The Concept of the Political (Carl Schmitt)

Schmitt, Carl. The Concept of the Political. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [reprint 2007].

In what concrete apparatus does political authority lie? Answers could be God or natural law or the social contract?  That might be true in an ultimate sense, but power is always mediated.  To phrase it another way: who is the actual sovereign? 

Carl Schmitt begins on rather innocuous grounds: the state cannot be simply equated with the political. In other words, society cannot be equated with the political. What, then, is the political? It begins “with the distinction between friend and enemy” (Schmitt 26). To be sure, as Schmitt notes, this is a criterion, not an exhaustive definition.  (Schmitt is using ‘enemy’ in a terminological sense, not in a moral sense of ‘bad guy’.) The enemy is one who intends to negate your way of life. To ward off confusion, Schmitt says it is a public, not a private enemy. Indeed, the enemy in this sense “need not be hated personally” (29).

Jesus’s comments do not contradict this.  He is speaking of private enemies.  As Schmitt notes, “Never in the thousand-year struggle between Christians and Moslems did it occur to surrender rather than defend Europe out of love toward the Saracens or Turks” (29).

The contrast between friend and enemy is most stark in the context of war.  There contrast becomes absolute and internal tensions within the political structure become relativised (e.g., as a patriot I dislike moderates, but in the face of an existential external threat, I put that dislike aside).  Indeed, “War is the existential negation of the enemy” (33). A world without war would be a world without the friend-enemy distinction: it would be a world without politics.

We can now tentatively define the political as an entity which is able to escalate the friend-enemy distinction to war. It is any community “that possesses, even if only negatively, the capacity of promoting that decisive step” (37).

Subordinate societies within the political certainly exist.  These are Burke’s “little platoons” or “free associations.” They are necessary to health of the state.  Schmitt’s reiterates his point, though, with stark clarity: “the political entity is by its very nature the decisive entity, regardless of the sources from which it derives [its power]. It exists or does not exist. If it exists, it is the supreme, that is, in the decisive case, the authoritative entity” (43-44). We might recoil at his conclusion, but it remains true that the political, not the church or the guild, is able to use the sword.

I think at this point Schmitt is still at the level of theory, for there are examples in European history where entities other than the state had the power to wage war.  Theoretically, he is correct.  

Any group that has the power to make this distinction and does not do so ceases to exist.  As Schmitt notes, if a group within the political chooses not to engage in the friend-enemy distinction, it in fact joins the enemy. “Only a weak people will disappear” (53).

Interestingly enough, we can apply Schmitt’s insights against globalism.  If the political presupposes an enemy, it means another political entity, another state, must exist.  “As long as a state exists, there will always ben in the world more than one state. A world state which embraces the entire globe and all of humanity cannot exist” (53). The enemies will not cease to exist.  The world-state will simply transfer the category to a group of whom it deems “deplorables.”

The Contradiction of Liberalism

Liberalism seeks to protect individual rights and liberty.  It does so by hindering the state’s control. While noble, this also means liberalism cannot really accommodate the existential nature of the political as mentioned above.  If war arises, the political can demand that you sacrifice your life.  Classical liberalism says it can’t make that demand.  It is here that Schmitt gives his famous rule of the exception, the rule that fundamentally kills liberalism: “An individualism in which anyone other than the free individual himself were to decide upon the substance and dimension of his freedom would be only an empty phrase” (71).

This doesn’t mean liberal societies cease to exist.  They undergo a transformation. “A politically united people becomes…a culturally interested public.”  “Government and power turn into propaganda and mass manipulation, and at the economic pole, control” (72).

Evaluation

This isn’t as shocking as it appears. Politics is about negating the other.  I want my political candidate to win.  That means I want the other to lose.  Completely.  Democrats want Republicans to lose.  Republicans want patriotic Republicans to lose, and so on. Of course, at this point it hasn’t yet come to war.  Actually, that’s’ not true.  The Democratic Party has numerous paramilitary groups burning cities.

I’m not sure I would build a political worldview on Schmitt’s thinking.  Questions like pursuing the Good and virtue are not relevant for him.  He doesn’t dismiss them, to be sure, but they have no meaning on the friend-enemy distinction.  Nonetheless, he writes with bracing clarity and forces the reader to grapple with hard issues.

Note on Hegel: all spirit is present spirit.  Hegel is also the first to bring the nature of the bourgeois forward: “The bourgeois is an individual who does not want to leave the apolitical riskless private sphere” (Schmitt 62).  The enemy, for Hegel, is “negated otherness.”

Edmund Burke: Lectures French Revolution

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Burke addresses a rather thorny problem: on what grounds can he contend for the English Revolution of 1688 while condemning the French Revolution of 1789? No matter what answer he gives, he will have to own up to the fact that the British did remove a king. Granting that, however, there are some notable differences.

Burke isn’t against all changes, for he notes that “a state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation” (Burke 21). Burke holds this possibility of change in conjunction with the principle of a hereditary crown. It is a hereditary crown that grounds the ancient liberties as hereditary right (25). In other words, the common good moves through the crown and not through a majority vote. It was the line of the Stuarts that threatened this ancient liberty. Therefore, to restore the ancient liberties, it had to restore the Crown back to its role.

The English maintained, and the French lost, that idea of “cultivating virtue” within proper spheres of hierarchy. France abandoned the idea of moral equality and sought “that monstrous fiction” which only embitters real inequality (37). “France has not sacrificed her virtue to interest; but she has abandoned her interest, that she might prostitute her virtue” (37).

Concerning inequality, we must insist on a natural hierarchy. “But whilst I revere men in the functions which belong to them, and would do, as much as one man can do, to prevent their exclusion from any, I cannot, to flatter them, give the lie to nature” (44). Further, hierarchy helps us grow in virtue. Burke continues: “To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind (47).

On Human Rights

Burke defines a right as “whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself….He has equal rights but not a share to equal things” (59). This is an important safeguard, for as he warns on the next page: “By having a right to everything, they want everything” (60).

Burke points out that the revolution destroyed not only the ancient institutions, but the principles under girding them.

Burke’s groundwork (Grundrisse? With apologies to Marx) is that man is a religious animal and a stable society must safeguard the religious institutions (or as we would say today, networks). He notes: “We are resolved to keep an established church, an established monarchy, an established aristocracy, and an established democracy, each in the degree that it exists, and in no greater” (91). I’ve seen some Libertarian friends claim Burke as their own. This cannot be so. Burke, though he inconsistently despises metaphysics, believes in an ordered realm of goods. Religious stability is a more preferable good than buying cheap plastic junk from China.

Critique and Analysis

Our hearts thrill at Burke’s prose. There can be no doubt of that. Unfortunately, Burke was not the most powerful thinker of the age and while England was spared the horrors of “democracy,” Burke never really gave a coherent alternative.

