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

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I remember the strangeness of the thought “The world is all that is the case” when I first heard these words in a Philosophy of Education class, in the nineteen seventies, in England. I had applied to and been accepted at a reputable teacher training college in Exeter after completing my education in a Grammar school and working as an insurance clerk for just over a year.
The lecturer, Jude Sutton, paused upon saying these words and waited expectantly, almost dramatically, for a few seconds before heaving a sigh of abandonment and continuing the lecture.
“The world is the totality of facts and not of things” (Wittgenstein)” was then written on the board, and the lecturer rounded upon us like an animal defending its territory and waited expectantly, again without result, before saying:
“Perhaps people of your generation believe that the world is made of sugar, spice, all things nice, slugs snails puppy dog tails. Or perhaps you all believe the world is made of many things, ships, shoes, ceiling wax, cabbages and kings.”
One of the students attending the lecture felt the need to ease the tension and responded by calling out
“Everyone knows that knowledge can only be composed of facts—facts are what the world is made of. Facts are the atoms of the world”
The lecturer paused to consider what was said and finally responded:

“And what if everyone in the world believing such a thing is confused and what if confusion causes great world catastrophes such as world wars and the young logical atomist Dr. Ludwig Wittgenstein, from Vienna, from the same school Mr. Adolf Hitler attended, was just wrong”
He paused and then continued
“And what would a fact, or this so called atom of the world, look like?”
The student felt the need to defend himself but did not know how, and responded in a less confident voice
“A fact is a fact”
“ Let me ask you all, these questions. Does this world you are thinking about change? If it does, is change one fact or many facts? Does the whole world change when something changes in it or does it remain the same and only parts of it change? Is all change of one kind, or are there different kinds of change? Surely if a change is to occur there must at the very least be something that changes. We talk about the atoms of the world as if they are responsible for the formation of these things and perhaps everything that happens everywhere. But what if there are processes of change occurring, within these indivisibles, which are partly responsible for their behavior when they do whatever they do. And if this is so, does this not commit us to thinking that these so-called indivisibles are in fact divisible. And if this is so, does not the process of dividing up the world seem an infinite one that could never be completed. What, ladies and gentlemen, if the world is infinitely divisible and is therefore infinitely conceptualisable or what if the world is alternately conceptualisable as a particle or a wave and facts depend on the structure of the minds of the humans thinking about them. Or what if facts are formed by many generations of thinkers discussing them?”
I raised my hand to ask a question:
Could one not say that the structures of our minds are explanatory facts which psychologists will discover one day, and could one not say that sociologists or anthropologists will discover the facts of social explanations that explain other facts we claim to know.? I think I agree with Dr. Wittgenstein.
The lecturer, Dr. Jude Sutton, looked inquisitively at me before answering:
Well, let me firstly inform you that Dr. Wittgenstein did not in his later work agree with himself but even in his early work from which I am quoting, namely, the “Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus”, he tried to acknowledge the importance of the mind, the self, and the importance of aesthetic, social, ethical and religious values..”
I raised my hand again to follow up my question, Jude Sutton’s expression changed from an expression of curiosity to an expression of mild amusement:
“What do you mean that he tried to acknowledge?
“I mean that he said that the Self is outside the world and that all other values flowing from the self such as aesthetic, social, ethical and religious values are also outside the world..”
“Surely a value is just another fact reflected in what we say and what we do?”
“That would entail that there two different classes of facts: one for the truthful account of events that occur in the world, and one for the kind of event that incorporates actions and persons who live very concretely in our world and not outside it”
The class looked confused and began to fidget impatiently. Jude smiled and continued:
These ideas are the most difficult and important you will ever encounter during your very privileged and sheltered lives. The kinds of questions I am raising are philosophical questions, what the Greeks called aporetic questions.”
He wrote a-poria on the board and continued:
“A-poria in Greek means “difficult journey”. Dr. Wittgenstein left Vienna and its culture of looking for the facts and made his difficult journey to England, to Manchester University, to study the dynamics of the aeroplane. Perhaps he was thinking that a birds-eye view of the world would reveal the nature of the world. Perhaps he was not thinking at all, some would say. Whilst at Manchester he became interested in the tools he was using to solve concrete engineering problems relating to air-flight. He moved to Trinity College Cambridge to study Logic and Mathematics under Bertrand Russell who was convinced that Logic would solve all the problems of Philosophy. Wittgenstein, under Russell, left the world of concrete problems and became genuinely puzzled by how ideas of the facts, of what is true, seemed to form an idea of the world as a whole, the totality as he called it, and he wanted to investigate this phenomenon. Let me give you an analogy of what he meant when he said the self is outside the world. When we wake up in the morning and open our eyes, a visual field appears. Now to a consistent thinker who has decided for his definition of the world as a totality of facts, and has decided that the truth of the facts are determined by scientific observation, that is, by someone using their visual fields to discover the facts, an obvious problem arises. A scientist is bound by a scientific oath, to use the scientific method of observation to look for the causes of phenomena and the cause of our visual fields are obviously our eyes, which lie outside our visual fields. So unless the scientist is prepared to give up his commitment to observation as the means that he uses to acquire and verify his knowledge, we have an aporetic problem, a logical problem. Some would say the scientist is faced with a contradiction in his reasoning. This problem occurs also at a higher level than that of the analogy of the visual field. If one says that it is a fact that the self and its consciousness lies behind our explorations of the world and our suffering in the world, then I should be able to observe this self and verify this fact. Yet this appears to not be logically possible. Even the Buddhists realized that you would be using your self to find your self and that the suffering self would no longer be suffering if it was exploring the world. You can see that these problems are not easy to solve. “
A student studying History raised their hands:
“But I don’t understand your references to Hitler and the War.”
“That was partly to arouse your desire to explore these issues but it was a serious suggestion relating to the terrible events that have occurred this century: the events of two world wars, the dropping of two atomic bombs on civilian populations and a cold war in which there is a serious threat of a nuclear holocaust between two non philosophical superpowers. I don’t mean to imply that Mr. Hitler was bright enough to formulate a theoretical definition of the world. I mean merely to suggest that he came from an Austrian and a European culture that had influenced the world with its blind faith in science. The assumption that the world is the totality of facts may lie behind everything we have suffered so far this century.”
“Surely the causes are more specific and diverse. Hitler was not sane”, the student responded.
“Perhaps it is a fact that Hitler was insane. Even if that is a truth determined by Psychology on the basis of available historical evidence, this still does not explain the facts, as we know them. Were all of the Germans carrying out the orders to murder the Jews, insane? I don’t believe that we are dealing with the matter of mass insanity and anyone who maintains that understands neither Psychology nor Philosophy. Let me take a concrete example. Eichmann was tried and hanged 14 years ago in Jerusalem. He lied but not compulsively. When confronted with evidence proving that he lied, he acknowledged the truth. Psychologists at his trial noted flat affect in his voice and lack of remorse for what he had done but he was not diagnosed as insane. Hanna Arendt attended his trial and read the 3500 pages documenting his testimony and wrote a book in which she definitely stated that Eichmann was neither insane nor evil. In her judgment, Eichmann had never been taught to think about value. He went to the same school as Hitler and no doubt left with the assumption that the world is merely the totality of facts. For him the world did not contain ultimate values such as “Murder is wrong” and according to Arendt, he did not know how to talk about what he had done. She referred to this phenomenon as the “banality of evil” which angered many Jews at the time.
I raised my hand:
“If Wittgenstein claimed that the self was the source of value and value lay outside the world did he not acknowledge the importance of value?”
“Good reasoning. Wittgenstein had said and believed to the end of his life that an investigation of language is necessary to answer aporetic questions. In the “Tractatus” however, he located the importance of language in the self and claimed that the limits of my language are the limits of my world. He claimed that values could not be talked about but only shown in our language. This appears solipsistic and suggests that our values are not inter-subjective, not objective. It was only in his later posthumous work, ”Philosophical Investigations”, that he realized that the self existed in a public and historical world and that language was public and historical. That is, he understood finally that we could talk objectively about values and claim with justification that “Murder is wrong”.
Jude paused and noted with satisfaction the interest he had aroused and left the lecture room abruptly. The group gradually dispersed leaving me looking transfixed at what had been written on the blackboard: “The world is all that is the case”
I remember feeling that this lecture was different from all the others we had experienced. It felt as if the lecturer had reversed the polarity of the world within the lecture-room and everyone was strangely looking for where north was instead of using it to fly off into their own private worlds. The atmosphere was loaded with anticipation and every thought was like a sudden bolt of lightning striking and splitting our world apart in the name of something ineffable, something which could not be talked about but which everyone mysteriously knew or thought they knew. This experience felt like an awakening, like stepping off from a rolling, swaying ship onto the rough hard ground of real, solid earth.

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

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Professor Smith began this lecture series with the thesis that Political Philosophy is about “Regimes” and he then proceeded to support his position via lengthy accounts of the Political Philosophies of Plato and Aristotle both of whom would have denied his thesis. Both Philosophers would have maintained that Political Philosophy is about “The Good”, “Epistémé and self-understanding”. Aristotle may have added that knowledge of the good requires an adventure of reflection into the realm of the divine and the holy. Smith appears to regard the political realm as having more to do with technai, a realm in which straightforward questions are posed which have straightforward solutions. This, of course, is a different world to the metaphysical realm that Aristotle is referring to when he argues that the philosopher’s task is to pose aporetic questions. In the realm of technai practical reasoning takes the form of firstly, calculating particular means to achieve particular given ends and secondly it uses judgment to determine something general about the particular.

The faculties of understanding and reason, on the other hand, are used in reasoning about the good, in general, and formal terms. These faculties do not function in the straightforward manner in which the faculty of judgment does.

In the use of judgment, the mind submits to the world like a student of nature in contrast to the use of understanding and reason where the mind is more actively thinking like a judge, reflectively, about the laws that will be imposed upon the world. When a political judge or a statesman considers the phenomena of reality as he must do when people act either in accordance with or in contravention of the law he does not waver for a moment in the cases of contravention of the law and consider the abandonment of the law as would a student of nature exploring the world tentatively with his tentative concepts. The political judge or statesman is not a student, he is not building a theory but rather using a conceptual system to make judgments from the point of view of a political theory: If all promises ought to be kept and Jack promised Jill to pay the money back that was lent to him, then Jack ought to pay the money back. The ought in these statements are categorical and signify the necessity that follows from the objective and universal law that All promises ought to be kept. A student confronted with the phenomenon of Jack breaking his promise might be led to the conclusion that the law is illegitimate or false because it is not universal but this would be to misunderstand the peculiar universality and necessity of the ought in the sphere of “the good” and ethics. The field of human conduct is manifold and varied but when it is concerned with answering the Kantian question “What ought I to do?” in the sense Kant intended, we will find that both the political and moral realm has a law like structure. The political judge on the grounds of this structure will steadfastly question the transgressor Jack with a view to obtaining a full understanding of the situation. Once that understanding is reached, i.e. once it is clear that Jack never intended to keep the promise he made the judge then uses his knowledge of the law to judge that Jack’s intention and reasoning is flawed and that he ought to pay the money back in accordance with the law (that all promises ought to be kept). The judge or statesman(who is in the business of making and keeping promises) will not be impressed with the argument “But people do not always keep their promises”. His response to this argument will be simply to insist that he knows that it might be the case that people sometimes do not keep their promises but that it nevertheless ought not to be the case.: they ought to keep promises. The law here, in other words, is a standard that is being used much like the standard metre bar in Paris. The bar itself cannot be said to be one metre long since it is that which we use to determine the length of a metre. Similarly, we cannot ask sensibly whether the law which itself is used to determine what is right and wrong is right or wrong in itself. We can, however, as Kant did point out the logical consequences of abandoning the law which in practical terms would mean abandoning the institution of promising in our communities.

Life in a community is living in a field of desires. Both Kant and Aristotle in their different ways believed that desires need to be shaped and organized in accordance with the telos of “the ought” and in accordance with the principles and value of areté(virtue):i.e. doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. This requires a stable organized soul which Aristotle characterizes in terms of “character” Wisdom is a virtue requiring the understanding of oneself and one’s world. Wisdom is manifested in the wise man being able to reason both theoretically and practically about the nature of man and the nature of his community. In Aristotle’s terms, the wise man will reason well about the good, the true, the beautiful, prime matter and prime form(the Philosophers god). Included in his practical reasoning will be reasoning about the laws of the city. The wise man’s reasoning will precede the judgments he makes and deductively supports the judgments that have been made. Aristotle also distinguishes between substantive justice and procedural or formal justice. Substantive justice requires a general understanding of metaphysics, epistémé and ethics and procedural justice will fall into the realm of technai(particular cases must be handled in accordance with the rule: similar cases have to be treated similarly). For Aristotle, Political Philosophy is substantially ethical and contains the wise law-like statements of the statesman and the judge but it is also technical, i.e. composed of particular judgments which follow from both the law like structures and the particular facts of the particular cases that are being judged. When one is in the realm of the law one is, in Aristotle’s eyes, in the realm of the divine or the sacred. One must take the law seriously and respect its wisdom. Furthermore if one organizes the field of one’s desires in accordance with the principles of areté, one can look forward personally to a flourishing life. This is a judgment about a particular life based on the law-like structure of the virtues in one’s soul.

