characterisation:
“Our discourse about the living world around us, about ourselves, our bodies and activities, and about the things we make is run through with description and explanation in terms of goals, purposes and functions. We characterise things such as organs and artefacts, and also social institutions in terms of their essential functions and their efficacy in fulfilling them. We explain animal morphology in terms of the purposes served by their shapes, limbs and features. This is not a causal explanation(although it is perfectly consistent with, and indeed calls out for one), since we explain what the organ or feature is for and not how it came about and not how(by what causal processes) it fulfils its function. We describe what it enables the animal to do and how it affects the good of the animal or its offspring. We commonly explain why certain substances animate and inanimate(artefactual) or constituent parts of substances(organs of living things or components of artefacts) do what they do by describing what they do it for…We explain and justify human action, including our own, by specifying the rationale of the prospective or antecedently performed action, and we often account for the behaviour of social institutions likewise. These kinds of description are called “teleological descriptions” and these kinds of answers to the question why, teleological explanations—explanations by reference to an end or purpose(telos).”(p163-4)
Hacker goes onto add that:
“Teleological explanation is typically an explanation in terms of reasons, motives and intended goals…and is said to yield understanding(Verstehen) in a distinctive form by contrast with explanation in terms of causal law that is the mark of the natural sciences.”(p164)
Hacker also agrees that teleology is linked to the idea of the good on the grounds of psuche being a biological/psychological substance whose essence it is to come into being, flourish and eventually die and decay. Living beings on his and Aristotle’s account have absolute needs tied to health and mortality. These needs extend from life-maintaining activities to activities producing the quality of life necessary for a flourishing existence. These latter activities require a considerable amount of learning and the acquisition of many complex skills. We can clearly see a hierarchy of needs emerging from this account. Abrahams Maslow’s theory is a hierarchical theory in which satisfying a need “causes” another higher level need to emerge. There is , in this theory, an “incorporation of the lower level need in the higher. Proceeding up the hierarchy eventually results in a flourishing life for the individual concerned. Maslows account includes reference to cognitive and aesthetic needs. Hacker is not directly referring to Maslow’s theory in his characterisation below but there are significant resemblances:
“Human welfare is associated with the satisfaction not only of absolute needs, but also of socially minimal needs that are a prerequisite for the successful pursuit of any normal projects that human beings adopt in the course of their lives, and hence are normally required for a tolerable life. These include the cultivation of human faculties and the acquisition of skills. The notions of normalcy and of socially minimal needs are both socio-historically relative and normative. In a society such as ours, education(the formation of character, the training in skills, acquisition of knowledge, the development of intellectual powers, and the cultivation of sensibility) is a constitutive element of the welfare of members of society. It is needed if it is to be possible for a normal person to form, and pursue with reasonable chance of success worthy life plans and projects.Welfare is part of the goal of man, but it is the lesser part…Beyond is the flourishing, thriving and prospering that nature, endeavour and future bestow.”(p175)
A large part of the task of society and its social institutions is striving toward the telos of the good: that is, for a society to be flourishing large numbers of the members of that society must experience that the conditions provided allow them to have their needs systematically met. The telos of the society, as Socrates suspected, must be connected to the telos of the individual. If an individual flourishes in a flourishing society he achieves what Aristotle refers to as the summum bonum of life, namely eudaimonia , or happiness. This can only occur, argue Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, if the society concerned is Rational. This moves us onto the question of the realm of the essence or formal “cause” of society and individual.
One of the needs of the animal and the human being is to reproduce and if the latter do so rationally a level of consciousness of the telos of sexuality is a requisite condition. Plants and animals do not possess this requisite condition, this level of reflective consciousness in relation to reproductive or sexual activity. In Freud’s theory it is the principles of energy regulation and pleasure pain that regulate reproductive activity. In the human being we are capable of regulating this activity by using the powers of discourse and reasoning. We can that is discuss the reasons for our reproductive and sexual behaviour. The essence of the individual is tied to reproductive activity for Freud but his claims only make sense in the context of hylomorphic theory. The family is obviously the social institution connected to sexual activity and the bringing up of children which appears to so many to be an important part of the flourishing life. The family is also the basic social unit which forms the basis for the construction of the polis and is therefore an important element of the flourishing polis, the Callipolis.
Aristotle’s teleological explanations seem therefore to have clear application in the realm of the human world but is the case for their application to the natural world equally obvious? Particles and matter for example are not naturally thought of in terms of being “for” anything and the reason why particles and matter do what they do is also not directly relatable to their internal potential to move but rather to some propensity to move when caused to do so by external factors. In a low pressure system, for example where the air is cooled the matter in the system will descend in the form of rain after having ascended in warmer circumstances to form clouds. This might suffice for some to attribute a telos to the evaporated water that was ascending and then descended back to earth in the cooling process. Some kind of resolution-composition method sufficed for Aristotle to pick out the elements of earth water air and fire and their associated processes of wet-cold, hot-dry and for him there did seem to be a place for teleological explanation in weather systems, organ systems and perhaps also economic systems. Basically energy regulation systems such as weather systems are set to a teleological standard of homeostasis. Viewed from the vantage point of energy regulation Aristotelian teleological physics appears harmless enough. It is, however, when God is brought into the picture as a designer of systems that problems begin to emerge. Aquinas, a commentator and interpreter of the works of Aristotle from a religious point of view attempts to argue that in the inorganic world, “material” which lacks awareness could only have a goal, i.e. act “for the sake of” some end if God directed the process in much the same way as an archer intentionally directs an arrow at a target. This of course, cannot fail to remind us of the passage in the Nichomachean Ethics where Aristotle claims:
“If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake(everything else being desired for the sake of this)…clearly this must be the good and the chief good. Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life?Shall one not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should do?If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is.”
Aristotle claims that this end is Eudaimonia, often translated as happiness, but not always happily so. Perhaps a better translation in some contexts would be “a flourishing life”. It is the function of man, Aristotle argues, to lead a flourishing life which for him amounts to living in accordance with areté or virtue which in its turn means doing the right thing at the right time in the right way: all these elements will be involved in the reasons a man gives for doing any particular act. This, in the Freudian scheme of things, would entail that the Reality Principle(Ananke) is the organising principle of ones life.
Aquinas conceives of God as a Supreme Agent, the Supreme Archer but there is very little in Aristotle to support this thesis. Aristotle claims that an arrow falls downward for the same reason that rain falls downward in the weather system, namely earth falls downward because its situational-being is beneath the water and air and this is its natural place. Fire and heat and light(not heavy) warm matter moves upwards because the source of heat is its place, namely, the sun. All these elements are we should be careful to note already formed material (in accordance with the matter-form principle) and it is their form that decides their position and changes of position in the universe. That is, an arrow will fall to earth after having been fired into the air because of the forms that compose it: the wood and the iron are returning to their source—the earth. Now Aristotle in claiming the above was not making the mistake of other early philosophers/poets and claiming that the arrow “wanted” to return to earth. After all, was it not Aristotle who claimed that a tree has a visual form to present to the human eye but that a tree because of its nature cannot itself be aware of visual forms. Did he not maintain that powers build upon powers and that in accordance with this idea only substances that can be perceptually aware of visible forms can “want” and desire and therefore strive to fulfil these wants? Only animals and humans can fire the arrows of desire at their targets. Now, on Aristotle’s account god is pure form but his function is pure thinking which does not desire or aim at objects since all objects are immediately possessed by a pure thinker. God, therefore, cannot in any way be similar to a super-human craftsman creating and shaping the substance of the world over a period of time. The Biblical creation myth is allegorical and meant merely to establish the hierarchy or “Place” of animals in relation to earth and God in relation to man and man in relation to the animals and the rest of the universe. In short God, whilst in some sense being alive does not perceive or desire and his thought has no relation to these powers. There is, it should be noted a significant difference between the philosophical God of Aristotle and the Biblical Mythical God who appears amorphously through the mists of mythological allegory. Aristotle’s God is not a craftsman caring for his creation and he is not therefore the Supreme agent or Supreme archer directing the elements to their natural places. He is rather, pure actuality, pure form, pure thinking. He thinks in a way which is not the realisation of a potential but rather thinks of himself in a timeless infinite “moment” of contemplation. Perhaps Thales shared this conception and perhaps this is what he meant when he said “things are full of gods” as a response to those atheists who believed that the planets were just cold feelingless stone. If God is not thinking as we do about Reality how then should we characterise this thinking. Aristotle brilliantly chose the description/explanation that God thinks about thinking. He therefore cannot be a super-agent or a super-archer. When we are thinking, Aristotle points out, we partake however primitively, in the divinity of contemplation. When we are contemplating, it is during these moments that we are closest to God and the extent to which this occupies a large proportion of our life is the extent to which we lead a flourishing life or the “good spirited(Eudaimonia) life. One cannot but be amazed at the ease with which Aristotle makes his transitions from Metaphysical aporia to Ethical and political Philosophy aporia. These almost seamless transitions were the reason why he was referred to as “The Philosopher” for hundreds of years and “the teacher of our teachers”. Dante referred to Aristotle as “The master of those that know”. This is also the reason why we need to take his definition of Philosophy seriously—the systematic understanding of the world as a systematic whole– in a way that has been done only sporadically by Modern Philosophy since the time of Descartes and Hobbes.
Jude Sutton appeared almost on time for the lesson and the lesson began with the words:
“Education is a noun but the key to the whole problem as to what education is, lies in the primary verb form ”educe” which, according to the “Cambridge” English Dictionary means to bring out, to lead, develop from latent or potential existence, a process of inference of principle from the matter which it explains.
This ladies and gentlemen is a very different idea to that we have discussed earlier, namely, the world being the totality of facts. In the idea or form of education the Aristotelian notion is of a world being a totality of facts and explanations or justifications, where these explanations and justifications in many areas of discourse have a fact- determining role.”
The Science major raised his hand and asked.” I don’t quite understand. Surely a fact is a fact independently of what anyone thinks about it”
“I am inclined to agree, a wolf can kill 3 sheep in 7 days independently of whether there is anyone to see these events or talk about them, but that is only part of the story of what makes a statement to that effect true. The wolf has become a linguistic entity as soon as he became a bearer of the name “wolf”… but this is all too theoretical to be of immediate relevance for us. If for no other reason than the fact that the concept of Education is not close to the physical events occurring in the world and not close to the thoughts that furnish one’s mind but is rather an umbrella term for a group of action-related processes whose telos or function will only become clear when we have sketched the logical geography of the associated concepts in this terrain.
Let me give you an example of the way in which principles determine reality in the practical sphere of ethics. No one, I hope will question the importance of ethics for Education. In theoretical contexts if I claim that “water boils at 100 degrees centigrade” and someone discovers that it does not at great heights above sea level, then my statement is not a principle, and must be rejected on the grounds of lacking support in reality.
But take the ethical principle “Murder is wrong” and imagine you are standing in a bus queue and two people begin quarrelling bitterly with each other. One pulls out a gun and shoots the other. We have witnessed what is called a murder and we are bearers of the attitude towards this event expressed in the words “Murder is wrong” Now note that the argument for murder being wrong is not to be found in reality as is the case with the wolf eating 3 sheep in 7 days. That is, the argument is not to be found in the fact that the murder occurred in front of my eyes whilst I was standing in a bus queue.
It is to be found in what philosophers call principles in the ought system of concepts, one of which is “Murder is wrong”. This principle is fact-determining. The principle itself also has the function of justifying the attitude we take to the event and all explanation and justification ends there. So, at least in the world of how things ought to be, in the world of value, this is the end of the process of justification. Once we have reached the rock bottom of the justification process we can but appeal to our fundamental attitudes and to what we do and this is why the Greek philosophers and Kant placed their bets on practical philosophy in their search for solutions to metaphysical problems
But I digress, yet only ever so slightly, for the answer to the question “ What is education?” resides in how we characterize what we do and the attitudes underlying what we do”
The drama student raised her hand and asked
“But does that not make what we do, relative, and not in accordance with, the universality principle. After all the murderer thinks what he did is right. That is his attitude toward what he has done”
“True, but since this is not how he ought to think, this is not an argument against the principle. How we ought to think, of course, is as much of a logical matter as is how we do in fact think, and this may be why the world is not just the totality of facts. The younger Wittgenstein was wrong and he has admitted as much and written a work entitled “Philosophical Investigations” in which we shall find the beginnings of the answers to some of the questions that will be thrown up in this course. Education is the name for a family of activities conducted in accordance with criteria for a value system which ought to be universally true, but are not, because we are not ethically mature beings. Yet ethics is there bubbling under the surface of everyday relations and legal systems. It is there ready to erupt when the time is right. It erupts daily in these systems but it has not resulted in what I would like to call the ethical attitude because we , unlike Socrates, do not understand what we do not know. We do not fully understand ourselves. The claim of the later Wittgenstein and Gilbert Ryle is that we will only reach full understanding when, after analysis of all the relevant concepts and possible judgments we will stand in a strategic part of the educational terrain and see everything stretched out before us.
The Greeks felt that education was the universal key to unlock all doors: the doors of moral virtue, good government, the soul, and the world. Kant felt that the educational project was necessary for the perfection of mans human nature, a project that might take one hundred thousand years. According to him, man can only become truly what he is destined to be when the project is nearing completion..
The major problem about education in particular and values in general is that , as Wittgenstein wrote, values are not to be found in the world, they lie at the origins of it and also in the attitudes men bring to bear upon the world via their actions and judgments. When it comes to certain kinds of events, it has been argued, men seem to create the world they live in.
“But”, the questioner persisted, “Surely attitudes differ. You like strawberries and I like raspberries. What citizen A does in Polis P is different to what a citizen B does in Polis Q”
“True, on both counts. There are different kinds of actions and different kinds of judgments. Liking Strawberries and Raspberries are a matter of judgments of taste. And citizen P may drive a certain kind of car to work and citizen Q a different kind of car. These latter two examples are examples of what philosophers call instrumentalities: actions whose essence is to be instrumental to achieving a goal, such as going to work. The goal in itself may also be an instrumentality and be part of achieving another goal further on in time, such as saving to buy a house. But at some time in the acting process we come upon value, the origin and terminus of the process of practical reasoning: the categorical reason for doing what we do–and these reasons reveal our attitude toward the world in general. Such attitudes usually relate to what Plato and Aristotle called “The Form of the Good”. To return to our example from the realm of ethics, “Murder is wrong”. This is, according to Kant, a moral law which can be universalized(that is, everyone ought to believe it and act in accordance with it) and has to do with a fundamental attitude towards people and the kind of society it is necessary to build if we are to complete “The Human Project”
“But people clearly do not universally believe in it or act in accordance with it. The prisons are filled with murderers”, the mature English major asserted.
“And the point is to understand why they are there, sitting in their prisons, thinking about their deeds. In murdering someone, the agent gives up their humanity, according to Kant, and this suffices as an argument for him to give murderers the death penalty. But actually putting murderers in prison might be sufficiently Kantian, even for Kant, because in prison we lose what he regards as part of the essence of humanity, namely ones freedom. Kantian philosophy permeates the legal system: Murderers are found guilty of murder in legal processes because we all have powerful minds, part of the structure of which is to choose between right and wrong, or even more basically: the man in the bus queue in front of me could have chosen not to pull out his gun and shoot his antagonist. We all possess this ability to distance ourselves from our own acts. In modern brain research parlance: the frontal lobes inhibit instinctive action and bring reasoning to bear upon what we may, deep in our animal souls, wish to do. However it is important to question the principle of justice our system of law is in fact operating with. Leo Tolstoy thought it was a primitive quid pro quo system based on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and his Kingdom of the utopian future contains no legal system. Christian Morality takes care of everything. In this we hear the strains of an old Socratic song from the early books of Republic.
We digress, yet ever so slightly, since education is fundamentally concerned with the project of Humanity, and if the preceding argument is correct, Education is fundamentally in its nature, a process obeying the laws of the categorical imperative, to use Kants language. And with that I think we can rest our case for today.” Since we have pointed out the similarities between the language we use for education and ethical language we shall during the next lecture take up the issue of ethics and language.”
Aristotle’s contribution to establishing a philosophical method was extensive and profound. Philosophy up to and including Plato included the discovery of elenchus and dialectic methods both of which were essentially designed for a face to face debating approach that often took place in the presence of an audience expecting areté(excellence)
Aristotle, in contrast to most of his predecessors, viewed the historical development of Philosophy more systematically perhaps exactly because of the methods he had discovered. Where Plato in his central work, “The Republic” resorted to allegory and myth at crucial moments in his theorising, Aristotle used Categories of existence and logical argumentation. This resulted in the substitution of the dialectical interaction of different thinkers such as Heraclitus and Parmenides by a more theoretical panoramic view of all the thinkers of the Greek age, including the so-called “natural philosophers”. The result of this historical-methodological approach was of course firstly, the “invention” or “discovery” of logic and, secondly, the emergence of hylomorphic theory from the metaphysical investigations into being qua being(the first principles of Philosophy). With these developments a panoramic view of the landscape of thought was made possible.