Men as disparate from Plato to Lincoln argued from genus, which is an argument made from the nature of the thing. Burke, unfortunately, argued from “the facts surrounding the case.” These facts determined the strongest premise of his argument.

His defense of the English Revolution of 1688 illustrates the problem. By precedent England had a generational defense and practice of property and rights that are upheld by the monarchy. All well and good. In fact, paradoxically, England took up arms to prove they didn’t have the right to overthrow the government. Here is Burke’s problem: “What line do the precedents mark out for us? How may we know that this particular act is in conformity with the body of precedents unless we can abstract the essence of the precedent? And if one extracts the essence of the precedent, does not one have a speculative idea” (Weaver)?

Burke pointed out that participation in political power “does not belong to the rights of man, because men have a right to good government, and there is no necessary connection between good government and government by the many.” If anything, the rights of men point to a natural aristocracy (Strauss 298).

That’s good. Unfortunately, Burke held to the British sensualist view of art, which specifically denied a connection between intellectual beauty (e.g., mathematical proportions) and sensible beauty (312). This explains why he doesn’t like French gardens. They are too geometrical and not “natural.” There is something to be said for the country aesthetics of some British gardens. I think that is true. Unfortunately for Burke, applied to his whole system, the result is an emancipation of sentiment from reason.

Hegel (Charles Taylor)

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Old review.  Reposting.

The Enlightenment Context

These thinkers (Descartes, Bacon, Hobbes) held to an atomistic view of man and society. They rejected the medieval worldview of “final causes” (4). The world was no longer seen as “symbol manifesting the rhythm of the divine” (5).

Modernity’s epistemology is that of a “self-defining subject” (7).

First of all this implies a “control over things” (8). For example, nature/matter is now seen as “dead matter,” able to be manipulated by the elite (Taylor does not draw this out but this is arguably the simplest definition of magic).

With a self-defining subject there comes a new definition of freedom (9).
There came a dis-enchanting, or objectivifying of the world. Modern understandings of meaning and purpose apply exclusively to the thought and actions of the subject” (9).
Most deleteriously, man himself was seen as an object–was objectified.

This hard Enlightenment anthropology will itself break down (almost immediately). Some couldn’t live without a God; these are the mild Deists. Others took the epistemology consistently and became radical materialists.

The German Romantic Counter-attack

Post-Reformation Germany never experienced the same “church versus state” problems that France did. Thus, German’s religious expression to the Enlightenment was formed differently: pietism. Pietism stressed a heart-felt religious experience of the soul’s meeting with Christ (11). There followed a denigration of dogma and confessional status. Like with the Enlightenment itself, the reaction in Germany went along two paths.

Sturm und Drang

The main counter-attack was led by Romantic Johann Herder. Herder dislikes the Enlightenment’s objectification of man, and he proposes an alternative anthropology: expressivism (13). Human life and human activity are seen as expressions.

Taylor frames his book in order of several of Hegel’s main works. He does an excellent job outlining difficult terminology and highlighting key points which will serve as hermeneutical loci later.

Self-Positing Spirit

This introduces Hegel’s “identity of difference and identity.” Starting slowly, following Taylor, here is what I think he means. Hegel is trying to overcome the Kantian duality. Hegel wants to overcome this with his notion of “overcoming oppositions.” Therefore, identity cannot sustain itself on its own, but posits an opposition, but also a particularly intimate one (80). In short, Hegel married modern expression with Aristotle’s self-realizing form (81).

Following this was Hegel’s other point: the subject, and all his functions, however spiritual, were necessarily embodied (82-83).

The Contradiction Arises

Contrary to mindless right-wing bloggers, Hegel did not form the “dialectic” in the following way: we posit a thesis (traditional community), then we negate it (cultural marxism), which allows for the “synthesis” (our pre-planned solution all along). Here is what Hegel actually meant: there is reality, but the very structure of reality already contains a contradiction. The subject then must overcome that contradiction.

Taylor notes, “In order to be at all as a conscious being, the subject must be embodied in life; but in order to realize the perfection of consciousness it must fight and overcome the natural bent of life as a limit. The conditions of its existence are in conflict with the demands of its perfection (86).

Taylor has much more to say but that will suffice for now. Of course, I radically disagree with Hegel’s conclusions. That does not mean Hegel is value-less. On the contrary, one can see key Augustinian and Origenist points in his outlook.

Taylor seems to structure his discussion of Hegel along the following lines: Phenomenology of Geist is a sort of preparatory stage for the Logic. At the end of the last discussion, Hegel said that Spirit (Geist) comes to know himself, and that finite spirits are the vehicles of this self-knowledge. This is partly why Hegel says that Geist must be embodied.

We start off with an inadequate notion of the standard involved; but we also have some basicaly correct notions of what the standard must meet. However, we see the inadequacy of both when we try to realize it. Obviously, Hegel is simply following Plato on this point.

What if we are just arbitrarily positing some standard of knowledge? No big deal, for upon reflection we will find out that said standard is likely faulty and we will have to “re-think it.” When we re-think it we get closer to the truth. Thus, “the test of knowledge is also its standard” (136).

Hegel ends this discussion with the suggestion that consciousness inevitably posits self-conscious, which will be taken up in the next chapter.

I’m skipping the section on “self-consciousness” because I really didn’t understand it, and concerning the elements of Hegel still relevant today, this isn’t one of them.

One thing I do appreciate about Hegel is that his worldview really is unified. His discussions on “ontology” (the study of essence) are directly connected to his politics and views on religion (and to show how “real-life” this really is: when Karl Marx read Hegel he kept a few elements but mainly despised the man and his system. He negated Hegel–pun intended. Following his negation, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao took this negation of Hegel and murdered 200 million people. Philosophy really does matter).

In the Formation of Spirit Taylor notes that Hegel idealized the ancient Greek polis: he saw a complete unity between citizen and society (171). Unfortunately (or inevitably) this had to break down. Spirit cannot become universal if it is confined to the walls of one particular city. This is an important, if somewhat abstract point. I will develop it further in my final reflections on Hegel.

Taylor remarks, somewhat side-tracking the discussion, that sin is necessary for salvation in Hegel’s view (174). Of course, as a Christian this is completely unacceptable, but it also shows my appreciation for Hegel. Hegel can be seen as the consistent high-point of a certain strand of Western thought. We saw the same type of thinking in Origen (for God to be Lord, there must be something for him to be Lord “over”), in a muted but present form in Augustine, and openly championed by some Reformed teachers today.

Essentially, what Hegel is saying is that men feel a basic attitude of alienation–their substance lies outside them and they can only overcome it by overcoming their particularity (179). Unfortunately, that is what Hegel calls a “contradiction.”

This part of Hegel’s Phenomenology is dealing heavily with social life, which I will cover in greater detail in the chapters on politics.

