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International Perspectives on Pragmatism [Unabridged]
 9781443801942, 1443801941

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International Perspectives on Pragmatism

International Perspectives on Pragmatism

Edited by

Peter H. Hare, Michel Weber, J.K. Swindler, Oana-Maria Pastae and Cerasel Cuteanu

International Perspectives on Pragmatism, Edited by Peter H. Hare, Michel Weber, J.K. Swindler, Oana-Maria Pastae and Cerasel Cuteanu This book first published 2009 Cambridge Scholars Publishing 12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2009 by Peter H. Hare, Michel Weber, J.K. Swindler, Oana-Maria Pastae and Cerasel Cuteanu and contributors All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-0194-1, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-0194-2

This volume is dedicated to the memory of Peter H. Hare


Preface ........................................................................................................ xi Introduction .............................................................................................. xiii Prologue: Modernity between humanism and crisis; towards pragmatism and liberalism by overcoming tradition On Human Dignity: The Testament of the Two Humanisms ...................... 2 Jason Jordan Aspects of the crisis of the West................................................................ 13 Mihaela Stefanescu Part I: Practical Politics Social Contract Theory and Disaster Preparation: The Importance of Including Civilians ................................................................................ 28 Naomi Zack Libertarianism: Old Recipe for a New America? ...................................... 42 Horst Freyhofer Democracy, Liberalism and Freedom........................................................ 52 Simon Glynn William James and the Haymarket Affair: A Case Study of Pragmatic Politics ....................................................................................................... 69 Linda Simon Pragmatism and Political Practice: A Developing Country Perspective ... 76 Jane Skinner


Table of Contents

The Values and Practices of Democracy in Deweyan Pragmatism: A Brief Exploration ................................................................................... 85 Marjorie O’Loughlin The Right to Permanent Residency as a Human Right: A Kantian Inquiry.................................................................................... 102 Jason D. Hill Pragmatic Anarchy in A. N. Whitehead .................................................. 118 Michel Weber Part II: Democratic Theory Rationalist Grounds for Pragmatist Democracy ...................................... 150 J.K. Swindler Humanity and Moral Duty: Contexts with Rorty’s Ideas ........................ 160 Vasil Gluchman The Rortyan Concept of Justice as a ‘Larger Loyalty’ ............................ 174 Susana de Castro Rorty on Democracy and Justification .................................................... 181 Michael Hodges Contemporary Society under the Tyranny of a Democracy of the Truth ... 193 Cerasel Cuteanu Pragmatism and Human Rights ............................................................... 211 Jon Mahoney Teacher, Democratic Values and Methods (Dewey and his Philosophy of Education) ........................................................................................... 220 Marta Gluchmanova A Pragmatic Defense of Justice............................................................... 230 Ned McClennen

International Perspectives on Pragmatism


Part III: Art and Community Community of Art ................................................................................... 254 Krystyna Wilkoszewska Comments and Queries: Krystyna Wilkoszewska’s “Community of Art”...................................................................................................... 264 Peter H. Hare


The pragmatist discussion on today’s various and complex aspects of our society is one of high interest in contemporary philosophy, especially due to philosophers, such as Richard Rorty, whose work reactivated much of the emphasis on pragmatism lately. In September of ’08, the “Constantin Brancusi” University from Targu-Jiu, Romania, was happy to host some of the well-recognized world’s philosophers at an international conference on pragmatism, society and politics. This volume is the result of a selection of the papers presented during this conference. The topics gravitated around pragmatism and political philosophy, having, at the same time, a solid background in the history of culture. Amongst the themes representing the focus of this international gathering, we would mention a few that are very interesting for recent discussion: democracy and pragmatism, liberalism and democracy as traditions of modernity, liberalism and Marxism, democratic values and democratic practices, the possibility/impossibility of cosmopolitan democracy as a moral achievement, political ideology vs. religion: Dewey – religion and democracy inside pragmatism, democracy: universalism or specificity - the connection with Enlightenment. The structure of the volume reflects a refined mixture between practical – political philosophy and the history of ideas. Consequently, the volume opens up with two papers that create a cultural background for the postmodernist jump towards pragmatism and liberalism (by overcoming tradition in a West characterized both by humanism and crisis). Thus, the focus on practical politics (the division following the prologue) makes possible a discussion on classic topics in an updated manner, such as social contract (Dr Naomi Zack’s “Social Contract Theory…”), but also very vivid stands on issues directly connected to social and political controversies specific to the global world we live in nowadays (dealing with terrorism, libertarianism, democracy in South-Africa etc). The second division of the volume – “Democratic theory” represents a fascinating discussion around the popular concept of democracy. Since it’s the globally generalized model of political ideal, democracy seems, according to the authors, an ideal that lost its ideality, some of its flaws



being usually overseen. Agreeing with the fact the Dewey is one of the key-theoreticians of the democratic attitude, some of the papers emphasize the fact that its conceptual fundaments are to be found inside Platonism and Kantianism (Jim Swindler), while others (Gluchman, Cuteanu) go with Rorty and his anti-foundationalist approach, an interpretation quite far from Kantianism, both from a moral and epistemological point of view. Of course, such views “flirt” with a thick touch of relativism, even though dismissed by Rorty. As an example, Michael Hodges’ paper is a very entertaining debate with his colleague at Vanderbilt – Robert Tallisse – and around the fact that the doing away with foundationalism would lower democracy to the level of tyranny. A very interesting discussion is Jon Mahoney’s in his paper “Pragmatism and human Rights”, where he approaches Michael Ignatieff’s arguments from Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry; Jon Mahoney goes against pragmatism and concludes that human rights need a moral foundation. The final part of the volume is one that looks at the concept of art in a pragmatist society and bears the refined debate between Professor Krystyna Wilkoszewska and Doctor Peter Hare about art and how it can build a community of experience. Before ending, we would like to mention the tremendous influence that Peter Hare’s personality had on the success of the conference our university organized last year; Dr Hare generously accepted to be international co-organizer of the conference. As Dr Hare passed away so suddenly last year, it is an honor for us to dedicate this volume to his memory. It has been a privilege to have, amongst us, somebody who has done so much for philosophy for half a century. Adrian Gorun, Ph.D. President of the “Constantin Brancusi” University from Tg- Jiu, Romania


Undoubtedly one of the most traumatic discoveries in human intellectual history was the realization that the powers that be were neither natural, necessary, nor preordained. This discovery —seemingly so innocuous to our jaded culture in which rebellion is a fashion of selfexpression— germinated in the fecund soil of Europe amply fertilized with the corpses of the wars of religion. The second half of the 17th century was a time much like our own. The peace of Westphalia, an exquisitely warweary and pragmatic accord, ended nearly a century and a half of bitter religious conflicts, sought to codify the inviolable sovereignty of European kingdoms, and established the carefully guarded European balance of power. Kings would continue to fight their dynastic wars, but these were the desultory affairs of squabbling relatives, not great crusades in defense of the faith. The Holy Church had taught the divine right of kings and Luther had admonished his followers to render unto Caesar, but in the post-ideological world of early-modern Europe, where power and sovereignty was protected not by God but by carefully worded treaties and grand alliances, such notions seemed increasingly quaint. The philosophical realization born of this epoch: that the state required legitimation, was to produce practical results like no other intellectual revolution in history. New wars of ideology set Europe ablaze. Outside Canada and the Guyanas, the entirety of the Euro-American western hemisphere revolted from is old masters. Yet, in the old world, the Westphalian alliances and reciprocal structures of power held before the onslaught of the Enlightenment, were re-codified in the Congress of Vienna, and enforced bloodily in 1849. This new pragmatic accord was of surprising longevity, but it too broke, unleashing two bitterly ideological World Wars, and an even more ideological Cold War that split the World in two. Of this we inhabit the wake. Such times may seem uninspiring ones in which to live: it is far more romantic to man the barricades in defense of the Revolution, or a tank in the great crusade against fascism. Nonetheless, such weary times have proven intellectually fecund: the most productive age of Greek philosophy, from Socrates to Aristotle, came after the bloodbath of the Peloponnesian War; as did modern philosophy after the Thirty-Years War, and the scientific revolution after the Napoleonic Wars.



What then of the aftermath Cold War? If there is to be a golden age or intellectual revolution of some sort, it seems obvious that it will not be in philosophy. Or rather, the revolution has already taken place, and the Queen of the Sciences has been deposed. Spared the guillotine but imprisoned within the ivory tower, without a window from which to contemplate the heavens, Lady Philosophy has returned to her old role of comforting the forlorn by rationalizing their failures, and the 20th century has exposed many such failures in need of rationalization. Like Aesop’s Fox, her followers have exhausted themselves in reaching for fruits that were beyond their grasp. “Do not despair” she says, always the voice of reason. “They are probably sour anyway.” Such is the mandate of pragmatism. It is the task of an introduction to such a volume to discern and address some common theme resonating within each essay. This insecurity, of the West and its political order, this weariness that is at the same time a restless searching for some standard or modicum of legitimacy —if the grapes are above our grasp, is it still possible to content ourselves with whatever carrion our history has left us?— is, in my opinion, the underlying mood uniting the many variegated perspectives taken by the authors of this volume. As befitting the nature of the questions considered, one must speak in terms of sentiment, for there is most certainly no uniting interpretation; nor should there be, for then we would no longer be thinking in an age of pragmatism, but of ideology. The editors of the volume have divided it into three parts following a philosophical prologue. For the convenience of the reader, I should like here to summarize each section and the essays therein. My essay on humanism in antiquity and the Renaissance was sufficently vague and antiquarian to be included in the prologue. More probing and contemporary considerations were taken up by Mihaela Stefanescu who surveys the culture of the West following the fall of Communism, concluding that it is in a state of irrevocable crisis. This crisis is dualistic, split between two opposing antipodes of power: the European Union, which faces an essentialist crisis stemming from its own impotence following WWII and decolonialization, and the United States, which faces an existential crisis stemming from its hegemony of power following the end of the Cold War. Part One is devoted to essays concerning pragmatism and practical politics in democratic society. Naomi Zack examines the responsibility government has to its citizens during instances of disaster. Following Locke and Hobbes’ premise that government is not inevitable and thus must justify itself practically (i.e. not merely ideologically) by improving

International Perspectives on Pragmatism


the lives of the governed, she rejects the humanitarian approach to disaster response insofar as it is optional, arguing instead that government has a positive obligation to its citizens in times of disaster. Horst Freyhofer outlines the intellectual history of the libertarian movement in America, asking whether such a philosophy provides a viable alternative to the social-democratic order of the post-war West. He argues that while libertarianism has currently lost its luster and been relegated to a minor third party, its ideals remain, and will reappear and offer legitimate solutions should the crises of the modern state lead to its collapse. Simon Glynn provides a critical analysis of modern democracy as having become fundamentally corrupted and serving as little more than a rationalization and cover for the reinscription of structures of power. He argues that American democracy no longer represents the interests of its citizens, in fact actively colludes against them, and has thus lost its mandate to govern. Krystyna Wilkoszewska proposes a connection between Dewey’s notion of a “community of experience” and her conception of a “community of art”. Such communities are pragmatic insofar as they eschew any fundamental ideology or political dictates, are based not on institutions but organic connections, and value participation and engagement rather than disinterested contemplation. Linda Simon looks at William James’ response to the prosecution of anarchist activists in the wake of the Haymarket Affair, arguing that James’ writings on the subject raise serious questions about pragmatist moral reasoning: specifically that concerning the distinction between pragmatism and consequentialism. Jane Skinner examines the challenges facing the fledgling democracies of South Africa and Eastern Europe and argues for a “pragmatism of marginal political utility” which integrates certain Marxist ideas, specifically the notion of false consciousness, into pragmatist political theory. She concludes that the only way to avoid a democratic “false consciousness”, in which citizens unwittingly concede to dogmas of the ruling regime, is through an active education that fosters a “critical consciousness” necessary for a healthy and truly democratic society. Marjorie O’Loughlin writes on Dewey’s work on China and explores the relationship between pragmatist philosophy and the development of democratic dispositions and communities. She argues that a Deweyan approach to democracy emphasizes the cultivation of communities of shared values united under democratic dispositions. (Such an approach to democracy stands in contrast to the Enlightenment Western conception of



rational individuals entering a contract under democratic institutions out of self-interest.) Under the Deweyan pragmatist/ communitarian approach, O’Loughlin and Dewey believe that Western democracy can evolve and become compatible with non-Western “traditional” cultures. Jason Hill deploys Kant’s moral theory and defense of cosmopolitanism to argue that permanent residency be understood as a human right in certain situations. Noting Kant’s insistence that a republican democracy was the only form of government compatible with human dignity and autonomy insofar as it alone allows for the development of a “moral culture,” Hill argues that all human beings, insofar as they are of “innate equality,” have a right not to be excluded from this moral culture. From this principle it follows that those who are currently excluded from moral culture de facto (in their homeland), should be granted residency in a society of moral culture as a basic human right and in accord with the principle of hospitality. Michel Weber takes up Whitehead’s process philosophy as “a defense of liberalism,” and examines the fundamentally pragmatic political structures of the Whiteheadian city. Part Two concerns democratic theory and the legitimacy or nonlegitimacy of the democratic state. J.K. Swindler approvingly takes up Dewey’s notion of the “democratic attitude,” but argues that Dewey’s experiential instrumentalist epistemology is insufficient grounds for such a concept. Swindler instead argues that this notion can only fully be accounted on rationalist grounds, particularly Plato’s idea of the “common good,” and Kant’s idea of the “good will”. Vasil Gluchman takes up Kant’s notion of “humanity”, trying both to de-transcendentalize the concept (i.e. not as homo noumenon), as well as, through Rorty, seek its expansion. He argues that this concept of humanity is central to human life and moral progress and proposes a new progressive humanism for the 21st century. Susana de Castro examines Rorty theory of justice through a distinction she draws between the classical inheritance of rational justice and a more archaic concept that she calls “philial justice”. She argues that Rorty’s anti-foundationalism, emphasis on social solidarity, and concept of justice as a “larger loyalty”, represent an attempt to syncretize both positions, but without an appeal to a foundational moral principle. Michael Hodges defends Rorty’s anti-foundationalist politics against the criticism of Robert Talisse. He argues that foundational political or moral principles often serve to stifle debate and thus act against democracy, whereas a purely open discourse without claim to any dogma is the purest expression of democracy. Thus Rorty’s “deflationary” attacks on metaphysical and epistemological justifications serve not to delegitimate democracy, but rather to clear an open space necessary for its

International Perspectives on Pragmatism


expression as a practical (rather than an ideological) politics. Cerasel Cuteanu proposes an “ironist approach” to democracy and the question of legitimacy. Such an approach he sees as essential (or perhaps merely the only approach left untarnished by history) if we are to give up predicating our democracies on foundational claims or national narratives. Yet the loss of these structures opens up the possibility of a “tyranny of the majority” which lives at the heart of the democratic project, and to which these very foundationalist notions were originally placed against. Cuteanu concludes that a compromise between Rorty and Habermas is necessary to mediate this threat. Jon Mahoney rejects this pragmatic/anti-foundationalist conception of morality and politics. Focusing on Michael Ignatieff’s pragmatic defense of human rights, Mahoney argues that such a notion, the sine qua non of liberal society, cannot be merely pragmatic if it is to be more than dogma or descriptive claims of what Kant would call “moral anthropology”. Maria Gluchmanova examines the relevance of Dewey’s philosophy of education to democratic society. She claims that Dewey’s anti-formalist philosophy of education was essentially democratic insofar as it championed the exchange of experience, critical thinking and independent judgment, and the emergent formation (rather than inculcation) of values. Ned McClennen offers a pragmatic theory of justice based on game theory. Noting that we make “pragmatic” decisions (i.e. those in furtherance of things we value) with ease every day, he argues that the amalgamation of these individual decisions and values into a society generates a social form of the economic problem. Given this similarity, he proposes a fundamentally economic perspective to issues of justice and rights based on the pragmatic criterion that such notions must be mutually advantageous to every member of society. Part Three concludes the volume with a section on art and literature. Peter Hare offers a response to Wilkoszewska’s essay that broadens its scope to examine intellectual culture in general. Hare argues that such communities are exceedingly rare and that ideological fragmentation, specialist balkanization, and institutional hierarchy are the norm. He then looks at the possibility that a pragmatist philosophy or art, by emphasizing its social value, in the end dumbs down art into a form of paternalistic educational entertainment. There were two questions that lingered in my mind when I reread the essays in this volume while preparing this introduction, and I should like to note them in closing. First, it is to me an open question whether or not a pragmatist ethics is ultimately intelligible, is even ethics at all. If it is, then



it must provide some answer to the problem of the criterion, and this answer must be in some sense foundational, if not in the metaphysical sense then in the discursive sense. The dialogue between the authors in Part Two fundamentally centers on this question. Second, in response to the question I opened with, I shall pose another: has the post-modern state become natural again? If the state is not founded on some fundamental ideology, some declaration of inaleniable principles from which it justifies itself, but rather merely on its practical and instrumental ability to provide for the happiness of its citizenry, is there not a danger that we could be bought off by our own democracies? We pay our taxes and complain, but the complaint is more akin to that made of the weather (or of that a medieval serf made against their lord), than that of the tithe or the Stamp Act or the Estates General. When you owe the state thousands of dollars in student loans, are employed by a public university, are provided your water, sewer, and electricity by public utilities, are fed from state subsidized farms…what sort of complaint is one really in the position to make?

Jason Jordan Ph.D. Candidate, The University of Oregon



The concept and pedigree of humanism is the subject of much controversy in the history of ideas. This controversy that is rarely overt, but rather transmitted in unspoken and unexamined assumptions about the status of the human subject and the advent of modernity. An influential (to say the least) reading of the history of philosophy expounded by Strauss and Heidegger maintains that humanism is a peculiar invention of modernity: the intellectual prism through which the light of Being is cast and refracted into its moral, epistemological, and metaphysical spectrum: human rights, subjectivity, and the noumenal/phenomenal dichotomy. Under this interpretation, humanism and its attendants are a singular trope of modernity, utterly foreign to the Greek and medieval mind. An older, perhaps less ideological interpretation, makes the opposite claim: identifying humanism as singular to Greek culture, its fecundity lying at the heart of Hellenic art, literature, and particularly philosophy with its emphasis on rational inquiry. Under this traditional interpretation, the advent of Christianity marked the twilight of Hellenic and Hellenistic rationalism; that the Salvationist otherworldly obsessions emblematic of Christian eschatology stood opposed to very foundations of Greek natural and moral philosophy, inspired a deep misology in western thought, and thus directly or indirectly inaugurated the Dark Ages and the loss of the humanistic tradition of antiquity. My objective in this paper is challenge both of these interpretations. In doing so I shall argue that there are two different and diametrically opposed strains of humanism. The first strain, which I term ‘naturalist humanism’, was not only endemic to classical antiquity, but indeed was the dominant tradition valorized by the Enlightenment and enacted in Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. In this regard I understand the Enlightenment to be a classical rather than modern project, its fixations on nationhood and universal rights tracing classical pan-Hellenism and cosmopolitanism, in both cases united under

Jason Jordan


the vanguard of rationalism. By contrast, philosophical modernity, too often identified with the invention or rediscovery of humanism as such, was instead defined by a radicalization of this naturalist humanism thorough the distinctly Christian fixations on epistemological skepticism and theological voluntarism —the traditional weapons of Christian (as well as Judaic and Islamic) anti-humanism against the pretensions of Greek rationalism. Modernity developed from an engagement with these anti-humanist tenants, which ultimately provide the fodder for a far more profound ‘existential humanism’. A commitment that, I believe, stands as the final line of defense for liberalism in the post-modern era. Humanism has a long and recrudescent history in Western philosophy, ultimately dating back to the 5th century pre-Socratic sophist Antiphon. Antiphon was the author of treatise called On Truth —of which only fragments remain— that is often described as a precursor to natural rights theory. The theme of the major extant fragments of On Truth is emblematic of Hellenic debates: concerning the dichotomy between nomos and physis. Antiphon marks himself as a radical by contrasting what he views to be the repressive and arbitrary nature of nomos with liberatory and egalitarian nature of physis. Like Locke and Rousseau, Antiphon emphasizes the contingency of human law that renders it a plaything of the fickle whims of corruption and power, insisting that: “laws are imposed, whereas nature is necessary.”1 Antiphon goes on to argue: “the majority of what is just according to law and convention is hostile to nature. For laws have been established over the eyes, as to what they must and must not see…and over the mind, as to what it must and must not desire.”2 Antiphon identifies physis with human nature and on this basis insists on human equality and cosmopolitanism: ” [the laws of those near by] we know and observe, the laws of those who live far off we neither know nor observe. Now in this we have become barbarians in one another’s eyes; for by birth, at least, we are all naturally adapted in every respect to be either Greeks or barbarians. It is [thus] possible to examine…things by nature necessary for all human beings…3”

This tradition of humanism and cosmopolitanism was taken up in the 4th century by the orator Alcidamas, a pupil of Gorgias. His works have been almost completely lost, but Aristotle records that he wrote a treatise called the “Messeniac Oration” advocating for the liberation of the Messenian 1

Antiphon, F 44a Antiphon, F 44a 3 Antiphon, F 44b, elipses denote gaps in the text. 2


On Human Dignity: The Testament of the Two Humanisms

helots.4 One of the few extant fragments of this work is the shockingly modern claim: “God has sent all men into the world free, and nature has made no man a slave, but slavery goes on.”5 The similarity of this quote with Rousseau’s famous opening declaration in On the Social Contract is so obvious it scarcely need be pointed out, for both justify the freedom of man on the basis of his natural state, and thus explicitly postulate humanism in terms of natural law.6 The notion of natural law was common in 5th and 4th century Greek thought; hailed by Empedolces as “an allembracing law, through the realms of the sky. Unbroken it stretcheth, and over the earth’s immensity.”7 Hippias expresses similar sentiments in the Protagoras when, attempting to moderate between the bickering Protagoras and Socrates —each of whom are vying to impose their personal style as the required format of the debate— he says: “Gentleman, I regard all of you here present as kinsmen, intimates, and fellow citizen by nature, not by convention. For like is akin to like by nature, but convention, which tyrannizes the human race, often constrains us contrary to nature.”8 As Herschel Baker notes: “this belief in an essentially systematic — and, to the Greek, therefore rational— universe is the touchstone of Greek thought.”9 Even Heraclitus, seemingly most at odds with such an ordered cosmology hails: “[the universe] always was, and is, and ever shall be, an ever-living fire, kindling according to fixed measure, and extinguished according to fixed measure.”10 The difference between radicals such as Antiphon, Euripides, and Alcidamas and conservatives such as Plato, Aristotle, and Heraclitus was the status they accorded man within this lawful cosmology. As liberals, the former argue that de facto inequality is not inequality de jure, while the latter, as conservatives, seek to rationalize de facto inequality as de jure.11 4

Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1373b19 Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, 70 6 Compare to Rousseau’s declaration: “Every man born in slavery is born for slavery; nothing is more certain. In their chains slaves lose everything, even the desire to escape…If there are slaves by nature, it is because there have been slaves against nature. Force has produced the first slaves; their cowardice has perpetuated them.” (OSC Bk. I, Ch. II) 7 Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1373b16. Aristotle says that Empedocles used this notion of a natural law to advocate for an extreme universalism and cosmopolitanism which applied to every living creature. 8 Plato, Protagoras, 337 d 9 Baker, The Dignity of Man, 18 10 Heraclitus, F 20 11 Heraclitus, F 43 5

Jason Jordan


Describing the Greek belief in natural law and natural inequality governing the human order, Luc Ferry claims, in reference to Strauss, that “human rights are a purely modern invention, bound up with the introduction of subjectivity as a foundation, and we find not the least trace of them in the Greek world.”12 This is factually untrue —it is hard to understand Alcidamas’ rejection of slavery as anything less than a notion of human rights— but insightful. If humanism, subjectivity, and human rights are so intimately related, as I believe they are, then it is unsurprising that we find the earliest defense of human rights precisely among the Greek humanists. It is also unsurprising, in accord with Ferry’s analysis, that such a pre-subjective defense of human rights is, while moving and inspiring, deeply flawed and doomed to failure. The problem with naturalism is that it is fundamentally insufficient as a grounds for humanism. The belief that, as Ferry puts it: “nature is a substantial, hierarchical order that is meaningful in itself and not inert raw material that can receive meaning only from the actions of a human subject,” is inherently inclined towards “a philosophy of nonsubjectivity in which nature is normative (each creature should find its place in the cosmos as a function of its nature and not as a function of a subjective norm of reason), and the social order is no less naturally hierarchical.”13 While Euripides may aver that class distinctions are arbitrary,14 and Antiphon that the norms of nature demand human equality and liberty, this insistence is nowhere evidenced in nature and is seemingly gainsaid by the blatant facts of natural difference. Rousseau criticizes Aristotle’s defense of slavery for “taking the effect for the cause,”15 yet his conviction of man’s natural freedom hinged an abstract asseveration that humanity is fundamentally good and equal de jure, in spite of its fallen state de facto. Aristotle might have confused cause and effect, but Rousseau’s naturalist humanism is forced to claim that the cause of every effect is unnatural: nature is normative but only in the abstract, and always in opposition to fact. Nature is not natural, but a philosophical ideal. The humanist spirit of Antiphon and Alcidamas was to be embraced by the great minds of the Renaissance who sought, once again, to understand and describe man as a natural being possessed of natural worth, whose dignity thereby was not wholly reducible to his capacity for salvation.16 12

Ferry, Political Philosophy Vol. 1, 22 Ibid., 18 14 Baker, The Dignity of Man, 21 15 Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Bk. I, Ch. 2 16 Kristeller, Renaissance Concepts of Man, 5 13


On Human Dignity: The Testament of the Two Humanisms

Yet, in the late-medieval and early-Renaissance humanist tradition, the concept of the “dignity of man” was still vaguely defined and heavily wedded to Aristotelian suppositions concerning teleology and the hierarchy of being; it had not fully come to grips with the aforementioned problem of naturalist humanism. This would change with the rediscovery of Hellenic philosophy following the fall of Constantinople and lead to a radicalization of the humanist project, expounded most prominently by the neo-Platonic Florentine Academy.17 This radical humanism was to be given its greatest encomium by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola in his Oration on the Dignity of Man, often described as the “manifesto of the Renaissance,” and famously eulogized by Burkhart as “one of the noblest bequests of that great age.”18 In the Oration, Pico’s thought regarding man’s “metaphysical position” is striking divergent from the traditional Renaissance humanist conceptions of man as privileged with a position at the “center” of the universe. 19 Pico goes beyond this neo-Platonic emphasis on the unity of creation, grandly declaring the metaphysical position of man to be existential rather then natural: the font of man’s dignity is grounded on the metaphysical distinction of his existence, rather than the harmonization of his essence: it is by his radical existential freedom rather than his created essence that man measures his worth. This valorization of man on the basis of his freedom founds a new vision of humanism fundamentally opposed to the naturalism of the Greek humanists, one that seeks to define the dignity of man not as granted by nature, but arising in opposition to nature. After briefly surveying the historical canon concerning the relation between man and universe, Pico expresses his dissatisfaction with the tradition as it invariably seeks to unite the two under conditions of similarity, rendering man into either an artifact or a microcosm —a “mixtum compositum” of the world.20 Pico has higher aspirations for humanity and seeks to define man’s metaphysical privilege in terms of his difference and separation from the world, both natural and spiritual.21 In a passage from the Oration that has become famous, Pico imagines the demiurge describing to Adam his special dignity thus:


Kristeller, Renaissance Concepts of Man, 70, 92 Craven, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, 21 19 Ibid., 27 20 Cassirer, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, 320 21 Ibid., 320 18

Jason Jordan


”We have given you, Adam, no definite place, no form proper only to you, no special inheritance, so that you may have as your own whatever place, whatever form, whatever gifts you may choose, according to your wish and your judgment. All other beings have received a rigidly determined nature, and will be compelled by us to follow strictly determined laws. You alone are bound by no limit, unless it be one prescribed by your will, which I have given you”22

One of the most startling features of this beautiful passage is the protoexistentialism it assigns to man’s metaphysical position: his essence which opposes any determination. As Ernst Cassirer notes in his groundbreaking analysis of Renaissance humanism, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy: „The dignity of man cannot reside in his being, i.e., in the place allotted to man once and for all in the cosmic order. The hierarchical system subdivides the world into different levels and places each being in one of these levels as its rightful place in the universe. But such a view does not grasp the meaning and problem of human freedom”23

Pico’s conviction thus rests on a fundamental opposition between nature, as the essence of natural beings (qua artifacts), and freedom, as the essence of Pico’s anti-natural man. The identity of artifacts depends on their stability, the identity of essences depends on their immutability, the self-identity of man depends on and demands the exact opposite: that he be undefined and always in flux, that his essence be purely the product of his own free choice and always subject to revision. Eugenio Garin describes Pico’s understanding of the human condition thus: [Pico] argued that every existing reality has its own nature by which its behavior is determined. Thus the dog will always behave like a dog; and a lion, like a lion. Man alone has no nature which determines him and has no essence to determine his behavior. Man creates himself by his own deeds and thus he is father of himself. The only condition he is subject to is the condition that there is no condition”.24

The Sartrean notion here of man being subject only to the compulsion of his freedom is startling. While other thinkers had struggled to reconcile 22

Pico, qtd. in Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, 85 23 Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, 84 24 Garin, Italian Humanism, 105


On Human Dignity: The Testament of the Two Humanisms

the man’s freedom with his natural condition and with his essential quiddity, Pico subordinates the latter to the former: “Man, therefore, is not a quid, but a cause and a free act,” that is “a genuine quis.”25 This view of humanity centers on a radical interpretation of Genesis 1:26, in which God is said to have created man in His own image. As Cassirer points out: ”Creation in the ordinary sense can only be understood as the conferring upon the created both a definite, limited being and, at the same time, a definite, prescribed sphere of willing and of acting. But man breaks through every such barrier. His activity is not dictated to him by his reality; rather, man’s activity contains ever new possibilities which, by their very nature, go beyond any finite circle”.26

God is a creator, and while “man is a creature…what distinguishes him above all other creatures is that his maker gave him the gift of creation.”27 This “gift” fundamentally divorces man from Nature, placing him outside the natural hierarchy of determined beings. Through his freedom and his powers of creation, the dignity of man is ontologically distinct from his mere being, and thus he represents an anti-natural creature par excellence, one that has no place within the traditional Aristotelian taxonomy of the natural order. As Pico’s demiurge describes to Adam his possibilities: ”I created you as a being neither heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal, so that you may freely make and master yourself, and take on any form you choose for yourself. You can degenerate to animality or be reborn towards divinity”.28

The essence of man is, like God, indistinguishable from his existence since, as pure possibility, as pure freedom, it lacks any determination or definition, that is, any type, and is thus not an essence at all. The sweeping nature and extent of human freedom, as Cassirer insists, “remains a basic intellectual phenomenon by virtue of which we are not only related to Him but actually one with Him. For human freedom is of such a kind that any


Ibid., 105 Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, 88 27 Ibid., 95 28 Pico, qtd. in Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, 85 26

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increase in its meaning or value is impossible…”29 Pico’s reasoning here is radical and deeply heretical, for it denies that man is a mere (and debased) image of God, but is actually united with God, in this life and in the most profound and fundamental way possible —mankind resides alongside the divine in the metakosmia. This is an extreme enthusiasm as it means that man is barely distinguishable from God. As Luther was to warn: “free-will is obviously a term applicable only to the Divine Majesty; for only He can do, and does whatever he wills in heaven and on earth. If free will is ascribed to men, it is ascribed with no more propriety than divinity itself would be—and no blasphemy could exceed that!”30 In the Christian tradition it is Pelagianism that comes closest to a full existential humanism, and to the extent that contemporary Catholicism is a humanism, it is precisely because it has recoiled from Augustinian dogmas and embraced the tepid heresy of Semi-Pelagianism. Unsurprisingly, Pico has often been described as a Pelagian for espousing a similar optimism concerning man’s innate moral potential. Nowhere in the oration does Pico mention the Fall, leading Cassirer to hail: “…the frankness and boldness with which Pico reaffirms the basic Pelagian thesis. For him man’s sinfulness does not stand as an indelible stain upon his nature; for in it he sees nothing but the correlate and counterpart of something other and higher. Man must be capable of sin, that he may become capable of good.”31 If man is as Pico describes him: a fundamentally undefined, 29 Cassirer, “Giovanni Pico della Mirandola”, 336. This divinization of man’s will is strikingly compatible with Descartes claim in the Meditations that: “My will or freedom of choice is the only thing I find to be so great in me that I can’t conceive of anything greater. In fact, it’s largely for this reason that I regard myself as an image or likeness of God. God’s will is incomparably greater than mine, of course, in virtue of the associated knowledge and power, which make it stronger and more effective, and also in virtue of its greater range of objects. Yet, viewed in itself as a will, God’s will seems no greater than mine.” (Meditations 30, emphasis added) Or, as Cassirer describes Pico’s understanding of the extent of man’s creative power, i.e. his will: “In the extent of his creation he remains infinitely removed from God; but in the fact, in the quality of his creation he feels himself at the same time most intimately related to God.” (Ibid., 336) 30 Luther, Bondage of the Will, 188 31 Cassirer, “Giovanni Pico della Mirandola”, 329. It should be noted that the demiurge’s speech to Adam supposedly occurred before the Fall, yet, one might assume that if this were an important theological point for Pico, he would have mentioned it as such, which he did not. It should also be noted that Pico retreated from this extremely heretical position towards the end of his short life; after his


On Human Dignity: The Testament of the Two Humanisms

incomplete, and free being, then he cannot possibly be subject to the indelible and insuperable stain of original sin —as a stain on his nature. As Pelagius himself argues in his beautiful and stunningly humanistic “Letter to Demetrias”: ”First, then, you ought to measure the good of human nature by reference to its creator, I mean God…[who] before actually making man, determines to fashion him in his own image and likeness and shows what kind of creature he intends to make him…[in doing so] he makes it abundantly clear how much more gloriously man himself has been fashioned and wants him to appreciate the dignity of his own nature…Moreover, the Lord of Justice wished man to be free to act and not under compulsion…God wished to bestow on the rational creature the gift of doing good of his own free will and the capacity to exercise free choice, [so it was] by implanting in man the possibility of choosing either alternative, that He made it his peculiar right to be what he wanted to be…”32

This great conviction —that human dignity was fundamentally moral and thus fundamentally bound to freedom— was to be completed by Kant fourteen centuries later. As he argues in the Groundwork: “morality is the condition under which alone a rational being can be an end in itself…Hence morality, and humanity insofar as it is capable of morality, is that which alone has dignity…Autonomy is therefore the ground of the dignity of human nature and of every rational creature.”33 Like Kant, Pelagius descries that if man is to truly be in the image of his God, if human dignity is to survive the Fall, then grace cannot be an unconditional and undeserved gift bestowed upon the wretch; nor, pace Antiphon and Rousseau, can it be natural and inherent to man’s nature, for as he notes in his treatise On Nature: “Whatever is fettered by natural necessity is deprived of the determination of will and deliberation.”34 Rather, grace must be understood as an existential capacity coextensive with human freedom, as an “inborn faculty,”35 as the undeniable “peculiar right” of man by which he is able “to be what he want[s] to be.”36 This freedom to work was the subject of a Papal condemnation and he had fallen under the influence of Sarvanola. (Craven, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, 83) 32 Pelagius, Letter to Demetrias, 2.1-3.2, emphasis added. 33 G 4:435-6 34 Pelagius, On Nature, §49 35 Craven, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, 79 36 Just as man cannot be deprived of his capacity for good, so to he cannot face eternal punishment on account of his capacity for evil. Thus, Pico explicitly

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choose good or evil is the freedom of an incomplete being, a being open to possibility rather than a helpless wretch condemned to suffer the damnation of his own debasement. If the dignity of man is truly to never be a completed being, for good or evil, then the ends of man must be indeterminate as well. With Pelagius’ and Pico’s existentialist humanism, the link between God and man is strong and fecund: man is not so much the image of God as God is the image of man. This elevation clashes violently with the misanthropy that has dominated Christian thought historically, for with Augustine’s voluntarist anti-humanism the bond between man and God was severed forever with the Fall, and along with it the last modicum of man’s natural worth. Inasmuch as modernity inaugurated by Descartes embraces a theological voluntarism (against Greek rationalism and under which God is an inscrutable absolute) that isolates the human from the divine and established man as a subiectum, it is compatible with the antihumanism of Augustine. Yet the brilliance of modernity, as is evident in Pico soaring vision of man’s existential condition, and in Descartes vow to make humanity the “lords and masters of nature,” is that it assumes and engages this canonical understanding of ‘man the wretch prostrate beneath his absolute God’, yet through a masterful intellectual maneuver, founds upon this anthropic abyss a far more radical and sweeping defense of human dignity. If, as I believe, Greek paganism and Christianity originally constructed its God(s) with a human face and in the image of man, as the testament of Pelagius makes all too (almost sorrowfully) clear, then it is precisely in Cartesian philosophy pushing God away —just as Pico had pushed Nature away— that a space for the human is opened, by which humanity might measure that which is uniquely its own, by which it might measure its natural worth, thereby reclaiming that image it had given to the divine for itself.

Bibliography Antiphon. Antiphon the Sophist: The Fragments. Ed. & Trans. Gerard J. Pendrick. Edinburgh: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Aristotle. The Complete Works of Aristotle. Trans. W.D. Ross, Princeton, NJ: Basic Books, 1968. Baker, Herschel. The Dignity of Man: Studies in the Persistence of an Idea. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1947. embraces the apocatastatic teachings of Origen against an eternal and inescapable Hell. (see Cassirer, “Giovanni Pico della Mirandola”, 330)


On Human Dignity: The Testament of the Two Humanisms

Cassirer, Ernst. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola: A Study in the History of Renaissance Ideas, Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 3, 1942, Pt. 1: 123-144. Pt. 2: 319-346. —. The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy. Trans. Mario Domandi. New York, NY: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1963. Craven, William G. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola: Symbol of his Age: Modern Interpretations of a Renaissance Philosopher. Geneva: Libraire Droz, 1981 Descartes, René. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. Trans. John Cottingham et. al., 3 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge Press, 1985. Dulles, Avery. Princeps Concordiae: Pico della Mirandola and the Scholastic Tradition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1941. Ferry, Luc. Political Philosophy Vol. 1: Rights —The New Quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns. Trans. Franklin Philip. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1990. Frankfurt, Harry. Descartes on the Creation of the Eternal Truths, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 86, 1977, 36-57. Garin, Eugenio. Italian Humanism. Trans. Peter Munz, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965. Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, Practical Philosophy. Trans. Mary J. Gregor, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996, Kristeller, Paul Oskar. Renaissance Concepts of Man. New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1972. Pelagius. To Demetrias, in The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers. Trans. B.R. Rees. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1991. Pico, Giovanni. Oration on the Dignity of Man, in The Renaissance Philosophy of Man. Trans. Elizabeth L. Forbes. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1948. Plato. Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper, Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997. Popper, Karl. The Open Society and its Enemies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. On the Social Contract. Trans. Donald A. Cress. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1987.


1. Preliminaries For almost half a century, we have been speaking more and more of Occidentalism, about a situation of crisis or about the Western danger. It is commonplace for all phenomenological approaches registered by the social and political sciences along the decades. The crisis situation generally defines any economic development and consequently we may say that it belongs to the sphere of human, individual or collective activities. The crisis is today identified even with progress. On one hand, every ascending period is doubled by a period of crisis; every explosion is followed by an implosion. On the other hand, economic progress involves a cultural or conscience crisis. Civilization means the aging of a culture. Modernity and of course, post modernity, means the death of tradition - a Spenglerian idea valued by the Romanian traditionalist current. The media, conversational and political populism have replaced authentic culture, which actually represents popular culture. This is modernity’s privilege that the history of civilization has known in the West together with exacerbated pragmatism, money obsession, the invasion of modern technologies, international violence, modern slavery as a result of immigration (towards the USA, in the middle of the 20th century and towards the West of Europe, at the beginning of the 21st century, for Romanians especially), or the absence of a solid social protection system, the increase of the gap between the rich and the poor, unemployment, the loss of values, ideologies empiricism, the taste for show (circus), the perspective upon the immediate existence, all these supposing the lack of an ideal. But is this a general crisis situation or a national one, specific exclusively to the United States? Is it an economic crisis or a mentality one? Is it an identity/ essence crisis or one of the conscience? Is this crisis specific to a well defined community, like the American one, or it belongs to Western Europe, being spread all over the world? The crisis situation has both internal causes and external ones (like for example, the arguments


Aspects of the Crisis of the West

of the Arabic world in front of the American invasion?) We may speak of a conflict of mentalities that has reached the international level, leaving from the anti-American obsession that characterizes French behavior. To what extent is this made conscious? What does the future prepare for this polymorph crisis? These are questions that I try to offer a few answers throughout this paper, which offers, at the same time, a phenomenological analysis of Occidentalism and a cultural critic from an Eastern – European point of view.

2. The Occidental Pattern The Occidental pattern expresses, nowadays, an anthology of dogmas, as well as a phenomenon whose influence is inevitable for the place that it is specific to. The usual semantics of the term is to be discovered in the field of literature: “aesthetic dignity” [Harold Bloom 1998: 33] or “the survivals’ list” [idem: 34], that is what it is engaged in the fight with the time which it conquers. From the social and cultural point of view, the Occidental pattern can be considered a product of the civilization, a climax of progress, something that is defining for a World power requiring its ideology all over the world, wherever it applies the economic, political and financial strategies. This phenomenon is specific to the United States, whose “particular condition” is “the cultural delay reported to civilization” [idem: 30]. In the 20th century, Spengler and Toynbee approached the history of humanity as a succession of gigantic hyper- organisms, which passed through stages like: birth, childhood, youth, adulthood, flowering, decadence, aging and death. And the death of Occidental world (whose beginning is associated with Napoleon's death) is as logical and necessary as the fall of Egypt, Babylon or the Ancient Greece and Latin, similarly to the death of any organism. After death renaissance is not possible. Were it possible, it would have been universal, but this unification or identification of people would be improbable [Spengler 1996]. For the first time in history in Spengler's view, the Occident does not oppose Asia or Germany, but rather the Greek and Latin Antiquity. The entire German philosophy after the 1789 Revolution bears the two antitheses: Orient vs. Occident and culture vs. civilization. Generally, the Occident is Europe opposed to Asia, from the point of view of elementary geography, as M. Tazerout said, the one who signed the preface to Spengler's fundamental book [1996].

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In a restricted sense, given by the 18th century revolutionaries, Occident is France and England or North America, opposed to the political Germany of time. The Occidental pattern, seen as an organism, is the Americanism label in a restricted sense, and in a broad sense, the USA and Occidental Europe, therefore the civilized world, because the political studies (most of them Occidental) consider that the countries of Eastern Europe are still under the influence of the past, under the sign of primitivism, with the meaning given by Spengler: dead cultures before they are born, that have not reached the final stage of the civilization. After the First Word War and the Revolution in October 1914 in Russia, the world was divided into two antagonist parts, the capitalist camp and the communist camp. A. Zanoviev observed that the first is often called „Occident”, by associating this word with the social and political conditions of the Occidental European countries [Zinoviev 2002: 19], and the latter is associated with Eastern Europe with a focus on the social and political organization of the Soviet Union, therefore of the former Russian Empire. After the Second World War, the communist camp has become larger and more powerful, threatening its neighbors, while the fight between the two systems – Occident and Orient – became, in Zinoviev's view, the background of the world history for a few decades. For Zenoviev, democracy is the first spring of civilization, and, at the same time, of the West. Harold Bloom [1998] supports Giambattista Vico’s theory, which states that the Occidental pattern is a progressive cycle with three stages: theocratic, aristocratic and democratic. The cycles are successive, run by the same scheme and are separated by chaos stages. Therefore, we can say that the age of occidental hyper- democracy is followed by periods of crisis, specifying though that the current crisis, nagging the Occident, is a mixture of theocracy (seen in the context of the war waged against Muslims), aristocracy (as we often speak of a kind of international nobility) and of course, democracy, which supports individualism, free initiative and private property. Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union could not belong to the Occidental world, because the Occident „has its own taboos” and „even if it is not registered in any civil code, their transgression is punished by society” [Zinoviev 2002: 49]. There are still features belonging to the Occidental pattern, which are known in the Oriental world, as well. For example, personal interest concretely expressed by superficial labor, robbery, tipping, taking improper goods, slander, and betrayal, features characterizing the

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communist world and the Occident, without pertaining to the Occidental pattern. The Occidental archetype is defined through opposition and antinomies that differ from one perspective to the other. The attempt to conceptualize the words „Occident” or „Occidentalism” is placed in a general scheme of analogy criteria and oppositions. The method does not seem artificial, because, as Spengler said [1996: 11], „the way to know dead forms is through mathematic law; the way to know living forms is by analogy”.


The Occidental crisis

3.1 Crisis, decline or recession. The problem of national or multinational identity Crisis is the immanence of living forms. Any civilization is subject to the evolution of an organism, from birth to death. According to the Spenglerian view, evolution is seen as typical. Ages and situations succeed according to a pattern, because universal history has a limited number of phenomenal forms. Even the idea of decline complies with this principle, since it is limited in time and space. Civilization itself, even though limited in time and space, is „polymorph and bulimic”, like the identity, after Peloile's expression [1996: 97-114] and Levi-Straus's [1997: 330-332]. In order to analyze the crisis and polymorphism of the identity, let's define the notion of identity and take as example the two identities: the American one and the European one. Claude Dubar (2003) identifies two significant meanings of identity: an essentialist position and an existentialist or nominalist one. The essentialist position comes from „essential realities”, „immutable and original ones”, „the reality in itself”, „persistence in time” after Parmenide's pattern. The existentialist or nominalist position is grounded on contingent existences and refuses to take into consideration the existence of „essential” affiliations. Regarding the identification Dubar distinguishes: identifications assigned by others (identities for the other) and identifications claimed by the subject himself (identities for himself). An assigned identity may be either accepted or refused. But identity, in his view, must be built. Applied to the situation of Europe and USA, the two positions lead to an obvious association: Occidental Europe, represented by France in its anti-American campaigns, is an essentialist identity, involving the idea of

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permanence, while USA forms an existentialist identity which refuses the a priori and permanent differences between individuals. The notion of crisis is characteristic to essentialist identities and to the existentialist ones. But Europe, France as a particular situation, has known the economic crisis under the form of recession, due to a long succession of wars that have shuttered it, while the USA has been marked by a social and cultural crisis. In the case of France, we can name a social and economic crisis, represented by the process of „discharge”, whose theory was promoted by Alfred Sauvy [1957]. The process of modernization supposes what Claude Dubar calls „a creative destruction”, like „discharge”. Traditional work places have been destroyed in order to supply the industry. England was the first country to have experienced this process in the 19th century, when its agricultural population was diminished in a dramatic way. Rural France (dear to Fernard Braudel) is subject to disintegration for a century and a half, but the process is accelerated during the last few decades. The end of peasantry caused the second French Revolution at the middle of the 60's, after which France entered the age of industrial and urban modernity, but structured on conflicts of class and consumption increase after the American pattern. Claude Dubar has seen as a problem of modernization the fact that „in French society, discharge has not been made or has been made in a wrong way” [Dubar 2003: 99]. Another crisis France has experienced is the historical one. We speak of the decline of an empire, which after two centuries, comes back: the European Union. The decline is immanent to civilization. Paul Valéry observed that in the modern age, no power, no empire of Europe could maintain itself more than 50 years. Charles Quint, Louis the 14th, Napoleon, Metternich, Bismark did not last more than 40 years. During the Napoleonian age, Europe had all the advantages to conquer the world, because it has invincible means, but „those who had them were inferior”, because „they were feeding from the past, being able to build only in the past” [Valéry 1996: 5]. The absence of a view and the reduced spirit of the age made France know the decline. For Valéry, the „poor” Europeans liked it more to amuse themselves rather than take the role the Romans knew how to play in their age. With a rare cynicism, Valéry issues the idea that Europe dreams very clearly to be governed by an American commission, as all its politics seems to be heading that way. The present identity crisis is specific to Europe by what Pierre Manent calls „the European Union indetermination” [2003: 111]. Europe is the prisoner of a motion of extension, „an unlimited extension”. If it extends faster and further it is due to budget constraints inside and democratic


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immaturity at the outskirts. Pierre Manent claims the idea that this undefined extension law translates the incapacity to be defined on a political level. Moreover, if England remains outside the sphere of Euro influence, „the hope for a political fertility of the money union will be seriously damaged” [idem: 110]. The European Union can resemble the Habsburg Empire, a diverse aggregate of political bodies. 3.2. The Anti-American Obsession The end of capitalism, which Marx wanted to destroy and Weber to save, brought the idea of entirety „the quality of a phenomenon which extends all over the world” [Joxe 2003: 129]. The USA undoubtedly sees itself as the laboratory of liberal globalization, like Jean -Francois Revel admits [2004], who offers us a critic of his society, deeply marked by the anti-American obsession. At the end of the 20th century, for Europeans, the USA meant exclusively McCarthyism, racism, Correa War [1953] in the view of Simone de Beauvoir and the communist party. The Soviet Union has definitely been the reply given to American power. Simultaneously with the fall of the Soviet Union and with the freedom of its satellites in Central Europe, at the end of the Cold War, the end of the bipolar world appeared inevitably at the end of the 20th century. At this moment, „the universal shout of anti-Americanism” was installed (A. Pope, apud Revel). The USA has become „the sole superpower of external business”, Hubert Vedine. So far, the American power was seen as necessary, to the extent of being a reply given to communism. For the communists, antiAmericanism was a rational point of view, because the USA represented capitalism and capitalism was the absolute evil in an age where the world was divided between the communist and the capitalist camps. There are two Anti-Americanism positions: one on the left, the communist one, characteristic for Eastern Europe and the one on the right, characteristic to Western Europe, especially France. The right AntiAmericanism position is justified through the fact that Europe lost the role of the main initiative centre, the nucleus of arts and sciences that it held in the 15th century. The left Anti-Americanism has grown stronger through the double folded action of the Russian spies who wanted to be taken for victims of the communist campaigns. They were actually faithful to the Russian secret services. For example, Alger Hiss, one of the most faithful collaborators of Franklin Roosevelt during the Yalta Conference was actually working for Stalin.

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The Anti-American obsession reactivated itself in 1969, in the same time with the war in Vietnam, followed by the events of 9/11. The attitude, that so far had known right or left political forms, has turned into a Muslim campaign to which African and non-Muslim countries have adhered to.