Given that metaphysics begins with the asking of aporetic questions the definition of which refers to the phenomenon of there being apparently equally strong arguments for both the thesis and the antithesis of the issue, there appears to be a need for an overarching theoretical framework in which elements of both answers can be accommodated without contradiction. Indeed one is given the impression that the canvas Aristotle was using was considerably larger than that used by previous philosophers. In Raphael’s painting “The School of Athens”, Plato is pointing upwards toward the ethereal heavens and Aristotle is pointing straight ahead, perhaps at future audiences and the demand for more systematic systems of representation. He was of course hoping that his works influence including as it did the practice of incorporating the insights of previous systems of thought into present ones would not diminish over time.
Descartes and Hobbes were both anti-Aristotelian theorists and the result of their works was to return us to a dialectically inspired resurrection of materialism and dualism. These modern philosophers and many modern philosohers philosophising in their spirit failed to understand that hylomorphic theory transcended these alternatives with a systematic world view.
Aristotle embraces Heraclitus to a much greater extent than Plato did in his work and as a consequence we will find in Aristotle a more satisfactory explanation of the material aspect of reality, partly because matter is a part of the medium of change in Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory. Matter was conceived as infinite by the materialists of the Greek age which included the early Socrates in their number. Aristotle conceived of matter as infinite because it appeared to him that the number of forms matter could take was unlimited. One arrived at the fundamental elements of reality, i.e. an ontological understanding of what there was by dividing the infinite continuum up either into abstract “atoms” or more concrete elements such as earth, water, air and fire. In Aristotle’s view, early materialism did not provide a sufficiently complex explanation for the desire to understand the world which he claimed all human beings possess. At best we are given a view of what might exist, e.g. atoms, elements etc, without any principle for their existence. This form of principled existence or explanation of existence refers to the question “Why?” and this question transports us very quickly into the realm of the aporetical which Descartes and Hobbes were so keen to abandon in favour of a methodology of investigation. For Descartes this method was purely rational and was based on the givennes of thought or consciousness in the activity of thinking: his method was purely rational. Hobbes on the other hand was intellectually skeptical of the world of thought and its wild and wonderful ontological structure. For him observation as part of a method of resolution and composition eliminated the wild flying creations of the intellectual imagination and allowed the philosopher like the scientist to slow the pace of investigation down to a pedestrian earthly speed. Wholes were carefully resolved into their parts and parts were composed into wholes. This method when applied to the human sciences then also gave birth to the resolution of holistic human activities into two kinds of events which were logically independent of one another—cause and effect. Given that human activities are logical composites of the actions of agents and the objects they produce this of course places an enormous obstacle in the path of the task if explaining human activities. When the above method reigns the domain of explanation , the question “Why?” tends to focus on the cause of the activity in accordance with a principle of causation which states that “every event has a cause.” This principle literally means that one cannot rest in ones explanatory task with another event because that in turn must have a cause and it says nothing about resting ones explanation on a foundation which is not of the kind: event. With this principal we are literally on the path to an infinite regress which will logically prevent the kind of explanation needed if for no other reason than the fact that the direction of the explanation is archeological, proceeding backwards in time. Aristotle was one of the first to point out that explanation of human activity which aims at the good is teleological, aiming in the opposite direction, namely forwards in time. This kind of explanation starts with the aim of bringing something, a holistic state of affairs, about and will only be resolved into sub goals if there is a logical relation between these sub activities and the overall aim of the holistic activity. There cannot be a cause-effect relation as envisaged by analytical philosophy of the kind practised by Hobbes and Hume simply because a cause is logically independent of its effect. From a modern perspective, Sciences like Physics and non-organic chemistry have great use for this method of resolution –composition without too much distortion of the phenomena being studied. It is, to take an example, more easy to see how dead rabbits decompose into particles but , staying at the level of particles it is much more difficult to use them to account for how these particles help to teleologically keep live rabbits alive. These particles at the very least need to be composed into organs or the dandelions the rabbit eats. This example illustrates that decomposition into parts actively discourages teleological thinking. Aristotle’s starting points for the rabbit were its teleological ends of growth, survival, and reproduction, and these “ends” are used to conceive of the parts of the rabbit, namely, its organs and limbs. The same modus operandi is used for conceiving of the why’s and wherefores relating to human beings. For Aristotle, a particular form of life requires a particular constellation of organs and limbs functioning teleologically to keep the rabbit growing, alive and reproducing. Aristotle also recognises the principle of rabbithood in his comparisons of the form of the life the rabbit leads and the form of life the human being leads. The rabbit, Aristotle notes moves itself in accordance with this principle of rabbithood which rests not inside the rabbit but “in” the rabbits activity. For Aristotle all life forms are, to use Ricoeur’s terminology “ desiring striving and working to be, to survive”. Organisms are in a sense causa sui(the (logical)cause of their (continued) existence). This causa sui-principle is not in any sense the end point of the explanation Aristotle requires. He believes we also need to provide a categorical framework other than material and efficient causation in order to “describe” the forms of life we encounter in the world. Aristotle’s “forms of life” are defined by the characteristic features of the activities engaged in by these “forms of life”. Plants, for example, are characterised(described and explained) by their growth and reproduction: animals by growth, reproduction, perception and purposeful movement and human beings by all these “characteristics plus talking, remembering and reasoning. One sees very clearly here how life forms are defined by not just their organ systems but also by characteristic powers, each building upon the other teleologically until the form of life the animal is destined for is actualised in accordance with an actualising process determined by its telos or end. This life form is determined by factors internal to the organism and not caused to come into existence by some outside agent as a table is caused to come into existence by the craft of the table maker. The parents of the organism pass the art of living on to their offspring by the creation of an internal principle which in turn will from the inside create the form of life typical of the organism. Matter does not drop out of the account completely. It is potential and it actualises its potential by being formed by some principle, e.g. the matter of living beings is formed into flesh bone and organs. This system of matter produces a system of powers that in term generates the form of life typical of the organism. These two systems together suffice to place living beings in a categorical framework. It is important to note here, however, that the telos or end of the actualisation process is the key to describing and explaining the function of the “parts” or the “elements” of the living being. This telos, before it is actualised is potentially present as part of the principle of the organism. What the organism is and what it strives and works to become define the nature of the being that it is. For Aristotle, this essence or form can be captured by an essence or form specifying definition. The categorical framework outlined above supersedes but does not eliminate the earlier division of the material world into earth, water, air, and fire, each of which, according to Aristotle,also possesses an essence or a form partly defined by what it can become or its telos, which in the case of these 4 elements is determined by the final resting place(T S Eliot, the death of earth, water, air and fire?). The earth is at the centre of the system of elements and is the source of all life which also requires water and air and the sun to thrive in accordance with the form of life determined by the system of organs and the powers generated thereby. When the organism dies its parts are returned to the earth, its resting place. Death, on this account is defined in terms of the lack of a principle of change in the organism: the organism now “possesses” in an empty sense, organs and limbs that lack the power of movement or change.
Life, in relation to the long term tendency of the physical elements to return to their source and place of rest, is paradoxical because it is composed both of “that for the sake of which” the process of growth occurs, and the principle or form determining this process.
Thus, forms or principles are, for Aristotle, the constituents of the universe: constituents which allow us to understand the truths of materialism, and the truths of Heraclitus, Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Socrates, and Plato.
When the principle or form is imposed externally upon matter as is the case with Art by the craftsman painting a painting or building a building it appears as if form and matter can be separated. If the art concerned is the art of building it almost seems as if the material of the bricks and wood is waiting around at the building site for the builder to shape into the form of a house. Several weeks later the material is standing high above the earth in the form of a house. In cases of living forms, however, the principle and the matter are , so speak, “intertwined” and inseparable and give rise to powers which the whole organism manifests. Matter, in itself, is therefore only understood in terms of its principle of organisation. The organs and limbs of flesh and bone are not the pure or prime matter of a human form. The organs and limbs themselves dwell in a hierarchy that rest on the elemental matter of earth water and heat. The powers of the organism in their turn rest on the formed matter of the organs and limbs.
Jonathan Lear in his work: “Aristotle:the desire to understand” has the following to say on the topic of the actual presence of powers in the living being:
“However, if this power is not a functional state of material structure, how can its presence be observed? Are natural powers beyond the realm of empirical inquiry? No, they are not: but it takes some care to spell out the conditions under which they can be observed. Obviously, powers are not immediate items of sensory perception. Nor can they be seen under a microscope. If an intelligent scientist were permitted to observe only one immature natural organism in his life, having been kept in ignorance of the general facts of generation and destruction, then there would be no way he could detect the presence of a power in the organism.. The first dawning of the idea that a power is present could only occur in retrospect. From the perspective of the fully developed organism we realise that there was a force present in the immature organism which directed its growth and activity toward this mature state. However, although the original idea of the presence of power is necessarily backward looking, this does not imply that powers are unobservable.”(p22)
Aristotelian teleological explanation has often been misinterpreted by the inductive scientist using the methodology of resolution and composition. Such scientists set about dividing the whole into its parts and then attempt on the basis of the observation of the actions and reactions of the parts and their relations, to re-compose the whole. A power could never emerge with this inductive method especially if this method is accompanied by a resolution of the whole into two logically independent events of the cause and effect kind. Sometimes we hear from the scientist the complaint that teleological final causes are using an impossible mechanism of “backward causation” and that this violates the logic of causal explanation.
The way to short circuit such objections is to situate teleology in its holistic context of form, potentiality and power. Lear has this to contribute in his discussion of the connection of these three terms:
“In Aristotle’s world form as a potentiality or power does help to explain the growth, development and mature functions of living organisms. And there are empirical tests for the presence of form. Were there no structure in an immature organism or regularity in the processes of development there would, in Aristotle’s eyes be no basis for the attribution of a power, regardless of the outcome.”(p24)
The power which differentiates man from other organisms, according to Lear is the power of asking the question Why? in the search for understanding of the world and oneself. This obviously builds upon other powers of talking, remembering, thinking and reasoning and the question is rewarded with answers provided by a naturally ordered and regulated world. This is the question that for Aristotle reaches into the cave of our ignorance, like the sunlight, and the world in turn provides an explanation in terms of the form, principle, or primary cause of whatever it was that provoked the question. In our desire to be and effort to exist(to use Ricoeur’s terminology) we are all engaged on this search for understanding, argues Aristotle. This Why question can be answered in 4 different ways, Aristotle claims, and the suggestion is that all 4 kinds of answer are required if our explanation is to be adequate or complete: i.e. all 4 kinds of answer are needed for the explanation to meet the conditions required by the principle of sufficient reason as understood by Kant. Three of the types of non materialistic explanation, the efficient, formal and final causes(aitiai) are different ways of giving the same answer: they are, that is, in Aristotle’s terms different aspects of the formal component of hylomorphic theory. These three types of explanation do not, however, meet the conditions of the principle of sufficient reason. An explanation of nature incorporating the truths of materialism is also required for a complete explanation. Many later philosophers such as Hobbes and Hume were interpreting the central idea of “cause” physically and materially and they were convinced that the other explanations were either fictional creatures of the imagination or alternatively could be reduced to a physical idea of linear causation.
Jonathan Lear interestingly discusses the Aristotelian complex idea of cause(aitiai) or explanation in relation to the Humean linear concept of the two event account. He argues that it is the scientific obsession with observation which in its turn generated the dualistic approach that took, for example, the unitary event of a builder building a house and resolved this unity into a cause and an effect which are merely contingently and not logically connected. Lear points out that Hume claimed we cannot observe the transition from the cause to the effect.
Lear claims that:
“What is at issue is a disgrace, not only about causes but about what constitutes an event. It is important to realise that events are not unproblematically given. It is easy for us to overlook that because we think we can locate any space-time point and call what is going on there an event. But Aristotle had no such matrix to isolate and identify events. He did not have a watch, and when he specified the place of an object it was not in terms of its location in a unique all-encompassing field. The place of an object was characterised in terms of the boundary of the body which contained it. The way Aristotle chose to identify events was via the actualising of potentialities: the potentialities of substances to cause and suffer change…..while for Hume causation must be understood in terms of a relation between two events for Aristotle there is only one event—a change…and causation must be understood as a relation of things to that event.”(p31)
Lear’s otherwise excellent work on Aristotle is somewhat incomplete in terms of the simplicity of the account of Aristotelian thought in relation to place and space, i.e it is not clear that Aristotle did not make the assumption that reality could be characterised mathematically). A mathematical point, after all is not anything actual: it is something potential. It only appears in reality or becomes actual if something concrete or abstract happens at that point, e.g. one begins at that point to perhaps represent motion in a straight line until that motion or represented motion comes to rest at another resting point which is actualised as the motion or represented motion comes to an end.
Space is also represented in the above example. Matter may be represented if one imagines a physical body or particle in motion. Space, Time and Matter were, for Aristotle, essential media for the experience or representation of reality and these media for change played a very important role in his conceiving of reality as an infinite continuum. Returning to our example of the line defined as the shortest distance between two points, we know that there are potentially an infinite number of stopping points between the starting and stopping points on the line. We can clearly see the role of the concept of potentiality in this context. Indeed, one might even wish to argue that the Aristotelian matrix was far more complex than our modern space-time-causation matrix given that it can embrace human reality in the form of a builder building a house starting from the point at which a pile of bricks and wood is located and ending with a completed house occupied by a family living a flourishing life. Dividing this reality up by using our modern matrix of space-time-causation where we end up with two events such as the building activity of the builder and the product of a house rather than one Aristotelian event of change uses the resolution-composition method of science unnecessarily to create insoluble ontological and metaphysical problems. Hume, as we know , was a victim of this mode of observational thought and apart from the above mistakes arrived at the paradoxical result of cause being a conventional idea—simply on the grounds that he thought that causation could not be observed. He did not believe, that is, that we can observe a builder building a house until its completion.
Aristotle’s view is that his Causation, space-time matrix of reality is part of of a larger matrix of kinds of change and principles provided by his metaphysical presentation of “First Philosophy”. First philosophy is here understood as the first principles of any kind of change in the universe. We mentioned above that the power or capacity of a rational animal capable of discourse—a human being—begins in awe in the face of the existence of the world and its ever changing nature. We see and conceive of what is there and we spontaneously seek to understand the why. This desire to understand the why entails all of the following components:4 kinds of change, three principles of change and four causes/explanations(aitiai) being provided to the searcher for understanding of the changing reality.
There has been much ado about the latter component of the above account, namely the 4 aitiai or kinds of “explanations”. The Scientific matrix and method, for example conceives of matter, not as potential to be formed, but rather as “events observed” in accordance with the cause-effect rule. This conception insists that teleological explanation is incoherent: it cannot be observable when the builder is in the process of building the house. Science, in other words, cannot conceive of potentiality because potentiality is not actual and real—because it has resolved the one event of change into the two events of cause and effect which are, according to Hume connected because of the regularity of the world and the “conventional” way in which we characterise the world. Science sees these events in terms of observation and any reasoning about unobservables(such as the thought of the house “in” the mind of the builder cannot be observed )therefore does not exist. What is being imagined here is that the metaphorical “in” is a spatial characterisation. There is nothing “in” the mind of the builder: rather there is a principle related to the builders powers operating in the movement of the materials from one location to another. The scientist who is committed to denying the Aristotelian account just does not know how to characterise the holistic event of “the builder building a house”.
Descartes, Hobbes and Hume managed to turn our Aristotelian ideas of the world upside down in the name of a matrix of dogmatism and skepticism directed at common sense and its judgments about reality. Christopher Shields in his work on Aristotle illustrated excellently how down to earth Aristotle’s “explanatory framework” is:
“Suppose that we are walking deep in the woods in the high mountains one day and come to notice an object gleaming in the distance. When it catches our eye our curiosity is piqued: indeed Aristotle thinks so much is almost involuntary. When we come across an unexplained phenomenon or a novel state of affairs, it is natural—it is due to our nature as human beings—that we wonder and fall immediately into explanation seeking mode. What we see glistens as we approach it, and we wish to now what it is. Why do we wish to know this? We simply do: so much is unreflective , even automatic. As we come closer, we ascertain that what is shining is something metal. Upon somewhat closer inspection, from a short distance, we can see that it is bronze. So now we have our explanation: what we have before us is polished bronze. Still, if we find a bit of bronze in the high mountains we are apt to wonder further about it, beyond being so much bronze. We will want to know in addition what it is that is made of bronze…..as we approach closer we ascertain that it has a definite shape, the shape of a human being: it is a statue..We also know further, if we know anything about statues at all that the bronze was at some point in its past deliberately shaped or cast by a sculptor. We infer, that is, though we have not witnessed the event that the shape was put into the bronze by the conscious agency of a human being. We know this because we know that bronze does not spontaneously collect itself into statues… So now we know what it is: a statue, a lump of bronze moulded into human shape by the activity of a sculptor. Still we may be perplexed. Why is there a statue here high in the mountains where it is unlikely to be seen? Upon closer inspection we see that it is a statue of a man wearing fire fighting gear: and we read, finally a plaque at its base: “Placed in honour of the fire-fighters who lost their lives in the service of their fellows on this spot, in the Red Ridge Blaze of 23 August 1937”. So now we know what it is: a statue, a lump of bronze moulded into human shape by the actions of a sculptor placed to honour the fallen fire fighters who died in service.”