This next section of the book, and presumably the logical outflowing of Hegel’s thought, deals with “manifest religion.” I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, partly because it is the most atrocious aspect of Hegel’s thought, and partly because I want to get to the politics. However, Hegel is nothing if not consistent, and it is important to see how one section implies the next (which is exactly how his later Logic is set up). And as always, even when wrong Hegel has some excellent insights on the human dynamic.

Building on Hegel’s premise that God/Geist/Spirit, which is the ultimate reality, must be embodied in history, it follows that one must ask in what manner is it embodied? One of the most fundamental modes, Hegel posits, is in religion (197). Briefly stated, Hegel sees each epoch in human history as manifesting religion, but always in a contradictory way. The Greeks were able to apprehend “the universal,” but they could only do so in a finite and limited way (and thus the infinite/finite contradiction). This contradiction is not a bad thing, though, for it opened up the possibility of the Christian religion (with a detour through the Hebrews). Hegel sees the ultimate religious expression in the Incarnation.

What do we make of this?
Like anything Hegel says, much of the surface-level language is quite good, but once you get beyond that you see the truly bizarre theology. Hegel has a strong emphasis on community and will say that is where the true Christian expression is found. From our perspective, this sounds a lot like saying Christ is found in the church, and that is true. Unfortunately, Hegel was not using that in the same way we are.

At this point in the narrative we are beginning the discussion of Hegel’s two-volume Logic. While this is the hardest of his works to understand (and I certainly don’t understand them beyond a fourth-grade level), it will be easy to discuss them. His main points are clear and tied together.

A Dialectic of Categories

When one is studying reality, Hegel says, one can start anywhere in the system, for each facet is ultimately tied together (226). If we start with “Being” then our method will proceed dialectically. What he means by that is the very structure of reality has a contradiction, and in overcoming that contradiction Being moves forth to something else. Throughout the whole of this discussion, Hegel is starting from Kant and reworking the system along problems he sees in Kant.

To avoid confusion, and to silence the right-wing conspiracy bloggers, Hegel’s idea of contradiction is this: he has a two-pronged argument, the first showing that a given category is indispensable, the second showing that it leads to a characterization of reality which is somehow impossible or incoherent (228).

In developing the above contradiction, Hegel assumes the Plotinian dialectic: a Something can only be defined by referent to another with which it is contrasted (236).

Hegel says a lot more on these topics, but I will not. Throughout Taylor’s analysis he reveals interstesting facets of Hegel’s thought, showing him to be a true heir of Augustine and Plotinus.

Most right-wing bloggers think that Hegel’s view is the Illuminati finding its ultimate expression in world-government. Actually, what Hegel means is that communities become vehicles of the “Spirit.” This can (and has) been taken in numerous ways. I see it as communities organically expressing a common spirit, common values (see Augustine, City of God Book 19.4).

Hegel is trying to overcome the dilemma that social life poses: per man’s subjective life the important thing is freedom of spirit. However, man also lives in community and the norms of the community often bind his freedom of spirit (it is to Hegel’s credit that he recognized this problem generations before Nietszche and the existentialists).

Hegel suggests the form man must attain is a social form (366). It is important to note that what Hegel means by “state” is much different than what Anglo-Americans mean by it. Hegel means the “politically organized community” (387). Let’s explore these few sentences for a moment. Throughout his philosophy Hegel warns against “abstractions,” by which he means taking an entity outside its network of relations. With regard to politics, if abstraction is bad then it necessarily follows that man’s telos is in a community. Man comes into the world already in a network of relations.

Reason and History

Given Hegel’s commitment about the fulfillment of spirit, it follows that communities grow. As seen above, Hegel’s applies to history the problem of self-fulfillment. How does man realize the fulfillment of the Idea?

Jews: realization that God is pure, subjective Spirit. Ends up negating finite reality.

Greek: opposite of Jewish mentality. Harmonizes God with “natural expression.” Ends up with idolatry. Greek polis is pariochial. Each state his its own God. A universal realization of spirit is thus impossible. Men were identified with Greek state. Democracy natural expression. There is a necessary contradiction within the Greek polis: only represents a part of finite reality.

Romans: Origin of the idea as “Person,” bearer of “abstract right” (397).

Christianity: the finite subject and absolute spirit can be reconciled. The task of history is to make this reconciliation public–this is the Church.

Germans: they were to take it to the next stage.

The rest of European history is a working out these processes, a transformation of institutions. It is hear that we see feudalism, etc. At this point we need to correct a mistake about Hegel: Hegel is not saying that world history climaxes with Prussian Germany. There is no sensible way he could have believed that. Germany was weak and defeated when he wrote (it would have been interesting and perhaps more perceptive to say that Russia was the bearer of the World Spirit). Nonetheless, as Hegel notes and as his critics routinely miss, history did take an interesting turn in the 19th century and the force of ideas does not simply stop because the historian wants them to stop.

The Foundations of the Modern State

Monarchy as the Representative Individual: consistent with his earlier points, Hegel notes that there must be some way for the individual to retain his subjective right, yet at the same time freely and fully identify with the community (Staat). This happens by way of monarchy. Beneath the monarchy are Estates, who mediate the King to the people. Nowhere does Hegel mean representation according to our usage today. The King does not “represent” the will of the people, but through his kingly majesty allows the people to identify (399).

Interestingly, Taylor notes that the Reformation ended up desacralizing the political order, eventually seeing it as a “heap of objects” (401). This, of course, is the philosophy of nominalism.

The French Revolution: Political Terror

Hegel defines it as “absolute, unlimited freedom.” Complete freedom means that outcome should be decided by me. Of course, since I am in society it is not decided by me alone. Therefore, complete freedom is decided by the strongest individual. This is the conclusion of indivdiualism ala Locke.

Charles Taylor is embarrassed by Hegel’s rejection of the principles of the French Revolution. I think the reason is that if Hegel is right and one should view the Modern Narrative as a continuation of the French Revolution, then the only moral alternative is to reject said narrative. He notes (if not likes) Hegel’s challenge to modernity: the modern ideology of equality and of total participation leads to a homogenization of society. This shakes men loose from their traditional communities but cannot replace them as a focus of identity” (414).

Translation: all natural societies organically flow from a unified belief system/ethnos (cf. Augustine, City of God, 19.4). Modernity is the negation of this. Without this unified system of belief, men cannot “connect” to one another. Thus, no real community. Thus, no real unity and society is held together by force (ala Hegel on Rome) and terror (ala Hegel on France).

Modernity is nominalism of politics.

Hegel’s conclusion, which Taylor rejects, is a rationalized monarchy. Hegel was a monarchist but he was not a traditionalist, and for that reason he was not a conservative. He agreed with the older conservatives that society must be founded on authority, estates, and a strong monarch; Hegel, however, based these spheres, not on divine right or tradition, but on reason. In this sense Hegel stands firmly in the Enlightenment.

According to Hegel France is utterly lost in terms of a political future. England is better, but she is not far behind in spiritual rot, for England (like America today) is run riot with an excess on particular rights. And in this chaos of individualism, special interest groups backed by powerful elites have taken control (like America today).