3.3. The American Crisis 3.3.1. The violence Violence is one of the specific problems the U.S. has to deal with. To the external violence, which we know about from international conflicts, one should also consider internal violence; the latter consists in delinquency and criminality, but also in the individual revolt or in an insurrectional feverishness. The government forbids free trade of guns and this fact becomes a temptation for those teenagers interested more in aggressing theirs teachers and schoolmates than in learning. United States are governed by a “law of force” rather than the forc of the law. From this point of view, United States are clearly different from the French system. Harmonizing this situation and obtaining a common understanding of the facts is, actually, a Utopia, because the two opinions are, in fact, the representations of the following opposite tendencies: the scientific or realistic perspective – the sanctification of the facts (United States) and the Utopian and moral perspective – the sanctification of justice (France). Pierre Manent refers to those perspectives [2000] along with the history of modern politics. The truth the United States chooses is self-sufficient. It denies the importance of philosophers and furthers from skepticism. Theirs social universe is that of Machiavelli: to be = must, but must means to make what is inevitable, to accept what happens everyday. The new Machiavellian imperative - according to Manent-is that of submission to necessity. This imperative rejects the irreducibility between being and to having to. Generalizing necessity led to the overbidding of success. The moralization of necessity, inaugurated by Machiavelli and radicalized by Hobbes, is rejected by Rousseau, who excludes the idea of a mixed society, where force and right coexist. The American society seems, of course, to be made after Machiavelli’s and Hobbes’s precepts, after the pattern of Realism and the sanctification of facts, after the rules of moralization of necessity. Montesquieu would be surprised today to notice that European countries respect the imperative of submission to law and juridical power, while America, which is perceived as the prototype of


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free country, is, actually, the country where the imprisoned citizens or citizens under juridical control outnumber any other. If Americans are not afraid of juridical power, that is because laws are applied in a rigid and mechanical manner. The laws are very strict, clear, “constant”, according to Montesquieu, and the judges just apply them in a rigorous manner. It can be undoubtedly said that the mechanical perspective of the world is in its climax [Zartarian 2003: 173]. Regarding France, the revolutionary, republican and based - on - law tradition favors legislature and it is associated with the consular tradition, either revisionist or Gaullist, which favors the executive [Manent 2000:284]. Regarding the United States, the mechanism of laws does not reduce the internal violence, which is maintained by the expansion of external violence, called by Joxe [2003] “the spatializing of the violence of the dominating countries”, United States thus becoming the centralized pyramid for the management of massacres. Alain Joxe claims that the legitimate way to resist to Empire should be social republic. The American Empire is not a polymorphous and bulimic state anymore, but a danger for everyone. Machivelli was hostile to the American life style, funded on the commitment of mercenaries, supporting the obligatory military service. John Perkins [2007], being an “economic killer”, as he would define himself, notices that the politics he’s brain-washed with is one oriented towards conquering the planet – and this is benefic to American economy. Similarly, individuals, along with the ones named “the jackals”, are enormously paid to establish connections in the system and in the army. This violence, specific to the Occident, has only one objective: the desire to dominate, and hierarchise, which the Europeans unite against. 3.3.2. The social division: the rich and the poor. The absence of social protection. The level of education The base of the recruiting of terrorists from Indonesia to Palestine and from New York to Bombay is constituted by the generation of poor, uneducated, hopeless young people. Violence becomes their generation sole revenge instrument. According to Sophie Bessis’ view [2004], we are the victims of our desperation and the craftsmen of our disaster. American civilization has become the base for desperation, and terrorism. The political world domination that the United States exerts attracts the difference between the poor and the rich, the appearance of a nobility caste and the spreading of wars. Poverty and the profound inequalities of the

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American society are accentuated by the inexistence of a system of social protection. There aren’t any unemployment compensations, neither retirement systems, nor assistance for the disadvantaged people of the society. There isn’t any such idea as human solidarity. Europeans believe that in the US, only rich people’s kids can go to college, because of the huge tuitions. Result: the low level of American education. Jean-François Revel admits that Americans have shown terrible pride in choosing incapable presidents, from Truman to Bush. 3.3.3. Modern Slavery The Occident causes the people of the Orient an irresistible attraction towards enrichment. The flood of emigrants was tolerated, but the USA Government was obliged to give, from time to time, citizenship right to foreign workers, who were living there illegally and couldn’t be repatriated anymore. The affluence characterizing the last years was beyond the limits, so the Government began to take measures of defense. Alexandre Zinoviev[2002] considers that the emigrants form a social layer comparable to that of slaves during the Roman Empire, because they don’t have rights and their living condition is limited, the same as that of the slaves. They form a non- expensive working force, convenient for jobs considered unworthy by the Westerners. A decade ago, in Germany, the wage of a Turkish was three times less than the wage of a German. Migration is a phenomenon of the present world, which also causes negative attitudes like despise, hostility, xenophobia [ Bessis 2004], so all the expressions the Romanians are acquainted with during their restless wandering through Europe. 3.3.4. The obsession for money. A society of hyper-consumption The American civilization supposes the art of achieving material success against the European opponent, in spite of the absence of spiritual superiority[Spengler 1996: 569]. In the occidental society, governed by money [ Revel 2004: 119], there are no moral, cultural, family, civic, religious, deontological or intellectual values anymore. All these identify with money. Everything is for sale. The individual value is exclusively given by the bank account. Precisely, everything is about savage liberalism and capitalism. From the point of view of superhuman relationships, the individual has no value. He is important only as a means of satisfying his desires and of attaining success. For the “occidentaloids” [ Zinoviev 2002: 372] the


Aspects of the Crisis of the West

meaning of life is reduced to two perspectives: to obtain a high level of living and to fight for the maximum personal liberty. The first desire makes the Occidental pragmatic and the second one pushes him towards isolation. The Occidental lives under the sign of a civilization of desire, of hedonism. The feeling of the present is replaced by the perspectives for the future., the temptation of comfort replaced nationalist views, entertainment replaced the revolution[ Lipovetsky 2007]. Money creates a kind of paradoxical happiness. The condition of the paradoxical happiness is exactly the absence of hope [ Comte- Sponville et alii 2007], that is living in the eternal present, without future, consuming without producing. The time when Freud wrote that happiness was not a cultural value is gone. Anxiety and deceptions are concealed by hedonistic temptations. The hyper-consumption society offers an apparent and paradoxical happiness. But, in fact, this society is synonymous with anxiety, depression, the loss of self respect. The new civilization did not abolish human sociability, but individual’s peace with himself and the world. More material satisfaction, more games, more journeys, but, in the same time, less joy to live. The excessive consumption society is, as Baudrillard [ 1970] observed, a mirror in which the individual loses his image among the multiplicity of contemplated objects. In this era of “consumerism” without borders [Lipovetsky 2007: 116], one can note the absence of reflection or even the spiritual crisis. 3.3.5. Self- centeredness. Entertainment or the skepticism of an era The present generation could be characterized by a sort of isolation. The country, religion, family are elements that lost their force to constraint the individual. The only ways of intrusion into private life are taxes and national service. The inevitable individualism is consolidated by the decline of the family, which was an intermediate between individual and society. The United States of America is considered a “common project”, in fact, an undefined frame where individuals are abandoned [Alan Bloom 2006: 96]. The deceptions of such a generation are known under two contradictory forms: entertainment and skepticism. Modern technology allows making a show from nothing. Who wants to be successful, just has to offer entertainment. There is a kind of : “hoollywoodism” of social life [Zinoviev 2002: 360]. Medical interventions, judicial trials, official visits, everything becomes show. But everything marks the fundamental deception of a lost generation which has discovered depersonalization and

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dehumanization. The depression caused by the lack of human relations, by isolation, is compressed by entertainment or by conflicts between gangs, by alcoholism or by drugs. One could say that the profound pessimism dominates the logic of the world which refuses the sacred in order to destroy itself [Berdiaev 1995]. God is denied in the name of individual’s creative action and than, the individual is denied in the name of something inhuman. The extreme individualism and socialism are the two forms of the “abstract disintegration” of society and of personality [Berdiaev 1995: 38]. After the occidental social crisis, the only thing that is left is the spiritual crisis which will destroy the entire European and American world [Spengler 1996: 584]. The tyranny of intelligence, in which we are the peak, is, in every culture, nothing more than a period between the age of development and the old age. The Occidental is defined as fanatic and skeptic in the same time. What defines a fanatic is his certainty that he possesses the final truth. From here the interior rigidity and enthusiasm with which he pretends that the others accept the truth proposed by himself. The fanatic knows no doubt. That is why the skeptic opposes to the fanatic. The skeptic shows his taste for relativism. To the certainty of the fanatic opposes the uncertainty of the skeptic. The fanatic does not show empathy , just his categorical superiority [Oz 2007: 18]. USA’s ardent external politics is perfectly completed, from inside, by the philosophy individual and collective skepticism. Fanaticism takes the form of universal hatred. The American AntiMuslim campaign is similar to the European Anti- Semitic campaign, taking into account both Christian and world conscience[ Besancon 2007, Gluksmann 2007, Eco 2007]. Hatred creates an universal non-value or, as Gluksmann names it, a permanent feature of the human being.

4. The future of the crisis The end of the American empire is unpredictable, just like the end of the debate between Christians and Muslims. The “hyper-empire” will prevent the birth of a “ hyper-democracy”[ Attali 2007: 212]. What the future reserves to the civilization of hyper-democracy is the birth of a new man, who will realize that hyper-violence will cause the necessity to definitely change peoples’ and individuals’ attitude. Finally, “ the dictatorships that caricaturize hyper-democracy will last less than those that caricaturized socialism” [idem: 213].


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The new individual , a kind of “trans-human”, will refuse to enter the pirate services; they will be concerned with helping their contemporaries and descendants; they will not identify with the egoism of the hypernomads and they will not consider themselves only the result of the environment, in order to create a new world. The power of communication will replace the power of war.

5. Conclusions The situation of the occidental crisis extends over the entire world having, as point of departure, the complex of unique world power i.e. the United States of America, to which the Europeans oppose a new power the the European Union. Throughout centuries, the crisis marked the history of all empires. It is an identity crisis, essential to Europe, particularly to France, and existentialist for the US. The essentialist crisis in France defines its incapacity of keeping its power, during Napoleon’s reign or the impossibility of deflection, of replacing agriculture with industry, in an era of complete industrialization in the past, and the politic indecision concerning the lack of interest for England to be part of the European Union, at present. One could also add the vehemence with which the French support the Anti-American campaign. The existentialist crisis is specific to the U.S., as a result of a polymorphous and insatiable politics of their involvement in the wars all over the world in order to consolidate their economic, financial, technologic, monetary power, in order to keep world supremacy. The permanent crisis status is supported by Muslim attacks from outside, and by violence, the mechanism and rigidity of justice, the moral of necessity, the social gap between the rich and the poor, the absence of social protection, modern slavery, the obsession for money, self centeredness and the skepticism of the present generation , from inside. In the future, the crisis will increase and the collapse will be inevitable. The reevaluation of human relationships could be a solution to the social, political and cultural crisis. One could imagine the existence of an idealist philosophy that will consider Occidentalism as a common place of civilization and of the country, at the end of the Anti-American, AntiArabic or Anti-Semitic campaigns, so at the end of the realistic conceptions about the occidental crisis.

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Bibliography Attali, Jacques, 2007, Scurtă istorie a viitorului, with a chapter for the Romanian version, translated by Mihai Ungurean, Iaúi, Polirom Baudrillard, Jean, 1970, La société de consommation, Paris, SGPP Berdiaev, Nicolae, 1995, Un nou Ev Mediu, introductory study Sandu Frunză, Craiova, Editura Omniscop Besançon, Alain, 2007, Eseuri despre lumea de azi, translated by Adina Cobuc, Bucureúti, Humanitas Bessis, Sophie, 2004, Occidentul úi ceilalĠi. Istoria unei supremaĠii, translated by Narcisa ùerbănescu, Bucureúti, Editura Runa Bloom, Allan, 2006, Criza spiritului american. Cum universităĠile au trădat democraĠia úi au sărăcit sufletele studenĠilor, translated by Mona Antohi, Bucureúti, Humanitas Bloom, Harold, 1998, Canonul occidental. CărĠile úi ùcoala Epocilor, translated by Diana Stanciu, Bucureúti, Univers Comte-Sponville, André, Delumeau, Jean, Farge, Arlette, 2007, Cea mai frumoasă istorie a fericirii, translated by Marina Mureúanu Ionescu, Bucureúti, Editura Art Dubar, Claude, 2003, Criza identităĠilor. Interpretarea unei mutaĠii,translated by Gheorghe ChiriĠă, Editura ùtiinĠa Eco, Umberto, 2007, Înainte ca racul. Războaie calde úi populism mediatic, Bucureúti, Rao InternaĠional Glucksmann, André, 2007, Discursul urii, translated by Ileana Cantuniari, Bucureúti, Humanitas Joxe, Alain, 2003, Imperiul haosului,translated by Angela Jipescu, Bucureúti, Corint Lévi-Strauss, Claude, 1997, L'identité. Séminaire du Collège de France, Paris, PUF Lipovetsky, Gilles, 2007, Fericirea paradoxală. Eseu asupra societăĠii de hiperconsum,translated by Mihai Ungurean, Iaúi, Polirom Manent, Pierre, 2003, O filozofie politică pentru cetăĠean, translated by Mona Antohi, Bucureúti, Humanitas —. 2000, Originile politicii moderne. Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, translated by Alexandra Ionescu, Editura Nemira Oz, Amos, 2007, Cum să lecuieúti un fanatic, translated by Dana Ligia Ilie, Bucureúti, Humanitas Péloile, Bernard, 1996, Enquête sur une disparition dans La Pensée, 308 Perkins, John, 2007, Confesiunile unui asasin economic, translated by Ana Budică, Bucureúti, Litera InternaĠional


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Revel, Jean-François, 2004, Obsesia antiamericană. Cum funcĠionează, care îi sunt cauzele úi inconsecvenĠele, translated by Dan C. Mihăilescu, Bucureúti, Humanitas Sauvy, Alfred, 1957, La machine et le chômage, Paris, Payot Spengler, Oswald, 1996, Declinul Occidentului. SchiĠă de morfologie a istoriei, translated by Ioan Lascu, Craiova, Editura Beladi Valéry, Paul, 1996, Criza spiritului úi alte eseuri, translated by Maria Ivănescu, Iaúi, Polirom Zartarian, Vahé, 2003, Marile civilizaĠii: China, India, Islam, Occident – o paralelă, translated by Mărgărita Vavi Petrescu, Bucureúti, Editura Lider Zinoviev, Alexandr, 2002, Occidentul. Fenomenul occidentalismului, translated by Nadejda Stahovschi, Bucureúti, Editura Vremea.



Social Contract Theory holds that government is not inevitable and that it must be justified by benefits to those governed, who are better off with government than without it. The principle that government should make life better for those governed follows from the assumptions that those governed must consent before government is possible and that they are rational, self-interested agents. The social contract entails that government thereby has obligations to those governed. As either a thought experiment or an historical example, the “state of nature” is posited as a condition of life without government. Contemporary disasters often result in a “second state of nature” in which citizens cannot self-subsist, partly due to the temporary dysfunction of government. Because this dysfunction is temporary, government can be assumed to have continuity. However, original social contract obligations entail that government inform and assist citizens in preparation for probable disaster. Both social contract theory and its extension to disaster derive from reasoning about ethics and values (moral reasoning).

Freedom, Morality, Law, and Presidential Directives Talk about living “under” or “within” the law is metaphorical. The spatial metaphors reflect complex relationships among action, knowledge of the law, and beliefs about what is right and wrong; the complexity of the relationships lies in how they are interwoven in lived experience. We treat “liberty” and “freedom” as synonyms and talk about “our freedoms under the law” and living in “a free country.” But in practice, we distinguish between autonomy and lack of external constraint. Our 1

Excerpted from Naomi Zack, ETHICS for DISASTER, forthcoming.

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autonomy or freedom is largely an internal, psychic matter, whereas our liberty concerns what others may and may not do to us or force us to do. Therefore, strictly speaking, for political discourse, liberty lies in what the law does not prohibit and freedom is a condition of individual choice. While it could be argued that human beings are always free, or always determined, for that matter, their liberties are a direct result of the system of government under which they live, of laws. People can choose to obey or disobey the law, and that is a matter of freedom, distinct from the content of law; they can also choose whether to exercise the liberties allowed for by the law. These are the differences that support the distinction between liberty and freedom. We talk about living under or within the law, though we may not know what the relevant laws are that define our liberties. Most citizens construct their lives with the intention of not violating laws -- they generally intend to be law-abiding. Specific laws are often uppermost in the minds of whose who intend to break them and those who enforce them against law breakers. Both these sides probably know the law better than the average citizen. Average law-abiding citizens do not always need to know exactly what the law is, because they are justifiably confident of being lawabiding. One reason for this is that law-abiding citizens, or those who live within the law, assume, more or less correctly, that the law is more or less co-extensive with their morality, and they already know the difference between right and wrong actions. Morality is a matter of individual autonomy or freedom, of choices that affect human well-being. Morality is prior to law, whenever particular forms of government are advocated, or before governments exist. But once a government is established, law breakers are presumed to be immoral and it requires a special effort to use moral principles to criticize existing laws and government, even though modern democratic government provides for the legality of such criticism. Theoretically, the moral foundation of a government and its laws is pertinent to thinking about disaster. Moral intuitions can guide the creation of new laws for unprecedented situations, and/or extend existing laws to them; moral intuitions may also motivate criticism of the laws applicable to disaster. In general, laws that have a clearly understood foundation in received moral opinion are more respected than those that lack it. This especially pertains to disaster, when human life and well-being may be directly at stake. At least since the Cold War, American presidents have issued or operated under Presidential Decision Directives ensuring the continuity of federal and local government under a national security emergency. Besides


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providing for Continuity of Government (COG), these directives have stipulated for Enduring Constitutional Government (ECG) and Continuity of Operations (COOP).2 The role of national security directives in increasing presidential powers and possibly shifting traditional divisions of governmental power, from the legislature to the executive, occasions much ongoing debate.3 However there is a consensus so broad that it is implicit: The US government will endure during national security emergencies, and also natural catastrophes.4 And furthermore, this endurance will be continuous with a return to normal conditions. The question is how the government will endure: What will be the effects on private citizens of diminished government functioning? Presidential directives seem to make provisions from the perspective of top government officials and appear to be primarily about the preservation of government. While current national security directives stipulate COOP (continuity of operations), it is difficult to distinguish within these stipulations between operations that preserve government authority and powers, and operations that directly benefit private individuals. From the perspective of citizens, the result is that although there will still be law, which it is presumed they will obey, their own active roles and the importance of their lives and well-being are not the main subject. Such omission of autonomous civilians, of their experiences, practices, and plans, in disaster preparation and response is not a possibility in real life. The directives may therefore be abstract in referring to government as a discrete entity, separate from society. Those governed live in society, of which government is a part, so in reality, it is unlikely that government could be saved, apart from saving society. If the society to be saved is 2

George W. Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51, which is also Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20 on May 9,2007. See: . This 2007 directive revokes its predecessor, Presidential Decision Directive 67 of October 21, 1998. (See. 3 See, for example, Vikki Gordon, “The Law: Unilaterally shaping U.S. National Security Policy:The Role of National Security Directives, Presidential Studies Quarterly, vol. 37, Issue 2, pp’ 349-367, June 2007. 4 National catastrophes are explicitly included in the language of the May 9, 2007 Presidential Decision Directive (see 2 d. footnote 1 supra). The inability of some courts to function, in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, during Hurricane Katrina, focused attention on COOP planning on local levels, according to guidelines issued by the Administrative Office of the Uited States Courts. (See R.E. Petersen, “Emergency Preparedness and Continuity of Operations (COP) in the Federal Judiciary, Defense Technical Information Center, assession no. ADA446189.)

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democratic society then the question from the perspective of private citizens is, What provisions have been made for that in disaster preparation? If the question is how to ensure the continuity of democratic society through disaster, perhaps the perspective of private citizens can be expressed in terms of a “tradeoff” between security and liberty, and an examination and reaffirmation of the values of each? That is, might not the real questions be these: How much protection from danger do we want that we are willing to pay for with liberties we take for granted? Or, What risks do we choose to take in order to safeguard our liberties? These are vital questions, but they have less content and are more vague than appears. First, the “we” who will answer them is undetermined---it could be our political leaders using discretionary or extraordinary powers, or it could be “we the people.” In the former case it is a matter of top-down executive decisions, in the later, matters of legislator’s votes, referenda or even direct civilian choice. Second, the terms “protection” and “risks” refer to different things in preparing for, responding to, and preventing disasters. In preparation, at risk is the money and other resources allocated, which will have been wasted if a disaster does not occur, and the liberty at stake is property ownership of one kind or another. In response, the liberties constrained are likely to be more personal, such as freedom of movement and assembly, although prior property and consumption rights might also be curtailed. In prevention, the risk may be loss of life and property or the occurrence of disaster; the liberties involve persons, their property, their movement and privacy, and also due process under existing law. Obviously, it is in the prevention of disaster that the tradeoff between security and safety is most urgent. The focus of this book is on preparing for and responding to disasters. It is assumed with this that disasters will occur, and that the public can accept that as a fact. It is further assumed that the urgency of the tradeoff between security and safety in the prevention of disaster can be bracketed. The difference between projects of prevention and projects of preparation and response are both conceptual and practical. Prevention requires knowledge of and direct intervention in the causes of disaster, whereas preparation concerns knowledge and mitigation of the effects of disaster. From the perspective of private individuals thinking about conditions of disaster, as part of their own preparation, the questions are: How will they benefit in COOP (continuity of [government] operations)? and What are the obligations of government to them? There is also a broader political science question of whether and how benefits to citizens and obligations of government to citizens in disaster can be justified.


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Modern Social Contract Theory, as developed by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke can help provide answers to these questions. Although social contract theory is studied in political philosophy and political science, it is foundationally a moral theory because it posits the intrinsic value of those who will be governed and recognizes their prior autonomy and the obligations to them of ensuing government. According to social contract theory, the purpose of government is to increase the well-being of those governed and the very existence of government, as a new institution, requires the consent of those governed. That is, government cannot be founded without consent. The ideas of individual human worth, the value of human well-being, and the presumption of individual freedom such that those governed must initially consent to be governed, are all moral ideas. The intuitions giving rise to these moral ideas, be they religious, humanistic, or naturalistic, are primary; these intuitions cannot be derived from facts or logical reasoning. Nevertheless, the intuitions, as intuitions, may seem factual or logically inevitable to those holding them, and much reasoning can and has been constructed about the moral ideas arising from the intuitions.

Social Contract Theory and the Second State of Nature The modern philosophical idea of a social contract at the foundation of civil society, or society under government, dates back to John Locke and Thomas Hobbes in the seventeenth century. Of course, theirs are not the only ideas of how government originated and can be justified. There is a tradition of naturalistic theories dating from Aristotle’s Politics, whereby government developed from the expansion of smaller forms of human organization, such as the family, clan, village, and state.5 There are supernatural theories, whereby government is a creation of God (St. Augustine6), and grand historical theories whereby government is the expression of other principles guiding the natural, human, and social order (Hegel and Marx7). There are also utopian, Manichean, and anarchistic theories of government, and so forth.


Aristotle, Politics, in The Basic Works of Aristotle, Richard McKeon, ed. New York, NY: Random House, 1941, Bk I, 1252-1253. 6 St Augustine, The City of God, R.W. Dyson, ed. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, NY, MA, 1998. 7 Wolfgang Hegel, Philosophy of Right and Law, trans. J. M. Sterrett and Carl J. Friedrich, in The Philosophy of Hegel, ed. Carl J. Friedrich, New York, NY: Random House, 1953; Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto,

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Hobbes and Locke are not the sole architects of social contract theory. Thomas Aquinas, despite his debt to Aristotle, mentions the obligations of rulers.8 Jean-Jacques Rousseau provided a variation of Locke’s ideas in the eighteenth century, substituting the notion of the common good for representative democracy.9 John Rawls during the second half of the twentieth century extended social contract theory to more egalitarian ideals than envisioned by Hobbes or Locke, with his conception of justice as fairness.10 However, Locke’s version of the social contract is widely believed to be most relevant to the United States, because his ideas influenced Thomas Jefferson and other founders. And Hobbes offers a contrast to Locke, based on a different view of human nature, which many still think best captures the difficulty and immorality of human life in all contexts, but disasters especially. The social contract is an explicit or implicit agreement among citizens which justifies the formation of government and emphasizes the rights of citizens in their relationships to government. Social contract theory posits those rights of citizens that are prior to, and more fundamental than, the organization of society under government. Such rights are presumed in the United States Declaration of Independence and they are protected by the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. The ultimate justification for the existence of government according to social contract theory is that government makes life better for those governed. Locke and Hobbes used the idea of a state of nature, a description of human life without government, to give an historical account of how government came to be, and to explain the benefits of government. Locke thought that humans were cooperative and industrious in the state of nature, whereas Hobbes thought that their lives were solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.11

in Karl Marx, Selected Writings ed. Lawrence H. Simon, Hackett: Indianapolis, IN, 1994, pp. 153-186. 8 Thomas Aquinas, On Kingship, Bk I, chap. 5. trans. G. B. Phelan and I. Th. Eschmann, Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies: Toronto, Ca, 1959. 9 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Maurice Cranston, ed. New York, NY, Penguin Classics, 1961, Book III. 10 John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 1971, chap. 1. pp. 3-53. 11 .John Locke, Second Treatise in Two Treatises of Government, Peter Laslett, ed., New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1991 Chaps. VII , VIII, IX. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Edwin Curley ed., Indianapolis, IN, Hackett, 1994, Leviathan, Chapter XIII, “solitary, nasty, brutish and short” quote from p. 76.


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Both Hobbes and Locke assumed that there was an original ungoverned condition of humankind in the state of nature. But they also both implied that even if there never were a state of nature in human history, positing it afforded political theorists an idea of human life without government, to which human life with government could be compared and justified.12 That comparison and justification is the main theme of social contract theory. Social contract theory requires that government not be accepted as inevitable and beyond the control of those governed, but that its origination, if not its continued existence, requires the consent of those governed.13 This consent enables a social contract that places specific obligations on government. Because life was tolerable in a state of nature according to Locke, he had a minimal view of government functions which were limited to: the protection of private property, the unbiased settlement of disputes, punishment of criminals domestically, and protection from foreign enemies.14 Although Locke emphasized the importance of protecting private property, his notion of property was robust, because it extended to life and liberty as well as material possessions (or what he called Aestate).15 By contrast, Hobbes believed that the competitive and aggressive nature of human beings required strong (what we would consider despotic) central authority, to enforce the peace.16 As a result, Locke defined the social contract as an agreement between citizens and their rulers,17 whereas Hobbes thought that the social contract was an agreement among citizens to give up their own rights to make war among each other, and at the same time, make an irrevocable gift of those rights to an absolute ruler or Leviathan.18Hobbes and Locke shared a strong conviction that the powers of government derived from the powers and consent of those governed. Locke, insofar as he thought that society could exist without government, believed that if government 12

While neither faced the lack of historical proof directly, each offered examples of continuing states of nature in non-European parts of the world and existing relations among sovereigns or nations. See Locke, Second Treatise Chap I, S 14, and 15, Chap XVI, S. 184; and Hobbes, Leviathan,xiii, 11 and 12. 13 Origination requires consent. For Locke, the continued existence of government is implicitly consented to (Locke’s term is “tacit consent”). Second Treatise. VIII, S. 119. For Hobbes it is inherited as a result of the first irrevocable gift of powers to the Leviathan. See note 15 14 Locke, Second Treatise, Chaps. VII and VIII. 15 Locke, Second Treatise, Chap. V. 16 Hobbes, Leviathan, Chaps. xvii, xviii. 16. Locke, Second Treatise, Chap XIX 18 See note 15.

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collapsed, its powers would revert to the people, but that if society collapsed, government would no longer exist.19 Hobbes thought that the gift of power to government by those who would be governed was irrevocable and that there could not be anything resembling peaceful and cooperative society, or even society itself, without government.20 Both Locke and Hobbes were addressing the seventeenth century Divine Right of Kings doctrine. 21 Because rulers did not derive their right to rule from God, but from the people, according to both Locke and Hobbes, social contract theory has been understood as a secular political theory. Still, this is not to say that the most fundamental principles of government are independent of beliefs about Natural Law, which consisted of God’s rules for men in the state of nature, or independent of moral intuitions from other sources. Both Locke and Hobbes began with Natural Law in constructing their theories about the role of government and its justification. The difference between them was that Locke thought humankind obeyed the first principle of Natural Law, that they not harm one another, whereas Hobbes thought that humans were incapable of keeping the peace without government.22 Locke endured as the political philosopher for the foundations of American democracy in those documents and legal traditions that both protect the rights of individuals and provide a method of decision making via majority rule. Locke held that citizens are entitled to representation in a legislative body and that the decision of the majority is binding on all citizens.23 (For example, no matter how divided votes are along party lines, the winning candidates in American presidential elections become presidents of those who voted for their opponents, as well as those who voted for them.) However, Hobbes’ view of the warlike and dangerous 19

Locke, Second Treatise, Chap XIX, S. 220. ”When the government is dissolved, the People are at liberty to provide for themselves, by erecting a new Legislative…” 20 Hobbes, Chaps.xxvii, 10. See e.g., “where laws ceaseth, sins ceaseth” and “when the soverign power ceaseth, crime also ceaseth.” 21 Locke’s First Treatise (in in Two Treatises of Government, Peter Laslett, ed. ) is a series of arguments against Robert Filmer’s attempt to derive the right of kings from Adam. 22 For Locke, the principle of natural law is that we not harm one another and there is no evidence he thought there was tremendous difficulty in obeying it. See Second Treatise, Chap III, S. 19 in which he describes the state of nature as “a State of Peace, good Will, Mutual Assistance, and Preservation.” According to Hobbes, we are always at war with one another without government.See Leviathan, Chaps.xiv, xv. 23 Locke, Second Treatise, Chap. VIII, Sec. 95, 96, 97, pp. 330-332.


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nature of human beings in conditions without government seems to have provided the most dreaded description of what can happen domestically, without adequate preparation, in the absence of functional government during catastrophe. Apart from science fiction, it is not only inconceivable, but probably beyond the scope of political theory, that any disaster could result in the total and permanent failure of government as we know it.24 However, the temporary dysfunction of government in responding to some disasters, and different abilities of citizens to effectively respond to disasters on their own, raise fundamental political questions that bring us back to Locke and Hobbes. At first, it may seem as though conditions under which individual survival requires private measures, are a return to a state of nature, however temporarily. But this is not the literal case because present social and material structures have not only removed us from an original condition, but made it very difficult to return to one in a short period of time. The inability to self-subsist in the absence of government characterizes urban subcultures in the US, such as parts of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and also rural communities in parts of the world that have not yet fully industrialized. (Many residents of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans remained displaced and unable to return home months (now years) after Katrina, and in the Kashmir district after the 2005 Pakistan earthquake millions were homeless months later.25) Moreover, disasters that cause great physical destruction leave victims without the most basic survival ingredients in their immediate environments, rural or urban. The destruction of an existing society’s material basis of human life does not return human beings to an original state of nature, because it does not return them to conditions under which self-sufficient survival is possible. It is not possible to return to some manner of living off the land after most modern disasters. However, the conditions of immediate environmental privation during the time period in which government is not functioning normally to repair material conditions, qualify as a second state of nature. 24

Human life without all forms of government as we know them would probably be a subject for anthropology, rather than political theory. 25 On the perceived lasting effects of Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Pakistan on the poor in the same year they occurred, see, respectively: Jodi Wilgoren, “In 14 Weeks Since Storm, 14 Places Called Home,” New York Times, December 13, 2005; Manabu and Kitagawa, “Asia: Winter threatens to compound horror of Pakistani Earthquake,” December 17, 2005 at

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The question in terms of social contract theory is this. What does government owe citizens in situations when government is temporarily dysfunctional, that is, in the second state of nature? If property is privately owned or owned by the local community, government does not owe restitution to citizens who have lost their property or had it destroyed. But as part of government’s benevolence, it is appropriate that it offer some compensation in those cases, much as a good neighbor might. The material resources of government in democratic capitalistic countries are the results of taxation, so such compensation amounts to some members of society helping other members, who have sustained losses through no fault of their own. However, there is a more fundamental issue raised by the inability of citizens to systematically prepare for, or take an active role in the response to disaster. The material base of modern industrial society is a dynamic system that is kept in motion by exchanges through commerce. Orderly private commerce indirectly depends on systems of government regulation and oversight, while utilities such as power, transportation, and clean water and air, as well as protection and security, are more directly dependent on government oversight. These indirect and direct dependencies on government have been broadly and deeply institutionalized in the very ways that render even a temporary return to an original state of nature, impossible. If a disaster did not make it impossible to Alive off the land@ and the land itself were intact, a disaster could still make it impossible for citizens to function normally in society, without government, because their functioning in society has come to require the functions of government. Thus, while Locke could plausibly talk about society continuing in the absence of government, we cannot. In addition to the first destruction and disruption attending disasters, we face a second more profound breakdown in civil society, which is made worse by the dysfunction of government. For example, it is bad when people are injured and die from a disastrous event, or are victimized by criminals afterwards, but these misfortunes are made worse when medical treatment is unavailable, human remains are not removed, and criminals are not apprehended and punished. Disasters may block and delay transportation, and disrupt the distribution of necessities. The resulting inability of civilians to create in a short period of time a useful social condition that will sustain their lives, entails that some will lie, steal, and kill, to get what they need or protect themselves. As a result, the second state of nature may more resemble a brutal Hobbesian condition than a peaceful, cooperative, and productive Lockean community. Such conditions of social disorganization require central authority for efficient reorganization and repair, as well as keeping


Social Contract Theory and Disaster Preparation

the peace. Only government has that kind of administrative power. Because the second state of nature in disasters is only a temporary condition without government, not only are the usual justifications for government not put in question by it, but many citizens accept, and some actively welcome, unusually strong expressions of government authority, such as martial law. It has been demonstrated countless times that private individuals, institutions, and companies are unable to sustain effective long-term preparations for disaster response, or to refrain from activities that increase risks in future disasters. Social scientists and public policy experts refer to stages in disaster response that range from high readiness to complacent ignorance, as the time after any particular disaster increases. 26 Structures washed away in floods may be replaced by more expensive ones that are just as vulnerable, brick buildings may not be retro-fitted to prepare for predicted earthquakes, local emergency response resources are at the mercy of fluctuating budgets, individuals may misplace, use up, or fail to procure emergencies supplies, and so forth. However, the general failure in civilian disaster preparation does not in itself imply that government must be the preparer or responder of last resort. Such a last resort role of government is not, strictly speaking, an obligation of government. Any obligation of government concerning second states of nature would have to stem from the basic principles of social contract theory. The argument based on social contract theory for the obligation of government to assist civilians in effective disaster preparation and response is this: Government has a continual obligation to benefit those governed by rendering them better off than they would have been in the first state of nature. The temporary dysfunction of government in disasters results in a second state of nature for those governed. Therefore, government has an extended obligation to render citizens better off than they may otherwise be in a second state of nature. That is, government is obligated to ensure adequate disaster preparation and planning, for all probable disasters, in precisely those ways in which the public has demonstrated its inabilities. The scholarly foundations for such an obligation would consist of new work in political science, political philosophy, and law. Here, it is worth noting that government obligations based on an original social contract as extended to a second state of nature


In Changing Homeland Security: The Issue-Attention Cycle, Christopher Bellavita discusses Anthony Downs 1972 article, The Issue-Attention Cycle, The Public Interest, 28 (Summer 1972):38-50. (Homeland Security Affairs, Vol. I, I, Summer 2005, Article 1.

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are different in principle from special entitlements of some citizens, paternalism, or any form of socialist welfare. Locke and Hobbes’ contrasting views of human nature seem relevant to the kind of life possible in contemporary disaster. Locke believed that orderly and cooperative society, as he knew, it would continue to exist in the absence of government, because he believed that we are cooperative and peaceful by nature; the state of nature for Locke was a viable social condition, complete with orderly market conditions and respect for private property.27 Hobbes believed that orderly and cooperative society was completely dependent on government, because he believed that we are competitive and aggressive by nature; according to Hobbes we are not naturally social. Thus, for Locke, if the government is destroyed, normal society remains intact, whereas for Hobbes, if the government is destroyed, there is no normal society and we are back to life “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” a war of each against all and vice versa. A present Lockean view of intact normal society under conditions of disaster, points to voluntary, familial, and community organization that would regroup or spring up during the temporary dysfunction of government under conditions of disaster. Hobbes’ view is the worst case scenario and it lurks as a possibility immediately following catastrophic incidents, in the absence of adequate preparation and response. Regardless of whether humankind “really” is by nature peaceful and cooperative, or warlike, we have already enough examples of volunteer response and familial and community organization following disasters, to view them as ideals during preparation. However, there is no guarantee, without adequate preparation, that such conditions would automatically prevail--all that can be done beforehand is a maximization of chances that they will. Locke’s vision of peaceful, cooperative, and one should emphasize, agrarian society, before government, was able to posit government as a convenience, mainly to punish criminals fairly.28 In our second state of nature, government is a necessity for survival, not so much because of human aggression, although that is a consideration, but because humankind can no longer get its living directly from nature.


See note 22, above. Locke, Second Treatise. Chap. VII, S. 90. “For the end of Civil Society, being to avoid and remedy those inconveniencies of the State of Nature, which necessarily follow from every Man’s being Judge in his own case…” 28


Social Contract Theory and Disaster Preparation

The second state of nature as a theoretical tool The second state of nature as the result of disaster is both a possible condition that could become actual, and a theoretical one. Disaster preparation and reflection before the fact allow for the likelihood of a more agreeable second state of nature in the event of disaster. That is the second state of nature as a possible condition. But the theoretical value of the second state of nature is severely compromised in comparison to the [first] state of nature. Political philosophers posited the state of nature as both an early historical condition of mankind and a general condition without government, against which government would be justified. In the seventeenth century, modern government was in its early stages, so it made sense that Locke and Hobbes would describe a state of nature as a condition that might plausibly have existed in the past, just beyond recorded history. That condition in which humans were closer to a natural environment was also not completely overcome by seventeenth century technology. We, however, can no longer inhabit the earth as a natural environment, but require human-made intermediary conditions between us and nature, for our very survival. This entails that in a second state of nature, without preparation, we are left to devise precarious existence in dysfunctional artificial environments. Second states of nature not only fail to return us to original situations of material self-sufficiency, but they also do not place us in a political situation from which we consent to government, anew. Insofar as disaster results only in the temporary suspension or dysfunction of government, the idea of a second state of nature cannot be used to think about founding government itself as an institution that did not exist previously. There is first, the obvious reason that legitimate government still exists. But there is a second more important reason why the idea of a second state of nature cannot be used to justify government as an institution that does not already exist. Social contract theory requires a contract. A contract requires a lack of constraint on both sides. Because normal existence and in some cases life itself, without government, is not possible in a second state of nature, those governed would not be free to desist from a social contract originating government. Therefore, second states of nature cannot give rise to new social contracts that found government. Second states of nature can become bearable via an extension of preexisting government, based on the original social contract conceptualized as having been founded in the first state of nature. This is why COG (continuity of government) and COOP (continuity of operations) are so important. Without COG and COOP, whatever new government arises in

Naomi Zack


the second state of nature will not be based on a voluntary social contract as traditionally understood. It will not likely be either democratic or representational, and it will not have a moral foundation based on recognition of the autonomy of those governed. Nevertheless, unless the support of adequate disaster preparation by civilians is a recognized obligation of government, understood to derive from the founding social contract, the public will be left out of COG and COOP, undermining the continuity and operations of specifically democratic government. Assuming that it is possible to prepare for disaster so that there is a semblance of normal life in second state of nature conditions, without such preparation, government will be left to play a humanitarian role in disaster response. Humanitarian aid is by definition unilateral, rather than contractual. It is morally good, but not morally required. Humanitarian aid from government to its own citizens cannot be justified in the fundamental way deriving from the founding social contract, that obligatory government assistance in preparation can. This is because, theoretically, those governed, as contractual parties, actively participated in the original founding of government, whereas those receiving humanitarian aid are passive recipients. Humanitarian aid, although a kind, benevolent, or charitable response to need and requests, can never rise to that support of human autonomy that fulfillment of an obligation can. When obligations are fulfilled, rights are recognized. A recognized right to assistance in preparing for disaster, not only mitigates the effects of disaster on human life and physical well-being, but preserves human dignity.


Ever since such landmark works as Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man started to dominate discussions regarding the future of Western Civilization, the world, and particularly the United States, much thought has been invested, inside and outside academia, imagining life in a steady state mode. In this context, works such as Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations and Benjamin Barber’s Jihad vs. McWorld seem to support the feeling that past historic achievements need to be preserved and defended rather than developed further and transformed. References to continuing progress in science and technology only seem to invite comparisons to societies, such as the Roman Empire, where similar phenomena were observed during their declining phase. Then as now, the ability of centralized government to assist struggling populations overcoming economic hardship, even with advanced technical means, has increasingly been put into question. The recent election of conservative leaders in key western states seems to indicate that large segments of populations want to retreat from what they may view as the “nanny state”, associated with social democracies, in favor of more freedom and selfreliance promised by the rhetoric of conservative parties. Those who doubt that this retreat is real or may not be permanent should acquaint themselves with Milton Friedman’s The Earth is Flat, a book that offers a realistic prognosis of how the current and irreversible trends of globalization, especially in economics, tend to level the playing fields between richer and poorer nations, resulting in a long term net loss of material wellbeing of the former. In the United States, nothing could demonstrate this development better than the abrogation of governmental obligation from looking after the material wellbeing of its citizens manifest in the so-called welfare reforms that were started by the Clinton Administration. These reforms drastically and permanently reduced the aid citizens in the past could

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expect from their government, even in times of deep crisis. If this new outlook needed a symbol, it was given by the City of New Orleans, now remembered for people left stranded on rooftops during the Katrina disaster in 2005. Residents who were prepared better to cope with such disasters had left the city earlier, demonstrating to many that it is better to rely on personal resources rather than governmental assistance. The lesson was learned quickly by a mournfully watching nation. Do not count on your government in times of crisis. The lesson seemed to confirm historical experience. For many centuries, Americans had to rely on their individual strength much more than people of other Western nations. As a result, Americans generally prepare themselves differently for possible times of hardship. In their envisioned hardship scenarios, government plays a reduced role, if it plays a role at all. In other words, when faced with a crisis, many, if not most, Americans develop a libertarian outlook that had been latently present all along. The roots of this libertarian outlook run deep in Western history. They can be traced back to the classical liberalism of John Locke, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, as well as anarchist thinkers such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Max Stirner and Louis Blanqui. While the former tried to show that the proper role of government consists mainly in protecting individual liberties, the latter tried to show that such liberties can flourish only if government is largely eliminated. The anarchist streak in classical liberalism, i.e., the willingness to live without government if it impedes the natural exercise of inalienable freedoms, is an essential component of libertarianism. The conceptual scope of libertarianism is large enough to be of appeal to all people who profess to uphold freedom of one kind or another. Because libertarians have defined freedom largely as freedom “from” rather than freedom “to”, it has been of primary interest to practical minded people who in their various pursuits seek protection from institutional and other interference. Hence most libertarian literature deals with political and economic questions, i.e., question of how people should arrange their affairs with one another when property and power at stake. There is general agreement that the theoretical foundation for the modern verity of economic libertarian thought was laid by two Austrians, Ludwig von Misis and Friedrich Hayek. Being Jewish, they became political refugees from the Hitler Regime in the U.S, where, following initial setbacks, their ideas received wide recognition. Hayek eventually, in 1974, received the Nobel Price in economics. The perhaps most prominent American advocate of libertarian ideas was the economist Milton


Libertarianism: Old Recipe for a New America?

Friedman, who received that Nobel two years later. But the best know modern libertarian thinker, no doubt, was Ayn Rand, whose novels about individual struggle, such as Fountain Head and Atlas Shrugged, became best sellers for many years running, despite some harsh reviews in the press. Libertarians argue that the maximum freedom they seek is best guaranteed in a strict laissez-faire society with a small government, where all property and as many institutions as possible remain in private hands. They generally seek freedom of speech, freedom of association, sexual freedom, reproductive freedom, freedom to carry arms, abolition of welfare, income tax, drug regulations, public enforcement agencies, military and police, except where absolutely necessary to protect life, liberty and property. And while the origin of such libertarian ideas may be traced back to Europe, it is in the United States where they have found their most widespread expression. In many ways, libertarians argue, the United States was founded primarily on libertarian principles. The Constitution defined a role for the federal government much smaller than what it practices today, and it restricted government to a limited set of mandated powers. But this vision of America has been lost, libertarians argue, through a series of expansions of centralized federal powers dating back at least to the Civil War, but definitely to the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the Great Society. Libertarian ideas were tailor-made for the Europeans that populated the American Continent in great numbers following the voyages of Columbus. No one has presented this point more convincingly than the historian Frederick Jackson Turner at the end of the 19th Century. Clashing with and largely destroying Native American people and culture in the process, the new Americans Turner describes for the most part lived the kind of life modern libertarians cherish--independent, resourceful, blaming no one for their failures but themselves. How they build a new nation, to a considerable degree on the backs of slaves imported from Africa, is a familiar story. Ultimately, though, their independence, especially in private life, was challenged by the unstoppable march of industrialization. Just about the time Turner praised the independent spirit of a new and uniquely democratic nation, many of its citizens became part of an ever growing dependent blue color work force. Ayn Rand tried to show that there always is ample of room for independent minds to prevail in and over this new industrial world. But they will do so, as she insisted over and over again, only at the expense of the downtrodden masses. In her novel The Fountainhead, the individualistic and heroic architect Howard Roark, whose character is based on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright, creates

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masterpieces of architecture despite the jealously destructive and unimaginative people he has to work with. Equally in Rand’s other major work, Atlas Shrugged, the genial John Galt saves society from ultimate collapse at the hands of small minded bureaucrats and welfare craving factory workers through clever manipulation of the creative powers residing in society’s best minds. In many respects Rand thought of her work as protecting the freedom of creative minds from a society pulled down by the corrosive effects of socialism. During the Mid-20th Century, her name in the U.S. became an icon for many who wanted to escape the humdrum of industrial life by trying to excel in a world bend on holding them down. In Rand’s mind, existing laws, governmental regulations, business and labor practices everywhere favored people connected to established power structures over people who mostly could offer only merit and motivation. The latter, no doubt, were receptive to the libertarian ideas not only of Ayn Rand, but when it came to economic matters, also to the ideas of von Misis and Hayeck. Both pleaded for a more open society, giving everyone a chance to excel economically and otherwise. Hayeck too denounced strongly all socialist principles in his most famous work The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944. Milton Friedman adopted the ideas of both thinkers and used them to advance laissez-faire economics in the tradition of classical liberalism. Because his approach was so radical, libertarians generally considered Friedman a major thinker for their cause, an accolade he accepted with pride. Eventually he too became a figure of world-historical importance, and the principles and methods he developed as a professor at the University of Chicago laid the foundation of what is now know known as the Chicago School of Economics. His most important contribution to libertarian thought consists in his work Capitalism and Freedom, published in 1962. As the book as well as his later writings show, Friedman never developed much interest in pondering deep philosophic questions, such as “what is liberty” or “how free are human beings really”? He simply assumed that all people want peace and prosperity and demonstrated in his works how a laissez-faire society provides the best guaranty for attaining them. In this context, he explained the role of government as he saw it. Unlike the two major roles libertarians generally assign to government, namely domestic peace and defense, Friedman argued that it has a responsibility to “foster competitive markets” and “enable us at times to accomplish jointly what we would find it more difficult or expensive to


Libertarianism: Old Recipe for a New America?

accomplish severally.”1 Still, his list of government functions and programs presented in Capital and Freedom that he felt needed to be abolished is long: minimum wages, Social Security, tariffs, licensing, price supports, housing subsidies, national parks, the post office, and the draft. Today the draft is the only one missing from the list. Milton paid a key role convincing the Nixon administration to convert to an all volunteer army following the Vietnam War.2 And he never got tired insisting that the dream of democratic socialism that had energized an entire generation to fight for reforms was over, delighting all libertarians. History may show that ultimately that dream may indeed be impossible, but it certainly was not over in the post-Vietnam Era when most Civil Rights laws and Great Society programs were implemented on a massive scale, extending government assistance to large sections of the population—minorities, women, laborers, farmers, children, students, and many others. Most conservatives at the time joined libertarians like Friedman, denouncing what they considered to be a cave-in to cold war pressures and urged a roll back of Washington’s bullying of Middle America. If libertarians, if not the conservatives, needed a symbol showing that matters had gone too far, i.e., that the federal government had stepped on their precious liberties once too often and had made life less secure by criminally interfering in peoples lives at home and abroad, it was Richard Nixon abandoning the gold standard of the U.S. currency in 1971. Costly federal programs and the war in Vietnam were financed with borrowed money, leading to record budget and trade deficits. Deficit spending was nothing new ever since FDR adopted this method to pay for the New Deal. But most Americans were surprised that it ultimately had depleted the gold reserves to the point were Fort Knox was almost empty, and that this had led to a fiscal crisis on the watch of a Republican president. Libertarians now viewed the dominant Republican and Democratic parties as having diverged from what they viewed as the libertarian principles of the Founding Fathers. A number of libertarians met and decided the time had come to switch from mere criticism to organized action. At the home of one of them, David Nolan, in 1971 they formed a new political party, the Libertarian Party. By the time of the presidential election the following year, they comprised 80 members and had attained ballot access in two states. Their nominees received close to 3,000 votes, earning the first and only electoral vote for a libertarian ticket. By 1980, 1

Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), p. 2. 2 Jonathan Peterson, The Captain of Capitalism, Los Angeles Times Magazine (December 14, 1986), 18.

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the Libertarian Party gained ballot access in all 50 states, and the presidential ticket received more than one percent of the popular vote, which made it the most successful presidential campaign of the Libertarian Party so far. The real delight of the libertarians in 1980 was the election of Ronald Reagan, a man who looked like he was going to put many of their ideas to work in his policies. His inaugural address seemed promising, resting on the key statement that “government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.” His policy advisory team was full of libertarian minded figures, most prominently Milton Friedman.His speechwriter, Dana Rohrabacher—according to many press reports an illegal drug user—was fond of quoting Bernard Shaw’s statement that the U.S. Constitution is not a document to assure good government, but to assure that there will hardly be a government.3 But the hopeful libertarians soon were in for a surprise. Reagan’s actions never matched his rhetoric or that of his staff, quite the contrary. Despite his professed adherence to the free trade principles of von Misis and Hayeck, he raised tariffs and imposed import quotas on a large scale, increased farm subsidies and quotas, and ramped up the “war on drugs”. His tax cuts were offset by inflationary bracket creep and loopholes. With the help of an Ayn Rand admiring Alan Greenspan, written off as a sellout by many libertarians, Reagan shored up Social Security through payroll deductions. Important deregulation measures--such as in trucking and air trafficking--were introduced by the Jimmy Carter and not Ronald Reagan. And he soon reignited the sluggish cold war by funding designs that would transfer possible future wars into outer space. One libertarian author already noted during the early phase of the Reagan administration: “Judging from Reagan’s performance in office so far, you might deduce that they were firm believers in the strongest possible military force, a globe-girdling foreign policy, a government oriented toward big business, and a generally Rotarian approach to the administration of public affairs.”4 Despite such harsh criticism from libertarians who felt betrayed, nowadays libertarians are more apt to laud Reagan as a president who was at least an eloquent spokesman for libertarian causes and for furthering an ideological sea change among Americans when it comes to towing the lines on issues of raising taxes and creating more government agencies. Even Bill Clinton


Dana Rohrabacher, The Goals and Ideals of the Reagan Revolution, in B.B. Kylicka and J.V. Matthews, eds., The Reagan Revolution (Chicago: Dorsay, 1988), p. 27. 4 Shaldon Richman, Bonzo’s Bedtime Reading, Inquiry (February 15, 1982), 1.


Libertarianism: Old Recipe for a New America?

felt obligated to declare “the era of big government is over,” knowing full well it wasn’t. Since the Reagan years, discussions about typical libertarian themes, such as drastic tax cutting and empowering small communities, have become mainstream when compared with the 1960s and 1970s. But that has not translated into much growth for the Libertarian Party. One reason, no doubt, is that such themes are also typical of the kind of classical liberalism professed by most Republicans. And both Bush administrations certainly profited from that. Another reason points to debilitating strife between members over shared principles, policies, platforms and actions. The party did attract its fair share of wealthy supporters, notably the Kansas oil baron Charles Koch. The party also found strong institutional outlets to propagate its ideas, too many to be listed here, most notably the Cato Institute and the magazine Reason. There is no doubt that libertarian ideas have become an underlying current in American popular thinking. These ideas have also gained new respectability from some leading thinkers in academia, such as the sociologist Charles Murray. In his 1984 book Loosing Ground, he offers extensive research findings trying to show that the governmental reform programs of the 1960s and 1970s did not, as was intended, improve the lives of targeted social groups, but for the most part made them worse. In many cases, Murray argues, the income transfer program of the Great Society—such as the Aid to Families with Dependent Children, federally funded job training, and remedial schooling for the disadvantaged—were counterproductive. Crime and unemployment went up in the 1960s and 1970s as the welfare state grew, while income and educational achievement went down. Murray does not rely on the “welfare cheat” rhetoric that welfare supporters think characterized the anti-welfare stance of the Reagan years. He uses carefully designed experiments to show how the incentives for the needy created by the modern welfare state made it more likely that children would be born illegitimate and less likely that men would feel the responsibility to work or provide for their children. His policy recommendation to the Reagan administration was to eliminate all racial preference programs, institute educational vouchers, and eliminate all income transfer programs. Murray is best known for his book The Bell Curve, published in 1994. Leaning extensively on empirical findings of other scientists and many supplied by himself, he showed how differences in social behavior relate to IQ. What made his book highly controversial was the fact that he presented data purported to show that IQ distribution of blacks on average is lower than that of whites, which in turn is lower than that of Asians. Murray argues that inherent differences in individual

Horst Freyhofer


and group intelligence will produce differences in outcomes even though exposure to educational opportunities may be equal, and that no amount of institutional tinkering and income distribution will ever eliminate this. While the fact that this position puts in question the rationale of many welfare measures was embraced by fellow libertarians and others, the fact that Murray had shown different IQ distributions between different racial groups easily labeled him a racist in the eyes of others. Although Murray claimed that he painstakingly had tried to eliminate any racial or cultural bias from his research, it did not prevent such charges from being raised. In the end, his book was ignored, if not condemned, more than discussed. Still, he continued to argue against the usefulness of welfare programs. In 1997 appeared his What it Means to be a Libertarian. It has become a primer on how free markets could solve social problems for which most people think they need government programs. While Charles Murray definitely represents the intellectual streak of the American libertarian constituency, Howard Stern definitely represents the urban crackpot streak. Known mainly for drugs, sex and rock-and-roll, the notorious radio shock jockey with his wide national audience in 1994 ran for governor of New York as a nominee of the Libertarian Party. True to his clownish demeanor, his platform had three goals: reinstate the death penalty, filling potholes at night, and abolish toll collections to make his drive into the city easier. Aside from the platform’s obvious entertainment value, it did make the larger point of belittling the value of government as a whole. For his formal nomination Stern had invited dozens of strippers, and it was presided over by a fan whose gavel was a huge dildo. After the nomination, he abandoned his campaign because he refused to comply with financial disclosure laws. But he had pulled off yet another one of those self serving public relations stunts that have made him a national celebrity.5 For libertarians there also were other reasons to remember 1994. It was the year of what many conservative Americans called the Gingrich Revolution. Newt Gingrich, a Republican House Representative, was instrumental in writing the Contract with America, a Republican pledge that on the face seemed an impressive anti-government document. As a result, Republicans dramatically retook Congress from the Democrats. Unlike the Howard Stern fiasco, this victory was largely seen as representing an unprecedented upswing of genuine libertarian sentiment and libertarian political influence. USA Today boldly announced that 5

Kevin Sack, With Eyes Wide Open, Libertarians Chose Stern, New York Times (April 24, 1994), 40.


Libertarianism: Old Recipe for a New America?