There would seem to be little to object to in the above description of the natural course a natural investigation into the identity of a temporarily concealed object might take. There is, however, nothing aporetic about this investigation or this object. This is nevertheless one form of aletheia, a simple form but a form of the search that aims to uncover the truth. Were the questions to concern objects or events or actions which do not carry their meanings on their surfaces: for example, an investigation into ones own being, which in Heidegger’s own words should result in the characterisation of us as beings for whom our very being is in question, the question would most certainly fall into the category of aporetic questions and the answers we uncover would not be as obvious as they were in the above investigation. In the case of an investigation into our human nature the search for aletheia would be difficult and filled with philosophical debate and dispute, but it would remain the case, however, that the Aristotelian hylomorphic theory of change would be the best guide to lead us out of the cave of our own ignorance.
The answers produced in response to questions concerning the being of human beings via the use of the scientific method of resolution-composition and its space-time linear causation method has now had several hundred years to produce a theory to rival Aristotle’s. The best it has achieved is either a kind of Quinean dualism of observation sentences and theoretical sentences based on a crude behaviouristic account of stimulus meanings, or alternatively, the more sophisticated dualism of Wilfred Sellars in which he, in the spirit of Plato, distinguishes between the Scientific image of the world and the Manifest Image of the world which he attributes to Aristotle.
If the world is the totality of facts is a position the scientist and analytical philosopher could take, we may legitimately ask for the Aristotelian response to this proposition. For Aristotle his response is his entire hylomorphic theory but one key element of that would contain the claim that the world is constituted of potentially evolving forms which use three “mechanisms” of transmission. Jonathan Lear summarises these mechanisms in the following manner:
“There are at least three ways in which forms are transmitted in the natural world: by sexual reproduction, by the creation of artefacts, and by teaching . The creation of artefacts remains a paradigm. The craftsman has his art or techné in his soul: that is, the form which he will later impose on external matter first resides in his soul. We have already seen that form can exist at varying levels of potentiality and actuality. The form of an artefact, as it resides in a craftsman’s soul, is a potentiality or power. It is in virtue of this power in his soul that we can say that he is a craftsman. The full actuality of the craftsman’s art is his actually making an artefact. Thus the builder building is actually the form of the house in action…this activity is occurring in the house being built. In short, the primary principle of change is the form in action. When Aristotle cites the builder building or the teacher teaching as the actual cause of change it is not because he is trying to focus on an antecedent causal event—i.e. on what for us would be the efficient cause. It is because he is trying to cite the primary principle of change: the form in its highest level of actualisation. Aristotle identifies the agent of change with that which determines the form: “The change will always introduce a form, in which when it moves, will be the principle and cause of the change: for instance an an actual man makes what is potentially a man into a man”.. If we are being more precise we must think of the cause as being the form itself—thus man builds because he is a builder and a builder builds in virtue of his art of building. This last cause is prior….the art of building at its highest level of activity is the builder building. This is occurring in the house being built.. As Aristotle says: “architecture is in the building it makes” “(pp33-34)
The above quote in Wilfred Sellars’ terms would be an account of the Manifest Image of the world. A world view in which potentiality requires a forward looking future oriented teleological perspective as opposed to an archeological antecedent event. If the Manifest view of the world looks backward in time it looks for an agent possessing powers and capacities. The teacher teaching in his classroom, for example, is expressing the power or form of teaching which was sometime in the past transmitted to him via an organisation of forms that were passed to his teachers. In his teaching he passes on the forms of geometry and number on to his pupils until these forms dwell in their souls to such an extent that we can call his pupils geometers and mathematicians. A scientific observer who claims that causation must be actually observable might have great difficulty in attributing the names of “geometer and mathematician” to these students talking about politics in the agora. It might only become obvious if one of these students begins to teach a slave boy the intricacies of the Pythagorean theorem. The form of geometry would then be actualised in this activity of a teacher teaching. In these processes of acquiring knowledge building houses or reproducing there is a striving or aiming for an end or telos which is a primary structure of the Aristotelian world. Attempting to investigate such phenomena by trying to observe actual material or functional structures(his brain for example) of the agent or his actions or by trying to see how one structure “moves” another as a bone moves a muscle will never allow us to explain how striving is determined by the end it is striving toward. The method of resolution-composition requires a movement backward in time to search for causes. But even if one lands at the brain as a cause, this starting point for Aristotle would be a form which is a result of a teleological biological process(Aristotle did not in fact understand the actual function of the brain but this would not have affected his point). Brain matter, organs, bone and flesh were for him already “formed matter” which themselves require the kind of explanation he is providing. There is no infinite regress in Aristotle’s theory although there is reflection upon the nature of the infinite and its place in his space-time, matter-causation matrix.
Matter, for example, is infinitely continuous, argues Aristotle
“The infinite presents itself first in the continuous”(Physics 3, 1, 200b 17-18)
Space, time and matter are all continuous. Aristotle’s notion of the infinite is however, complex. Space, for example is not infinite in extent but it is infinitely divisible. The same is true for matter. Time, on the other hand, has no beginning and no end as well as being infinitely divisible. The infinite is formless and is a pure un-actualised potentiality. Pure form and potentiality for Aristotle is God who is not actually anything but pure potential to be anything that has happened, is happening and will happen. Aristotle’s thought is difficult interpret here but he appears to regard God as the ultimate principle or law of all change. God operates in the realm of thought which for Aristotle is also a power or a potential we possess. Our thought, however is located in time and God’s thought on the other hand, is a -temporal , eternal, and not at all similar to the temporality of human consciousness Thought in a great souled being like God will differ considerably to human thought. God.s relation to reality as we conceive it is also problematical. It sometimes seems as if he is reality and this reality is for him included in the realm of thought . If this is correct then Gods thinking about himself is what produces change in the world but this thinking is infinitely continuous, without beginning and without end and not part of what we experience to be actualising processes. If he has a relation to time it must be that he is a condition for the existence of time. His thinking is not in “nows” as is the case with human beings but rather is a condition of the eternal movement of the heavenly bodies which we choose as a standard of measurement by which to measure time.
Newton’s distinction between absolute time which flows on continuously and of itself and the relative time created by human mind’s measuring the eternal flow may well have its roots in Aristotelian reflections. We cannot, however, on Aristotelian grounds, make absolute time intelligible because it is at the end of the Aristotelian spectrum extending from pure matter at one end to pure form on the other.
Jonathan Lear has an excellent account of how our human relative time is generated:
“It is only when we have perceived a before and an after in change that we say that time has elapsed. It is that perception that enables us to number it. But the number of change or motion is just what time is. But is that number itself objective? Usually when Aristotle talks about numbering, he is concerned with te enumeration of discrete items of a certain sort. It is a plurality of discrete things which are numerable. This would suggest that Aristotle had in mind that one picks out a certain unit of time—say the passing of a day as marked by the heavenly movement—and then pronounces a “Now”. The number of days will be measured by the pronouncement of the nows. It is change, then, as well as our recognition of it that grounds our recognition of a before and after and the interval which the distinct nows mark. This recognition—the making of distinct nows—itself recognises the reality of time and is also a realisation of time itself. For time is nothing other than a number or measure of change.”
Time is related to the soul and is “in” everything including the earth the sea and the heavens. Aristotle argues that were there no one to count there would not be anything to count, thus suggesting that without souls there would not be time but given the considerations raised above it is I believe clear that Lear is correct in his observation that:
“the reality of time is partially constructed by the soul’s measuring activities.”(p79)
Time is not change insists because presumably change is more fundamental such that without it time would cease to exist. Heraclitus, it seems was closer to the truth(aletheia) than Parmenides. Aletheia or logos may be true of the ideas that are involved in change since truth or logos is revealed over time. This however leaves us with a notion of pure change and how to characterise it: the aporetic question par excellence.
I remember the strangeness of the thought “The world is all that is the case” when I first heard these words in a Philosophy of Education class, in the nineteen seventies, in England. I had applied to and been accepted at a reputable teacher training college in Exeter after completing my education in a Grammar school and working as an insurance clerk for just over a year.
The lecturer, Jude Sutton, paused upon saying these words and waited expectantly, almost dramatically, for a few seconds before heaving a sigh of abandonment and continuing the lecture.
“The world is the totality of facts and not of things” (Wittgenstein)” was then written on the board, and the lecturer rounded upon us like an animal defending its territory and waited expectantly, again without result, before saying:
“Perhaps people of your generation believe that the world is made of sugar, spice, all things nice, slugs snails puppy dog tails. Or perhaps you all believe the world is made of many things, ships, shoes, ceiling wax, cabbages and kings.”
One of the students attending the lecture felt the need to ease the tension and responded by calling out
“Everyone knows that knowledge can only be composed of facts—facts are what the world is made of. Facts are the atoms of the world”
The lecturer paused to consider what was said and finally responded:
“And what if everyone in the world believing such a thing is confused and what if confusion causes great world catastrophes such as world wars and the young logical atomist Dr. Ludwig Wittgenstein, from Vienna, from the same school Mr. Adolf Hitler attended, was just wrong”
He paused and then continued
“And what would a fact, or this so called atom of the world, look like?”
The student felt the need to defend himself but did not know how, and responded in a less confident voice
“A fact is a fact”
“ Let me ask you all, these questions. Does this world you are thinking about change? If it does, is change one fact or many facts? Does the whole world change when something changes in it or does it remain the same and only parts of it change? Is all change of one kind, or are there different kinds of change? Surely if a change is to occur there must at the very least be something that changes. We talk about the atoms of the world as if they are responsible for the formation of these things and perhaps everything that happens everywhere. But what if there are processes of change occurring, within these indivisibles, which are partly responsible for their behavior when they do whatever they do. And if this is so, does this not commit us to thinking that these so-called indivisibles are in fact divisible. And if this is so, does not the process of dividing up the world seem an infinite one that could never be completed. What, ladies and gentlemen, if the world is infinitely divisible and is therefore infinitely conceptualisable or what if the world is alternately conceptualisable as a particle or a wave and facts depend on the structure of the minds of the humans thinking about them. Or what if facts are formed by many generations of thinkers discussing them?”
I raised my hand to ask a question:
Could one not say that the structures of our minds are explanatory facts which psychologists will discover one day, and could one not say that sociologists or anthropologists will discover the facts of social explanations that explain other facts we claim to know.? I think I agree with Dr. Wittgenstein.
The lecturer, Dr. Jude Sutton, looked inquisitively at me before answering:
Well, let me firstly inform you that Dr. Wittgenstein did not in his later work agree with himself but even in his early work from which I am quoting, namely, the “Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus”, he tried to acknowledge the importance of the mind, the self, and the importance of aesthetic, social, ethical and religious values..”
I raised my hand again to follow up my question, Jude Sutton’s expression changed from an expression of curiosity to an expression of mild amusement:
“What do you mean that he tried to acknowledge?
“I mean that he said that the Self is outside the world and that all other values flowing from the self such as aesthetic, social, ethical and religious values are also outside the world..”
“Surely a value is just another fact reflected in what we say and what we do?”
“That would entail that there two different classes of facts: one for the truthful account of events that occur in the world, and one for the kind of event that incorporates actions and persons who live very concretely in our world and not outside it”
The class looked confused and began to fidget impatiently. Jude smiled and continued:
These ideas are the most difficult and important you will ever encounter during your very privileged and sheltered lives. The kinds of questions I am raising are philosophical questions, what the Greeks called aporetic questions.”
He wrote a-poria on the board and continued:
“A-poria in Greek means “difficult journey”. Dr. Wittgenstein left Vienna and its culture of looking for the facts and made his difficult journey to England, to Manchester University, to study the dynamics of the aeroplane. Perhaps he was thinking that a birds-eye view of the world would reveal the nature of the world. Perhaps he was not thinking at all, some would say. Whilst at Manchester he became interested in the tools he was using to solve concrete engineering problems relating to air-flight. He moved to Trinity College Cambridge to study Logic and Mathematics under Bertrand Russell who was convinced that Logic would solve all the problems of Philosophy. Wittgenstein, under Russell, left the world of concrete problems and became genuinely puzzled by how ideas of the facts, of what is true, seemed to form an idea of the world as a whole, the totality as he called it, and he wanted to investigate this phenomenon. Let me give you an analogy of what he meant when he said the self is outside the world. When we wake up in the morning and open our eyes, a visual field appears. Now to a consistent thinker who has decided for his definition of the world as a totality of facts, and has decided that the truth of the facts are determined by scientific observation, that is, by someone using their visual fields to discover the facts, an obvious problem arises. A scientist is bound by a scientific oath, to use the scientific method of observation to look for the causes of phenomena and the cause of our visual fields are obviously our eyes, which lie outside our visual fields. So unless the scientist is prepared to give up his commitment to observation as the means that he uses to acquire and verify his knowledge, we have an aporetic problem, a logical problem. Some would say the scientist is faced with a contradiction in his reasoning. This problem occurs also at a higher level than that of the analogy of the visual field. If one says that it is a fact that the self and its consciousness lies behind our explorations of the world and our suffering in the world, then I should be able to observe this self and verify this fact. Yet this appears to not be logically possible. Even the Buddhists realized that you would be using your self to find your self and that the suffering self would no longer be suffering if it was exploring the world. You can see that these problems are not easy to solve. “
A student studying History raised their hands:
“But I don’t understand your references to Hitler and the War.”
“That was partly to arouse your desire to explore these issues but it was a serious suggestion relating to the terrible events that have occurred this century: the events of two world wars, the dropping of two atomic bombs on civilian populations and a cold war in which there is a serious threat of a nuclear holocaust between two non philosophical superpowers. I don’t mean to imply that Mr. Hitler was bright enough to formulate a theoretical definition of the world. I mean merely to suggest that he came from an Austrian and a European culture that had influenced the world with its blind faith in science. The assumption that the world is the totality of facts may lie behind everything we have suffered so far this century.”
“Surely the causes are more specific and diverse. Hitler was not sane”, the student responded.
“Perhaps it is a fact that Hitler was insane. Even if that is a truth determined by Psychology on the basis of available historical evidence, this still does not explain the facts, as we know them. Were all of the Germans carrying out the orders to murder the Jews, insane? I don’t believe that we are dealing with the matter of mass insanity and anyone who maintains that understands neither Psychology nor Philosophy. Let me take a concrete example. Eichmann was tried and hanged 14 years ago in Jerusalem. He lied but not compulsively. When confronted with evidence proving that he lied, he acknowledged the truth. Psychologists at his trial noted flat affect in his voice and lack of remorse for what he had done but he was not diagnosed as insane. Hanna Arendt attended his trial and read the 3500 pages documenting his testimony and wrote a book in which she definitely stated that Eichmann was neither insane nor evil. In her judgment, Eichmann had never been taught to think about value. He went to the same school as Hitler and no doubt left with the assumption that the world is merely the totality of facts. For him the world did not contain ultimate values such as “Murder is wrong” and according to Arendt, he did not know how to talk about what he had done. She referred to this phenomenon as the “banality of evil” which angered many Jews at the time.
I raised my hand:
“If Wittgenstein claimed that the self was the source of value and value lay outside the world did he not acknowledge the importance of value?”
“Good reasoning. Wittgenstein had said and believed to the end of his life that an investigation of language is necessary to answer aporetic questions. In the “Tractatus” however, he located the importance of language in the self and claimed that the limits of my language are the limits of my world. He claimed that values could not be talked about but only shown in our language. This appears solipsistic and suggests that our values are not inter-subjective, not objective. It was only in his later posthumous work, ”Philosophical Investigations”, that he realized that the self existed in a public and historical world and that language was public and historical. That is, he understood finally that we could talk objectively about values and claim with justification that “Murder is wrong”.
Jude paused and noted with satisfaction the interest he had aroused and left the lecture room abruptly. The group gradually dispersed leaving me looking transfixed at what had been written on the blackboard: “The world is all that is the case”
I remember feeling that this lecture was different from all the others we had experienced. It felt as if the lecturer had reversed the polarity of the world within the lecture-room and everyone was strangely looking for where north was instead of using it to fly off into their own private worlds. The atmosphere was loaded with anticipation and every thought was like a sudden bolt of lightning striking and splitting our world apart in the name of something ineffable, something which could not be talked about but which everyone mysteriously knew or thought they knew. This experience felt like an awakening, like stepping off from a rolling, swaying ship onto the rough hard ground of real, solid earth.