Taylor notes that for Hegel,
“The only force which could cure this would be a strong monarchy like those late medieval kings which forced through the barons the rights of the universal. But the English have crucially weakened their monarchy; it is powerless before Parliament which is the cockpit of private interests (454).

I first found this line of reasoning from Fr. Raphael Johnson’s take on Russian history. I guess Johnson got it from Hegel himself since he wrote his Master’s thesis on Hegel.

Taylor continues to the conclusion,
Hence the vehicle by which rational constitution could best be introduced and made real was a powerful modernizing monarchy…Hegel had hopes for the future based on the climate of his times. Germany had been shocked into reform by the Napoleonic conquest. It consisted of societies founded on law in which principles of rational Enlightenment had already gone some way and seemed bound to go further. It had a Protestant political culture and hence could achieve a rational constitution unlike the benighted peoples of Latin Europe, and it was not too far gone in rot like England. It held to the monarchical principle and the monarchs retained some real power unlike England, and yet the societies were law societies (454-455).

This paragraph warrants some reflection:

Although I am a traditionalist, and Hegel is not, I agree that a modernizing monarchy is much preferred than unreflected claims to “Throne and Altar.” Many monarchists today naively think that “restoring a king” will return the land to justice. Ironically, this tends to lead to the same problems that Republican government leads: you have the vision of a few determining the fate of the whole. Rather, a strong monarch who enforces Republican structures in the land, arising from the will of the ethnos (shades of Johann Herder), existing primarily to reign in the excesses of the free market, is one who is both authoritarian yet the people are still free.

I am not sure on Hegel’s optimism for a Protestant Monarchy. I know that Germany saw as much, and even England can claim to be a “monarchy” in some vague watered-down sense (while we are at it, I actually encourage one to read the thoughtful positions by N. T. Wright and Oliver O’Donovan on monarchy). However, most Protestant political forces have been confessedly thoroughly anti-monarchist, and it is no surprise there are few Protestant Monarchies left. Happily, though, there are examples of good, Protestant monarchies.
While I disagree with founding a country on “the principles of Enlightenment,” given that it was the other horn of the dialectic (the other being Augustinian Filioquist politics), I don’t see that Hegel had much of an alternative choice. If Western history represented a dialectical clash after the Schism, then Hegel can’t be faulted for simply living and thinking through his times (as we all do).

Interestingly, Hegel’s vision sounds a lot like Putin’s Russia: a strong leader wary of the excesses of the market and trying to create “intermediate spaces” to shelter the yeoman from predatory capitalism.

Conclusion
In many ways Taylor’s book is essential. One has to know how Hegel is using terminology and Taylor is a reliable guide in that regard. Taylor cannot square himself with Hegel’s politics, though, since Hegel is a rejection (negation?) of modernit

Review: Martin Heidegger: Philosophy of Another Beginning

Heidegger was the most powerful non-analytic philosopher of the 20th century.  His language is both poetic and at times indecipherable. It takes a powerful thinker to interpret him and Aleksandr Dugin is such a man.  I am not endorsing Dugin’s larger project (though it is obviously superior to Western liberalism). Rather, Dugin more than anyone else understood Heidegger’s own Dasein.

Thesis: Heidegger is the transition point between the last of the old philosophy (Greece to Germany) and the new way of thinking (Dugin 18). Heidegger’s narrative: something was, something began, something ended (31).  Europe is the evening land (Abendland): it is time to put “Being” to sleep (37).

What makes Dugin helpful is that he clearly outlines Heidegger’s “code.” The root of his thought is ontological differentiation (41).

Seiende: beings. 

Sein: Being

Noema: does not correspond to beings themselves, but to thoughts about beings.

These two form a dyad.  The formation of the verb is always related to its inflection, its linkage to something (elastic bending, 42).  Sein in its pure form is abstract. It doesn’t “bend” to anything. Man already implicitly assumes that beings (Seiende) are. If we reflect upon this, we ask “What is the being (Sein) of beings (Seiende)?  What is common to all beings that makes them beings?

Heidegger reads Heraclitus and Aristotle as saying that Logos = Being = Unity (49).  Heidegger wants to challenge the idea that Being is the foundation of beings. The Tradition, which Heidegger will ultimately attack, says “Being” is the common property of “beings.”

Fundamental Ontology

Ousia is a particular way to conceive of Being–share quality of all beings (54). If we say that Being is the essence of beings, we establish two parallel levels: the level of beings and the level of essence (ousia).

Main argument: if we differentiate Being and beings through essence, we overlook the difference between Being and beings (54).  Thus, Being is not beings. This logically leads to nihilism.

Ontics

Ontic dimension: that which is present to thought.  Thinking about the world. This is the topography of Phusis: the sphere of beings.  This is a collected concept.

Ontology

The distance that arises as ontics reflects upon itself.  Ontology identifies the Being of beings with the essence (ousia: shared class of) of beings.  It attributes Being as an attribute of beings, but also exalts Being to a higher level.  This is what Dugin calls the “double topography” (58).  Greek thought abstracted Being from beings when it should have leapt into the primordial foundation of beings.

Seyn: the kind of Being that eludes ontology and is not grasped by abstracting it from other beings, but rather penetrating to the Nothingness (59). Argument: in the doubled topography logos was severed from beings (63). When we say we  need to explore the nothing, we are not modern nihilists. We are going to beings’ primordial source (63). This is what generates beings but is not beings.

The Beginning and End of Western European Philosophy

The Greek take on Being leads to the oblivion of Being.

Being–beings-as-a-whole–is replaced by the notion (Vorstellung) of it.  This notion then becomes more disconnected and mechanical (92)

The Pre-Socratics took the obvious claim that “beings” are, but they then sought to find what was the “Being” of beings, and they interpreted this as phusis (99).  This means that Being now is. Now Being (Sein) precedes beings and is different from them.

Plato

Being is now an Idea. It is that which is placed before man (106).  That’s Dugin’s language and I don’t think it is the clearest. This is one of those times where German could be clear.  Ideas function in a gegenstand relationship with Man. That’s not all, though. Not only does man stand before Ideas, but Ideas stand before things of the world (107).

Maybe we can say it this way:  Ideas are always across from man.  There is a “gap.” Man is always “before” (across) the ideas.  Thus Heidegger’s conclusion: man (being) is no longer in the world, but across from it.  Man is pre-sented before the world, which means Ideas have to be re-presented to him. Truth is now correspondence between Idea and Object.

dugin_1_fot_yt-746x280

I’ll skip Heidegger’s section on Christianity.  For all of his genius, he is utterly incompetent on this point.  If all he had to say was that Thomas Aquinas helped with the oblivion of being, then fine.  But he didn’t understand Semitic thought, nor did he want to. Thus when Yahweh says “I am that I am,” Heidegger just thinks it means Being qua Being.