“what liberalism was in the ’60 and conservatism was in the 80’s, libertarianism may be to the youth of the 1990s.”6 But much as the Reagan Revolution, the Gingrich Revolution fizzled too. The Contract of America ultimately remained a wishlist for advocates of small government of all colors. In reality government grew by leaps and bounds as a robust economy could foot the bills for all sorts of welfare programs and under the second Bush administration became as intrusive in people’s life as never before in history. And while Clinton had still been able to balance the budget, Bush has piled up deficits that seemed to defy even the most generous application of Keynesian logic. Today’s standard bearer of libertarian causes in Congress is Ron Paul, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas since 1996. Although a member of the Republican Party, his libertarian views made him a suitable nominee of the Libertarian Party at the presidential election of 1988. He now is a presidential candidate of the Republican Party for the 2008 election, despite the fact that his political credentials have remained impeccably libertarian. According to his website, his is a conservative constitutionalist, supports state rights, free trade, sharply lower taxes, smaller government and non-interventionist foreign policy. He advocates withdrawal from NATO and the UN. He voted against the Patriot Act, the Iraq War Resolution, and the Military Commission Act of 2006. He opposes deficit spending and seeks the reintroduction of the gold standard. But while his views resonate strongly in the American public according to many opinion polls, he is far from causing something remotely close to the Regan or Gingrich Revolutions. Neither is a weakened Libertarian Party able to provide him with much support. By most accounts one may conclude that, at least for now, libertarian visions for America may have lost their luster even for the most individualistic and freedom loving citizens. Survivalist libertarians like the former religious fanatic who in 1993 caused the death of many followers in Texas, David Koresh and Timothy McVeigh of the Oklahoma City bombing, along with a persisting fear that following the attacks of 9/11 only a strong central government may be able to provide sufficient safety for a besieged America, libertarian ideas have assumed a more underground existence. But they may surface at any time given the right conditions. Historians and others concerned with long term cycles and trends of human developments--like Francis Fukuyama and Paul Kennedy mentioned earlier-- have pondered the question how humans deal with slow erosion of their institutions and material base. One does not have to 6

Deirdre Schwieso, The GenX Philosophy, USA Today (July 26, 1995), A1.

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be an alarmist to imagine some form of decline in the standard of living among advanced nations given increased competition from fast growing developing nations, depletion of natural resources, and worsening destruction of the natural environment. When such a time will approach, the libertarian tradition of the American nation, going back to the days of classical liberalism and the concepts of the American Revolution as articulated by such men as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, will offer solutions. They certainly would include ideas for survival without the presence of centralized institutions. There are Americans who seem to be preparing for such eventualities already. Here is one example. Some Americans currently are participating in a Free State project, organized in 2001 by the libertarian activist Jason Sorens. He figured that 20,000 libertarians should migrate to a single U.S. state to allow for the greatest possible impact while trying creating a society with minimal government. In August of 2003, the membership of the thus created Free State Project chose New Hampshire. The state’s tendency for favoring libertarian causes is aptly represented in its motto Live Free or Die. During the mid-1990s there were four libertarians elected to the State House, and the Free State Project had its first member elected in 2006. So far, over 1,000 members have pledged to move to New Hampshire by 2008. While these figures seem insignificant on the greater scale of current politics, they are an indication of the philosophical undercurrent in American society that many Americans are prepared to live in small communities with minimal organization and resources if survival depended on it. And while such a time may be a long time off, there is little that suggests that it will never approach. And when it does, libertarian ideas will come to occupy a dominant role in American society again, and not only in American society.


Of the many ideological blind spots that have afflicted US and, to a lesser extent, European, perceptions and analysis of the economic, political and social milieu, none have been more debilitating than the equation 1) of democracy with political liberalism 2) of freedom in toto with political liberalism, and 3) of political liberalism with the neoliberal freedom of the free market; an eliding of significant distinctions which has resulted, to give but one of many possible examples, in the fatuous conclusion that the death squad supported neoliberal economy of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile was a better champion of freedom than the elected government of Salvador Allende, and therefore even, in some sense, more democratic! However as much of Africa discovered well before South America, not only does the neoliberal free market of laissez faire economics not necessarily do anything to insure the civil liberties and/or human rights associated with political liberalism, but neither will it insure freedom from exploitation, poverty or even preventable disease, ignorance or homelessness etc., which it may in fact exacerbate, or even cause. Nor of course, despite attempts to suggest otherwise when politically advantageous, can democracy necessarily be equated with political liberalism. Indeed those who attempt to derive propaganda value from doing so are vulnerable to the rhetorical counterattack, as the US government has found, that in opposing democratically elected governments, such as that of Hamas or Chavez, they are not merely being anti-democratic, but are in illiberally opposition to human rights and civil liberties also; an argument quite independent of similar charges emanating, perhaps more legitimately, from their support of, for example, the Masharraf regime and the Saud dictatorship. Now the apparent failure of so many leading politicians, economists and academics to grasp the comparatively straightforward nature of, and relationship between, these key concepts of Democracy, Liberalism and Freedom indicates that they are either fools, incapable of doing so, or knaves who, usually either for reasons of ideology, privilege, or both, choose to ignore, or worse yet, obfuscate, the facts, often in hope not only

Simon Glynn


of justifying, to themselves and others, privilege derived at others’ expense, but of protecting and/or extending it. Thus the high flown rhetoric they adopt, regarding the spread of freedom, liberal values and democracy throughout the world, has often been deployed to suggest, incorrectly, that systemic or structural reforms that would presage a more just or equitable world order, would result in, if they did not indeed presuppose, an “illiberal”, and therefore necessarily “undemocratic” government, opposed to “freedom”; and this irrespective of the popular support that may have brought the reforming government to, and sustained it in, power. And such obfuscation and systematic distortion has not infrequently served to persuade those whose personal and local actions have been unambiguously indicative of their open hearted altruism, to oppose the very reforms most likely to bring about some measure of the justice and equity they hope for. In light of this I therefore propose to provide an expository analysis of democracy, liberalism and freedom, and their relations, which will draw both upon historical examples and contemporary events, in the perhaps naïve, and certainly optimistic, hope not only of providing a better understanding, but indeed of making, along with others, some contribution, however minor, to the promotion of a more just and equitable world order.

Democracy Let us begin this analysis then by examining the notion of democracy, understood in the most basic sense as government by the citizenry. Now of course, even from the time of its supposed inception in Greece, such a formulation begged the question as to who were, and who were not, to be counted as bona fide citizens. Thus, for all but a handful of the male elite, in ancient Greece democracy no more equated to self government than it subsequently did for slaves and women in the United States; a country which, like South African, long denied even freemen of African descent, not to mention women of any origin, the vote. Indeed not even the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended the systematic exclusion of African Americans from the democratic process, as is clear from the need for the Clinton administration to introduce the Voter Registration Act of 1993. And the tradition of African American disenfranchisement was still very much in evidence during the US Presidential election of 2000, where, for example, on election day, police in Tallahassee, the State Capitol of the hotly contested swing state of Florida, then governed by President George W. Bush’s brother Jeb, set up vehicle checkpoints close to polling places in African-American neighborhoods, causing long traffic jams that proved


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for many an insuperable obstacle to voting. Neither was it any great surprise to learn that many African Americans applying for driving licenses or their renewal had not been informed, as the law required, of the (so called Motor Voter) option of registering at the same time to vote; nor that a disproportionate number of African American who nevertheless managed to register as voters, did not appear on voter registration lists, and were accordingly denied the opportunity to vote even if they managed to get to polling stations; or that many African Americans who requested absentee ballots, by which they might have expected to circumvent such shenanigans, did not receive them. Nor was it any great surprise to long time observers of US elections that a number of polling stations either closed early, before working people had finished work and had a chance to get to the polls, or were moved without notice; or that a marked disproportion of older voting machines, which showed a distinct tendency to fail to properly record votes (the Under Voting phenomenon) which where consequently rejected during counting, were allotted to polling stations in African American neighborhoods.1 Not that there was ever much doubt that the end result, which even -after all these machinations (not to mention the infamous “Butterfly Ballot” concocted by Palm Beach County’s election supervisor Theresa LePore) -- on the most pro Bush interpretation awarded Bush a mere 537 vote margin, or less than 0.01%, which is to say one in 10,000 of the 5.4 million votes cast, would be decisive enough, albeit with a little help from a demonstrably partisan majority on the Supreme Court,2 to give Bush Florida’s 25 electoral college votes,3 and thus the presidency of the United States. A nation where almost half, or 48.7%, of those eligible to vote did not do so.4 And while US voter turnout in the 2004 elections was up to 55.3% the discrepancy between exit polling data and official votes recorded in the three key states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio5 again raised suspicion of voter fraud; suspicion further fuelled by the fact that 1

For a synopsis and references to much of the evidence supporting these claims see, for example, Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Elections at 2 See for example, 3 See sults 4 See 5 See for but one example, Stephen F. Freeman, The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy, Research Report of the University of Pennsylvania Research Center for Organizational Dynamics, (2004).

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Walden “Wally” O’Dell, chief executive of Diebold, a major manufacturer of voting machines used for that election, is on record as having declared himself “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president” (George W. Bush).6 It is therefore obvious that, under any reasonable definition of democracy,7 both Yasser Arafat (who polled 87% of the vote in Gaza and The West Bank), and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez (who Bush had the temerity to call undemocratic despite his both, having been democratically elected twice by majorities of more than 60%, and, following a failed coup attempt, winning no less than 59% in a vote of support declared free and fair by internationally monitors) must be considered as infinitely more democratically representative than president Bush!

Democracy and Liberalism Yet even had Bush received a clear democratic mandate, which is to say a much larger proportion of votes, from a much larger proportion of the eligible electorate, than he did, in circumstances where there was neither systematic disenfranchisement of major sections of the citizenry, nor as much suspicion of other voter fraud, there is absolutely no reason to believe that his administration would have been any less determined to instigate unwarranted surveillance, or to suspend habeas corpus and due process. On the contrary had they been given the sweeping democratic mandate that has alluded them the Bush administration would surely have had less need to negotiate with liberal elements in Congress, and even more US citizens might have been denied civil liberties and subjected to human rights violations, as, for example, both Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla, have been. Thus Yaser Hamdi, a US citizen prior to being eventually released to Saudi Arabia, was held in US custody for almost 3 years, without being charged, in part at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo, where beatings, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, stress positions and forced injections, identified and condemned by the International Committee of the Red Cross as “...cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and ...torture,” are routinely administered. And US citizen Jose Padilla, arrested on May 8th 2002, and held over 5 years without trial, until May 15th 2007, was 6

Quoted for instance at A reasonable definition of democracy might, for example, be something like the extension of the opportunity either for participation, or for representation, in governance, to all mentally competent, and perhaps unimprisoned, adult citizens.



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subjected to torture, including, but not necessarily limited to, 3 years in solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, and involuntarily “stress” positions, as well as involuntary administration of psychoactive drugs such as LSD and PCP. Quite clearly then, contra a common misconception that equates democracy with liberty or liberalism - understood in the classical, Lockean, sense,8 as synonymous with a wide range of civil liberties and human rights -- as theorists from at least the time of John Stuart Mill recognized, democracy may be, indeed often is, nothing other than “the tyranny of the majority.”9 In view of this fact it should, for example, be clear that so long as they could have muster the requisite majority to continue the tyranny, non African Americans need not have denied African Americans the right to vote in order to enslave them, as the majority could have voted in representatives who would have continued to support the enslavement of African Americans, albeit as slaves with voting rights, through any number of democratic election cycles. Nor, to adapt an example from a standard critique of Utilitarianism, would there be anything essentially undemocratic about, say, 10 sadistic members of a community of 12 voting to torture the 2 non sadistic (and presumably non masochistic) members of that community. While had Hitler’s initially democratically elected National Socialist party not have suspended elections, there would have been nothing essentially undemocratic about the subsequent torturing and killing of Jews by the State. After all the majority of the voters might well have approved of it, or at the very least continued to give electoral support to a government that condoned it, in a manner not entirely dissimilar to that in which US voters elected and reelected a president whose administration condoned, and a Congress that failed decisively to challenge, what no less an august body than the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has correctly identified as, torture.10


Thus John Locke’s classical liberal defense of the right to Life, Liberty and Property (see John Locke, Two Treatises on Government, ed. Peter Laslett (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988)) was the guiding principle of the Declaration of Independence’s commitment to the rights to Life and Liberty, which, together with the right to property, were affirmed in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. 9 For a fuller discussion of this point see John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, (1859). 10 See The Council Of Europe report at 06_E.htm

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Constitutional Guarantees and The Rule of Law Clearly then there is no logically necessary connection between democracy and liberalism, any observance of civil liberties and human rights by democratic governments, other things being equal, being contingent upon the moral sentiment of the majority and their representatives. It was, after all, precisely the concerns of the “Founding Fathers” and others, that the US Constitution, for all its democratic pretensions, failed to protect individual liberties against the possible “tyranny of the majority” which gave rise to a series of constitutional amendments, known collectively as The Bill of Rights. Yet despite the received wisdom that liberties will be protected if constitutionally prescribed, subsequent US experience demonstrated that the “Rights ... to Life, Liberty...” etc. with which, according to the Declaration of Independence “all men” are supposedly “endowed by their Creator,” so far from being “inalienable” may, even when constitutionally prescribed, nevertheless be readily denied. For instance the US Courts “judiciously” insisted that African Americans were not fully human; a disenfranchisement which, as the recent voting debacle in Florida demonstrates continues on down to the present, albeit in modified form. Or, to take another infamous example from among a much large number of cases, many of which are familiar only to constitutional scholars and their ilk, US citizens of Japanese decent were forcibly interred and systematically denied their rights during WWII, even though Japanese American military units, such as the 42nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion, served with outstanding distinction on the Allied side during that conflict. While to bring us bang up to date, Yaser Hamdi’s aforementioned detention in US custody for almost 3 years without charge certainly seems to contravene his 6th Amendment guarantee of a speedy trial, not to mention his 5th Amendment and 14th Amendment Due Process rights to liberty, just as the treatment meted out at Guantanamo, where he was detained for some time seems, according to the previously noted findings of the International Committee of the Red Cross, to be in absolute contravention of his 8th Amendment protection against “cruel” and “unusual” punishment.11 And much the same can surely be said with regard to Jose Padilla, who was held for 5 years in conditions which were not dissimilar, except for their additionally including 3 years in solitary confinement! 11

Indeed even if he be justly found to have non-criminal “enemy combatant” status, while this would seem to negate 6th Amendment protection, it would not, prima facie, negate protection by the other amendments.


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Thus despite successive US administrations’ routine deployment of rhetorical accusations of civil liberties and human rights violations against those with whom it finds itself in material or ideological conflict, liberal constitutional democracies by no means offer any guarantee of constitutionally delineated freedoms, even to their own citizens. For what the above, and a multitude of other, examples prove is that, as those slave owners who depended upon the judiciary’s “judicious” reading of the law already knew, without a truly independent, vigilant and empowered judiciary, even the loftiest constitutional guarantees may remain as dead a letter as they demonstrably have under the stewardship of Bush Jr’s Supreme Court additions of Roberts and Alito to his father’s Thomas and Scalia. And if liberal constitutional democracies may ride roughshod in this manner over the rights and freedoms of their own citizenry, it goes without saying that the same is, of course, true with regard to liberties and rights of foreign nationals who, even in principle, do not enjoy the constitutional protections supposedly afforded to citizens. Thus not only is there clearly nothing essentially undemocratic about then US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ memos sanctioning what, as we have already seen, clearly amounts to torture,12 but neither, arguably, so long as it had not been practiced on US citizens, would there have been anything unconstitutional involved either. This is not, however, to say that there is nothing illegal involved, for, Gonzales’ dismissal of the Geneva Conventions’ prohibitions against torture as “quaint” notwithstanding, the War Crimes Act of 199613 makes it a criminal offense for U.S. military personnel and U.S. nationals to commit war crimes as specified in the 1949 Geneva Conventions. This therefore includes violations of common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions, which specifically prohibits “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” including “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”14And certainly a federal anti-torture statute15 enacted in 1994, provides for the prosecution of any U.S. national, or anyone present in the United States, who, while outside the U.S., commits or attempts to commit torture.... defined as an “act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe 12

See reference 80. 18 U.S.C. paragraph 2441 14 See Human Rights Watch, Summary of International and U.S. Law Prohibiting Torture and Other Ill-treatment of Persons in Custody, 15 18 U.S.C. paragraph 2340A 13

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physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control.”16 Yet despite this, here again, as with cases which involve breaches of the constitution, absent an independent, vigilant and empowered judiciary, and/or Attorney General we may perhaps add, the rule of law conveniently gives way to whatever behavior the ruling classes deem expedient. Thus, as the previously noted court rulings that denied to slaves their liberty undeniably demonstrated, these torture cases, together with what arguably amounts to the judiciary’s appointment of Bush Jr. to his first presidential term, unfortunately seem to reaffirm Marx’s view, that the legal system is in essence a bourgeois mystification of its class interests! While even if there were an independent and vigilant judiciary intent on reigning in the power of an administration by rigorous application of whatever laws, constitutional or otherwise, might have been or be enacted to protect civil liberties and human rights, there would be little room for optimism. For, as the record of the current US administration clearly demonstrates, there are many ways to circumvent the rule of, not only national, but international law also. As the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has observed17, and I quote: “...the current US Administration seems to start from the principle that the principles of the rule of law and human rights are incompatible with efficient action against terrorism. Even the laws of war, especially the Geneva Conventions, are not accepted or applied. The relocation of prison camps to Guantaanamo and elsewhere indicates that even American legal standards are seen as obstacles by the US Administration.” “The CIA action programme set up after 11 September 2001 and known as the “GST programme”, gives the CIA greatly enhanced powers (apparently comparable to those which existed during the cold war). It allows the CIA to arrest suspects with the help of foreign internal security services, hold them captive abroad, employ interrogation techniques (some of which are very widely regarded as possibly contravening the United States’ international undertakings regarding prohibition of torture) and fly prisoners between countries.” 16

See Human Rights Watch, Summary of International and U.S. Law Prohibiting Torture and Other Ill-treatment of Persons in Custody, 17 The Council of Europe report at 006_E.htm


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Thus, the aforementioned committee notes the “Extraordinary rendition” and “secret detention”, that have enabled the US administration to circumvent the previously delineated statutory constraints on the behavior of US citizens and governmental agencies by outsourcing, what the committee has rightly identified as, “degrading treatment and torture”, to other countries. Indeed, the committee discovered that the circumvention of the rule of law and human right enforcement “ even the stated objective of such practices, as the following... would appear to confirm”. “Mr. Vincent Cannistraro, former head of counter-espionage in the CIA is reported to have said that a Guantanamo detainee suspected of belonging to Al-Qaeda and who was refusing to co-operate provided better information after being "rendered" to Egypt: "They promptly tore his fingernails out and he started to tell things."”

Nor is Egypt the only country to which the US has outsourced its torture and secret prisons. As the Council of Europe’s report further notes: “According to a fax from the Egyptian Ministry of European Affairs to the Egyptian Embassy in London, intercepted by the Swiss intelligence services, such centres existed in Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo and Ukraine “...the Romanian Parliament set up a commission to investigate the alleged existence of a secret detention centre on Romanian territory which the American secret services were said to have used for torture.”

The report further notes that: “In two countries (Italy and Germany) judicial investigations have begun into “abduction” of persons subsequently transported to Guantanamo, Afghanistan and other detention centres by means of aircraft belonging to entities with hidden direct or indirect links to the CIA. The Italian prosecution service has even issued arrest warrants against CIA agents after the violent abduction of a Muslim, Abu Omar in a Milan Street in February 2003.” “Abu Omar was flown to Egypt, where he was tortured before being released and re-arrested. To my knowledge” the investigator continues “no proceedings were brought against Omar in Egypt.” “The Italian judicial investigation established, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the operation was carried out by the CIA (which has not issued any denials).” “The German judicial authorities are taking part in the investigation and have themselves begun investigating the case of a German citizen of

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Lebanese origin, Khaled al Masri. After being arrested by mistake in Macedonia he was reportedly taken to Kabul for interrogation.”

Additionally, the Council of Europe’s investigator notes: “Bosnia and Herzegovina, has sent me a detailed account of the case of six Bosnians abducted by American agents on Bosnian soil and taken to Guantaanamo Bay, despite a Bosnia and Herzegovina Federal Supreme Court judgment ordering their release after police investigation had failed to uncover the slightest evidence against them.”

Not that torture is always outsourced. Rather it is clearly also carried out by US personnel. Thus Human Rights First has reported that: “Since August 2002, nearly 100 detainees have died while in the hands of U.S. officials in the global “war on terror.” According to the U.S. military’s own classifications, 34 of these cases are suspected or confirmed homicides; Human Rights First has identified another 11 in which the facts suggest death as a result of physical abuse or harsh conditions of detention. In close to half the deaths Human Rights First surveyed, the cause of death remains officially undetermined or unannounced.” “Despite these numbers, four years since the first known death in U.S. custody, only 12 detainee deaths have resulted in punishment of any kind for any U.S. official. Of the 34 homicide cases so far identified by the military, investigators recommended criminal charges in fewer than two thirds, and charges were actually brought (based on decisions made by command) in less than half. While the CIA has been implicated in several deaths, not one CIA agent has faced a criminal charge. Crucially, among the worst cases in this list –– those of detainees tortured to death –– only half have resulted in punishment; the steepest sentence for anyone involved in a torture-related death: five months in jail.”18

As already suggested then, in the absence of an independent and vigilant judiciary, with access to adequate mechanisms, and a genuine will, to insure equitable enforcement, there is little reason to be optimistic that either constitutional or other statutory “guarantees” will protect against the violation of civil liberties and human rights. The only salient difference between such atrocities being carried out by, say, Saddam Hussain’s dictatorship, and their being perpetrated in the name of freedom by a supposedly liberal democracy being that, if in the latter case the 18 Command's Responsibility: Detainee Deaths in U.S. Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan,


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electorate are aware of the regime’s proclivity towards such behavior -- as was the case in the US elections of November 2004 for example, when President Bush was returned to a second term -- the electorate cannot be absolved of responsibility. Indeed it is largely in light of this that, rather than simply waiting for the expiration of his term in office as the Congressional Democratic Party seems insistent on doing, some in the US advocate for impeachment of the Leader of the (formerly?) Free World, arguing that this would signal widespread disapproval, by the US population and its representatives, of the international war crimes perpetrated in their name, thereby garnering what little respect the peoples of the civilized world may still be able to muster for the US.

Liberalism and Freedom Now the very fact that many, including the current President of the United States, have argued and still argue, with no detectable hint of irony, that such open and evident abuses and violations of civil liberties and human rights are being perpetrated in the very name of freedom, must surely give us pause for thought. For we must surely ask ourselves what therefore they can possibly understand by the notion of freedom that they could ever even imagine it to be not merely compatible with, but advanced by, such behavior or actions? Certainly they cannot mean freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, or the rights to liberty or even life that were of such concern to classical or political liberals, for if they did then surely even they would feel shamed by the open and obvious hypocrisy involved. An hypocrisy that would be all the more undeniable for most of them, in that they tend to be “moral absolutists” or fundamentalists, who concomitantly take the deontological stance that actions are good or bad “in themselves”, and therefore cannot be justified by appealing to the ends which they may have provided the instrumental means of bringing about.19 19

Thus unlike teleological moral theorists, who take the view that it is their end results that either justifies or fails to justify particular actions, which, not unlike words, thus take their significance or meaning from their context, the “fundamentalists” or “moral absolutists” who tend to be in the great majority amongst those espousing the view that the current US administration’s actions are promoting freedom, take the deontological view that actions are good or bad in themselves, regardless of context or outcome; an unbending absolutism which stands opposed to what they disdainfully describe as the “moral relativism” of those who, in recognition of the influence that context can indisputably have upon the significance or outcome of an action, adjust not just their actions, but their moral assessment of actions, accordingly.

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Listening attentively then to the claims and arguments of those who regard freedom as compatible with, and even advanced by, the kinds of the abuses and violations we have discussed, it is evident that the notion of freedom they are promoting is, if not entirely restricted to, nevertheless paradigmatically exemplified by, the laissez faire freedom of the market beloved of economic neoliberals. And lest anyone think my claim farfetched, whimsical, or even rhetorical, let them try to explain otherwise how, for example, denying the Vietnamese people the right, agreed to in 1954, to democratic elections in 1956, or the murder of Chile’s democratically elected, socialist president, Salvador Allende, and the replacement of his government by the free market promoting “abattoir” regime of general Augusto Pinochet, could ever possibly have been characterized, as many repeatedly did, and some still do, as spreading freedom? Or how else, to bring us bang up to date, can we understand the rhetorical claim that democratically elected Hugo Chavez is a dictator, other than by the fact that, in order to insure that the bulk of Venezuela’s oil revenues flow to the bulk of Venezuela’s people in the form of education, health care and other social infrastructure investment, he has had to curtail the freedom traditionally extended, by the governments of most countries, to the international investor class, to accrue most of the wealth flowing from the nation’s natural resources? Now just as Y’s ( e.g. the Venezuelan poor’s) freedom from ignorance, preventable disease and homelessness etc. is often predicated upon public education, healthcare and housing etc., which is usually paid for by restricting X’s (e.g. the international investor classes’s) freedom to invest in unregulated industries and/or reap relatively untaxed profits (e.g. from Venezuelan oil) so, more generally of course, the free market Freedom of the investor classes TO invest their money for the highest rate of return possible also directly conflicts with the Freedom of the work force FROM exploitative and/or dangerous conditions etc., or of the environment FROM pollution etc.20 Thus in order, for instance, to insure Y’s freedom from exploitation, one might enact minimum wage and health and safety legislation, which may restrict X’s freedom to obtain maximum return on his/her investment by reducing wages and ignoring possible risks to the workers’ health and safety posed by the work environment. Somewhat unsurprisingly then while the economically prosperous investor class, or bourgeois, tend to champion the economic freedom to invest as they wish, and understand liberty in terms of absence of 20

Here I am drawing upon Sir Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961).


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constraint upon such actions, the economically less prosperous tend to be much more concerned with freedom from, for instance, exploitation, ignorance, preventable disease and homelessness etc. It would however be a mistake to assume, as some commentators and analysts have, that the bourgeois are unconcerned with all “freedoms from”. For not only is the freedom they may enjoy to invest as they wish, formally dependent upon freedom from certain forms of government intervention in and regulation of the economy, but while wealth or economic power is often highly correlated with political and social power -- and perhaps nowhere more so than in the United States -- nevertheless even the haute bourgeois may not be entirely invulnerable to political powers that they may fail to completely control. Consequently the amendments to the US Constitution, for example, not only purport to guarantee the rights to life, liberty and property -- conveniently enacted only after the nearly genocidal assaults upon, and wholesale theft of property from, the Native American population, on which the country was founded -- and the right or freedom to bear arms and to assembly etc., but due process and the rights associated therewith, and, most significantly freedoms from, cruel and unusual punishment, self incrimination, unreasonable search and seizure and double jeopardy etc.; in short, rights pertaining to, and freedoms from, precisely those government incursions upon liberty that even the bourgeois, for all their wealth, may still have reason to fear. Rights and freedoms which however, as we have seen, they are not unnaturally noticeably less than enthusiastic about upholding with regard to those who they perceive, rightly or wrongly, as potentially threatening their well being. What is far more remarkable however is that for all the aforementioned “freedoms to” and even “freedoms from” protected by the US Constitution and subsequent amendments to it, there is no hint in any of these documents of freedoms from economic exploitation, preventable disease, ignorance or homelessness etc., or the like, which is to say those freedoms of greatest concern to the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Thus it was that then USSR President Gorbachev, on a visit to the United Nations in New York, taking not only the secret service but news reporters and their audiences by surprise, abandoned his motorcade in the dead of winter, and descended into a New York subway station, where a large number of homeless people had congregated to escape the cold. Here he declared that while the US continually lectured the USSR about freedom he saw that the US was not entirely free either. An observation which his US audience, unused to hearing the rhetoric of freedom linked to freedom from homelessness, poverty, hunger and preventable diseases

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etc., largely failed to comprehend. Be that as it may however it should be clear that even if constitutionally delineated rights and freedoms were always judicially enforced, only if and insofar as they were to include not just liberal or bourgeois rights and freedoms, but also these social, or socialist, rights and freedoms as we may call them, could they hope to insure the “liberty and justice for all,” to which the US Pledge of Allegiance lays claim. One would however be naive to believe that the omission of such social or socialist rights and freedoms, particularly for so long after the US became the wealthiest nation in the history of the planet, is simply the result of an oversight. On the contrary the persistence of this omission is a testament to the aforementioned correlation of wealth and political power in a bourgeois mindful that the constitutional protection of the freedom of the mass of the population from exploitation, preventable disease, ignorance and homelessness etc. would reciprocally require restraint in exploiting them, and might even require the bourgeois to make a positive contribution to their well being. Now whether, and if so to what degree, it might be thought justifiable to move beyond the negative constraint on exploitation to a positive contributory obligation, is of course a matter of much debate. Indeed in this context it will be remembered that many in the West, and not a few members of the bourgeoisie in the former Eastern block, perceived limits placed by communist governments on the freedom of professionals and others to travel to the West as unreasonable. On the other hand such limits were often defended as attempts to retain within their countries of origin those, for example engineers, agronomists, teachers and medical doctors, who might be of assistance in insuring freedom from poverty, hunger, ignorance and preventable disease etc. for the mass of the population. These, relatively poor countries thus attempting to restrict the emigration of their skilled elites, just as richer countries put reciprocal restrictions on the immigration of the relatively unskilled masses, in order to protect the well being of their general citizenry. A general citizenry which in the case of socialist and communist countries, it was pointed out, produced the food, housing and clothing etc., and provided the tax base, which had sustained and supported the very education which made their professional elites so marketable in the West. Thus, in accordance with the previous argument, such an analysis suggests that the freedom of some, in this case professionals from poorer countries, to, in this case sell their skills to richer countries, might well be expected to adversely impact the freedom from poverty and preventable disease etc. of the more vulnerable members of the countries which


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educated them. Indeed that this is in fact the case is more than amply demonstrated, for example, by the “brain drain”, beginning in the 1950s, of Indian, Pakistani and African medical, and later, technical, professionals to the United Kingdom, the US and elsewhere in the developed world, which exacerbated the poverty and illness from which the general populations in those poorer countries continue to suffer. And just as is the case between countries, so too, of course, in the absence of, for example, a National Health system -- or what my US colleagues quite rightly refer to, albeit often in what I regard as wrongly disparaging tones, as socialized medicine -- the same dynamics operate between economic classes within a country or society. Thus those who can afford expensive health coverage have the freedom, regardless of their prognosis, to command extensive medical care which is certainly beyond the means of the vast majority of the 46 million US citizens-- many of whom are children with excellent prognoses -- who are currently medically uninsured. A population which consequently finds that it is far from free from often preventable or highly treatable, and not infrequently life threatening, diseases. Such inequities, greatly exacerbated by the diminishing marginal utility21 of most resources, are evidenced internationally, in a state of affairs where, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) about 7,000 third world children die every DAY because their parents do not have the knowledge, or the 10 cent package of saline solution, that would enable them to deal with dehydration, another 7,000 die every day because they do not have a dollar’s worth of antibiotics, and a further 8,000 die every day because they do not have enough low cost vaccines in them to prevent six common diseases; while a further 1,000 a day go blind because they do not have 20 cents worth of vitamin A! And as with the inequitable distribution, and diminishing marginal utility, of healthcare resources, so too of course the distribution of many other resources would, 21

. The principle of diminishing marginal utility is that there comes a point where increasing application of a resource begins to yield less than proportionate returns. Thus while $10 to a starving person may make a difference as significant as that between life and death, to someone better off it may make the difference between a trip to the cinema or not, while to a wealthy person it may make scarcely and any difference at all. So too with healthcare resources, in that, as we shall see in a moment, to the poverty stricken extremely small amounts of money directed to their provision may make enormous differences to general health, while to the wealthy, who may already be spending much money, and thus applying many resources, to their health care, even large increases in expenditure may make very little difference.

Simon Glynn


one might reasonably argue, be immeasurably more equitable were the rights of those potentially effected protected by guarantees of their freedoms from, for example hunger and the malnutrition related diseases arising therefrom, which 15 million people a year, (mainly children and women) or over 40,000 a day, or almost 1 every 2 seconds, die from! In sum then, as we can now plainly see, even a world of fully functional and functioning liberal democracies, in which everyone enjoyed the freedoms guaranteed by the US Constitution for example, would in no way guarantee freedom from such stark inequalities, much less justice for all. Nor, despite its popularity in many government and other elite circles, is economic neoliberalism, as its advocates have argued, even a step in the right direction towards this goal. On the contrary so far from being a part of the solution, economic neoliberalism has often demonstrably figured as part of the problem. For not only have the rates of growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) presided over by neoliberalism not even remotely approached those of managed economies such as China, but even the small increases it has sometimes managed to generate have often been merely the result of a necessarily temporary increased in the export of finite raw materials, unaccompanied by the (re)investment in infrastructure necessary to generate sustained economic prosperity. Moreover, as in the 25 year (between 1980 and 2005) South America experiment, where economic neoliberalism actually reduced the rate of economic growth to half that prevalent in the previous quarter century, 22in addition to actually exacerbating existing inequalities, it has often been accompanied by an increase in absolute levels of poverty. That is to say that not only have the small increases in GDP accompanying economic neoliberal “reforms” gone disproportionately to the wealthy, but the poor have additionally suffered decreases in their absolute levels of income. To give but one of any number of examples, many Mexican small farmers were unable, despite desperately low wage levels, to compete with agribiz produced corn that flooded in from the US as a consequence of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) agreements, and consequently went bankrupt. As with the flooding of peasants’ farmland in India by capital intensive hydroelectric dam projects, executed by corporations afforded neoliberal freedom to invest without the government regulation that might ameliorate their often destructive impacts on local communities, 22 See for example The World Bank report on Latin American Indeed to go back to the period from 1914 - 1939, a period that included WWI Great Depression, to find Latin American growth statistics as abysmal resulting from neoliberal economic reform.

growth: one has and The as those


Democracy, Liberalism and Freedom

even the comparatively small rise in the economic tide that has typically accompanied such neoliberal experiments, so far from lifting all boats as neoliberal apologists have claimed, has, in the absence of those educational and other resources that might free the mass of the population from ignorance and equip them with the flexible skill sets required to keep afloat by securing new employment, merely served to drown many of those who it has swamped. Finally then to conclude, we can see not only that democracy is insufficient in and of itself to guarantee freedom, but that only when bourgeois rights and freedoms, important as we have insisted they are, are accompanied by what we have termed social or socialist freedoms, e.g. from exploitation, absolute poverty, preventable disease, ignorance etc., may we expect any real measure of justice; and then only when conflicts between them -- such as per our earlier example, between the elite’s freedom to sell its skills for the highest possible price, and the mass’ freedom from preventable illness etc. -- have been equitably balanced against each other. A balancing act for which there can be no rules that are not ultimately grounded in judgment, which is, and will necessarily remain, an art, to which, we must insist, that our governments, which often serve us so poorly, aspire. For only by practicing this art can we hope to make some progress in dealing with the inequalities and injustices which - in a world in which, for example, 5 kilograms of high level nuclear waste, from a worldwide nuclear industry that generates many hundreds of tons a year, can be used to make a nuclear bomb -- increasingly threaten the survival of us all, rich and poor alike!


Because pragmatism and pluralism so often are considered complementary, because William James so often championed the oppressed, the small, the unheralded, and the unconventional, historians and biographers have tended to ignore his response to a widely publicized labor dispute and its aftermath, known to historians as the Haymarket Affair. This event asks us to consider the complexities of James's political liberalism and the complexities, also, of the notion of Jamesian pragmatism as a guide to political decision-making. Although in his writings on pragmatism, in his book and in earlier articles, James addressed himself to the problem of settling metaphysical questions, much of his language invites readers to consider the relevance of pragmatism, as a method and perspective, to tangible and mundane events. The pragmatist, James wrote, "turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad a priori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems and pretended absolutes and origins. He turns towards concreteness and adequacy, towards facts, towards action, and towards power."1 This notion of achieving power through a philosophical perspective is, of course, attractive in the context of politics. James first used the term pragmatism in his 1898 Berkeley lecture, "Philosophical Conceptions and Practical Results," and again put forth his ideas in his lectures at the Lowell Institute in 1906 and in his famous book published shortly thereafter. But as he explained in his Berkeley lecture, the term had been familiar to him since the 1870s, when Charles Peirce set out the principle that belief has practical consequences, that we create truth when we make choices in behavior. James's earlier articles, such as "Spencer's Definition of Mind as Correspondence" (1878) and "The


William James, Pragmatism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975: 31.


William James and the Haymarket Affair

Function of Cognition" (1885) set forth many ideas that James repeated in Pragmatism. Certainly James recognized early in his career as a philosopher that an individual's temperament connected with his or her philosophy; and he recognized, also, the power of each action. "To me," he wrote to Alice Gibbens about their impending marriage in 1878, "such decisions seem acts by which we are voting what sort of a universe this shall intimately be, and by our vote creating or helping to create 'behind the veil' the order we desire."2 Pragmatism, as James defined it, asks us to consider the consequences of decisions, rather than to make decisions based on previously held beliefs. Pragmatism asks us to choose between rival beliefs by thinking about the reality that would ensue if one belief were acted upon rather than another. Pragmatism may or may not have anything to do with practicality, or with expediency, although the three terms have been used interchangeability. If pragmatism is a decision-making method, presumably James acted pragmatically when making his own decisions. Let's look at the Haymarket Affair, then, for the purpose of seeing James, temperamentally a pragmatist, in action. The Haymarket Affair of 1886 began as a labor dispute, one of many in mid- to late-nineteenth century America, when twelve hour work days, six-day work weeks, exploitation of child laborers, and perilous working conditions inspired hundreds of strikes each year in every major American city. In 1886 alone, for example, some 700,000 workers went on strike, many inspired by the Knights of Labor, which had begun in 1869, and was the largest collective for bargaining for improved working conditions, attracting hundreds of thousands of members. At the least, strikes disrupted daily life; at worst, they ended in violence and generated fear about the future health, or even existence, of the nation. Whatever the immediate effect of strikes in terms of loss of profits, property, and even life, their long-range effect reached deeply into the national consciousness. Labor protests and disputes seemed to many people a sign of the nation's imminent dissolution. Remember that the Civil War had ended barely a generation before, so the possibility of dissolution was alive in many people's minds; furthermore, immigration brought flocks of "aliens," who overflowed city neighborhoods, and experienced much poverty and disease. In the 1880s, Chicago's population doubled from half a million to over a million; many 2

W. James to Alice Howe Gibbens, 24 February 1878. The Correspondence of William James. Vol. 5. Ed. by Ignas Skrupskelis and Elizabeth Berkeley. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1997: 3.

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were immigrants, but others swelled American cities, too, coming from the rural countryside. Urbanization itself seemed a blight. Stereotypes of immigrants abounded: the Irish were drunks, the Italians were lazy, and the Germans were belligerent. All were the workers upon whom the economic progress of the nation depended; and their rowdy dissatisfaction seemed ominous to the middle and upper classes. It is no wonder that perceptions of immigrants contributed to anxiety about labor upheavals. One historian identified the following language used in the New York Times in July, 1877, to describe railroad strikers: Disaffected elements, roughs, hoodlums, rioters, mob, suspiciouslooking individuals, bad characters, thieves, blacklegs, looters, communists, rabble, labor-reform agitators, dangers class of people, gangs, tramps, drunken section-men, law breakers, threatening crowd, bummers, ruffians, loafers, bullies, vagabonds, cowardly mob, bands of worthless fellows, incendiaries, enemies of society, reckless crows, malcontents, wretched people, loud-mouthed orators, rapscallions, brigands, robbers, riffraff, terrible felons, idiots.3 Most significant among these many derogatory terms are "suspiciouslooking individuals," "labor-reform agitators," and "communists." These agitators, in the popular mind, were anarchists, often thought to be German or Polish immigrants, with the intent of undermining and even overthrowing capitalism and the cherished American way of life. This threat of anarchy created the undercurrent of fear that many people felt after the Haymarket Affair. Here, briefly, is what happened. On May 3, 1886, thousands of workers at the McCormack Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago were picketing for an eight-hour workday when an altercation occurred between strikers and strikebreakers. The police charged the crowd, fighting ensued, and six strikers were killed and many injured. The next day, a protest rally took place in Chicago's Haymarket Square. As the rally was ending at night, the police intervened to disperse the crowd. But a bomb was thrown into the phalanx of police, killing one policeman and inciting a riot, resulting in more deaths and hundreds of injuries. This event was reported widely, and there was collective relief when the Chicago police rapidly arrested ten German and Polish activists. On May 27, 1886, three weeks after the labor strike, a grand jury indicted the men. By the time the trial began on June 21, eight remained: one had agreed to testify for the state, the other had fled the country. The eight who 3 Philip Foner. qtd. in Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America. (New York: Hill & Wang, 1982) 71.


William James and the Haymarket Affair

remained - six were German, one British, and one a native-born American -- faced charges of committing murder, inciting to murder by speech and writing, and being accessory to murder. Jury selection began immediately, with the judge affirming the choice of jurors who already had decided the defendants were guilty. The jury consisted entirely of middle-class men, hostile to the accused. During the course of the trial, which was reported in detail in the press across the country, it became clear that the prosecution could not prove that any one of the accused had thrown the bomb. In fact, it seemed that several of the accused had not been at either the strike or the rally. Nevertheless, the prosecutor maintained that they all were guilty as conspirators whose writings or, more significantly, whose beliefs had incited violence. He read into evidence speeches and writings to support his claim that the men had incited violence tantamount to treason. These men, the prosecutor maintained, represented a dangerous movement to undermine the system of law and order on which America was based. "Law is on trial," the prosecutor said, "anarchy is on trial."4 Not surprisingly, seven of the eight defendants were sentenced to be hanged (the eighth received a sentence of fifteen years). Although the verdict received popular approval, there were some prominent and influential dissenters among American intellectuals, notably novelist William Dean Howells, writer Mark Twain, and William MacIntire Salter, a minister and lecturer for the Chicago Ethical Culture Society. William Salter was William James's brother-in-law, the husband of his wife's sister. These protestors and many others - including James's wife, Alice -believed that the defendants were not guilty of murder, as they were charged, but of holding beliefs about labor, the economy, socialism, and anarchism; but holding beliefs was not the charge, and did not carry a penalty of death. The dissenters had followed the trial in the newspapers and were convinced that its many irregularities had resulted in a miscarriage of justice. They enlisted William James's signature on a petition to stay the execution of the condemned. James refused. Although in Pragmatism he wrote, "A radical pragmatist. . .is a happy-go-lucky anarchistic sort of creature," apparently he meant a different kind of anarchist altogether.5 In 1886, James did not share the others' "helpless grief and rage," as Howells described his own


Carl S. Smith, "Cataclysm and Cultural Consciousness: Chicago and the Haymarket Trial," Chicago History (Summer 1986) 42. 5 Pragmatism, 124.

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feelings in a letter to Salter.6 In "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life," an address James delivered five years after the Haymarket trial, he insisted that the philosopher had no more right to dictate a community's ethics than anyone else. In a world of competing claims on morality from anarchists, nihilists, prohibitionists, radical darwinists, among many others, he maintained that "there are no absolute evils, and there are no non-moral goods. . . .There is but one unconditional commandment, which is that we should seek incessantly, with fear and trembling, so to vote and to act as to bring about the very largest total universe of good which we can see." This good, James said, is that "which seems most organizable, most fit to enter into complex combinations, most apt to be a member of a more inclusive whole." If someone makes a mistake about identifying this good, "the cries of the wounded will soon inform him of the fact."7 James believed that the wounded, in the case of the Haymarket verdict, would be the larger community, threatened - psychologically or in actuality - with anarchy. James said that he refused to sign a petition against the verdict for several reasons: lack of information, his conviction that his opinion simply did not matter, and his belief that allowing the condemned to live would have detrimental consequences for the community. As far as his access to information, although newspaper accounts of the trial and verdict were widely available to him, as they were to his wife, to Salter, and to Howells, James claimed not to know enough about the trial to make an informed decision, nor did he seem to think that gaining this information was his civic duty. Of course, in not signing the petition he was, in fact, exerting a "vote" in creating a universe of his choice; James was familiar with inaction being equal to action. As far as "mattering," it's true that in 1886, before the Principles of Psychology was published (it appeared in 1890), James was a college professor with a brother who was a well-known writer, but whose national and international reputation was not what it would be in the next two decades. He might, then truly have believed that his signing the petition was of no consequence, even though, in his writings, he urged civic engagement for others, and especially for college-educated men and women. Besides wanting the execution to set an example, James warned 6

W. D. Howells to W. M. Salter, 20 November 1887. Qtd, in Howard A. Wilson, "William Dean Howells's Unpublished Letters About the Haymarket Affair," Illinois Historical Society: 14. 7 William James, "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life," The Writings of William James. Ed. John McDermott. Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 625626.


William James and the Haymarket Affair

against trying a case by public opinion. In his essay "The Social Value of the College Bred," he wrote that it would be a sad day for the nation when "ten-cent" magazines were looked to for leadership, rather than the elite, educated group of the college bred. This sentiment grounds his scorn for the public debate about the trial and his conclusion that such debate could injure the moral life of the community, a contradiction, perhaps, of the democratic aura surrounding the concept of pragmatism. James's most pressing reason for not signing the petition, though, was his claim that the condemned men's execution would serve as an important example to others who also might want to incite violence. "Hereafter," he wrote to Salter, "every one will be warned by the execution that if he joins such a society, he does it with knowledge of the risk." For James at the time, the "cries of the wounded" would come from the public at large, who feared for the nation's stability. Besides these three reasons, however, we should consider others. James, it turns out, was offended by the "maudlin tones" of the appeals, which seemed not to take seriously enough the anarchists' writings8 and which failed to convey a manly, strong, decisive tone. Salter's stance, James implied, seemed too sentimental, too tender. Furthermore, in a letter to his brother Henry, James revealed his private conclusion about the Haymarket affair. It was caused, he told Henry, by "a lot of pathological germans & poles" and had nothing to do with justifiable labor protests, which he felt would come to a positive conclusion for all. "Almost every anarchist name is continental," he noted.9 The cries of the wounded, therefore, might come from those who disdained certain groups of immigrants and were content to see them put in their place. So we have a moral philosopher and pragmatist making an ethical decision muddied by his own conception of manly strength, of his perception of a shared desire to punish, and of ethnic prejudices We have a pluralist fully recognizing an intellectual hierarchy and suspicious of public discourse. The Haymarket Affair illuminates the beliefs, prejudices, fears, and controversies that have been evident in many events in our own time, and James's responses urge us to ask some questions about our roles as public intellectuals, moral leaders, and responsible and engaged citizens. 8

W. James to W. M. Salter, 7 November 1887. The Correspondence of William James, Vol. VI. Ed. Ignas Skrupskelis and Elizabeth Berkeley. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1998: 285. 9 W. James to H. James, 9 May 1886. The Correspondence of William James. Vol. II. Ed. by Skrupskelis and Berkeley. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1993:40.

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Considering the "facts" that I have presented, it may seem surprising that James did not sign Salter's petition and mount his own protest; but he was a man embedded in a definite historical context, and many other thoughtful individuals - who were committed to empirical inquiry, scientific method, and logical argumentation --at that moment, agreed with him. This event, then, raises some questions about our understanding of pragmatism: If consequences are the deciding factor in ethical decisions, how can we envision those consequences responsibly? On what basis? What consequences take precedence over others? Can we ever know a "fact" as something discrete from our feelings about that fact? Can we ever have enough information to make reasonable decisions? And what, in the end, is pragmatism? I think James wrestled with all of these questions, irritated sometimes that others failed to understand his writings on pragmatism, continually revising his ideas in attempts to clarify them, a task in which we, as his philosophical heirs, still are engaged.


1. Introduction My country (South Africa) and the countries of Eastern and Central Europe share something of a fraught relationship with the two great politico-economic theories of the modern world. But we come to them from different sides. Socialism was the aspiration of most activists who challenged the oppressive but formally capitalist apartheid regime in SA, and the South African Communist Party is still in alliance with the ruling post-apartheid ANC government. At the same time that South Africans were living under apartheid many in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe hoped to escape to western freedoms and the prosperity offered by the capitalist west. Since both the apartheid and Soviet systems collapsed we have however not always found the prosperity, equality or democracy we sought. John Rawlston Saul sees that we are currently in one of those interim periods existing between ‘more driven and coherent times’ and he suggests that ‘a period of uncertainty is also one of choice and therefore of opportunity. We cannot know how long it will last. Probably not long.’ (Saul, 2005:4). This paper advocates a pragmatic understanding of the nature of political knowledge for our present situation in order to establish it as genuinely one of ‘choice and opportunity’. My arguments involve three moves: (1) a re-interpretation in political terms of Dewey’s understanding of theory/practice integration and the ‘experimental’ nature of knowledge; (2) a re-examination of Marxist ideas of ‘false consciousness’, ‘power’ and ‘critical theory’ as equally applicable to the critique of any political reality and thus falling more logically within this ‘experimental’ conception of political knowledge; (3) a tentative step towards a pragmatist theory of ‘marginal political utility’ for establishing the use value of political theory in specific contexts. I conclude with reference to

Jane Skinner


the difficulty of establishing a democratic educational system in South Africa within current global ideological constraints, and advocate that policies be based instead upon their ‘marginal political utility’. In this I draw on the recent work of the development theorist James Ferguson. As a codicil I show that these ideas, based upon classical pragmatism, must be seen as incompatible with the neo-pragmatism of Richard Rorty.

2. A re-interpretation in political terms of Dewey’s understanding of the ‘experimental’ nature of knowledge. In Democracy and Education John Dewey writes: “The advance of psychology, of industrial methods and of the experimental method in science makes another conception of experience explicitly desirable and possible. This theory reinstates the idea of the ancients that experience is primarily practical, not cognitive – a matter of doing and undergoing the consequences of doing. But the ancient theory is transformed by realizing that doing may be directed so as to take up into its own content all that thought suggests, so as to result in securely tested knowledge. “Experience” then ceases to be empirical and becomes experimental. Reason ceases to be a remote and ideal faculty, and signifies all the resources by which activity is made fruitful in meaning.” (Dewey: 1964: 276). Democracy and Education (New York: Macmillan, 1974)

These ideas of Dewey’s, which establish the interdependence of theory and practice, were written in the context of their educational implications – but I suggest that they may be as useful within the world of politics and policy. This shift in focus will in turn require some shift in emphasis. An experimental attitude in any context has to attend to observed facts but in moving from natural science to the volatile field of human affairs the possibility of drawing secure conclusions will become essentially timebound. The experimenter will still be guided by the facts to the drawing of reasonable and ‘fruitful’ knowledge but when shifting contexts make the explanatory power of a good political theory lose its anchor in reality and experience, the meaning derived from it will have to change. To allow the theory to persist exactly in the same form in a new context would be to negate Dewey’s essential link to lived experience. The establishing of ‘securely tested’ political or social knowledge will therefore be an ongoing task.


Pragmatism and Political Practice

3. A repositioning within pragmatism of Marxist theories of ‘false consciousness’ and ‘power’ The persistence through time of many of the central ideas of both communism and capitalism suggests that these are both good theories for explaining modern societies. That they say opposing things also presupposes that neither has a monopoly on truth. I believe that Dewey’s conception allows for the necessary mediation between the two. Dewey’s contention that ‘reason’ signifies ‘all the resources by which activity is made fruitful in meaning’ indicates that the link from lived experience to meaning or theory is simply the reasoning power, or conscious thought, of informed individuals. This (which may be seen as a universal ‘common sense’ understanding) can explain the need for Marxism to have developed theories of ‘false consciousness’ in order to explain how this link could be disabled. But it was probably inevitable that at some time ‘true’ as opposed to ‘false’ consciousness would be used to challenge opposing theory – in effect admitting that it is impossible to fool all of the people all of the time. That this developed as a western Marxist critique of capitalist doctrine, by both the Frankfurt School in the 1930s and (as an educational strategy) by Paulo Freire in the 1960s, seems to be the result of historical accident rather than anything else. It would clearly have been as valuable in capitalist hands except that it was scarcely needed. In situations of ‘actually existing socialism’ during the Cold War no very sophisticated analysis was needed to demonstrate the weakness of the theory in practice in contrast to the individual freedom, democracy and growth offered by the ‘free market’ system which operated just beyond its sphere of influence. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the United States however unbridled capitalism had seen the growth of huge monopolies, exploitation of the poor, the over accumulation of capital and eventually a Great Depression which appeared to many to herald the end of the capitalist system – all very much as Marx had predicted. In each of these political scenarios the positive political reality that set the theory straight was however pragmatic and not ideological. The USA got out of its ‘robber baron’ capitalism not by turning to communism but by the conscious application of as much of the alternative (socialist) theory as appeared necessary at the time. The New Deal included elements of state intervention as did the western democratic policies that flourished in the face of ‘actually existing socialism’ during the Cold War. The weakness of critical theory was always that it sought to reveal an idealised de-contextualised (socialist) ‘truth’ whose immunity from its own tactics of critique could not be logically justified. And (it might be

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noted) the idea that knowing this truth would inevitably lead to action – to the oppressed throwing off their chains – was equally idealistic and unproven in practice. Similarly the complementary theory of ‘power’ as invisible structure supporting ‘false consciousness’ may be seen as no more than a heuristic device pointing to where interests (personal and group) keep a particular theory active as political structure beyond its links to lived reality. The ongoing value of this theory is indicated by its migration from Marxism to more recent poststructural (Foucaultian) analyses. However if the operation of power is seen as universally applicable within societies (as some readings of Adorno and Horkheimer or of Foucault would suggest) it becomes an ‘empty’ theory losing its efficacy as a tool of critique – in effect re-establishing false consciousness as impenetrable structure, and undermining the possibility of critical consciousness.