Kant, we are told by Hannah Arendt, did not produce a political Philosophy. This is a curious statement to make given the following facts:
1.) that our system of human rights is probably based on Kant’s formulations of the Categorical Imperative and
2. The United Nations was suggested by Kant in one of his essays on Political Philosophy.
Arendt wishes to make the case that we should look to Kant’s remarks on Judgment if we are to apply Kantian ideas to the realm of the political. For Arendt, the understanding and the kind of practical reasoning being used in ethics and the formulation and defense of the categorical imperative are irrelevant to the particularities one encounters in the political realm. This means that Judgment cannot command categorically what one ought and ought not to do. It can, in Kantian terms only ask and hope for an agreement by speaking in a universal voice as one does in our judgments of beauty. The grounds of our judgment then become obscurely the non-conceptual common sensibility(the feelings and emotions) we share with all humans. That is instead of beginning in our reasoning with an ought statement, we begin with an is-statement about common feelings and sensibility and then somehow mysteriously jump to the ought conclusions that are required by political judgments, ignoring logical restraints associated with the naturalistic fallacy. The categorical nature of the understanding is implied by the phrase “Categorical Imperative” and reasoning that about ends in itself rather than means to ends is also what Kant thinks of as “categorical”.
Professor Smith also fixes upon this notion of particularity and transports us into the realm of judgment and away from the law-like structure of the political and ethical realms. Sensibility unregulated by understanding and reason will for both Kant and Aristotle stay forever mired in the swamp of particulars. Although in judgment we are saying something about something the subject of the judgment is always a particular. Looking at man as a particular and excluding understanding and reason will only result in an individual story where individual desires or facts reign. Using such judgments results in a history of particular events which we may find interesting or even beautiful but which we can only tentatively judge with our “universal” voices. The generality is not achieved by recasting our actor’s role in a society for society too can be thought about in the particular, as being a polis situated in a particular place and at a particular time. We begin to think categorically only when the major premise of the argument begins “All Societies are…” or just in case Kant is right in his claim that no society is completely free and completely just the argument rather should begin “All societies ought….”
Smith is cognisant of the fact that Political science or Philosophy is in a considerable state of disarray but he mistakenly thinks that Aristotle and Kant have contributed to the chaotic situation he experiences in the Universities. He refers to Aristotle but fails to pursue Aristotle’s categorical path where the laws of reason shape and organize mans desires. He refers to Kant but fails to pursue the hylomorphic quality of Kant’s theorizing. An individual Man, for Kant, is only potentially rational. Rationality will eventually actualize in the species because man’s desires are so unorganized that they need a master to organize them. Man understands what is right, he understands the virtues and admires them but his self-interested desires are always working to avoid the law-like structure of our political and ethical communities by making an exception of himself. This is why he needs a master. He lives in the field of desires or sensibility where pleasure reigns. Most men, as a matter of fact, argues Kant, have their own self-interest firmly fixed before their eyes. The laws of ethics and the laws of politicians are aimed at regulating the consequences of this pursuit of self-interest. Looking at this situation in one way provokes the description that justice is merely the regulation or distribution of pleasures and pains(benefits and burdens) and that is a correct description from a third person point of view which avoids the first person question of the role of self-understanding in this process: the role, that is of mans awareness of what he ought to do and what he ought to be. It is in the spirit of this self-understanding that Kant claims that a society in which sensibility is unregulated by either understanding or reason gives rise to the judgment that life in such a society is “melancholically haphazard”.
Arendt and Smith are almost on the same page. Both seem to criticize Aristotle for placing bios theoretikos above bios politikos, of placing the contemplative life of the eternal and universal above the political life of the sensible and particular. Arendt, in the context of this debate presents the following quote from Pascal(talking about Plato and Aristotle) in her “Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy”:

“They were honest men, like others, laughing with their friends, and when they wanted to divert themselves they wrote, “The Laws” or “The Politics” to amuse themselves. That part of their life was the least philosophic and the least serious. The most philosophic was to live simply and quietly. If they wrote on politics it was as if laying down rules for a lunatic asylum: if they presented the appearance of speaking of great matters it was because they knew that the madmen to whom they were speaking thought they were kings or emperors.”

This may not exactly capture the spirit in which both authors wrote about politics but it does point us to the reason my Kant referred to life in society as “melancholically haphazard”. What was there to be melancholic about? We know that Plato thought that the final the final separation of the soul from the body was the moment of death and that the only response to such a state of affairs was to do Philosophy until the inevitable happened. This touches upon the great issue of the value of life. Kant raises 4 questions by way of defining Philosophy thus uniquely defining Philosophy by the questions it asks but all 4 questions raise the Platonic question of the value of life. The 4 questions are “What can I know?, What ought I to do? , What can I hope for?, and What is man?” His answers to two of these questions that one ought to do what is right and if one does so one can hope for a flourishing life raise the question that Aristotle sought to answer, namely “What is the flourishing life?” Aristotle’s answer was the contemplative life but he must have had in mind the Delphic oracles answer to this same question which referred to “taking on the colour of the dead”. Smith avoids according religion a prominent position in his reflections on bios politikos and thus avoids Aristotle’s answer to the question of the value of a flourishing life. He does, however, in his 25th ad final lecture return to Aristotle’s Ethics and asks whether “patriotism” might be a virtue located on a continuum of excess and deficiency the one pole of which would be nationalism and the other pole Kantian Cosmopolitanism: a strange ending given the almost complete absence of Kantian reflections in the rest of his lectures. Smith points out that an important consequence of Cosmopolitanism is that there is no significant difference between human beings because their humanity is the primary normative characteristic of their being. He goes on to suggest:

“This is the Cosmopolitan ethics of humanity which could only hold true of a confederation of Republics overseen or ruled by international law– a league of nations.”

Smith Pursues his Aristotelian discussion of whether patriotism could be a virtue with Carl Smitt’s reflections from “The Concept of the Political” in which it is claimed that bios politikos is the antagonistic life a dangerous animal leads. This antagonistic life is founded upon a Plemarchean theory of justice which claims that one ought to do good to one’s friends inside the polis and harm to one’s enemies outside the polis. Smith comments upon this in the following manner:

“The political life contains the most intense and extreme antagonism. Friend and enemy are the inescapable categories through which we experience the political: Athens versus Sparta. All attempts to rights, free trade etc are attempts to avoid the above fact.”

Smith points out that the “Friend-enemy” schema would be self-contradictory because if it also operated on the domestic front we would be dealing with a divided city. He then goes on to criticize the Kantian position:

“Kant confuses politics with morality. Kant wishes to transcend the sovereign state with known international rules of justice. If Schmitt believed man to be the dangerous animal Kant believed him to be the rule-following animal. Kant’s desire to transcend the state with a kind of international future is both naive and anti-political. If Hobbes was right when he said that covenants without a sword are but words, then on Kant’s view the question becomes, who would enforce these international norms of force. Kant’s conception of global justice is a wish for a world without states…International bodies like the UN have been notoriously ineffective in curbing and restraining the aggressive behaviour of states and International courts of justice have been highly selective in what they choose to condemn”

It is true that Kant deliberately and systematically relates ethics to politics and demands that the latter conform to the norms of the former. Statesmen have to keep treaties. Countries have to honour treaties. Kant would in this context certainly have disagreed with Hobbes on the question of combining covenants with the sword. Violence may be one of the terminal points of instrumental reasoning because this system of reasoning has no moral principle which it can use to judge the morality of the chains of ethically and logically unrelated events which defy the double effect principle. Given the fact that the dignity of man is what provoked Kant’s ethical reflections in the first place and also the fact that freedom and autonomy are central concerns of his theory as is the categorical nature of the ought system of concepts he would have firmly maintained that one ought not to coerce agents to keep their promises. If self-understanding is a part of the ethical adventure then words are the “swords” that one uses in the discourse with oneself over the Socratic issue of whether one can live oneself or not. International organizations such as the UN are Kantian to the core. They expect states to impose norms of justice upon themselves and the Hobbesian sword is sometimes used when all other alternatives are exhausted but the more likely route of persuasion will be sanctions enforced by the world community which send the message “If we cannot live with you how will you live with yourself”. Kant did not necessarily believe as Marx did that the state would necessarily wither away. If he did his concept of a league of nations would have been self-contradictory. States would not be dissolved by a world government because he believed such a government would be necessarily tyrannical. His concept of a kingdom of ends is Aristotelian in the sense that it is a construction of bios theoretikos and the Philosophers conception of God must be included in the summum bonum of a flourishing life. Smith is a secular political Philosopher. He follows Aristotle but only so far and he refuses to follow Kant at all. The kingdom of ends is a humanistic idea and Hobbes’ position is about as far as one can get from Humanism. Kant may have believed that when our ethical and humanistic cares and commitments are no longer operative(in a state of nature or a state of war) politics and legislation can step in to try and regulate matters. Kant was well aware of the fact that the unsocial sociability and antagonism between men can be difficult to regulate with moral laws. Smith’s remarks on the efficacy of the UN flies in the face of the facts. The UN is an incredibly complex structure of organizations and many of these organizations are contributing to world peace and stability on a daily basis by doing work which typically produces long-term results. Popular media likes to focus on the security council and the failures to reach agreements and this often dramatizes conflicts unnecessarily. If the UN is Kantian to the core than we should realize that the media presents the news of the day, politicians think in terms of the duration of government between elections, historians think in terms of centuries, oracles probably thought in terms of millennia, Philosophers like Aristotle and Kant, however, think in terms of hundreds of thousands of years. The kingdom of ends is one hundred thousand years away which conceivably could imply that although progress is being made in straightening out the crooked timber of humanity that progress will be necessarily slow.

Smith attempts to extract the truth from his dialectical opposites and claims somewhat surprisingly that America is the embodiment of the Aristotelian golden mean principle:

“Although neither extreme view is complete in itself the question is how can they be combined? These two are very much combined already in the American regime. America is the first truly modern nation– a nation founded upon the principles of modern philosophy….Our founding documents are dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

And yet relatively shortly after the founding of this Golden State it was torn apart in a civil war exactly over this issue of equality of master and slave. A war which by the way did not end the subjugation of one race by another. Smith is here committing the naturalistic fallacy, at least as far as his argument relating to Cosmopolitanism is concerned. Kant appeals to Cosmopolitanism as a teleological concept and claims nothing more than that it is the long-term goal that man ought to strive for. There is, he argues, progress toward the fulfillment of this goal but there are no guarantees that we will arrive at the terminus of our striving.

Smith, as part of a discussion of the issue of the universal versus the particular in Politics, appeals to History and the struggle for power:

“it concerns the political uses of power or the two great ends to which power can be put: freedom and empire. Political philosophy is reduced to political history. Both presuppose one another and are in some relation to the universal and particular. The Political Philosopher examines the underlying principles of the regime and the political historian examines the way these principles have been applied in practice. Where the philosopher is concerned with the best regime–that which is best according to underlying principles, the historian is concerned with what is best for a particular people at a particular time and place, Athens, France, America.”

It is not certain that Aristotle or Kant would have appreciated the above account of the distinction between the universal and the particular in relation to Philosophy and History. Certainly, Aristotle in his work on Poetry contrasted History and Poetry in terms of the particular and the universal but he would certainly have appreciated the historians search for the material and efficient causes of the particular events studied and surely some true generalizations could be the result of such investigations. But the question to be asked here is “Are historians relativistic in their judgments about what is best?” This sounds more like poetry. Aristotle would not have subscribed to any view which attempted to relativise the idea of the best.
For Kant, the historian must be concerned withnhistorical truth and this in turn must have some relation to the notion of progress and the postulated telos of Cosmopolitanism, an end state which may or may not be reached and in relation to which the state may or may not “wither away”. The events of history would be susceptible to both causal and teleological explanations and these explanations would not be subject to the criteria of identity one applies to judgments about particular events or particular cases. Indeed for Kant such judgments would require more general universal premises relating to underlying principles, if they were to generate the kind of knowledge we expect from history.

Professor Smith concludes his lecture series by asking where the teahers of these underlying principles are to be found. Not in most Universities he claims because the respect for tradition has been lost:

“Modern Professors of History often appear to teach everything but a proper respect for tradition. In my own field, civic education has been replaced by game theory– a theory that regards politics as a market place where individual preferences are formed and utilities are maximized. Rather than teaching us to be citizens, the new political science teaches us to be rational actors who exercise preferences. By reducing all politics to choice and all choice to preference the new political science is forced to accord legitimacy to every preference, however vile, base or indecent it may be.”

Smith acutely touches upon a major issue in education: the colonization of the humanities by firstly science and then the science of economics. His complaint is somewhat puzzling in the light of the fact that game theory would seem to be a logical consequence of the rejection of the relation of ethicsto politics that Kant proposes. It would also seem to be a logical consequence of the modernism that the very modern USA embraces.

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

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“De Tocqueville’s work “Democracy in America” is the work of a man watching the demise of “the ancien regime” and keen to observe what will replace it in the future. Professor Smith introduces this political thinker in the following terms:

“What is the problem with which de Tocqueville’s book is concerned? Is it the 17th and 18th-century ideas of freedom and equality?. As long as the enemy appeared to be the entrenched hierarchies of power and privilege of the old regime, freedom and equality were mutually reinforcing aspects of the emerging democratic order. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century with the emergence of the proto-democracies in the New World and Europe that political philosophers began to wonder whether freedom and equality did not, in fact, pull in different directions. Tocqueville saw the new democratic societies as creating new forms of social power–new types of rule that presented threats to liberty, e.g. the new middle-class democracies in France England and the USA and the problem was how to mitigate the effects of political power. Locke’s answer to this was to divide and separate the powers. Tocqueville was less certain that this type of institutional device of separated powers, checks and balances could be an effective check in a democratic age where the people as a whole had become king.”