Descartes

Descartes adapted but never left Plato.  In Modernity instead of Plato’s Idea we have new “representations: the subject, apperception, energy, reality, the monad, etc.” (114). Descartes starts with the Subject.  This subject either is or inside the human mind.

Everything is is re-presented before the Subject.  Descartes calls these beings objects (115). A subject must have an object to stand before it. Modernity will then use Scientism to function as the subject.  This means that Scientism now controls the objects before it, which could be anything from plants to animals to humans.

IMG_0574

The chart doesn’t make it clear, but the actual topography stops at Marxism.  I wrote “break” in the margin. Everything below the break is what pertains to the New Beginning.  What I’m interested in is the topography itself.  He shows how Western Philosophy took “Being” and made it into Ideas, Will, reason, Power, and finally techne, the reign of machine over man.

Metapolitics,

Heidegger’s true genius is his opening of political space. I don’t think his attack on “Being-Sein” will hold out, although he does make some valid criticisms of Marxism and Liberalism.

Heidegger uses “Planetarism” for what we call “globalism” (161).  He identifies this with America, or rather an extreme individualism and consumerism. For Heidegger Planetarism is nihilistic because it expresses only one thing: the triumph of techne, which obliterates Being.  Dugin argues that “Liberalism equates the Cartesian subject with the individual and pragmatic calculations in the area of countable tangible and intangible objects” (162).

Communism and Machenschaft

Marx stays true to the metaphysical topography. He has a subject (society, class) and an object (matter, product, thing).  Marx correctly noted that Machenschaft created alienation. His solution is to use techne (objects) to overcome the alienation.  He overcomes the alienation by means of what brought alienation (166)!

This explains why Heidegger identified with National Socialism.  He saw Being at its historical end. Liberalism and Communism were the last manifestation of the history of Being.  National Socialism, so he thought, was the only thing resisting these two. Therefore, the New Beginning would come.  Except it didn;t.

This next section is difficult, even from a Heideggerian perspective.  Heidegger’s argument is that Western metaphysics reached its nihilistic end.  I suppose that’s true. A new metaphysics is needed and this one must focus on Seyn-being (good being).  The only way to do this is what Heidegger calls “Das Geviert,” the four-fold. The only way to reach Geviert is through the Ereignis (the event) which calls for a radical decision, a leap into the abyss.

That’s the summary, anyway.  Let’s unpack it. When we experience Seyn, that is, when we choose to let beings spring up rather than abstracting them into an artificial genus, then we will see everything in a four-fold way: Sky (world), Earth, gods, and men.

Sky: this normally corresponds to Welt or world (totality). It is what cosmos was for the Greeks.  It is the principle of harmony. Heidegger strangely says these principles will be at war with each other, which is odd since sky is supposed to represent harmony.  I think by war he really means risk, the element of uncertainty. Sky is not an object. It is the world in its openness (200). It is an orientation.

Heidegger insists that world/sky is always connected with a Volk, a people.

Earth: the earth leads to presence. It makes sky real.

Gods: He doesn’t mean what we mean by gods.  He means something like the numinous. They can’t be gods like we think because that would put them back into the Platonic metaphysics of being.  The “gods” can’t have being. Well, what are they? I’m not sure. I’m not sure that Heidegger is sure, either. The only close parallel I can think of is “sacramental presence,” which of course Heidegger doesn’t accept.

Men: They are neither subjects of being nor objects, but only a dimension of being.

geviert

The four-fold forms a St Andrews Cross.  Seyn-being lives in between (Inzwischen).  Since Heidegger rejects the old metaphysics, it can’t be located in a place, but only between places (but isn’t this also a place?).  Another name for this “in-betweeness” is “Ereignis, the event. This is the single moment where Seyn is manifest. At the risk of sounding like the old metaphysics, let’s take what they call an object but which we will call the Thing (das Ding).  It is being in presence. The sky makes it what it is. The earth makes it present. The gods give it the holy. Man speaks it through language (231). Applied to objects in general this is incoherent. Applied to the Lord’s Supper it makes sense.

ereignis

I’m not so sure this works as a whole metaphysics.  On the other hand, though, it does function as a cipher to view the current metaphysical chaos, which appears to lead to transhumanism.

Misplacing Geviert

The old metaphysics took the dimension of Sky and place the “Ideas” in it.  The Ideas then replaced sky (235). The earth has now been turned to matter. It is hule.  Man is now a rational animal. He no longer names things through poetry but rather mass produces them in a factory.

After Descartes man is now a subject who transforms everything else into an object (254). Everything, even God, is now an object.   This god “lost the attributes of a subject and became a mental abstraction,” which was soon discarded (255).

Gestell

Gestell is Heidegger’s word for the artificial framing of an object. It is “the essence of the world’s inauthentic concepts” (258).  Applied to the Sky-dimension, we no longer have ideas but satellites (261).

Simulacrum

This is an interesting postmodern concept. It is a copy without an original (see the idiocy of a Rorschach test).  On one hand it is meaningless and empty. On the other hand it represents an endless will to power (268).

The New Dasein

Dasein is not a what but a how. It is the “shock” you experience when you are awakened to a new idea (293). Heidegger wants Dasein to function as a way to overcome the subject-object duality.

Conclusion and Analysis

It’s easy to see why Amazon banned this book.  Dugin is too powerful a thinker for them to deal with.  That’s a shame, too, since this is one of the better books on Heidegger.  Aside from a few typos, this edition is quite nice.  It is well-bound and has a fine finish on the cover.

I question Heidegger’s larger project.  He wants a god who can never be. Literally.  His god that passes by does absolutely nothing.  To his credit I think he realized this.  He saw that National Socialism couldn’t bring about Geviert.

Here is the problem with his take on Christianity:  We do not say that God is a being among beings.  We say that God is beyond being.  Hyper-ousia.

Hegel: Philosophy of Right

Dugin gives a good summary of the general problem here.

Hegel and the Platonic Leap Down

Without endorsing Hegel’s whole project, much of this is very good.

Hegel gives primacy to constitutional monarchy, but wants a government that allows civic participation. Citizens should participate in government as part of a subset of the whole–not as individuals. Hegel calls these subsets “corporations.” I don’t know to what extent corporations in the mid-19th century resemble corporations today. But we can view it another way by calling them “estates,” which is exactly how medieval many participated in the monarchical order.

Hegel wants a constitutional monarchy, to which I have grave misgivings. I understand why, though. At that time in Europe, the old liturgical tradition had largely been eradicated. Institutions tended to reflect raw power. Hegel likely says monarchies as absolute monarchies and wanted to mute that tendency.

Most interesting, he sees the monarch–properly understood–as the concrete embodiment of a culture’s values. It’s also important to point out that Hegel did not mean by “state” what we mean by it, simply the bureaucratic apparatus that takes away liberty. He meant the combined culture and volk.