4. Towards a pragmatist theory of ‘marginal political utility’ Re-positioned simply as ‘reason ceas[ing] to be a remote and ideal faculty, and signify[ing] all the resources by which (political) activity is made fruitful in meaning’ critical thought loses its links to the unveiling of a specific truth and takes on a more practical role of constructing or critiquing any political theory of which citizens have current or relevant recent experience. To this extent it is clearly the tool for democracy that it was intended to be–but not necessarily the tool of a socialist democracy. An instrument of thought which focuses upon the links between theory and experience and upon deviations between the two in order to make reasonable adjustments towards equilibrium and balance clearly has something in common with the market mechanism as originally conceived by Adam Smith–and refined by mathematicians in the nineteenth century. If the price of goods or labour is too high marginal utility theory holds that the goods will remain unsold and the people unemployed, and that the price will be adjusted downwards until the market clears at just that optimum point where supply and demand are in equilibrium. This is in effect the core or heart of market thinking. In the theory of power I am pointing to pragmatic critical thought will support a theory just as long as it clearly has good links to lived experience but as soon as it loses those links it will lose its currency and its use value will fall – it will no longer be ‘fruitful in meaning’. The difference between marginal utility as political theory and as economic theory is of course just the role of cognition in each: its


Pragmatism and Political Practice

requirement for political utility and its denial in economic utility. From the time of Adam Smith it has been seen as unwise to interfere with the market mechanism–and this discourages critical thought. But I suggest that ideas of power and false consciousness in effect become valid from exactly that point where political theory loses its links with lived reality– where people stop thinking–allowing theory to become ideology and to persist as the thinking of a ruling regime. In a context of reasonably distributed purchasing power and approximately level social playing fields this market-driven pricing mechanism has been proven to be just the instrument for enterprise and freedom and healthy competition that Adam Smith envisaged. For instance a broadly free market system in Western Europe in the 60s clearly met the requirements of both marginal political and of marginal economic utility. A glance at the current global situation– and the internal situation in developing countries at present–will however suggest that it operates very differently in contexts of social inequality. As an automatic non-cognitive instrument of economic distribution where neither the state nor international bodies nor critically informed citizens are able or willing to intervene to counterbalance the market marginal utility must operate as a polarizing force. What ‘the market will bare’ in terms of third world wages or CEO’s salaries will not be what a just democratic society would bare. The marginal political utility of the market no longer pertains, but the residual strong ideological adherence to the idea of a market mechanism as a good in itself remains and has severe consequences for developing nations. Marginal utility as economic theory, and as ideology, has impacted very powerfully on our post-Soviet, postapartheid world. Critically conscious citizens who are alert to this potential deviation should be in a position to make appropriate adjustments at the polls free from specific ideological constraints. In a situation of uncertainty such as our own era where long held ideologies no longer have the currency they used to enjoy this begins to look more feasible than might have been the case in recent decades.

5. Educational policy making in an emerging market/ emerging democracy In my own field of educational theory and policy the current neoliberal world order has come under considerable fire. Indeed ‘neoliberalism’ overall has come to be a general scapegoat of the left for the ills of the current era and thus, as the development theorist James Ferguson suggests, something of an empty concept (Ferguson, 2007).

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However Ferguson believes that it is possible to point to specific neoconservative ‘techniques of governance’ that distinguish this current era from those that came before. In earlier times education, like other social goods, was understood to fall within the realm of state responsibility and ‘external’ to the market. Adam Smith himself saw that Government has the duty of “erecting and maintaining those public institutions … which may be in the highest degree advantageous to a great society’ but which are ‘of such a nature that the profit could never repay the expense to any individual or small number of individuals” (quoted in Heilbroner, 1995 p 69). With the advent of the present era the market side has come to be situated within the state blurring the distinction between the two (Ferguson, 2007). This has led to techniques of governance that have impacted on social policy globally, including on education policy in South Africa. It was my recent responsibility to research the broad spectrum of postapartheid education policy in order to draw up a ‘Country Paper’ for the South African Department of Education to present to delegates for the 16th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers which South Africa hosted in Cape Town last year. Although my underlying political critique was carefully ‘air-brushed’ out of the final bland document that delegates received, the exercise was nonetheless an interesting one and pointed to specific impacts of neo-conservative approaches. For example, in the spirit of unthinking support for the privatisation of services, it was agreed before the advent of democracy that public schools would have the right to charge school fees despite only ten percent of the cost to government being recoverable in this way. The ills that this has created were predicted and have all come to pass (discrimination against those unable to pay; children dropping out of school; huge and growing discrepancies between schools, amongst others). In the same vein free grants to all trainee teachers who stayed in the government school system for four years after graduating–an apartheid-era policy–was dropped post-apartheid in favour of fee-paying and some granting of bursaries. This has caused a looming shortfall of teachers on a massive scale and excludes most of the brightest poor black candidates–those we most want to attract. At the global level the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) seeks to prise open potentially lucrative developing country markets to international tertiary education providers–taking better-off students away from already cash-strapped state universities and undermining the independence of developing countries to regulate their own systems. It could be argued that in each of these examples democratic political utility was allowed to diverge rapidly from assumed economic utility, but


Pragmatism and Political Practice

lest this turn into a narrowly ideological argument, it is important that we weigh carefully the practicality of alternative strategies in our particular context.

6. Pragmatic adjustments South Africa shares with other African states a relatively weak state apparatus. While certain financial control mechanisms are strong in SA, low levels of administrative skill and experience probably preclude a comprehensive and successful state intervention at this time. In this situation James Ferguson advocates that we borrow from neo-liberal techniques of governance whatever may be seen to work well in practice– converting neo-conservative economic techniques into progressive, propoor and democratic ends wherever practicable. As an example he supports the idea of a Basic Incomes Grant (BIG) which would provide a minimum social wage to every citizen. This involves a mixed ideological strategy in that it bypasses intrusive means testing and the complex administration associated with welfare states and gives freedom of action to citizens in their choice of spending–a clear combination of Adam Smith with supply-side economics. It would also provide an incentive for entrepreneurship, which is a strong policy platform of the political right. Within education this basic spending power would allow parents to afford school fees and uniforms (and in several cases food) currently unaffordable to a growing section of the rural poor. Thirteen years into democracy it should also be possible to regard former apartheid measures as permissible if practicable–and the system of providing free education for all aspiring teachers who qualify for training (as noted above) would be a clearly progressive policy in our current context.

7. Conclusion Each of these ways of both testing and adopting theories on the basis of their marginal utility to society at any particular time in no way of course guarantees either democracy or just policies. Nothing ensures that being aware of the truth entails that we will act upon it in good faith for good ends–but not knowing it is more dangerous still. Critical conscious thought honed by education is the only logically defensible basis on which individuals and groups can have the chance to operate democratically in the full awareness of the tendency of powerful interests to use theory for their own ends. And as Larry Hickman explains, for Dewey moral action

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is ‘quite simply put, what is most efficient and appropriate to the resolution of a given problematic situation’ (Hickman, 1992:188).

Codicil If the idea of a pragmatist approach to political knowledge begins to look promising for our present situation we might expect to find additional support for it from Richard Rorty, as probably the most prominent neopragmatist and avowed liberal of our time. However for several reasons I believe that his thinking is incompatible with these ideas. Rorty is, like Dewey, a strong adherent of science and the scientific method – but his rejection of the notion of epistemology and its substitution by science (Rorty, 1989 p3-4; Mouffe, 1996, p24) specifically excludes any mechanism of critique, or intervening application of conscious minds, which, as I have tried to show, Dewey’s understanding both implicitly and explicitly requires. Rorty’s attack on our conception of the mind as separate from the brain (a central theme of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature) is congruent with his undermining of any idea of ‘meaning’ as something that we imagine our minds to be capable of making. He is in effect led by this stance into a position of positive aversion for reason. “One way of seeing edifying philosophy (as he calls his postmodern stance) as the love of wisdom is to see it as the attempt to prevent conversation from degenerating into inquiry” (emphasis added) (Rorty, 1980, p372). Inquiry smacks of the power of human thought to make real discoveries. It suggests both hidden agendas to be unearthed and an independent world that we may be able to inquire about–and it entails meaning. To “prevent conversation from degenerating into enquiry” is surely exactly the opposite of Dewey’s idea that reason “signifies all the resources by which activity is made fruitful in meaning”. In Rorty’s understanding both philosophical and political issues are not resolved, indeed they are not capable of resolution, they simply ‘fade away’ in ways that he explores at some length in Contingency, Irony and Solidarity. Rorty confirms his opposition to critical thought more specifically in conversations that he had with other ‘postmodern’ philosophers in 1993: “No more epistemology, no more unmasking” (Mouffe, 1996, p14). And where the role of critique is denied the status quo must hold sway. If we can have science or nothing–then we must accept economics as we currently find it. Rorty’s ideas therefore necessarily feed into a broad neoliberalism as the underpinning ideology of the current age. He has also made clear his opposition to education as a means of alerting the young to


Pragmatism and Political Practice

underlying structural problems in society: “If a teacher thinks that society is founded upon a lie, he should find another profession” (Rosenow, 1999). As an educator I would suggest exactly the opposite: that any teacher who does not alert his/her students to the possibility that society may be founded on a number of half-truths – would not be suited for the profession. Thus I believe that Rorty’s claims that philosophy could not do more than ‘ground the intuitions of the present’ can certainly be applied to his own ideas but that he cannot extend this claim more generally to other approaches including, most significantly, classical pragmatism.

Bibliography Dewey, J, 1964. Democracy and Education (New York: Macmillan) Ferguson, J 2007 ‘Neo-liberalism Reconsidered’ Talk given at the University of KwaZulu Natal, August Heilbroner, R 2000 The Worldly Philosophers (London: Penguin) Hickman, L, 1992 John Dewey’s Pragmatic Technology (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press) Mouffe, C. (Ed), 1996. Deconstruction and Pragmatism. (London: Routledge) Rorty, R. 1980. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Oxford: Blackwell) —. 1989. Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) Rosenow, E. 1999. ‘Towards an Aesthetic Education: Rorty’s Conception of Education’. Journal of Philosophy of Education 32. p253-265. Saul, J. R. 2005. The Collapse of Globalism. (London: Atlantic Books)


Abstract In this paper I will examine some aspects of Deweyan pragmatism that may be relevant to the task of exploring the constitution of new political ideologies. An historical reference point for the paper is the impact of Dewey’s work on China in the early twentieth century and the subsequent rejection of its influence. I will suggest that Deweyan thought as it was received and later misrepresented in that country has relevance for present discussions of the development of political ideologies. In addressing this theme, I am drawn to a number of key themes that lie at the heart of Deweyan pragmatism. These include the centrality of practice in his work, the functioning of theory in formulating and addressing social and political problems, and in particular the role of values and dispositions. In briefly exploring the above, I will raise the following questions for consideration: * Does Deweyan pragmatism necessarily hasten the disintegration of ‘traditional’ culture and values? * What can Dewey tell us about the development of democratic ‘dispositions’?

1. Introduction Any discussion of democracy and the theme of democratic values occurs in those conceptually conflicted spaces that represent the widely differing histories characteristic of the various nations that exist today. Within a particular polity there arise crucial issues about how citizens are attached to their particular nation and what are the ties that hold them. In a period characterised by ‘identity politics’, various groupings within


The Values and Practices of Democracy in Deweyan Pragmatism

nations have argued for kinds of differentiated relationships to the state, notably that of the recognition of group rights.1 All of this has occurred at a time in which there has been renewed interest in Pragmatism and in particular in Dewey’s writing about participatory democracy. The theme of conflict and its resolution was foregrounded in Dewey’s own work. In a period of globalisation theorists of democracy have begun to apply this aspect of his work to the analyses of conditions in newer democracies. These and other themes make necessary a re-reading and re-thinking of Dewey’s pragmatism in relation to the theme of democracy and specifically that of democratic values and dispositions. I will therefore argue in this paper that Deweyan pragmatism is a valuable philosophy for times in which under economic globalisation, people in different places now share a common world but do not necessarily share common meanings.2 Moreover I think a revived discussion of Dewey’s work on democracy and values will help balance those critiques that tend to depict political thought and activity as little more than the play of disciplinary power or to offer rather crude socialisation models of a functionalist kind to explain the development of values. The discussion of this theme is set against the historical backdrop that was Dewey’s encounter with Chinese thinkers and educators in the early part of the twentieth century. It was a time when the latter sought an effective method of critique and reevalution of their own culture, as they went about selecting and adapting from Western culture those elements they hoped would be significant to an emerging democratic China. A Deweyan account of practice is of course central to any discussion of democracy as well as to that of values and dispositions. As I will attempt to demonstrate further on, for Dewey habits are a matter of practice not intellectual propositions - they are always concerned with relationship not mere belief or pure intellectual conviction. They do however involve an interactive, that is, a negotiated relationship, with 1

Such claims seem to me to express not only dissatisfaction with previous arrangements within their respective societies, but also an awareness, no matter how dim, that the problem has its origin at some deep level in the complexities of embodiment. However, when the issue is seen in this light it is obvious that it is not only groups that can feel unacknowledged in their embodiment but that individuals may well experience the same in the face of a kind of citizenship that is formal, abstract and remote from everyday life. 2 The question of ‘which time’s is not meant to be a frivolous one: it is difficult at present to get a grasp on ‘the times’ even though the terms postmodernity or late modernity seem apposite.

Marjorie O’Loughlin


meaning. Pragmatism in Dewey’s sense did not pander to popular culture and simplified accounts of larger scientific solutions to social problems. But neither was it only concerned with the development and setting in place abstract systems of ideas, which purported to express the complexities of all human behaviour. Rather for Dewey pragmatism needed to encompass both ordinary everyday experience and sciences. (His position on this is, I think all the more interesting today in light of the potentially fruitful engagement of Deweyan pragmatism with variants of phenomenology in social analysis). In attempting to draw out the logical implications of the methods of the sciences his aim was to develop a logic of reasonable argumentation and an “ethics of discussion”. It is worth recalling here that pragmatism was and still is not merely a philosophy for academic or professional philosophers; even in Dewey’s time it was a powerful form of public philosophy, which influenced the American social sciences in their formative stages. Moreover it cannot be over-emphasised that Dewey’s anti-foundational pragmatism embraces both the interpretative and the empirical, engagement in the world and reflection, the aesthetic and the practical. Above all I argue, his was a philosophy of the body in a sense that at its very core lay a non-reductive understanding of human embodiment, depicting bodies as practico-sensory totalities that are the locus for all action, but which are unavoidably social. It is this fundamental sociality of human embodiment that I regard as crucial to Dewey’s understanding of community.

2. Society and Community Dewey’s distinction between the Great Society and the Great Community is essential to understanding his account of human sociality. In The Public and Its Problems he wrote that numerous technical problems existed that could be addressed by ‘experts’. These included health, housing, transport, urban planning and organization, the regulation and administration of taxation, the education and deployment of teachers, the effective and efficient management of public monies and so forth. But while all of these activities and many others, were portrayed by him as being essential to the Great Society, they were not sufficient for generating the Great Community. Because at the heart of any society are those ‘forces’ which must be ‘resolved’ before the specialised processes can begin to operate. What Dewey took these forces to be will doubtless continue to be debated, but in my view, they certainly included what he referred to as sets of mind that were ‘without attentive thought’. In other


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words they were those ways of being, feeling, relating or construing on the part of individuals which over time, and in each person’s reaching adulthood, become constitutive of a wider ‘social imaginary’ characterising a particular social group.3 Such modes of being, feeling and so on will therefore be clearly related to conceptions of habit, disposition and value. For Dewey, as for Mead, individuals grow to maturity through interaction with community. This is not just a strong statement of the embodied nature of human beings as a certain kind of animal but also through continuous engagement in collective practices, as pre-eminently meaning-makers. Involvement in embodied action is not merely a matter for the individual but specifically is the development of a manner of being that is characteristic of his/her culture. That in Dewey’s view was a ‘natural’ process meaning that individuals cannot become such without community. Learning to be human involves for him participation in the give and take of communication out of which gradually arises a functioning sense that one is an ‘individually distinctive’ member of that community who not only understands but appreciates its beliefs, desires and method and who contributes a further conversion of organic powers into human resources and values. He emphasises that this process is never finished. Participation in a community is absolutely essential to human life because each one’s participation enables an enriched experience for all. For Dewey however democracy was the very idea of community life itself and habit - the mainspring of human action - was formed within the ongoing embodied communicative practice that constitutes the social group.

Habits, customs and dispositions In Dewey’s writing it is habit that provides stability and continuity to our activities; it enable us to act, free from the requirement to think through and in advance plan our actions on each and every occasion. Moreover it is the nature of habits that they persist through time and in the midst of changing social circumstances. Only when the particular circumstances clearly offer resistance to the continuation of a habit or set of habits will they be overridden. Habits once formed, perpetuate themselves by acting unremittingly upon the ‘native stock’ of activities by 3

See History on the Couch (below) Chapter 11, in which I utilise the idea of the ‘social imaginary’ explored by Cornelius Castoriadis and Benedict Anderson and others.

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intensifying, stimulating, weakening, selecting, concentrating and organising them. As he notes, they create out of the formless void of impulses a world made in their own image. As Campbell remarks, Dewey held that habits were of such importance because they could not be gotten rid of by means of a simple conscious determination to do so.4 It is not possible just to be somehow freed from them once and for all. At the time of his writing Dewey felt that there was a lack of recognition of the importance of habit to human life and especially to the particular impacts that specific habits have - most of which we remain unaware. Dewey wrote that rather than our possessing habits they possess us - moving and controlling us. He was of the view convinced that we would remain under their control until we gain some understanding of what habits accomplish and only afterwards may we judge what results they have produced in our lives. Another way of thinking about habits is to see them as ways of using and incorporating the environment. Dewey also refers to them as ‘arts’ meaning that they involve skills (of sensory and motor organs), cunning or craft and objective materials. In his account they assimilate objective energies and bring about command of the environment. They require order, discipline and manifest technique having a beginning, middle and an end. Most significantly habit has power over us because it is so intimately a part of ourselves; it has this hold on us because according to Dewey we are the habit. Habits form our affective desires and furnish us with our working capacities. As such they are embodied practice. All habits however are affections having what Dewey calls ‘projectile power’ meaning that they are active means that project themselves, becoming energetic and dominating ways of acting. Habits wait like ‘tools in a box’ to be used by conscious resolve. But here we must distinguish between materials, tools and means proper : tools are merely potential means unless bodily coordinated in a specific operation. A certain kind of ‘self’ is being formed and progressively cemented. But this does not mean that there is something static or ‘completed’ about the self that is gradually being shaped. On the contrary, because practice has primacy in his philosophy, Dewey is able to show how, through the operation of spontaneity, novelty can occur, which, gathering force, can impress itself upon others involved thus shaping both the original actor as well as those around her. In this manner social change occurs and transformation is effected in the lives of individuals. It is especially pertinent when either sooner or later, it 4

See James Campbell’s ‘Dewey’s Conception of Community’ pp 23-42 in Hickman (below).


The Values and Practices of Democracy in Deweyan Pragmatism

significantly alters the interaction of social groups. Dewey’s complex and comprehensive account of practice allows for an individual’s engagement in an action or actions that have little of the more familiar qualities of an ‘intended’ activity, thereby involving action that is not planned or in some sense predicted by them in advance. In everyday life such action can take place almost incidentally (running one’s fingers across a musical keyboard for the first time, or walking past a dance group and joining in are examples) such that the person at the time attached no importance to the action. But later a person tries out a tune or makes a few dance moves to music and ‘discover’ an affinity with the action. So in my reading of Dewey, an essentially serendipitous moment can give rise to an action which, drawing upon a combination of awareness, and sensibility (basically an openness to the new) creates first a break, and then a new direction in the individual’s previously held understanding of what is significant to him/her. The initial event will be followed by stages involving some interest in (or indeed a fascination with) what has been encountered, and later a period of further exploration and the development of a sense that something important is now being learned. Ultimately, after having passed through various stages involving certain levels of social recognition and further engagement in spontaneous action, individuals will arrive at a point at which they now are able to see more clearly and to reflect upon the nature of the experiences they have undergone and to understand how they have actually experienced a crisis in older habits. Dewey’s discussions of ‘impulsions’deriving from pre-conscious life experiences - and ‘adjustment’ – profound changes that take place in the self by virtue of a new, multifaceted engagement with our respective environments, captures this sort of transformation in every aspect of life including those of values. Central to Dewey’s consideration of the nature and functioning of habits were those social habits known as customs, which in his view, constituted the most significant habits of the individual. These he believed were dependent for their origin on prior customs in society. Chief among them were those matters of morality, the content of which was furnished by traditions handed down over time. Thus customs are modes of organising and regulating conduct which most members of the society (probably for most of the time) are comfortable with and as a result are content to uphold. The institutions which are the manifestation of these customs and of morality are the settings for the conduct of our collective social life.

Marjorie O’Loughlin


Dewey distinguishes between habit and dispositions by arguing that the former conveys quite explicitly the sense of ‘operativeness’ or actuality, whereas the latter connotes latency or potential, usually requiring a positive stimulus beyond itself in order to become active. They are in fact subdued, non-patent forms of habit. Disposition really means pre-disposition Dewey reminds us, that is, the readiness to act overtly in a specific way whenever opportunity to do so arises, the opportunity being that there is an absence of the pressure which would have been present if the matter were merely one of direct dominance by a given habit in a specific situation. As such, dispositions can be and should be cultivated through the practice of habit within formal and informal education. At its most simply expressed education itself is the process of forming fundamental dispositions, intellectual and emotional, toward nature and other human beings. The centrality of practice in Deweyan pragmatism means that dispositions may be described as demands for certain kinds of activity that over time come to constitute the self that is, in his terms, they form our ‘affective desires’ and furnish us with our working capacities. So we can think of habits as means (tools) waiting to be used by conscious resolve. But for Dewey they are something more: they are active means that project themselves, energetic and dominating ways of acting. However, tools are merely potential means unless they are bodily coordinated in a specific operation. As I have already noted, Dewey’s major point is that habits are rather a matter of practice not an intellectual proposition and they are always in a deep sense concerned with relationship, not belief or purely cognitive conviction. How then is Dewey’s understanding of habits and dispositions related to the issue of values? For Dewey, values are not as some traditions hold, something we can know in advance of action. We cannot determine values simply by applying an a priori analysis of the nature of human being and its basic characteristics. While we may frequently refer to the judgements or ethical standards espoused by individuals in making their decisions about a variety of problems, we ultimately make the decision about value by their being carried out in practice to their end or completion. I interpret Dewey as arguing that knowledge of values or valuable ends is knowledge of the operations by which those valued ends can be constructed. This is an expression of what I have called Dewey’s ‘ends-means’ conception of values. More often than not he argued, our grasp of what our ends (values) are in a given problematic situation must undergo major alteration when genuine consideration of the practical implications of the means selected is


The Values and Practices of Democracy in Deweyan Pragmatism

undertaken. Means are not mere instruments to effect specific ends; they define and constitute ends as Jennifer Welchman notes, ‘every bit as much as the natural selection of genetic traits defines and constitutes biological evolution’.5 Moreover, the designation of means and ends varies sometimes actions or events will be means, while at other times they may be ends. Neither is exclusively one or other, rather they are given specificity by the complex circumstances in which they occur at in a particular time and place. The upshot of all of this is that Dewey saw ends as the outcome of comprehensive and deep processes of investigation which in action would subsequently be confirmed or not, as the case may be. Irrespective of what ends may have been in the past or may be in future, we want them to enhance sociality and to fulfil individual needs and not to lead to the destruction of communities and their members. To that end Dewey did identify certain ‘values’ that he saw as crucial to the establishment and maintenance of community and enhancement of the sense of self. One cluster of these are the ‘intellectual habits’ generated by the interaction of reflection, desire and action, for example openmindedness, intellectual honesty and responsibility. Here, I will discuss briefly only the first of these. Open-mindedness can be seen most clearly by considering its opposite - close-mindedness, Dewey thought. He identifies close-mindedness arising from three reasons or some combination of these. The first is prejudice or a stubborn attachment to the first idea encountered on a particular subject and rejection of any subsequent possible revisions. The second is pride, which makes someone refuse an idea or theory that runs counter to a cherished pre-conception. The third is selfishness - a willingness to consider or accept only those ideas that are to one’s personal advantage and to reject everything that does not. Openmindedness Dewey argues is the antithesis of prejudice, pride and selfishness - it means accepting all truth even when one’s own ideas and preconceptions must be altered, or even when it means foregoing some personal advantage. At first glance then it would appear that this account of openmindedness is straightforwardly a matter of knowledge, but upon refection it become clear that it is also a matter of moral behaviour or of morality. We know for example that justice involves moral behaviour but how can we be just without being open-minded? He claims that it is only when one affords others’ opinions their proper consideration that one may have the possibility of being just. Generosity too is a moral value, but how, asked 5

See Welchman (below) p191.

Marjorie O’Loughlin


Dewey can one be generous if one is prejudiced? It seems to me that we encounter here one of the key underpinnings of a Deweyan ethic of participatory democracy.

3. Deweyan democratic values and ‘traditional’ values; China at the time of the May Fourth Movement Dewey’s understanding of disposition and habits is interesting in terms of the historical example of China in the first decades if the twentieth century. Dewey’s work was initially very attractive to those attempting to modernise Chinese society in the face of massive cultural disintegration. A small group of thinkers took up the early ideas of Dewey and attempted to apply these to China. Among them were Hu-Shih an eminent contemporary philosopher and Chow Tse-tsung an educator. Important questions arise in relation to their reform program. For example: Did Dewey’s Chinese adherents believe that his work could be made immediately relevant to the Chinese context as it then was? Were they correct to emphasise his work on methodology (the so-called ‘scientific’ or ‘expert’ issue) and Dewey’s idea of the valuation of science and experimentalism? Certainly the focus on methodology seems to have given them a sense that his work could transcend cultural boundaries even those of a culture apparently so different from that of the West. It is clear that Hu-shih believed deeply in the evolutionary idea of progress and equated it with democracy. What is of interest in the context of the present discussion is how his and others’ views fitted (or did not) with Dewey’s own in terms of regarding the functioning of habits, dispositions and values in relation to democracy. His followers certainly included in their reform attempts, a sustained critique of Chinese traditional values, but in advocating the kinds of values of open-mindedness, intellectual honesty and the like, they certainly were not consciously pursuing the destruction of the country. Rather they felt that Dewey’s pragmatism because of its peculiar character was uniquely relevant to the project of modernising and re-shaping China. In the sixteen lectures delivered at Beijing University Dewey reiterated his major principle that knowledge is a form of doing. In developing his theme he criticised both philosophical idealism and materialism. Societies he argued had gradually evolved, and the theories concerning the solution of problems had always originated in events. Therefore attention needed to be paid to the nature of the events themselves and the evidence associated with these. An attitude of experimentation regarding all principles as simply hypotheses, needed to


The Values and Practices of Democracy in Deweyan Pragmatism

be maintained in the study of specific events and then the continuous improvement of society. Not surprisingly Dewey’s work raised the central issue of the problems of methodology in the social sciences and the proper perspective to be taken regarding theories, especially as they related to matters of practical reform. The main insight here was that problems could never be solved in total with any kind of comprehensive doctrine and the various kinds of ‘isms’ would not provide an overall solution, but rather could only ever be hypotheses or instruments for solving specific problems at specific times. Interestingly even the members of the then Communist Party acknowledged that ‘isms’ were only instruments for the solution of practical social problems. For example, in 1920 Chen Tu-hsiu maintained that that it was better to promote the practical movement of education and emancipation of workers through education rather than to indulge in calls to anarchism or socialism. There was clearly a tension between the view that ‘isms’ were necessary as guidance for social reforms and the conviction that revolution, or even social reform, could not be achieved in a short time, but rather in continuous endeavours ‘inch by inch’. Even as late as the summer of 1921 a Chinese communist writer claimed that all kinds of socialism are only temporarily true: they should never be regarded as permanent and absolute truth. The point being made to young socialists, anarchists and Marxists at that time, was that practical problems must not give way to abstract theories and that theories and political doctrine should always be studied in detail rather than swallowed whole so to speak. This position seems to have been remarkably in tune with Dewey’s own cautionary remarks about political dogma in that period. At this point it is worth recalling Dewey’s understanding of theory – political or otherwise. He conceived of theories as sets of abstract propositions that are interrelated in systematic fashion. The processes of abstraction works upon concrete phenomena that are always located in specific social political and cultural situations. That said, it must be stated that what makes a theory a theory as such is the always provisional character of the propositions and the relationship between these. On this Deweyan understanding of the process of theorising, theories themselves must by definition be open to change in accounting for new phenomena. If they cannot achieve this then they must make way for a theoretical structure that can do so. Theory must raise new questions in its examination and interrogation of phenomena. The responses to these questions furnish the possibility of revision and transformation of categories and their relationships within particular theories. In this sense a theoretical undertaking is an interpretative enterprise akin to the translation of meaning in language. A particular theory enables

Marjorie O’Loughlin


communication amongst different theoretical actors only if it is ‘open’ in the sense described; otherwise it is merely the imposition of meaning by some upon others. As examples of the kinds of theory of which Dewy was so critical were a range that purported to account for China’s radical difference from western societies. Some of the ‘problematic’ characterisations of China by ‘the West’, for example, depicted it as feudal, or a quintessential ‘Asiatic’ society, or even as a society of nascent capitalism - the latter view drawing on certain western perceptions of Shanghai in early 20th century. What Dewey felt was that each of these ‘models’ suppressed what specifically was ‘different’ about Chinese society. In his view, social and political theories appropriately applied should be capable of revealing differences as well as similarities. Many of the available theories drawing upon the notion of the ‘awakening giant’ simply failed to do this. The trope of ‘awakening ‘ in the discourse of new nations had a technical function as Ernest Gellner suggests in his account of the projection of modern nationalisms by the West. As he argued, the dominant awakening trope functioned in nationalising theories to invent nations where they did not exist. Rather than being the awakening of nations to self-consciousness, nationalism invents nations where they do not already exist. Such theories depict the nation establishing its pedigree in a greater enlightenment enterprise that sees it as a hidden or sleeping element of a universal order which just happens to pre-date the appearance of ephemeral nationalistic movements. We need to recall the significance of the sleeping and dreaming metaphors, which were associated not only with peace and tranquillity but also with the irrational and the primitive. European thought staked its claim to be rational and empirical along a notional boundary separating reason from dreaming and the phase between dream and wakefulness was associated with an evolutionary or historical transition from the irrational to the rational, first among humans and animals and among races of people. In early Enlightenment science, the line between dreams and the real helped to distinguish animals from humans. The only difference between the brutes and ‘us’ is that we can distinguish dreams from ideas or real sensations. Later in the nineteenth century, a comparable line was drawn in the ethnographic sciences between races or breeds of people in place of the earlier distinction between ‘us’ and the brutes. Dreaming was now a mark not of beasts but of primitive peoples. The history of China from the Opium wars to the


The Values and Practices of Democracy in Deweyan Pragmatism

mid-twentieth century has been narrated and re-narrated as a monumental awakening from the illusions and the lethargy of empire.6 Dewey’s Chinese followers hoped that his pragmatism could provide the country with an effective method of critique and evaluation thus opening the possibility of critical selection and adaptation of Western culture. Thus they advocated literary revolution, that is, the reform of the classics which they saw as elitist and removed from the real life of the Chinese people. Together with the authority exercised by Confucianism the classics were for them a source of China’s continuing adherence to inflexible and outmoded ideas. Not surprisingly then they were especially attracted to the Deweyan emphasis on open-mindedness as a very specific value in the development of a participatory democracy in their country. Open-mindedness towards all political, philosophical and social doctrines was regarded at the time as an essential pre-requisite for theorising reform. Other important areas were reform of the institutions of marriage and the family, and a thoroughgoing reconsideration of traditional ‘values’. Of particular concern in their eyes was the changing nature of the ‘subject’ under conditions of modernity and the new forms citizenship might take under what they hoped would be emerging democratic conditions in China. An attempt to assess the impact of Dewey’s work on his Chinese adherents is well beyond the scope of this paper. However it is essential to recall that they focused almost exclusively on those specific aspects of Chinese society previously outlined. They all belonged to an intellectual class whose members had little connection to the vast mass of people labouring to subsist. It must be fully acknowledged that Dewey himself pointed out that economic problems were the most important because as he said economic life is the foundation of all social life. However it was not the economic dimension that pre-occupied his followers, but rather educational reform, academic research and the critique and re-evaluation of the national classics. Few of them seriously considered the problems of the application of democracy in China in terms of economic organization and practice. Unfortunately this turned out to be a major factor in their declining influence. Their attack on the traditional ideology and the longestablished thought which characterised the decaying institutions of Chinese society was therefore insufficient to bring about genuine change. Dewey had made it clear in his writing that his approach was one of social reform or amelioration rather than revolution, and in this he saw education as having an indispensable role in China as elsewhere. When the 6

See Fitzgerald (below) p47.

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aim is to influence behaviour, in terms of the school curriculum the study of morality in isolation from other subjects is about the poorest method that can be adopted he believed. Instruction that does not influence conduct does not really result in any improvement in children’s moral ideas and ideals. It is obvious therefore that the thing for us to do is to forego this sort of frontal attack on the problem of moral education, and devote our attention to teaching those subjects which are directly concerned with life. Ostensibly there are many things that have a direct relationship to human behaviour, such as the cultivation of desirable habits of concentration, perseverance, accuracy and loyalty. These are matters of knowledge as well moral habits of behaving. But the relationship between these habits and morality depend upon the quality of teaching employed; good methods result in good habits, poor methods produce bad ones. For example we may aim to produce the habit of concentration, by which we mean the cultivation of a sense of responsibility, but if the methods we employ are inappropriate we end up with habits of pretence and slovenliness. Good habits can only be cultivated by proper methods. So whether in relation to China or anywhere else Dewey believed that democracy is much broader than a special political form, a method of conducting government, or of making laws and carrying out administration by means of popular suffrage and elected officers. While it undoubtedly encompasses all of these elements it is at its heart something deeper and broader. The political and governmental phase of democracy is a means the best means found so far he believed, of realising ends that lie deep in the wide domain of human relationships and the development of human personality. It is, we often say but perhaps without truly appreciating all that is involved in the description of a ‘way of life’ that is both social and individual. In his insistence on this he had in mind all societies, Chinese as much as the America of his time. Rorty has made the observation in Contingency Irony and Solidarity that revolutionary achievements in the arts, in the sciences and in moral and political thought typically occur when somebody realizes that two or more of the available vocabularies are interfering with each other. Initiatives are then taken to construct a new vocabulary to replace both. The main point to grasp here is that the new linguistic armoury not only offers a new way of apprehending the world, but also furnishes a new basis for political action. Essentially the new vocabulary transforms the object of the search or quest itself. Revolutionary thinkers are typically unable to make explicit what they wish to do prior to generating a language in which they succeeded in achieving their end. In other words


The Values and Practices of Democracy in Deweyan Pragmatism

the vocabulary renders possible for the first time a formulation of its own purpose. In the case of China there was among other problems the failure of liberal and Confucian language to offer a satisfactory response to the question of ‘What is wrong with China?’. Certainly the need for a new conceptual language became urgent. But so too I think were the problems encountered in attempting to apply Deweyan pragmatism to the Chinese contexts at that time in which a cultural-intellectualist approach to reform dominated the movement. Nevertheless Dewey’s followers were able to glimpse, albeit too briefly, some of the possibilities offered by those participative forms of daily life which constitute the practice of democracy.

4. Deweyan pragmatism and the development of democratic dispositions I think that we can derive from Dewey’s work an understanding that democratic dispositions are realised in joining of affective life and the fellow feeling we have for others in our community. As Dewey was aware emotion is essential not only to the account we give of how human beings as individuals come to know their world, but also in terms of the ways in which emotion is profoundly implicated in the generation and maintenance of sociality. It seems to me that there is in Dewey’s work an understanding that community is built on forms of solidarity and that such forms have an obvious emotional basis. Dewey fully recognised the functioning of emotion in social life, especially that within the construction of social relationships in community. Like some of the major thinkers in sociology Dewey was concerned with the shared emotion and open communal relationship that together form solid social arrangements but which over time change and evolve. Not unlike Weber’s in this respect Dewey held that the shared emotional community is a crucial element in understanding how communities function, acknowledging that ‘reason’ has only a small part to play in the formation and expression of outlook, orientations and the beliefs of groups. Emotion, rather, is the driving force in the social affairs of human beings. This notion that social life in the form of groups with shared interests and outlook is simultaneously underlain and vitalised by emotion is a very important one. We need to better understand that emotions have ‘objects’; that is, as human beings we develop emotional attachments and it is the processes involved in such attachment that will be crucial in the growth and deepening of particular emotions. So democratic dispositions are not merely about developing a particular intellectual ‘stance ’towards matters.

Marjorie O’Loughlin


Therefore I suggest that there is an urgent need to better understand what is encompassed through having individuals develop attitudes, orientations and dispositions that will enhance their lives as democratic participants, encouraging their active engagement in communal life. The difficulty of course lies in grasping what these might actually be, and then being able to determine how precisely they might mount a critique of present perspectives on citizenship, and through this develop an awareness of what citizenship might mean in the future. As Dewey was aware knowledge, values and dispositions cannot be separated in the practice of everyday life. In recent public discourse the term values has been presented as something quite distinct and separate from the everyday lives of people. In the more complex debates about democratic values, there has been some acknowledgement that certain attitudes or dispositions, for example the notion of ‘moral accommodation’, should be engendered in individuals. These include, ‘civic integrity’ – being consistent in word and deed – and having ‘civic magnanimity’ – treating opponents as reasonable and morally worthy. However, emotional aspects and processes such as we find discussed by Dewey do not figure prominently in the articulation of such values. The educational philosophers Eamonn Callan and Patricia White are exceptions, suggesting that such values as ‘emotional generosity’ be regarded as an important civic disposition that might help to overcome the shallowness and instrumentalism that infuses many contemporary social values.7 Following Dewey, I take the view that depth of emotion is achieved only through an individual’s growing awareness of her connection to others. People only matter to each other through experiencing the emotional connection of others who are entwined with them in various kinds of project – who are ‘implaced’ with them as they carry out varieties of practice.8 From this kind of relation, individuals gain and generate kinds 7

For a discussion of the work on democratic dispositions by Callan and White see O’Loughlin (1997) below. 8 The term ‘implaced’is borrowed from the philosopher Edward Casey. His work on place has some relevance for thinking about the ingrained sense of place in traditional Chinese culture and even today. From the perspective of traditional Chinese society the day when every single person has a place that will secure their fate and enable them to have a roof over their head is the day when there will be a truly great order ‘under heaven’. The opposite of this is a state of great confusion. Without an assured place the individual is left hanging in a state of suspension. Therefore for peace and stability under heaven to occur it is essential to help people find a certain place to settle down where they will have food to eat, clothes to wear and a place to shelter.


The Values and Practices of Democracy in Deweyan Pragmatism

of ‘lived knowledge’ in contrast to that sort of knowledge which is excessively abstract and removed from actual practice. Humans realise their humanity through other humans, that is, through emotionally motivated and infused, embodied engagement. In the process of experiencing emotions, as embodied selves we are reaffirmed in our spatio-temporal existence. But as Dewey argued convincingly, our emotions are neither in our minds nor merely in our bodies – they are instead always located in the very depths of our actual engagement with the world in all its specificity. The enhancement of emotional depth can only occur if we have sufficient privacy to be ourselves, but at the same time retain an essential connectedness to others, thereby continually engaging in such practice as will carve out our common life. Participation and identity derive from group membership and the performance of mutual obligations, but what is of primary value is the human association that is entailed as a group member. It is the contribution to the community, the sense of being ‘held’ by the community that is its own reward. This I think is what Dewey understood deeply when he spoke of the nature of the Great Community. Deweyan pragmatism has I believe an important role to play in helping us better understand in that a community is grounded in shared values and a common appreciation of what is needed if the community is to survive and to flourish.

Bibliography Dittmer, L. 1994 China Under Reform Series - Politics in Asia and the Pacific: Interdisciplinary Perspectives Boulder & San Francisco: Westview Press Caspary W.R. 2000 Dewey on Democracy Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press Dewey, J. 1973 John Dewey. Lectures in China, 1919-1920 Translated from the Chinese and Edited by Robert W.Clopton/Tsuin-Chen Ou an East-West Center Book Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii Dickstein, M. 1998 The Revival of Pramatism.New Essays on Social Thought, Law and Culture Durham and London: Duke University Press Fitzgerald, J. (1996) Awakening China. Politics, Culture and Class in the Nationalist Movement Stanford; Stanford University Press Hickman, L.A. (1998) Reading Dewey. Interpretations for a Postmodern Generation, Bloomington and Indianapolis : Indiana University Press

Marjorie O’Loughlin


Levinson, J.R. (1964) Confucian China and its Modern Fate Volume 2 The problem of Monarchical Decay Berkeley and Los Angeles; University of California Press Lin, Yu-Sheng (1979) The Crisis of Chinese Consciousness. Radical Antitraditionalism in the May Fourth Era , Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press O’Loughlin, M .(2006) Embodiment and Education. Exploring Creatural Existence Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer —. (2003) ‘Psychoanalytic theory and the sources of national attachment: the significance of place’ Chapter 11 in History on the Couch. Essays in history and Psychoanalysis Edited by Joy Damousi and Robert Reynolds, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press —. (1997) ‘Education for citizenship: Integrating Knowledge, Imagination and Democratic Dispositions ‘ Forum of Education; A Journal of Theory, Research, Policy and Practice 52(2) November 1997 Ratner, J. (Ed.) (1939) Intelligence in the Modern World. John Dewey’s Philosophy New York: The Modern Library Rorty, R. (1989) Contingency, Irony and Solidarity Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Schwarcz, V. (1986) The Chinese Enlightenment. Intellectuals and d the May Fourth Movement of 1919. Berkeley: University of California Press Tu wei-ming (1979) Humanity and Self-Cultivation. Essays in Confucian Thought Berkeley: Humanities Press Welchmann, J. (1995) Dewey’s Ethical Thought Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press


What happens to a class of persons who systematically have their rights violated by the state, by the very institution whose purpose is to protect such rights? What happens when a constitutive feature of the entire infrastructure of a state's legal system is committed to the disenfranchisement of groups of persons, the criminalization of their identities, ideas and restriction of their movements? What happens to those people who are in the inverse position, that is, they have no state to belong to? They are, in effect, wanderers living in a camouflaged state of nature, a pre-political universe in which there are no third-party default agencies to even recognize them as agents, as political subjects? Who, in such a world, assumes the default duty of protecting their rights? In an era in which respect for de facto sovereignty is a political given—though not an absolute one since sovereignty is itself constrained by principles of justice—the answers are not easy First, I will argue for a modest claim and it is this: persons who suffer from chronic human rights violations have a moral right to secure a place in the world where they can continue the journey of being a human being. Peoples of the world have a moral duty to ensure that this moral right gets translated into permanent residency. I, therefore, want to make the right to permanent residency a plausible candidate for human rights discussion. I will argue for this position by way of the Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant, I think, grounds this position historically, and in one sense or another, his views on foreigners though problematic in part, have much to recommend them. Second, I will reformulate Kant’s moral cosmopolitan and political thought so as to bring it closer in line with a 21st century sensibility on the rights of strangers.

Jason D. Hill


1. The Right to Permanent Residency: Negotiating Kant’s Moral Benevolence One way of framing our dilemma philosophically is as follows: No person whose humanity in herself has been violated and who is likely to continue suffering such a violation for the rest of her life ought to be excluded from an empirical space in which she can exercise her moral agency. The ability to formulate moral principles as a step in the construction of moral agency does not depend on circumstances from Kant’s perspective. The ability to translate them into ways of life—realized goals and ends—does depend on real contingencies in life. This is a basic right of the individual born out of, among other things, her intrinsic moral worth as a free autonomous agent to set her own ends. As this capacity involves the exercise of reason, one imperfect duty we have towards others on Kantian grounds is to commit ourselves to developing rational agency and making it more effective in the lives of others. As far as Kant was concerned the political milieu in which this basic right could be realized was: a republican state governed by a republican constitution. Kant writes: “Now the republican constitution is the only one which does justice to the rights of man.”1 Kant envisaged this constitution in such a way that government had the proper coercive power to limit external freedom of persons when and if the exercise of such freedom violated the just freedom of others. Irreconcilable private impulses of evil men, Kant noted, would not be permitted to contravene into the public space. Human beings’ coercive impulses are inhibited through the opposing views of their fellow citizens.2 The laws of the constitutional republic, therefore, neutralize or diffuse the annihilatory impulses of human beings as they existed in the state of nature. The contingent existence of laws as they are formulated in the constitutional republic plays a crucial role—albeit not by intent—in transforming human beings from, as Kant would put it, natural creatures into moral agents. They submit to coercive laws that produce a peace amenable to enforcement of such laws. This is what right prescribes. And, once more, this instantiation of right from the laws legislated by men does not necessarily come from internal moral reasons. Kant: 1

Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace, in Kant’s Political Writings ed. Hans Reiss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 112. 2 Kant, Perpetual Peace, in Political Wrings, 113.


The Right to Permanent Residency as a Human Right “In the same way, we cannot expect their moral attitudes to produce a good political constitution; on the contrary, it is only through the latter that the people can be expected to attain a good level of moral culture.”3

Ought anyone, who, for whatever reason—race, sex, nationality, sexual orientation, religious affiliation—is a victim of chronic human rights violation and thus whose humanity is routinely violated be excluded from moral culture? I submit that that such a person has the right to be in this realm of moral culture simpliciter. He has that right because it is a precondition of his evolution from being a non-moral natural creature into a moral subject. The access to moral culture seems as transparent as the right of a child to food, clothing and care. Life outside the realm of moral culture is marginally human because people are deprived of the full use of their capacities in ways that shore up their autonomy as self-legislating beings, the practice of which depends on a particular type of government. Life in the quasi state of nature is less than a human life. It ceases to be recognizably human. Would Kant say that such an unfortunate person as I have described ought not to have the moral right to moral culture? Kant’s own moral egalitarianism ought to give us pause for hope. He not only unambiguously defended the intrinsic moral worth of each person qua human being, but excoriated human beings who by, whatever means, used others persons as means to their ends; who prevented persons from setting their own ends; who enforced reasons and goals upon them even for their own good. This moral egalitarianism is seen in Kant’s defense of one and only one innate right which each person possesses in the fundamental sense. And it is this: “Freedom (independence from being constrained by another’s choice), insofar as it can coexist with the freedom of every other in accordance with a universal law, is the only original right belonging to every man by virtue of his humanity.”4 This original right grounds what Kant calls, innate equality. The form this innate equality takes is, in the words of Kant: “independence from being bound by others to more than one can in turn bind them.”5 This freedom for Kant is the basis for a universal moral respect that everyone is owed as a moral—although imperfect—being. In recognition of the dignity of others we restrain our actions and allow our sense of self-conception to be bounded by the practical love we owe them. At the heart of our subjectivity, therefore, is a 3

Kant, Perpetual Peace , 113. Italics are mine. Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, Edited and translated by Mary Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 30. 5 Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, 30. 4

Jason D. Hill


sense of the moral constitution of the other. This sense of the others’ moral constitution, as well as our own, is one of the legitimizing factors that informs the maxims we adopt to guide our actions. We may call such a factor a “practical law.” The principle that makes possible this duty which is a law is a maxim the agent forms on subjective grounds. Such a principle can also hold as a universal law. Kant notes: “You must therefore first consider your actions in terms of their subjective principles; but you can know whether this principle also holds objectively only in this way: that when your reason subjects it to the test of conceiving yourself as also giving universal law through it, it qualifies for such a giving of universal law.” 6 We have inherited from Kant, the idea of the shared ways in which our moral personalities come into existence and the ways to protect this universal moral personality. We may take this moral personality as an uncomplicated fact of the phenomenal world. Moral personality is under the jurisdiction of practical reason and belongs to the realm governed by the free exercise of one’s reason. Moral personality for Kant is “…nothing other than the freedom of a rational being under moral laws.”7 If there are persons who were denied an empirical space to develop a full-fledged moral personality what would a Kantian response to this injustice look like? Assuming that they are denied this empirical space because their legal status is such that the state may treat them as objects and degrade them by using them as means to perverse ends, how ought one, on moral cosmopolitan grounds to respond? Let us imagine that persons are living under a political regime in which violation of the humanity in themselves is legally sanctioned and, further, they are forced to violate the humanity in themselves by being prevented from carrying out the positive duties they have to themselves; i.e. the duty of selfpreservation, the duty of preservation of the species (which includes but is not limited to respecting the external freedom of others), and preservation of their natural capacity to enjoy life. If we can imagine such a state of affairs and or identify them in the world, then what sort of answer would a Kantian moral cosmopolitan give?

6 7

The Metaphysics of Morals, 17. The Metaphysics of Morals, 16.


The Right to Permanent Residency as a Human Right

2. Restoring Humanity to the Agent: Kant and the Right of Residency Persons who are thus forced to violate the two fundamental duties that they have towards themselves: the right of humanity in their own person, and the end of humanity in their own person cannot exercise reason in ways that demonstrate their identity as moral agents. Kant writes: “That is rightfully mine (meum iuris) with which I am so connected that another’s use of it without my consent would wrong me. The subjective condition of any possible use is possession.”8

Kant had in mind here external objects, but I am going to take the liberty as Hegel himself did of assuming that one’s body and one’s life are paradigmatic examples of that which another’s use of without consent would be a moral wrong. Kant argues that I've a right not to have my freedom impaired by another's external action. We all have this right thanks not to our bodies but to our humanity. Now, does my right not to have my freedom impaired imply a right to (and ownership of) my body? Well, if someone causes me physical harm, I certainly have a right to redress. Kant also argues that I've a right not to be treated as a thing, and this means a right not to have my body used as a thing merely for another's gratification. Sex is alright he says, but only when it is for the reciprocal enjoyment of two persons and only if it is covered by contract (marriage). All of this certainly seems to suggest that he thinks I have a right to my body -- not because it's my body, but because my body is the home of my person, my humanity. Slavery, the Holocaust, genocide, rape as punishment, female genital mutilation, and miscegenation laws, laws that penalize social intercourse among persons based on race, gender, nationality, religious affiliation and sexual orientation are among those subjected to laws that restrict the use of one’s personhood on behalf of one’s life. Those laws that violate the humanity in oneself by forcing one to live a life around enforced ends, that is, ends not of one’s choosing are worth mentioning because they circumvent the free exercise of reason on behalf of one’s life Persons living under conditions of a civil war and at least two of the conditions listed above, genocide and rape as punishment are subjected to life conditions reminiscent of those in a state of nature. Such conditions ought to be singled out because to live within a state of nature is to live 8

Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, 37.

Jason D. Hill


under conditions in which the political infrastructures that constitute civil society are either absent, broken in ways that compromise human wellbeing, or governed by corrupt political actors. One could say that a state of nature forces one to live under conditions in which public and just laws are absent. Persons, then, are prohibited if not systematically prevented from developing their civic personalities. One fruitful way of answering our list of questions about chronic human rights violations and of determining who has the right to permanent residency is by visiting Kant’s theory of the right to visitation, to hospitality, or, temporary sojourn. Kant was not the first thinker to bring into public debate the issue of the rights of strangers. He was the first major Enlightenment thinker, however, to offer a substantive account of why strangers or foreigners had a right to visit countries outside their own. This was not philanthropy for Kant but, rather, what he termed cosmopolitan right. Articulated in the Third Article of his famous “Perpetual Peace”, a short treatise written in 1795, this political tract was meant to articulate how peace could actually come about among nations that had a similar political constitution and form of government. This form of government was a constitutional republic which secured the rights of individuals by limiting the powers of government to that of a custodian of rights and enforcer of justice. The curtailment of the external freedom of persons was justified when the exercise of such freedom violated the inalienable rights of others. More than this, however, a cosmopolitan federation of states along with its consociates would ultimately approximate the perfectibility of human moral nature that was at the heart of Kant’s progressive moral philosophy. The right to hospitality and temporary visitation for Kant was the natural right of the stranger not to be treated with hostility when he arrived on foreign territory. He can be turned away if this can be done without causing his death. He must not, however, be turned away for arbitrary or capricious reasons. The cosmopolitan right of the stranger was not an absolute right, therefore. It did implicitly presuppose the sound moral judgment of those whose responsibility it was to determine right of entrance and exit. But how did Kant legitimize this cosmopolitan right? What was its foundational basis and what were the intrinsic limitations (if any) that


The Right to Permanent Residency as a Human Right

restricted the scope of the right of entrance to one of temporary visitation?9 What did the idea of the common possession of the earth justify in reality? A universal morality of equal right to self-sustainment pervades Kant’s treatment of the claim to common possession of the earth. All men have the right to present themselves in the society of others by virtue of their right to communal possession of the earth’s surface. The earth is a globe, Kant explains, and because of this human cohabitation is an indisputable fact. People cannot disperse over an infinite area. They must tolerate each other’s company.10 Keeping in mind that no person has an intrinsic right to occupy any portion of the earth by nature, it is worth quoting Kant at length on how communal right of possession turns into a cosmopolitan right of visitation that is not to be conflated with a permanent right of residency. Kant writes: The community of man is divided by uninhabitable parts of the earth’s surface such as oceans and deserts, but even then, the ship or the camel (the ship of the desert) make it possible for them to approach their fellows over these ownerless tracts, and to utilize as a means of social intercourse that right to the earth’s surface which the human race shares in common. The inhospitable behavior of coastal dwellers (as on the Barbary coast) in plundering ships…or enslaving Bedouins ....but this natural right hospitality, i.e. the right of strangers, does not extend beyond those conditions which make it possible for them to attempt to enter into community of human beings.11 We may read Kant’s right of visitation and hospitality as a first step in a long induction into the protracted process of becoming fully human.That Kant does not envision the right of hospitality as a permanent feature of moral political right is both understandable and problematic. Given his respect for de facto sovereignty and his proceduralist account of how political change comes about, Kant appears right to exercise caution against extending the right of hospitality into a permanent moral and political right. Kant was working with a notion of citizenship that was largely de facto and delimited at that. If women and persons of color and the other auxiliaries of the state were not permitted full citizenship in his political order, then by what means could Kant have plead for permanent residency and then eventual citizenship of foreigners? It is precisely this breach, however, between his wider moral principles of humanity and their limited application in the political sphere that I find problematic. Like 9

Seyla Benhabib, The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 31. 10 Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace, in Political Writings, 106. 11 Kant, Perpetual Peace, 106.