Professor Smith then claims that “The problem of politics” is the problem of how to control the sovereignty of the people”. There would seem to me to be at least one good reason to reject this formulation and that reason lies in the Political Philosophy of Kant, in particular in Kant’s idea that the teleological structure of politics lays in an idea of the final end of politics residing in the idea of a cosmopolitan kingdom of ends. Sovereignty, that is, for Kant, is merely a stage in the developmental process of our political activity and its terminating point in a political unit transcending the sovereign state. The nation-state was born in Westphalia in 1648. Could it be that what Kant was witnessing and reasoning about was a transitional organic form destined for transformation? Hannah Arendt, after all, in her seminal work “The Origins of Totalitarianism” claimed that the nation-state proved its failure as a political unit in the 20th century with the rise of totalitarianism. Was this a phenomenon that Tocqueville was also fearing. He writes: “I do not like democracy and am severe toward it.” and “In the future, all the world will be like America”. What exactly was it that concerned de Tocqueville? Smith suggests the following:

“What attracted my attention during my visit was the equality of conditions for everyone.”(Democracy in America) He is speaking here of the equality of social conditions. Equality of conditions precedes democratic government–It is the cause from which democratic governments arise. These conditions were planted in America and Europe long before there were democratic governments which are only as old as the French and American Revolutions—but equality of social conditions had been prepared for a long time by deep-rooted historical processes that began long before the dawn of the modern age…Tocqueville provides us with a history of equality that takes us back to the heart of the medieval world. He does not go back to a state of nature but argues against Hobbes and Locke and their claim that we are by nature free and equal and he also argues that hierarchies were introduced over time. These hierarchical processes have been moving away from inequality and toward greater and greater equality of social conditions…. Equality is something like a historical force..which has been working itself out in history over a vast stretch of time.”

De Tocqueville claims that the Americans do not have a taste for Philosophy and in this spirit, one wonders why Smith does not wish to return to the original form of democracy which was rule by the many and poor in Ancient Greece who were revolting and reacting against …? What exactly? The rich ruling in their interest? Or were they reacting against the lack of the equality of social conditions. Was this what was meant by the Socratic and Aristotelian references to the common good? The difference between this ancient form of democracy and its more modern counterpart would presumably be the putative absence of unnecessary desires in the latter form of rule. This absence would on philosophical theory be replaced by areté, the virtue or excellence of doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. Plato we know objected vehemently to the rule of the many with unnecessary desires but Aristotle could see the many rule in the spirit of the common good and areté and indeed thought it to be the best alternative of three possibilities: rule by the one, the few and the many. So the combination of the common good and areté seems to have been the philosophical foundation of our modern democracies and sovereignty seems to, on this account, have been an accidental inessential characteristic of the political unit. The question that then arises is whether social conditions aiming at equality were a cause or consequence of the several interacting processes which were in the process of forming our modern democracies. From the philosophical point of view, one wonders whether doing the right things at the right time in the right way requires social conditions or helps to produce the social conditions of equality. On Kant’s view it appears as if a consciousness of equality is tied up with a consciousness of freedom and its consequences, i.e. that one treats people as ends in themselves irrespective of the social conditions they find themselves in or represent. Doing this, it is argued is a recognition of their humanity and this is far more important than any attempt to consider other extraneous social conditions which might be affecting how they are represented to us. Smith maintains that “Equality is not just one fact among others but is a generational fact from which everything else derives.” It was this generational fact Smith argues that was motivating de Tocqueville’s reductional analysis. But what in particular did de Tocqueville envisage when he was talking about these social conditions which are contrary to freedom and “elude the efforts and control of man”?

Three forms of activity are referred to in this context: firstly, local government in the spirit of the Greek city polis( the organization of legislation and deliberation over common interest), secondly, civil associations such as the PTA, charitable and sporting organizations(where one learns to care for the interests of others through learning to care for the interests of one’s association) and thirdly the spirit and institutions of Religion. It was this latter form of activity that most impressed de Tocqueville on his journeys. Smith comments upon this in the following manner:

“Democracy and religion walk hand in hand in America and this is precisely the opposite of what has happened in Europe. America is primarily a puritan’s democracy,i.e. the American experience was determined in certain crucial ways by the early Puritans who brought to the New World strong religious beliefs, a suspicion of government, and a strong desire for independence. De Tocqueville drew two consequences from these observations: Firstly, the thesis proposed by many Enlightenment thinkers that religion will disappear with the advance of modernity is false. Secondly that it is a mistake to eliminate religion and totally secularize society. Free societies rest on morality and morality cannot be effective without religion. It may be true that individuals can achieve moral guidance from reason alone but societies cannot. The need and desire to believe will only be transferred to other more dangerous outlets: “Despotism can do without faith our freedom cannot.”

De Tocqueville appeals to Pascal to justify the above two points and constructs an epistemological argument which maintains that knowledge without faith is empty. he claims that there is something in the desire that only faith can satisfy. “An invisible inclination leads man back to religion”. “There is a metaphysical dimension to religion”

Although he sees this promising relation between politics and religion de Tocqueville is not happy with what he is seeing. He seems to sense an underlying possible tyranny in the system: the tyranny of the majority. He can see the rule of the mob lingering beneath the appearances of things: he senses the rule of the poor to secure their own interests. He even questioned whether the separation of powers would suffice to stem the tide of this tyranny. The key remark in this constellation of observations is perhaps the following which takes us back to the issue of freedom in the Kantian sense:

“I know of no country in which less independence of mind and genuine freedom of discussion reigned than in America.

Kantian freedom is obviously related to the virtues that a man ought to possess and therefore to reasoning in the ought system of concepts and Kant too believes that knowledge must make space for faith because morality requires religion as a teleological argument if what he called the “summum bonum” was to be achieved(the flourishing life, eudaimonia). He does not subscribe to the separation between the individual and society in this context, insisting that the individual is in need of a belief that the ought system requires, namely that the end be good, that is, that my life be flourishing as a consequence of the costs of forming and executing good intentions. So for Kant belief in religion is not a Pascallian wager but rather a necessity required to regulate the ethical system of ought concepts. Religion supplements the formal material and efficient causes with a teleological final cause that provides the motivation for the ethical form of life. Kant too will have shared the fear of de Tocqueville for the removal of the motivational pin of our ethical system. He too would have seen the dangers of secularization. Professor Smith talks as if the project of secularization is a European phenomenon and given the collapse of the ethical system in Germany and the rapid capitulation of the French in the last world war he may have a point. There is however an argument for the position that Europe still has faith in its philosophical foundations and that this is embodied in its educational and political institutions. Granted that religion no longer rules the realm of value absolutely, no one wishes to see a return of religious absolutism but neither do they wish to see religion disappear as an institution given the fact that it embodies important metaphysical and ethical dimensions important to man. If this is the case then it would seem to fit in with de Tocqueville’s claim that the Americans have little taste for Philosophy because they do not quite believe in the power of reasoning as the Europeans do. We believe in the Aristotelian account of the soul as a principle organizing the body rather than the Platonic soul that is tortured by the body and its unnecessary appetites. The Aristotelian soul is the true democratic soul capable of discourse and reasoning in the Agora about all manner of things including God who mirrors his nature more in the texture of our thinking processes than in the constitution of physical things or physical processes. The essence of the common good for Aristotle was partially divine.

De Tocqueville’s second volume of “Democracy in America” focuses less on the social and political aspects of democracy and more on the democratic soul:

“It focuses on the internal, on the democratic soul and is therefore philosophically richer focussing on what the democratic social state has done to us, how it has shaped us as individuals.”

This formulation is indeed illuminating. It suggests that we are conditioned by the state rather than freely forming the contours of the state with our individual virtues where we will do the right thing in the right way at the right time. This is more of a Platonic thesis: the needs of the city can override the interests and concerns of the individuals in the sense that a democratic state gives rise to democratic personalities. De Tocqueville iscusses three aspects of the democratic soul. Firstly “Democracy has a tendency to make us gentler towards one another”. We are more compassionate: softer. The problem according to De Tocqueville is that we have become too soft:

“ ability to feel your pain does not require me to do much about it. Compassion turns out to be an easy virtue, implies a caring without judgment”


“the democratic soul is a restless anxious soul and “always seems to be a work in progress tied to the desire for material well being(happiness). Democracy means a middle-class way of life made up of people constantly in pursuit of some absent object of their own desires.

According to Plato the three different parts of the soul have three different kinds of desires. Reason desires theoretical understanding and practical excellence. If the democratic soul is a reasonable soul there does not seem to be any problem with an individual pursuing these goals in any city state.

Thirdly, the soul is self-interested not in the sense of amour-propre but rather is an antidote to amour propre:

“It is not in itself a virtue but comes from people who are regulated, independent, far-sighted, moderate, masters of themselves”

This is not quite what de Tocqueville thought he saw in America.

This sketch of moral psychology naturally has consequences for the profile of the statesman who has been shaped by compassion, restlessness and self-interest:

“the legislator for de Tocqueville is hemmed in by the conditions of social factors, customs, morality over which he has little power. The legislator is more like a ship’s captain dependent on external circumstances that control the fate of the ship. The legislator resembles a man who plots his course in the middle of an ocean. Thus he can direct the vessel that carries him but he cannot change its structure, create winds or prevent the ocean from rising under his feet. All of this seems to be on the side of the historical forces that limit what we can do.”

Smith claims that de Tocqueville opposes all systems of historical determinism but at the same time writes “as if it is a peculiarity of democratic times that all people are considered equal: everyone is equally powerless to effect or change anything”.

This is the democracy that de Tocqueville sees and fears but it is not a Kantian or an Aristotelian olde worlde construction.

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

Hits: 259

“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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smith points out that many commentators including Louis Hartz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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 recognize 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 actualizing 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 specialization 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 specializations. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Centrepiece lecture on Philosophical Psychology and its role in the Philosophy of Education: from the work, “The World Explored, the World Suffered:The Exeter lectures”

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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.”

Twentieth Century Psychology: The History of Psychology(Brett and Peters)

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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.



Darwin and William James “The Inroads of Physiology and Biology”: The History of Psychology(Brett and Peters):

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“The influence of biology proved to be the most far-reaching of all influences coming into psychology from outside the philosophical, religious and medical traditions from which psychology, in the main has developed. But its full influence did not make itself felt until the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century when men who had been trained in Darwinian Biology started to study man in the same sort of way as they studied animals and to use the same sort of explanatory hypotheses for human behaviour. There was, however, a transitional period before the rise of various schools of psychology in the 20th century when the biological outlook exerted a correcting rather than a radical influence on the old tradition of “idea” psychology.. The systematizers, Ward , Stout and James, for instance, though strongly influenced by biology were what we would now call “philosophical psychologists”. They were interested primarily in traditional topics like the relationship between perception and conception, the self, and self-consciousness, the association of ideas etc…..stress on conation, on plasticity and adaptability, and on function was beginning to replace the old interest in cognition, faculties, and structure. But Psychology remained predominantly introspective. The mind rather than behaviour remained the centre of interest: the difference was that a more biological account was given of mental processes.”(Brett and Peters)

The latter half of the 18th century was a period of intense activity in the sciences including some interesting research on the brain in which memory, for example, was explained as  “the persistence of impressions on the brain substance”. Cartesian dualism surprisingly dominated psychological discussion and the physiological “vis nervosa” was distinguished from the soul or psychic force. In Germany the notion of “Lebenskraft” was influential and the concept of development was the focus of much theorizing. The Sciences were beginning to assemble themselves into a series of ascending steps beginning with physics reaching through chemistry, physiology,  biology to psychology. Functionalism supplemented the materialism of the day and was interwoven with the activity of the will.  Bichat, for example in the spirit of functionalism defined life as “the complex of functions which resist death”. The dualism was almost Platonic: man was a divided being composed of natural forces functioning mechanically . and the spontaneous force of a conscious will. Hughlings Jackson’s reflections   advanced the scientific position that the real “organ of the mind” is the body and  claimed that the nervous system of the body is representative  of three levels of evolution: impressions and movements(sensori-motor), these representations are then re-presented in a larger integrated context: finally at the highest level there is re-re-presentation in terms of thought and volition. Even in this case we encounter the assumption of dualism and consciousness is assumed to be a mere effect or accompaniment of the neural processes we are dealing with. Towards the end of the 19th century, the issue of feelings becomes controversial and two debates occurred, relating firstly, to lower feelings and their connection to sensation and, secondly, to the relation of higher feelings to moral and aesthetic ideas. The former in a dualistic context, claims that the increase or decrease of intensity of sensation produces differences that are felt and this leads inevitably to a theory of unconscious “feelings”. Hartmann disagreed with this and asserted categorically that feelings can only exist in consciousness. He concedes also that all feeling is to placed on a pleasure-pain continuum. All qualitative differences of feeling are actually differences in accompanying sensations or ideas which can shift in levels of awareness.  A key shift in emphasis occurred when  Horwicz in his work “Analysis of Thought” claimed that  Feeling is “always accompanied by an impulse to act”—-“sensation is always incipient movement”. the mental space that is thus created allows a possible choice of movement to be represented in the light of an anticipation of represented consequences. This thinking process comes to an end when the agent inclines himself to one action. Thinking, on this view, is a stream of representations controlled by feeling and a striving toward action. Horwicz realizes that abstract and scientific thinking is compromised in this position and claims that even the search for the causes of a sensation is related to the positive feeling of pleasure and the driving force of desire to experience pleasure. Kant, in contrast, had attempted to unify practical consciousness by reference to the will and reason in relation to an ethical standpoint. Horwicz attempts the same task by the use of feeling: a new basis, but arguably a basis manifesting the most inner and private of phenomena accessible, one presumes only to introspection. Darwin’s writings had obviously tuned the European mind into the theme of the emotions and the so-called “peripheral theory” of Lange and Sergi began to emerge and was developed and elaborated upon by the Americal Physiologist William James. These thinkers focussed on the order of events in an emotion  and claimed that the idea of a bear, for example, is not the cause of emotions “as a match might be said to cause a fire: but along with the “idea” there is a total organic reaction which makes the “idea” itself a uniquely personal event, and wields it into that concrete psycho-physical process called experience”. Brett argues that this position is in harmony with Kant’s insistence on allowing the subjective to be part of, for example, his transcendental deduction and also allowing it to play such a prominent role in the critique of judgment:

“..for Kant leads the modern school of thinkers who insist on a) giving to feeling an independent position and b) regarding it as the subjective complement of the objective processes(sensation, ideation)”(Brett and Peters)

In England Spencer had been propagating for Psychology to be treated as a natural science and then partially deserted that position with his “two aspect” theory which retained an inductive approach to the phenomena of Psychology. Among the consequences were strange terminological inventions such as “cerebration” which were used for processes of thinking. In this context consider Dr Irelands famous quote:

“Cerebration!–what a name for thought! When the liver secretes bile one does not say that it hepatates, or when a man breathes we do not say that he pulmonates”

The above of course  is an example of a technical or technological relation to language which was to cause problems at many different levels for the discipline of psychology during the next century.