Professor Smith began this lecture series with the thesis that Political Philosophy is about “Regimes” and he then proceeded to support his position via lengthy accounts of the Political Philosophies of Plato and Aristotle both of whom would have denied his thesis. Both Philosophers would have maintained that Political Philosophy is about “The Good”, “Epistémé and self-understanding”. Aristotle may have added that knowledge of the good requires an adventure of reflection into the realm of the divine and the holy. Smith appears to regard the political realm as having more to do with technai, a realm in which straightforward questions are posed which have straightforward solutions. This, of course, is a different world to the metaphysical realm that Aristotle is referring to when he argues that the philosopher’s task is to pose aporetic questions. In the realm of technai practical reasoning takes the form of firstly, calculating particular means to achieve particular given ends and secondly it uses judgment to determine something general about the particular.
The faculties of understanding and reason, on the other hand, are used in reasoning about the good, in general, and formal terms. These faculties do not function in the straightforward manner in which the faculty of judgment does.
In the use of judgment, the mind submits to the world like a student of nature in contrast to the use of understanding and reason where the mind is more actively thinking like a judge, reflectively, about the laws that will be imposed upon the world. When a political judge or a statesman considers the phenomena of reality as he must do when people act either in accordance with or in contravention of the law he does not waver for a moment in the cases of contravention of the law and consider the abandonment of the law as would a student of nature exploring the world tentatively with his tentative concepts. The political judge or statesman is not a student, he is not building a theory but rather using a conceptual system to make judgments from the point of view of a political theory: If all promises ought to be kept and Jack promised Jill to pay the money back that was lent to him, then Jack ought to pay the money back. The ought in these statements are categorical and signify the necessity that follows from the objective and universal law that All promises ought to be kept. A student confronted with the phenomenon of Jack breaking his promise might be led to the conclusion that the law is illegitimate or false because it is not universal but this would be to misunderstand the peculiar universality and necessity of the ought in the sphere of “the good” and ethics. The field of human conduct is manifold and varied but when it is concerned with answering the Kantian question “What ought I to do?” in the sense Kant intended, we will find that both the political and moral realm has a law like structure. The political judge on the grounds of this structure will steadfastly question the transgressor Jack with a view to obtaining a full understanding of the situation. Once that understanding is reached, i.e. once it is clear that Jack never intended to keep the promise he made the judge then uses his knowledge of the law to judge that Jack’s intention and reasoning is flawed and that he ought to pay the money back in accordance with the law (that all promises ought to be kept). The judge or statesman(who is in the business of making and keeping promises) will not be impressed with the argument “But people do not always keep their promises”. His response to this argument will be simply to insist that he knows that it might be the case that people sometimes do not keep their promises but that it nevertheless ought not to be the case.: they ought to keep promises. The law here, in other words, is a standard that is being used much like the standard metre bar in Paris. The bar itself cannot be said to be one metre long since it is that which we use to determine the length of a metre. Similarly, we cannot ask sensibly whether the law which itself is used to determine what is right and wrong is right or wrong in itself. We can, however, as Kant did point out the logical consequences of abandoning the law which in practical terms would mean abandoning the institution of promising in our communities.
Life in a community is living in a field of desires. Both Kant and Aristotle in their different ways believed that desires need to be shaped and organized in accordance with the telos of “the ought” and in accordance with the principles and value of areté(virtue):i.e. doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. This requires a stable organized soul which Aristotle characterizes in terms of “character” Wisdom is a virtue requiring the understanding of oneself and one’s world. Wisdom is manifested in the wise man being able to reason both theoretically and practically about the nature of man and the nature of his community. In Aristotle’s terms, the wise man will reason well about the good, the true, the beautiful, prime matter and prime form(the Philosophers god). Included in his practical reasoning will be reasoning about the laws of the city. The wise man’s reasoning will precede the judgments he makes and deductively supports the judgments that have been made. Aristotle also distinguishes between substantive justice and procedural or formal justice. Substantive justice requires a general understanding of metaphysics, epistémé and ethics and procedural justice will fall into the realm of technai(particular cases must be handled in accordance with the rule: similar cases have to be treated similarly). For Aristotle, Political Philosophy is substantially ethical and contains the wise law-like statements of the statesman and the judge but it is also technical, i.e. composed of particular judgments which follow from both the law like structures and the particular facts of the particular cases that are being judged. When one is in the realm of the law one is, in Aristotle’s eyes, in the realm of the divine or the sacred. One must take the law seriously and respect its wisdom. Furthermore if one organizes the field of one’s desires in accordance with the principles of areté, one can look forward personally to a flourishing life. This is a judgment about a particular life based on the law-like structure of the virtues in one’s soul.
Kant, we are told by Hannah Arendt, did not produce a political Philosophy. This is a curious statement to make given the following facts:
1.) that our system of human rights is probably based on Kant’s formulations of the Categorical Imperative and
2. The United Nations was suggested by Kant in one of his essays on Political Philosophy.
Arendt wishes to make the case that we should look to Kant’s remarks on Judgment if we are to apply Kantian ideas to the realm of the political. For Arendt, the understanding and the kind of practical reasoning being used in ethics and the formulation and defense of the categorical imperative are irrelevant to the particularities one encounters in the political realm. This means that Judgment cannot command categorically what one ought and ought not to do. It can, in Kantian terms only ask and hope for an agreement by speaking in a universal voice as one does in our judgments of beauty. The grounds of our judgment then become obscurely the non-conceptual common sensibility(the feelings and emotions) we share with all humans. That is instead of beginning in our reasoning with an ought statement, we begin with an is-statement about common feelings and sensibility and then somehow mysteriously jump to the ought conclusions that are required by political judgments, ignoring logical restraints associated with the naturalistic fallacy. The categorical nature of the understanding is implied by the phrase “Categorical Imperative” and reasoning that about ends in itself rather than means to ends is also what Kant thinks of as “categorical”.
Professor Smith also fixes upon this notion of particularity and transports us into the realm of judgment and away from the law-like structure of the political and ethical realms. Sensibility unregulated by understanding and reason will for both Kant and Aristotle stay forever mired in the swamp of particulars. Although in judgment we are saying something about something the subject of the judgment is always a particular. Looking at man as a particular and excluding understanding and reason will only result in an individual story where individual desires or facts reign. Using such judgments results in a history of particular events which we may find interesting or even beautiful but which we can only tentatively judge with our “universal” voices. The generality is not achieved by recasting our actor’s role in a society for society too can be thought about in the particular, as being a polis situated in a particular place and at a particular time. We begin to think categorically only when the major premise of the argument begins “All Societies are…” or just in case Kant is right in his claim that no society is completely free and completely just the argument rather should begin “All societies ought….”
Smith is cognisant of the fact that Political science or Philosophy is in a considerable state of disarray but he mistakenly thinks that Aristotle and Kant have contributed to the chaotic situation he experiences in the Universities. He refers to Aristotle but fails to pursue Aristotle’s categorical path where the laws of reason shape and organize mans desires. He refers to Kant but fails to pursue the hylomorphic quality of Kant’s theorizing. An individual Man, for Kant, is only potentially rational. Rationality will eventually actualize in the species because man’s desires are so unorganized that they need a master to organize them. Man understands what is right, he understands the virtues and admires them but his self-interested desires are always working to avoid the law-like structure of our political and ethical communities by making an exception of himself. This is why he needs a master. He lives in the field of desires or sensibility where pleasure reigns. Most men, as a matter of fact, argues Kant, have their own self-interest firmly fixed before their eyes. The laws of ethics and the laws of politicians are aimed at regulating the consequences of this pursuit of self-interest. Looking at this situation in one way provokes the description that justice is merely the regulation or distribution of pleasures and pains(benefits and burdens) and that is a correct description from a third person point of view which avoids the first person question of the role of self-understanding in this process: the role, that is of mans awareness of what he ought to do and what he ought to be. It is in the spirit of this self-understanding that Kant claims that a society in which sensibility is unregulated by either understanding or reason gives rise to the judgment that life in such a society is “melancholically haphazard”.
Arendt and Smith are almost on the same page. Both seem to criticize Aristotle for placing bios theoretikos above bios politikos, of placing the contemplative life of the eternal and universal above the political life of the sensible and particular. Arendt, in the context of this debate presents the following quote from Pascal(talking about Plato and Aristotle) in her “Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy”:
“They were honest men, like others, laughing with their friends, and when they wanted to divert themselves they wrote, “The Laws” or “The Politics” to amuse themselves. That part of their life was the least philosophic and the least serious. The most philosophic was to live simply and quietly. If they wrote on politics it was as if laying down rules for a lunatic asylum: if they presented the appearance of speaking of great matters it was because they knew that the madmen to whom they were speaking thought they were kings or emperors.”
This may not exactly capture the spirit in which both authors wrote about politics but it does point us to the reason my Kant referred to life in society as “melancholically haphazard”. What was there to be melancholic about? We know that Plato thought that the final the final separation of the soul from the body was the moment of death and that the only response to such a state of affairs was to do Philosophy until the inevitable happened. This touches upon the great issue of the value of life. Kant raises 4 questions by way of defining Philosophy thus uniquely defining Philosophy by the questions it asks but all 4 questions raise the Platonic question of the value of life. The 4 questions are “What can I know?, What ought I to do? , What can I hope for?, and What is man?” His answers to two of these questions that one ought to do what is right and if one does so one can hope for a flourishing life raise the question that Aristotle sought to answer, namely “What is the flourishing life?” Aristotle’s answer was the contemplative life but he must have had in mind the Delphic oracles answer to this same question which referred to “taking on the colour of the dead”. Smith avoids according religion a prominent position in his reflections on bios politikos and thus avoids Aristotle’s answer to the question of the value of a flourishing life. He does, however, in his 25th ad final lecture return to Aristotle’s Ethics and asks whether “patriotism” might be a virtue located on a continuum of excess and deficiency the one pole of which would be nationalism and the other pole Kantian Cosmopolitanism: a strange ending given the almost complete absence of Kantian reflections in the rest of his lectures. Smith points out that an important consequence of Cosmopolitanism is that there is no significant difference between human beings because their humanity is the primary normative characteristic of their being. He goes on to suggest:
“This is the Cosmopolitan ethics of humanity which could only hold true of a confederation of Republics overseen or ruled by international law– a league of nations.”
Smith Pursues his Aristotelian discussion of whether patriotism could be a virtue with Carl Smitt’s reflections from “The Concept of the Political” in which it is claimed that bios politikos is the antagonistic life a dangerous animal leads. This antagonistic life is founded upon a Plemarchean theory of justice which claims that one ought to do good to one’s friends inside the polis and harm to one’s enemies outside the polis. Smith comments upon this in the following manner:
“The political life contains the most intense and extreme antagonism. Friend and enemy are the inescapable categories through which we experience the political: Athens versus Sparta. All attempts to rights, free trade etc are attempts to avoid the above fact.”
Smith points out that the “Friend-enemy” schema would be self-contradictory because if it also operated on the domestic front we would be dealing with a divided city. He then goes on to criticize the Kantian position:
“Kant confuses politics with morality. Kant wishes to transcend the sovereign state with known international rules of justice. If Schmitt believed man to be the dangerous animal Kant believed him to be the rule-following animal. Kant’s desire to transcend the state with a kind of international future is both naive and anti-political. If Hobbes was right when he said that covenants without a sword are but words, then on Kant’s view the question becomes, who would enforce these international norms of force. Kant’s conception of global justice is a wish for a world without states…International bodies like the UN have been notoriously ineffective in curbing and restraining the aggressive behaviour of states and International courts of justice have been highly selective in what they choose to condemn”
It is true that Kant deliberately and systematically relates ethics to politics and demands that the latter conform to the norms of the former. Statesmen have to keep treaties. Countries have to honour treaties. Kant would in this context certainly have disagreed with Hobbes on the question of combining covenants with the sword. Violence may be one of the terminal points of instrumental reasoning because this system of reasoning has no moral principle which it can use to judge the morality of the chains of ethically and logically unrelated events which defy the double effect principle. Given the fact that the dignity of man is what provoked Kant’s ethical reflections in the first place and also the fact that freedom and autonomy are central concerns of his theory as is the categorical nature of the ought system of concepts he would have firmly maintained that one ought not to coerce agents to keep their promises. If self-understanding is a part of the ethical adventure then words are the “swords” that one uses in the discourse with oneself over the Socratic issue of whether one can live oneself or not. International organizations such as the UN are Kantian to the core. They expect states to impose norms of justice upon themselves and the Hobbesian sword is sometimes used when all other alternatives are exhausted but the more likely route of persuasion will be sanctions enforced by the world community which send the message “If we cannot live with you how will you live with yourself”. Kant did not necessarily believe as Marx did that the state would necessarily wither away. If he did his concept of a league of nations would have been self-contradictory. States would not be dissolved by a world government because he believed such a government would be necessarily tyrannical. His concept of a kingdom of ends is Aristotelian in the sense that it is a construction of bios theoretikos and the Philosophers conception of God must be included in the summum bonum of a flourishing life. Smith is a secular political Philosopher. He follows Aristotle but only so far and he refuses to follow Kant at all. The kingdom of ends is a humanistic idea and Hobbes’ position is about as far as one can get from Humanism. Kant may have believed that when our ethical and humanistic cares and commitments are no longer operative(in a state of nature or a state of war) politics and legislation can step in to try and regulate matters. Kant was well aware of the fact that the unsocial sociability and antagonism between men can be difficult to regulate with moral laws. Smith’s remarks on the efficacy of the UN flies in the face of the facts. The UN is an incredibly complex structure of organizations and many of these organizations are contributing to world peace and stability on a daily basis by doing work which typically produces long-term results. Popular media likes to focus on the security council and the failures to reach agreements and this often dramatizes conflicts unnecessarily. If the UN is Kantian to the core than we should realize that the media presents the news of the day, politicians think in terms of the duration of government between elections, historians think in terms of centuries, oracles probably thought in terms of millennia, Philosophers like Aristotle and Kant, however, think in terms of hundreds of thousands of years. The kingdom of ends is one hundred thousand years away which conceivably could imply that although progress is being made in straightening out the crooked timber of humanity that progress will be necessarily slow.
Smith attempts to extract the truth from his dialectical opposites and claims somewhat surprisingly that America is the embodiment of the Aristotelian golden mean principle:
“Although neither extreme view is complete in itself the question is how can they be combined? These two are very much combined already in the American regime. America is the first truly modern nation– a nation founded upon the principles of modern philosophy….Our founding documents are dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
And yet relatively shortly after the founding of this Golden State it was torn apart in a civil war exactly over this issue of equality of master and slave. A war which by the way did not end the subjugation of one race by another. Smith is here committing the naturalistic fallacy, at least as far as his argument relating to Cosmopolitanism is concerned. Kant appeals to Cosmopolitanism as a teleological concept and claims nothing more than that it is the long-term goal that man ought to strive for. There is, he argues, progress toward the fulfillment of this goal but there are no guarantees that we will arrive at the terminus of our striving.
Smith, as part of a discussion of the issue of the universal versus the particular in Politics, appeals to History and the struggle for power:
“it concerns the political uses of power or the two great ends to which power can be put: freedom and empire. Political philosophy is reduced to political history. Both presuppose one another and are in some relation to the universal and particular. The Political Philosopher examines the underlying principles of the regime and the political historian examines the way these principles have been applied in practice. Where the philosopher is concerned with the best regime–that which is best according to underlying principles, the historian is concerned with what is best for a particular people at a particular time and place, Athens, France, America.”
It is not certain that Aristotle or Kant would have appreciated the above account of the distinction between the universal and the particular in relation to Philosophy and History. Certainly, Aristotle in his work on Poetry contrasted History and Poetry in terms of the particular and the universal but he would certainly have appreciated the historians search for the material and efficient causes of the particular events studied and surely some true generalizations could be the result of such investigations. But the question to be asked here is “Are historians relativistic in their judgments about what is best?” This sounds more like poetry. Aristotle would not have subscribed to any view which attempted to relativise the idea of the best.
For Kant, the historian must be concerned withnhistorical truth and this in turn must have some relation to the notion of progress and the postulated telos of Cosmopolitanism, an end state which may or may not be reached and in relation to which the state may or may not “wither away”. The events of history would be susceptible to both causal and teleological explanations and these explanations would not be subject to the criteria of identity one applies to judgments about particular events or particular cases. Indeed for Kant such judgments would require more general universal premises relating to underlying principles, if they were to generate the kind of knowledge we expect from history.
Professor Smith concludes his lecture series by asking where the teahers of these underlying principles are to be found. Not in most Universities he claims because the respect for tradition has been lost:
“Modern Professors of History often appear to teach everything but a proper respect for tradition. In my own field, civic education has been replaced by game theory– a theory that regards politics as a market place where individual preferences are formed and utilities are maximized. Rather than teaching us to be citizens, the new political science teaches us to be rational actors who exercise preferences. By reducing all politics to choice and all choice to preference the new political science is forced to accord legitimacy to every preference, however vile, base or indecent it may be.”