Jason D. Hill


Kenneth Baynes I regard his rejection of world republican sentiments in this area as failure on his part to be consistent with the deeper motivation of his own moral and political principles.12 If the moral perfection of human beings is the goal of nature, as Kant argues it is, then we may think of the geographic orderings of the earth into which human life is supplanted as necessary conditions for a cosmopolitan public sphere of world citizens. In the federation of constitutional republics as he envisions it, peace comes about via a cosmopolitan public sphere. Here we must be attentive to the things that can violate peace in this order: an unwritten code. That is, any political order that does not protect the inviolable right of the individual in her own inalienable rights. It was only among republican states that perpetual peace could be achieved. The authorizing agencies of power are allocated among three branches of government, each of which places a legitimate system of checks and balances on each other. When the brunt of war is borne directly by private citizens, the desire to go to war is proportionately decreased in relation to the toll each would have to bear privately. Republicanism, a form of government in which the state becomes the servant of the people and not the other way around, proscribes the actions of individuals who would pervert a political system to their personal advantage. The constitution must be designed in a way that persons who differ in their private attitudes can come together in the public sphere peacefully. There the public conduct of citizens will be such that opposing views inhibit each other and the public sphere becomes one in which civilized conduct towards persons takes place. This means, most importantly, respecting the intrinsic humanity and dignity in each person which includes but is not limited to toleration of attitudes different from those one holds. Kant intimates that the organization of this public sphere in which differing attitudes among persons can co-exist peacefully does not involve the moral improvement of man, it only involves persons’ willingness to submit themselves to coercive laws that can restrain their impulses to rights violation. As an addendum to Kant’s reasoning, I think it fair to say that in spite of the reasons for submitting to coercive laws, the consequences of submission are moral. In surrendering to laws I am not just constraining my impulses, I am casting myself as a player in a role that involves reorientation in thinking and conception of my society and 12

Kenneth Baynes, Communitarian and Cosmopolitan Challenges to Kant’s Conception of World Peace, in Perpetual Peace: Essays on Kant’s Cosmopolitan Ideal. ed. James Bohman and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann (MIT Press: Cambridge, MA 1997) , 225.


The Right to Permanent Residency as a Human Right

my fellow human beings. I come to think of a violation of the law (assuming my conscience endorses it as just) as often not just a legal transgression but, if not a moral transgression, then a minor or major moral lapse depending on the state of affairs covered by the law. There is, then, a form of moral socialization that takes place in the Constitutional Republican state. There is, also another way of conceiving of this unwritten code. James Bohman argues that by it Kant meant that some informal and publicly known equivalent to international law emerges via the mechanism of world public opinion. It is in the exercise of public reason among citizens of more powerful and civilized nations that “unwritten” but nonetheless universal rights become a political reality. This unwritten code operates in a global, universal community. It is a code that makes the violation of rights in one part of the world felt everywhere.13 We shall refer to this in the spirit and words of Kant: the right of humanity. This right of humanity that exists in any person is to be also found in the person of every other.14 Here we see the connection between an unwritten code and nature’s plan for the species. Kant’s theory of the purposiveness of nature is twofold. First, nature’s goals for the individual cannot be accomplished without at the same time achieving the goals it has for the human species. For the human being to evolve to his full potential as a human being the individual must be united into a cosmopolitan public order with others. Nature’s purpose is to make world citizens out of each person. We are transformed from natural creatures into moral agents; we go from being self-centered solipsistic entities into reason-giving world citizens. Second, the milieu in which this happens is a cosmopolitan public sphere that is broad in scope and diverse in make-up. In this sphere reason can be tested and persons can learn—through their institutional embededness—the virtue of accountability, that is, communicative accountability. This will involve a space in which one’s own reason is tested against the competing validity claims of others. Persons partake in the give-and take of discourse. Persons living under conditions of censorship, authoritative paternalism and restrictions on movement have their capabilities stymied by means of a political process that either criminalizes their efforts, or fails to recognize the moral foundation on which such rights rests. Permanent residency remains hopeful and problematic. Persons who suffer from chronic human rights violation and have their humanity compromised are unfairly excluded from the domain of the ethical where 13 14

Kant, Perpetual Peace, 108. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 108.

Jason D. Hill


moral cosmopolitan socialization in a public sphere takes place. On Kantian grounds this exclusion is a moral aberration. It presupposes that nature leaves some groups of people out of her plan for species development. It would seem, therefore, as if nature had a selective rather than universal plan for human beings. If she leaves out significant members of the species who are outside the universal global social realm and who, therefore, cannot be active participants in species development where capacities are developed, then how do we get those outside the global commons into the fold? And where are those left out? Somewhere beyond a divine working in the world where nature precisely uses us for her design so that all free and voluntary associations can ultimately be formed. Nature’s use of us makes all other freedoms possible. In the seventh proposition of “Idea of a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” Kant writes that the whole history of the human race can be regarded as the realization of a hidden plan of nature. This plan is to establish both an internally and externally perfect political constitution as the only possible state within which all the natural capacities of humankind can be developed completely.15 . Kant is uncompromising when it comes to the question of the visitor overstaying his welcome, so to speak. He writes: “The stranger cannot claim the right of a guest to be entertained, for this would require a special friendly agreement whereby he might become a member of the native household for a certain time.”16

If the stranger has a moral right of visitation and cannot be turned away when doing so will cause her death or harm, then we must ask once more: what will happen to the stranger whose return to her homeland will result in her harm and death? If Kant means that she cannot be returned as long as the threat of harm looms large, then we have Kant, an Enlightenment thinker, laying the groundwork for a refugee policy. And that’s a radical position. Kant’s argument from death and danger that obliges us to retain the stranger on our shores has little traction if he means she really must return home when the apparent danger seems to have passed, or, that she must eventually return regardless of whether or not the danger has passed. If we must give refuge to the foreigner because to refuse to do so would cause her death, what then are we to make of cases in which returning visitors to their homelands will result in their death through either harsh economic 15 16

Kant, Idea from a Cosmopolitan Perspective, 50. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 106.


The Right to Permanent Residency as a Human Right

conditions, or worse, outright political persecution because of factors such as gender, race, ethnic and national identity or religious affiliation? Refugees and asylees who are deported face imminent death too often for us to ignore the thin defense of temporary residency that Kant advances. Undoubtedly, such persons will have their universal right of humanity violated if they are returned home. Without a right of permanent residency, Kant’s position calls for an inevitable return of the stranger to her homeland. If she is stateless, what do we do with her? The morally logical answer on Kantian grounds would be that the potential immigrant ought to have a right to an indefinite stay in her host country. Any answer to the contrary means that her death and harm are being stalled—so long as she remains a visitor no harm will befall her. Once she is sent back—and on one literal reading of Kant, she must be sent back—she will die or suffer great harm. Is there a moral value in forestalling the death and suffering of another when one does so with the full knowledge that one is ultimately going to let another person die or suffer great harm? The gap in Kant’s argument reveals that even the right to an indefinite stay would not secure the juridical conditions required for the safeguarding of bodily integrity. The state could request that the visitor leave once it has been decided that the she has become, say, a burden on the state. More importantly, however, the home state of the visitor may demand of the host state that the visitor be returned. It is this threat that reveals the object-like status of the visitor, a thing without rights, an object that can be shuffled along borders without thought of its safety. Regardless of what may count as a burden in this respect, human wellbeing seems a value worth preserving while exploring alternative means of alleviating the burdens of maintaining human life. Failure to do so could give rise to invidious comparisons: whose life is worth more and worth preserving over the long run, visitors’ or citizens’? Should a visitor’s life be seriously compromised for the sake of relieving citizens of financial burdens? From a proceduralist standpoint I submit that citizens can and should debate the methods by which the well-being of outsiders can be achieved inside a democratic polity. That which is inimical to well-being, however, death and bodily injury, stand above debate. In the spirit of Kantian morality, we may debate about the means to avoid death and harm, not whether a person or some group of persons may be placed in situations that would inevitably see their death and destruction.

Jason D. Hill


3. Kant’s Cosmopolitan Republic: Identity Politics as Justice We ought to not yet give up on the possibility of using Kant’s moral philosophy to extend to strangers what he himself denied: a moral right to permanent residency. Kant approximates the view that would make his moral and political cosmopolitan project complete when he writes: “But this natural right of hospitality, i.e. the right of strangers, does not extend beyond those conditions which make it possible for them to attempt to enter into relations with the native inhabitants. In this way, continents distant from each other can enter peaceful mutual relations which may eventually be regulated by public laws, thus bringing the human race nearer and nearer to a cosmopolitan constitution.”17

I interpret Kant’s vision of continents distant from each other as foreigners, strangers and others intermingling with each other, transforming the culturally distinct public space into a cosmopolitan one. Since each brings his version of his humanity with him and since, given Kant’s moral commitments, each person’s moral humanity is as valuable as the other, we have here a cosmopolitan space in which diverse ways of life are shared and, more importantly, lessons are learned from each of the multiple ways of being a human being. This experience, so to speak, is taken into oneself and forms part of one’s own subjectivity. Individuals from distant continents are repositories of human knowledge which is shared in this burgeoning cosmopolitan space. This life-world is characterized by those committed to experiments in living. Human socialization continues in this cosmopolitan space and it is not just the fact that the public laws have a moral force which act upon agents and tweak their ethical sensibilities; it is also the fact that each agent—a harbinger of values, principles and moral knowledge—is an active practitioner who plays a role in the moral imagination and ethical life of the other. Mutual symbiosis that comes from inhabiting a shared space ensures that each continues the continued socialization of the other. If nature has a purpose for us that would see human beings living in a cosmopolitan existence in which all our capacities are developing as befits the life of a human, then we must ask: why should those whose human rights are chronically violated be left out of this cosmopolitan existence? If on Kantian grounds every human must be a unit of ethical concern and, further, if no one can be left outside nature’s plan (to entertain this thought 17

Kant, Perpetual Peace, 106.


The Right to Permanent Residency as a Human Right

would be to divide up the humanities of some and assign a greater share of humanity to them and less to others), then we are morally obliged to widen the cosmopolitan domain and find ways of including those left out. Those prevented from developing a full-fledged legal and moral personality would have this moral right of entrance. Those who do not have the good fortune of being born in a democratic polity in which they can exercise their capacities are outside the domain of humanity. A person with diminished capabilities is a diminished human being, one with no prosthesis to help her along her journey into her humanity and, well too often, no safety net to catch her when she falls. A right to permanent residency here is nothing more than the human right to live by one’s conscience, to be granted recognition as a human being and the respect that comes with it, and freedom to be treated as an end in oneself. We need to ask further, what are the implications of Kant’s cosmopolitan world order? In political theory we make a distinction between cosmopolitan law and international law. Cosmopolitan law protects the rights of citizens of the world by making their relations to the state a concern of the world community, while international law pertains to the relations among sovereign and self-legislating states. If nature wills that each of us be united in a cosmopolitan space and under a cosmopolitan constitution, the question of who assumes the duty of protecting those whose human rights have been grossly violated becomes crucial. It is not my intention to give a full-fledged answer here, but cosmopolitan law impels all of us to act as that default defender. Each person as a unit of moral concern assumes no greater a degree of moral importance than, say, a member of one’s own community. Since each person is regarded as equal in moral worth, the responsibility for bringing human rights violation into sharper relief fall on us. Moral cosmopolitanism holds that geographic demarcations among peoples, and national, ethnical and racial differences among human beings, are irrelevant when determining moral obligations persons have towards each other. Moral cosmopolitanism further holds that tribalism hijacks our moral lives because it works according to a specious logic of false separatism. That is, tribalism takes the morally neutral markers of human beings such as nationality, ethnicity and morphological markers—the latter codified into various racial categories—and imbues them with moral relevance, punishing and persecuting persons solely on the basis of characteristics that are accidents of birth and tell us nothing about them as moral human beings.

Jason D. Hill


Unless we take seriously the charge that when 18th century Enlightenment philosophers wrote about humankind, they systemically intended to exclude women, persons of color and non-propertied males, we must take Kant at his word for including all in the cosmopolitan order as a condition for enjoying a cosmopolitan existence. Indeed this is the same Kant who writes: “…[T]he human being, regarded as a person, that is, as the subject of morally practical reason, is exalted above any price; for as a person…he is not to be valued merely as the means to the ends of others or even to his own ends, but as an end in itself, that is, he possesses a dignity (an absolute inner worth) by which he exacts respect for himself from all other rational beings in the world. He can measure himself with every other human being of this kind and value himself on a footing of equality with them.”18

It is a moral right to permanent residency, a right not to have one’s being-in-the world traumatized by a state or nation that fails to recognize one as a human being that we can expect as the proper extension of Kant’s moral cosmopolitanism. Since human rights aim to realize a vision of human dignity19 they in effect create a type of person, one posited in that vision20. And since human nature is a social project always in the making, human rights point beyond the actual conditions of existence; they are less about what people are and more about what they might be. In the words of Jack Donnelly: “without human rights you are estranged from your moral nature.”21 By virtue of simply being a human being every life is of equal value to every other. Kant’s moral cosmopolitanism reinforces these ideas of human rights. One might say that the right to permanent residency cannot be a human right since it excludes those who are not asylees, stateless persons, or those denied a full- fledged legal and moral personality. Human rights are universal and non-discriminatory. My argument for the right to permanent residency is two-fold. It means: first, that one can never be denied the right to be a permanent resident of one’s own country. We have plenty of evidence of states retracting person’s citizenship to warrant this clause. Since the majority of human beings reside in socio-political domains as either residents or citizens, we need to have at our disposal this right of 18

Kant, Metaphysics of Morals,434-435 Jack Donnelly, Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), 18. 20 Donnelly, Universal Human Rights, 18. 21 Donnelly, Universal Human Rights, 19. 19


The Right to Permanent Residency as a Human Right

appeals should the state decide to disenfranchise us; second, should any of us find ourselves in the position of having our citizenship and/or, permanent residency status revoked, then we may claim that right. Should any of us find ourselves subjected to genocide, torture, denial of our legal status and arbitrary restraint of our freedoms by the state, then we have a moral right to appeal for permanent residency in another country. The `moral’ in the right is derived from the defense of the inviolable humanity in one’s person. What is uniquely tragic about those locked outside the global commons of humanity is that, on Kantian grounds, they are left out of the historical process and they cannot be historical actors. What do I mean by this? Kant presupposes that nature separates nations and different cultures and races for, among other things, the chance to develop their capacities including their practical reason. It is part of their evolutionary history that they undergo in order to become moral agents. In the end, though—and Kant is emphatic about this point—nature intends them all to be conjoined by a cosmopolitan public law. I take this to be a law that emanates from universal practical reason and, in the spirit of that which justifies a public law—all right—that it defines what right permits and prohibits. This law Kant takes to be the united will of the people where all men decide for all men and each for himself. The basic law that comes from the united will of the people Kant refers to as the original contract.22 Refugees, asylees, stateless persons and those whose legal and moral personalities are seriously compromised are living outside the original social contract. They are exiled into a camoflagoued state of nature where rights are routinely violated. Most of us are value makers and makers of history in the micro sense of the term. We wield our creative agency along with our moral imagination to imbue the world with an original assemblage of who we are. There is no other person like us and part of how we maintain this brute fact of the world is by utilizing our tangible rights that secure our freedom in the world that in turn gives us the opportunity to exercise our capacities. In so doing, we are participants in a certain life of freedom that, on Kantian grounds contributes to the historical development of the species. This freedom allows us to participate in the many ways there are of being human. So to be a human being of a particular type presupposes freedom and is a manifestation of it.

22 Kant, On The Common Saying: ‘This may be True in Theory, but it does not Apply in Practice, in Political Writings, 77.

Jason D. Hill


Ideally speaking, the tangible rights that secure our freedom ensure that we remain in the cosmopolitan global commons of humanity. Asylees, refugees, stateless persons and other persons suffering from chronic rights violation whose creative agency is compromised live outside the global commons, those who do not have the opportunity to experiment with and participate in the multiple ways of being human. In short, they are alienated from an embededness in the world that makes life a human life. If we assume no less of humanity for others than we do for ourselves, cosmopolitan justice demands that we recognize their moral right to a space on earth where they can live a life of dignity, that is to say, an ordinary human life.


This paper introduces to the political significance of Whitehead’s (1861–1947) Weltanschauung. Starting with a general contextualization of the pragmatic ideal and of Whitehead’s balanced interpretation of it, it culminates with the introduction of his core idea —the creative advance of nature— and with its analysis involving three functors (creativity, efficacy, vision). The implementation of the creative advance in the political field is finally exemplified with the help of Huxley’s 1962 utopia. Before launching our argument, it is important to remember Whitehead’s precious warning: everything that is simple (or clear) is false but usable; while everything that is complex (or obscure) is adequate but unusable.1 Similarly, William James has claimed that “the art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”2 Speculative philosophy is no easy task.

1. Pragmatism 1.1. Prolegomena 1.1.1. Roots To understand (Western) pragmatism and its historical roots going back as far as Socrates (cf. K. O. Apel’s analysis) and Pyrrho of Elis, one needs to rediscover the Greek episteme; and to understand Greece is to understand paideia. The word “paideia”, that does not allow a straightforward translation in English, corresponds mainly to the idea of culture, of civilization, but not in a static way (the way of tradition). It is a 1 “Seek simplicity and distrust it.” (The Concept of Nature [1920], Cambridge University Press, 1964, p. 163) “Exactness is a fake.” (“Immortality”, in Essays in Science and Philosophy, 1947, p. 96.) 2 William James, The Principles of Psychology [1890]. Authorized Edition in two volumes. Volume Two, New York, Dover Publications, 1950, p. 369.

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matter of a deliberate pursued ideal and of the conditions of possibility of its actualization, the main one being: formal and informal education, the moulding of all citizens by values.3 In sum, paideia is a living ideal that is kept active by education and that nurtures education. This feedback loop, foundational of the Hellenocentric Weltanschauung, provides the unification of the four main gnoseological fields with the help of the following pattern. That double fourfold community of principles and disciplines — animated by the well embedded paideia— receives its foundations from the Greek cosmic evidence through the all-embracingness of the logos: it is the same logos that pervades all beings and pilots most (if not all) becomings. Nature and the State are fundamentally cosmic: they are (or ought to be) a strictly ruled totality; in other words, stability is a built-in feature. One is the macro-cosmos, the other is its meso-reflection. Senseperception discloses of course major and continuous changes in our environmental landscape, but structure is first and changes are (most of the time) pure exemplifications of structural pattern. Now, if such a cosmic superstructure is accepted, there is neither much room nor need for a pragmatic standpoint: the quest of the arche or principle is granted and it provides access to the process of manifestation itself. It is thus no surprise that the thinkers who canvassed early pragmatism were quite guarded on the alliance between logos and cosmos.


Werner Wilhelm Jaeger, Paideia. Die Formung des griechischen Menschen, Berlin und Leipzig, Walter De Gruyter & Co., 1936. We use the second edition of the excellent translation supervised by the Author (1888–1981), who taught at Chicago during the years 1936–1939 and later at Harvard (1939–1958): Paideia. The Ideals of Greek Culture. Volume I. Book I, Archaic Greece; Book II, The Mind of Athens. Translated from the Second German Edition by Gilbert Highet (OUP, 1939); Volume II, In Search of the Divine Centre. Translated from the German Manuscript by Gilbert Highet (OUP, 1943); Volume III, The Conflict of Cultural Ideals in the Age of Plato. Translated from the German Manuscript by Gilbert Highet (OUP, 1944). The general context of this study is to be found in our monograph (Whitehead’s Pancreativism. The Basics. Foreword by Nicholas Rescher, Frankfurt/Paris, ontos verlag, 2006) and in two recent papers: “Creativity, Efficacy and Vision: Ethics and Psychology in an Open Universe” in Michel Weber and Pierfrancesco Basile (eds.), Subjectivity, Process, and Rationality, Frankfurt/Lancaster, ontos verlag, 2006, pp. 263-281 and “From the Grown Organism to Organic Growth”, in Mark Dibben and Thomas Kelly (eds.), Applied Process Thought: Frontiers of Theory & Research, Frankfurt / Lancaster, ontos verlag, 2007.


Pragmatic Anarchy in A. N. Whitehead

Fig. 1-1

1.1.2. Catalyst Needless to say that that alliance was maintained in the West (indeed reinforced until quite recently) by Christian supernaturalism. Two major revolutions undermined the cosmos: the spatial opening that we owe to Copernic (1543) and Bruno (1584) —evidenced by Galileo’s discovery of Jupiter’s satellites in 1610— and the temporal one promoted by Spencer (1855) and Darwin (1859). Maxwellian electromagnetism (1873) and the emergence of psychodynamics4 put aside, the influence of Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) stands out in orchestrating the passage from a cosmos or block-universe to a chaosmos or pluri-verse. Planck and Einstein will only make the shift (even) more dramatic. Spencer’s Principles of Psychology (1855, four years before Darwin’s Origin of Species) founded the classical “biological theory of knowledge”5 with a dazzling claim: the structure of 4 With thinkers such as Herbart (1824), Weber (1829), Helmoltz (1859), Fechner (1860), Wundt (1878), Lotze (1884), Ward (1886), Münsterberg (1889) and, most importantly, Myers (1889–1895). 5 On the development of “evolutionary epistemology”, see especially Milic Capek’s New Aspects of Time. Its Continuity and Novelties. Selected Papers in the Philosophy of Science, Dordrecht-Boston-London, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991.

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human intellect is “a priori for an individual” but “a posteriori for the whole species.” His core argument is fairly simple: the original function of knowledge is purely utilitarian because our mental apparatus is the product of the struggle for life, i.e., of our continual adjustment to the sector of reality important for survival purposes. Since our cognitive functions are of empirical origin, they can have only limited applicability. It goes without saying that utilitarianism means here limited but real applicability. Some form of necessity seals the relativity of our categories. According to Spencer, that evolutionary attunement is complete, simply because classical science provides the final truth. With the collapse of the classical worldview in the early XXth century, the “biological theory of knowledge” got more radical: there cannot be a final and definitive picture of the Totality; our sensory and cognitive apparatus are not settled, full stop. The three early condemnations of Spencerian “false evolutionism”6 came from Charles Sanders Peirce, William James and Henri Bergson. 1.1.3. Outcome As a result of this double revolution, the concept of cosmos is to be replaced by the concept chaosmos (which we owe to J. Joyce and was later championed by G. Deleuze and F. Guattari) understood as an organic and growing Totality. We live in a partially ordered world where stability is earned over creative processes, where stability never has the last word. The concept of cosmos goes hand in hand with the logical transparency of its various trans-formations; the concept of chaosmos spells out the anarchic dimension of its percolative processes. In sum, the speculative philosopher (i.e., the one who accepts the burden of metaphysics) obtain a slightly altered figure:


See L’Évolution créatrice, 1907, ch. IV.


Pragmatic Anarchy in A. N. Whitehead

Fig 1-2

Nature and the City have now to be understood through their chaosmosis (see again Guattari and Deleuze). The quest of the arche is a doubtful enterprise, sealing antifoundationalism while consequentialism stands out as its necessary correlate. From a Whiteheadian perspective, of primary importance is of course the renewal of the community of the gnoseological fields —but, as a matter of fact, this togetherness is not necessitated by the general chaosmotic framework. Postmodernism has been so far semantically destructive, which makes plain that no ideal guarantees nowadays the togetherness of the principles and disciplines. The concept of democracy is not adequate anymore in the chaosmotic context, especially since it is now used only rhetorically to mask current imperialism. Neither its christening by Solon's agrarian reform (circa 593 BCE) and its consequent radicalization by Pericles (circa 460 BCE), nor its later redefinition by Locke's Second Treatise (1690) —in dialogue with Hobbes' Leviathan (1651)— match the chaosmotic stakes. If political circles were ever animated by some form of democratic ideal, they have become in most cases the vulgar mouthpiece of the corporate ownership of the planet, with the terrorising consequences we (should) know.7 Solon urged Athenians to think; economical (i.e., political) leaders aim nowadays 7

The publications of Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky, David Ray Griffin or Lyndon LaRouche are essential to contextualize the current Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace ideology.

Michel Weber


at the obliteration of all signs of thought anywhere in the social tissue and especially in institutions of higher education. More and more, they intend to rule by cupidity or greed if possible and by fear if necessary. At this hour, most Westerners have a life that is far more civilized than it used to be: solitary, rich, nasty, brutish, and long. And it is not the announced bioand nano-technological (Drexlerian) breakthroughs that will bring much hope for an atrophied democracy.

1.2. James & Whitehead 1.2.1. General context The factual correlation of James’ (1842–1910), Bergson’s (1859–1941) and Whitehead’s (1861–1947) worldviews has been often noted but rarely studied in details. In other words, there has not only been some significant influence (direct and indirect) between them but there is also a strong compatibility of their respective visions (which does not mean at all, however, that their respective categories can be carelessly put side by side). One could speak of a process pragmatism to suggest the visionary community that was the direct by-product of the chaosmotic Zeitgeist evoked in the previous section. That community should be expanded of course to immediate fellows: upstream to C. S. Peirce (1839–1914) and James Ward (1843–1925), and downstream to J. Dewey (1859–1952) and to more exotic figures such as Philippe Devaux (1902–1979) in Belgium, Enzo Paci (1911–1976) in Italy and Jean Wahl (1888–1974) in France. 1.2.2. The genius and his epigone? If we focus especially on the proximity existing between James and Whitehead, we are forced to acknowledge the existence of a mysterium conjunctionis between two psychic opposites: on the one hand, their late philosophical vision is indeed (mutatis mutandis) the same; on the other, the philosophical temperaments differ slightly. In order to keep our argument tight, we will examine briefly only the temperamental contrast in order to open the way to the assessment of their respective pragmatism. For instance, we will not have the leisure to treat here the most interesting ontological question of the “bud” or “epochal” theory of actualization.8 8

For a more detailed discussion, cf. M. Weber, Whitehead et James. Conditions de possibilité et sources historiques d’un dialogue philosophique, Actes du colloque A. N. Whitehead et ses contemporains, Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis, Noesis, forthcoming; “James’ Non-rationality and its Religious Extremum in the


Pragmatic Anarchy in A. N. Whitehead

First, a little ætiological reminder. Although James is very unlikely to have read any of Whitehead’s works —that were logico-mathematical until the publication of The Organisation of Thought, Educational and Scientific in 19179— Whitehead has read very early James’ Pragmatism (1907)10 and one can speculate that he promptly devoured as well the Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) and the Essays in Radical Empiricisms (published in 1912 but all of which essays were written in 1904–1905). Having said this, the temperamental contrast can be sketched with the help of the following pairs of concepts: James was a cosmopolitan USAmerican, an extravert and experimental genius —whereas Whitehead was a British, introvert, imaginative systematizer. If it is safe enough to characterize James’ works as “American”, the fact remains that he was truly a citizen of the (Western) world, someone who was furthermore straightforward, outgoing, very eager to vulgarize science. He was equally in love with experience itself, with its intrinsic opacity and even dangerousness. All he wrote was taped from the depths of his own experiences (some of them being borderline: neurosis, intoxications, hypnosis…). On the other hand, Whitehead really appreciated the zeal for knowledge11 and for freedom12 which underlies the American ethos but he Light of the Concept of Pure Experience”, in Jeremy Carrette (ed.), William James and The Varieties of Religious Experience. A Centenary Celebration, London and New York, Routledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd., 2004, pp. 203-220; and “La conscience spectrale chez James et Whitehead”, in Guillaume Garreta et Mathias Girel (dir.), William James et l’empirisme radical. 1904-2004, Éditions du CNRS, forthcoming. 9 Alfred North Whitehead, The Organisation of Thought, Educational and Scientific, London and Philadelphia, Williams and Norgate and J. B. Lippincott, 1917. Most papers are reprinted in The Aims of Education and Other Essays, 1929. 10 Cf. Alfred North Whitehead, sub verso “Mathematics”, in Encyclopaedia Britannica, XIth edition, vol. 17, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 191011, pp. 878-883, p. 881 (reprinted in Whitehead’s Essays in Science and Philosophy, op. cit.). 11 “Today in America, there is a zeal for knowledge which is reminiscent of the great periods of Greece and the Renaissance. But above all, there is in all sections of the population a warm-hearted kindness which is unsurpassed in any large social system.” (Essays in Science and Philosophy, 1947, p. 14) “Americans are always warm-hearted, always appreciative, always helpful, but they are always shrewd; and that is what makes for me the continual delight of living in America, and it is why when I meet an American I always expect to like him, because of that always delightful mixture of shrewdness and warmheartedness.” (ib., p. 114) “I do feel that if a man is going to do his best he ought to live in America, because there the

Michel Weber


remained “a typical example of the Victorian Englishman”13. Moreover, Lowe has aptly claimed that Whitehead was a loner with many good friends but no confidant.14 He certainly accepted the radical empirism promoted by the life and thought of his illustrious predecessor in Harvard, but did so in a less existential manner: experiences that were out of his reach were “simply” imagined. Both philosophers had strong intuitions, but Whitehead the algebraist was always keener to frame them into his grand scheme. Neither had a real philosophical scholarship: philosophy was for them primarily a matter of a dialogue with their contemporaries, an eminent Cambridge tradition promptly actualized in Harvard. In conclusion, although it is altogether of little heuristic use to understand the James/Whitehead lineage as the “genius” and his “epigone”, the fact remains that both their temperamental difference and community of vision allow such an interpretational short-circuit — provided that it remains critical. Perhaps that a well-tempered Nietzschean contrast between Dionysus and Apollo would open more doors… 1.2.3. Shades of meaning This contrasted lineage can be used to briefly exemplify the concepts introduced in our previous section. The Greek paideia brought together the four major gnoseological fields preserving both their independence (i.e., non-reciprocal deductibility, specific contributiveness) and their interdependence (i.e., co-presuppositionality: each sphere presupposes the others so that in abstraction from the living society it would be meaningless). This is a goal that is actually shared by James and Whitehead. Both their speculations are nurtured on radical empiricism and are critically aware of the limitations of language (even of a reformed or

treatment of any effort is such that it stimulates everything that is eager in one.” (ib., p. 115) 12 This is the justification of that liberalism, that zeal for freedom, which underlies the American Constitution and other various forms of democratic government. (Essays in Science and Philosophy, 1947, p. 65) 13 Essays in Science and Philosophy, 1947, p. 115. “I am exactly an ordinary example of the general tone of the Victorian Englishman, merely one of a group.” (ib.) 14 Victor Augustus Lowe, A. N. Whitehead. The Man and His Work. Volume I : 1861-1910 ; Volume II : 1910-1947 (edited by J. B. Schneewind), Baltimore, Maryland and London, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985 & 1990, vol. II, p. 150.


Pragmatic Anarchy in A. N. Whitehead

formalized one15). Both enforce a process worldview that aims at promoting the common good by unifying our understanding of nature and culture. But they depart at two complementary levels: at the level of the material they use and at the level of the lure they follow. To repeat: although the radical empiricist premise is plain in both cases, Whitehead’s is a little bit more shy with regard to its existential implementation. The concrete many-sidedness of experience is of primordial importance to him, but so is the discovery of a complete formalism. We have here a trait that is constant in the development of his thought: he has contemplated the logico-mathematical field sub specie totalitatis in Cambridge, geometry as a physical science in London, and metaphysics under the category of creativity in Harvard. Out of this journey, two speculative loci appear of particular importance: the ontological status of extension and of propositional function.16 The question of the lure is more straightforward: James’ life and works is the product of an eschatological quest linked to his archaeological agnosticism17 (that went astray in his last years); Whitehead’s is piloted by an archaeological quest correlated to his eschatological agnosticism (the same remark holds). In other words, James is animated by a constant desire to cope with the (individual) total existential risk. His philosophy is not only concerned with life as it is lived and with its pragmatic improvement, it is pursued for its transfigurative virtue. James' own philosophical development displays with great strength that this quest is quite dangerous because it puts our entire existence (even our post-mortem existence) at risk. In XXth century parlance: neurosis has to be abolished at the risk of psychosis. At all costs. One has to leave behind oneself the 15

Whitehead is actually more systematic in his analysis of the limitations of language: not only deplores the weakness of intuition and the deficiencies of language, he is also keen to identify the main fallacies involved (dogmatic fallacy, perfect dictionary and misplaced concreteness), to incriminate the syntax of the Indo-European languages, and especially to denounce its substantialistic interpretation of the subject/predicate pattern. This “destructive” movement is however complemented with a “constructive” one that sees him stretching everyday and philosophical languages “beyond their common meaning in the marketplace” (Modes of Thought, 1938, hereafter MT, p. 12) to their semantic limits and, when necessary, he does not hesitate to coin brand new categories. 16 See the interesting, but partial, analyses of James A. Bradley: The Speculative Generalization of the Function. A Key to Whitehead, in Tijdschrift voor Filosofie, 64, 2002, pp. 253-271. 17 “The attitude of looking away from first things, principles, ‘categories,’ supposed necessities; and of looking toward last things, fruits, consequences, facts” (James Pragmatism, 1907, p. 29).

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old social cloak imposed by the political forces of this world and enhance one's awareness of the importance of the present moment, of its duty and visionary weights. This involves in practice the destruction of all opinions, the destruction of all lies18. Hence, all social narratives that prevent liberation from the not always obvious oppressive powers have to be obliterated. Although Whitehead, on the other hand, is obviously hoping for some transfigurative virtue, he remains at the very least more discrete on these shores. The basic engine of his radical empiricist speculations is formal: to question the meaning of “simple obvious statements” in order to attain higher orders of abstractions. What do we mean by space-time, by immediate sense-perception, by simultaneity…? For sure, “nothing can be omitted”,19 but how do we manage the wealth of data if not through discursive thinking? 18 Besides Plato, Hume provides an early background and Huxley a powerful recent exemplification for this argument : “Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we inquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find that, as Force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is founded, and this maxim extends to the most despotic and the most military governments as well as to the most free and most popular” (David Hume, Of the First Principles of Government, 1758). “There is, of course, no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the old. Government by clubs and firing squads, by artificial famine, mass imprisonment and mass deportation, is not merely inhumane (nobody cares much about that nowadays) ; it is demonstrably inefficient —and in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editor and schoolteachers. But their methods are still crude and unscientific” (Aldous Huxley, Foreword, 1946 of Brave New World [1932], With an introduction by David Bradshaw, Hammersmith, HarperCollins, 1994). 19 In order to discover some of the major categories under which we can classify the infinitely various components of experience, we must appeal to evidence relating to every variety of occasion. Nothing can be omitted, experience drunk and experience sober, experience sleeping and experience waking, experience drowsy and experience wide-awake, experience self-conscious and experience self-forgetful, experience intellectual and experience physical […]. (Adventures of Ideas, 1933, hereafter AI, p. 226; cf. AI 222)


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1. 3. Whitehead’s functions of reason As a matter of fact, Whitehead rarely addresses directly the question of the nature of his pragmatic standpoint. Here is one of the rare relevant passages, to be found in Modes of Thought (1938): This doctrine places philosophy on a pragmatic basis. But the meaning of "pragmatism" must be given its widest extension. In much modern thought, it has been limited by arbitrary specialist assumptions. There should be no pragmatic exclusion of self-evidence by dogmatic denial. Pragmatism is simply an appeal to that self-evidence which sustains itself in civilized experience. Thus pragmatism ultimately appeals to the wide self-evidence of civilization, and to the self-evidence of what we mean by "civilization."20 The main source on this topic remains however his Function of Reason (March 1929, hereafter FR), published shortly before Process and Reality (November 1929, hereafter PR), and which is structured in a remarkably dialectic way: it first introduces the pragmatic function of reason, then its theoretical function, and lastly its (hyperdialectical21) theoretico-pragmatic one. 1.3.1. Pragmatic (Ulysses) The first definition Whitehead gives of the function of Reason is “to promote the art of life.” (FR 4) Although it is promptly reformulated as “the direction of the attack on the environment”,22 the philosopher remarks that life should not be equated with survival as such: mere persistence is nothing but death23. Life can be approximated by three concepts that will be evoked again with the introduction of the “creative advance of nature”: self-enjoyment, creativity and aim. First of all, life means a certain absoluteness of self-enjoyment, i.e., an individual qua prehensive synthesis


MT 106. “La mauvaise dialectique commence presque avec la dialectique, et il n’est de bonne dialectique que celle qui se critique elle-même et se dépasse comme énoncé séparé ; il n’est de bonne dialectique que l’hyperdialectique.” (Maurice MerleauPonty, Le Visible et l'Invisible. Suivi de Notes de travail. Texte établi par Claude Lefort, accompagné d'un avertissement et d'une postface, Paris, Éditions Gallimard, 1964, p. 129) 22 “The primary function of Reason is the direction of the attack on the environment.” (FR 8) 23 “The art of persistence is to be dead” (FR 4) 21

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of its environment24. In short, the concept of enjoyment points at two cardinal dimensions of existence: its prehensive dimension, i.e., its anchorage in a given (past) world; and its pathetic dimension, i.e., its own private immediacy (its “subjective form” in Process and Reality’s lexicon). But that enjoyment is not only a prehensive synthesis, it is a creative synthesis as well. Life gathers the past (metabolizes it so to speak) and overcomes it (occasions, gives birth to, new mundane features). Furthermore, that creative synthesis is not purely accumulative, it is directional. Finally, let us underline that, by defining life, Whitehead makes an ontological claim worthy of the name pansubjectivism: all actualities can be depicted by these three concepts (enjoyment, creativity and aim); all actualities are prehensive and teleological: there is no “vacuous actuality, void of subjective experience”25. 1.3. 2. Speculative (Plato) To come back to the main thread of our argument: the primary function of Reason is thus pragmatic: to pilot the attack on the environment, which means to offer direct solutions to immediate threats and piecemeal issues. But there is a second, equally important, function of reason: the speculative one, which is far less focused on immediate issues and attempts to grasp the overall picture. It is a “godlike faculty which surveys, judges and understands” (FR 9). In sum: “There is Reason, asserting itself as above the world, and there is Reason as one of many factors within the world. The Greeks have bequeathed to us two figures, whose real or mythical lives conform to these two notions — Plato and Ulysses. The one shares Reason with the Gods, the other shares it with the foxes.” (FR 10)

The pragmatic function is rooted in our animal life (this being not a derogative statement), the speculative one in civilization. The former promotes life in all its dimensions; the latter, science and its disinterested quest.

24 25

MT 150. PR167 and cf. PRxiii, 29, 157-158.


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1.3.3. Techno-Scientific (Watts) But neither life nor science has the last word in Whitehead’s Victorian optimism: Ulysses and Plato pave together the way for James Watts’ (1736–1819) techno-science. With technoscience, a synergy is established between the archaeological propensity of speculative thought and the consequentialism of pragmatic thought. In a somewhat Kantian manner, Whitehead insists on the complementarity of the two functions: methodology and direct observation spur from the practical side26 while the global imaginative standpoint needed to pilot it and the emphasis upon novelty27 are theoretical. It thus transpires that the actual civilizational engine is technoscientific. It is, however, a techno-science that is respectful of life and of its scientific origin, a double ideal that orchestrates as well Huxley’s last novel (Island, 1962), that we will shortly rediscover.

2. Anarchy 2. 1. Whitehead’s organic Vision 2.1.1. Creative Advance of Nature The most articulate expression of Whitehead’s vision is to be found in Process and Reality’s “category of the Ultimate”: “The many become one, and are increased by one. […] Thus the “production of novel togetherness” is the ultimate notion embodied in the term “concrescence.” These ultimate notions of “production of novelty” and of “concrete togetherness” are inexplicable either in terms of higher universals or in terms of the components participating in the concrescence. The analysis of the components abstracts from the concrescence. The sole appeal is to intuition.” (PR 31-22)

To understand the meaning and significance of this Ur-category, one needs to peruse the entire Gifford Lectures and especially its intricate categoreal scheme. The conclusion of our own hermeneutics is to 26

“Each methodology has its own life history. It starts as a dodge facilitating the accomplishment of some nascent urge of life. […] The birth of a methodology is in its essence the discovery of a dodge to live.” (FR 18) 27 “Reason is the organ of emphasis upon novelty. It provides the judgment by which it passes into realization in purpose, and thence its realization in fact.” (FR 20) “"Fatigue" is the antithesis of Reason.”( FR 23)

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emphasize the relevance of the proto-idea of creative advance and to reconstruct its meaning with the help of three ideas or functors: creativity, efficacy and vision. Creativity basically means the irruption of the unheard, the beginning of a new causal chain. In common philosophical parlance, it refers to becoming. It necessitates the concepts of epochality (the “epochal theory of time” that amounts to James’ bud-like experience) and liberty (that, at the universal scale, amounts more to spontaneity than to free-choice—the question being furthermore to distinguish liberty qua option-picking from liberty qua creation). Difference necessarily involves discontinuity. Here dwells actuality, i.e., the present per se that is worthy of the concept of duration. Efficacy basically means the reproduction of patterns. In common philosophical parlance, it refers to being. It necessitates the concepts of continuity and determinism. Repetition involves continuity. It belongs to potentiality, i.e., to the pervasive past. Vision basically means an eschatological horizon, a melioristic trend. In common philosophical parlance, it refers to God luring all processes. It necessitates the concepts of (hierarchies of) eternal objects and of (primordial nature of) god. In a purely metaphorical way, it can be attached to the future. To offer an anthropomorphic exemplification: creativity refers to novelty, invention; efficacy to causation, repercussion, and vision to horizon and projection. If we refine these conceptual mile-stones, we come to the concepts of, respectively, event (or accident, in the Aristotelian sense of sumbebekos), plastic structure, and divine eschaton. The structure is plastic because it is both a condition of possibility of eventfulness and a consequence of it. The history of philosophy offers three interesting complementary instantiations of these functors: Heraclitus, who insists on becoming, seemingly refusing any speculative worth to being; Parmenides, who attempts on the contrary to think exclusively the Absolute Being; and Teilhard, with his noodynamics and omega-point. 2. 1.2. Adventure of Civilization Dorothy Emmet (1904–2000), who had close personal contact with Whitehead while a student at Radcliffe College in 1929 (precisely when he was turning his Gifford Lectures into Process and Reality), told James Bradley that she heard


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Whitehead say of Process and Reality, “It’s a defence of liberalism!”28: our task in this section is thus to define the kind of liberalism that is at stake. In order to do so and thereby to assess the political significance of Whitehead, the best path is provided by Adventure of Ideas (1933, hereafter AI). Its early diagnosis is worth quoting: “The political, liberal faith of the nineteenth century was a compromise between the individualistic, competitive doctrine of strife and the optimistic doctrine of harmony. It was believed that the laws of the Universe were such that the strife of individuals issued in the progressive realization of a harmonious society. In this way, it was possible to cherish the emotional belief in the Brotherhood of Man, while engaging in relentless competition with all individual men. Theoretically, it seemed possible to conciliate the belief with the practice without the intrusion of contradiction. Unfortunately, while this liberalism was winning triumph after triumph as a political force in Europe and America, the foundations of its doctrine were receiving shock after shock. […] The mere doctrines of freedom, individualism, and competition, had produced a resurgence of something very like industrial slavery at the base of society.” (AI 33-34)

Adventure of Ideas insists on four topics at unison with the proto-idea of creative advance. First, speculative political thought needs to provide conceptual tools to promote a living civilization. This brings us back to the paideia evoked supra: there is no civilization without a closely knitted set of values that lure together gnoseological fields as well as individuals. Whitehead’s emphasis falls however on the becoming of these values: on the one hand, they will never be fully actualized; on the other, they do not constitute themselves a fully settled class. The emergence of new concepts, new perfections and new values cannot be prevented in an open universe: repetition, orthodoxy, order and decadence form the same sclerotic picture. Second, the Whiteheadian city is nurtured on relational power: persuasion, not coercition, rules the political arena. Here again, we seem to be sent back straight to the Agora and especially to the educational structure that it presupposes. All citizen have to benefit from a first rate — aristocratic— education: if education is correlated to the social status of the citizen, it is the very notion of citizenship that is cast away. Third, the request of harmony comes back, again and again in the context of the discussion of the open (or chaosmotic) society: 28

James Bradley, Transformations in Speculative Philosophy, 1914-1945, in Tom Baldwin (ed.), Cambridge History of Philosophy, 1870-1945, 2003, pp. 436-446, here p. 446.

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“In modern states there is a complex problem. There are many types of character. Freedom means that within each type the requisite coördination should be possible without the destruction of the general ends of the whole community. Indeed, one general end is at these variously coördinated groups should contribute to the complex pattern of community life, each in virtue of its own peculiarity. In this way individuality gains the effectiveness which issues from coördination, and freedom obtains power necessary for its perfection. “(AI 67)

To use the lexicon introduced supra: creativity does not take place in a vacuum, it is always preceded by a plastic structure of efficacy and their interaction displays a general trend towards higher values. Last but not least, there is the question of the conditions of possibility of individuality in community: the philosopher mentions with that regard mutual respect, sympathy and kindliness (AI 100). In the context of his ontological speculations, he argues that without a compossibilization algorithm that he chooses to call “god”, no actualization (not even speaking of harmony) is possible. As a result, one could be tempted to transfer the argument in the political sphere and to refresh the demonstration leading to the “philosopher-king”, but it would be a mistake in the context of a living civilization put into motion by relational power. For the sake of our interpretation, we can group the ideals of living civilization and relational power under the heading of collective adventure and the ideals of harmony and individual in community under the heading of individual peace. Needless to say that “adventure” and “peace” have both a collective and an individual meaning that reinforce each other and bind adventure and peace together. Whitehead’s writings do nevertheless stress the collective adventure (the common upward tropism) and the individual peace (the solitary arrest). His description of peace in terms of surpassing of personality, loss of “self” and “broadening of feeling due to the emergence of some deep metaphysical insight, unverbalized and yet momentous in its coördination of values”29 is furthermore dazzling. 29

“The Peace that is here meant is not the negative conception of anæsthesia. It is a positive feeling which crowns the 'life and motion' of the soul. It is hard to define and difficult to speak of. It is not a hope for the future, nor is it an interest in present details. It is a broadening of feeling due to the emergence of some deep metaphysical insight, unverbalized and yet momentous in its coördination of values. Its first effect is the removal of the stress of acquisitive feeling arising from the soul's preoccupation with itself. Thus Peace carries with it a surpassing of personality. There is an inversion of relative values. It is primarily a trust in the efficacy of Beauty. It is a sense that fineness of achievement is as it were a key


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2.1.3. Community and Society To sum up: the togetherness of adventure and peace name Whitehead’s political vision. It presupposes freedom, which is ontologically correlated (sometimes through the concept of spontaneity) to creativity itself: “There is a freedom lying beyond circumstance, derived from the direct intuition that life can be grounded upon its absorption in what is changeless amid change. This is the freedom at which Plato was groping, the freedom which Stoics and Christians obtained as the gift of Hellenism. It is the freedom of that virtue directly derived from the source of all harmony.” (AI 67)

It presupposes also the primacy of community (Gemeinschaft)30, of the essential organic will (“Wesenwille”) and of the egalitarian ideal, i.e., the subordination of society (Gesellschaft), of arbitrary will (“Kürwille”) and of the inevitable pecking order. Creativity is the engine of the individual journey and of its/his/her inscription in the communal adventure; it is foremost private and emotional. Efficacy provides the structure within which the creative rupture can take place; it is above all public and rational; Vision pilots the hyperdialectics of rupture and structure, of independence and interdependence, of emotion and rationality. The biggest the community, the more rational it needs to be if it ought to survive its creative transformation. But, precisely, the more rational and the more extended, the more sclerotic and the less creative it is likely to unlocking treasures that the narrow nature of things would keep remote. There is thus involved a grasp of infinitude, an appeal beyond boundaries. Its emotional effect is the subsidence of turbulence which inhibits. More accurately, it preserves the springs of energy, and at the same time masters them for the avoidance of paralyzing distractions. The trust in the self-justification of Beauty introduces faith, where reason fails to reveal the details. The experience of Peace is largely beyond the control of purpose. It comes as a gift. The deliberate aim at Peace very easily passes into its bastard substitute, Anæsthesia. In other words, in the place of a quality of 'life and motion', there is substituted their destruction. Thus Peace is the removal of inhibition and not its introduction. It results in a wider sweep of conscious interest. It enlarges the field of attention. Thus Peace is self-control at its widest,—at the width where the 'self', has been lost, and interest has been transferred to coördinations wider than personality. Here the real motive interests of the spirit are meant, and not the superficial play of discursive ideas.” (AI 285) 30 Cf. Ferdinand Tönnies (1855–1936), who distinguished (1887) after Hobbes (1651) and before Max Weber (1904), two basic forms of human will: essential, underlying, organic, instinctive, and arbitrary, deliberative, purposive and teleological.

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be. The discriminative criterion needed to settle this contradiction is, unsurprisingly, the type of rationality involved in the given community. Whitehead’s organic vision should have lead him to argue straightforwardly for some form of communalism; however, influenced by his Zeitgeist, the perpetual civilizational war of the Victorian Empire and the right-wing Hegelianism (Bradley, Bosanquet, Royce, Greene, Haldane, McTaggart…), he often argued for the supreme authority of European reason. His systematic attempts to understand History have thus oscillated between the conception of a top/down mechanism (one should say organism of course) and a bottom/up one. Now, it is doubtful that the little hope that remained at the time of industrial capitalism (the Communist Manifesto was published in 1848) is still alive while we are drifting from financial capitalism to fascist capitalism. Neurotic individuals wellembedded within overlapping social circles (family, unions and other fraternities and sororities, nation) are now replaced by psychotic individuals piled up in a global market needing an everlasting war to sustain itself (cf. Deleuze and Dufour31).

2. 2. Early Postmodernity The ongoing shift we have just evoked gives a particular flavour to our own epoch. It boils down to the disintegration of the State (the obliteration of the “covenant” as Hobbes called it) and to the destruction of the conditions of possibility of individuality, or personhood. It leaves us at a bifurcation point that is beautifully exemplified by two of the most powerful works of XXth century literature: Brave New World (1932) and Island (1962). Before sketching both narratives, a short overview of the current state of affairs is welcome. The current ideological strive for globalization of the so-called “market democracy” is a sure sign that we are dwelling now in an early postmodern world. Its major characteristic is simple: what was for the Ancient the most vulgar way of living —business— now rules worldwide with a very simple motto: everything is for sale. To unfold this, three concepts are handy to contemplate with the help of Hobbes: community, identity and stability. 31

“Notre société produit des schizos comme du shampoing Dop ou des autos Renault, à la seule différence qu’ils ne sont pas vendables” (Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari, Capitalisme et schizophrénie I. L'Anti-Œdipe [1972]. Nouvelle édition augmentée (Anti-Oedipus), Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, Critique, 1973, p. 292);


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Community does not mean anymore family, union, nation or any other old-fashioned political entity; it designates a global market imposed by persuasion when possible (and, as we will see, it is parody of persuasion that is being used), by conviction often, and by coercition when necessary.32 “In the nature of men, we find three principal causes of quarrel: first, competition; secondly, diffidence [distrust]; thirdly, glory. The first makes man invade for gain; the second, for safety; the third, for reputation.”33

One fears that Hobbes’ diagnosis is still valid. It has received a more fashionable name: the rat race.34 Identity does not refer to persons belonging to a very well-defined cultural sphere; it does not even name neurotic individuals (according to the obsolete Freudian thesis): “identity”, it is more and more obvious, refers to psychotic entities without identity whatsoever other than the one that advertising imposes upon them. “During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in a condition which is called war; and such a war is of every man against every man. […] continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”35


Besides the works of Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Webster G. Tarpley, Lynn Margulis, Paul Craig Roberts, Howard Zinn and Lyndon LaRouche, see John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2004 ; Daniele Ganser, Nato’s secret Armies : Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, préface de John Prados, New York, Frank Cass, 2005 ; Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States : 1492–Present, New York, HarperCollins, 1980. (Une histoire populaire des Etats-Unis de 1792 à nos jours, tr. fr. Marseille, Agone, 2002) ; Webster G. Tarpley, 9/11 Synthetic Terror, Made in USA, Progressive Press, 2005. 33 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan [1651] Edited with an Introduction by C. B. Macpherson, Penguin, 1968, p. 185. All quotes are from Part I, Chap. 13. 34 It is furthermore of the highest interest to notice that the race is taking place in Academia as well —and that philosophers are too often happily taking part. In such a case, philosophy does not have a spiritual ring attached to it anymore: schools of thought arise, institutionalise themselves, and “very great philosophers” are “smothered, almost assassinated”. This is Gilles Deleuze (1925–1995) speaking on March 10, 1987, during one of his classes devoted to Leibniz’s system. Some stupendous thinkers are dragged in the mud by their “dear colleagues” for reasons not always obvious, even to the insiders themselves: W was —and still is— one of them. 35 Hobbes, op. cit., p. 186.