With Spencer, the life of the mind was divided: into inner and outer activities. Darwin’s work was in the spirit of Aristotle and introduced the spirit of deduction into an atmosphere of induction, an atmosphere where all the energy of researchers was devoted to the collection of facts without any thought concerning the problem of how these facts should be ordered. Darwin’s theory of change regarded Nature as infinitely and ceaselessly productive, a process in which every change was an experiment directed by the processes of random variation and selection. It became clear now that there should be a general biological treatment of mental functions and the lives of animals and children were especially relevant to such investigations. His view of emotions also had great effect: replacing the focus on consciousness with a focus on habit. Consciousness came to be regarded as a consequence of the process of evolution. Darwin’s position implied a rejection of  dualism in favour of Aristotle with a Spencerian twist, namely :

“The cooperation of the physical and psychic factors which this theory employs is explained by giving to the body a capacity for producing certain movements, and to the intelligence a power of selecting, and so finally establishing some modes of action in preference to others.”(Brett and Peters)

It was clear that Darwins theories would provide more insight into the study of life and also that a platform was provided for the union of physiological, biological and psychological viewpoints. But the fruits of this union had to wait for the works of Bain and Ward. It is at this point that we first begin to see the beginning of a new attitude to the problems of the theory of mind in particular and philosophical psychology in general. Spencer had talked about induction and associationism but Ward sought for a deeper method and a deeper unity. Ward argued that the phenomena of psychology are not specifically inner as opposed to outer but are rather :

“certain distinct characteristics of conscious individual life. These characteristics must be assigned to a subject or an Ego. A sequence of “states” has no inner unity and could not know itself: there is an agent as well as an action, and in addition to knowing, feeling and doing we must admit that which knows, feels, and does.

This agent  is equivalent to the total state and processes of consciousness and further:

“Every distinguishable element of the mental life is, therefore, a phase of its activity: it is no more separated from its phenomena than the moon is separated from its phases: the subject is the knowing, feeling and doing in their own living unity.”

Wards Psychology is one in which the material of presentations is largely given but the life of consciousness involves attention in relation to these presentations plus a voluntary direction of attention onto “motor presentations from which result changes in the field of consciousness” Again in this we can see the trace of Kant the scientist. There is a large primitive mass of undifferentiated intuitions out of which we differentiate sensible and conceptual entities, all of which constitute the antecedents of knowledge. The matter is form-ed(hylomorphism) and here we hear echoes of Aristotle. But it is the activism of the German school which is mostly the driving force of Ward’s theorizing:  the active organizing subject is responsible for  the unity of experience:

“they are not transcendental principles of mind regarded universally, but organic principles of individual conscious existence. Time and space are the first of these organizing principles: unity, identity, resemblance, difference comes next: the higher intellectual categories come lates(substance, cause etc)”

Ward thus rejected associationism and the building up of the whole out of the synthetic activity of combining parts. According to Ward only ideas are capable of association. his treatment of emotional and conative action is in terms of firstly, natural selection and secondly in terms of human purposive selection which also takes effect at a very early age was an advance in thinking.  Purposive movement differs from reflex movement in that the former are “selected, purposive, and capable of reinforcing the emotion as a whole”. Feeling is retained as an important element of the theory and purposive movement as is the case with all intellectual activity is actually steered by desire and feeling. Ward also prefigured James and Freud in insisting that “life and growth belong to the mind as truly as they belong to the body.

Stout takes Ward’s theory further into the territory of consciousness. Consciousness, for Stout, has three fundamental modes of functioning: thinking feeling and willing. His characterization of these modes, however, is not functional and is more reminiscent of  the characterization of different attitudes:

“the matter given to consciousness is the sum of presentations: to each presentation there is a possible reaction in one of three ways. If the presentation is referred to an object, and regarded only as significant, we are said to think: if we find ourselves in an attitude of liking or disliking, we have the volitional or conative mode: from this arises pleasure or pain(the third mode)… In reality, then, only two modes are fundamental: we either think or will…Thought and will are operations by which the creature strives to regain its lost equilibrium.”

This last thought concerning the equilibrium of the organism recalls the early work oF Freud who suggested an energy regulation principle and a pleasure-pain principle was involved in this work of balancing the consciousness of the individual. “Thought is the creatures way of satisfying its needs”(Brett and Peters).

James carried on in this spirit and introduced the term “stream of consciousness” against the background of a solid physiological and almost positivistic orientation toward “the study of the phenomena and conditions of mental activity”(James’s definition of Psychology). He believed that experience could not throw light upon itself and was committed to Lotze’steachingss about the difference between knowing something and knowing about something:

“In a certain way, one only knows vision by seeing: but sciences are not immediate experiences, and a chapter on vision must describe the eye and its functions simply because the greater knowledge toward which men strive is attained by this particular circumnavigation…..To say that physiology throws no light on mental processes is very true: the fundamental error is in asking physiology to explain something which has previously been made inaccessible, instead of taking all the facts as capable in some degree of being explained by all others.”

James then also explains the psychologist’s fallacy which in essence amounts to believing that if one has an idea of a year that one also has an idea of its 365 days. Of course, the object “year” has 365 days but the “idea” of a year does not. James and Freud, it is reputed, were the only two psychologists Wittgenstein studied carefully.  This example reminds me of the Wittgensteinian discussion of a painting of a kettle with steam coming out of the spout. Wittgenstein asks whether it makes sense to claim that there is water boiling in the kettle.Here too the distinction between object and idea is being debated.

James weaves introspection  into his otherwise “scientific” account but there are elements of mysticism and there is also a nod in the direction of Freud:

“I cannot but think that the most important step forward that has occurred in psychology since I have been a student of that science is the discovery, first made in 1886, that, in certain subjects at least, there is not only the consciousness of the ordinary field with its visual centre and margin, but an addition thereto in the shape of a set of memories, thoughts, and feelings which are extra-marginal and outside the primary consciousness altogether, but yet must be classed as conscious facts of some sort, able to reveal their presence by unmistakable signs. I call this the most important step forward because, unlike the other advances which psychology has made, this discovery has revealed to us an entirely unsuspected peculiarity in the constitution of human nature.”

With these reflections, I bring the 19th century to a close and will move on to a discussion of 20th-century Psychology. Bretts work came out in 1921 but Peters who abridged the three volumes wrote a chapter on 20th-century Psychology. This chapter will be the subject of the next thread.

The Disappearance/Reappearance of the first person and Transcendental Logic in Philosophy and the Philosophy of Education

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Cogito ergo sum: “I think therefore I am” was the result of the Cartesian search for the first principle of Philosophy and although Kant picked up on the premise of that “argument” if such it be(“I think”), Philosophy and therefore philosophy of education after Kant’s influence waned, focussed more on the conclusion: the existence of the subject. This in spite of the fact that the most convincing argument Descartes produced for his first principle was an “epistemological” argument namely, that If I should try to doubt that I am thinking I cannot do so without thinking. Now I am not sure that this is an epistemological argument because the intuition of thinking seems to be an after effect of the thinking(admittedly a closely connected after effect).  Thinking rather appears to me to be a transcendental condition of the experience or intuition.

What I wish to begin to explore in this article is whether this transcendental condition is related to the grammatical structure of the first person. Wittgenstein counseled us to ask how we learn a word if philosophical disputes arise connected with the concept the word expresses but he does not talk about the conditions under which we learn the word “I” as far as I can remember. Kant, however, does take this issue up in his work “Anthropology”. Kant, the transcendentalist, points out that  children  before they learn the use of the word “I” call themselves  the name that other people call them, that is, they use their name  in (perhaps accidental)accordance with the rules of a proper name which are probably connected to citeria of  uniqueness such as Born in Demo Alopece, Athens in  470/69 BC into the family…etc. At some point probably around 2-3 years the child feels a unity of consciousness within itself which needs characterization  by the first person pronoun “I”. Logicians have probably misleadingly called  “I ” a “shifter” because of their obsession with the idea of ostensive definition and the role of such definition in naming. “Socrates” would be, according to Kripke, a rigid designator referring necessarily to that object given  by the criteria specified by a set of definite descriptions: the man born in…the man born at the time….. The term “I ” cannot designate rigidly in the way in which a name can, therefore the term “shifter”. By the time logicians are thinking in this way, the transcendental “I think” or the grammatical form of the first person has disappeared from mainstream Philosophical discourse. In my previous essays on the Post Kantian history of Psychology, I mentioned some of the factors responsible for this transformation of the philosophical landscape since Kant. Ludvig Wittgenstein initially a leading thinker in the kind of logical thinking instantiated by Kripke et al, relatively quickly joined the critics of his own earlier work and began to realize that Philosophical logic had replaced transcendental logic for no good reason. In his later work, we find Wittgenstein arguing for a concern for language which is no longer analytical but more anthropological and communal. Behind Wittgenstein’s “we say” is “we think” and many of his discussions with himself in his work “Philosophical Investigations” are in accordance with the ancient Socratic definition of thinking as “talking or discoursing with oneself”. Wittgenstein’s style therefore reaches back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and further on in History to the more systematic transcendental treatment by Kant. Wittgenstein’s dialogical approach was  very effective in providing convincing arguments against behaviourism, functionalism, pragmatism, materialism, naturalism, scientism, logical atomism, logical positivism, consequentialism and instrumentalism: all of which had shifted into the vacuum created by the displacement of transcendental logic and the grammatical case of the first person. This looks a very abstract point but this is only so as long as one does not see the connection between transcendental logic and metaphysical and ethical investigations which deal with reality and the value of reality respectively.

My first contact with Wittgenstein’s thought was via a Philosophy of Education course at Exeter University in England during the 1970’s given by a lecturer who had substantial contact with Wittgensteinian Philosophy in Cambridge  both directly with the master and  with the initial inner circle. Philosophy of education became as a consequence of the influence of Wittgenstein’s thought a fermented keg of discussion confined to 5 Universities of which Exeter was one.  The ingredients of this fermentation were Platonic, Aristotelian, Kantian and Wittgensteinian and the key thinkers spreading ideas in Philosophy of Education were R. S. Peters,  Paul Hirst, and Richard Pring. This latter figure is particularly interesting because he has been relatively active until recently in the field of education. His work “Philosophy of Educational Research” is a work that is  highly recommended to those who are interested in the topic we are attempting to discuss in this article in particular for its consistency with the ideas of the 1970’s in England. If we are right in our reasoning, this period of the 1960’s/70’s in England may have been the beginning of the restoration of Hylomorphism, Transcendental Logic and also the beginning of a broadly Humanistic revival of spirit in Europe.

But let us begin at almost the beginning, with Aristotle. In an earlier article on political identity we  discussed the criteria of personal identity and referred to the central concept of continuity as a logical concept derived from Aristotle’s theory of change. Four elements were involved: continuity of the body(the actual material of our body is changing and dying), continuity of memories in our memory system (we have forgotten many early memories but some of the memories we have probably had some relation to other memories which in their turn were related to other memories which in their turn might have been related to the early memories we have forgotten), continuity of the social system(social structures are disappearing and appearing in accordance with some kind of continuity principle) we are embedded in, and continuity of the political system we have perhaps created in our lifetime with our political judgments decisions and opinions. Memories are individual memories and are memories of other individuals. Social institutions are composed of individuals and their memories de facto and in virtuo in the form of the books of a library: history is embodied in monuments and buildings and street names etc. Similarly with political institutions, there are living individuals writing books for libraries  and reading books from libraries: Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, Kant’s Political Philosophy. In this latter context individuals form new political parties, change the direction of a party etc. The political element incorporates formally  (logically) the social as material which in its turn formally incorporates memories of individuals and individuals bodies as material. This logical connection of elements is only possible with the kind of matter-form formula which we encounter in Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory: form and telos  provides both the organizing principle and the end toward which  the underlying material substance is actualizing. We can also see in this  matter-form formula  the logical relation of wholes to parts which is  mentioned in Aristotles “Prior Analytics”.