Smith acutely touches upon a major issue in education: the colonization of the humanities by firstly science and then the science of economics. His complaint is somewhat puzzling in the light of the fact that game theory would seem to be a logical consequence of the rejection of the relation of ethicsto politics that Kant proposes. It would also seem to be a logical consequence of the modernism that the very modern USA embraces.
“De Tocqueville’s work “Democracy in America” is the work of a man watching the demise of “the ancien regime” and keen to observe what will replace it in the future. Professor Smith introduces this political thinker in the following terms:
“What is the problem with which de Tocqueville’s book is concerned? Is it the 17th and 18th-century ideas of freedom and equality?. As long as the enemy appeared to be the entrenched hierarchies of power and privilege of the old regime, freedom and equality were mutually reinforcing aspects of the emerging democratic order. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century with the emergence of the proto-democracies in the New World and Europe that political philosophers began to wonder whether freedom and equality did not, in fact, pull in different directions. Tocqueville saw the new democratic societies as creating new forms of social power–new types of rule that presented threats to liberty, e.g. the new middle-class democracies in France England and the USA and the problem was how to mitigate the effects of political power. Locke’s answer to this was to divide and separate the powers. Tocqueville was less certain that this type of institutional device of separated powers, checks and balances could be an effective check in a democratic age where the people as a whole had become king.”
Professor Smith then claims that “The problem of politics” is the problem of how to control the sovereignty of the people”. There would seem to me to be at least one good reason to reject this formulation and that reason lies in the Political Philosophy of Kant, in particular in Kant’s idea that the teleological structure of politics lays in an idea of the final end of politics residing in the idea of a cosmopolitan kingdom of ends. Sovereignty, that is, for Kant, is merely a stage in the developmental process of our political activity and its terminating point in a political unit transcending the sovereign state. The nation-state was born in Westphalia in 1648. Could it be that what Kant was witnessing and reasoning about was a transitional organic form destined for transformation? Hannah Arendt, after all, in her seminal work “The Origins of Totalitarianism” claimed that the nation-state proved its failure as a political unit in the 20th century with the rise of totalitarianism. Was this a phenomenon that Tocqueville was also fearing. He writes: “I do not like democracy and am severe toward it.” and “In the future, all the world will be like America”. What exactly was it that concerned de Tocqueville? Smith suggests the following:
“What attracted my attention during my visit was the equality of conditions for everyone.”(Democracy in America) He is speaking here of the equality of social conditions. Equality of conditions precedes democratic government–It is the cause from which democratic governments arise. These conditions were planted in America and Europe long before there were democratic governments which are only as old as the French and American Revolutions—but equality of social conditions had been prepared for a long time by deep-rooted historical processes that began long before the dawn of the modern age…Tocqueville provides us with a history of equality that takes us back to the heart of the medieval world. He does not go back to a state of nature but argues against Hobbes and Locke and their claim that we are by nature free and equal and he also argues that hierarchies were introduced over time. These hierarchical processes have been moving away from inequality and toward greater and greater equality of social conditions…. Equality is something like a historical force..which has been working itself out in history over a vast stretch of time.”
De Tocqueville claims that the Americans do not have a taste for Philosophy and in this spirit, one wonders why Smith does not wish to return to the original form of democracy which was rule by the many and poor in Ancient Greece who were revolting and reacting against …? What exactly? The rich ruling in their interest? Or were they reacting against the lack of the equality of social conditions. Was this what was meant by the Socratic and Aristotelian references to the common good? The difference between this ancient form of democracy and its more modern counterpart would presumably be the putative absence of unnecessary desires in the latter form of rule. This absence would on philosophical theory be replaced by areté, the virtue or excellence of doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. Plato we know objected vehemently to the rule of the many with unnecessary desires but Aristotle could see the many rule in the spirit of the common good and areté and indeed thought it to be the best alternative of three possibilities: rule by the one, the few and the many. So the combination of the common good and areté seems to have been the philosophical foundation of our modern democracies and sovereignty seems to, on this account, have been an accidental inessential characteristic of the political unit. The question that then arises is whether social conditions aiming at equality were a cause or consequence of the several interacting processes which were in the process of forming our modern democracies. From the philosophical point of view, one wonders whether doing the right things at the right time in the right way requires social conditions or helps to produce the social conditions of equality. On Kant’s view it appears as if a consciousness of equality is tied up with a consciousness of freedom and its consequences, i.e. that one treats people as ends in themselves irrespective of the social conditions they find themselves in or represent. Doing this, it is argued is a recognition of their humanity and this is far more important than any attempt to consider other extraneous social conditions which might be affecting how they are represented to us. Smith maintains that “Equality is not just one fact among others but is a generational fact from which everything else derives.” It was this generational fact Smith argues that was motivating de Tocqueville’s reductional analysis. But what in particular did de Tocqueville envisage when he was talking about these social conditions which are contrary to freedom and “elude the efforts and control of man”?
Three forms of activity are referred to in this context: firstly, local government in the spirit of the Greek city polis( the organization of legislation and deliberation over common interest), secondly, civil associations such as the PTA, charitable and sporting organizations(where one learns to care for the interests of others through learning to care for the interests of one’s association) and thirdly the spirit and institutions of Religion. It was this latter form of activity that most impressed de Tocqueville on his journeys. Smith comments upon this in the following manner:
“Democracy and religion walk hand in hand in America and this is precisely the opposite of what has happened in Europe. America is primarily a puritan’s democracy,i.e. the American experience was determined in certain crucial ways by the early Puritans who brought to the New World strong religious beliefs, a suspicion of government, and a strong desire for independence. De Tocqueville drew two consequences from these observations: Firstly, the thesis proposed by many Enlightenment thinkers that religion will disappear with the advance of modernity is false. Secondly that it is a mistake to eliminate religion and totally secularize society. Free societies rest on morality and morality cannot be effective without religion. It may be true that individuals can achieve moral guidance from reason alone but societies cannot. The need and desire to believe will only be transferred to other more dangerous outlets: “Despotism can do without faith our freedom cannot.”
De Tocqueville appeals to Pascal to justify the above two points and constructs an epistemological argument which maintains that knowledge without faith is empty. he claims that there is something in the desire that only faith can satisfy. “An invisible inclination leads man back to religion”. “There is a metaphysical dimension to religion”
Although he sees this promising relation between politics and religion de Tocqueville is not happy with what he is seeing. He seems to sense an underlying possible tyranny in the system: the tyranny of the majority. He can see the rule of the mob lingering beneath the appearances of things: he senses the rule of the poor to secure their own interests. He even questioned whether the separation of powers would suffice to stem the tide of this tyranny. The key remark in this constellation of observations is perhaps the following which takes us back to the issue of freedom in the Kantian sense:
“I know of no country in which less independence of mind and genuine freedom of discussion reigned than in America.
Kantian freedom is obviously related to the virtues that a man ought to possess and therefore to reasoning in the ought system of concepts and Kant too believes that knowledge must make space for faith because morality requires religion as a teleological argument if what he called the “summum bonum” was to be achieved(the flourishing life, eudaimonia). He does not subscribe to the separation between the individual and society in this context, insisting that the individual is in need of a belief that the ought system requires, namely that the end be good, that is, that my life be flourishing as a consequence of the costs of forming and executing good intentions. So for Kant belief in religion is not a Pascallian wager but rather a necessity required to regulate the ethical system of ought concepts. Religion supplements the formal material and efficient causes with a teleological final cause that provides the motivation for the ethical form of life. Kant too will have shared the fear of de Tocqueville for the removal of the motivational pin of our ethical system. He too would have seen the dangers of secularization. Professor Smith talks as if the project of secularization is a European phenomenon and given the collapse of the ethical system in Germany and the rapid capitulation of the French in the last world war he may have a point. There is however an argument for the position that Europe still has faith in its philosophical foundations and that this is embodied in its educational and political institutions. Granted that religion no longer rules the realm of value absolutely, no one wishes to see a return of religious absolutism but neither do they wish to see religion disappear as an institution given the fact that it embodies important metaphysical and ethical dimensions important to man. If this is the case then it would seem to fit in with de Tocqueville’s claim that the Americans have little taste for Philosophy because they do not quite believe in the power of reasoning as the Europeans do. We believe in the Aristotelian account of the soul as a principle organizing the body rather than the Platonic soul that is tortured by the body and its unnecessary appetites. The Aristotelian soul is the true democratic soul capable of discourse and reasoning in the Agora about all manner of things including God who mirrors his nature more in the texture of our thinking processes than in the constitution of physical things or physical processes. The essence of the common good for Aristotle was partially divine.
De Tocqueville’s second volume of “Democracy in America” focuses less on the social and political aspects of democracy and more on the democratic soul:
“It focuses on the internal, on the democratic soul and is therefore philosophically richer focussing on what the democratic social state has done to us, how it has shaped us as individuals.”
This formulation is indeed illuminating. It suggests that we are conditioned by the state rather than freely forming the contours of the state with our individual virtues where we will do the right thing in the right way at the right time. This is more of a Platonic thesis: the needs of the city can override the interests and concerns of the individuals in the sense that a democratic state gives rise to democratic personalities. De Tocqueville iscusses three aspects of the democratic soul. Firstly “Democracy has a tendency to make us gentler towards one another”. We are more compassionate: softer. The problem according to De Tocqueville is that we have become too soft:
“But..my ability to feel your pain does not require me to do much about it. Compassion turns out to be an easy virtue, implies a caring without judgment”
“the democratic soul is a restless anxious soul and “always seems to be a work in progress tied to the desire for material well being(happiness). Democracy means a middle-class way of life made up of people constantly in pursuit of some absent object of their own desires.
According to Plato the three different parts of the soul have three different kinds of desires. Reason desires theoretical understanding and practical excellence. If the democratic soul is a reasonable soul there does not seem to be any problem with an individual pursuing these goals in any city state.
Thirdly, the soul is self-interested not in the sense of amour-propre but rather is an antidote to amour propre:
“It is not in itself a virtue but comes from people who are regulated, independent, far-sighted, moderate, masters of themselves”
This is not quite what de Tocqueville thought he saw in America.
This sketch of moral psychology naturally has consequences for the profile of the statesman who has been shaped by compassion, restlessness and self-interest:
“the legislator for de Tocqueville is hemmed in by the conditions of social factors, customs, morality over which he has little power. The legislator is more like a ship’s captain dependent on external circumstances that control the fate of the ship. The legislator resembles a man who plots his course in the middle of an ocean. Thus he can direct the vessel that carries him but he cannot change its structure, create winds or prevent the ocean from rising under his feet. All of this seems to be on the side of the historical forces that limit what we can do.”
Smith claims that de Tocqueville opposes all systems of historical determinism but at the same time writes “as if it is a peculiarity of democratic times that all people are considered equal: everyone is equally powerless to effect or change anything”.
This is the democracy that de Tocqueville sees and fears but it is not a Kantian or an Aristotelian olde worlde construction.
“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.
Locke is regarded as one of the founding fathers of America in virtue of the fact that Jefferson incorporated his ideas into the American constitution: “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a modification of Locke’s claim that man has a natural right to life liberty and the possession of his estate(property). The basis of this latter claim is a belief in natural law theory which regards man as a product of divine workmanship in possession of a body which no one can own(because it belongs to God?). Even the products of the body, mans work, cannot be owned by anyone other than himself but they can perhaps be sold and rented with his consent. Smith argues that Locke combines Christian ideas with those of Stoicism. But it is the ownership of our body which generates the rights to it and its work and this is an idea that may actually be taken from some other source. Value, Locke argues, is generated by our work. The value of an apple is largely constituted of the labour involved in growing the tree and nurturing it and then finally picking the apple and whatever is done with the apple before it is bought and eaten. Professor Smith elaborates upon this point:
“The Natural Law dictates a right to private property and it is to secure this right that governments are ultimately established..”The World was created in order to be cultivated and improved.”(Locke) “God gave the world to man in common…for our convenience”(Locke). He gave it for the use of the industrious and the rational and not to the fanciful and covetous, or the quarrelsome and contentious” Locke seems to be suggesting that the state will be a commercial state or Republic. Plato and Aristotle in many ways considered commerce to be of subordinate importance in the life of the citizen. Plato would have instituted a kind of communism for a part of the populace, the guardians of the Callipolis. Economics was always subordinate to the Polity. Locke turns this doctrine on its head.”
I don’t know when and why the apple became the Biblical symbol of knowledge but Plato’s Republic is an ode to the hypothetical state that is built on the foundations of knowledge. The Greeks of this time and we may suppose Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle among them considered the earning of money to be a secondary art necessary for the maintenance of the private household(oikonomous). The Primary art was connected to areté and the doing of the right thing at the right time in the right way and this was the standard man was measured against in the public realm. He could be a pauper and wander the streets barefoot but if he fought bravely in defense of his polis and did philosophy in the marketplace he was subjected to the standards of the primary art and judged thereafter(Socrates). One’s life might be at stake but that was why a man needed to know himself if he was to end his life prematurely in dignity. Attending to ones body for no other reason than it is ones body would have struck these philosophers as narcissistic. Claiming that the origin of value lies in our bodies would have been considered egotistical. It was this vision of life in the Greek state that Locke was attempting to overturn.
One wonders whether what we are reading here is Hobbesian, whether what we are witnessing with these two Philosophers was the logical consequence of the Reformation and the proposal of a Protestant work ethic as a central concern of the emerging middle class(the bourgeoisie) Hobbes and Locke arrived at their respective positions from radically different starting points, Hobbes from a scientific perspective which would regard the body as a mere machine running on the fuel of pride and fear, and Locke from a religious natural law perspective in which ones body is one’s temple because it housed God and was created by him. This was what Jefferson presumably was thinking of too when he claimed that we were all created by God with the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a poorly kept secret that natural law theory cannot generate an acceptable idea of the common good which is logically located in the domain of ought judgments: the good is what we ought to bring about(in the right way, at the right time).The domain of the good is the domain of prescriptive judgments. Natural law theory focuses on how things are and makes an inexplicable leap into the domain of the prescriptive via an action which it can only characterize descriptively. Yet it is action characterized prescriptively that should be the major premise of an argument which has an ought as a conclusion.
The major puzzle with Locke’s position is how he begins his reasoning in the realm of natural law and religion and ends in the domain of the polis, in the domain of the government which is the institution whose reasoning always begins with an ought major premise: for example, the people ought to know, the people ought to be free, the people ought to be treated equally. Smith articulates this transitional step elegantly in terms of the idea of the origin of value:
“For him, the world belongs to the industrious and the rational who through their labour and work increase the plenty for all. It is but a short step from Locke to Adam Smith(a century later). There are no natural limits on property acquisition. The introduction of money makes capital accumulation not merely possible but a kind of moral duty. By enrichening ourselves we unintentionally work for the benefit of others.Labour, not human nature becomes the source of all value.”
There seem to be two sides to the fence of commerce. On the one side is the working man renting out his body and skills, and on the other, there is the man of commerce from the middle class who owns the capital and the means of production and it is clear from Smiths next quote which side of the fence Locke is on:
“Commerce softens manners and makes us less warlike, it does not require us to spill blood or risk life–it is a thoroughly middle-class pursuit. The task of government is to protect not just the right to property but the right to acquire and build upon the property we already own.”
Smith portrays Locke as a libertarian who demands the government serves an almost entrepreneurial role. Without government, given the fact that man is this property acquiring animal, there is no property, and nature is available for all to do with what they will. In such circumstances, disputes arise and the government’s role is to set up an apparatus whose purpose it is to resolve such disputes:
“The great and chief end of men uniting into commonwealth is the protection of their property.”(Locke Two Treatises of Government)
For Locke, it is not the war of all against all in the state of nature that leads to the social contract with the government. It is rather the state of affairs of the restlessness of the human spirit and the haphazardness of social events where expectations are continually flouted, that demands an organizing agency. The contract is between the middle class and the government as if the upper and working class had disappeared into thin air or had been absorbed by the middle class. Given Arendt’s analysis of the Origins of Totalitarianism and her reference to mass movements emerging from the organization of mobs, one can wonder whether this idea of classes absorbing other classes was truly the beginning of the dismantling of the idea of an authority which would use knowledge and phronesis to rule. The social contract did not seem to have any paragraph pertaining to the right to education or the right to be led by educated leaders. Arendt pointed to the risks of a tyrannical rule when the political party system representing the interests of various classes collapses and a mass movement takes its place. Locke is traditionally regarded as in favour of a commercially founded meritocracy that largely governs itself, looking to government for legislation to regulate commerce and crime and provide a peaceful environment for business activity. He either uses or abuses(depending upon one’s view) an Aristotelian assumption relating to the advantages of “the many” in the process of decision making of all kinds. A feast in which many contribute is superior to the feast arranged by one cook argues Aristotle at a time when a 500 citizen jury had relatively recently sentenced Socrates to death and was waiting in the wings to try any other Philosopher who dared to challenge the comfortable relationship between the state and the gods. Could Aristotle see through current events to a time when there would be supporting procedures and practices which would minimise miscarriages of justice? Could he see through current events to a time when philosophical argumentation integrated into educational systems would produce a middle class that would via the Lockean mechanism of the consent of the majority ensure stable and enduring government? Without these Aristotelian institutions and assumptions,Lockean consent of the majority could just as well refer to the mass movements of the 20th century which helped produce two world wars, the use of weapons of mass destruction and a cold war in one “terrible century”(Arendt)
Professor Smith discusses this issue in relation to Lincoln on the slave issue:
“Lincoln felt that the doctrine of consent did not constitute a blank cheque, rather it implied a set of moral limits or restraints on what a people might consent to. Consent was inconsistent with slavery because no one can rule another without that others consent (Informed consent or rational consent?) We have seen throughout history popular majorities choose by will, whim and arbitrary passion and we do not approve. There must be moral restraints on what majorities can consent to–otherwise what is to prevent a majority from acting despotically?”