The Foundations of the Modern State

Monarchy as the Representative Individual: consistent with his earlier points, Hegel notes that there must be some way for the individual to retain his subjective right, yet at the same time freely and fully identify with the community (Staat). This happens by way of monarchy. Beneath the monarchy are Estates, who mediate the King to the people. Nowhere does Hegel mean representation according to our usage today. The King does not “represent” the will of the people, but through his kingly majesty allows the people to identify.

The French Revolution: Political Terror

Hegel defines it as “absolute, unlimited freedom.” Complete freedom means that outcome should be decided by me. Of course, since I am in society it is not decided by me alone. Therefore, complete freedom is decided by the strongest individual. This is the conclusion of indivdiualism ala Hobbes.

I think the reason is that if Hegel is right and one should view the Modern Narrative as a continuation of the French Revolution, then the only moral alternative is to reject said narrative. Hegel’s challenge to modernity: the modern ideology of equality and of total participation leads to a homogenization of society. This shakes men loose from their traditional communities but cannot replace them as a focus of identity” .

Translation: all natural societies organically flow from a unified belief system/ethnos (cf. Augustine, City of God, 19.4). Modernity is the negation of this. Without this unified system of belief, men cannot “connect” to one another. Thus, no real community. Thus, no real unity and society is held together by force (ala Hegel on Rome) and terror (ala Hegel on France).

Hegel’s conclusion is a rationalized monarchy. Hegel was a monarchist but he was not a traditionalist, and for that reason he was not a conservative. He agreed with the older conservatives that society must be founded on authority, estates, and a strong monarch; Hegel, however, based these spheres, not on divine right or tradition, but on reason. In this sense Hegel stands firmly in the Enlightenment.

According to Hegel France is utterly lost in terms of a political future. England is better, but she is not far behind in spiritual rot, for England (like America today) is run riot with an excess on particular rights. And in this chaos of individualism, special interest groups backed by powerful elites have taken control (like America today).

“The only force which could cure this would be a strong monarchy like those late medieval kings which forced through the barons the rights of the universal. But the English have crucially weakened their monarchy; it is powerless before Parliament which is the cockpit of private interests.

Charles Taylor continues to the conclusion,

Hence the vehicle by which rational constitution could best be introduced and made real was a powerful modernizing monarchy…Hegel had hopes for the future based on the climate of his times. Germany had been shocked into reform by the Napoleonic conquest. It consisted of societies founded on law in which principles of rational Enlightenment had already gone some way and seemed bound to go further. It had a Protestant political culture and hence could achieve a rational constitution unlike the benighted peoples of Latin Europe, and it was not too far gone in rot like England. It held to the monarchical principle and the monarchs retained some real power unlike England, and yet the societies were law societies (454-455).

Hegel wanted man to participate in civic life, and I think he was able to avoid the two extremes of absolute monarchy and oligarchic Republicanism. While Hegel wanted man to participate in the civitas, he knew that man as an individual among (often wealthier and more powerful) individuals, could not participate in civic life. For example, if all that matters is “individualism,” then the strongest individual wins–and your claims are marginalized. This is more often a problem in Republics than in monarchies, for a monarch (or a Putin-like figure) can often block and shut down the “rich oligarchs.”

What Hegel opted to do was posit the Guild (he calls it “corporation.” I will not call it that because it connotes and denotes something different today). The Guild (or Guilds), which represents the workers and the individuals, can allow man to face “Big Business” and “Big Capital,” not as a mere individual, but as a group of workers.

This raises the problem of Unions today. Admittedly, I don’t like Unions. 9 times out of 10 they are merely fronts for the Democratic Party, agitators, etc. That is an unfortunate accident of the Guild System; I do not believe it is the essence of the Guild system. (For a perfect analysis of the above sentences, see the Simpsons Episode where Homer is elected “union president” and mistakenly thinks he is an organized crime boss.

 

 

Natural Right and History (Leo Strauss)

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Strauss, Leo. Natural Right and History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957.

This is a pivotal book by a world-class intellect.  Strauss discusses the genealogy of “rights” talk from the ancients to the present day.  He doesn’t really offer a program on how to move forward, but that’s not really his point, either.  Before we can work on human rights today, we need to know what the phrase means.

The difficulty in speaking of “natural right” is that we moderns are so far removed from the ancients.  They knew man had a telos. Nature is connected to the universe’s natural end (Strauss 7).

Strauss identifies the two main opponents of natural law: positivism (aka, university sociology departments) and historicism.  The former assumes the fact/value dichotomy, which doesn’t allow us to make value judgments on a particular society. The upshot is you can’t say a particular society is embodying the Good.  In fact, you can’t say good at all. That distinction breaks down, though. Even if a Weberian refuses to make a value distinction, he is working within his own framework of values and he filters the evidence through those values.

The Story of Natural Right

Prephilosophical man identified the pleasant with the good (83).  The right way is our custom. Philosophy begins when we doubt this ancestral code. Applied more broadly, this creates problems: if many communities’ ancestral codes are different, which one is right?  This forces us to search for the Good.

The ancient philosophers generally began to see that “nature” is the “actualization of a human possibility which …is trans-historical, trans-social, trans-moral, and trans-religious” (89).

Classic Natural Right

All knowledge presupposes a horizon (125). This pushes us to a view of the whole, which means we cannot rest with any single community code. To help them in their quest, the classics employed the term Politeia. It means constitution, but it means more than simply a legal code. “It is the factual distribution of power within the community” (136). It is a way of life determined by a form of government.

Here is where it gets interesting.  The Politeia should not act unjustly. This means it can’t engage in things like deception during war.  Therefore, we need a world-state to outlaw war! Seems rather extreme. In any case, the solution “to the problems of justice must transcend the limits of political life” (Strauss 151).

Variations of Natural Right

Aristotle: the relation of virtue to human nature is like that of act and potency (145; Ethics 1097b24).

Platonic: giving to everyone what is due to him according to nature (Republic 331c1-332c4).

Thomistic: principles of the moral law.  Points to man’s moral and intellectual ends.

Modern Natural Right

Hobbes: teleology is impossible. We do not begin with the nature of man, but in prima naturae (180).  Everyone is guided by the fear of death. The state, therefore, is not to safeguard virtue but simply protect our negative rights. 

Strauss then offers a penetrating critique of Hobbes.  Hobbes built his philosophy on the extreme cases, when the social fabric has broken down. We fear the violent death.  Yet Hobbes also said that the fear of violent death is sometimes overridden by heroism, virtue, charity, etc. Therefore, his principle isn’t universally valid.  In fact, it isn’t valid in the extreme case at all. Therefore, it is useless (196). Remember that scene in Batman where the Joker plants bombs on the ships to see who will blow it up first?  That scene is a complete refutation of Hobbes.