There does not seem to be any difficulty in holistically characterizing what a person is in this kind of context and most commentators see the advantage of the hylomorphic view over the kind of view which suggests that the person is a complete  collection of facts. Facts are facts because they inhere in different categories. How are we to differentiate them if not by a theory of the categories? Categories are ways of thinking about reality. Now there has been enough controversy about such issues to realize that the categories at best allow us to glimpse reality as if through a glass darkly. Kant helped to tidy the discussion up by claiming that categories determine kinds of judgment which direct our relation to reality in different ways.  For Wittgenstein, Judgment, of course suggested something we do, i.e. conceptual  judgments emerged from  forms of life which embed language games as justifications of what we do. Different forms of life justify different judgments. This initially looks like a formula for relativism but this is not the case  because  Wittgenstein is not comparing judgments at the same level, i.e he is  not claiming that  a categorical form of life and thinking gives  rise to categorical judgments in one community can be compared and contrasted with a categorical form of life and thinking giving rise to a different categorical judgment in another community. He is rather claiming that if one community for example believes that happiness is the end  for which ethical action aims and another  community aims at duty as the good this is not a contradiction but a choice of a categorical view of the good over an instrumental view. On another level, Wittgenstein points to categories of language to distinguish between kinds of judgment. The language game with pain in “I am in pain” is categorical because it does not make sense to doubt that I am in pain(cf Descartes, it does not make sense to doubt that I think) but there is between these two language games of “I am in pain” and “I think” a fundamental difference. In the former case we are in the Kantian realm of Sensibility,(The Wittgensteinian realm of sensation) in the realm of events that happen to me,  and in the latter we are in the realm of activity, the realm of what is done. In the former case I learn the expression in connection with primitive behaviour such as  falling and skinning my knee: my teachers teach me to say “I am in pain”  and this replaces my  screaming in pain. In the latter case there is also undoubtedly some behavioural base which will be substituted by the words “I think”, perhaps the behaviour  in question might be that of an exclamation upon being struck by a thought, e.g. thinking of something I just exclaim that something. The major difference between the two cases is that in the former the question as to why one is in pain, reference will be made to a cause whereas in the latter case the question as to why one is thinking something or doing any activity, reference will  be made to a reason(and of course depending on the type of activity the reason may be an instrumental one, “because it makes me happy” or a categorical one, “because everyone ought to do what I am doing if one is to treat people as ends in themselves”).  In the case of the reason for thinking something we might in fact be reasoning in a series of premises culminating in a conclusion.

These are first person cases of different kinds and different language games will be embedded in different patterns of activity or forms of life. Even second person responses to our first person avowals will differ accordingly. In the pain case there will be sympathetic reactions and in the thinking case there will be more cognitive reactions and perhaps even a long discussion, i.e. in the thinking case the discussion with oneself will be replaced by discussion with any possible second person and both will be testing their understanding of each other in terms of the truth of the statements, the reasoning being used  and the conclusions drawn.  A major difference between the sensation case and the thinking case is that in the former one can engage in observing the course of ones pain but in the latter that is not a possibility because pain is a phenomenon and thinking is not: “although there are phenomena of thinking, thinking is not a phenomenon.”(Wittgenstein). What is the role of language in this context? Wittgenstein often refers to the first person plural case “We say…… and Stanley Cavell in his “Claim of Reason” asks the provocative question “and what gives anyone the right to speak for  or on behalf of others”. He might well also have asked “What gives anyone the right to “think” on behalf of others”: or what gives anyone the right to claim something is true and expect acceptance of the truth of what is said. This is the normative aspect of our discourse with each other and with ourselves when we are thinking: the truth is what ought to be acccepted and understood. Cavell points out we certainly are not appealing to empirical research or the process of voting or counting hands.  There are phenomena of talking but talking is not a phenomenon, Cavell seems to be arguing. Grammatical remarks  are  first person collective remarks and they transcend experience. Connections can also be made to the idea of the self being transcendental, being that is, as Aristotle would characterise the soul, a principle of experience and activity.

Post Kantian Philosophical Psychology, Herbart,Schopenhauer, Fechner and the History of Psychology(R S Peters and Brett)

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“Kant rightly declared that the mind must be regarded as a structure regulated by principles which are ultimately its own activities. Before Kants time the psychologist was not unlike a physiologist who tried to explain digestion, without any reference to the organism, as a process by which various foods introduced into the stomach analysed themselves and distributed themselves conscientiously to their appropriate places in the organism. It was Kant who first saw that such a procedure was wrong and that we must start from the mind to explain the ideas, not from ideas to explain the mind”(Brett)

“Psychologists have, in most cases recognized this merit in Kant, and all the modern work founded on the conception of the unity of consciousness is indebted to Kant. But for the rest Kant belongs to the logicians rather than the psychologists, and his theory is more important for discussions of validity than for the study of the mental structure.”(Brett’s History of Psychology)

The Copernican Revolution of Kant further means that the receptive faculty of the mind which receives sensations has no meaning apart from the formative activity of the higher spontaneous thinking centres. Brett goes on to point out that perhaps Kant failed to take into account the fact that a sensation which is related to another sensation might modify that sensation: “after a great heat a moderate warmth seems chilly, and so through all the senses: there is a kind of self arrangement which is not the work of the mind”

Brett accuses Kant of being the propagator of the view that  the higher regions of the mind or thinking processes alone organize conscious life but quickly admits that the Categories of the understanding, according to Kant, are the “indispensable preliminary activities of consciousness”.  These categories obviously play the role that forms do in Aristotelian hylomorphism and Brett poses the question many critics of Aristotelian hylomorphism have posed over the centuries: the question of the importance of Psychology. Martin Heidegger in his work on Kant, suggested that Kant missed an opportunity to found his critical work on the psychological idea of the imagination and one should remember the following:  that the above  criticism of the importance of the psychological predates Heidegger.

Herbart was one of the first post Kantians to attempt to restore the idea of the soul to the world of phenomena: the soul for Herbart was “a multitude of independent  ideas and activities”(Brett). Herbart’s point of departure is mathematics and the natural sciences  and his aim, according to Brett is to “reduce consciousness to simple elements and their combinations” This attempt to restore the idea of the soul, ultimately leads to the position of  abandoning the idea of the soul altogether although this was not the case with respect to Herbart’s reflections. The most interesting feature of Herbart’s account is his emphasis on the soul being the agent manifest in all its activities and not the place where events just “happen”. Brett claims that it is with Herbart that Psychology becomes empirical. I am not sure that this is an entirely appropriate analysis. As long as the agent is not defined as an object seen from the perspective of the third person there would seem to be a retention of some of the spirit of  Kant’s position. The abandonment of reasoning for the empirical scientific method, however, was certainly not in accordance with the Kantian Copernican revolution. Indeed Brett’s description of Herbart’s account of the relation between consciousness and its ideas cannot fail to remind one of what is later to come in the name of phenomenology:

“Phenomena are in perpetual flux: in other words, the most obvious thing about consciousness is its perpetual tendency to change: even though we try to retain one presentation, it slowly dwindles in our grasp. This general fact gives Herbart his starting point. By an idea we mean the outstanding point, the summit or peak on the surface of an ever heaving-consciousness. If we imagine a light shining on a sea of rising and falling waves, the analogy may assist us to grasp Herbart’s conception of “arches” and “summits”. Every single idea travels, as it were, on the path of a semi-circle, from a point below the level of consciousness upward to its zenith: it then goes down again and gives place to another. This process continually goes on: it is the business of psychology to find its laws.”(Brett)

The problem with Herbart’s active conception of the soul is that “the only active quality ascribed to the soul is the tendency to preserve itself”. And with this thought, Herbart’s reflections move away from phenomenology and back to the basics of science: consciousness and the expenditure of energy of the organism. This energy regulation principle, already present by implication in Aristotle’s reflections on the soul was to be later used in Freud’s Scientific Project.  Freud, of course, abandoned this attempt to reduce the qualitative to the quantitative in his later theorizing.

Herbart interestingly also claimed:

“to have provided a psychology especially applicable to education.It was the interest in mental growth and in the union of right thinking with the right feeling that led Herbart to understand how closely the qualities of character  depend on the complete fusion of knowing and feeling in one indivisible state of mind, evolving into the kind of clearness which is only attainable through self-expressing actions.”

The essential feature of mental growth is characterized in terms of apperception. or the Kantian “I think” or the “I will” but the “I” of consciousness is still characterized in terms of scientific Psychology. He applied these ideas to ethics but neglected the Kantian concepts of reason and freedom believing along with Plato that the temper of the community determines the temperament and character of the individual.

Schopenhauer is the post Kantian who  converts the self into the will and defines it in terms the Psychologist will find difficult to accept:

“As some had declared the “Thing-in-itself” to be the organism, Schopenhauer declares it to be the vitality resident in the organism”. His view is thus biological, where it is not merely metaphysical: when he proclaims his own originality he is justified if we think only of modern tendencies, but in everything  but its language and its excesses this view is a restatement of Aristotle’s doctrine of the fundamental conation, persisting through all the scale of organic life, variously combined with and modified by corresponding degrees of conscious realization”(Brett)

Schopenhauer restored the will to modern thought but the whole trend of his analysis Brett argues is  toward “the fundamental  impulses of animal nature”, although there are moments in his account when Schopenhauer stands where Kant stood. Herbarts influence was to prevail over Schopenhauer’s forlorn attempt to restore Kantian Psychology.

Fechner’s interest turned more to physics and aesthetics than mathematics and he actually wrote some valuable works on electricity. But there are also elements of mysticism in Fechner:

“lying in bed on the morning of the 22nd of October 1850, he saw the vision of a unified world of thought, spirit and matter linked together by the mystery of numbers. So it was, perhaps, that Pythagoras saw the quality of sound transformed into measurement!”

And yet there is something of the spirit of the age in Fechner’s vision. He tries to unite the psychical and the physical and with him Brett argues:

“The centre of controversy shifts to the question, How much of the inner life actually enters into this sphere of measurement and quantity.”(Brett)

By the time this question was raised, Kant’s voice has been lost and there is only a very faint echo of the answer to this question “Hardly anything at all” This is not to deny that mental states do not have physical equivalents but the key question becomes “Are the limits of our knowledge of this relation confined to correlation?”  But correlation between what and what? How can there be a correlation between a principle and that which it is a principle of? This post takes us to the psychology of the 20th century which will be the subject of the next thread.

Immanuel Kant and the History of Psychology(Brett and Peters)

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Kant’s Philosophy divides neatly into the two realms of the natural world and the ethical world and although the discipline  of Psychology was only to officially announce its declaration of unilateral independence in 1870, the move toward separation may have begun with the Kantian Copernican revolution and the thinkers that reflected upon Kant’s Philosophy. Kant leveled such devastating criticism against metaphysics that of the three ideas of reason: God, Freedom, and the Soul, only Freedom survived his onslaught. The idea of God becomes dependent upon the idea of Freedom and the Soul disappears in favour of the concept of self-consciousness whose essential nature is defined by an act of the “I think”. But immediately that is said one has to also recognize that Kant believes that there are two kinds of selves operating in the arena of philosophical reflection, firstly, a noumenal self which is presupposed by experience but which can only be known in a segment of that experience: namely, moral action. Secondly, in Kant’s theoretical writings the natural sciences are then linked to the phenomenal self which post Kantian epistemologists and scientists  attempted to study as part of their reflections on the nature of this divided  subject.There are two levels of description involved in this latter theoretical project, namely empirical description and mathematical description which rely on the observational method of science and the logical method of mathematics.

In his earlier work, Kant was a rationalist and believed in the soul until encountering the work of  Hume who astutely pointed out that whenever we reflect upon our experience we never encounter a self or a soul but only a phenomenon, for example,  someone experiencing something or someone doing something.  This self, Kant argued, can be studied empirically by psychology, or what he called Anthropology, under the heading of “what man makes of himself”. Some critics have accused Kant of constructing a Psychology without a soul but that does not seem to be a just accusation. Kant is merely claiming that the soul is an idea in consciousness which can never be given in experience because this idea is equivalent either to the substratum or the totality of experience. Kant was with this complex move the first philosopher to systematically recognize the limits of metaphysical thinking.