Locke’s notion of consent is obviously tied up with his conception of the social contract and this raises the question of how this consent arose, or, in other words, at which point in a citizens life is consent to the current regime given? Being born in a country is not sufficient, according to Locke, to create the consent and subsequent allegiance to the regime of the country one is born into. Smith argues the following:
“It is only when the child reaches the age of discretion, 18, or 21, that they are obligated to choose through some sign or mark of agreement to accept the authority of government.Locke, however, is not altogether clear about how such a sign or mark is to be given. One suspects that from what he is saying that he is referring to some sort of oath or pledge of allegiance so that once you have given your promise, word, or agreement, you are perpetually and indispensably obligated to that state.”
Locke does not commit himself to the above concrete manifestation of consent. Instead, he maintains that a concept of “tacit consent” is operating, a concept similar to but different from that embraced by Socrates in the dialogue”Crito”. For Socrates protection under the law suffices to owe allegiance to the law. For Locke, if you enjoy the protection of the law for a sustained period of time and your property is secure this is tacit agreement and is sufficient to constitute the social contract between yourself and the state. There is still, however, some ambiguity as to exactly when this moment of constitution arrives.
In line with empirical skepticism, Locke affirms the risk of being devoured by the Hobbesian Lion of the sovereign who will inevitably become licentious because he is not subject to the law and this requires an organization of the government in terms of a principle of a separation of the executive and legislative powers. This measure introduces a failsafe mechanism into the system of government, i.e. provides an insurance against tyrannical rule. The executive power is there, argues Locke, merely to carry out the will of the legislative authority. Smith points out a strength in the Lockean account insofar as the occurrence of special emergency circumstances require swift action which the legislative authority with all its emphasis on “due process” is incapable of. In such circumstances, the executive branch of the government through so-called prerogative powers can suspend for example habeas corpus and even take the country to war. The people, in turn, can deem these actions to be a breach of the contract and begin a revolution as an “appeal to heaven”, which presumably means as part of an appeal to the divine legislative system which governs natural law.
Smith points out that many commentators including Louis Hartz
“have complained of America’s irrational Lockeanism, its closed commitment to Lockean principles. Why has there not been any socialism in the USA, no Labour or workers party?—because of the commitment to Locke Hartz argued.”
In the same spirit Smith refers to Rawls’ book “A Theory of Justice” in which Rawls opposes the Lockean Body/property principle with a principle derived from the Kantian moral law:
“Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of the society as a whole cannot override. For this reason, justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others.”
This juxtaposition of Locke and Kant and of the different foundations of our human rights are a fascinating conclusion to this lecture. Smith summarizes Locke’s position in the following way:
“A person has an identity–a Moral Personality by the fact that we alone are responsible for making ourselves through our own actions. We are literally the products of our own making. We create ourselves through our own actions and our most characteristic activity is our work. Locke’s fundamental doctrine is that the world is the product of our own free activity.. not nature, but the self, the individual is the source of all value for Locke–the “I”, the “me” which is the unique source of rights.”
The above seems to be a curious combination of the Protestant work ethic and an existentialism which we know from the work of Sartre had great difficulty in producing an ethical Philosophy. The individual being referred to, however, is not the lonely existential I trying to make sense of its own existence but rather the I that is not subject to any idea of the truth or the good, the I that regulates its possessions with contracts. Locke’s idea of the middle-class man is indeed a far cry from the Aristotelian conception of the middle-class man driven by areté and the common good. Both Locke and Aristotle support meritocracies but the differences between them could not be greater. The major difference being that the Lockean system would be implemented in the coming centuries and the Aristotelian system would have to stand in the wings of the world theatre waiting its turn to manifest its virtues.
Smith asks us to compare the Lockean position to Rawls who is counter-arguing that we are not in possession of our talents and abilities or the advantages and disadvantages which create my fortune, but rather we are the recipients of these characteristics as part of an arbitrary haphazard process, an unjust lottery in which the fortunate prosper and the unfortunate are left helpless. Smith summarizes this well:
“No one has the moral right to interfere with the products of our labour, which may also include what we do with our endowments such as our intelligence. Rawls, on the other hand claims that our endowments are never our own, to begin with:they are part of a common or collective possession to be shared by society as a whole: your capacities for hard work, ambition, intelligence, and good luck do not really belong to you, they result from upbringing and genetics and are not yours or mine in any strong sense–they are a collective possession that can or should be distributed to society as a whole”
This has concrete consequences for government which must be structured for the least advantaged in this “genetic lottery of society” The structure would involve a hypothetical thought experiment in which no one would know the result of this lottery as far as they were concerned but would be called upon to organize society in accordance with the principle of benefitting the least advantaged of the society:
“according to this theory, redistributing our common assets does not involve the sanctity of the individual because the fruits of our labour were never really ours, to begin with. Unlike Locke, whose theory of self-ownership provides a justification–Rawls maintains we never owned ourselves and that we are always part of a larger social weave, a social collective.”
Modern European government is rights-based government and part of the expression of this is the attitude toward the least advantaged workers in terms of ensuring political representation for their interests in the party system. There is also a concern for those who do not have work and the state steps in to help the helpless who have lost their jobs. There is consensus on this Rawlsian position. It is clear that these ideas have been more influential in Europe but not necessarily because of Rawls’ book. The route to the European position may have been connected to the Greek emphasis on a philosophical education and Kant’s, moral law which for the European mind appears to be the ultimate foundation for any system of rights. Rawls claims that his position is Kantian but this should be taken with a pinch of salt. It is Kantian in its denial of the self-ownership thesis but it still has an emphasis on the contract and a form of instrumental reasoning which is not the basis of the Kantian Categorical Imperative.
PS: According to Locke we “possess” our bodies. This obviously flies in the face of Aristotelian theory, common sense and Phenomenological Philosophy. Merleau-Ponty claims in his work “The Phenomenology of Perception” that the body does not have the unity of a physical object. It resembles more the unity of a work of art which can only be interpreted in terms of the phenomenological concept of meaning. The body is that which creates my relation to physical objects through an “Eros or a Libido which breathes life into an original world, gives sexual value or meaning to external stimuli and outlines for each subject the use he shall make of his objective body.”(Phenomenology of Perception p180) This use for Merleau-Ponty is “lived” and it breathes life into the world enabling us to engage with and represent objects which we can possess. The body is not to be found among such “possessions”. Linguistic philosophers would also object to the use of this term. One can lose a possession. Does it make sense to say that one can lose ones body? Only if one is a dualist and believe that the soul possesses the body and can lose its relation to the body at death. If there is possession there must be an owner separable from the possession. We do not find this dualism in the Philosophy of Aristotle which Locke was so keen to turn upside down. It is indeed paradoxical that in his attempt to correct Hobbes and his mechanistic view of the body Locke should fall back into the Catholic position of Descartes in his use of this concept of “possession”. Phenomenology was also reacting to the causal analyses of science and was inspired by Descartes but it fixated on the concepts of meaning and intentionality in order to resolve the philosophical problem of the relation that I have to my body. Yet it has to be said that even the Phenomenological solutions to this problem are less convincing than the original solutions provided by Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory.
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.
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.
Professor Smith discusses the Republic in this lecture. I wish to complement that discussion by concentrating the focus on some elements of the work which he did not take up, combining these elements with those elements he considered seen through a slightly different set of concerns which involves my complaint that the course was not sufficiently Kantian. One of my concerns below is also the distinction between a Socrates who, even in the Republic had his own idea of the healthy city and thereby differentiated his view from Plato’s which he goes on to present.
The dialogue of the Republic begins with Socrates using the tools of elenchus in search of a definition of justice which he probably only sees through the lens of his method darkly. Polemarchus is a spirited man unlike his father, Cephalus, who is a man driven by appetite. Polemarchus is driven by a Homeric paradigm of a courageous warrior when he claims that justice is doing good to one’s friends and harm to one’s enemies and Socrates has a battery of arguments to counteract this definition, the most important of which from the point of view of the development of the dialogue is that justice must in some sense be related to knowledge and anyone applying Polemarchus’s definition must first know who their friends and enemies are. Failure to do so will result in the opposite effect, namely doing harm to one’s friends and good to one’s enemies.Socrates also points out that common sense seems to suggest that doing harm to a bad man will only make him worse. Thrasymachus also has his arguments demolished by elenchus when he, also in a Homeric spirit, suggests that the strong ruling to their own advantage is just. The argument he offers in support of his definition amazes Socrates. What Socrates would regard as unjust, namely a small group of people ruling to their advantage is defined as just by Thrasymachus. It seems to Socrates as if an inversion of the good and bad is involved in this definition. The argument used to defend the definition is an empirical/observational one, namely, a large number of different regimes actually are ruled by a small group of strong men who pass laws systematically to their own advantage. The argument seems to be a form of functionalism/consequentialism. The system is widespread because it works.
A Kantian objection to this would point out the confusion between descriptive and normative categories of argument. A modern analytical objection would complain about the naturalistic fallacy of deriving a final normative ought statement from a series of is-statements. Glaucon, himself a declared consequentialist(he believes that people obey laws because of the consequences involved if they do not) is not satisfied with the elenctic refutation and demands that Socrates proves that justice is both good in itself and good in its consequences. Socrates obtains approval for his strategy that the soul and the city are in some sense isomorphic with one another and begins to build a city from the elements of what is needed for its survival and preservation, in the process providing the principle of justice which he argues is the principle of specialization: everyone doing the work he is best able to do and refraining from interfering in the work of others. The city Socrates constructs is very small and very simple containing simple souls, no luxuries, no warriors and no philosophers. Glaucon refuses to admit that this “healthy city” of Socrates is the final destination in the search for justice. He is a spirited man and Socrates has built a city which requires sublimation of his ambition and war-like nature. He calls the city a city for pigs and demands in the name of the isomorphism of city and soul that a city be constructed in which spirited souls find a home. Socrates agrees to continue the search for justice in this fevered city which attempts to accommodate competition and war. Haunting the account is, of course, the failure of Socrates to tame the spirit of his interlocutors who have long relied on spirit to control itself with its myths, legends, and stories of spirited heroes. The philosophical hero like Socrates will not easily supplant Achilles and Odysseus in the mind of the hoi polloi.The hero devalues life in favour of love of fame and honour and is prepared to sacrifice himself in the cauldron of activities that precipitate all kinds of secondary emotions such as anger. It is clear when reason is excluded from its mediating role in this situation that the soul is at war with itself. The appetite for life is cast aside and in this cauldron we are treated to the activity of a Leontes, feasting his eyes upon the dead corpses. This is an activity taken from the great war between Thanatos and Eros. How could justice possibly emerge from such a war?
The idea of the harmony of the parts of the soul requires that the parts each perform their specific function. Spirit tyrannizes and dominates unless its desires are tamed by reason. It appears that three major waves are required if we are to make the transition to Plato’s Republic in which each class will perform its proper function. Firstly, the guardians must not own anything and refrain from handling gold. Secondly, they will not be able to form normal families. Thirdly guardians will be selected and given a very specific education. Professor points out that there are definite problems with the soul-city isomorphic thesis when it comes to organizing the city:
“But, one may ask, is the structure of the city identical to the structure of the soul? Another objection to this model is that whilst each of us is composed of three parts we are confined to one part of the hierarchy in the city. Plato argues that one part naturally dominates the others and this part will want fulfillment in a particular kind of work. The implication of this is that the majority will not have just souls if that is defined as the soul controlled by reason. Only a minority of philosopher-rulers will function harmoniously in accordance with reason.”
In spite of all his caveats and objections including perhaps those of Socrates to the fevered city, Professor Smith ends his essay by stating:
“I am not convinced that the idea of the philosopher kings is an impossible one.”
Another form of this brand of idealism, Kants Stoical duty-based theory, would argue that the soul should not be divided Platonically into Reason, Spirit, and Appetites, on the grounds that if the soul is a non-material principle it does not make sense to talk of parts or divisions. The soul disappears as a theoretical entity and Kant talks more holistically in terms of the person or the man who is metaphysically constituted of what happens to him and what he causes to happen in accordance with certain categories of the understanding and ideas of reason. The person becomes more like a university for Kant with a number of faculties performing different functions. The Sensibility, the Understanding, and Reason(Theoretical and Practical) constitute these faculties of the person and this, of course, is a very theoretical abstract picture of the whole of man. Perhaps judgment is also another faculty of the Stoic man which is used for life in the polis and perhaps the harmony of these faculties constitutes the areté of this great-souled man as perhaps Aristotle might call him. For Kant political judgment must fall into the realm of the hypothetical imperative, the world of prudential reasoning where here perhaps we can only expect to see really statesmanlike behaviour in a kingdom of ends where the rule of law is isomorphic with the moral law of our minds. Here Kant and Aristotle may agree that Politics aims at the good in a very uncertain manner and certainty therefore cannot be demanded in the same way it can in other domains. One essential difference between Plato and Aristotle and Kant is that the two former philosophers believe in monarchy as a form of government whereas Kant favours the Republic form of government and specifically criticises Kings for the money that was spent on wars instead of education and indirectly he,as we know, also criticised an Emperor for forbidding him to write about Religion.
The 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.”