The Problems with Modern Rights

Burke pointed out that participation in political power “does not belong to the rights of man, because men have a right to good government, and there is no necessary connection between good government and government by the many.”  If anything, the rights of men point to a natural aristocracy (298).

That’s good.  Unfortunately, Burke held to the British sensualist view of art, which specifically denied a connection between intellectual beauty (e.g., mathematical proportions) and sensible beauty (312).  The result is an emancipation of sentiment from reason

Recovering Natural Right

Man’s true freedom requires “ends of a certain kind,” which must be “anchored in ultimate values” (44).

The Social Contract (Rousseau)

The best cipher to understand Rousseau is to see his General Will as a secular retelling of the Christian doctrine of divine simplicity.  Did Rousseau intend it like this? No. But it amounts to the same thing and in places he uses the same language.  Imagine the Carolignian Shield.  Place the General Will in the Center where the divine essence should be.  The persons will be the state, government, people, etc.  It doesn’t matter what you choose, since the only thing that matters is the General Will.

ghd

The Good

There isn’t much that is good in Rousseau, but I need to be fair and try.  I think he recognizes the difficulty of “rights-language” and trying to speak of abstract rights.  He also understands the difficulties a government faces when it tries to legitimize itself after a violent revolution.  He also introduces categories like “alienation” which will be huge when we get to Marx.

Flow of the Argument

When I am alone, I have all my rights and freedoms.  This is alienation from everyone else, though. If I band together with others, I (and they) have to cede my rights (and Rousseau is clear that you are ceding all of your rights, I.6).  The result is when you give yourself to everyone, you give yourself to nobody.

General will: this functions as the divine essence for Rousseau’s politics.  When each person cedes his rights to the general body, “this act of association creates a moral and collective body.”  And you don’t have any choice. You are compelled to be free (I.7).

We need to see what is happening here.  Rousseau is clear that you are giving up all of your property (1.8), but that’s okay: you are getting it back in the form of security.  The state, however, is still “master of all their goods by the social contract, which, within the state, is the basis of all rights” (1.9).

Sovereignty is the act of the general will (II.1).  The will itself is not divided; you only receive the effects of sovereignty.  Does this sound familiar? This is concept-for-concept the Christian doctrine of divine simplicity.

He has some historical surveys on laws and republics.

One of the effects of this secular divine essence is the creation of a (divine?) person. This is the state, who has “absolute power over all its members” (II.4).

Out of nowhere Rousseau asserts that “representation” is incompatible with the general will.  This seems to strike at the heart of democracy, but he’s right. If sovereignty lies in the general will, which is indivisible, then how can it be mediated through the people (III.15)?

The Bad

This is totalitarianism.  The General Will is never wrong.  Rousseau says as much. “The general will is always right and tends towards the public advantage; but it does not follow that the deliberations of the people are equally correct” (II.2).  Translation: anything bad that happens is because of the people, not the general will.

The General Will can never exercise particular actions, otherwise it would be a particular willing.  Rousseau never really gets around this problem. This seems to imply that the General Will is too abstract to be useful.  He doesn’t want to say that, though, since that would make his General Will irrelevant. (And as Cambodia showed, it was all too painfully relevant).

I don’t think he ever solves the problem, but he does raise a relevant point:  the General Will must have a General Object. What is this object? I don’t know.  I think, though, it is some abstraction like “freedom” or “democracy.” This kind of makes sense.  Have you ever wondered how tyrannical states like North Korea, Revolutionary France, China, and Cambodia could call themselves “republics” and “democracies?”  They were being consistent. If all democracy really means is the abstract object of the General Will, why not call it that?

Critique

1) His evidence for this primal state of man is tenuous.  In fact, it is never offered and we have no real reason for believing it.

2) The moment is General Will acts, it is no longer general.  It’s always going to be represented (which he says is impossible) by someone or group. As Gordon Clark noted, ““He seems to be torn between an infallible general will that cannot express itself and an expressed majority vote that is not infallible…” (Christian View of Men and Things, 121). This is why the elite classes in Communist societies were always very wealthy and well-fed.  Communism didn’t apply to them.

This is a terrible book.  It is even more terrible because it is very well-written.

 

Hobbes: Leviathan

Leviathan

In the beginning of his treatise Hobbes stays very close to the “Received Tradition.” He does make some troubling moves, though, and quite subtlely. He rejects the idea of a “Summum Bonum.” His definition of natural law leaves out any reference to the eternal law or the mind of God. He views liberty as a zero-sum game.

Key themes:

Anthropology: Hobbes begins with anthropology, and his politics are logical inferences from it. Hobbes defines a “Body” as that which occupies space. Substance is matter, synonymous with body. The soul is simply the body living. He specifically rejects the idea that the soul is distinct from the body (639). Hobbes has defined man in purely material terms.

Not surprisingly, Hobbes rejects free agency. Liberty and necessity are the same thing: what a man does he freely does. Yet every act of man has a desire, and so a cause. And from that another cause, all the way back to the First Cause. This appears to be Jonathan Edwards’ view as well.

Social Contract: before the institution of the commonwealth, every man had a right to everything and by any means to preserve his own (354). This means that the State can never make an unjust law.
P1: Justice is when two agree to an exchange (if you didn’t agree, you wouldn’t do the exchange).
P2: You agreed to invest the state with authority (social contract).
________________
Therefore, any law the state makes automatically has your agreement.

Zero-Sum ethics: Hobbes holds that what is mine cannot be yours; if the state has liberty, then the subject to that degree cannot. Since there is no summum bonum, there can be no sharing in the ultimate good. This, plain and simple, is the economics of Hell. Hobbes is not a pure capitalist, though. He argues elsewhere against private charity and for state welfare (387).

Religious Persecution

Hobbes argues that religious persecution is impossible, since 1) the state can’t do wrong, and 2) only martyrs can be persecuted. Further (2a) a person can only be a martyr if they have seen the risen Jesus, which rules out everyone after the Apostle John. Therefore, no one today can be a martyr. Keep in mind that thousands of Scottish Covenanters were being butchered on the basis of Hobbes’ argument. This reminds me of a time at RTS when a local Reformed pastor came in the book store and told me that he held to Hobbes’s view of the state. I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want to end up in a FEMA camp.

Critique

My critique will follow Dabney’s (The Sensualistic Philosophy, pp. 15-20). Hobbes has to pay a high price for his materialism. If everything reduces to sensation, then whence come numbers, mind, any correspondence between my mind and the external world, all a priori judgments, logic, and abstract entities?

If everything is sensation, then what unites the sensations? (Hume’s famous line “a bundle of sensations”) Hobbes would have to answer yet another sensation. But what unites that sensation to the previous sensations? Ad infinitum. If Hobbes bites the bullet and rejects the need for a unity, then he needs to give up concepts like identity (and probably the concept of “concept” itself). This is the fatal consequence in rejecting philosophical realism. Hobbes is split between the One and the Many. His power-state collapses everything into the One, yet his nominalism reduces everything to an aggregate of an unconnected Many.