Psychology, or Anthropology, as Kant would prefer to call it is wholly empirical but it could never be a science Kant argued because mental phenomena are in the flux of time and therefore incapable of measurement. Given the Copernican revolution and the conviction that knowledge is not solely the product of ideas which arise out of experience but is rather a structure regulated by the minds own activities, we can see how self-consciousness is a holistic idea with its own essential unity. The mind of the self is, Kant, argued made up of a receptive component which receives sensations from the outer world but even here there is a structuring activity of the mind present in the form of space and time which are a priori “forms of intuition” as Kant called them. The actual contents of the mind are as Aristotle would have argued, complex products of formed experience: there is no pure experience of pure matter coming from the outside proceeding inwards. Whatever comes from the external world will be shaped at the very least by the structuring features of space and time. Space and time were not acts of reason but rather capacities of the receptive part of the mind which Kant calls Sensibility. The mind is in fact divided into three “regions” sometimes called “faculties”(but not as far as I can remember, by Kant): Sensibility being the psychological part of the mind most connected to the body and through the body the external world, Understanding operates as a further shaping agency of the mind and is defined as a system of  categories which assist in the forming of logical judgments that  firstly,  relate principally to the totality of experience   and secondarily to the substrate(space and time and sensation). These categories are products of a thinking consciousness(“I think”)  and “are the necessary and only forms of all thinking”. This region of the mind is that which generates the truth function capacity of the mind and is still related to experience but in ways which are convoluted and partly psychological (via the shaping operation of  Sensibility). It is this truth-functional region of the mind which has a necessary connection to sensibility by placing it under its sovereignty: to such an extent that when I see lightning strike a tree at a particular place and a particular time I inevitably think “It is true that the tree is being struck by lightning”. Notice that this is not a necessary logical truth of the kind “Every time trees are struck by lightning we think that it is a fact that they are struck by lightning.” Obviously, the sensible/psychological part of the mind can dominate this environmental transaction by producing a fearful trembling or a fearful emotional response, which of course is a less rational response and that at first might seem as if it damages the universal case for seeing the world under the aspect of the true. Yet it does not do so for truth is a normative concept which basically amounts to claiming that one ought to see this under the aspect of the truth or to take another essence specifying example, “one ought to tell the truth when you promise to do so at a trial”. The concepts of promise and truth are logically intertwined. What does normative mean in this context? Only that we ought to view the scene under the aspect of the truth which obviously does not imply that I am doing so or will do so. The fearful emotional response might even have a representational content–a picture of an angry God, and if this is so this testifies to the presence of the synthesis of the imagination operating upon the content of sensory experiences. The imagination is named so because it works in the realm of images. Truth from the perspective of theoretical reason is, according to Kant the concern of natural science in its attempt to explain events in the natural world. The categories are thought to be a set of synthetic apriori judgments which constitute science. There are quantitative judgments that connect events and things in terms of mathematical unity plurality and totality or number which is connected in not easily expressible relations to time and space. There are dynamic judgments or ways of thinking that relate to the existence of objects, their reality, negation, and the limitation of a reality combined with the possible criticism of a negation. Relational and modality judgments more clearly than the other categories of thought take us into the realm of metaphysics and this confirms Kant’s commitment to the belief that metaphysics is a science but it also covers the principle of causation which is so important for organizing judgments of experience and scientific theory. Nature is defined as  “the whole object of possible experiences”.Judgments of experience are objective and deal with the necessary and categorical connection between things and events in contradistinction to judgments of perception where the connections are subjectively yet logically contained in the thinking subject. The difference between objective and subjective being the difference between the perceptions and intuitions organized by the concepts of the understanding or not. “The room is warm”  “I was frightened by the lightning” would be examples of subjective judgments of perception. There is here no expectation “that I or any other person shall always find it as I do now”. These judgments do not intend an objective reference but only the connection of two sensations in me. In the judgment of experience, I connect my perceptions or intuitions in consciousness in a general categorical way such that the connection is valid in general for any being using their consciousness in this manner. Perception becomes experience by the subsumption of that perception under a concept of the understanding and by the concept is meant the category which determines the form of judging that is to be used by the judging consciousness to determine or understand the “form of the perception or intuition. These concepts of the understanding are then transformed in the thinking process into judgments and there is a table of 12 of these ranging from singular, particular subjective judgments up to the categorical and apodeictic. Now here is the important conclusion that should be drawn from this discussion of natural science: Anthropology or Psychology can never become a Science because a science must be mathematical. Mathematics belongs principally in the domain of the category of the quantitative which requires a quantitative standard that could operate on the material it is applied to. Kant is clear that the part of consciousness which belongs to the realm of thought is not the kind of material that can be measured quantitatively or ordered in mathematical relations. Thought functions in the domain of reality,

Now here is the important conclusion that should be drawn from this discussion of natural science: Anthropology or Psychology can never become a Science because a science must be mathematical. Mathematics belongs principally in the domain of the category of the quantitative which requires a quantitative standard that could operate on the material it is applied to. Kant is clear that the part of consciousness which belongs to the realm of thought is not the kind of material that can be measured quantitatively or ordered in mathematical relations. Thought functions in the domain of reality, negation and limitation, (thinking something about something). It can have conditions and so the category of causal conditions may certainly be relevant in explaining how particular thoughts or kinds of thought come to be but this relates more to the substrate of thought than to outlining the totality of relevant conditions. The “I think” implies that I think something but it probably also implies some notion of self-consciousness which raises the thinking above that of the psychological realm of sensibility and its organizer, imagination. Thinking, that is, occurs at the fully mental realm of understanding and reason. Psychological states of consciousness are continuous and can be objectified by breaking the continuity into discrete units but self-consciousness is intentional and has a logical relation to the truth. O’Shaughnessy has the following to say on this important point:


“Self awareness necessitates awareness of truth. Thus, a child who regularly makes the sound “hungry” as a way of getting food, only thereby manifests self-consciousness and knowledge of the fact of its hunger, when it knows the sense of “I am hungry”, which consists in knowing it is true that he is hungry. Indeed, for any thinking language user to know any proposition is true, is for it to know that “P” is true. Self-consciousness requires that all knowledge, including that of the inner world, be for the self-conscious creature under the aspect of truth.”(Consciousness and the world)

O Shaughnessy continues to make another important point, namely that self-consciousness is only one, though perhaps the most fundamental of a circle of properties which constitute consciousness.

This dovetails neatly with the claim that Kant makes in the Anthropology, namely that when the child learns to use the word “I” correctly there is a dawning of a new kind of awareness of the world.


Now the criticism that Brett levels at Kant is the following: Kant’s  outlook was limited to the operations of reason. This is not an appropriate criticism given the fact that Kant sees three different aspects of the mind namely sensibility, understanding and reason and as can be seen from the argument above the categories are clearly functions of an understanding consciousness. Brett further goes on to argue that Kant thought that the higher powers of reason are the sole organizers of conscious life. Kant stands accused of ignoring the lower operations of consciousness, the sensible/imaginative psychological operations of the mind, but it is clear that this too is not a valid argument. Kant quite specifically argued in his work “Anthropology”  that the senses are not in any way an inferior form of consciousness but on the contrary are analogous to the people in a state who are ruled by a government who can affect the people but that in turn the government can be affected by the collective will of the people.  In the second book of the Anthropology Kant discusses feelings which are in one sense inhibitors of  reason(high levels of anxiety  can, we all know, inhibit the learning process), but in another sense the feelings of pleasure and pain can be united by the understanding to the ideas of good and evil and so “produce a quickening of the will”. This is quite aside from the positive contribution of aesthetic forms of consciousness to the leading of a flourishing life with a happy outlook onto a boundless future.  Indeed the psychological sensible aspect of consciousness becomes even more manifest when Kant takes up the way in which consciousness practically reasons about the ethical decisions that are taken in life. For it is here that the self as noumenon, as a metaphysical thing in itself  is revealed as bearer of the form of consciousness most defining of our human nature, namely the ethical form of consciousness which he then contrasts with what he regards as the empirical theories of Psychology which one could as well retrieve from the pages of novelists such as Fielding. This historically served as a challenge to future psychologists who were preparing the ground for a science of behavior which would become a source of knowledge about man. It was clear to Kant that moral action was sustained by a particular kind of reason for acting that should be characterized in terms of the universality and necessity of the maxims or principles one had for one’s action. These cannot be of the kind: “Whenever lightning strikes trees I am frightened ” because according to Kant that would fall under the heading of something that happens to man rather than the heading of what man intentionally and self consciously does. Intermediate between emotional responses and moral action fall instrumental actions on principles of happiness and practical reasoning, e.g. “Accumulating money makes me happy therefore I will take every opportunity to accumulate as much money as possible by any means possible”. This according to Kant is the principle of self-love in disguise and if it involves using people as a means to an end without according them the dignity one owes to them, then it is clearly  neither universal nor necessary but a product of the sensible region of the mind responding in accordance with the category of causation to cause events which result in the accumulation of money. That is, this behaviour quite rightly falls into the domain of the scientific, in virtue of the means-ends relation being cause-effect relations, and may be quantifiable. One should in this context of the quantification of action, however, remember ancient Greek warnings to the effect that feeding one’s desires merely creates a desire for more and this hardly seems a mathematical relation.

Indeed the psychological sensible aspect of consciousness becomes even more manifest when Kant takes up the way in which consciousness practically reasons about the ethical decisions that are taken in life. For it is here that the self as noumenon, as a metaphysical thing in itself  is revealed as bearer of the form of consciousness most defining of our human nature, namely the ethical form of consciousness which he then contrasts with what he regards as the empirical theories of Psychology that  one could as well retrieve from the pages of novelists such as Fielding. This historically served as a challenge to future psychologists who were preparing the ground for a science of behavior which would become a source of knowledge about man. It was clear to Kant that moral action was sustained by a particular kind of reason for acting that should be characterized in terms of the universality and necessity of the maxims or principles one had for one’s action. These cannot be of the kind: “Whenever lightning strikes trees I am frightened ” because according to Kant that would fall under the heading of something that happens to man rather than the heading of what man intentionally and self consciously does. Intermediate between emotional responses and moral action fall instrumental actions in accordance with principles of happiness and practical reasoning, e.g. “Accumulating money makes me happy therefore I will take every opportunity to accumulate as much money as possible by any means possible”. This according to Kant is the principle of self-love in disguise and if it involves using people as a means to an end without according them the dignity one owes to them, then it is clearly  neither universal nor necessary but a product of the sensible region of the mind responding in accordance with the category of causation to cause events which result in the accumulation of money. That is, this behaviour quite rightly falls into the domain of the scientific, in virtue of the means-ends relation being cause-effect relations, and may as a consequence be quantifiable. One should in this context of the quantification of action, however, remember ancient Greek warnings to the effect that feeding one’s desires merely creates a desire for more and this hardly seems a mathematical relation.

Moral action reveals the self as a thing itself with causa sui properties, i.e. the self-causes itself to think and act morally and this occurs in the realm of the noumenal and in the realm of what some analytic philosophers would call the ought-system of concepts. What one does is what one ought to do and what one actively does not do one does because that is what one ought to do. It is in this context that one demonstrates ones freedom from being externally caused to do what one does in contrast to internally and freely choosing to do what one ought to do or ought not to do. The good will is the free will. The good is what one ought to do. I ought not to accumulate money using people in an undignified manner to achieve the end of accumulating capital. This is the maxim of my not doing what my desire tempts me or causes me to consider doing. According to Brett this falls in the realm of the prescriptive in contrast to the realm of descriptive whose task is to describe what I, in fact, do, perhaps in accordance with the principle of causation. In this latter case, the reality of what it is possible to do falls on a continuum of possible action and encourages talk of efficiency and the causal framework which accompanies it. Here it might be possible to measure degrees of efficiency in a similar way to hitting the outer ring of a target with one’s bow and arrow  The rings of a target seem to measure the efficiency of an attempt to hit the bullseye. Emotional responses can also be measured scientifically when the issue is a standard which the body is measured by, e.g. one’s pulse rate: the lightning hits the tree and my pulse rate goes up to 150. The object of the emotion can also be related to this. Lightning sends my pulse up to 150 whereas watching an exciting rugby match only increases my pulse to 120. We need both a constant variable and a comparison object if knowledge is to be generated in such a context. But there is no continuum of experience from the first person perspective in deciding whether or not to steal someone’s money, ergo there can be nothing mathematical ergo, according to Kant, this realm of the mental cannot be the object of science. Now the normal scientific response to this is to claim that only the descriptive third-person perspective is objective and everything from the first person perspective–the perspective of the “I” is subjective. In a sense this is true but in a sense this response ignores the logic of the condition and unconditioned. The self is both the condition and in itself unconditioned(being causa sui, cause of itself) of self-consciousness. This logical requirement is the metaphysical basis of freedom. This is reflected in the Kantian rejection of the appeal to descriptive concepts in the relativisation of morality in which, for example, it is claimed that because Jack broke his promise to Jill to pay the money he owed her, this is sufficient grounds to question the universality and necessity of the moral duty that we ought to keep our promises. This type of reasoning confuses the realm of descriptive discourse with the realm of prescriptive discourse. “Promises ought to be kept” is the norm or prescription by which to measure how to judge what happens when Jack fails to keep his promise just as when someone murders someone at a bus stop we do not claim that this jeopardizes the universality and necessity of the law “We ought not to murder”. Of course as Kant maintained we can characterise one and the same action from both the point of view of practical reasoning and the principle of freedom(the first person perspective) and the view of theoretical reasoning, namely the principle of causality or determinism, the descriptive (the third person perspective) but it is important to realize that   this is merely the expression of  the old Delphic prophecy that it is difficult if not impossible to know oneself.

Religion, Psychoanalysis and Philosophical Psychology

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The Philosophy of Religion in the 20th century managed two major offensives against what many have regarded as the global force of secularism and one or both of these offensives may turn out to be the decisive territorial gain for religion ensuring its position in the globalizing processes leading to Cosmopolitanism. The Philosophers behind these offensives were Wittgenstein and Ricoeur. They both represent the challenges of Hermeneutics and Philosophical Psychology to the secularization process. They also, I would argue, represent the presence of philosophical cosmopolitan imperatives in the multi-dimensional globalization process.

Popular commentators on the subject of the decline of the authority of Religion have claimed, perhaps prematurely, that God is dead (although no one has actually seen his body). The postulated first cause of all things, it is argued, is no longer efficacious in the world of mobile phones, television sets, computers, driverless cars, robots cutting the lawn, robots hoovering the house, internet diagnoses of physical and mental diseases etc. The major causes involved in what is hopefully an accidental death are 1. The claim of Kant that God was just an idea in the mind. 2 The claim of Darwin that man who was supposed to be made in the image of God in fact evolved from the animal kingdom in accordance with the mechanisms of random variation, natural and sexual selection. 3. The claim of Freud that religious belief may have neurotic and psychotic characteristics, i.e. that the idea of God in man’s mind is not an idea one finds in a healthy mind.  4 Economical systems that seemed to have done more for the poverty of billions of people than divine assistance could ever manage(God died from an extended period of inactivity).

It might also be of interest to point out that in the secular process, the human being seems to have disappeared or receded into the background in relation to the jungle of equipment functioning in accordance with the law of economic/technological efficiency. If a robot/computer can replace a doctor and a psychiatrist and win chess games against chess masters then what hope is there for priests, teachers, philosophers and the rest of us ordinary mortals? Well, as was suggested above there is hope and it comes from Philosophy in general and Philosophical Psychology in particular.