Glynn opened his notes: “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Today is the second of three lectures entitled “The World Explored,the World Suffered”. We talked about the restlessness of the human soul during the last lecture. Today we are going to ask the question: “What forms can this restlessness take if it seeks to express itself cathartically in Science, Art, Philosophy, and Religion? Firstly some remarks about “the World”. Science has altered its character over history, ladies and gentlemen. During Pre-Socratic times Science and Philosophy were united, both were born of “wonder in the face of existence or being”. Modern science and perhaps much of modern philosophy have lost this spirit of exploration and both are skeptical in relation to this very basic characteristic of what Heidegger called our being-in-the world. Modernism doubts everything and needs to obsessively consult the external world piecemeal for the establishment of every idea and, as a consequence, is thereby thrown into the attitude of trying to construct the world from a pack of theoretical constructs. Are the cards arranged like this?” is the question each scientific age now asks itself and the truth about Being-in-the-world is lost. Wonder is replaced with observation and manipulation. The truth about Being-in-the-world and the truth about the questions of Being is lost. We are lost. We look at the cards and accept the hand we have been dealt, instead of asking, why these cards? Why this kind of card? Why this kind of idea? Our restlessness is transformed into an anxiety-laden activity where we shuffle the cards every generation and are stimulated at the new combination. Heidegger claims we are “thrown” into this world, dealt a hand by a mysterious dealer, ladies and gentlemen, and that our theoretical representations and dealings with the world are inauthentic. At the same time we dwell in the world we live in most intimately in our practical dealings with it. In our dealings with things, we manipulate and use what is “ready-to-hand”. In our concern we thrust aside our theoretically interpretative tendencies that conceal our concerns. We call these entities with which we are concerned “things” and perhaps thereby take a theoretical leap into the unknown. The scientist is a magician, ladies and gentlemen, and one has to be skilled to detect his sleights of hand, especially when he is shuffling his self- constructed cards. Notice how this leap away from Being or reality is a leap away from the fundamental reason for our pre-Socratic wonder in the face of the world. It is a leap away from value, ladies and gentlemen. Let us ask ourselves, “What keeps the craftsman at his task?” A theoretical representation of the house he is building? Is this his concern? Surely he thinks more broadly and more deeply. Does his activity not stretch along a series of interconnected thoughts about the form of life of being human or being-in-the-world? Does it not stretch away from the bare material house along a chain of practical operators we designate linguistically in terms of the expression “in-order-to”? This chain formally refers something to something else along the chain until we come to rest perhaps in “Eudaimonia” if we are Aristotelians, or in the attitude of “a boundless happy outlook onto the world”, if we are Kantians like Dr. Sutton. The builder, ladies and gentlemen does not see the structure he is building as something merely geometrical with its 4 rectangular walls. What, for example, has the hammer the builder is building with, got to do with the rectangularity of the walls? The hammer’s nature is to be, as Heidegger puts it, ready-to-hand. The hammer needs to be used to reveal its nature and if it is thought about, it is done so, circumspectly, in relation to an action structure it is embedded within. If it is looked at, observed theoretically, then this is a different kind of concern which will have a different purpose altogether. The scientist may observe for example that the shaft of the hammer is made of wood as is the house, and think of the biological, chemical or physical properties of wood. For the true craftsman, however the wood may set into motion a process of thought ending in a forest of trees stirring his wonder: The woods for him may be a sublime place to be visited with appropriate clothes and a transcendental attitude: a place to be explored with the senses. When houses are mass produced, the hammers’ value is diminished as is perhaps the “value” of the house. We are not, of course, talking of economic value, which quantifies away the quality and substance of things possessing real transcendental value. The magnificent work “The peasant’s shoes” by van Gogh is a sensory presentation of the truth of this matter. The work of art reveals to an observer, the world of the peasant and the world of work which perhaps Socrates imagined in his healthy city: the city without luxury, without soldiers, without Philosophers. Work and a natural philosophical and religious attitude was all that was required. These attitudes connected its things and activities teleologically, into a system of ends Heidegger would have called a “world” or “being-in-the-world”. All these things and activities do not stand out and present themselves for observation unless something goes wrong. If the hammer does not work or the walls of the house fall down, then these things emerge from this world of activity and present themselves for inspection or observation. The condition of the builder building his house, of course is that the hammer and the walls do not present themselves in the above way and interrupt the activity. Notice how the world is divided, ladies and gentlemen. It is not divided theoretically or mathematically where one begins by imagining a theoretical “substance” or “thing” that can be divided, shaped and moved, remaining constant throughout all of these types of change. The world is a network or totality of equipment where each element has a means-ends or instrumental relation to the beings that use the equipment. The hammer when used is primordially understood in a way described by Gilbert Ryle as “knowing how” which, is contrasted to “knowing that” but is also contrasted to the observational mode of encountering hammers that do not work and walls that fall down. We are not conscious of using the hammer but we are pre-consciously aware of what we are doing. The world of Descartes, the mathematician and Philosopher, ladies and gentlemen is a theoretical world to be explored mathematically and scientifically. His physical world is a theoretical world of res extensa where literally any division, and shape, or any type of movement measurable or observable within the confines of science and mathematics is possible. In this curious world of the mathematician, the infinite can be capable of infinite change. For the practical man this theoretical world will be an image of a world, the mere shadow of the real practical world of equipment. This is, then, not a human world, ladies and gentlemen, nor can it be a religious world, even if for Descartes God guaranteed the truth in a system which had , on these assumptions, to remain forever hypothetical. Only God could know the truth in this system ladies and gentlemen. Only God could guarantee that we are not all dreaming and being deceived by an evil demon. Let me just say that there are theoretical ideas of God such as we find in Aristotle that are based on res cogitans rather than res extensa but let me also say that Aristotle was no dualist and you will find no reference to evil demons in his work. Descartes’ philosophy, ladies and gentlemen announced the coming of the modern secular scientific and technological age. Kant, in attempting to correct Descartes, wound the clock back to the Greeks (and here I do not completely agree with Heidegger’s view of Kant) but to no avail, because Kant’s ethical and religious worldview was nevertheless rapidly overwhelmed by “modernism” and “individualism”. For Descartes it is the quantitative modifications of the physical world which are the primary fundamental phenomena upon which everything and every quality of a thing is built, including the hammer, the house, the peasants shoes, the sublime woods, and even ultimately the thinker, ladies and gentlemen, whose brain, according to Descartes, becomes the meeting point of res extensa and res cogitans. “Value” in such a secular, scientific world, ladies and gentlemen, has to have a special “stamp” imposed upon it by the subjects experiencing it. The woods are not sublime in the view of the scientist but are regarded as so by the person so absorbed, and this attitude is no more generally valid than the attitude of the horseman, riding through the woods whose thoughts are elsewhere on the road ahead and the house at the end of the road, or indeed, to take another example, the attitude of the driver of the machine that cuts down trees in accordance with a quantitative schedule written down on his order sheet: an order sheet which in its turn was written by a supervisor who did not think about the trees as such but only of the amount of capital they would generate for the company. Hail be to king Oeconomous! Whereas, ladies and gentlemen, I want to say that there is a very great difference in value between the absorbed contemplator, contemplating the sublimity of the woods, the machine-driver cutting down trees and the horseman riding for home. This analysis is not complete, however until we ask the question “Who is thus absorbed, in these activities of contemplating the woods, destroying the woods or riding for home?” Shall we be modern and give the answer: “the Cartesian substantial consciousness?” We can, I hope, immediately reject this Cartesian theoretically constituted consciousness in favour of practically constituted “existence”, in favor of a practical “I”. The builder builds a house for a practical “I” to live in. The hammer belongs to a very practical carpenter. But these beings enjoy a different mode of Being or Reality to the network of means and ends that they both help to constitute and are part of. The theoretical “I” stands apart from Others, is separate from Others, in a solipsistic world of its own. In Heidegger’s “Being-in-the-world-together”, on the other hand, I and the Others stand equally and practically together constituting a practical network. Others may present themselves as different when they appear in a landscape but as soon as they pick up a hammer, go into a house, ride through the woods, stand amazed at the sublimity of the woods, go into a church, sit enthralled at what is being said in the house of God: as soon as these things happen, the Others become my brothers and sisters and I adopt an attitude of humanistic solicitude toward them. But it must be emphasized, ladies and gentlemen, that I am concerned about Others in a way I could never be concerned about a hammer or a house. This latter type of concern, or attitude of solicitude can become corrupted by the forms of life we lead: for example, the horseman nearly knocks his brother down in his furious ride to reach the house. Here he sees his brother as something that gets in his way, an obstacle to overcome. He has devalued his brother: not shown his forbearance for his brother. Our Being-with-one –another in the world ought to be a being- for- the- sake- of- one-another. This Being-with- one-another can be compromised by our theoretical attitudes that separate us into individuals with our own cogito, our own interests, desires, and needs. Once this happens we need to travel a road of self-knowledge in order to re-discover this primordial attitude of Being-with-one-another which came so natural to the Greeks and the Christians. One of the deficient modes of being- together- with- one -another occurs when we see all people around us as a means to our ends. This narcissistic or “Individual” me which cannot grasp what I have in common with my brothers can be theoretically characterized by Psychology as an individual “I” defined by a set or properties one of which may be narcissism. Such a theory, however, can never bring the individuals back into the practical network of value that unites them. Society is not a totality of individuals, united by a set of theoretical properties but a brotherhood of brothers or a siblinghood of siblings or a fellowship of friends united by a set of practical concerns about goals, duties and rights. We are thrown into this burdensome world, ladies and gentlemen, and this is reflected in our states of mind or moods that become defining for how we see the world. We need to master our moods, ladies and gentlemen because, according to Heidegger, there is a basic fundamental mood that reveals the world as it is for us. We need to master our moods because there are bad states of mind or bad moods which will disguise from us the nature of the world and neutralize the value of work, walks in the sublime woods, and other people. According to Heidegger it is only when our senses belong to an entity whose kind of Being is Being-in-the-world possessing a state of mind or mood which cares for the world, that things can reveal themselves to us in the world as something to be valued. A good mood is not a dominating state of mind, ladies and gentlemen, it submits itself to the world: a bad mood, ladies and gentlemen, seeks to dominate the world, perhaps as the modern scientist seeks to dominate the physical domain: a bad mood can sometimes seek to destroy our woods or “inadvertently” in a more complex context, provide the weapons of mass destruction. Between moods that submit themselves to the world and world-destroying moods, there are moods of contemplation in which we impose the categories of substance and its properties, action and its properties, upon the passing show. Twentieth-century fashions looked to logic to replace epistemological approaches to philosophical problems. The logic of grammatical subjects and predicates, the logic of theories of types and descriptions provided context independent statements which theories would attempt to give an account of. This state of affairs was meant to attempt to solve the problem of the existence of the world that needed to be inferred from sense data in the mind or logical theories. According to Heidegger the world is not a hypothesis or an assumption. Being–in-the-world is our original situation from which everything else follows. Equipment networks for Heidegger are the background against which everything else stands out. The work of the later Wittgenstein moves in this direction when it refers to language-games embedded in forms of life. Here the forms of life form the background of the world. Psychology relegates moods to secondary phenomena subservient to representation and willing. Phenomenological research tries to restore moods and emotion back to the practical phenomena they were in the Philosophy of Aristotle. In the Phenomenology of Scheler, for example, , actions can have their own “sight” and their own “interest”. Phenomenology is a philosophy born at the beginning of the century, conceived by the spiritual “father” of Heidegger, Edmund Husserl. It maintains in its reflections upon language, that underlying our interpretations of things is a context of “involvements” which provide the cognitive content of these interpretations. Everything has “meaning” and this meaning can be disclosed. In the statement “The hammer is too heavy” we do not discover “meanings” but rather we discover an entity like the hammer and its relation to the ready-to-hand context in which it is involved. The predicate “too heavy” then is a narrowing or focusing of attention that characterizes this specific hammer. Thirdly, this statement communicates this state of affairs to others and the state of affairs is shared with others who may have no direct involvement in the state of affairs. This statement can then be passed along in an unending chain of communication. Interpretation in itself does not need to be linguistic or theoretical but can be purely practical as when a carpenter tries to use a hammer which is too heavy, lays it aside for another which is lighter. But of course talking about things is a mode of being together. In language we communicate our understanding of the possibilities of things that we project upon them, and we can also communicate our state of mind or mood. But just as primary, ladies and gentlemen, is the fact that in language or discourse we listen-to, we are open-to, ideas and other people. Indeed our very being- in- the- world is constituted in and through the activity of listening to others. Man shows himself to be the being that listens before he reasons ladies and gentlemen. Hence, Aristotle’s definition of “rational animal capable of discourse” replaces the earlier simpler definition of “rational animal”. It is in listening-to, or reading, that all true explorations of the world and our place in it begin. We listen or read in order to explore, and to know that we are not alone. Language is therefore not a repository of words to be used ladies and gentlemen, but rather something we use with solicitude, with care: the same attitude we reserve for human beings. That we speak and listen are not properties of a theoretical Psychological “I”, but rather constitutive aspects of our human nature or being-in-the-world with others. But, ladies and gentlemen, here comes the reason why we have to read and to listen very carefully. We are thrown into a world where the meanings of things are either not apparent or where things said are only half meant or not meant at all. This is a world in which one could get lost, ladies and gentlemen. A world in which interpretation might lead into a labyrinth of meaninglessness: in this labyrinth we will find the scientist, the psychologist, and the social scientist, down in the Platonic cave, hunting for they know not what, hunting for nothingness in the dark. But in this world one can hear if one listens carefully, and one can understand if one reads about the essential characteristics of the world which makes this world of ours, a real world. The chalk I have in my hand has perceptual characteristics: grayish, white, relatively solid, a thing with a definite shape. These seem to be the mathematical/scientific properties of the chalk: but, for the practical understanding this piece of chalk has an essence, namely a piece of material that can be used up after writing on a blackboard. After it is used up it has no theoretical properties at all. Does it not exist, therefore, because it does not possess the above theoretical properties or does it not exist because it has been practically used up in the act of writing on the blackboard? The essence of the chalk seems to reside more in the practical act than in these theoretical properties: the chalk is used up in practical acts situated in our life-world of which this lecture hall is a part. And yet these acts are a something rather than a nothing: they have being or reality. The chalk is a thing in a context of involvements that include the student reading its traces and understanding what was written, perhaps even after the chalk that was used to leave its traces itself has disappeared and all its theoretical properties are nothing. Heidegger writes about the darkening of the world bearing down upon us and perhaps it will reach into this institution when chalk writing on a blackboard will no longer be understood. Here I am thinking of the mathematical logic of Professor Russell. Attempting to reduce all objects and acts to their logical theoretical form is an important mistake, if one can call it a mistake at all. It is not of the order of misunderstanding the use of something like a hammer but more like not being able to relate to other human beings spiritually: as beings which have intrinsic value. Now, no one can accuse religion of not being able to relate to human beings spiritually. The language of religion is spiritual: it does not settle for the facts or express facts in isolation, but rather relates to something of value underlying the facts. It is not a fact that religion preaches the brotherhood of man but rather a statement that expresses the nature of our relation to man as a relation of solicitude and care: a statement which is true yet value-laden. It is an expression of an ontological mood. So, for a modern man, Christ dying on the cross is a fact but for a Christian this event expresses symbolically the essence of man’s life, or the mood of life in general. The picture of this event is perhaps the most terrible, horrible event that the mind could conjure up: this event of the good man, dying in such a cruel way. Be not mistaken, ladies and gentlemen, this is not one man dying because of a betrayal for thirty pieces of silver. This event symbolizes all of mankind on the cross. This is the symbol of the darkening of the world after which came quite naturally the dark ages. The Renaissance supposedly designated the awakening of the spiritual in man until Descartes came along to put a nail into God’s coffin with his mathematical individualism and radical skepticism. Then came the Enlightenment, but it is an open question as to whether Kant put another nail into Gods coffin. I don’t believe he did cause problems for religion, but will not fully give my reasons for thinking so during this lecture. The language of religion, ladies and gentlemen, is not Latin, it is Hebrew. Latin translations of Hebrew and Greek, as we know have been problematic. The word that we know in English as “substance”, is the Latin translation of “Being” or reality. The word the Greeks used was paraousia that designates the presence of an essence or a homestead standing and revealing its essence. We have, through unfortunate Latin translations misinterpreted the Greek term phusus that refers to the spontaneous unfolding of something essential which lingers. Physics, as a consequence of Latin mistranslations, has fallen under the spell of the Latin translation substance that is more easily interpreted as something material endowed with mathematical characteristics. The essent, for the physicist is self- evidently given, a datum that can be discovered by an observer equipped with scientific instruments and mathematical theories and concepts. The essence becomes an object to be observed, or to be acted upon with measuring instruments. The essence of man and language have disappeared into this labyrinth of confusion and perhaps all we have left is the historical event of the death of Jesus to talk about. Perhaps all that is left to do is to explore and suffer the significance of this event. An event, instead of a world, is all we have to speak about in the house of God: in the house of a Deus absconditus. In this house we show we care about metaphysical matters. Sitting and waiting for mass to begin, the metaphysical anxiety we feel in the face of our death is transposed into a Stoic calm. The storm that is coming over the horizon is on our minds when we talk collectively about death. Out in the street we talk idly about death as if it were an accidental event and try to forget about it as quickly as possible. The storm of another person’s death is an event like any other that will pass away in history. Neighbors congregate around a dying friend and predict he will soon be well: they administer tranquillizers. In our everyday talk about death we anxiously pretend that there is no cause for anxiety. But then we find ourselves in church ladies and gentlemen where the truth is up there on the altar for all to see. No tranquillizers for Jesus. The claim that he suffered for us means that his death was not a mere historical event but an event of solicitude and care. We should “know” that we are going to die, disintegrate into the nothingness of dust: we should as Heidegger claims: “find ourselves face to face with the “nothing”, of the possible impossibility of our existence”. If we do, we become free to meet this impossibility we will never experience, resolutely, with the stoical spirit of a Socrates or a Jesus. We will of course need a clear conscience if we are to accomplish such a feat of anticipating resolutely what is to come. Aristotle, ladies and gentlemen as you know, spoke of every activity and inquiry as aiming at the good. For him the world was not a merely totality of things or events or facts about things and events: it was a totality of involvements with natural things and human beings that manifested value in the form of friendship, concern, solicitude, and care. For Aristotle we also have a relation to God when we contemplate the good, the true and the beautiful and for Kant we have commitments to both humans and God. One cannot help but recognize that the values referred to are in the realm of the possible and the realm of the “ought”, and that one can in fact be bored with existence or tired of existence or wish to destroy existence without these facts being a basis to abandon what we ought to be committed to and care for. This terrible modern century with two world