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It is true that only third world countries feature lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. At this hour, most of Westerners still have a life that is far more civilized: solitary, rich, nasty, brutish, and long. Stability has always meant (i) the preservation of the status quo by those who benefits from it and (ii) the promotion of all “changes” necessary to establish more firmly that status quo (this double claim being only apparently a paradox). “The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law.”36 And hence a social contract is needed to create a commonwealth, concludes Hobbes. Since there is no common power, there is no justice. Now the engine of such a cultural decomposition —technoscience lured by the market—deserves a sharper look. 2.2.1. EconoTechnoMilitarism Human history consists of the succession of the sound and fury occasioned by the imperial pretensions of various ethnic groups, usually relying upon a divine covenant to justify their rage. To remain focused on the recent European history directly relevant to Whiteheadian scholarship: after the collapse of the French empire in Waterloo (1815), Great-Britain entered the Victorian era (1837–1901) that saw the apex of British industrial power and of its global imperialism. More precisely, the years 1848–1863, in the immediate aftermath of The Great Famine (An Gorta Mór in Irish, 1845–1850) during which the British government pursued a policy of mass starvation (otherwise known as genocide), gave the impression that a world-wide British Empire was at reach. With the rise of the German Empire and the end of the Secession war, both in 1871, that possibility got compromised and British politics was reformed accordingly, leading directly to the first world war and the crushing of the German soul. In other words, the Victorian years were in many ways, obvious and covert, years of perpetual war for perpetual peace; it should not be forgotten for instance that concentrations camps were created by Lord Herbert Kitchener (1851–1916) during the Boer War (1899–1902) — “the Last of the Gentleman’s Wars”… With the end of the second world war, and especially with the creation in 1947 of the “national security state” and the “Truman doctrine”,37 the 36

Hobbes, op. cit., p. 188. “From 1950 on […] the domination of other countries is exercised through the economy (the Marshall plan after WWII) and through a military presence, preferably low-key (like NATO in Western Europe) and politically through secret police like the CIA, the FBI, the DIA, etc.” (Gore Vidal, Dreaming War. Blood for 37


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U.S.A. have taken the imperial lead and its government is currently, in its turn, under the impression that a world-wide empire is at their reach. The trick remains the same: to invent a common ennemy and to create “reality” accordingly. As Göbbels saw: the greater the lie, the more apt it is to be believed. There is no need to speculate about this possible imperial actualization here; one remark will suffice: if the same impetus remains throughout human history —cruelty, terror and cynicism (to say it with the words of Artaud) instrumentalized by a techno-militarism that has swallowed the political and economical spheres—, the available means are getting more and more powerful while no ideology (or “big narrative”) seems available to mobilize the citizens, scattered as they are, both socially and psychologically. This brings us back exactly at the level of the ideological lever that could be used to bend history in the direction of an utopia rather than a dystopia. 2.2.2. Roots The roots of this cultural collapse are numerous. A posteriori, one can identify the following general trend (no necessitarian claim is made): without speculating about the shift from hunter-gatherer subsistence to agriculture (that gave rise to social stratification, coercion, and alienation) and the likely shift from matriarchy to patriarchy, the fact is that patriarchy, individualism, militarism and ethnocentrism (later nationalism) form a conceptual nebulae that has opened the road to the enslavement of humans, animals and environment alike and eventually to techno-science. Unthinkable outside technoscience, industrialism is, in its turn, historically correlated to capitalism (and it is quite puzzling that Russian communists thought indispensable to link their future to industrialism and naturalistic materialism) in which nothing should escape the nihilistic reduction to the profit imperative. Economism is now re-opening the flood-gates of fascism for the sake of mastering the remaining fossil —and psychical— energy available. The collapsing boundaries between technology and the human bring about an even more problematic situation: on the one hand, the extension of the use of implants (cosmetic or otherwise) make humans look and feel more and more artificial (cf. Kurzweil’s transhumanism); on the other hand, the expansion of the IT realm, the multiplication of automata and the announced irruption of androids tend to make machines look and behave more and more like humans. To cut a long story short: if Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta, New York, Thunder’s Mouth Press / Nation Books, 2002, p. 161)

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the impact on the economical tissue is plain, the political consequences remain unquestioned while the psychological ones seem to interest only writers such as Gheorghiu (cf. his The Twenty-fifth Hour38) and Philip K. Dick’s (cf. his Martian Time Slip39). In a society featuring far more droids than humans (a little bit like the Athenian polis was sustained by 300 000 slaves for only 50 000 citizens), humans are obliged, in order to rule over them, to adapt themselves to the ethos of their subordinates. The first sign of this adaptative dehumanization is the contempt for humanity itself. Gheorghiu concludes, at a time when computers were still in blue print, that this would be the time when no hope is possible anymore, full stop. Of the very subtle narrative of Dick, let us remind only one question: when children will be educated not by interactive games and toys but by androids impersonating a teacher (possibly an illustrious one), what impact will this interaction have on their self-image? To take a little bit of conceptual altitude: the double opening of the World evoked earlier (basically due to Bruno and Spencer) made awkward the supernaturalistic dualism that Descartes’ Meditationum de prima philosophia (1641) had sealed in conformity with the Christian creed. There is, in other words, a destiny common to substantialism, supernaturalism and dualism: the concept of substance, especially the Modern one (“what stands by itself” —to be contrasted with the Greek one “what is permanent in change”), is intrinsically dualistic and this dualism needs some form of deity to stand up, i.e., to cure its radical incoherence. When the old-fashioned concept of god lost its rational and reasonable “obviousness”, natural dualism emerged (Locke and Hume), only to make plain that it was also untenable —hence the way out found by Marx and Comte: a fully coherent (but not adequate) naturalistic materialism. But the price to pay was very high: within such a materialism that amounts to a dualism in disguise, there is no room anymore for liberty, creativity and meaning. Human are severed from their roots, emptied of their substance and turned away from their chaosmotic destiny. The conceptual trajectory leading from supernaturalistic dualism to naturalistic materialism was to be expected; it binds together the semantic collapse of the capitalist as well as the communist ideologies. The antidote that was lately proposed by the


C. Virgil Gheorghiu, La Vingt-Cinquième Heure [1949], Plon, 1974. Philip Kindred Dick, Five Great Novels. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch [1964]. Martian Time Slip [1964]. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheeps? [1968]. Ubik [1969]. A Scanner Darkly [1977], London, Gollanz, 2004. 39


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process pragmatists is neutral monism for some and neutral pluralism for others: the point is to reenchant the world.40 2.2.3. Outcome In 1979 François Lyotard coined the term “postmodern” in order to pin down the most recent cultural evolution: according to him, Western history has successively revoked the following symbolic constructions of the subject (who has to be understood qua “subjectus”, the one who is subjected, i.e., subjugated): physis in the Greek world, God in monotheisms, the king in monarchies, the people in the republics, the race in ethnocentric communities, the nation in newly liberated countries and the proletariat in communism. P. Bourdieu and especially D.-R. Dufour have then enlarged Lyotard’s analysis to account for the psychological destructuration that is more and more obvious in our contemporaries. Their claim is striking: the essence of capitalism is to prey upon isolated and psychologically weakened individuals that are all made conformal to the same consumerist standards. Whatever the details, the bottom point is that postmodern thought has been so far mainly destructive, seeking volens nolens to eliminate the possibility of worldviews as such. For his part, the Whiteheadian D. R. Griffin has made a strong case for a constructive or revisionary postmodernism that grants again, through process pragmatism, self, purpose, meaning, a real world and even god. To do so, he claims that instead of pushing the Modern principles to the hilt, as do Derrida and the like, one should find new ways to think the fourfold community of principles and disciplines introduced in our first section. One of the interesting tools he brings forth consists of his distinction between softcore and hard-core common sense beliefs: the former belong to the doxastic realm while the latter disclose the very structure of human action.41


Cf. the recent works of Morris Berman (The Reenchantment of the World, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1981), James Kirk (Organicism as Reenchantment: Whitehead, Prigogine and Barth, New York, Peter Lang Publishers, American University Studies V167, 1993) and David Ray Griffin (Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism: A Process Philosophy of Religion, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, Cornell studies in the philosophy of religion, 2001). 41 The first somewhat extensive discussion can be found in Postmodern Theology and A/theology: A Response to Mark C. Taylor, published as ch. 3. of David Ray

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2.3. Huxley’s Implementation of the organic vision Aldous Leonard Huxley’s (1894–1963) visionary work is of direct relevance to the present Whiteheadian discussion for four main reasons. First, Huxley’s contrast between a dystopia and an utopia speaks to our early postmodern ears, at a time our road could still fork. Second, Huxley also seeks to bring together again the double fourfould of principles and disciplines. Third, within Whiteheadian scholarship there has been a very keen interest in science, in Buddhism, and especially in their possible synergy. Last but not least, the general context of Huxley’s writings is shared by Whitehead’s and, as a result, the hermeneutical work done on one corpus is likely to have consequences on the other one. 2.3.1. Context Let us mention the most striking general points: “that religion will conquer which can render clear to popular understanding some eternal greatness incarnate in the passage of temporal fact” (AI 33); “industrial slavery [lies] at the base of society” (AI 34); the Malthusian doctrine, the doctrine of Natural Selection and the doctrine of heredity (AI 35-36) — including the eugenic temptation42—; Bentham’s utilitarianism (AI 36); Comte’s “religion of humanity” (AI 36) and the consumerism piloting techno-scientific innovations: “our old friend the economic man” (AI 94). Fifty years later, the West seems indeed on its way for the full economism anticipated in Brave New World…

Griffin, William A. Beardslee and Joe Holland (eds.), Varieties of Postmodern Theology, Albany, New York, State University of New York Press, 1989. 42 Eugenics, labeled by Francis Galton, was widely assumed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It describes any program that attempts to improve human genetic stock, either by limiting the procreation of those with so-called “undesirable/unfavorable” genetic qualities, and/or by encouraging those with “desirable/favorable” traits to breed. A “weak” form of eugenism has been first systematically put into practice by the efficient and democratic American government (outside of any legal frame, it occurred as well in Switzerland); the “stronger” form of eugenism, concentration camps is due to the very creative Lord Herbert Kitchener (cf. supra). Cf. Diane B. Paul, The Politics of Heredity. Essays on Eugenics, Biomedicine, and the Nature-Nurture Debate, Albany, NY, State University of New York Press, 1998; Stefan Kühl, The Nazi Connection, Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism, New York & Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1994; André Pichot, La société pure. De Darwin à Hitler, Paris, Éditions Flammarion, 2000.


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Four steps are expedient to sketch each of the two possible worlds that could be before us. We use the same pattern to promote a clear contrast and to display that the difference between to two “utopias” is sometimes thin. 2.3.2. The dystopia of World State (BNW, 1932) First, the “ultramodern” or “deconstructive postmodern” landscape of BNW is epitomized in the Motto of the World State, which we actually have already used to introduce to early post-modernity: “community, identity, stability”. Community means social utility: “Everyone belongs to everyone else” (BNW 38), i.e., the basic political rule is purely utilitarian. No one should be an end, but solely a mean for the neighbour’s pleasure —which is very precisely equal to what is necessary to the society’s wellfunctioning (even corpses are reinjected in the circuit of production). Identity is a gear mechanism (BNW 72 sq. and 202 sq.): thanks to the bioand emotional-engineering, each citizen is confined within a very precise circle; no elbow-room is given to individual action (this actually varies slightly, depending on the grade: from alpha-plus intellectuals to epsilonminus semi-morons). Stability is the sine qua non of civilization, it is the highest social virtue because it leads to lasting happiness: “the primal and the ultimate need” (BNW 38). Total order is guaranteed by water-tight structures. Positively: besides its self-reproduction, the world order has no purpose whatsoever: it is a pure “clock-society” abhorring progress. Negatively: any form of order is better than chaos —such as the one hovering after the Wall Street crash of Oct. 1929. All changes are by definition subversive and have to be prevented (BNW 205-7, 217): even science has to be carefully monitored. Second, uphill we find mass-production under three main guises sealing the total order: eugenics, eupaedia and soma. Human beings are simple instruments for engineers who have been themselves duly programmed. “A love of nature keeps no factory busy” (BNW 19): only artificial processes are deemed worthy (most being named with the suffix “-surrogate”). Eugenics is actualized through bio-engineering and contraception. Eupaedia amounts to emotional-engineering and (subliminal) conditioning through hypnopaedia.43 On the top of “violent passion surrogate (BNW 218; cf. 84) and the like, omnipresent music, tap43

“Sleep-teaching” (BNW 21, 24, 38, 91, 101, 234) or emotional-engineering (BNW 58); “engineer into feeling” (BNW 163): (subliminal) conditioning (BNW 214) and scientific propaganda. Non-rationality of the “words without reason” (BNW 24; cf. 23)

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tv (BNW 180), feelies (or “tactile talkies”) and other overwhelming presences, the state drug soma44 provides peace ad libidum —from a punctual stress-relief to suppress unwelcome emotions (“a gramme is better than a damn”) to a longer “soma-holiday” from reality (BNW 48 sq. and 68). Even first-hand religious experiences are conditioned to be soulless. Third, downhill is the all-embracing mass-consumption. Passive obedience (BNW 193, 201) is encouraged by all means: human beings are totally infantilized and thereby made “happy”; they get what they want and want only what they can get (BNW 13, 200, 219). They love their servitude that is articulated with three axes: obedient consumption — “ending is better than mending” (passim)—, feverish ignorance and sex. Feverish or blissful ignorance (BNW 201) is the rule: idleness is not allowed (there should be no stillness —BNW 44), neither is culture (BNW 44), “history is bunk” (BNW 30), thinking is discouraged (BNW 44, 49, 80, 91, 201), as well as reading (BNW 49) and even talking (BNW 80). Mindless promiscuity is encouraged to prevent solitude (BNW 79). At the edges of this sterilized and sterile “paradise”, one finds (i) islands populated with alpha misfits and (ii) savage reservations (including “Malpais” where marriage, natural birth, family life and religion are still in use) that are simply insulated from “civilization”. In conclusion, we have an almost perfectly locked system: technological wonders and soulless consumerism provide an existence in which there is neither illness, old age, violence, tears, tragedy nor madness, passion, or religion because all that would involve social instability. But there is a need for madness, violence and tragedy, claims the “savage” (BNW 168, 200, 217). Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of putting up with it (BNW 217) means the loss of individual freedom, human dignity and personal integrity. Huxley builds his novel on the need for alpha-plus intellectuals to keep the engineering swiftly paced; these individuals being the less programmed ones are the most likely to disrupt the stability of the system. The link between subversion and fitness for managerial position is explicitly acknowledged by the biography of Mustapha Mond, The Resident Controller for Western Europe.

44 The intoxicating beverage of immortality in the Veda. Soma is akin to valium, that was launched on to the global market in 1963.


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2.3.3. The utopia of the Kingdom of Pala (Island, 1962) Island is Huxley’s last novel (his last publication being Literature and Science, 1963—where he pleads for a rapprochement between literature and science). Let us peruse the book through the same lens. First, the “constructive postmodern” landscape of Island can be epitomized with the same motto. Community means that everyone and everything belongs to everyone and everything else: “Elementary ecology leads straight to elementary Buddhism” (Isl 212) —and vice-versa. No means but only ends, the ultimate one being the fundamental global harmony. Identity names true individuals: the maximum elbow room is provided for each person to find peace. No complete adjustment is expected: even to a sane society, it would not be sound (Isl 70, 172; cf. D. R. Laing). Stability evokes now peacefulness harmony, process (Isl 171), perfectly indifferent transience (Isl 30-31). “Nothing short of everything will really do”, insists Huxley in a radical empiricist manner (Isl 141). Uphill there is a scientific culture of awareness secured by a synergy between Western science and Buddhist culture. It especially emphasizes the presence (attention) to the present moment: “here and now boys” (Isl 21 & passim). Its three main tools are: birth control, holistic education and moshka. Birth control is indispensable to avoid the Malthusian explosion of misery on the island: it is achieved through the yoga of love, contraception and, more curiously, artificial insemination (Isl 187). Holistic education (Isl 203) works on all fronts, verbal and non-verbal, prevention and cure (Isl 68-9, 132, 141, 150, 209-9, 220), consciousness and subliminal awareness. It is in this context that one makes use of hypnosis (Isl 2, 32, 59, 93, 95, 123, 180, 203) described as “psychological facts of applied metaphysics” (Isl 76, 221) and of spiritual exercise. Philosophy qua symbol-manipulation is of no use to attain paradoxical wake (Isl 185). Moksha45 is the community drug that is used on special, ritualized, occasions to opens the way of liberation from the prison of oneself and to encounter reality, which is described as luminous bliss, timelessly present Event (Isl 263), perpetual creation (Isl 269). Downhill is a philosophic culture of awareness. The goal is to provide the possibility to everyone to become a genuine (“full blown” 202) human being. Happiness does not mean here simple satisfaction of bodily desires but awareness, spiritual growth, total liberation… Living means knowledge, spirituality, under-consumption and freedom. 45 Meaning “liberation, release”: toadstool, mescaline (Isl 135 sq., 168, 261, 263286). Moksha works holistically, unlike any pharmaceutical drug.

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At the edges we find the international community, i.e., “civilization” as Huxley knew it in 1962: mass consumption (oil-guzzling transport), mass communication, mass advertising, opiates, tv. In sum: Militarism (hostility and greed), Ignorance and Breeding (burgeoning population — cf. Isl 146).

Conclusion By means of conclusion, let us first summarize the contrast between the two Huxleyan utopias by pointing at the features common to both worlds and the ones making the difference. More than the pursuit of happiness, Huxley’s main concern seems to be the definition of the conditions of possibility of the pursuit of sanity and “Gnostic” knowledge. In neither works does he trust parliamentary democracy (to which he prefers the tyranny of the rhetors), family (in BNW, citizens are hatched, decanted and conditioned; in Isl, co-operative education is fostered by mutual adoption clubs) or the church: God would occur only in solitude, claims BNW; God is just a tool for oppression and a product of unhappiness according to Isl.46 Public worship is thus replaced by a “solidarity service”, a drug-induced impersonal first-hand religion47 in BNW (70, 74, 123,214) and by spiritual exercises in Isl. In both novels one can see at work the faith in technological progress, the Malthusian fear and the use of contraception as instrument of political control, and the use of hypnosis and of state substitute for alcohol and other narcotics. The differences are of course more striking, they can be summarized with the following contrasts: purposelessness versus meaning; totalitarianism of the bodies versus freedom of the organic whole; infantilization versus humanization; consciousness tamed versus consciousness intensified and refined48; distraction from the present versus attention; body drug that shelters from reality versus a head drug that aim at disclosing the world in its shimmering complexity and significance. Island aims at bringing forth the best of both worlds, Oriental and European (Isl 129, 278). Two further points would need to be made in detail: first, how far the opposition between BNW and Island reflects the difference between a 46

Indoctrination reinforced by psychological stress and physical torture (Isl 117). Cf. the reference to James’ Varieties in BNW 210; see also the Perennial Philosophy, p. 314. 48 BNW 161; Isl 138; cf. the filter theory of consciousness in Isl 226. 47

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substantialist and a process worldviews. The Perennial Philosophy (1945) understands the world as an everlasting succession of events grounded in a timeless now of the divine spirit; the Doors of Perception (1954) underlines typical Buddhist claims such as cosmic consciousness, clear light, suchness, the miracle of naked existence, participation in the manifest glory of things… Second, how this processualization is at work in his assessment of culture qua hegemonic saturating system (Foucault, Gramsci; cf. Said). We have to insist with Whitehead on the fact that “our traditional doctrines of sociology, of political philosophy, of the practical conduct of large business, and of political economy are largely warped and vitiated by the implicit assumption of a stable unchanging social system.” (AI 93)

The use of the concept of anarchy in this paper aimed at, first of all, pointing at the need to overcome the current rhetoric around the supposed virtues of “democracy”; second, emphasizing the importance of community, the only level at which anarchy could provide the best responses for the current political, economical, ecological, etc. challenges; third highlighting that no sclerotic civilizational ideal is viable in a chaosmos; fourth, naming Whitehead’s own philosophical pragmatism, that is not systematically enforced. We have grouped the ideals of living civilization and relational power under the heading of adventure and the ideals of harmony and individual in community under the heading of peace. Optimist should keep its rights: “We find however this whole bundle of more special notions, legal, political, ethical, religious, driving forward human life, and deriving a force of grandeur from their various exemplifications of the mystery of the human soul in its journey toward the source of all harmony. It is a story of crime, misunderstanding, profanation. Great ideas enter into reality with evil associates and with disgusting alliances. But the greatness remains, nerving the race in its slow ascent.” (AI 18)

Abbreviations AE AI CN D ESP FR

The Aims of Education, 1929 (Free Press, 1967). Adventures of Ideas, 1933 (Free Press, 1967). The Concept of Nature, 1920 (Cambridge University Press, 1964). Lucien Price, Dialogues, 1954 (Mentor Book, 1956). Essays in Science and Philosophy,1947. The Function of Reason, 1929 (Beacon Press, 1958).

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An Introduction to Mathematics, 1911. The Interpretation of Science, 1961. Modes of Thought, 1938 (Free Press, 1968). The Organisation of Thought, 1917. Principia Mathematica, 1910-1913 (Cambridge U. P., 1925-1927). Principles of Natural Knowledge, 1919/1925 (Dover, 1982). Process and Reality, 1929 (Corrected edition, 1978). The Principle of Relativity, 1922. Religion in the Making, 1926. Symbolism, Its Meaning and Effect, 1927. Science and the Modern World, 1925 (Free Press, 1967). A Treatise on Universal Algebra, 1898.



The topic of this paper is the attitude that is essential to democracy. I want to suggest that perhaps the clearest, strongest description of this democratic attitude is to be found, not surprisingly in the work of John Dewey. But I want to pose a methodological question for Dewey in this regard. I could not agree more with his account of the content of the democratic attitude. What I want to address here is its conceptual roots. My claim will be that the best grounding we have for the democratic attitude is not Deweyan experiential instrumentalism or any other for of empiricism, but rather considerations about individual and collective action of the sort to be found in rationalists like Plato and Kant. I will suggest that, while all three of these writers agree in the end on the state of mind or intentionality that is essential to good governance—what I am calling the democratic attitude—it is only the rationalist, exemplified here by Plato and Kant, who can fully account for its content. That content is not to be drawn from historically changing social conditions or the random insights of politicians about how to resolve temporary concrete problems, as Dewey suggests, carrying his Darwinism into the political realm. There is a commonality among genuine solutions to political problems, one that ironically, Dewey himself formulates, whose content transcends the passing, the local, and the opportunistic. Mere evolution can’t constitute good governance. For that we need genuine conscious normative altruism: intelligent, self-aware concern for the good of all. So, first, how does Dewey characterize the democratic attitude? It is worth noting that for Dewey, democracy is the heart of several of his most characteristic ideas. It is the heart of education. A society cannot hope to be democratic unless its citizens develop the democratic attitude in open, free, and public schools, for only there can the young experience the complexities and needs and indeed the ubiquity of the public. Likewise, democracy is at the root of “intelligence,” Dewey’s term for resourceful,

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collaborative, realistic inquiry. So completely does Dewey believe in the power of the democratic attitude in all these guises and more, that he denies there can be any independent check on democracy: “…the cure for the ailments of democracy is more democracy,” (294)1 echoing Peirce’s view that only a further application of the methods of natural science can correct the errors that the method produces.2 Here is Dewey’s “statement of the nature of the idea in its generic social sense:” which “is not an alternative to other principles of associated life [but] the idea of community life itself. It is an ideal in the only intelligible sense of an ideal: namely … carried to its final limit, viewed as completed, perfected … The clear consciousness of communal life, in all its implications, constitutes the idea of democracy.” (295)

He goes on to define the relations of individuals and groups, liberty and equality with regard to this ideal. What Dewey emphasizes most is that community rests on “shared interest” and intelligent, informed, realistic, communal action aimed at realizing the most permanent of shared interests. This then is what I am calling the democratic attitude. Dewey identifies free inquiry and freedom of communication as the most essential conditions under which the democratic attitude may be realized. (301) “The true unity of knowledge …is wholly a moral matter, an affair of honesty.” (304) Now let us turn to Plato and Kant to see whether we can find the democratic attitude playing as significant a role in communal life as Dewey suggests and specifically whether the content of that attitude is not the same as the ideal that Dewey has in mind. When it comes to good governance, Plato posits one famous and dominant role that must be filled: the philosopher king. On its face this suggests that Plato is a very long way from supporting democracy. Not only does he mount a concerted line against democracy but he has come under continuous criticism for his apparent authoritarianism. But Plato loves a good metaphor and what I would like to do here is reconsider his claims about legitimate governance, as well as his direct critique of democracy as he knew it, by construing the philosopher king as a


Because it is such a handy and reliable source, quotes from Dewey are from the passages from The Public and its Problems, included in The Essential Dewey, vol. 1, ed. by Larry A. Hickman and Thomas M. Alexander (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), unless otherwise noted. 2 See The Fixation of Belief.


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metaphor or personification. I begin with an effort to bring out the literal claims that underwrite what I take to be a thinly disguised metaphor. Above all, the philosopher king is supposed to embody wisdom, which Plato defines, rather unhelpfully, as knowledge of how to govern (Rep. 428d). Fortunately, he expands on this in detail in his divided line program of studies and through more metaphors in the analogy of the sun and the allegory of the cave. I’ll focus on the line, since it is Plato’s most literal expression of the ontology, epistemology, and psychology he thinks appropriate to understanding good governance. But first, who gets to rule under a strictly Platonic regime? The answer is not fixed at any particular number. He does not believe that necessarily only one should rule: it could be a committee (Rep. 540). Famously, he sees the task of ruling as gender neutral, since neither sex has a monopoly on wisdom (Rep. 455 and 540). Wisdom, like any expertise, takes systematic development of native talent, so he specifies a selection process perhaps not too unlike modern personality and aptitude tests and a vigorous course of studies and relevant experiences for those who are able to gain from them that will contribute to their understanding and their being able practically to implement the social good. It is therefore an empirical question, as to who at any particular time is able to acquire Platonic wisdom and benefit the group. Ideally, we should think that everyone is capable of this achievement to one degree or another, since citizens of democracy rule and are ruled by turns; more realistically, many—most—will no doubt fall short. But we can easily imagine a society and a culture in which a significant portion actually have and significantly realize such capacities. At least a few historical periods have come close; we call them periods of enlightenment: Athens in the fourth and fifth centuries BCE, France and America in the 18th century. It is not surprising that these are also the periods that have fostered legitimate democracy, the wise rule of the many. Plato epitomizes this attitude in the metaphor of the Philosopher King but he is clear that this leadership position may be occupied by male or female or by more than one person, i.e. an electorate something like Mill’s competent judges, who are to resolve disputes in terms of their wide experience and deep understanding of relevant issues. Plato reifies this social good in the sense that he thinks the world is capable of containing it, that people can grasp it and realize it in their lives. That is to say that it is a realistic possibility under the right circumstances. But it is not something that spontaneously appears. Social good is quite fragile and has to be coaxed into being, nurtured and defended, hence the need to understand it in advance, a priori, as we say.

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Now it is the possibility of grasping the good a priori at which many critiques have balked. But for Plato, it is no more mysterious than grasping arithmetic truths a priori and then applying them to the material world. Clearly we can do the latter and the same kinds of features in the world and capacities in us enable the former. The key, as Dewey insisted, following Plato, is opportunities for appropriate education. If Plato makes a mistake, it is surely the suggestion that qualification for training in leadership can be determined in advance of that very training. No one, we should want to respond, should be excluded from opportunities to learn how fully to exercise their native ability to govern. If it is a good for the most able, it is proportionately a good for others as well. And we should be clear that genuine democratic citizenship is an exercise in leadership. A vote is a directive to others: it posits a norm for the group and practically everything we do in public space, not merely going to the polls, can be understood as voting. Plato is, of course, famous as well for his critique of Athenian democracy. Who could blame him? After all, the Athenians executed Socrates, the wisest of men, without violating any Athenian laws. Ironically, Socrates loved Athens and refused to leave even to save his own life, saying that he would rather his children be raised in Athens without a father than anywhere else with one, which I take to be a sad commentary on the contemporary state of Greek political development. He particularly loved the freedom the city afforded in his quest for truth. The two, i.e., truth and freedom, as Dewey reminds us, go hand in hand. Plato too enjoyed such freedom and was, if anything, even more anxious than Socrates to exercise it. Still, Plato was more fully aware of the deficits of democracy and how easily the love of freedom can turn into license and tyranny. But he has no doubt that the real culprit is ignorance. The Athenians failed to grasp Socrates’ mission. And the root of that failure is lack of the intellectual experience of discovering the truth about anything for themselves, which is what both Platonic and Deweyan education is all about (turning the learner in the direction of light to see for himself). Had they been given the chance to experience that, the Athenians would no more have convicted Socrates than would a philosopher king, since he was himself such a paragon of honest inquiry. But there is in addition the other, more conative, dimension of ignorance: lack of self-control. People ignorant in this sense in a free society are especially liable to misbehave. Not knowing ourselves, i.e. failing to understand our own value priorities and how these relate to what is of genuine value, we make inconsistent and self-destructive choices, ones that impede our own and others’ capacity for moral and social


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development and therefore harm the society in which we live. Athenians, like the Romans a little later and emphatically like many of us living in the West today are prone to self-indulgence because we have grown up ignorant of the distance between our own interests, tastes, and values and what could make our social lives genuinely desirable. The flattening of all desires, good bad or indifferent, is characteristic of lack of self-knowledge, just as ignorance of tree species turns them all, in perception, into mere trees. Wisdom is needed to select the ones that may be beneficial. The practical development of wisdom in concrete social context being his aim, Plato needs to contrast it with its common facsimile. The divided line lays out the ontology and epistemology to understand both and gives us a strategy for understanding what is right and what is wrong with democracy. Opposite wisdom on the onto-epistemic spectrum lie images and imagination, both dependent on experiential originals. This dependence together with our inveterate predilection for detaching them from their originals, as when we “invent” stories or lies, and then believe what we have invented as if it were endowed with independent ontoepistemic status, points to what it is like to live in a social world determined by haphazard collective beliefs. Slaves to our own creations, we passively watch the images we ourselves have cast across the cave wall and think that we are witnesses to reality. The problem is not just that it’s easy and fun and therefore breeds indolence and indulgence. Rather, it is that we delude ourselves about the artifactuality of what we have made and attribute to it and its products more authority than it deserves. We oscillate between the Scylla of recognizing the artifice of society as our own, concluding that anything goes and the Charibdys of failing to recognize it, thinking that it would be sinful to change a thing. Plato’s scheme allows for a proper balance to this dialectic by recognizing the artifactuality of the social order but insisting that there are nevertheless discoverable limits, grounded in morality, as to how it may be constructed. The forms of virtues and ultimately the good reveal and govern those concrete expressions of our social creativity. Every pattern of activity is a form. Instead of following dictated patterns, in open, democratic societies, we pre-select, from all the possibilities, the ones we will follow. We enact most of them informally, though some we formalize and codify, the ones we think most important. If we think of freedom or autonomy as determining which rules we ourselves are bound to obey, i.e., that freedom is at least a kind of self-control, then it is not unreasonable to think of democracy as embodying a kind of freedom. There is however a difference between the freedom of the society, or better the freedom inherent in the basic blue print of the society on the one hand and the

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freedom that is available to the individuals it comprises. Social life is a field of potential conflict between individual and collective norms. At one extreme, individuals may be parasites on the others, while at the other, they may be leaders advancing (or destroying) social norms. Or they may, as most do, occupy roles in the space between these extremes. So, in democracy we create the patterns we follow. But what makes these patterns legitimate? For Dewey, the core of democracy is an attitude of respect for the capacity of ordinary people to make appropriate moral and political judgments. What counts as appropriate for Dewey is what evinces the exercise of “intelligence” in finding the best available solutions to practical problems. My claim is that this attitude is not peculiar to pragmatism but is central to the rationalist tradition. For Kant, the Deweyan democratic attitude is the good will, which must underlie moral choice. Kant crystallizes this attitude in the categorical imperative, which clearly demands that we treat all persons equally, with respect for their intrinsic value, without bias. It is at bottom the sheer consciousness of moral duty that is to impel us towards our moral decisions and actions, respecting everyone equally since we are all in fact the same before the moral law and ideally the same before the statute law as well. The canonical expression of the democratic dimension of Kant’s moral law comes as the kingdom of ends formulation: act as if your maxims serve as self-imposed universal laws. But how can a kingdom be democratic? My apology is the same for Kant as for Plato. The answer is that Kant’s kingdom of ends is only a metaphor for the unity of moral law. It is a metaphor expressing the exact inversion of the traditional sophist motto: “might makes right’ must become ‘right makes might.’ (As Plato famously says, the trick is to empower wisdom.) Plato’s metaphor on my reading places the burden of governance on those who know how to govern, i.e., those who possess wisdom. By the same token, Kant conceives those who are subject to the moral law as identical to those who carry the law in their breasts. They are the members of the kingdom, both subject and sovereign. This is the true democracy where reason has authority over narrow desire. Reason here is respect for law as such, i.e., for complete consistency in all acts, whether the result of individual or collective will. As we like to say, even the lawmakers are subject to the laws they make. But, what about the moral law? Can it really be as discoverable and unchanging as Plato and Kant affirm? One difference between traditional rationalism of either of these sorts and Deweyan pragmatism appears to be that such a law would be intolerably and unjustifiably rigid, i.e.,immune to


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change in light of further experience.3 Dewey is clear however, that with respect to practical issues, there is no prospect of finality of principle. Echoing Peirce, he denies that we can jump to the end of inquiry, bypassing the usual toil of getting there by providing the best solutions we can for problems as they arise.4 On the other hand, is there really some inherent reason why, if an appropriate method of discovery or proof is found, that the long process of empirical trial and error envisioned by Dewey, which probably is incapable of conclusive proof, should not be cut short? That, of course, is the dream of a priori proof, whether in mathematics or elsewhere and that is just what Plato seems to have in mind at the 4th level of the divided line and that Kant has in mind in his justification of the categorical imperative. It is important that both Plato and Kant propose that there is a kind of “grasping” of the demands of morality that must guide concrete judgment. This grasping or insight, in its fullest or most complete form is not something that can be expected to develop in everyone and certainly not equally at all ages, etc. That, I take it, is an empirical fact of life, upon which everyone can agree. But such awareness of the demands of morality is an expression of a capacity that is present in most or practically all people to a significant degree. As both Plato and Kant remark, even very young children display this capacity when they express their sense of indignation. Moreover, it is a capacity perfectible by both Platonic and Deweyan education and one without which proper moral and political judgment would not exist at all. Dewey calls it a “faith” or an “attitude.” That seems appropriate and something both Plato and Kant could accept, since it parallels Plato’s conception of wisdom as not only knowledge of how to rule well but as a trait of moral character and Kant’s conception of the good will and consciousness of duty as essential to personal phenomenology. Indeed, knowledge of how to rule can itself be understood as possessing an attitude that will lead to appropriate solutions of practical problems. And even the categorical imperative can be understood as underwriting a process of discovering the appropriate maxim of action 3

Here we have the conative version of the Quineian dilemma over the epistemic status of the laws of logic and some parts of basic mathematics. Mill foreshadows the problem in rejecting Kant’s a priorism in mathematics. Quine comes down on both sides of the issue in various writings. 4 Peirce, of course, had earlier suggested that truth be understood in terms of those beliefs that the community of inquirers will ultimately converge upon, a point that they are destined never to reach, a very idealistic notion of democratic truth indeed.

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rather than presupposing that it is known in advance.5 So, I suggest that much of the apparent gap between rationalism and pragmatism can be closed. To close it completely, it is, I think, sufficient to see that pragmatism proposes a single method for solving and improving our solutions to practical problems across the board. For that method, the method of scientific inquiry, which is described in comprehensive detail in Dewey’s theories of experience, inquiry and logic, education, morality, religion and art, is itself something that we know with virtual finality. To me, this tenacious grasping of a single method of inquiry that is to form and inform every activity from science to morals and politics to art shows that Deweyan pragmatism depends on that same apriorism it condemns in rationalism. Dewey’s faith in the ubiquitous appropriateness of the same form of intelligent inquiry is something one grasps in the same way one is supposed to grasp a Platonic form or the universal appropriateness of Kant’s moral law and seems to me to satisfy Dewey’s own definition of an ideal. On the other hand, whether the gap between rationalism and pragmatism can be eliminated depends on how deeply personal we understand the fully developed democratic attitude to be or whether we think that it can ever be fully developed. Rationalism will claim that it can be and that once it has been, it is ever after a matter of application, just as knowledge of mathematical truth can be attained and subsequently applied to concrete problems. But it has to be admitted that there is at least a slight implausibility about this response. It ignores the contingencies of common experience. Perhaps, as Aristotle suggests and Plato himself says, we should not expect too much precision in practical matters and a principle like the categorical imperative may represent too much precision, too little room for “judgment,” as we say, though this is not the Kantian notion of judgment. Perhaps something more like a Deweyan progressive deepening of our understanding of the method if inquiry is all that democracy needs or can deliver. Nevertheless, we can further integrate Plato’s apriorism by attending to his critique of tyrannical life. As noted, like Mill, Plato looks to competent judges to determine which kind of life is most satisfactory and Platonic competent judges are precisely those who have had experience of the pleasures that result from all of the three types which he identifies as corresponding to the three parts of the soul which he recognizes: wisdom is the pleasure of reason, honor the pleasure of spirit, and physical 5

Rawls takes full advantage of this move in characterizing his original position and the veil of ignorance behind which its inhabitants are to make their judgments about the institutional structure of society.


Rationalist Grounds for Pragmatist Democracy

enjoyment satisfaction of the appetites. There is, of course, Plato’s pessimism, easily mistaken (I think) for elitism, expressed in his confidence that it is more likely that there will be one good person or a few who fit this formula, than many, as would be required for a genuine democracy with wide franchise, but that too is an empirical question. By contrast, we find Kant insisting, perhaps too optimistically, that the common man is more likely to understand morality than the philosopher.6 Specifically, Kant thinks, ordinary, i.e., untutored, people have no difficulty distinguishing acts done for the sake of duty and ones done for the sake of personal gain or satisfaction. I suggest that this is precisely the intelligent capacity of moral discernment underlying the attitude Dewey thinks essential to democracy. Again I affirm that we know that his attitude is essential to legitimate government and we know its content a priori, even if it takes a lot of trial and error experience to get clear about it and to make out its best application in concrete circumstances. If Plato is too pessimistic and Kant is too optimistic about how wide spread altruism is or is likely to be in fact, perhaps Dewey has it about right. It takes a lot of work. He has no doubt about the inherent worth of individual persons—the worth Kant expresses as the end in itself— for individuality is the ultimate achievement of those sufficiently nurtured by community. But we do not grasp the inherent worth of all persons easily or steadfastly. Perhaps the ultimate value of democracy is training just in that. The third form of Kant’s moral law, the kingdom of ends formula, is a synthesis of the first and second, combining the fundamental thought of and desire for equality with the respect for the intrinsic value of individuals to yield the notion of autonomy—reminiscent of Plato’s insistence that the Philosopher King never favors any class over any other7— as a community of rational beings giving law to itself, but only those laws that acknowledge accountability in our willings. By contrast, Kant thinks of wrong in the very modern sense of willingness to do evil, to sacrifice innocent interests. That, of course, is typical of autocratic (and, we might add, utilitarian) regimes. The legitimacy of democracy depends on ruling out such unacceptable motives. The vital dimension of democracy that comes clear in Kant is the process of people giving law to themselves, i.e. autonomy, which generalizes the kingdom of ends formula. We might even bring Plato and Kant together on this by reading 6

Foundations, Sec. 1. Recall Socrates’ response to Adeimantus’ objection to the differentiation of classes in the Republic: Won’t the powerful simply take over? Not if they are properly educated! 7

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Plato’s definition of justice—each having and doing his own—as each giving law to himself, recognizing the legitimate dominance of his rational part and living only by its demands. Democracy is then an exercise in ethics, a purification of the will, and as such, it aims at an ideal for which these sorts of rationalist grounding of basic principles are needed, since experience inevitably falls short and misleads. On the other hand, of course, experience guides application of moral and political principles as well as revision of our understanding of them, which, however, does not imply that the principles are themselves unstable. Again, let us follow Dewey across the spectrum of inquiry—in science, art, logic, philosophy, etc.—what spoils the practice is mixing the kind of purity of motive that Kant has in mind with other motives about which one cannot be single-minded. Deweyan democracy depends on moral maturity among the citizenry: all respecting the code that respects all. As Plato says in the Republic, it is only pure pleasure that constitutes a proper goal. Purity of heart, says Kierkegaard, is to think one thing and that is no less a demand of good government than of genuine religious faith. As Peirce says, a man must love his method with a religious commitment and Mill thinks morality could direct men’s actions no less powerfully than religion, were it to be taught and learned with the same fervor. What is missing from undemocratic regimes in practice is not so much commitment as the proper content of the method for discovering pragmatically acceptable solutions to social problems, i.e. solutions as reliable as we can make them in the longest run, so far at least as experience can reveal it. That aim, I suggest, is grounded in the concepts of the common good and the good will, as Plato and Kant, respectively, held, and alone provides secure ground for the Deweyan search for pragmatically acceptable means for their realization.


In his essay entitled Ethics without Principles (1994), Rorty argues against understanding morality as an enforcement mechanism based on instructions stemming from Kant’s moral obligation as well as making a strict distinction between concern for ourselves or our community and concern for others. While helping our close relatives or associates is generally considered natural without any need to think of moral obligation, helping other people is not viewed the same way (Rorty 1994, pp. 78-79). On the contrary, he suggests that the sphere of what is considered to be ours or close should be increasingly expanded, as a result of which helping those who are in need would be a natural activity rather than a moral obligation. In his opinion, moral progress is a matter of both expanding the sphere of our sensitivity and including an increasing number of subjects and objects of our moral concern within our sphere of the personal and private (Rorty 1994, p. 81). *** A classical formulation of the philosophical or moral philosophical understanding of the meaning of the concept of humanity was provided by Immanuel Kant, who wrote that “Humanity itself is a dignity, for man can be used by no one (neither by others nor even by himself) merely as a means, but must always be used at the same time as an end. And precisely therein consists his dignity (personality), whereby he raises himself above all other beings in the world, which are not men and can, accordingly, be used-consequently, above all things.” (Kant 1983, pp. 127-128).

At another place Kant specified the meaning of the concept of dignity or human dignity and wrote that „man as a person” i.e., as the subject of morally-practical reason, is exalted above all price. For as such a one

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(homo noumenon) he is not to be valued merely as a means to the ends of other people, or even to his own ends, but is to be prized as an end in himself. This is to say, he possesses a dignity (an absolute inner worth) whereby he exacts the respect of all other rational beings in the world, can measure himself against each member of his species, and can esteem himself on a footing of equality with them’ (Kant 1983, p. 97). The fact that his understanding of humanity and man is entirely anti-nature and anti-biological is also evidenced by his statement that „it is one’s duty to raise himself out of the crudity of his nature, out of his animality more and more to humanity, by which alone he is capable of setting himself ends” (Kant 1983, pp. 44-45). I think that at this place it is enough to use just Kant’s opinions to

illustrate how humanity was perceived in the past. Now I will present some examples of understanding of humanity in contemporary ethics. Christine Korsgaard and Marcia Baron, for instance, present understanding of humanity according to the contemporary Kantian ethics. Korsgaard states that, according to Kant, to respect humanity of others means to share their goals. Such a status of humanity is, in her opinion, the source of normative requirements and the source of all value (Korsgaard 1996, p. 299). Baron believes that in the contemporary Kantian ethics humanity means above all respect and love for others and oneself as well. While in relation to others it means to help them in the achieving of their permissible goals and respect of others’ lives and their characters, in the case of humanity expressed in relation to oneself it reflects the effort to achieve self-perfection and the development of one’s talent (Baron 1997, pp. 28-31). A different understanding of the meaning of humanity is presented by Martin Heidegger, who believes that humanity of man resides in his essence (Heidegger 1993, p. 224). „Man is the shepherd of Being. Man loses nothing in the “less”; rather, he gains in that he attains the truth of Being. He gains the essential poverty of the shepherd, whose dignity consists in being called by Being itself into the preservation of Being’s truth. It is a humanism that thinks the humanity of man from nearness to Being. But at the same time it is a humanism in which not man but man’s historical essence is at stake in its provenance from the truth of Being.” (Heidegger 1993, p. 245). The above-presented notions of humanity are characterized by very strong anthropocentrism, formulated either from the ethical (Kant and Kantian ethics) or metaphysical standpoints (Heidegger) that more or less clearly postulate the superiority of human kind over nature, or over the animal realm. Contemporary genetics, neurology, biology, zoology, ethology, etc., however, present ever-new knowledge of genetic similarity


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between humans and the animal realm; the similarity between human brain activity and behaviour or conduct and the brain activity and behaviour of many representatives of the animal realm, especially primates or mammals, but also some other kinds of animals. So, is humanity a specifically human quality that separated man from nature; by which man overcame his animality, i.e. his biological and natural determination, as Kant expressed it? And what is actually humanity? According to common sense morality, we often understand humanity, on the one hand, as the respect for, and acceptance of human being, and, on the other hand, as the support of the effort to develop its strengths and abilities. Let us think about these individual aspects of humanity and decide to what extent it is really possible to perceive them as adequately expressing the meaning of the concept of humanity. On the common sense morality level humanity is first of all the respect for human being. It means that in the case of others we respect their ontological or metaphysical status of human beings, i.e. that they are above all the bearers of the morphological signs belonging to human being (physiological similarity with people). This results in the duty to behave towards them as to the members of the same species; that is as to the beings that are equal to us. In the case of the support of efforts at the development of someone’s powers and abilities it usually means the creation of the economic, social, mental, cultural, intellectual and educational conditions for this human being’s achievement of full development. Taking into account only the points made so far, we could conclude that our respect for the newborn, our satisfaction of its needs, its rearing and education is nothing unique, nothing that is only characteristic of human species. A very similar, in some cases almost identical, behaviour can also be found in animal species, especially mammals. We could pose a question whether such behaviour in people is a sign of humanity at all since the existence of this behaviour in the animal realm indicates that it rather has biological than purely moral or cultural roots that could be used as evidence of our own uniqueness. Michael Stingl and John Collier hold an opinion that affection and the partial relationships that are built on it create a basic feature of human life, as well as the life of other primates. Then, in their opinion, we can suppose that these partial relationships will play a very important role in the theory of moral capacity based on evolutionary biology (Stingl and Collier 2005, pp. 14-15). Let us think what could be a really unique, completely specific feature of behaviour in people as the members of the same species that does not exist in the behaviour of the members of the rest of the animal realm? On what basis could we speak of humanity as a moral value having its origin

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and source not in the biological or natural, but in cultural evolution? The initial thesis of our thinking about humanity, i.e. humanity as the respect for human life, appears to be more a natural or biological than solely moral factor. Undoubtedly, it is true that morality has its biological basis related above all to the value of human life (Bekoff 2004; Ridley 1996, 2001; Ruse 1998; Waller 1997; Wright 1994). Bekoff believes that the origin of virtue and morality is older that human species (2004, pp. 515-516). However, if we want to emphasize our uniqueness, or difference from the rest of the animal realm, we have to find something typically human in the behaviour of people, something that we could use as the basis for the value of humanity. What could that be? The criteria of human life can be biological, social and mental qualities or capacities of human being. The biological qualities especially include the already mentioned morphological and functional signs. The social capacities comprise speech and communication capacity and the capacity to form certain social contacts, interpersonal relationships, mobility of an individual, the ability to take care of oneself, moral judgement and the ability to plan the future. The mental qualities and capacities include, in our opinion, the existence of consciousness, self-awareness, abstract thinking, free will and moral thinking. These criteria comprise the objectively existing qualities, capacities of human being, i.e. their presence or absence, and not their quality or quantity. The minimal criteria for the definition of the real human life, as different from the pure vegetative state of human organism, have to comprise at least some social and mental qualities or capacities. If a human life does not comprise any of the social and mental qualities or capacities, it only exists on the biological level of human organism and it can be treated accordingly in an effort at its maintenance. Another frequently mentioned aspect of humanity defined as a moral value is that man helps another man either with the realization of his goals and intentions or in the case of his misery, or suffering. Are these uniquely human forms of behaviour or can they also be found in the animal realm? If we think about the help with the realization of goals and intentions, we can find something similar in the animal realm in the case of the cooperation of various members of the same species during hunting. We could point out that while man can help the other person unselfishly, animals cooperate in hunting to acquire food in an easier way. A sceptic could claim that even altruistic behaviour of people is not completely unselfish since what these people acquire is at least the good feeling that they helped someone and that is the sole reason why they do it. According to sceptics, only the conduct based on the Kantian pure duty, which


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excludes any empirical explanation of why we perform the duty, can be accepted as purely unselfish and altruistic. Despite these objections of the sceptics, we can probably perceive altruistic help with the realization of others’ goals and intentions as something that goes beyond the limits of the purely biological or natural dimension of our behaviour and conduct. It is especially true if this altruistic help is given to strangers since this feature of behaviour does not exist in the animal realm. Humans can offer assistance to the strangers that they meet in the street, if they need it, or to the strangers in foreign countries, whom they will never meet, if they need aid because of wars or natural disasters that struck the given part of the world.1 In this case we can state that it is a form of behaviour of man towards another man that transcends the natural dimension and is a result of the cultural evolution, including the moral development. A sceptic can argue that this aid is usually provided on the international level and that it can include also motives that may not be completely unselfish and spontaneous. This can be true, but what I have in mind is the behaviour of the individuals who help others independently from state institutions and with the intention to help the people who need it. An example can be the aid provided for the countries and people suffering the aftermath of earthquakes or floods, but also the aid provided for the children in foster homes. Such behaviour is exclusively human and that is why we can perceive it as a manifestation of humanity, as a moral value that humanity comprises. However, what about the conduct or help based on the expected reciprocity? Can we also say that such conduct transcends our natural or biological frame and results from our cultural evolution? Can we say that such conduct corresponds with the moral dimension of humanity? Can reciprocity be found in relations among animals? Certainly we can find it in members of the same species, especially if they belong to the same herd, flock, or pack (Boesch 2002; Schuster 2002). In no case it is something that we can perceive as calculative behaviour, as it is usually called if it appears in human relationships, but it is something quite natural in the animal relations because it is expected that every member take part in the maintaining of the life of the herd, flock or pack. A lot of biologists speak in this respect about so called reciprocal altruism, according to which animals in danger try to save, or protect the members of their herd, flock or pack against predators by drawing attention to themselves, so that others could escape safely (for the discussion about the altruism of humans 1

For clarification, and the preservation of the continuity of the text, I want to explain that in the following pages the concept ‘stranger’ will be used in the abovedefined meaning.

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and animals see, for example, Brosnan and de Waal 2002; Collier and Stingl 1993; Dawkins 1976; Fehr, Fischbacher and Gächter 2002; Hill 2002; Narveson 2000; Price 2003; Ridley 1996, 2001; Rottschaefer 1998; Stich 2007; Wilson, E. 2004; Wright 1994). This even leads to show that also in the animal realm there exists the self-sacrifice for the good of others of the same species that are members of the same herd, flock or pack. Consequently, not even man’s capacity for self-sacrifice for the good of others is a completely human quality. Despite the positive value that it comprises, it cannot be considered a typically human quality that is a result of cultural evolution and a purely moral factor. Rather the contrary is true. It becomes clearer and clearer that a lot of manifestations of human behaviour that we intuitively or on the common sense morality basis consider human are results of biological or natural evolution and they also exist in members of other animal species. Michael Ruse believes that the features of altruistic behaviour akin to moral behaviour can also be found in higher primates (Ruse 1998). Similarly, Lang and Sober and Strier conclude that if we accept man or human species as part of nature, then we have to accept that a number of manifestations of human behaviour are comparable with the manifestations of behaviour in other species, although there can exist qualitative variability (Lang 2002, p. 668). On the other hand, for example, Catherine Wilson states that behaviour of animals, including the socially living ones, as e.g. ants or chimpanzees, is not moral, although in many cases they behave comparably to humans. According to her, we cannot ascribe to them any moral beliefs or agency. In her opinion, despite the existence of the cooperation among animals, we cannot call their society moral because our idea of morality is based on the ability to abstract and generalize (Wilson, C. 2004, pp. 3; 21). However, Marc Bekoff believes that we can find in animals such manifestations of behaviour that evidently have a moral dimension, e.g. honesty. In his opinion a lot of animals, especially mammals, have the sense of honesty because it helps them survive in their environment (2004, p. 506). If we are to summarize the so far developed ideas about humanity, then we have to state that a great majority of the manifestations of man’s behaviour that we usually call humane have mainly biological or natural dimension that we have in common with other animal species, especially mammals and primates. These manifestations of behaviour include the ones that are related to the protection and maintenance of our own life, the life of our children, relatives, friends and acquaintances. In relation to these people (if we respect and support their lives, interests and goals) we behave essentially in the same way as members of various animal species, especially mammals and primates, behave towards their close ones. Such


Humanity and Moral Duty

behaviour, despite the fact that it is very needed and desired, can in no case be seen as uniquely human; as something that can create a basis for the humankind’s claim to a special status in relation to other mammals and primates. The basis of our behaviour is biological or natural. People, however, ascribed a moral value to it and it could be discussed whether it was right. I think that in that context it is a very close position to Rorty’s idea to reject emphasising morality of our action and behaviour in relation to our relatives. Specifically human behaviour that is not based on biological or natural but exclusively moral basis is our behaviour related to the protection of variously disabled forms of human life. It refers in the same way to our behaviour towards strangers if it is aimed at the protection and maintenance of their life, property, physical or mental integrity, their goals and intentions helping to protect and maintain life. *** In contrast to the classic utilitarian emphasis on correct conduct, Rorty prefers sensitivity to pain (here, similarities to Popper’s version of negative utilitarianism come to mind). On the other hand, his idea of an increase in the number of people who should be drawn into our community bears much resemblance to the utilitarian (especially Benthamian) the Greatest Happiness Principle (the maximum amount of happiness for the maximum number of people), the difference being that Rorty replaces the criterion of happiness with that of pain. He claims that moral progress is a matter of ever increasing sympathy (Rorty, 1994, p. 81-82). It is questionable, however, whether it is at all possible to reduce moral progress solely to sympathy. What I do subscribe to, though, is that the degree of sympathy – or increasing sympathy – can be a significant indicator of the moral progress or moral status of a community. Still, the issue of morality would be considerably reduced if sympathy were to be the only criterion. Another thing that I agree with is that moral perfection cannot be our ultimate goal because, at least so far, all attempts at postulating moral perfection as a goal of human endeavour have been unsuccessful. Sooner or later, they all turned out to be mere chiliastic visions which are eventually counterproductive in our efforts to lead a standard life. What may prove more plausible is Rorty’s idea of trying to show concern for the needs of an ever increasing number of people, which is surely a more realistic goal compared to moral perfection or the maximum amount of happiness for the maximum number of people. Nonetheless, even this idea of Rorty’s raises some questions, particularly that of the “increasing number of people.” How big is the increase supposed to be? By one person? By two? By a thousand? By a hundred thousand? Or even more?