Let us, however, examine more closely the so-called causes of God´s accidental death. Firstly let us remember that Kant was a religious man(as is the case with both Wittgenstein and Ricoeur) who he did not attend Church regularly. Indeed, although his ethical system was logically autonomous in relation to religious authority, this system still needed God, (the idea in man’s minds) to produce the good consequences of a good or flourishing life which otherwise might not follow from pure and good intentions. The philosophical conclusion of Kant’s  argument is that both God and “the good” might be logically related ideas in man’s mind, indeed, they may even be identical. This idea of the good being necessary for man to lead a meaningful flourishing life goes, of course, all the way back to Plato and Aristotle.

Darwin’s ideas initially threw the religious world into a state of ferment for a time but theologians soon realized that all that was needed to survive the Darwinian storm was to claim that Evolution is a process proceeding in accordance with divine laws of creation. God’s invisible hand was steering the process and the mechanism of random variation was not a real mechanism but an illusion of mans fragile and ethically flawed mind. The embarrassing facts of the creation scene in the Bible needed re-interpretation and some scholars began to argue that one should not interpret everything in the Bible literally. Reading the creation scene metaphorically and symbolically could allow space for the existence of mechanisms of natural and sexual selection functioning in accordance with the expression of God´s will.

Freud’s ideas, similarly, when one reads his texts closely may lead one to the conviction that when Freud claimed that a belief in God had the hallucinatory qualities of a schizophrenic delusion, he may have been talking about the way in which some people or even most people relate to God. Blindly rattling off one’s prayers or performing religious rites do remind one of the obsessive compulsive’s repetitious attacks on the world but these repetitions also remind one of the healthy actings out of children who are trying to control the environment that is causing them so much anxiety. Worshipping an invisible figure in public can seem strange, and Freud explains it partly in terms of the defense mechanism of displacement caused by excessive anxiety: a mechanism which substitutes a real ambiguous punishing/forgiving father figure with an equally ambiguous invisible father who promises relief from one´s suffering if one plays the game of religion.  The second part of his explanation involves returning to the origin of the religious belief system as communicated to believers in civilization. Primitive wishes in response to a primitive feeling of helplessness provide the temporary relief we need from the burden of existence in fragile civilizations. Freud may well himself have been ambivalent toward even mature attitudes involving religious conviction as some commentators have claimed but I am sceptical of this description for a number of reasons, amongst which are the following: he claimed to be writing the Psychology Kant would have written if he had interested himself sufficiently in psychological or anthropological matters. Freud did not definitely say that man would never be guided by his reason and place his hope and faith  in some reasonable future probably because he was reluctant to present himself as a prophet for fear that mans destructive instincts may, as a matter of fact, overshadow his constructive instincts(Freud, died in 1939 at a time when the existence of civilization was threatened ideologically. He may have suspected that the time might come when civilization would be threatened by the power of weapons of mass destruction)

Perhaps if Freud had lived in another time and another place, England or France, for example, we may have seen him launching the offensive against a wave of economic/technological  or secular globalization(his comments in his work “The Future of an Illusion” and his remarks on  the USA certainly suggest he would have been one of the ideologues at the forefront of demonstrations against the way in which market economics has dominated all other globalization processes). He certainly attempted to transform psychoanalysis into a global movement in the name of science(sic).

Paul Ricoeur, after Freud’s death, wrote both about the confession of evil in the religious context and the confessions one could witness in the psychoanalyst’s clinic. There appears to be a “symbolic function” of language which takes us far beyond the purview of the scientist in his pursuit of a certain kind of explanation. He like Wittgenstein believed that the route to the understanding of what Aristotle called being qua being needed to proceed more circuitously to its destination via language. Many commentators have commented upon the “confessional” nature of Wittgenstein’s posthumous work, the “Philosophical Investigations”.

In Ricoeur’s work “the Symbolism of Evil” it is claimed that the confession of evil is of interest for the philosopher because it is an utterance man makes about himself. A confession is an act of religious consciousness but as yet is not Philosophy until it becomes an object of reflection. Myth, for Ricoeur, is not,as is the case with Freud, an expression of a primitive helpless mind filled with fantasy-laden wishes. It too has a symbolic function which is expressive of the power of discovery and revelation in the realm of Being. It reveals the bond between man and what he considers sacred and important. “Evil is the crisis of this bond”.  The experience of sin, according to Ricoeur is the ground upon which the feeling of guilt occurs but:

“The experience of which the penitent makes a confession is a blind experience, still embedded in the matrix of emotion, fear, anguish. It is this emotional note that gives rise to objectification in discourse: the confession expresses, pushes to the outside, the emotion which without it would be shut up within itself, as an impression in the soul. Language is the light of the emotions.”

A myth is obviously partly a traditional response to suffering and contains elements of a lamentation about that suffering but it is also a language with a complex relation to being, the self, time, and imagery. That is why it has a non-confessional narrative structure. A confession of ones suffering occurring in the realm of the symbolic does not necessarily have to be embedded in a narrative structure. It has a cosmic and ethical/psychological significance. Both myths and confessions require philosophical interpretation and hermeneutics, according to Ricoeur, is the reflective instrument required for this work. In a paper given at a conference on “Hermeneutics and Tradition” Ricoeur points out that time is lived and used in two different ways. Tradition transmits symbols and myths and hermeneutics interprets myth and symbols. Interpretation, he argues keeps a tradition alive. “Every tradition lives by the grace of interpretation”. Ricoeur then points out that these two temporalities intersect in a third profound temporality which constitutes the elusive field of “Meaning”. Symbols live in this sphere of the relation of a physical literal meaning to a figurative, spiritual ontological existential meaning. A symbol always says more than it says and therefore is in constant need of interpretation. According to Ricoeur the study of the time of symbols would be a much more important philosophical pursuit than, for example, the interpretation of myths. He points out in support of his thesis that a myth can never exhaust the semantic constitution of the symbol. Insofar as the symbolism of evil is concerned Ricoeur has the following to say:

“The symbols embraced by the avowal of evil appeared to me to fall into three signifying levels: the primary symbolic level of stain, sin, and guilt, the mythical level of the great narratives of the fall or the exile, and the level of mythical dogmatisms of Gnosticism and original sin…….It appeared to me…that the store of the meaning of primary symbols was richer than that of mythical symbols and even more so than that of rationalizing mythologies.”

Much more can be said about the relation of the confession of the patient seeking a cure in relation to the confession of the religious man seeking salvation but let me now turn to Wittgenstein’s arguments and their claim to restore the lost object of religious discourse to the house of Deus absconditus in our robotic secularized cities. Firstly, the language of religion is not a factual language, nor a language of observation, cause, and effect. It is a language game and as such, according to Wittgenstein, it is embedded in a form of life in which the participants operate with tacit presuppositions: Not the tacit presuppositions of a science in which for example it is assumed that the heavenly bodies which are only subject to infrequent observation nevertheless enjoy a continuous real existence, but rather the tacit presuppositions relating to the activities of a soul, for example:

“Why is the soul moved by idle thoughts–since they are after all idle? Well, it is just moved by them.(How can the wind move a tree, since it is after all just wind? Well it does move it and do not forget it)”

This is the philosophical idea of psychogenesis that Freud thought played a role in mental illness. Freud was one of the few psychologists Wittgenstein studied: perhaps both thinkers believed that surrounding the heart of our understanding was a kind of madness or soul blindness, the cure for which was therapy.  But Wittgenstein probably did not subscribe to psychoanalysis as the sole route to understanding the human condition for he turned to a higher power for his succor, namely Christianity. One year before his death we find Wittgenstein reflecting upon God and suffering and suggesting that if Christianity is the truth about the human condition, then all the philosophy about it is false. He rejects the concentration on the argument that  Gods essence guarantees his existence and claims that if one leads one’s life in the right way a belief in God will naturally condense from the cloud of suffering that surrounds man. Donald Hudson, a religious philosopher, and commentator on Wittgenstein’s work, points out that we should not expect the religious man to reason about his beliefs in the religious language-game in the same way in which the scientist reasons about his theories. A man believing in the Last Judgment may act every day against the background of the fear or promise of such an event. Is this not reasonable asks Hudson? Does not this practical belief system seem to be stronger than any hypothetical belief system any scientist can produce? The scientist has his set of commitments and expects that every event which occurs has an explanatory cause in a systematically uniform world-view in which moons continuously exist. The scientist is building a system of knowledge which does not know what to do with transcendental truths.  Wittgenstein  realized this from his earlier work but let us conclude with a quote from Kant’s “Religion within the bounds of mere Reason.”:

“The nature and intrinsic limits of thought and human knowledge preclude any demonstration of the existence of God”

And further on:

“non-existence cannot be demonstrated either”

How then are we to interpret the avowals of the suffering souls of the Psalms or the suffering patients in secularized psychiatric waiting rooms? Surely their cries are not just facts being stated, the effects of causes or the consequences of observations? surely the realm of Hope and Faith that Kant referred to is the home of their language games? Surely their cries are symbolic?  Surely these cries are relating to how the soul believes the world ought to be.


Aristotle and the History of Psychology(Brett)(Philosophical Psychology)

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The History of Psychology, according to Professor Brett,  is the history of  a number of traditional inquiries amongst which are included The Rationalist tradition which includes both Plato and Aristotle, The Religious and ethical tradition, The Observationalist tradition, and the Medical Tradition. Brett also discusses the emergence of the theme of self-consciousness(Kant and Neo Kantians), what he calls the theme of the gateway of method, and theme of the  reinterpretation of authority  followed by the theme of the challenge to authority. This is a broad spectrum of concerns and can explain the controversies that arise whenever someone suggests a “reduction” of Psychology to one or two of these traditions/themes.

Aristotle is regarded as a Rationalist but  Brett does not observe what has subsequently been noted by Aristotelian scholars, namely,  that his thought would have something to contribute to each of the traditions, and the themes mentioned above. This essay attempts to show the breadth of  Aristotle’s interests and indicate how these interests correlate with the  breadth of concerns of the above traditions/themes. The theme concerning authority is particularly significant given the fact that Aristotle was regarded as “The Philosopher” for centuries and a “reinterpretation” of his work was needed by the religious authorities before a challenge to his authority could be mounted.

Brett is also eager to point out Aristotle’s deficiencies as a scientist even after pointing out that he differed markedly with Plato in his approach to reality by extolling the virtues of observation, methodological classification, and experimentation. Apparently, Aristotle’s fondness for definition was supposed to be a residue from the Platonic theory of forms according to Brett but what he then continues to say about Aristotle’s  hylomorphism does not quite amount to devaluing a commitment to definition.

Since matter, space and time must be infinite for Aristotle and the infinite can neither have a beginning nor an end, any chunk of finite matter must have a principle of organization which forms it into the kind of thing it is. Now there has been a great deal of philosophical discussion relating to whether there are natural kinds or not and Aristotle has been accused of adhering to the position that these natural kinds just occur in nature without any further explanation. This is not the case because we know he  believes that the infinite is formed into these natural kinds by a principle which is constitutive of the essence of that thing. The essences of things Aristotle believed shall be given in a thing’s essence -specifying definition.

The   theoretical framework  of Aristotle  also includes:

a)4 kinds of change that occur in the world,

b)three principles of change which ensure that we can make sense of the fact that something retains its identity throughout a process of change as long as that change does not destroy the identity of the thing in question, and

c) four different kinds of explanations of the change that occurs to the environment whether it be global change or the local change of the behaviour of a thing in the environment.

Amongst the 4 kinds of changes that were referred to, Substantial and Qualitative change were obviously more philosophically significant than Quantitative or Relational change.  This was Aristotle’s objection to the Pythagorean claim that the real qualities of things such as the sound of harp strings were to be related to the underlying mathematical lengths of the strings.  The latter mathematical relations, i.e. according to Pythagoras, explained the former qualities of the sounds that we qualitatively identify and appreciate.

This claim was certainly true of the harp strings but according to Aristotle, this state of affairs could not necessarily be generalized to all substances and qualities. The harp’s creation brought a substance into being in accordance with all the teleological qualities that a Harp requires. The quantitative knowledge relating to the length of the strings is, of course, part of the process of making the harp and in Aristotle’s terms part of the efficient and material causes of the harp.  The separation of quantitative changes from qualitative and substantial changes was a revolution in thinking which began with Plato and actually upset the Pythagorean attempt to universalize the ideal of mathematical thinking in nature. Modern quantum theory disregards the Aristotelian revolution when it insists that events in the sub atomic universe are to be explained by a mathematical formula which works but no one knows why it works.

The idea in the mind of the maker of the harp is , for Aristotle, not a quantity but  a form, one of the three forms which are communicated in his composite world of matter and form, the other two forms being 1. the biological form of reproducing  the species  to create another individual related to me and 2. the forms of knowledge that are communicated from teacher to learner: these last forms will probably include the form of the good, the form of justice and the form of beauty.

Finally, Aristotle’s definition of human nature as a rational animal was revised in a later work to “man is a rational animal capable of discourse” and part of what Aristotle means here by “rational”  are: 1. the theoretical knowledge of the world. and 2. the ability to plan one’s life by imposing some kind of life-formula upon my desires and wishes as well as 3. the ability to regulate communal desires and wishes via one’s understanding of the role of laws in the construction of the communal flourishing life. These plans and formulae are continually subjected to a critical reflection process which will determine whether they are right and wrong, whether they have achieved their purposes.   The composite of a man includes his animal nature and the relation of this aspect to man’s rational nature requires understanding Aristotle’s view of the soul.