wars and the dropping of two atomic bombs on civilian populations and the threat of nuclear holocaust is only 75 years old. One wonders what is in store. One wonders what on earth is coming next. If ever a talking cure was needed it was needed in this terrible century. If ever there was a humanistic voice needed in the wilderness of our modern times it is now, during this century. The voice began to whisper its concern about humanity during the end of the last century, paradoxically in the name of science, and in defense of the immoral treatment of mentally ill patients. And as the patients confessed in the consulting rooms of this humanist named Freud, it became apparent that science did not have the resources to do the work of diagnosing the causes of complex mental phenomena. Freud, after flirting with scientific materialism turned his attention to Plato and mythology in order to interpret the phenomena he encountered in his consulting rooms. We may wonder how Jesus knew his life was not going to end well after having raised his voice in the name of humanity and brotherhood. He was tagged “the King of the Jews” and given a crown of thorns. Freud was never openly tagged in this way but to the scientist he presented a challenge to the throne of science by abandoning materialism and physical causation. He transformed the current dogma of somatogenesis (mental illness has a physical cause in the brain) by a critical doctrine of psychogenesis (mental illness has its origins in our minds ). He was never openly tagged but was made to wear his crown of thorns. Now I am not a fan of Dr. Freud because of his attacks on visible religion but I can see how he might have thought that the confessions of someone who can listen and understand could take the place of a religion grown weary of listening to unimaginative, almost ritualistic prayers, of a religious institution wearily offering unimaginative ritualistic formulas in response to the anxiety of modern man. I can see how Freud might have thought that religion embraced a set of beliefs that were driven by fantasy or wish rather than the reality of how the world ought to be. Freud was a great emblem of this terrible century, being both a sufferer and a deep explorer of the human condition. The time of the prophets may be long gone but it is ironic is it not that he and Einstein were asked to diagnose the causes of war on the eve of the war to end all wars. The language, of religion, ladies and gentlemen is not a factual language, nor a language of observation, cause and effect. It is the language of poetry combined with the language of myth: neither language is well understood, although we incorrectly believe we understand the language of poetry more than we do the language of myth. Myths may be the only clue to pre-history that we have and it may be defining of myths that we cannot connect the events narrated with either the time of our history or the geographical space of our world as we define it today. Religious texts, ladies and gentlemen, explore the relation between man and what he considers sacred: between man and that which threatens this sacred bond, namely, evil. The confession a man makes of his faults is symbolic and is in need of the kind of interpretation that is required to understand the language of religious texts. The confession is not simply an emotional exclamation of pain, ladies and gentlemen, it is rather a cry for righteousness and justice: a cry from an emotional complex of anxiety and fear which is being operated upon by an ought-system of concepts emanating from the conscience of man. Freud called one part of the mind the superego in recognition of the fact that it assists the ego in its work of transforming the id and its cauldron of appetites into a life force capable of creating an Aristotelian flourishing life. Psychoanalysis ladies and gentlemen, is the secular inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. It aims to transform our childish narcissism into a deep thought about, and love of the world, which will make a Temple of our societies. So, in place of the God that has absconded from our secular cities, we have analytical interpretations of our cries for help. In Heidegger’s terms, the cry is analogous to the cry in the wilderness where the appeal is to be returned to civilization, to the context of involvements with people and things. The call of conscience is a call to be able to experience fully what one ought to be able to experience: work and love, which by the way happen to be the two criteria for a healthy ego that has successfully transformed the cauldron of emotion of the id into a life force This healthy ego also has successfully transformed the commanding cruel captain of the superego into the gentle man of peace, no longer aggressively accusing its host. It would seem that man enters into the ethical world through fear and not love, if Freud the prophet is to be believed. Once having returned from the desert to his context of involvements, love makes an appearance on the condition that the spirit did not die from the terror of the desert. It is the spirit on the verge of dying which cries out “How long O Lord must I endure?” “Hast thou abandoned me?” Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, the spirit of man is an enigma because much of its history completely escapes narration. But the narrative of the sea ladies and gentlemen, is the sea as it threatens or purifies and baptizes in accordance with its moods. Indeed the sea is narrative of the natural order and this is not as pressing a matter as the narrative of man confessing his faults. And if science has anything to do with the construction of this narrative of the sea there will be no reference to its role as elemental purifier. The scientist will do with the waters of the sea as he does with the desert: he will measure the depths, calculate the winds and look to the moon to explain the motion of the waves: he will count the sands of the desert, measure the heights of the dunes and look to the winds and the sun to explain all shape and motion. This world of science is a world in which everything follows the laws and nothing breaks the laws, on pain of the law not being a law. In the ethical world of the suffering man, suffering is a symptom of having broken some commandment or law that governs the flourishing life. Ancient man carried this symbolism into the natural order and explained the flood in terms of broken divine commandments or laws. The threatening or purifying flood was predicted and it was a vengeful phenomenon. The sufferer did not love God enough, it was claimed. The secular Plato might well have said “If you do not love the world and knowledge of the world enough you will be punished and suffer.” The unjust or evil man must suffer: that must be the logic of the ethical world and everyone seems able to intuitively understand this. But not everyone understands that we need more than knowledge to understand the terrible event of a just man dying on the cross with his crown of thorns. He has done nothing to deserve his fate in the ethical order of things. So why has the ethical system abandoned him thus? It is because his death is his sacrifice on behalf of all sufferers. He is the savior and our salvation. There just is no other reasonable interpretation of this event. And where was Deus absconditus, while Jesus was saving the world? Robert raised his hand “Heidegger’s major work was called “Being and Time”. If I have understood what has been said in previous lectures on Kant, time is an internal structure of our minds. This surely cannot be Heidegger’s position given what has been said in your lecture today. Can you say something more about time?” “It is the mood which prevails in our practical network of involvements. Things matter and have significance in this mood. A mood is not something inside an individual but rather the name for the spirit in which things get done. This for Heidegger expresses the significance of past for us. We are assimilated by this spirit or mood that is most definitely outside of us. As a result of this assimilation I then presently articulate the world by focusing on an element such as a pen and begin writing an essay which in its turn articulates the world by showing how it has been divided up and put together again both in action and in discourse or language. This in its turn is embedded in a network of possibilities. The essay makes me think in a new way about something and explores the possibilities of the world. This is the future tense of Heidegger’s project.” “So time is measured more realistically in the act of writing an essay than in the orbit of the earth around the sun or the earth spinning on its axis-“ “Yes, being-in-the-world, is in one sense a better measure of time than staring at the movements of large bodies in linear or angular motion. In another sense however it is good to know when the light is going to disappear so I can make my way home in the light, or when in the year I can sow the seeds for the wheat crop. The calculations made in relation to the motions of these large bodies then become significant for the beginning and endings of activities but perhaps the activities themselves are actually, when totally absorbing, approaching a feeling of timelessness, expressed in our saying afterwards “Is that the time? Where did the time go?” This in turn, suggests that time becomes more important the more conscious we become of it, especially when things do not go as planned or intended. Our time is up I see. Thank you for your time ladies and gentlemen.
This is the final essay in a series of essays on Brett and R S Peters’ work “The History of Psychology”. In the opening essay on the Philosophy of Man Peters pointed out how throughout the ages there has been a tendency to focus on the data or the subject matter of a collection of different kinds of inquiries occurring in the name of religion medicine and philosophy. This subject matter , of course, very quickly proliferates and demands ordering if the impression is not to be one of total confusion.
In 1870 Psychology unilaterally declared its independence from Philosophy and Religion and decided to focus on the scientific method as a means of uniting a chaotic field of data or subject matter. This move incorporated a commitment to observation and a resultant suspension of the “psychological” practical attitudes involved in calls to action and the evaluation of action which was the concern of Aristotle’s practical science. Psychology reduced the circumference of the circle of its concerns to a theoretical reasoning that committed itself to what Brett called “observationalism” and introspection(a psychological mechanism which turned observation inwards).
The twentieth century, it is maintained, was largely obsessed by observationalist assumptions and reactions to observationalism such as behaviourism. Initially upon the declaration of independence, the definition of Psychology accepted by many leading researchers was “The science of consciousness” but it was then discovered that consciousness could not be observed and could not, therefore, fit into the theoretical scientific framework of being manipulated or measured as an experimental variable. The “scientific” response to this was to redefine Psychology as the “science of behaviour” and this move merely further reduced the circumference of the investigative circle and much that was of interest in the Philosophy of man was ignored.
The Medical model also played its part in the development of Psychology through the reciprocal influences of Psychiatry and Freudian Psychology under the heading of technologies of cure which sometimes steered and sometimes were steered by theoretical views of diagnoses. The concept of development played its part in influencing the direction of Psychology by both focusing on animal research and child development. Simultaneously the social sciences with its tendency to highlight the role of the social environment in the development of the individual also contributed to a rich mixture of ingredients. One of the responses of the behaviourists to the introspective musings of subjects in “experimental” situations was to discard what people were saying and concentrate instead upon what was being done: behaviour. At the same time the medical model, operating in what Brett called the technological therapeutic mode was emphasizing a moral treatment of patients that demanded that the Doctor listen to his patients both for the purposes of diagnosis and for the purposes of treatment. This ethical focus was probably a consequence of the need of Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis to view humans holistically if the practical problem of restoring man to health was to be solved. Freud’s initial training was in the Physiology of the brain. This was complemented with a medical training because, as a Jew, he could not look forward to a well-paid research position at Vienna University. Both of these largely theoretical educations proved to be inadequate to solve the kind of problem Freud was faced with in private practice. He was forced to resort creatively and experimentally to various “technologies” such as hypnotism in order to address the complex symptoms of his patients. But Freud was also a man of culture and we know he was familiar with the writings of Kant and this perhaps prevented him from engaging in the various forms of quackery that was a sign of the times. Paradoxically it was probably Platonic, Aristotelian and Kantian Metaphysics and Transcendental Philosophy that turned this Physician into a leading figure on the world stage in the 20th century. Popularly, he became famous for his idea of “the unconscious” but this was probably only one of a number of innovative concepts he formed in his 50 years of theorizing. Ernest Jones, Brett points out, thought very highly of the Freudian distinction between the primary and secondary process of the mind working in accordance with different principles: the pleasure-pain principle and the reality principle respectively. Freud’s background in Physiology and Biology led him to formulate a theoretical idea of “instinct” and this together, in turn, with his philosophical interests enabled him to construct a complex hylomorphic concept of instinct as constituted of the elements of “aim”, “object” and “source”.This complexity was of course not appreciated when criticism of his thesis of the sexual etiology of neurosis became almost universally accepted. The more superficial ideas of an organism being merely a bundle of instincts gained much traction at the beginning of the 20th century. In his seminal work, “The Interpretation of Dreams” Freud published the results of his adventures of reflection into the realm of wish-fulfillment which reads very differently to his other more technical works where we are clearly in the realm of action. The Interpretation of dreams is almost like a hermeneutic work of interpretation operating on a mythical world, except for the famous chapter 7 on the psychical apparatus that brings us back into the real world of action. In Kantian terms dreams are phenomena that happen to us and are distinct from the things we choose to do, and there is no obvious route for Kant from the realm of fantasy to the realm of the real world. Freud claimed that dreams are the royal road to the unconscious but what many of his critics fail to see is that the road leads in the other direction to the world of reality and action, and Freud’s work actually allows us to journey on that road connecting these two different “cities” of the mind. Our minds begin their life dwelling in the city of the primary process ruled by solipsistic wish fulfillment and anxiety and life in this city is obviously problematic. The contrast of the solid city built of choices and real actions leading to real consequences is stark. These are Brett’s words:
“However, whatever the right sort of description for such goings on which Freud called the primary processes, Freud saw clearly that they require a different sort of description from that which we give for processes explaining actions or performances. For we explain these in terms of the ends which people have in mind and their information about means to ends, which falls under rules of efficiency and appropriateness. To act or to perform a person must have a grasp of causal connection, of time, of external reality, and of logical contradictions. Such standards are the product of ages of convention, adaptation, and conscious experimentation. This inherited wisdom is handed on from generation to generation, as what Freud called the secondary processes begin to develop out of the autistic amalgam of the child’s mind. A wish, to be transformed into a reason for acting, has to have logical and causal connections, together with standards of social correctness, imposed upon it, to that what is wished for, the objective, can be connected with acts that lead up to it. It is interesting to note that Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics distinguished “wish” from “choice” roughly along these lines.”(R. S. Peters)
The analogy of two different cities obviously breaks down with the concept of the unconscious which actually is a concept on the boundary of the physical and the psychological. Ricoeur noted that this part of Freud’s theory is more physiological and relates to the “energetics” and physical mechanisms of the body such as the leaving of memory traces by ideas that pass in and out of consciousness. Freud discovered that not all of these traces give rise to memories which can be retrieved in the way memories normally are. Some of these traces are of ideas that at one time passed through consciousness and require special techniques or circumstances before they are able to “surface” once again in the realm of consciousness: techniques such as hypnosis or free association, and circumstances such as dreaming or narcosis. Why one might ask do these “ideas” nor naturally “surface” in consciousness under the appropriate circumstances? Freud’s answer is that something or some force is preventing this natural process from occurring. There is, in other words, a repressing force operating in the mind distorting its natural function. Freud also acknowledged tendencies of the id which are not conscious and have not been formed by the egos defense mechanisms. Examples of traces that are prevented from expressing themselves in consciousness are “the traces left by experiences in early childhood–especially those involving wishes of which we feel ashamed”. In his later theorizing, Freud introduces “agents” into his topographical model. The Ego, for example, is the outer face of the id that negotiates as best it can with three masters: firstly it meets the demands of the external world instrumentally finding the best means to the ends which meet these demands, secondly it meets the demands of the id, sometimes defensively, thirdly it meets the demands of the superego and its demands that certain standards of behaviour and judgment be maintained.. This latter agency of the super-ego is obviously an introjection of mechanisms of society which regard “norms” as necessary for the ordering of relations between men in society. Here we are obviously dealing with the attitudes I referred to in the beginning of this essay. The final third wave of Freud’s theorizing provided us with a picture of the workings of a “silent” instinct that wreaks havoc in society: the death instinct that manifests itself defensively as aggression and this was for Freud the final piece of the puzzle depicting the contours of human nature. A number of patients with sadistic-masochistic tendencies were flying beneath the radar of Freudian theory and until Thanatos entered the arena of theoretical explanation these patients were paradoxes for Freudian theory. The superego obviously contained more than a little of this aggression as well as containing the influences of our closest relatives and friends as well as the influence of social institutions.Many everyday transactions in the social world are in Freudian theory, given technical labels which refer to a network of descriptive and explanatory concepts. The theory proposed that conflicts in early childhood can centre around organs and operations of the body and that the failure to resolve such conflicts might result in personality distortions which have been famously described in personality type theory.
R S Peters spends much time on describing and commenting on Freudian theory and feels it necessary to say the following in conclusion:
“If any justification is necessary for spending so much time on presenting Freud’s theory as a whole it is to be found in its overwhelming importance and influence in twentieth century Psychology. It combines the purposivism of other theories with the stress on the unity or wholeness of the personality which purposive theories have often neglected. It has been illustrated by more empirical material than any other theory and is richer in causal genetic hypotheses. In fact, there are enough speculative hypotheses in Freud to keep a generation of psychologists going in the endeavor to state them precisely and to test them. The stress on “the unconscious” and the importance given to early childhood experiences was revolutionary when we consider the theories in the field at the end of the 19th century. The only respects in which Freud was a child of the 19th century were his Darwinian approach, his vague metaphysical leanings derived from Schopenhauer, and his conception of “ideas” as dynamic mental entities which he inherited from Herbart.”(R. S. Peters)
Interest in the development of the child and personality types gave rise in the twentieth century to an industry of attempts to “measure” the abilities and personality of children and adults. Educationalists became interested in intelligence testing. Testing and experimentation also continued in earnest with different animals. Psychometrics became a part of many Psychology and Teacher training courses at Universities and Colleges. Everyone became technically interested in the “instruments” of Psychology and the conceptual aspect of psychological investigations was marginalized. Statistical studies aiming at proving causal relationships between variables soon gave way to studies using probability theory to calculate correlations between variables, especially in those studies in which a conceptual understanding of the variables and their contexts were lacking.
The Social Sciences also played an influential role in mobilizing researchers. Marx’s Economic theories lent themselves well to a theory of value which continued a tradition begun by Hobbes and Hume, a tradition that attempted to separate value from the realm of objectivity in favor a psychological fallback position which attempted explanations of social phenomena in terms of the invariable psychological(subjective) characteristics of individuals. Hobbes, for example had attempted to “deduce mans social and political behaviour from basic psychological postulates about self-preservation which were themselves presumed to be deducible from physical postulates about matter in motion”. Hobbes wonders whether life can be anything more than the mechanical movement of springs and gears. This value-phobia inhabited even the thinking of those social scientists who rejected the psychological approach and like Marx regarded the concepts of class, nation and the collective to be far more useful for social analysis than the needs and wants of individuals. The Philosophical notion of a prescriptive set of concepts possessing objectivity and truth and subject to the laws of logic was a thin crescent moon in the starry heaven of academic ideas. Peters points to a publication by Charles Cooley entitled “Human Nature and the Social Order” which he claims was very influential in America, the home of social psychology:
“Its main theme was that human personality is a social product and that most of our beliefs and attitudes are socially acquired. The “social order” thus determines the individual personality. Kantian objections were conspicuous by their absence in this zone of debate.”
Peters points out insightfully that this discussion only had one direction in which to go and that was toward a description of human automata. This environment also made it difficult for Freudian ideas to persist and Freud bashing became a favorite past-time of many American academics. Even Malinowski’s serious objections to the Freudian Oedipus complex was overshadowed by a general lack of interest in Freuds theories. The condition of the existence of his theories depended upon insisting upon a link with social anthropology.
The overall impression of Peters is that during the 20th century there emerged a proliferation of “schools” of Psychology all operating on either different assumptions or with different methods or with different concepts and that this has in no small measure contributed to what many philsophers regard as the “conceptual confusion” in the subject.