Conclusion

I give the book 1 star for its demonic content and 5 stars for its influence. Indeed, rebutting Hobbes is like casting down demonic strongholds (2 Corinthians 10). It’s fairly easy to read and there is no mistaking its influence (the “Father of Political Science”)

John Locke: 2nd Treatise Civil Govt

locke

A book much talked about (sometimes maligned) but rarely read. There are several good reasons to read this book: namely, Locke articulates a rather clear and logically coherent theory of resistance–but more on that later.

Like Hobbes and Rousseau, albeit with different and more godly conclusions, Locke analyzes man in his state of nature. What is this state of nature? It is men living together in reason without a common superior (III.19). If that is so, then why would anyone surrender a portion of his liberty and authority to incorporate into a state? Locke gives a clear, if not entirely consistent answer: men incorporate together because of the precariousness of solitary existence. Agreed, but if the state of nature is what it is, then why do men have to worry?

Labour as Distinction and Valuation: Labour creates a distinction between “his” and “common.” Labour begins the distinction of property.

Whatever a man cannot use for himself returns to the realm of “common” (V.29). Locke argues, contra later libertarians, that things have an intrinsic value, though not absolutely so (V.37). Their value depends on their usefulness to the life of man. Labour puts the difference of value on everything (V.40). Labour puts the value on land. Labour gives the right of property (V.45).

Money, however, has subjective value (V.47). It Has value from the consent of men. I think Locke has struck a good balance here. His emphasis on labour and the land maintains a healthy work ethic (a point Adam Smith capitalized on, much to the anger and ire of the Misesian School, though the Austrian school’s understanding of marginal utility far superior).

He ends his treatise with a discussion of representative government and the right and limits of resistance.  Below is an outline:

  1. State of Nature
    1. equality; reciprocity; men living together in reason without a common superior (III.19).
    2. Natural Rights
      1. Punish crime (every man in the state of nature has the right to kill a murderer).
      2. reparation
    3. All men are naturally in this state and remain so, until by their own consent they make themselves members of a political society (II.15).
  2. State of War
  3. Slavery
    1. “Nobody can give more power than he has himself,” and since we cannot take away our own lives, we cannot give our lives to others (IV.22)
    2. Slavery is the continuation of the state of war
  4. Property
    1. Mankind living in State of Nature has all things in common.
      1. Yet this is not an absolute commonality.
      2. Every man has property in his own person.
        1. His “labour” is an extension of that person.  
    2. Labour creates a distinction between “his” and “common.”
      1. Labour begins the distinction of property.
      2. Whatever a man cannot use for himself returns to the realm of “common” (V.29).  
      3. God commanded men to be industrious.  
    3. Labour as Valuation
      1. things have an intrinsic value, though not absolutely so (V.37)
        1. Their value depends on their usefulness to the life of man.
        2. Labour puts the difference of value on everything (V.40).
          1. Labour puts the value on land.
          2. Labour gives the right of property (V.45).
      2. Money, however, has subjective value (V.47).
        1. Has value from the consent of men.
  5. Paternal Power
    1. Law is not the limitation of freedom, but its direction to the proper interest (VI.57).
    2. Liberty is to be free from restraint and violence.
  6. Political and Civil Society

Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics

Image result for nicomachean ethics

There are too many classic discussions in this book for it to be ignored.  Especially in the chaos of the Social Justice movement, any rigorous discussion of justice is to be welcomed.  That’s not to say that all of Aristotle’s conclusions are good, but the discussion itself is excellent.

There is Aristotle’s famous line that all human activity aims at some end.  This leads us to ask, “What is the good?” He correctly rebuts Plato’s idea that Knowing the Good makes me better at what I am doing.   The one simply doesn’t follow the other.

Specifically, human good is the function of the soul in accordance with virtue.  Further, a good life will aim at happiness (eudamion).  Happiness is a good life and good actions.

Choosing the mean

The good action will be the mean between two extremes.   The problem with this, as Aristotle seems aware, is that it doesn’t apply to some actions.   Aristotle says a just man acts justly. Okay, that tells me how he acts; it doesn’t tell me what justice is.

Book I

The good is that at which all things aim.  The supreme good is eudaimion (unhappily–sorry for the pun–translated as “happiness”).  Happiness is living well and doing well (1095a). But where is happiness located? Not in the Forms, contra Plato, but in an activity of the soul.

Book 2

Moral virtue comes about as a result of habit.  Contra the later Christian tradition, virtues do not arise by nature in us (1103a).  Virtues are modes of choice located in the intermediate between two extremes. The intermediate is between excess and defect.

Book 3

A compulsory action is when the cause of the action is external and the agent contributes nothing.  Anything that is done by reason of ignorance is not voluntary. A voluntary action is when the moving principle is within the agent.

Temperance is a mean with regard to pleasures. It only applies to the irrational (bodily) parts.

Book 4

Liberality and Wealth

Definition of wealth: “all the things whose value is measured by money” (1119 b25).

Justice is complete virtue in relation to others.   There is general and particular justice. Particular justice concerns transactions.  It is an intermediate that implies equality between two. Therefore, justice has four terms: the two people and the two objects.  Therefore, the just is a species of the proportionate. As it is an equality of ratios, it involves four terms (1131 a30).

Rectifying justice: distributes common possessions in proportion. The goal is to restore equality.  What does “equal” mean? It is the intermediate between greater and lesser (1132 a15). Imagine a dotted line of unequal parts.  The judge takes away that which makes them unequal.

Money: there must be reciprocity in exchange (1133 a30).  Money acts as a measure.

Aristotle says that there must be a proportional reciprocity in a just exchange.  But this begs the question: who would knowingly enter into an unjust exchange? In which case, all that can be condemned is simply fraud.

Murray Rothbard summarizes the issues in Book 5:

Aristotle’s famous discussion of reciprocity in exchange in Book V of his Nichomachean Ethics is a prime example of descent into gibberish. Aristotle talks of a builder exchanging a house for the shoes produced by a shoemaker. He then writes: ‘The number of shoes exchanged for a house must therefore correspond to the ratio of builder to shoemaker. For if this be not so, there will be no exchange and no intercourse’. Eh? How can there possibly be a ratio of ‘builder’ to ‘shoemaker’? Much less an equating of that ratio to shoes/houses? In what units can men like builders and shoemakers be expressed?

The correct answer is that there is no meaning, and that this particular exercise should be dismissed as an unfortunate example of Pythagorean quantophrenia (Rothbard, Austrian Perspective on Economic History Before Adam Smith, 17).

Aristotle argues that there must be an equal ratio between the two objects in the exchange, but this is impossible to determine with dissimilar objects.  It is precisely because they are dissimilar that persons A and B do not view them as equal.

Book 8

His take on friendship is interesting.  It was later perfected by the Christian doctrine of koinonia.