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The way I see it is that the number of people concerned may not eventually be crucial; what is important, though, is our tendency – our effort – to be open to other people, their interests and needs in our decision-making and behaviour in general. Rather than happiness or moral perfection, Rorty makes suffering and sympathy the main criterion of moral progress (in its first phase), and it is exactly along these lines that Rorty makes further considerations: rather than look for things that bring us together, we should speed up our moral progress by making the little things that divide us seem unimportant (in the second phase). In a sense, Rorty’s concept of moral progress is thus becoming quite opposed to all those big moral ideals of changing the world through love, happiness, moral perfection, etc. Rorty puts emphasis on relatively simple, everyday criteria as well as possibilities in people’s behaviour and conduct, which actually coincides with my idea of ensuring humanity: in order to be humane, we need not become saints but only try and be good parents, children, neighbours, etc. Rorty's examples of ensuring moral progress are indeed drawn from everyday life, but eventually they prove to be crucial in the lives of individuals living in Bosnia, Alabama, Quebec, etc. (Rorty, 1994, p. 86-87). Although I do agree with Rorty in that intellectual progress does not depend on getting closer to the True or the Good, I have reservations about his refusal of the correctness of behaviour being a precondition for moral progress; in addition, it is disputable whether imaginative power is the right criterion. *** Consequently, we can try to conclude the so far presented my thinking about humanity (also in context with Rorty’s ideas) and on this basis define the active and passive forms of the realization of humanity. The active form means the direct involvement of moral agent through his participation in the activity developed for the benefit of the strangers in need of help. The passive form of the realization of humanity means that our behaviour expresses our sympathy with the strangers affected by disaster. Especially in the case of the latter form an important role is played by moral feelings. Usually this passive form of humanity forms the basis, or is the condition for the realization of the active form of humanity, i.e. for the providing of assistance to those people who need it. Sympathy with the suffering often (though not always) leads to the acting for the benefit of these people. Of course, the active help is always more valuable than mere sympathy, but we should not minimize the value or potential of the humanity comprising sympathy. Our capacity to forgive comprises a


Humanity and Moral Duty

similar potential of being humane. Forgiveness, just like sympathy, can be the initial point for our further acting, the active realization of humanity in the form of assistance to others. The passive humanity can also be reflected in not acting, i.e. not causing harm to other person despite the fact that the moral agent could do it while realizing his rightful intentions and goals. This passive form of humanity can be seen as a certain minimal level of humanity related to the fact that if the moral agent cannot help other man, he at least expresses his sympathy, or at least does not act in the way that could harm the other in the realization of his rightful intentions and aims. The active form of the realization of humanity can be divided into positive and negative. The positive form means a direct assistance to a stranger who needs it in the realization of his positive intentions and goals. The negative formulation means to prevent other person from the realization of harmful aims, intentions that could affect some stranger. My thinking, developed so far, has brought me to the conclusion that it is possible to respect humanity from the metaphysical or ontological perspective, i.e. to perceive someone as a human being on the basis of his morphological and functional signs belonging to human beings. This, however, does not say anything about the moral aspect of humanity. We can only latently create conditions for the formulation of a definition of the moral value of humanity. From the ethical or moral perspective, humanity has to be realized and not only respected because it implies acting to the benefit of the strangers in need. It is latently present also in the passive form of humanity, i.e. in the feeling of sympathy with the suffering or misfortune of strangers or in the case of forgiving someone. The moral value of humanity can be realized only through our behaviour and conduct in relation to strangers. I think that we have to distinguish between the generic behaviour and conduct of humans that, despite having a biological-natural basis, also comprises positive moral dimension related to the protection and maintenance of human life from the behaviour that too has a biologicalnatural basis, but comprises a negative moral dimension. In the animal realm the protection and maintenance of life, on the one hand, or its destruction, on the other hand, have no moral dimension, or effect. Both manifestations of behaviour, protective and destructive, are the natural manifestations of animal behaviour and do not evoke any wider reaction among the members of the animal realm. Their effect is temporary and impact limited to the local area. In the case of human society the reaction to such behaviour is wider and, owing to the media, can cross the local

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borders in which certain kind of behaviour happened very quickly, especially if this behaviour represses or destroys human lives. That is why I suggest that we speak about humanity in all the cases in which human life is protected and maintained since it brings positive consequences for human life; with the specification that if it is the protection and maintenance of one’s own life, the lives of our close ones, friends or acquaintances, it is the humanity based on a biological-natural foundation that, however, has also its moral dimension and effect. On the contrary, the manifestations of the protection and maintenance of life in relation to strangers represent the real moral value of humanity, i.e. they are the results of our cultural evolution, our moral development. In this way we accept all the positive manifestations of our behaviour in relation to other people. Especially, we emphasize the value of helping, the protection and maintenance of the handicapped forms of human life and the strangers who need it because such behaviour transcends our biological-natural dimension, or the basis that we have in common with many other representatives of the animal realm.2 In the first case we understand humanity as a generic, naturalbiological, quality typical of the behaviour of the members of human species, while in the second case we understand it as a moral quality, which despite having features of similarity with the first quality, differs in respect to the object of its realization. Despite the fact that in the first case we understand humanity as a biological-natural quality of man, this understanding of humanity cannot be identified with the biologism of humanity because my understanding of humanity is related only to the behaviour leading to the protection and maintenance of human life. If this understanding of humanity is not to be influenced by speciesism, then we have to accept that in the animal realm, especially in mammals and primates, the protection and maintenance of one’s own life, the life of offspring and other members of the herd, flock or pack is a naturalbiological quality typical of their species, and that we can call it animality 2

Bruce N. Waller in this respect speaks about the morality of care and the morality of duty. In his opinion, human rationalistic morality is an improved animal morality of care. Ethics of care is in its essence valid because affection, care, trust and generosity form a moral basis. The attitude based on rational principles is an important means of the widening, improving and supporting of moral behaviour when affection reaches its limits. The moral basis of the morality of duty resides in care and affection. The affection is rooted in biology, supported by direct and indirect reciprocity and exists prior to rationality. The rational morality of duty is an adaptive complement of the morality based on affection and care (Waller 1997, pp. 353-354).


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and see it as equal in its forms or manifestations of behaviour to humanity as a natural-biological but not moral quality typical of human species. To summarize our points, we can state that humanity is understood as all the forms of behaviour leading to the protection and maintenance, i.e. development of human life. On the basis of the differences in the objects of our behaviour and conduct, we distinguish between humanity as a natural-biological quality and a moral quality. The moral value of the first kind of behaviour is determined by our biological or social relations to our close ones. In the second case, the moral value of our behaviour to strangers is a pure manifestation of our morality. In the first case the protection and the maintenance of life is a result of our basic value orientation, including our moral values that result from this orientation. In the second case our behaviour and conduct for the benefit of strangers brings a surplus moral value. The basic form of humanity resides, then, in the protection and maintenance of one’s own life and the lives of our close ones, relatives, friends and acquaintances. It is the alpha and omega of our behaviour, which creates the basic natural-biological framework for our morality. It also creates the foundation for the basic rights and duties related to the protection and maintenance of human life. On the other hand, the protection and maintenance of the life of strangers is the moral surplus value by which we create a new, higher quality in our behaviour in relation to other people. In this case we can really speak about humanity as a moral quality, or value. It is something that is really specifically human and which deserves respect and admiration. By such behaviour man proves that he can, at least to certain extent, transcend the naturalbiological framework of his determination. Especially in that context it is a very close to Rorty’s ideas on the extension of moral realm not only to our relatives and neighbours, but also to strange people. This can be achieved through the moral principles and particular moral norms that define some ways of pursuing humanity in the individual and social life of moral communities. I do not think that humanity as a moral quality is unachievable and abstract moral ideal that is too far from moral practice of the moral agents. I mean that humanity as a moral surplus is the expression of actual requirements and interests of the individuals and humankind in general. Human beings hope for their rational existence and survival through the application of humanity, its principles and respect for human dignity. Human existence also depends on the solution of environmental issues which represents an external condition for the preservation of human life in general. However, what is important is the fact that the moral agent should try to perform humanity in his life.

Vasil Gluchman


Humanity is one of the most significant moral principles on which the human society is based as a society of the co-operating individuals. We can see that the future of humankind is possible only if we accept and apply the principle of humanity as one of the fundamental principles. There are not only the basic duties of mankind towards the preservation of the future existence of humankind, but there is also a danger of the environmental disaster. It is so urgent that it is necessary to overcome narrow anthropological views on the future of the world and its life. The idea of the preservation of human existence must be associated with the respect for and the application of humanity as moral quality and it is only possible response to the future of humankind. The international cooperation of states and nations is the means of fulfilling humanity in ordinary life of the individual and whole human society. The co-operation brings a perspective of preservation of human life. One of the most significant conclusions of this reasoning is an idea that the meaningful existence of the moral agents, communities and whole humankind is possible only through acceptance and application of humanity. I do not think that it is an abstract and unachievable goal for most people during their lives. To respect and apply humanity in our lives, we do not need necessarily be the saints. Being human is enough. That is why I think we can justify the attribute human and moral being by our action regardless the unfavourable character of contemporary period which perhaps tend to stimulate opposite position. Despite this, I think no other alternative than the acceptance and application of humanity in the world is possible. Really it will be very useful for whole humankind if (in context with Rorty’s ideas) helping to other (not only relatives) will be natural for us, no moral obligation. By and large, Rorty is surely right in his preference of openness to closure as well as in his search and creation of new forms of humanity, all of which should always be preferred to stability, security and order. I came to the conclusion – as if in close connection with Rorty’s views – that, despite its numerous mistakes and flaws, mankind has indeed been increasing the number of objects of its moral concern and protection, i.e. that humanity has been showing at least some moral progress (Gluchman 2007, pp. 1-10). I would like to conclude with Thomas Garique Masaryk’s idea which could be appeal to the future of whole humankind at the beginning of the 21st century: “[H]umanistic ideal, [authentic] humaneness, is the foundation of all strivings of our time-particularly those that prevail at present in our national life. It is this which Kollár means when he says: “When you cry, Slav, may it always mean Man.” (Masaryk 1971, p. 61).


Humanity and Moral Duty

Bibliography Baron, M.: Kantian Ethics. Baron, M., Pettit, P. and Slote, M., Three Methods of Ethics. Oxford, Blackwell, 1997: 3-91. —. Animal Passions and Beastly Virtues: Cognitive Ethology as the Unifying Science for Understanding the Subjective, Emotional, Empathic, and Moral Lives of Animals. Zygon 2006, 41(1): 71-104. —. Wild Justice and Fair Play: Cooperation, Forgiveness, and Morality in Animals. Biology and Philosophy 2004, 19(4): 489-520. Boesch, Ch.: Cooperative Hunting Roles Among Taï Chimpanzees. Human Nature 2002, 13(1): 27–46. Brosnan, S. F. and Waal, F. B. M.. A Proximate Perspective on Reciprocal Altruism. Human Nature 2002, 13(1): 129-152. Cavalieri, P.: The Animal Question. Why Non-Human Animals Deserve Human Rights. New York, Oxford University Press, 2002. Collier, J. and Stingl, M.: Evolutionary Naturalism and the Objectivity of Morality. Biology and Philosophy 1993, 8: 47-60. Dawkins, R.: The Selfish Gene. New York, Oxford University Press, 1976. Fehr, E. Fischbacher, U. and Gächter, S.: Strong Reciprocity, Human Cooperation, and the Enforcement of Social Norms. Human Nature 2002, 13(1), 1-25. Gluchman, V.: Human Being and Morality in Ethics of Social Consequences. Lewiston, Edwin Mellen Press, 2003. —. Morality of the Past from the Present Point of View. In: V. Gluchman (ed.): Morality of the Past from the Present Point of View. Newcastle, Cambridge Scholar Publishing, 2007: 1-10. Heidegger, M.: Letter on Humanism. In: Heidegger, M., Basic Writings. London,Routledge, 1993. Hill, K.: Altruistic Cooperation during Foraging by the Ache, and the Evolved Human Predisposition to Cooperate. Human Nature 2002, 13(1): 105–128. Kant, I.: The Metaphysical Principles of Virtue. In: Kant, I.: Ethical Philosophy. Indianapolis – Cambridge, Hackett, 1983. Korsgaard, Ch. M.: Creating the Kingdom of Ends. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996. Masaryk, T. G.: Humanistic Ideals. Lewisburg, Bucknell University Press, 1971. Lang, Ch., Sober, E. and Strier, K.: Are human beings part of the rest of nature? Biology and Philosophy 2002, 17: 661-671. Narveson, J.: Discussion-Review: Evolutionary Biology, Altruism, and Moral Theory. Biology and Philosophy 2000, 15(2): 259-274.

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Price, M. E.: Pro-Community Altruism and Social Status in a Shuar Village. Human Nature 2003, 14(2): 191–208. Ridley M.: The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation. New York, Viking, 1996. —. The Cooperative Gene. New York, The Free Press, 2001. Rorty, R.: Ethics Without Principles. In: R. Rorty: Philosophy and Social Hope. London, Penguin, 1994: 73-89. Rottschaefer, W. A.: The Biology and Psychology of Moral Agency. Cambridge, University Press, 1998. Ruse, M.: Taking Darwin Seriously: A Naturalistic Approach to Philosophy. Amherst, NY., Prometheus, 1998 Schilhab, T. S. S.: What Mirror Self-Recognition in Nonhumans can tell us about Aspects of Self. Biology and Philosophy 2004, 19: 111-126. Schuster, R.: Cooperative Coordination as a Social Behavior. Experiments with an Animal Model. Human Nature 2002, 13(1): 47–83. Stich, S.: Evolution, Altruism and Cognitive Architecture: A Critique of Sober and Wilson’s Argument for Psychological Altruism. Biology and Philosophy 2007, 22: 267-281. Stingl, M. and Collier, J.: Reasonable Partiality from a Biological Point of View. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2005, 8: 11-24. Waller, B. N.: What Rationality Adds to Animal Morality. Biology and Philosophy 1997, 12: 341–356. Wilson, C.: Moral Animals. Ideals and Constraints in Moral Theory. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004. Wilson, E. O.: On Human Nature. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2004. Wright, R.: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. New York, Pantheon Books, 1994.


Ever since the Greek beginning of philosophical thought, the concept of justice became the most disputed amongst all moral concepts. Plato’s most important work, The Republic, is dedicated to analyzing this concept. In his first book we witness Polemarchus, the sophist, telling Socrates his definition of justice as "giving to each what is owed", which means 'doing good to friends and harm to enemies' (331e-335e). Socrates, that is Plato, on the other hand, thinks that this kind of justice is immoral. In most of his work Plato stands for the idea that justice should be the result of the obedience to the laws of the city. This standpoint is much clearer in another dialogue of Plato's, Euthyphro. Shortly prior to Socrates’ appearance in court, he encounters Euthyphro, who had the reputation of a religious expert. Euthyphro was famous for the murder accusation against his father who, apparently, due to improper handling, was to be blamed for the death of one of his workers. Socrates was shocked by the fanaticism of such an individual, decided to take his own father to court on such a serious charge. We see here a very pious Euthyphro, who was confronted with a moral dilemma, as follows: either prosecute his father or rather obey his filial piety. The latter - the so-called philial justice - is the antique concept of justice that can be found in Homer’s and as well as in the tragic authors’ writings. The former is the recent one, which Plato wants to impose in the polis. Euthyphro chooses to turn his father in to the authorities. The Platonic representation of Socrates’ death is also a very good example of this concept of justice. Crito presents Socrates’ last days of the life in prison. There, his disciples propose several times the escape from prison, but Socrates turns them down in support for the obedience to law. He needs to die to prove to the Athenians that, despite his innocence in the eyes of his disciples, the law should be maintained above any individual. Why is that blind obedience to legal justice so important and why is the old concept of justice, the philial one, so bad?

Susana de Castro


The tragedy trilogy, The Oresteia, may offer an answer. Written by Aeschylus, it tells us about the end of the curse on the House of Atreus. The first book, Agamemnon, details the return of Agamemnon, King of Argos, from the Trojan War. Waiting at home for him is his wife, Clytemnestra, who has been planning his death as revenge (themis) because he sacrificed their daughter, Iphigenia. The second book, The Libation Bearers (also known as Choephoroe) narrates the reunion of Agamemnon's children, Electra and Orestes and their revenge. Orestes murder their mother and her lover. The Eumenides (also known as The Furies) is the final play of the Oresteia, in which Orestes, Apollo, and the Furies go before a jury of Athenians at the Areopagos to decide whether Orestes' killing of his mother, Clytemnestra, makes him worthy of the torment the Furies have since inflicted upon him. Although Orestes is declared innocent, he is judged in a tribunal and the court asserts that justice with ones own hand, the so called 'retaliation law', is no good kind of justice, because it has no end. The Orestia illustrates somehow the end of the bloody holy Law (themis) and the birth of rational justice based on laws and rational judgment (dike). The central notion for the rational judgment is impartiality. We can only judge the acts of others rightly if we are not emotionally related to him or her. At the end Dike prevails upon Themis. Developing this non-sentimental sense of justice further, the Western enlightenments thought it useful to establish a foundation of all moral concepts on rationality. This means that, in order to act morally and impartially, one needs to follow the moral principles of absolute equanimity dictated by reason despite of the analysis of the particular situation, its context and the feelings we have toward the actors of this particular situation. The Rortyan view on justice, as a larger loyalty, presented in an article bearing the latter in the title1, seems to me to be recuperating the Homeric and tragic notion of justice, the one I would call philial justice. We could think that this philial justice is a kind of individual justice; the one that has its efficiency made up from a judgment that considers the particular context and particular feelings more relevant than human laws. Rorty, as any philosopher, would never accept a vengeful type of justice; same way, the other standpoint, 'rational justice', would not be in tone with Rortyanism because of its foundationalist principle, that is, the 1

Justice as a larger loyalty. In: Bontekoe, Ronald; Stepphanius, Marietta. Justice and Democracy: cross-cultural perspecatives. University of Hawaii Press, pp. 922. 1997.


The Rortyan Concept of Justice as a ‘Larger Loyalty’

founding of a moral decision on an Idea. Rorty is a Humeian who sees no reason to believe in the existence of such rational priority. What we do in fact have as basis of moral decisions at first are our feelings! To admit that requires a big dose of humility, which unfortunately many of us don't have. Do give up of the Kantian idealistic sense of universal community of human beings related to each other abstractly by the same moral principles is not an easy task then the Kantian way of moral explanation give us a sense of holy authority very different from the small local sense of the feeling based moral of Richard Rorty’s. In Justice as a large loyalty, Rorty does not say that it's impossible for us to think of social justice as a universal right or something like that. One should, obviously, struggle for the universality of justice, the equality of the rights for everyone, but what he wants us to pay attention to, is to the emotional - and henceforth the particularity - bases of our moral acts. Were we accept that moral judgment is a judgment about the way we ought to act in front of other people, we would have to admit that, in order to help anyone, or to support his or her attitude, we necessarily need to know him or her, somehow. The first type of moral obligation that we do normally have is the one between us and the members of our family, the one the Greeks would call the philia kind of moral. That is a very natural/certain emotion; we always want all the best for the ones we love. We would always help them if they need our help or support. The love we feel to our family and friends is the engine of our moral aptness to help them anytime they need. Could we then not suppose that what Rorty here says is similar to the Polemarchus definition of justice as to do the good to the friends and the bad to the enemies? Such an answer is out of the question for Rorty. To admit philial love as the basic reason for our interest in helping another person is just the first step to understand the mechanism of more general aspects of our moral obligation. The idea that we can love every human being just for the fact that we are also human beings is a very general and abstract idea, not really compatible with our daily experience. Something extraordinary must be happening in order for us to interrupt our selfinterested activities and pay attention to someone else’s problem or state. Normally, in order to feel compassion towards someone else and to be able to do anything to help him or her, we need to be able to exchange place with him or her. So, should our neighbor suffer a car accident, we would have more reasons to worry about his state than if we were to hear on TV that someone else (a stranger) had suffered a car accident. The kind of altruistic love of a priest who advises us to love every single human

Susana de Castro


being is, at first sight, a very noble one, but in fact it is all fake. We do need affinity in order to be able to do some good to anybody else. The religious way of seeing moral obligation is a very popular one in philosophy since Kant wrote his Critic of Practical Reason, and that's why Rorty is more found of discussing the moral problems with novel-writers than with philosophers. Literature, and not Philosophy, is the place to find valuable moral lessons, says Rorty. The keen and accurate capacity that a writer has to expose the human soul without cosmetics is remarkable. The writers do not search to describe any human being as a saint, a moral example without maculae, on the contrary, were he to aim at doing that, he would not be considered a good writer. Literature tells us to pay attention to our daily relations to our relatives, friends and colleagues. Who cares when we talk beautiful about the human beings in general as if they all were our brothers and sisters if in our daily relation with others we are crude and pay no attention to their feelings? We are not necessarily crude to another person because we want to, but because we are not able to become aware of his or her feelings. By reading more philosophical works than literature, we may become insensible to the fact that we may unconsciously do someone else harm. Rorty struggles to support a sense of rationality that does not seek an access to unconditionality, as the Plato - Kant canon imposes. In his pragmatist definition, rationality is nothing more than that capability to persuade someone through words, not violence. The sense of rationality as access to unconditionality and as an overcoming of human contingence and finitude has no place in a real secular (and romantic) society. As a moral rationality concern, Rorty insists upon a strong feeling that is capable of throwing us out of our daily self-interested life and make us care about someone else's life. Rorty calls it appropriately an 'excessive demand'. It is an excessive, and not a moderate or a natural demand, as Kant would say just because it is a demand whose origins are not in our necessities but in that of another person. What makes us go beyond our normal egoism and say something like 'that may be good for me but bad for them, so it is better not to do it'? For Rorty in order to go beyond our egoism we need a strong feeling that connects us with the person that may be hurt by any of our act or who needs our help. He agrees with Hume that the feeling of reliability that we normally share with the members of our family is the strongest moral feeling that we have; it is responsible for the feeling of being part of a group. We can explain this 'group feeling' as the one which is expressed by the sentence 'he or she is one of us'. This group feeling, supported by the feeling of reliability, is the basis upon which we


The Rortyan Concept of Justice as a ‘Larger Loyalty’

are able to attend to more, larger 'excessive demands', once we associate it with the capacity of our imagination. In order to enlarge the target of our moral judgments, that is, to make it support the demands of people outside our family and friends, we need to be able to be somehow touched with the situation of the others. As Rorty says, using the 'he or she is one of us' argument, we can progressively, using imagination, enlarge our moral sympathy from our family, to our friends, to our neighborhood, to our countrymen and so one. For that we need to be touched by the situation the other is person is going through, we need to imagine how it is to feel what he or she is now feeling, so that we can say he is one of us and we are ready to help her or support her demands. Rorty identifies a moral progress in a society in general when new generations are able to be touched and to be curious towards different kinds of people, which their parents had never imagined considering as 'one of us'. The moral debate is put on a wrong path when we say that the big issue is the one between altruism and egoism, and then in order to be altruistic we don’t really need to abdicate our egoistic search for our own happiness or a variety of values and moral justification for actions. Despite recognizing that, in order to be happy, we need to admit a variety of moral possibilities of choices and values, we may still think that there must be a minimum of universal values as basis for any moral judgment so that if someone were to disregard them, he or she would not be considered a moral person. Thus, although we may consider it important accepting that there are different kinds of lives and also different options of values for each one of those lives, and that this is necessary if we want to live in a pluralistic society, we also think that one should not disregard the fact that some choices ought to be forbidden if they hurt some essential just values, as contract, law, duty, reasonability, equanimity etc. The most notorious example of a choice of life, which hurt these minimum basic just values, is Nazism. In a democratic society the moral existence of a group that propagates racial hate would be unacceptable? For Rorty our societies have gone through a radical change, which means that we don’t need any kind of unconditional, ahistorical or determinated explanation of the way we should conduct our lives, and this eliminates the possibility of this minimum moral, as above mentioned. In our secular society any kind of value must be accepted since all of them are the fruit of a human decision and none has the authority to judge anyone’s right has to express herself the way she wants. That means that we should accept that when someone decides to worship Nazi ideology, solong his hate speech don't imply acting in conformity with those kind of speeches, but at the same time we are not forbidden from trying to

Susana de Castro


persuade her by words that she may have chosen a bad path to conduct her life after, that she probably would not achieve any satisfactory life following this kind of ideology. But we have to admit that such a person who sustains hate speeches are not very found of any kind of rational talk. Western societies have achieved a high degree of enlargement of loyalty amongst all their members. Through a constructivistic sense of rights, which means that a democratic state ‘construct’ a bill of public righs such that it tolerate all religions and has none as its official, it guarantee access to education for all its members in spite of gender and race, thus abolishing the possibility of slavery. Much more things need to be done, but the fact is that those societies achieved a kind of ‘overlapping consensus’, using Rawls terminology, about the rights of everyone to the resources necessary to the development of a fully and complete life. What Rorty says is that this is the result of the action of civil movements in the history of Western societies after the Enlightenment and not the result of a process of being more and more rational. He argues that the gaining of rights is the result of Enlightenment liberalism and not of Enlightenment rationalism. Should we accept the Rortyan analysis, as I do, we would agree with him that we need to redescribe reason and rationality. ‘Reason’ can not be described as faculty of pure principles anymore, of unconditional arguments, which all human beings posess based on their humanity. Contrary to that, ‘Rationality’, in Rorty’s use of Michael Walzer’s distinction between the Thick and the thin, would be nothing more than the capacity of distancing the self from the thick relations which build the trust-bounds between us and the ones which are near us, accepting more and more different sorts of people and communities in our circle of trust, and thus getting more and more thin kind of relations of trust. Acting so, we would be able to feel ourselves affiliated with individuals we never saw before and whose habits of culture are very different from ours. Trying to enlarge our moral compromise trough this process of thinning our trust-based arguments would be a more convincing way of achieving that what Rawls calls an ‘overlapping consensus’ between Western and non-Western cultures. Instead of telling nonWestern societies that they have to tolerate all kind of religious expressions or to grant access to education to women because that’s the rational way to behave, one should try to persuade them through the rhetoric of good arguments. To give space for rhetoric is an effort liberals think to be worth doing in order to achieve an overlapping consensus of which should the civil rights be between all people on Earth. In order to get closer to this messianic kind of political utopia, one would need to agree that rationality


The Rortyan Concept of Justice as a ‘Larger Loyalty’

is a culture connected concept.2 What for someone from a specific society means rational behavior can mean irrational behavior for somebody else who lives outside that culture. The discrepancy of rationalities is not a reason of stopping to try to enlarge the boundaries of our comprehension of whom is worth treating just and who is not. On the contrary, believing that the culture of human rights3 is one, we should promote, means that we should not give up to try to convince the members from other cultures, trough words and not through violence, that adopting a construtivistic justice concept and giving up on traditional bound justice is a better way to live together.


Pragmatism and romanticism. In: In: Richard Rorty, Philosophy as cultural politics- Philosophical Papers IV. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 105-119. 3 Human rights, rationality and sentimentality. In: Truth and Progress – Philosophical papers vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 1998.


Rorty argues in “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy” and other places that democracy cannot and therefore need not be provided with metaphysical or epistemological foundations.1As we shall see, this is not a particular fault of democracy but a function of a more general position that Rorty holds, namely that there are no such things as metaphysical or epistemological foundations. What this means is that, on Rorty’s view, democracy cannot be found wanting because of it failure to do this. Nor does it does mean that democracy “cannot be justified.” This is a most important point because many philosophers confuse Rorty’s claim with what would be a more radical and substantial claim that democracy cannot be justified. However, Rorty’s view is simply a rejection of a certain model of what justification ought to be. Whether democracy can be justified is a matter of contingent fact that can only be determined in the effort to do so. In this paper, I will attempt to explain what this means and to defend Rorty against one of his important critics. Robert Talisse in “A Pragmatist Critique of Richard Rorty’s Hopless Politics” (Southern Journal of Philosophy (2001) Vol. XXXIX) attempts to show that Rorty’s rejection of the foundational project leads to a politics of hoplessness–to the view that democracy is no better than tyranny. After a careful articulation of Rorty’s view I will show why Talisse is wrong in his assessment of Rorty but why his critique is suggestive. What would it be like to offer a metaphysical or epistemological justification of democracy? On Rorty’s view it would be to put forward and defend a theory of human nature in terms of which democratic institutions could be seen as justified because they best fit with what it is to be human by allowing humans to flourish in the richest way. Perhaps an example would be useful. Plato famously argued that there is, built into the 1 Rorty in Objectivity, Relativism and Truth, Cambridge University Press, 1991 pp 175-196.


Rorty on Democracy and Justification

structure of things, a harmony between the types of human beings and the necessary functions of the state. There are human beings who are dominated by their appetites and who will live fulfilled lives insofar as their lives are taken up with the production and consumption of products. There are human beings whose lives are a function of a spirited element which suits them for military lives and lives of management. Finally there are those who are ruled by reason and who will find fulfillment leading lives of reflection, leadership and policy formation. At the same time a properly functioning state requires just these three activities arranged in a hierachy with reason at the head followed by spirit and desire. Thus the ideal political unit is determined by its own requirements for its operation and, at the same time, it offers to each human being the opportunity to fulfill his or her own nature. There is, therefore, a coincidence of public and private good in the ideal social arrangements. Whatever Plato’s own views, such a coincidence of functions means that the state will be perfectly functioning when each individual achieves his or her own perfect fulfillment and vice versa.1 If this sort of story is correct than a particular political arrangement is justified by a correct view about the nature of things. Politics finds its ground in the nature of things. Metaphysics underlies political philosophy. Now, Rorty would deny any such story not because it is wrong in detail while some other similar story is true but because it is the wrong sort of story to tell in the first place. Rorty contends that concepts like “human nature,” and “the essential nature of the self,” have been used by philosophers in ways that are necessarily empty or that only gain content by way of some prior commitment. How might we come to some account of “human nature” except by observing human beings and such observation will always be of particular human beings at particular times under particular circumstances. In fact, we might suspect that with regard to Plato’s story a certain de facto order of political institutions is privileged in the process. Without attempting to prove the point, let me simply assert that Plato’s theory of human nature is rigged to produce the “sorts of human being” that are needed for a well functioning state as he conceives the latter. His conception of the state is prior to his account of human nature and therefore cannot offer it any independent support. This is worth reflecting upon because “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy” is a commentary on Rawls and particularly on Rawls’ A 1

I say “whatever Plato’s own views” because Plato may have actually thought that the state was prior to the individual and it was its well functioning that takes priority but that is not essential to the view as I have sketched it.

Michael Hodges


Theory of Justice . Initial readings of that work placed it in the context of the Enlightenment project to derive an account of justice from a neutral concept of reason.2 Rorty’s reading, on the other hand and in line with Rawls’ own later interpretation, brings the notion of “reflective equilibrium” to center stage.3 Rawls claims that all moral argumentation is a matter of attempting to achieve such equilibrium among our considered judgments. What does this mean? In its simplest terms it means that we begin where we are. No theory of justice will be acceptable if it implies slavery and this because it is one of our considered judgments that slavery is wrong. On the other hand, while many are impressed with the “right of animals” others remain unconvinced. Thus some judgments form part of the “bedrock” of our moral outlook and others seem to float more freely. There are some moral judgments that any theory must respect and other judgments that might be modified if a theory implied their contraries. Moral thinking is a matter of constructing an equilibrium between considered judgments and a systematic method or theory. Rawls’ theory of justice is one such attempt at reflective equilibrium. Now if we accept such an idea, the first and most important point is that all moral argumentation begins in media res. We begin with the judgments that we have and we forge lines of argument that depend on these antecedent agreements. It is worth noting that the context in which agreements occur may be quite local and specific. One of the problems with the context in which these issues are normally discussed in philosophy (The Enlightenment Project of Justification) is that it focuses us on a level of generality and contextlessness which seems to be required for “first principles.” In contrast, think of the ways in which high level negotiations between radically disagreeing parties take place (Israelis and Palestinians for example). They do not take on the “deal breaking” in principle issues first but work for agreement on low level relatively straight forward issues to build a sense of community.2 2

Rorty, The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy in Objectivity, Relativism and Truth, Cambridge University Press, 1991 p. 184. 3 I don’t mean to suggest that “reflective equilibrium” has not been central to Rawls’ work all along but simply that some philosophers overlooked its centrality and its implications. Rorty here admits that he was originally among that group. Further that recognition is occasioned by Rawls’ own later work specifically Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical, Philosophy and Public Affairs 14 (1985). ii This point was brought home to me in a paper by Zach Vandeveen given at the 2007 Tennessee Philosophical Association entitled Pragmatism and Democratic Legitimacy.


Rorty on Democracy and Justification

Where we cannot find agreements, however, we cannot construct arguments. One might, at this point, define a democrat simply as one who is committed to finding or creating agreement–to keeping the conversation going as long as possible. Only if agreement can be reached can the parties to the conversation see themselves as self determined. And self determination is the heart of democracy. Rorty says, “We do not conclude that Nietzsche and Loyola are crazy because they hold unusual views on certain “fundamental” topic; rather, we conclude this only after extensive attempts at exchange of political views have made us realize that we are not going to get anywhere.”4

We must engage others. We must see what they believe and how that might fit with our own beliefs. Out of this we try to construct points of agreement from which we can move but there is nothing in the nature of things that guarantees success. Again the democrat is animated by the hope of success. For him or her, the ideal is to be understood in terms of self determination and that means that the other can be brought to see why the democratic path is the best path. However, we should not confuse a hope with a “metaphysical or epistemological reality.” Dewey makes this point so clearly in A Common Faith5. The metaphysically inclined want to see the ideal as a fait accomplait at the end of the day. For the pragmatist it is just an ideal but an ideal nonetheless. Ideals leave work to be done and leave us to do the work. It might be supposed that to hope for something is to be committed to the view that the thing hoped for is a good and that this commits anyone who engages in such hope to a realist answer to at least one meta-ethical question, namely that something really is good. Rorty would certainly reject this claim and his reasons for that will be made clear when we consider the analogy between his position here and his views on truth as developed in Consequences of Pragmatism. Rorty does, of course, think that democracy is the best form of government. And he believes that arguments for it should prevail but there is “nothing in the nature of things” that guarantees that outcome. Without shared sensibilities formed in concrete contexts of communal living, no argument will be persuasive-this just what Rorty calls the priority of democracy to philosophy. At the end of the day there will be no way to distinguish between an argument that simply did not, in fact, reach the desired conclusion and one that cannot reach a conclusion. All we can do is to advance the best arguments 4

Rorty, p. 191 my emphasis. See Dewey, John, A Common Faith, Chapter 2.


Michael Hodges


that we have and see where they get us. But saying this is not admitting a failure of arguments. We are only commenting on the actual argumentative situation. There is a sense in which Rorty’s view here is a matter of simple honesty. He believes that all argumentation begins somewhere with what Rawls calls “considered judgments” and moves from these. Sometimes we dress up such considered judgments with titles like “self evident” or “principle of rationality” and we contend that those who do not accept them are “not rational” or just “crazy” but this is rhetorical flourish which does not advance the argument at all.6 It is name calling which is all we have left if we have come to the end of the argument. This is the way actual argumentation happens and a metatheory about “the moral truth” will not change that. Again, the democrat is committed to keeping the argument open, perhaps because he or she knows that when the argument comes to an end the only alternative is force. That we might come to that is the looming danger that keeps the democrat at the table talking. Of course, there are practical or strategic limits to this openness that will be discussed below. It is important at this point to be clear about how the discussion is going. At a minimum the claim is that the notion of reflective equilibrium is neutral with regard to meta-ethical issues. What this means is that we can proceed with the argument without taking a stand on, say, moral realism. However, it might be argued that that does not imply that one could not be a moral realist in any case. Practically we must proceed as Rawls and Rorty suggest but behind that practical necessity, it will be contended, is a metaphysical issue that is unresolved. However, Rorty takes the neutrality as evidence for his claim that there is nothing in such issues in the first place. Since what we might say about realism has no impact on our political discussions, we would do well to stop talking about those sort of matters altogether. Clearly, the latter claim is stronger than the former and clearly Rorty supports both the former and the latter. The former is for him a descriptive claim and the latter is a “philosophical” gloss on it. In doing this I take him to be cashing in his pragmatic commitment. If there is no pragmatic difference in outcomes there is no difference in meaning. Being a realist, and by the same token, an antirealist makes no substantive difference to where we stand on political issues so the difference has no pragmatic meaning. Now if pragmatism is a metaphysical thesis then Rorty is a metaphysician but I take the thrust of pragmatism to be deflationary in so far as it requires that supposed 6

In fact as I will argue it retards the argument.


Rorty on Democracy and Justification

differences in meaning must make a difference in our lives. A purely metaphysical difference is no difference at all. I want now to turn to Talisse’s discussion of Rorty’s position. He contends that Rorty’s own position which Talisse calls “antifoundationalism”–what I have described as the view that we begin all arguments, including moral arguments where we are-is derived by way of a disjunctive syllogism from the dichotomy foundationalism/antifoundationalism. If we knock off foundationalism then all we are left with is antifoundatinalism. He asks, “Why should we think that Rorty’s disjunction between ‘foundations’ and ‘idealizations’ is exclusive?”7 But does Rorty offer such an argument? Talisse tries to force Rorty into a false dichotomy by attending to an inessential feature of the argument. Rorty does characterize the debate between Rawls and Nozick in terms of different “idealizations” of aspects of our political institutions but that is only accidental. The important point is that our premises have to come from somewhere once we reject the enlightenment notions of “self evidence or principles of reason.” In Rawls and Nozick’s case they come from different “idealizations” but in other cases they will come from different places. I have already commented on the unfortunate generality which pervades these discussions. So when Talisse says “it is unclear whether anyone today really thinks that a foundationalist proof of the kind Rorty describes is possible,”3 (I assume that Talisse means to includes himself in that group) he has already given up the ship on the key point that Rorty wants. When he goes on to say Rorty “has not shown…that the only alternative …is his brand of hopeful antifoundationalism,” I would point out that Rorty does not have a particular brand of “antifoundationalism”. He is simply at pains to dispense with the whole issue on pragmatic grounds, i.e. what we say here does not further the real discussion. If we accept my way of characterizing Rorty’s position, namely that he accepts Rawls’ notion of reflective equilibrium as the model which all moral argumentation actually exemplifies then he simply refuses to go any further. That is, he simply refuses to further characterize these “starting points” as anything more than “considered judgments” We need not go on to raise the question of foundations in the enlightenment sense because that further claim will have no bearing on how the argument proceeds. Certainly Rorty positions himself over against the rationalist project because, as he sees it, that project has captured the field at least to the 7

Talisse p. 615. Talisse p. 615


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extent that it defines the options. But that is, in Rorty’s view, an historical accident that seems to force us to take a stand in the terms given to us by that project. In this way the affirmation of reflective equilibrium is really not a denial of foundationalism but a rejection of the vocabulary in terms of which the issues has been set. In pragmatic terms that vocabulary has no cash value for the discussion. It is a sort of window dressing. “Reflective equilibrium” is simply the name Rawls gives to the points at which moral argumentation begins without the necessity of taking a stand on the issue of “foundations.” It may be objected that Rorty does not actually take the tack that I have attributed to him. Perhaps that is true but it is the tack that he should have taken. It is sufficiently similar to moves that he makes in other places that we can make a case by analogy. For example, in Consequences of Pragmatism he argues that the best “theory of truth” for the pragmatist is no theory.4 We ought to be concerned with truths and not with Truth. Similarly, we should construe him here as suggesting that we ought to be about the actual arguments and refuse the vocabulary that the history of philosophy seems to force on us. The “evidence” that he offers for these “positions” is merely the history of attempts to say something interesting about truth. He says, “Pragmatists think that the history of attempts to isolate the Truth or the Good or to define the word “true” or “good” support their suspicion that there is no interesting work to be done in this area.”5

So again we can see Rorty as refusing to engage a certain range of (non) questions which philosophers have posed. He has attemped to simply change the subject as Talisse suggests.8 But he does not do so on the basis of a “philosophical argument.” Rather, he suggests that the vocabulary of “foundations” and with it “antifoundations” has not added anything to our discussions. Being “antifoundationalist” in Rorty’s sense is not to accept a position which is defined by denying what the foundationalist affirms. Rather it is to reject the terms of the debate as not helpful to our political discussions. If we need a label for Rorty’s sort of view we might call it “contextual.” One last point needs to be made clear here. If one insists that Rorty must offer (or must be offering) a philosophical argument in favor of his “antifoundationalist” conclusion then one open to the charge of begging 4

Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism, University of Minnesota Press 1982 xiii. Rorty, Consequences, p. xiv 8 Talisse p 618 5


Rorty on Democracy and Justification

the question. After all, as Rorty points out, in so far as he is taking up a position outside of philosophy and recommending that others do the same, he cannot with consistency offer philosophically satisfying arguments for that recommendation because if he were to do that he would be by that act demonstrating the limit of his own view. On the other hand, of course those who are committed to the enterprise of philosophy will have to find his considerations in support of his recommendation inadequate because they do not amount to a serious or well crafted philosophical argument. Here we seem to have an impasse which can only be “settled” in a more wholistic way. All we can do is to see what sense broadly taken each position makes of the material at hand. But doing that will not be neutral because it will be to already accept Sellars’ injunction about how to think of philosophy which of course is to already accept Rorty’s side of the debate.6 Talisse would not accept this sort of deflationary interpretation of Rorty’s view because. he thinks that philosophical or “Big” questions are unavoidable. Thus he holds that Rorty’s position, which as we have seen he calls “antifoundationalism,” is an answer to a Big Question. Talisse does not tell us what he means “Big Questions” but they seem to be equivalent to the very metaphysical questions that Rorty wants to drop. And Talisse is right that if there is no room outside the matrix of philosophy traditionally conceived, Rorty will have failed to survey new ground. I have tried to argue that there is such a space and that Rorty has taken possession of it. Be that as it may, Talisse is certainly right that Rorty cannot consistently claim that his view is a “Big Answer” to a Big Question. That is Rorty is committed by his own view to denying that any vocabulary including his own is final in the sense that it finally puts things in their place and gets it right. This is true for two reasons. First, it is Rorty’s view that, in the most robust philosophical sense, there is no such thing as “putting things in their place” or “getting it right.” and second since he thinks contingency goes all the way down (which is another way of saying that there is no such thing as “getting it right” once and for all) that must be true his own views as well. But is Rorty’s antifoundationalism an answer to a Big Question? On the deflationary reading that I have offered the answer is no because Rorty’s deflationism is a rejection of the idea that there are Big Questions in the first place. If we see Rorty’s antifoundationalism not as the acceptance of a positive thesis which affirms what the foundationalist denies but as a rejection of the terms of 6

See Consequences, p. xiv he quotes Sellars famous dictum that philosophy is “an attempt to see how things, in the broadest possible sense of the term, hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term.”

Michael Hodges


the debate then his position is not an answer to such a question at all but a rejection of the question. Talisse’s rejection of this point becomes clear when on page 619 he says that Rorty’s “political antifoundationalism must be thoroughly antifoundational….[and] must therefore concede that his view is no more justified, reasonable or coherent than any variety of foundationalism” (my emphasis). Surely this is false or at least misleading. What Rorty must concede is that any argument that he makes for his “antifoundationalism” begins from premises that are not “self evident” or “self authorizing.” Of course, Rorty thinks that those premises are reasonable and therefore his position is more justified than the alternatives but he is aware that others may not see it that way and even if they do that will simply be where the argument got on this occasion. In short, he would only be committed to the “no more justified” thesis if he accepted a foundationalist account of justification which neither he nor Talisse do. So when Talisse says that “Rorty’s political antifoundationalism places liberal democracy on a philosophical par with tyranny” (p. 624) we must disagree. It would be true only if we accept a foundationalist account of “philosophical par” which we do not. There is much that the democrat can say to the tyrant that should be convincing but unfortunately the tyrant may not see it that way but as long as there is any hope of success the democrat must keep the debate open. Perhaps the best way to put the point that Rorty wants to make is to say that there is no such things as justification in principle only justification. Thus there is no way to say in advance whether democracy can be justified. That will have to be fought out in the heat of battle. Justifications happen in context and for particular individuals. We cannot say in advance who they will be or what resources they will bring to the discussion. In the most straightforward sense, whether democracy or any other substantive position can be justified is an empirical question that will have to wait for the arguments to be advanced. So when Talisse says that democracy is on a par with tyranny he is holding out for “justification in principle.” In other words, he is refusing to allow Rorty to slip the foundationalist/antifoundationalist dichotomy. Talisse argues that this cannot be done because he contends that democracies “must answer some of the Big Questions in order to function.” 7 I do not know what it means for a question to be “Big” and I am not helped by the list of such questions that Talisse offers.For example, he mentions the question “When does human life begin?”8 That this is an 7 8

ibid Talisse p. 620


Rorty on Democracy and Justification

important if somewhat ambiguous question I do not deny. But what does it mean to call it “Big?”10 Does this mean that the sort of vocabulary and thinking that traditional philosophers deployed on various questions will be required to give it an answer? Certainly a decision must be made so that a range of practical matters can go forward. And that decision should be supported by reasons that have broad appeal. Need we say more? Rorty would not reject the question but I really have no idea what is added by the term “Big.” Of course, Talisse is right that pragmatists must treat their answers to the sorts of questions he calls “Big” as open to revision. So long as there is disagreement the pragmatic democrat must make room for discussion, for to close off discussion is to impose a solution in a way that forecloses self-determination. And that is ipso facto anti-democratic. This is the moral of my discussion earlier. When Talisse says that “Big Questions are still open questions.” (p. 619) I think that he is again misleading. If Rorty is right there are no Big questions only questions so it is not that the question “What is Truth?” is still an open question for Rorty. On his view we would do well to forget about such “questions”. In the same way we should forget about the question, “Does Democracy have foundations?” and get on with the business of developing the best arguments we can to engage those who are willing to enter the discussion. The most that might be admitted is that the question “Are there Big questions?” is an open question. Two final points before we see where all this has lead us. I am puzzled by Talisse’s discussion of what he calls an “historical point.”11 He correctly point out that it is characteristic of an antidemocratic regime to remove certain questions from debate and treat them as answered. Such questions are not allowed to figure in the ongoing inquires within that regime. In fact, there are typically sanctions against anyone who would pursue such inquires. All this is true but why is it relevant to the argument? When Rorty suggests that we turn away from certain issues like the problem of Truth or Foundations, surely he is not making or proposing a policy decision to be backed up by state sanctions. Rorty, of all people, wants these matters open for discussion. His opinions as to the outcome of those discussions are one thing and the openness of the discussion is quite another. When, at the very beginning of his essay, he cites the Jeffersonian compromise between private belief and public policy, he leaves open the space of inquiry and debate about private matters and even debate about 10

It seems to me ambiguous just because the term “human” here is problematic. In a biological sense of course human life begins when certain identifiable biological processes begin but there is not much discussion or debate on that point. 11 Talisse p. 619

Michael Hodges


what is public and what is private. It is certainly wrong to suggest that Rorty has antidemocratic tendencies embedded in his suggestions that we might do better to set certain question aside. When presenting his own alternative to Rorty’s so-called antifoundationalism Talisse makes two key point–one is certainly correct and the other is beside the point. First, he is certainly correct when he says, “Rorty’s strategy of dismissing democracy’s enemies rather than attempting to engage them is likely to strengthen the antidemocratic tendencies that are already operative within our society.”12

This is clearly correct as a strategic contention and has nothing to do with the contingency of agreement previously discussed. Democrats must always be willing to engage the argument and, as Talisse puts it, “force the enemies of democracy in the arena of public debate.” It is worth noting that in the passage quoted earlier, Rorty only comes the his “dismissive” conclusion after “extensive attempts at the exchange of political views.” But even so we need to be committed to discussion and inquiry. Of course, the enemies of democracy may not be willing to discuss and that is a very different issue. They may simply take action to bring about the down fall of democracy and then different measures will be called for. Talisse’s considers the case of Stalin who tries to use the language of democracy to dress up what is clearly a brutal dictatorship. He is certainly right that this is nothing but disingenuous posturing on Stalin’s part. However, it is important to look at what Stalin actually says and whether he really means what he say. Stalin may very well appeal to “democratic” principles to justify some of his actions and we may be able to engage that appeal if he is willing to be a serious discussant but his “willingness to discuss” may also be nothing more than a strategic ploy to delay until he gets his troops in place. Here one is reminded of his question when told, near the end of the war, that the Pope had objections to some particular course of action, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” he asked. Certainly the pragmatist need not be a blind idealist and simply talk himself to death. Where I think Talisse misses the point is with regard to what can happen in the arena of public debate. The form such debates will take is as we have described earlier. That is, it will begin with considered judgments on which there is agreement and move from there to the construction of arguments that seek to support a democratic conclusion. At the same time, the very act of continuing the discussion is an instance of democracy 12

Talisse p. 623


Rorty on Democracy and Justification

because it is motivated by the desire that the other be able to own the conclusion and so act upon it as his own, i.e. to be self determining. Of course, what our considered judgments are will be a function of the experience, we or others have had and so we might hope by piling up experiences, to effect what judgements are brought to the table. We might seek descriptions of the experience of others so that we can test our judgments but this is surely what Rorty has in mind in Contingency Irony and Solidarity13 when he recommends literature to us. In that way we may get a feel for lives that we cannot or do not want to live and thus come to appreciate lives that may be very different in content from our own. Think, for example, of the wonderful descriptions of the transformation that overtakes Huck Finn as he travels down river with Jim in Mark Twain’s classic.14 If there is no advanced agreement the democratic contestant will attempt to find or fashion agreements in a variety of ways that can provide the basis for further discussion. Claims to “self-evidence” or the “dictates of reason” will not advance the argument and may, as I will argue in a moment, actually stand in the way. So while Talisse is certainly correct that we must force the enemies of democracy into the public arena what happen there will be a Rortian/Rawlsian discussion supplemented with a call for enlargement of our experience. Finally I believe that the rationalist project may actually serve to cut off discussion and truncate debate in something like the way that appeals to the will of God do. If, as proponents of that project contend, there is a truth of the matter, it must be the case that “free and open discussion will produce ‘one right answer’.”15 Then given that we have had such a free and open discussion which has not produced “the right answer,” we must conclude that our opponents (not ourselves, of course) are “mad” or “crazy.” If there is an Independent Truth about the matter and the other guy does not see it, that can only be because either he is not thinking in good faith–a hidden agenda–or because his “seeing equipment” is not working, i.e., he must be defective in some way. Given the pragmatist commitment to keep the discussion going wherever there is a good faith effort to find agreement we are never forced to that wall.


Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1989. The last chapters.


See Thomas Crocker’s An American Novelist in the Philosopher King’s Court, 26 Philosophy and Literature 57-74 (2002)


Rorty , The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy, p. 176


1. Introduction: Democracy – the phlogistonic ideology? Democratic is, nowadays, any approach at any level; it’s the only universalizing context in contemporary society. Why is this the case? Because of an obvious progress and due to various pseudo-intellectual absolutist attempts. Democracy is the guarantee against any future Holocausts (symbol of the foundationalism specific to privileged representations), as well as the kind of cultural politics expressing whatever works best now, while a post-epistemological and postmetaphysical philosophy is the required cultural coherency in this matter. This coherency between philosophy and democracy, confirms that the cultural realm can be tailored, as Dewey thought, on politics. “Democratic phlogiston” takes off from a socio-political level and remains a non-conceptual holistic connector; there is an obvious congruence with Darwin and his concept of chance. Democracy is not the end, but rather something in between “living in hell” and whatever humanity will produce next at a societal level (its connecting-phlogistonic virtues are supposed to produce progress – reducing cruelty – and then disappear). It is the expression of the Deweyan substitution, in politics, of “the sort of knowledge which philosophers have usually tried to attain”, with hope. The previous philosophical distinctions are replaced with a single one: past/ future.1 This happens in the context of a need to cohere intellectual discourse with the Darwinian picture of the world; this also means giving up on the God’s eye standpoint, meaning that truth is no longer accepted as the “higher aim of inquiry”.2 1 2

Rorty, R., Philosophy and Social Hope, Penguin Books, p. 24. Ibidem, p. 38.