This is the complex theoretical framework which he used for both biological and political science research in his Lyceum. There was no discipline of psychology at that time but there was much talk about the concept of the soul or psuche.(as distinguished from the physical animal-like body). Brett refers to Aristotle’s definition of human nature(rational animal capable of discourse) as not being “scientific” because it embodies no causal reference. Brett is using “causal” in some narrow linear scientific sense which works best when applied to the physical world of a billiard ball reacting with another billiard ball. For Aristotle “cause” means “explanation”(“aitia”) and both rational and animal have a complex conceptual relation with each other which is reminiscent of the relation of the soul(psuche) to the body. But there are largely 4 assumptions about the soul which are being used in Aristotle’s reference to the 4 kinds of change, three principles and 4 causes and these are:

  1. “Soul” is co-extensive with “life”. This is what the term “soul” means
  2. The soul is the actualization of a body furnished with organs.
  3. The movements of such a physical body are to be explained in terms of its soul. The soul is a form or a principle and is not the sort of thing therefore that can be moved
  4. There are levels of soul which form a hierarchy where the lower form is a necessary condition of the higher and the higher transforms the lower. The levels are the vegetative, which correspond to plant life, the animal level corresponding to animal life and the human corresponding to human life which incorporates and transforms both these lower “levels” of soul.

So life is the first power or capacity of the physical body and power builds upon power: language, for example,  builds upon the powers of memory and experience(in which we come to know or to see man as a man) and is in turn built upon by the power of rationality which eventually learns to think theoretically and systematically about the world(if all the conditions of this actuality are met along the way). Reason has also a practical dimension referred to above when  we impose plans or formulae upon our individual desires  and wishes(efficient causes of action) and we understand and pass laws which regulate our societies. These latter two capacities are intimately linked to the ethical concepts of right and wrong, standards of correctness  which add an achievement or areté -aspect to action

The soul moves the body but cannot itself be moved therefore it  is nothing physical but rather it  is able to move the body because thought in the form of intention or reason can move the body. But thought has an end built into itself and is experienced as a coming to rest rather than a movement. We come to rest in the very performance of the activity. So the form of transmitting thoughts from learner to teacher is not like that the relation between the builder building a house and the house that is built. In this example the house is an external end to the activity. In thought, on the contrary, the end is logically internal to the activity. The “telos” of the learner learning is logically tied to the activity of the teacher. teaching.

“”Seeing” and “remembering” are also so called achievement “verbs”. When we speak of them we speak of a standard that has been attained and are not making reports about movements in our soul(mind) or body. Similarly with action: action is not a movement because movements just happen without being right or wrong:  that is action is not a term of the same logical type as movement. Action also internally and logically contains its end. It has been planned and thought about. This is why the end of an action is necessary to explain the movement one makes in trying to achieve that end. These ends are also further evaluated in terms of whether they are right or not. The plans, formulas or  maxims are regarded as intelligent or not  either in relation to the circumstances or to other higher purposes such as the meaning of ones life.

Seeing and remembering can also be components of knowledge and both Plato and Aristotle are in agreement that our desire to understand the world is best manifested in the knowledge we have of the world. The process of acquiring knowledge, however, is multilayered and multi-faceted. The best account of this process can be found in Jonathan Lear’s work on Aristotle entitled “Aristotle: the desire to understand”:

“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 characterizes 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 which 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… Because the universal is embedded in particulars, a persons first explorations among particulars will lead him toward a grasp of the embodied universal. Having acquired experience, or knowledge of individuals, we are able to formulate more abstract forms of knowledge, the arts and sciences(technai and epistemai). Each stage of cognitive development is grounded in the previous stage…..”

Our Philosophical knowledge of man and the History of Psychology(Brett and Peters)

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Professor R S Peters published an abridgment of the three volumes of Professor Brett’s “History of Psychology” in 1953(revised in 1961). The original volumes were published between 1912 and 1921.   The subject matter of Psychology has historically been very differentiated and that differentiation does not appear to be organized in any obvious way. This fact has led some commentators to question whether there is any specific subject matter which Psychology is about. Many 20th century  Philosophers have complained about the conceptual confusion inherent in the theories and claims of Psychology and pointed to specific regions of confusion. So when a History of Psychology is written by a philosopher and an abridgment attempted by another philosopher it certainly deserves attention. Peters tried to impose a philosophical framework on Brett’s work. Many myths are exposed on this journey of abridgment and some of these are the construction of scientific superstition. The myth of privileged “data” accumulating under different headings and science cautiously making generalizations about this “data” makes a very large assumption that one can approach nature with a mind like an empty wax tablet upon which nature can impress its form. Peters points out in his abridgment that no one individual can “begin” acquiring knowledge. We all are part of a long tradition:

“The very language we speak incorporates in a condensed form all kinds of assumptions about things, people, and situations. We take things for granted that our ancestors discovered by trial and error: we can neither avoid nor dispense with our social inheritance which is handed down in the form of countless traditional skills and assumptions.”(Peters, 1961)

The above quote quite categorically adopts the view that at some point we began our epistemological journey with assumptions that are very general, We do not “construct” them from particulars. We take our assumptions with us in our dealing with things, people and situations and learn to differentiate between them and to particularise them. Apart from this we also have interests in and attitudes towards our world and these assist in generating expectations and assumptions which in turn provoke the asking of questions when frustrated. There is no such thing Peters, argues as a  presupposition-less inquiry. With all this in mind, one can maintain that subject matter is not the key differentiator of Psychology from other areas of inquiry. What is more adequate to this task would be to differentiate one tradition from another by constructing their respectively different traditions of inquiry: that is from establishing their history. So Peters claims:

“What we call psychology is just an amalgam of different questions about human beings which have grown out of  a variety of different traditions of inquiry.”

Three major traditions are of interest and probable sources of psychological inquiry: religious investigations, medical investigations and philosophical investigations into the nature of man. In all three types of inquiry, the investigations take into account what people say about their own actions and feelings. Peters introduces an interesting philosophical distinction between three types of questions: questions of theory, questions of policy and technological questions.

So generally, if we wish to talk in terms of disciplines these are characterized in terms of the way these disciplines go about answering questions. This way includes the integration of expectations, attitudes, and interests in relation to the aspects of reality these disciplines are concerned with. Peters  then draws an interesting distinction between two of these three elements  and claims there is a clear and logical distinction between two types of statements: statements which  involve expectations and statements which involve our interests and attitudes:

“If a person says that iron expands when it is heated he is describing what he expects to observe but if he says that swords ought to be beaten into pruning hooks he is expressing an attitude towards the use of iron, or prescribing a course of action. Descriptions are answers to questions of theory: prescriptions are answers to questions of policy.”

Prescriptions  are related to “interests, attitudes, and demands”:

“They cannot be confirmed or falsified simply by lookings at things or situations. The man who says that peace is better than war cannot be refuted by being made to look at swords as well as pruning hooks or by being taken from his husbandry to watch a battle. The wrongness of killing people is not revealed to us by simply watching a battle. People can agree on their expectations of and assumptions about things people and situations, yet they can at the same time differ radically in their attitudes to, interests in and demands of them. And if they disagree with such questions of policy there is no agreed procedure for settling the dispute.”

Technological questions are questions about the means one should employ to achieve a particular end. An engineer builds a bridge to meet certain specifications. He creates the required states of affairs in accordance with general assumptions about temperature, expansion and material stresses and a description of initial particular conditions. Questions related to health and happiness are technological questions, questions about the means to achieve a particular end.

These three types of questions succinctly demarcate Philosophically the arena of psychological questioning. Since 1870 and the secession of Psychology from Philosophy these three types of inquiry have been favoured: the scientific the technological and the prescriptive. The philosophical or self consciously reflective dimension of psychology diminished in importance. That dimension in which  so called “second order”  questioning occurs which wishes to examine our assumptions  and which require a reflective level of self-consciousness of one’s own activity and a reflective awareness of how we use  language in these areas of inquiry:

“If a moral philosopher attempts, like a moralist to recommend a way of life or a new conception of society, he does so in a second order manner by redefining words like”justice”, “good” and “natural” or by concentrating on certain procedures for deciding on “rightness” or “wrongness” like looking at the consequences of actions or paying attention only to peoples motives.”(Peters 1961)

Philosophical concerns were once vitally important to psychological investigation and the history of psychology. Many of the mental concepts philosophers have reflected upon such as “reason”, “will” “desire” “conscience” have subsequently been converted into first order concepts by the anxious desire of the scientist to convert the thinking about activity into the activity itself. As a consequence, many scientists dismiss these concepts because they seem to suggest a first order activity of introspection(internal as distinct from external observation) thus confounding the entire reflective process which was not observational but connected to establishing a logical justification for the assumptions involved in the activity. Sever this philosophical dimension from psychological questioning and we will very quickly produce the conceptual confusion Wittgenstein, Merleau-Ponty and many other analytical philosophers have pointed to.

But what would be an example of a psychological investigation which took into consideration a reflective philosophical approach? Toward the end of the 18th century, Kant actually produced a text book for a discipline which he termed “Anthropology”. This work was designed to facilitate the political task of preparing the citizen for a cosmopolitan existence. Philosophy,  for Kant, was a cosmopolitan affair which could be characterized by 4 fundamental questions: What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? and What is a human being? This last question is the concern of Anthropology specifically but there will be a relation to the first three questions too. The Anthropology claims that investigations into human nature can take two forms: either physiological(what nature makes of man) or pragmatic(what man as a free acting being makes of himself or can and should make of himself). Physical anthropology is scientific and based on observation or introspection. Kant is rightly suspicious of this latter line of investigation because of the difficulties of the fact that the very act of observing changes the behavior that is observed(presumably introspection also changes the activity it is relating to). If this is correct it is an amazing indictment of the experimental psychology project that was to be launched in the next century almost a hundred years later. The freedom of the will is not a variable that can be controlled or manipulated. It is incredibly difficult if not impossible to grasp the essence of human nature. But almost paradoxically Kant does think that we can profitably pursue the line of investigation suggested by pragmatic philosophy, namely,  the question of what man can or should make of himself.

Freud, Philosophy, Humanism and Science.(Philosophical Psychology)

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Freud’s writings over 50 years corrected themselves and changed systematically from a clinical/scientific approach in relation to the analysis of patients with mental illness to a more philosophical approach to the individual, society and culture. I use the word “systematically” to demarcate the fact that in the move from his earlier approach to his later theorising there is no contradiction. Indeed although Freud systematically moves toward a Platonic view of the psyche I would argue that Freud’s theories are more Aristotelian, i.e. in many of his comments such as the ego contains the idea of the body, the ego is composed of precipitate of lost objects, there is a hylomorphic foundation working. Now I am not sure that Freud was familiar with the works of Aristotle but we do know that he was a vociferous reader and that he was very familiar with the works of Kant and even claimed on one occasion in his later works that his Psychology would be the Psychology that Kant would have written had he interested himself in the area. We know Kant wrote a work entitled Anthropology and this work had clear Aristotelian affiliations.


Now we also know that Freud did not have much time for the philosophers of his day who were much influenced by the concept of consciousness that had been developing since Descartes “epistemological revolution” in Philosophy. Some commentators superficially believe his opposition was grounded simply in Freud’s “re-discovery” of the realm of the unconscious mind but I believe his opposition ran deeper. That is, I believe that in spite of his claim to be a “scientist” we see in his later work, if I am right, that the metaphysical hylomorphism of Aristotle was steering his choice of concepts and his famous three principles of psychology: the energy regulation principle, the pleasure/pain principle and the reality principle. From a Kantian point of view he was working in the area of the mind Kant thought of as sensibility, in the area of self -love, but Freud’s theories have a grasp of the function of understanding and reason which is also, I would argue, Kantian. His reasoning, of course, falls into the arena of practical rather than theoretical reasoning much of the time but we should really pay attention to the Freudian mechanisms which are psychologically causal, e.g. repression, identification, sublimation, projection, all of which fit very neatly into the very practical idea he has of the reality principle. There is also his unique contribution to psychology in the form of the primary and secondary processes of the mind which are intimately connected to his three principles.

His idea of “object” is clearly Aristotelian, rather than scientific in the narrow sense, and not just backwards looking to the causes of physical events but teleological, forward looking to the end which an action is striving toward. Now there are speculations in some of his later works such as Civilisation and its Discontents which seem unscientific because unverifiable, e.g. the band of brothers thesis. He sketches a Hobbesian scenario of a state of nature in which all are at war against all and even the band of brothers kill the tyrannical father but regret their action and establish a rule of law and perhaps the dawn of self-consciousness, to move civilisation forward.Now these are his “scientific speculations”: looking backward for the causes of phenomena and perhaps he does so without sufficient care for marshalling the totality of facts. I am not saying that this is necessarily so, because even today I do not believe we are anywhere near accumulating the necessary facts which would allow us to pontificate one way or the other but I do think that those commentators that fixate on the Oedipus complex and see this scenario as the blueprint of his speculations in this domain are reading Freud too narrowly.


Freud bashing in the name of science has become a professional activity for some academics and a hobby for many others who have views of science that in the urge to purge our thought of all things metaphysical and ethical would in Freudian, Kantian and Aristotelian terms be regarded as “epistemological” in a pejorative sense. The sense that has dogged Philosophy through all the modern “isms”: positivism, naturalism, materialism, pragmatism, behaviourism, utilitarianism.


Freud bashing is just of a course a part of the sport of humanist bashing and all that it requires is a very limited knowledge of a methodology which applies only to one aspect of our world and a willingness to colonise the domain of the humanist with this limited methodology and wonderful technological inventions, e.g. the invention of the atomic and hydrogen bombs, television, computers, and robots.