Contemporary Society under the Tyranny of a Democracy of the Truth

Rorty speaks of a similarity of tone between biological evolution and cultural evolution: “Biological evolution produces ever new species, and cultural evolution produces ever new audiences, but there is no such thing as the species which evolution has in view, nor any such thing as the ‘aim of inquiry.”3 What I am trying to propose is the decency of an ironist approach towards the pseudo-ideal system of democracy. Among the reasons I shall be offering is that the latter is not a perfection (meaning – an end) – something coherent with the ironistic idea that all attained contextual truths are equally far from the universal TRUTH, as well as why it can be seen as a tyranny, but also in what way a democracy of the truth is nothing else but the idea of giving up on classic epistemology and philosophy, and tailor culture on politics. Since this isn’t possible, even if we were to accept the fact that natural sciences are no longer fit, one can still speak of a so-called social practice of scientism, which is more valuable than consensus (and replaces chance with rigor). This works best with what Rorty argues in “Philosophy as cultural politics”, when re-stating a Jamesian standpoint – “truth and reality exist for the sake of social practices, rather than vice-versa. Like the Sabbath, they are made for man.”4 I would suggest looking at the whole picture in a less artificial way than Rorty. I would agree with Habermas in the manner of not just giving up on the absolutist attitude, i.e. the attitude of rationality, but at the same time add to this a staying on the surface attitude, by not idealizing any concept and maintaining the social approach. The alternative could be Habermas’ practical discourse, where agreement is guided by the strength of the reasons. The German philosopher insists on the importance of “ideal-role taking”: “As participants in practical discourse, we must distance ourselves from our contingent interests (…) in order to arrive at an impartial judgment of everyone’s interests.”5 Eventually, when trying a synthesis, it gets down to Rortianism or Habermasianism. There is a triangle, which connects everything: Darwinism – antiessentialism – democracy. 3

Ibidem. Rorty, R., Philosophy as Cultural Politics, Philosophical Papers, Vol. 4, 2007, Cambridge University Press, p. 7. 5 Festenstein, M.., Pragmatism and Political Theory. From Dewey to Rorty, The University of Chicago Press, 1997, p.151. 4

Cerasel Cuteanu


“… Darwin’s empirical story…unfitted us for listening to transcendental stories. In the course of those years we have gradually substituted the making of a better future for ourselves, constructing a utopian, democratic society, for the attempt to see ourselves from outside of time and history. Antiessentialism is one expression of that shift. The willingness to see philosophy as an aid to creating ourselves rather than to knowing ourselves in the other.”6

What all these lead to is Rorty’s oxymoronically-sounding postmodern bourgeois liberalism (“the Hegelian attempt to defend the institutions and practices of the rich North Atlantic democracies, without using Kantian butresses”7), where “postmodern” is used in Lyotard’s sense (“distrust of metanarratives” which are narratives describing or predicting the activities of such entities as noumenal self or the Absolute Spirit…symbols of ahistorical backups) while bourgeois liberalism is the antonym of philosophical liberalism. Why the oxymoron? Because it is hard to “disentangle bourgeois liberal institutions from the vocabulary that these institutions inherited from the Enlightenment.”8 In the background we have to keep in mind the three-cornered debate in contemporary social philosophy9, which makes a so-called sociocultural progress obvious: 1) Classic society was built around the ahistorical Kantianism; 2) Marxism is a new turn where philosophy is discredited, the consequence is that institutions are given up; 3) Deweyanism maintains institutions and gives up on philosophy; the compromise is that a philosophy should be tailored on politics (politics come first, philosophy only after). The latter imposes a semi-ontological primacy of democracy, based on which whatever is outside it can be tailored/ conquered, by phlogistonic invasion, afterwards. The main aim is that of increasing political freedom and diversity among human beings by making tolerance the chief virtue, in a context where prudence replaces morality, which used to be connected to ahistoricism. Thus, Rorty’s famous phrase, from Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity – take care of freedom and truth will take care of itself.


Philosophy and Social Hope…, pp. 68 –69. Rorty, R., Objectivity, Relativism and Truth, Cambridge University Press, 1991, p.198. 8 Ibidem, p. 199. 9 Ibidem, p.192. 7


Contemporary Society under the Tyranny of a Democracy of the Truth

2. Democracy – a change of paradigm, without being an end of the ideological chain Keeping up with the progress in philosophy, contemporary society suffers various mutations, as the separation from classic Western tradition is obvious on various levels. Naturally, after the absolutist 20th century, which tried to forcefully produce a human progress, under an improperly assumed Nietzscheian intellectual influence, the only system, which is coherent with a Darwinian perception, remains democracy (defined, by Dewey, as “generalized Darwinism”10). According to pragmatism, the philosophy the most coherent with this ideology, it is not surprising to say that democracy has priority over the cultural realm, i.e. philosophy in our case (obviously an ideology of equality can’t generate a scientist approach on a philosophy tailored on politics). The natural outcome is a non-absolutist view, which at the level of epistemology causes an essential mutation – the classical metaphysical realism of the spectator theory, obsessed with certainty and “the way things really are”, is replaced by solidarity and the tolerance, disseminated by the Rortyesque concept of “cultural politics”. The purpose is that of reducing cruelty in a liberal society. But as it is admittedly impossible to produce a utopian system, there is always a corner where tyranny is felt, even inside democracy. What is important is the fact that democracy did not actually compete so as to be offered the chance to show its superiority, rather Rorty goes with Winston Churchill’s view - democracy is the worst form of government imaginable except for all the others, which have been tried so far11; “It is just the way we live now.”12 Reasonably enough, certainty is not something sought for! Democracy fashions freedom, laxity, in the name of equality and reducing human suffering, as individual must be catered to at a contingent level. Stepping into philosophy, when conceiving the latter, we take off from Darwin, instead of Descartes (as was the case up until the 18th century). It is not quality that matters in the case of democracy, but rather not taking a stand, not making a statement, not imposing an excessive individualism outside of contingency (but rather an individualism that displays solidarity with the crowd). And this can be construed only with 10

Philosophy and Social Hope…, p. 27. Rorty, R., Objectivity, Relativism and Truth, Cambridge University Press, 1991p. 29. 12 Ibidem. 11

Cerasel Cuteanu


the limitations imposed by majoritarianism. The axiom – though axiomatisms are not possible in a group that is supposed to show tolerance towards every vocabulary – is one discussing the possibility of accommodating individual interests with the public ones. The society of progress is one aiming for average – there is more interest in ethics, moral behavior rather than in outstanding ideas; could it be that democracy is a cultural decadence? Considering the leveling it imposes amongst individuals, there are both losses and gains involved. In our quality of late comers (as Rorty would say), we are no longer interested in the classic obsession for attaining “certain” truth (the well known Western paradigm from the Greeks till soon). If in the 18th century, the cultural realm of certain truth was natural sciences - “the most promising cultural development at the time”, now sciences are no longer the most interesting or promising area of culture (as history of science has shown how pointless it is to speak of a scientific method13). Democracy could be, thus, accused of cultural opportunism. Literature and politics are the spheres where one should look into “for the charter of liberal society”. In this context, it is hoped that culture as a whole can be poeticized, rather than rationalized.14 Under the given circumstances Horkheimer and Adorno, as well as others, believed that liberalism – lacking foundations – would be intellectually bankrupt.15 A possible reply, in neopragmatist fashion, is that there still is a conservation glue (by analogy with their notion of social glue) holding everything together, as people want to live longer and better (an individualist Darwinian type of progress, as well as something rooted in Calvinism). Protestantism “gives a spiritual gloss to equality” but also instigates the belief in a “moral authority of the majority”, when legitimating the wisdom of a numerous assembly as opposed to a single man. Parallelly with the lack of foundations at a social level, there is, at an epistemological level, a Rortian type of anti-representationalist approach Rorty replaces the correspondence theory of truth with the fact that in a liberal society the idea of truth is what comes to be believed in the course of free and open encounter16. Dewey also supports the fact that liberal society needs not have views about truth outside the encounter of opinions. Antirepresentationalism 13

Rorty, R., Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 52. 14 Ibidem , p. 53. 15 Ibidem, p. 56. 16 Ibidem, p. 68


Contemporary Society under the Tyranny of a Democracy of the Truth

connects with political liberalism through ethnocentrism. Rorty believed that liberal culture avoids the disadvantages of ethnocentrism by being “open to encounters with other actual and possible cultures.”17 The issue of possessing truth is not a thing to pride with; actually it leaves the possibility for others to be right too, when we don’t impose our own “perfect” truth. The lack of foundations in democracy derives from its essence as a place empty of power and is coherent with the improperly called “epistemological”, philosophical project of antifoundationalism. Still, when taking off from Darwin and Nietzsche, one cannot leave aside necessary concepts, such as interest, chance and will to power. The “deliberate …pragmatic silence on ultimate questions” made a global human rights culture possible. The culture of democracy starts with that, not particularly as a relation of grounding, but realistically we have to admit that power is still a purpose even in a lax system based on equality. If we follow Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”, we can speak of a refined tyranny – the tyranny of the majority, which is coherent with the tyranny of the consensus at a cultural level.

3. Democratic Tyranny, Tocqueville, Consensus Tocqueville speaks of a “strong linkage peculiar to our time, between what is politically absolute and what prevails in the intellectual/spiritual realm”; modern democracy is seen as supported by a rationale.18 The classical–epistemological certainty is replaced with other more important (for present context) human values, i.e. happiness, progress, and tolerance. “Increasing the degree of tolerance”19 that is cultural politics, with everything it entails, has primacy over philosophy, or better said, imposes on philosophy. In the “space”, where politics and philosophy communicate one can identify an inherent “soft” totalitarianism: the Tocquevillian omnipotence of the majority imposes an un-intellectual approach of everything, thus resulting an equality on brains; tolerance is applied when trying to reach a conclusion, thus consensus. Everything seems a debate among persons without minds…The best solution is no longer possible, only the better one 17

Rorty, R., Objectivity, Relativism and Truth, Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 2. 18 Maletz, D. , Tocqueville’s Tyranny of the Majority Reconsidered, in The Journal of Politics, Vol. 64, No. 3, Aug 2002, p. 755. 19 Rorty, R., Philosophy as Cultural Politics, Philosophical Papers, Vol. 4, Cambridge University Press, p.3.

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matters (a sign of admitted historical relativity); still the better is just a relative version of the best, whose empty place it occupies; there is nothing of novelty – it’s just the coherentization of the best with historical relativity…The better than better remains a perpetual option – an attitude which can affect the well organized minds, for all they are allowed to do in order to impose their view is to bring arguments forward, in Habermasian style; since their judges are contingent intellects, it doesn’t matter whether the opinion they put forward is excellent, but only if it’s persuasive. Their only force remains persuasion (Rorty), while doing the right thing and recognizing the most valuable thing, are no longer an end, unless it coincides with the result of consensus (what I want to avoid is the tyranny of a bad opinion, based on a consensus, thus leaving aside the best opinion, relative to one or more contexts; of course the latter does not get outside of the contextual, it doesn’t absolutize itself). Another possible explication could be connected to the antidualist dimension of philosophers such as Nietzsche, Davidson, Dewey, Foucault; they replace the distinctions/dualisms inherited traditionally from the Greeks (essence/accident, appearance/reality...) with panrelationalism. The latter “lets us put aside the distinction between subject and object (….) and thereby helps us put aside the correspondence theory of truth”20. This aforementioned indistinction between subject and object could be interpreted as the Tocquevillian equality on brains. If before, the unique ones were seen almost as essential subjects, inside the majoritarianism dimension their “social objects” were the non-unique individuals; after levelling things this way, everybody stands a chance to impose an opinion by attaining agreement with their fellows. It is an antimetaphysical attitude that is melted into the system, based on slogans, like the Rortian “Everything is a social construction”, specific to pragmatism. Thus, direct contact with “reality” is no longer something taken into consideration; everything is socially mediated at this point. No more “knowledge by acquaintance”, but only “knowledge by description”, as Russell used to say. Rorty sees all awareness being under a description, and descriptions are “functions of social needs.”21 This follows the Hegelian path of avoiding the dogmatism of an unknowable thing-in-itself. Hegel, by trying to avoid the distinction between subject and object, ended history with a union of subject and object. Instead, adds Rorty in Philosophy and Social Hope, “it would have been better if Hegel did what Dewey did later: describe intellectual and 20 21

Philosophy and Social Hope, p. 47. Ibidem, p. 49.


Contemporary Society under the Tyranny of a Democracy of the Truth

moral progress simply as the growth of freedom, as leading to democracy rather than to Absolute Knowledge.”22 Thus, no interest in certain truth, but instead everything for “the political goal of increasingly free societies and increasingly diverse individuals within them.”23 Antiessentialism imposes an identity between knowing things and using them; a natural reaction would be that “it is too anthropocentric, too much inclined to treat humanity as the measure of all things.”24 The antiessentialist conception of the word human fixes a “fuzzy but promising project, rather than an essence”; thus “pragmatists transfer to the human future the sense of awe and mystery which the Greeks attached to the non-human.”25 The antiessentialist attitude is coherent with democracy, since by its inherent panrelationalism (“Everything that can serve as the term of a relation can be dissolved into another set of relations, and so on forever. There are, so to speak, relations all the way down, all the way up, and all the way out in every direction: you never reach something which is not just one more nexus of relations”26), it anticipates universal equality inside democratic society. One should not oversee the fact that modern democracy was a system resulting out of the frustration caused by inequality; it appeared as a protest. It only seems something transitional (and Dewey spoke of present as “a transitional stage to something which might, with luck, be unimaginably better”27) and preventive – it aims at preventing fanaticisms, which used to be caused by an emphasis on matters of ultimate importance (“The Holocaust demonstrates both the prudential necessity of human rights and their ultimate fragility”28). Rorty sides with Thomas Jefferson, when rejecting foundational authorities, which sounds, at times, MarxistHabermasian. A good example is the relaxed attitude towards religion (“it does me no injury for my neighbor to say that there are twenty Gods or no God”29). Instead, he recommends, for the sake of democratic society, “a moral faculty common to the typical theist and the typical atheist.”30


Ibidem. Ibidem. 24 Ibidem p. 51. 25 Ibidem- p.52. 26 Ibidem, pp. 53-54. 27 Philosophy and Social Hope, p.30 28 Ignatieff, M., Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, Princeton University Press, edited by Amy Gutman, p. 81. 29 Rorty, R., Objectivity….,p.175. 30 Ibidem. 23

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Religious beliefs, as usual representatives of foundationalism, are inessential for political cohesion. Religious matters should not be left to die or forbidden, but only privatized. According to Dewey, liberal democracy doesn’t need the ultimate importance of philosophical justification; philosophical articulation is enough. Rather, philosophy is the result of politics (a Rawlsian standpoint, as well). Once foundationalism – coherent with natural sciences – is left aside, an antifoundationalist attitude, which leaves aside matters of ultimate importance, as well as possibly skepticizing, epistemological distinctions, stays at the surface of deciding based on contextual consensus. In what the Tocquevillian equality applied to brains is concerned, “democracy replaces the emphasis on the special distinctiveness of a few with an emphasis on the general well-being. It prefers what is common to all to what is unique only to a few”31, without denying the uniqueness, or the excellence; nevertheless it’s not the concern of democracy to cultivate uniqueness, and un-average… This is the new approach towards the individual: no need to be exceptional, we may have no use for you. The result? Trick the system, that’s what excellence becomes; next, the unique individual is forced to not have a character, as ideals are not pragmatic. A consequence is that the classic noblesse of the excellent unusual is replaced with the need to be coherentist; why fight democracy when it’s only natural to fit in holistically and just cope with what’s around socially? Still, its implications encourage mediocrity, which may look like a crisis of the individual. The exceptional individuals must give up their superior inflexibility and get into mud to fight- means don’t matter- the better individual is the one that wins. Of course, this is not far from the absolutist Sartorian leader, which combines both approaches: the coherentism of democracy (a horizontal approach) and the hierarchic aristocracy (a vertical approach, in the sense of going up the verticality chain of power). Is democracy another type of absolutism? During monarchy, absolutism was linked to a person; democracy’s absolutism is linked to an abstract idea – individual rights (whose only non-foundational foundation is a psychological trauma, at a level of civilization traumatized by the Holocaust; otherwise no real foundations, no intelligent justifications have been offered, thus the accusation of Eurocentrism).


Maletz , p.755.


Contemporary Society under the Tyranny of a Democracy of the Truth

The latter induce the essential importance of tolerance, realized through a secularized faith, coherent with modern democracy; an aspect of this faith is majority tyranny.32 According to Tocqueville, “each type of government harbors one natural vice which seems inherent in the very nature of its being”; “The vice consists in strengthening the predominant element beyond measure so that it becomes not just absolute in principle but unresisted in fact.”33 Tocqueville identifies the germ of tyranny in the omnipotence; it becomes tyranny when power is employed tyrannically. Majority doesn’t tyrannize in the style of former tyrants; all majorities can do is impose their standards universally, which become limits, actually. The individual not obeying limits will sacrifice public recognition34. The latter can be fought through Habermas’ regulations to the practical discourse (rules that are used in order to ensure discursive freedom and fairness, e.g. no one competent to speak should be excluded, everyone is permitted to question or introduce any assertion, and nobody should be prevented by fraud from participating35). These limits do tyrannize the individual, but in a more refined manner: it’s something like this – here, you have all the freedom you like, at an objective/societal level, so don’t come to me with metaphorical problems! See, everybody agrees with me (at an average level), so if you don’t fit into our group, it’s something wrong with you, not with us, as we are the keepers of truth (at least in the given context). This type of reply to an excellent individual can produce serious personality deviations, maybe similar to the Orwellian observations. “Take away freedom of speech and the creative faculties dry up”. The main purpose of anti-essentialism, antirepresentationalism or anti-foundationalism is creativity, self-creation, metaphorical/original thought. Davidson and Hesse speak of metaphors not having meanings, in other words not being melted into literal indistinct matter; but how can un-common speech be effective in the absence of outcomes? How can we still believe in creativity of the unique individual - thus respecting his rights – if his freedom of speech will be less important than what majority decides? The only answer Rorty would have would be persuasion; same way majority can impose consensus on the individual who disagrees – thus persuasion can be used on her too.


Maletz, D., p.750. Ibidem, p. 753. 34 Ibidem , p.756. 35 Festenstein, M., Pragmatism and Political Theory… p. 151. 33

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The extreme negativity of persuasion is when through it, one can break his fellow’s self – “Getting somebody to deny a belief for no reason is a first step toward making her incapable of having a self because she becomes incapable of weaving a coherent web of beliefs and desires. It makes her irrational in a quite precise sense: she is unable to give a reason for her belief that fits together with her other beliefs.”36

This person will end up stating: “I no longer have a self to make sense of.”37 I would tend to see the unique individual like a metaphor, not understood by the literal/indistinct/non-original realm, and forced into the limits of the average; under the circumstances she needs power to persuade the average individuals to give her their consensus. This is similar to the Platonic allegory of the cave, but the result is not unique, it’s just the one of the best, nevertheless it should not be failed – it’s the type of tolerance I would call “negative indiscrimination” (it’s not negative to indiscriminate the exceptional, it’s just paying attention to details). Democracy is, admittedly, the best system; nevertheless it can turn into a tyranny, as is obvious when following Tocquevillian rationale. “Soft tyranny” over the mind is one of the implications of democracy. Majority rule is populist and “enforces its egalitarianism through an adamant repudiation of all forms of aristocracy.”38 The ethos of democracy is very different from pure individualism (read un - commonality). Majority should be distinguished from totality. Democracy attends to averageness, but then again same does truth in its pragmatist antifoundationalist understanding – “the general good is not to be understood in moral terms, for it does not seem to require excellence of character or even great competence. Tocqueville repeatedly describes it in terms of prosperity.”39 Democracy by its coping with Darwinism, in the context of the universal collapse of “the beliefs supporting…rights grounded in religion and mores”, imposes the antidote of the linking to personal interest. Tocqueville sees this idea almost as beautiful as the idea of virtue.40 36

Contingency… , p.178 Ibidem, p. 179. 38 Maletz, D., Tocqueville’s Tyranny of the Majority Reconsidered, in The Journal of Politics, Vol. 64, No. 3, Aug 2002, p. 743. 39 Ibidem, p. 745. 40 Ibidem, p.747. 37


Contemporary Society under the Tyranny of a Democracy of the Truth

Next appears a universal-interested recognition of the rights-tointerests of our others as well; everybody has these rights; “independently of… what that person has done or achieved.”41 Another reply to those intellectuals, pretending to be subjects, while their fellows their objects, could be one with Darwinian resonance. In Philosophy and Social Hope, Rorty argues that “Darwin made it hard for essentialists to think of the higher anthropoids as having suddenly acquired an extra added ingredient called ‘reason’ or intelligence, rather than simply more of the sort of cunning which the lower anthropoids had already manifested”. Moreover, Rorty suggests nothing more than cultural progress, parallel with biological evolution – “…essentialist philosophers have tended to forget that they substituted ‘language’ for ‘mind’ in order to accommodate Darwin…”42. At the same time, language is not a third term, endowed with mediating, representing functions, but “as providing tools for coping with objects rather than representations of objects.”43 This type of approach is one expressing what Rorty understands by moral progress – the moral irrelevancy of differences amongst people44. The resulting spreading of human rights would reduce the amount of cruelty in the world (acting because of pain, thus reducing cruelty, becomes a metaphorical pragmatic God, result of human intuition, or experience, an idea that Ignatieff shares, as well45). While democracy is linked to improvement, and maybe hope, aristocracy is connected – in Tocqueville’s opinion – with preservation; making the detour towards epistemology, if hope implies an active search for solution (achieving a consensus), preservation suggests an attained purpose, which is hierarchically superior to anything underneath. It’s a linearity that imposes a blockage into individualism; the individualism imposed in a democratic system is a sociological – collective one, made up by the consensus obtained inside an ethnocentric multiplicity. Imagine


Ibidem. Philosophy and Social Hope, p. 64. 43 Ibidem, p. 65. 44 Ignatieff, M., Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, Princeton University Press, edited by Amy Gutman, p. 4. 45 „Why do we need an idea of God in order to believe that human beings are not free to do what they wish with other human beings; that human beings should not be beaten, tortured, coreced, indoctrinated, or in any way sacrificed against their will? These intuitions derive simply from oyur own experience of pain and our capacity to imagine the pain of others. Believing that human beings are sacred does not necessarily strengthen these injunctions” – Ignatieff, p. 88. 42

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many groups, like circles searching paradigmatically whatever works best for them and then extending the result to as many audiences as possible. Attached to democracy is the image of constant activity – new needs are always discovered, while government is supposed to act so as to address those needs; Tocqueville speaks of a constant agitation and energy never found in any other political order. This could be paralleled with the activity presupposed by the agitation necessary for achieving consensus in an antifoundationalist perspective. There are two main contemporary manners to conceive this: Rorty (the “cultural relativist”, according to Putnam) and Habermas…

4. Rorty and Habermas – pragmatism and validity Democratic - liberal society started with the vocabulary of Enlightenment rationalism, but would be better served, from Rorty’s perspective, by a vocabulary “which revolves around notions of metaphor and self-creation, rather than around notions of truth, rationality and moral obligation.”46 Habermas agrees with the pragmatist approach but tries to find a compromise between the two extremes, thus aiming at protecting liberalism from comunitarians’ critique. Democracy does not need philosophical foundations (Enlightenment fashion); nevertheless, it uses “the Davidsonian- Wittgensteinian account of language” and “the Nietzschean-Freudian account of conscience and selfhood.” ”These accounts do not ground democracy but they do permit its practices and its goals to be redescribed.”47 So, when talking about democracy, instead of discussing its foundations we shall touch upon its goals of redescription. This dedivinization specific to a culture of liberalism is enlightened, secular and has no trace of divinity inside it. “In such a culture, warning of relativism (…) would seem merely quaint.”48 Rorty is at the end of a chain of thinkers – Nietzsche, James, Freud, Proust, Wittgenstein – which conceived freedom “as the recognition of contingency”, a recognition representing “the chief virtue” of a liberal society49. Philip Rieff speaks, in “Freud the Mind of the Moralist” about Freud democratizing genius, by giving everyone a creative unconscious; 46

Contingency, Irony… , p. 44. Ibidem. 48 Ibidem, p. 45. 49 Ibidem, p.46. 47


Contemporary Society under the Tyranny of a Democracy of the Truth

imagination is so richly treasured by Freud, that the art/life distinction is useless. To him, says Rorty, imagination is a “faculty for creating metaphors.”50 Confining the decision to a democratic majority of a context can be explained in the cultural mirror; liberal society searches for progress, while progress is irrational (if we were to only think of Christianity, Gallileanism, Enlightenment or Romanticism). Any progress was the result of “fortunate falls into temporary irrationality”; the rational/irrational distinction becomes superfluous – “there is no standpoint outside the particular historically conditioned and temporary vocabulary we are presently judging from, which to judge this vocabulary.”51 There is no getting out of the Heraclitian flow, or contextual decision making by way of majoritarian consensus. Here, persuasion takes the place of force; replacing the terms, rhetoric is more important than the cold force of logic. Intellectual progress was made possible by metaphors (Hesse); thus should one understand the importance of Rorty’s “ways of talking”. Realists would call the Rorty –like philosophy, relativistic, as they would say everybody must see truth’s intrinsic reality. Rorty’s reply is that pragmatists don’t have a theory of truth, much less a relativistic one. As a partisan of solidarity, his account of the value of cooperative human inquiry has only an ethical base, not an epistemological or metaphysical one. Not having an epistemology, a fortiori he does not have a relativistic one.52.Knowledge is to pragmatists nothing more than “a compliment paid to the beliefs which we think so well justified that for the moment further justification is not needed.”53 Pragmatist can only be criticized for her ethnocentrism, but not for relativism, as she is guilty of not detaching herself in order to “look down at it (n.n. community) from a more universal standpoint”; she can only be criticized for taking her community too seriously, due to the treasuring of solidarity.54 This is one more proof in favor of the argument that democracy is not the end of progress, but rather a form of government that can be overcome.


Rorty, R.., Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 36. 51 Ibidem, p. 48. 52 Rorty, R., Objectivity…, p. 24. 53 Ibidem. 54 Ibidem, p.30.

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Following after a totalitarian century of the post-holocaust, democracy as a system, proving to be less dangerous than its competitors, at the level of social impact, is seen as having to be accepted, no matter what. Democracy, as a system that leaves aside any matters of ultimate importance, may not be powerful enough so as to support cotemporary society, but it would not be proof enough to conclude that the previous attempt to “embody a universal and ahistorical order” is a weaker solution than viewing social institutions as “experiments in cooperation.”55 The latter refers to nothing more than giving up objectivity in favor of solidarity (Rorty agrees with Dewey that inside the concept of objectivity, there is nothing outside of intersubjective agreement56); a possible interpretation could also be that democracy is so praised – even though not a performing system, not an elitist one, as humanity hasn’t come yet out of the shock provoked by the two world wars, where a fanatic absolutism of the thinking had outrageous effects. Habermas moved discussion at the level of discourse – something coherent with the Wittgensteinian-Rortian idea that truth belongs to sentences and is not something “out-there”, waiting to be discovered; thus consensus is replaced with agreement, as proper end of discourse. Agreement “reproduces – says Festenstein – an important feature of Rousseau’s general will: it does not mark merely a mutually beneficial cooperation among participants but the transformation of individual interests into an impartial judgment about what is the interest of all.”57 The Habermasian view is the solution to the earlier mentioned Tocquevillian soft tyranny, as it aims at universal agreement. The latter is produced when disputants “are committed to solutions which secure everybody’s agreement.”58 It is a solution of the compromise, specific to an exhausted intellectual world; it is rather technical, brings nothing new and merely mirrors a reverted Rortianism – therefore if Rorty’s accused of being relativist, while he dismisses such possibility, Habermas could be accused of being a realist. What saves him – and that’s why he can be accused of pulling a stunt without solving the problem – is that he doesn’t force the possibility of reaching such ideal agreement, but instead admits perpetual instability, which doesn’t solve the problem more than Rorty’s extension of discussion to as many audiences as possible:


Objectivity…, p. 196 Rorty, R. – Truth and Progress, Philosophical Papers, Vol. 3, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 7. 57 Festenstein, p. 151. 58 Ibidem, p. 153. 56


Contemporary Society under the Tyranny of a Democracy of the Truth “People must remain committed to reaching universal agreement throughout a process of discussion in which all their other commitments are unstable”59.

All these lead to the admitted tension in Habermasianism between validity and facticity; at the same time, M. Festenstein challenges Habermas’ discursive ideal of impartiality from “Between Facts and Norms”. What the latter aims for in discourse is “acceptability under idealized conditions. It is only some such transcendental moment of unconditionality which can distinguish justified agreement from social convention: something outside the agents who happen to agree.”60 Still, this doesn’t serve as a solution to our problem; had Habermas proposed some kind of impartiality which would function same way as a transcendental one, but which had nothing outside social-contingent components, he would have been more than the classic intellectual who plays with fascinating concepts. Since he doesn’t do that, he is nothing else but a metaphysical realist, maybe antirepresentationalist, but still not the kind of philosopher on Rorty’s taste… The unconditionality factor pushes discussion outside the initially agreed-upon contingency territory; Habermasian “unconditioned” is the “universal discursive community, that is, the idea of an open but ultimately cumulative process of interpretation that transcends the boundaries of social space and historical time.”61 The entire demonstration does nothing else but to merely serve Habermas’ conviction that validity transcends pragmatist context. His reply is that one should not reduce the above to the Putnamesque “God eye view”, but rather to our best standards and values. This would have worked just fine, if Habermas hadn’t slipped into absolutist terms, such as unconditionality or rationality. Still, the ideal communicative community is most needed for the technical concept of discourse. Another dogmatic answer Habermas gives is connected to the minority who presumably should give up what it thinks to be right just because she cannot secure the agreement of others. Habermas’ answer, which Putnam considers a Kantian moral theory: one needs to preserve rationality, which can be done “only by entering into a discourse.”62


Ibidem. Ibidem, p. 156. 61 Ibidem. 62 Ibidem, p.157. 60

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Concluding, the entire discussion around Rorty and Habermas and their views on consensus begins from the definition of democracy as “the application of the notion of discourse to politics.”63 The difference between the two is connected to the fact that the German sees possible a reasoned agreement, as aim of an ideal procedure. While consensus is the fundamental aim, if it can’t be attained, a decision will be made by majority rule; this decision constitutes itself into a caesura in the ongoing discussion. This could be Habermas’ reply (from Between Facts and Norms) to the Tocquevillian tyranny of the majority: majority decision is acceptable until the minority manages to convince the majority that their views are correct.

Conclusions According to Rorty, the only power we have over the world is that of recognizing contingency and pain; following this path, self-creation becomes more important than discovery. The idea of truth as being “out there” was inherited from “an age in which the world was seen as the creation of a being who had a language of his own.”64 So, truth, as perceived by Romantics (truth made rather than found), imposes a superiority of imagination if compaired to reason. When asked about the relationship between the progress of democracy and the reducing of cruelty, Rorty answers something that let us see the fact that he understands the possibility of an unbalance between sides of society; hopefully institutions, like free press, free universities and so on will manage to prevent unnecessary suffering.65 Democracy aims at avoiding fanaticism, but unless it maintains an ironist approach, it may turn into a fanaticism itself. In order to prevent the latter, a bit of social-scientist attitude needs to be melted in the system. If we think of everybody being equally far from an ideal Truth, we can see the context of a democratic crowd looking for a conclusion that would express the consensus of the majority. From here on, Rorty speaks of seducing as many audiences as possible, thus seeing truth always relative to an ethnocentric group (since a God’s eye standpoint is not possible), while Habermas disagrees with the American philosopher insisting upon the importance of validity.


Ibidem, p.162. Contingency, Irony…, p.5. 65 Take care of Freedom…, p. 81. 64


Contemporary Society under the Tyranny of a Democracy of the Truth

Rorty speaks, in “Contingency, Irony... ”of a de-divinization of both the world and the self, when giving up the “one right description”, that is neither of the two speaks to us, like having a language of its own. Thus, neither wants to be represented in a specific way66. The solution is a compromise between Rortianism and Habermasianism – maintaining rigor, without falling back into conceptual fanaticisms. It’s the only way to situate ourselves in between relativism and absolutism/realism; the only condition is that Habermasian rigor needs to be construed Rortianically/ socially/contextually, while validity must become pragmatically elastic. It’s an artifice of the solidarity, which could extend democratism towards the missed edges of minoritarianism. Maybe totality is not possible but reducing the cruelty shown towards the audiences of the exceptional individuals by majoritarianism is something worth fighting for.

Bibliography Festenstein, M. – Pragmatism and Political Theory. From Dewey to Rorty, The University of Chicago Press, 1997. Ignatieff, M. – Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, Princeton University Press, edited by Amy Gutman. Maletz, D. – Tocqueville’s Tyranny of the Majority Reconsidered, in The Journal of Politics, Vol. 64, No. 3, Aug 2002. Rorty, Richard – Philosophy and Social Hope, Penguin Books, 1999. —. Philosophy as Cultural Politics, Philosophical Papers, Vol. 4, 2007, Cambridge University Press. —. Objectivity, Relativism and Truth, Cambridge University Press, 1991. —. Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, Cambridge University Press, 1989. —. Truth and Progress, Philosophical Papers, Vol. 3, Cambridge University Press, 1998. Rorty, R. & Engel, P. – What’s the use of Truth, ed. by P. Savidan, Columbia University Press, 2005. Rorty, R. – Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton University Press, 1979. Take care of Freedom and Truth will take care of itself, interviews with Rorty, R., ed with an introduction by Eduardo Mendieta, StanfordUniversity Press, 2006.


Contingency, Irony…, p. 40.


In this paper I examine Michael Ignatieff’s pragmatic argument for human rights as presented in Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry. (Ignatieff, 2001). On his view, we should reject the following kinds of familiar attempts to advance human rights: human rights norms express true moral propositions; human rights are principles that no reasonable person can reject; human rights are principles that bring our intuitions and judgments into reflective equilibrium; and human rights are principles that would be accepted by rational agents willing to opt for cooperation as an alternative to violence. Ignatieff insists that we should reject these views about human rights not because they are false, but rather, because they are irrelevant. Defenders of this view claim that this approach to human rights is the best we can hope for in a context of cultural, religious, and political diversity. (Cohen, 2004) Against the pragmatic conception, I will argue that without a moral foundation, defenders of human rights lack a basis for appealing to human rights to make justified claims against persons as well as states and their policies. In other words, the pragmatic argument for human rights cannot justify the role that human rights play in justly limiting and authorizing political power. Moreover, a moral argument in favor of human rights has to be in some sense foundational; otherwise, human rights claims are either mere assertions or simply descriptive claims about what we happen to believe. The paper is organized as follows. Part I outlines the central theses of Ignatieff’s argument. Part II presents an objection to the idea that stability and conflict avoidance are the central political ideals that lie behind the idea of human rights. In Part III I offer some comments on how the debate over competing conceptions of justification for human rights bears on what might be termed the aspirational morality of political philosophy. This is followed by an objection to another facet of Ignatieff’s argument which is that human rights are justified because they enable the capacity for moral sympathy.


Pragmatism and Human Rights

Ignatieff argues that human rights should be defended from a perspective which eschews all foundational claims. In his words, “Foundational claims…divide, and…cannot be resolved in the way humans usually resolve their arguments, by means of discussion and compromise. Far better, I would argue, to forgo…foundational arguments altogether and seek to build support for human rights on the basis of what such rights actually do for human beings.” (Ignatieff, 2001, p. 54)

The argument strategy advocated by Ignatieff has much in common with the familiar claim that political and legal ideals need not rest on a moral foundation. Although one can argue for liberal ideals, including human rights norms, the justification for such ideals cannot be traced back to any principle of moral justification or any thesis about fundamental human interests, human nature, or moral truisms about human life. There are at least two dimensions to Ignatieff’s argument. Sometimes he claims that ideals such as human rights are justified when they are justified because of the conflicts they enable persons and institutions to manage. At other times Ignatieff invokes the idea that human rights norms enable our capacity for moral sympathy and thus defends a position that is similar to Rorty’s. (Rorty, 1998) The argument from stability and conflict avoidance and the thesis that we should affirm human rights because they quicken our moral powers represent two facets of Ignatieff’s position. On this view, conflict avoidance and conflict management rather than morality or justice is the rationale for human rights. There is of course a long tradition from Hobbes to Gauthier which insists that political norms can be both normative and justified by agreements among rational agents motivated by their self interest. (Hobbes, 1651/1994; Gautier, 1987). According to this tradition, an instrumental conception of rationality serves as the basis for political morality. This does not entail that political ideals are non-normative. Principles agreed to out of self interest are in one sense normative; they accommodate and endorse appropriately constrained motives of self-interest. Yet Ignatieff’s position entails that even this conception of justification is too foundational. After all, the claim that rational agents are constrained-maximizers will divide the room no less than the claim that agents cannot, in so far as reason has authority over their wills, avoid acting under the idea of the moral law. The pragmatic argument for human rights insists that all debates about the justification for human rights should be put aside as impractical and outmoded. On this issue, Ignatieff agrees with Rorty’s claim that “The best…argument for putting foundationalism behind us is…[that] it would be more efficient to do so….” (Rorty, 1998, 176) We should set aside all

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aspirations to show that human rights follow from moral principles we all share, or should share, because human rights can support agreements without having to establish their justification. The other dimension to the pragmatic argument is that human rights enable our capacity for moral sympathy. There is a philosophical conviction which underlies this point; namely, the best we can hope for is a discourse which makes more perspicuous the principles that animate our self understanding. This is one of the things that human rights do; they enable us to express our convictions more clearly than we could if we lacked human rights concepts; human rights concepts enable what would otherwise be an impoverished moral discourse because they enlarge the scope of our understanding of who counts as a subject of moral concern. As Rorty put it: “We think that the most philosophy can hope to do is to summarize our culturally influenced intuitions about the right thing to do in various situations. The summary is effected by formulating a generalization from which these intuitions can be deduced….That generalization is not supposed to ground our intuitions, but rather to summarize them.” (Rorty, 1998, 171)

So human rights are suppositions; they are not, however, arbitrary suppositions; instead they command our assent because they enable us to make sense of who we are and how we think; and a moral discourse shaped by human rights allows us to make better sense of who we are than does a moral discourse without human rights. And so we should defend human rights. There are a number of considerations that one might invoke in favor of a pragmatic justification for human rights which conjoins considerations of stability and moral sympathy. Here are three examples. First, when those involved in drafting the UN Declaration of Human Rights attempted to reach a consensus about both which rights should be affirmed and how these rights should be construed each had to compromise her or his philosophical convictions about human rights. As Mary Glendon shows in A World Made New, had members of the committee that produced the Declaration not been able to set aside some of their fundamental philosophical disagreements about the justification for human rights, the document would have never been completed. (Glendon, 2001) A pragmatist defense of human rights can appeal to examples like this one as the basis for insisting that it does not matter why various persons (or institutions) affirm human rights. Rather, that human rights can serve as the basis for agreements about political obligations and international law is


Pragmatism and Human Rights

all that really matters. Secondly, human rights norms are advanced to address existing injustices. In a context of extreme global poverty and an egregiously unjust distribution of wealth and resources, meeting the needs of the disadvantaged is a far more pressing issue than is resolving philosophical disputes about the justification for human rights. Human rights claims—whatever their justification—can be effective in exposing hypocrisy on the part of the powers and in motivating persons to care about human suffering. Thirdly, a consideration of the impact of debates over human rights in the 20th C shows that, in spite of countless disingenuous appeals to human rights by states that want to get their way when they lack a justification, human rights have had a positive impact on political discourse by enabling persons to broaden the scope of moral concern across national and ethnic boundaries. There has been no corresponding progress in debates about the best moral justification for human rights. Each of these considerations might qualify as evidence in favor of the pragmatic conception of human rights. The pragmatic argument does not aspire to advance a conception of human rights which rests on a moral foundation. This is its greatest weakness. Anyone who takes seriously the claim that political philosophy, unlike some forms of politics, should advance principles of justice that do not reduce to power or to self-interest and which impose moral constraints on government that go beyond conflict resolution should be dissatisfied with the pragmatic argument for human rights. First, some qualifications. My argument against the pragmatic defense of human rights does not entail a denial of the claim that human rights augment our capacity for moral sympathy. Nor does it deny the other virtues that defenders of the pragmatic argument attribute to the growing consensus over human rights. I also concede that foundational claims divide rather than unite. Nevertheless, there are at least two features of human rights which the pragmatic argument cannot justify. (Mahoney, 2008) The first is that human rights impose non-negotiable constraints on persons and states. For example, rights against indefinite detention without due process, rights against religious persecution and rights to resources essential to subsistence impose demands on persons and institutions. The second is that human rights both limit the kinds of power which states can legitimately exercise—as in some of the examples of rights just mentioned—and authorize within limits exercises in political power—for example, in order to protect persons from having their rights violated or to distribute resources on the basis of need rather than ability to pay.

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Of course, someone might deny that human rights impose nonnegotiable constraints and that human rights regulate exercises in political power. Yet defenders of the pragmatic conception of human rights agree that rights against religious persecution and rights against detention without due process and other familiar conceptions of human rights should be defended. So the question is whether or not the pragmatic conception of these kinds of human rights is satisfactory. I claim that it is not. Consider, for example, the human rights claim ‘all persons are entitled to due process when suspected of a crime’. Were one to affirm this right on exclusively pragmatic grounds, then the kinds of reasons one could invoke would be limited either to considerations such as stability and conflict management or to claims about, as Rorty puts it “manipulating our feelings.” (Rorty, 1998, 172) Stability and conflict management are important political ideals. However, if one claims that human rights are justified just because of their role in promoting political stability or just because states which honor them are better able to manage conflicts, it follows that one cannot invoke human rights as a moral standard for criticizing political and legal practices. In other words, if stability and conflict management are the grounds for human rights then efforts to achieve stability and to manage conflicts cannot be criticized from the standpoint of human rights. Sadly, a pragmatic conception of human rights such as ‘freedom of religion’ and ‘due process’ entails that such rights are merely means rather than ends in themselves. From this it follows that human rights are not immune to cost-benefit analysis. The pragmatic argument entails that human rights norms are subject to revision in light of considering how their defense promotes the aim of stability. Nor can this conception invoke human rights as non-negotiable constraints on exercises in political power. This follows straightforwardly from any position which privileges stability in the way that Ignatieff’s does. Moreover, attempts at manipulating feelings—especially when addressed to those who want to avoid the requirements of justice—often fail. The pragmatic argument cannot explain the moral authority to override protests against being held accountable to human rights norms. Another way of stating the problem is that the pragmatic argument for human rights cannot demonstrate how human rights are norms that legal and political practices must affirm as a condition for legitimacy. This is a disastrous consequence for anyone committed to the position that familiar human rights norms (i.e. religious freedom, prohibitions against torture, etc.) serve as non-negotiable constraints on legal and political practices. If human rights are justified because of the practical aims they enable, then human rights claims are defeasible in the face of potentially overriding


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pragmatic considerations. On this view, human rights claims are like hypothetical imperatives; they fill a slot in conditional statements such as ‘If you will stability as an end, then you will human rights as a means’ without demonstrating that alternative means to achieving stability which violate human rights are to be rejected. Evidence that this is in fact Ignatieff’s position is provided in comments such as “Stability…may count for more than justice.” (Ignatieff, 2001, p. 27) To be sure, this claim is in one sense ambiguous. The insertion of “may” leaves unclear how stability and justice are to be balanced. Yet the implication for the status of human rights is not ambiguous. The pragmatic conception fails to show that human rights are non-negotiable requirements for legitimate legal and political practices. The pragmatic argument fails because it cannot provide a moral justification for the claims that human rights impose non-negotiable constraints on institutions and that human rights both limit and authorize exercises in political power. Pragmatists may object by claiming that this way of putting it begs the question because it assumes that in making a moral claim one must be appealing to grounds which justify that claim. This is a complicated issue which I cannot discuss in detail here. Nevertheless, that those who defend human rights take themselves to be making claims about what states and persons can and cannot do does provide some evidence in favor of the thesis that human rights claims appeal to moral considerations. And if human rights claims rest on moral considerations, as opposed for instance, to brute expressions of power or self-interest, then these considerations serve as a foundation for evaluating the merits of claims about human rights. To summarize: since human rights place constraints on what states are entitled to do in their national interest and what individuals may do out of self-interest these constraints must be either normative or non-normative. If they are non-normative—perhaps they are merely imposed by the powers as a mask for imperial policies—then acquiescence rather than rational acceptance will explain why the international regime of human rights norms serves as an effective basis for international relations. If they are normative, then human rights must rest on some purported authority and this authority may or may not be justified. And if the authority upon which human rights norms rest is justified, then this authority must be moral. Otherwise, an appeal to human rights could not serve as the basis for rejecting the claim that states are entitled to pursue foreign policy on the basis of national interest alone. For example, “[t]aking human rights seriously requires abandonment of the dominant view in international relations, namely, that states ought to, or at least may, exclusively pursue

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the national interest in their foreign policy.” (Buchanan, 2004, 106) This is a moral claim. To see the cost of not presenting it as such, consider a simple distinction from Rawls. In Justice as Fairness: A Restatement Rawls offers a useful distinction between the senses in which a political doctrine may be political. (Rawls, 2001, 188-89). In his view, a political doctrine is in one sense political if its principles are construed as part of an agreement born of compromise and achieved as a result of self-interested parties committed to resolving conflicts through peaceful means. On Rawls’s view, a political doctrine that is political in this way is political in the wrong way. The reason for this is straightforward: political principles agreed to out of self-interest alone are not entitled to serve as moral demands on persons and institutions. At most, any such agreement establishes the de facto efficacy of such principles and the institutional arrangement they support. This kind of agreement lacks in the authority to license claims to de jure authority. By contrast, a political doctrine is political in the right way when the principles it advances can be understood as having a justification that stems from a moral point of view, such as fairness or equality. A minimal condition for a doctrine’s being political in the right way is that its core principles be understood as having a moral justification. An argument for human rights, therefore, will be political in the wrong way if it does not rest on a moral foundation. My own view is that this is an appropriate way to characterize the aspirations of political philosophy in general and thus a defense of human rights should also be presented from within a moral framework. Some time ago, Lon Fuller claimed to show that a law practice can’t achieve the rule of law unless it satisfies formal standards with minimal moral content. In presenting his argument he proposed that we should think of the internal morality of law as “aspirational.” (Fuller, 1964, 59).mOn my view, “aspirational” is a fitting term to characterize the aim of a moral conception of human rights; the aspiration is to show that justice imposes moral demands on persons and states and that meeting these moral demands requires accepting and enforcing human rights. The pragmatic argument falls short insofar as it claims that no such appeal to morality is required. The stability argument is clearly exposed to this objection. What about the argument from moral sympathy? My own view is that there is some pretty serious confusion here on the part of those who claim both that human rights do not require a moral foundation and that human rights are justified because they enable moral sympathy. Consider what Ignatieff says on this point:


Pragmatism and Human Rights “We think of the global diffusion of…[human rights] as progress for two reasons: because if we live by it we treat more human beings as we would wish to be treated by ourselves, and in so doing help to reduce the amount of cruelty and unmerited suffering in the world. Our grounds for believing that the spread of human rights represents moral progress, in other words, are pragmatic and historical. We know from historical experience that when human beings have defensible rights—when their agency as individuals is protected and enhanced—they are less likely to be abused and oppressed. On these grounds, we count the diffusion of human rights instruments as progress even if there remains an unconscionable gap between the instruments and the actual practices of states charged to comply with them.” (Ignatieff, 2001, 4)

Reciprocity and protecting people from unmerited suffering look to me like moral considerations in favor of human rights. Of course, Igniatieff might claim that these are moral yet non-foundational considerations but this would be a feeble claim. Unless one denies that the question, ‘are these moral considerations justified or not?’ is a sensible one to ask, it is reasonable for political philosophers to ask the question. If one claims the question is not sensible, then it’s hard to see what kind of argument for human rights is being peddled by the pragmatist. Political philosophers should know better. *I thank John Exdell and Amy Lara for helpful comments. Some material in this paper is adopted from, “Liberalism and the Moral Basis for Human Rights,” Law and Philosophy (2008) 27: 151-191.

Bibliography Buchanan, Allen, Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). Cohen, Joshua, Minimalism About Human Rights: The Best We Can Hope For?, Journal of Political Philosophy, 12(2), (2004): 190-213. Fuller, Lon, The Morality of Law, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964). Gauthier, David, Morals by Agreement, (New York: Oxford University Press. 1987). Glendon, Mary Ann, A World Made New, (New York: Random House, 2001). Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1651/1994).

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Ignatieff, Michael, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, (Ed. A. Gutmann, Princeton, 2001). Mahoney, Jon, “Liberalism and the Moral Basis for Human Rights,” Law and Philosophy (2008) 27: 151-191. Rawls, John, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001). Rorty, Richard, Human Rights, Rationality, and Sentimentality, Truth and Progress:Philosophical Papers (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 1998): 167-185.


In my paper I would like to emphasise the importance of findings that Dewey’s philosophy of education with his democratic values have much to discuss with teachers and his classroom practices at present. Many fundamental problems which Dewey initially pointed out during his life became a pressing problem nowadays (also in Slovakia). Education is a social function given by a group tends to socialize its members but we know that Dewey stresses the quality and value of the socialization depends upon the habits and aims of the group. In order to have a large number of values in common, all the members of the group must have an equable opportunity to receive and to take from others. The devotion of democracy to education is a familiar fact. Therefore it is necessary to build better bridges between teachers, schools, parents, families and society. Every adult has acquired, in the course of prior experience and education, certain measures of the worth of various sorts of experiences. He has learned to look upon qualities like honesty, amiability, perseverance, loyalty, as moral goods and also certain rules for these democratic values – harmony, balance, etc. They are very important as standards of judging the worth of new experiences that parents and teachers are always tending to teach them directly to the young. Values provide the standards and patterns that guide us toward satisfaction and meaning. Dewey’s philosophy is eloquent about the duty of the teacher in instructing his pupils and students. It also emphasizes the influence of intellectual environment upon the minds. According to Dewey it is necessary to point out the value to the teacher of knowledge of the psychological methods and the empirical devices found useful in the past. Education is life itself —John Dewey

Marta Gluchmanova


In the present study, I would like to deal with John Dewey's ideas on education in modern society, compare them with some contemporary ones, and perhaps propose a possible implementation of these ideas in Slovak schools at present. Dewey's work in the field of philosophy of education is relatively unknown in Slovakia, primarily because no comprehensive work dealing with his philosophy of education has been translated into Slovak to date.1 I presume that his ideas are still current and relevant in our circumstances as well – especially as far as the period after the year 1989 is concerned, because it has seen many changes in education. Bearing in mind that the issue of education in Slovakia is not central to our politicians' attention, I must conclude that even those proposals for change that have already been made in this area – similar to Dewey's ideas in many respects – have proved very slow to take effect. Bogdan Suchodolski considers Dewey's pedagogy an important part of the history of Comenius’ (Komensky) followers, including Rousseau and Pestalozzi. The main aim of this pedagogy was an attempt at true education (Suchodolski, 1972, p. iv). Dewey's philosophical and pedagogical ideas began to form under the influence of contemporaneous thought in American pedagogy (particularly J. J. Rousseau's and J. F. Herbart’s ideas). However, Dewey found fault with the Herbart school, asserting that the child is not the focal point. He emphasised that this tendency of pragmatic pedagogy (the child / pupil becoming the centre around which the whole education is built) was not to be understood as extreme pedocentrism; rather, it was to be interpreted in the sense that pupils are supposed to work actively, live their own life, and dynamically grasp the experiences that life brings.

Experience as part of education in society The central notion of Dewey's pragmatic philosophy was the category of experience. However, the child had to learn to gain experience first. In his opinion, using experience in education meant taking advantage of the child's natural tendencies and inclinations, process management, and ability to gain experience. He stated that it was vitally important such education in which the learned skills and knowledge of pupils and students 1

In 1998, the anthology entitled Pragmatizmus (Pragmatism) was published in Slovakia, containing Dewey's The Influence of Pragmatism on Education (1909) and Chapter 24 of his Democracy and Education (1916). Apart from this anthology, some of Dewey's essays have been published in Slovak translation recently. The selection of the essays is entitled Rekonštrukcia liberalizmu (2001).


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are integrated fully into their lives as persons, citizens and human beings. He recognised the importance of the subjective experience of individual people in introducing revolutionary new ideas. For Dewey, faith in experiences was inseparable from faith in democracy. It was his Democracy and Education that brought on a revolution in the tradition of education. No longer isolated from society, school was becoming central in the fight for a better life. Contrary to the approaches of traditional pedagogy, where discipline and study materials were repeatedly emphasised, and the extremes of progressivism, which overestimated the importance of the child's inner life and interests, Dewey created his model of an active school in which experience, free activity, and respect for children's needs were in organic unity with their preparation for social life (Krankus, 1992, p. 533). Similarly, the authors of the “Millenium” project have recently outlined the general goals of the education system in the Slovak Republic: they are to be based on a purposeful and systematic development of pro-social behaviour and creation of noble values such as love, respect, good will, tolerance, trust, honesty, mutual help and cooperation, search for the right value orientation, relationship to oneself, other people, environment, and the world as such. As opposed to the traditional school, where the teacherpupil relationship was directive, the humane-oriented school puts emphasis on the humanisation of man, relationships, and atmosphere in general (Rosa, Turek, Zelina, 2000, p. 11). What Dewey had in mind was not just gaining a lot of knowledge and information on the part of pupils and students, but, most of all, developing their motives, moral powers, and adapting and finding their place in social life.2 He dealt with issues that are still current, and he was partly right to assert that the main source of “the discipline problem” in schools results from suppressing physical activity. With education largely resting on using the “mind”, we ought to indulge in physical activities to a greater extent, because the development of a human being cannot do without physical fitness under normal circumstances (Dewey, 1922, p. 175). Therefore, I believe that in the current era of scientific progress and over-technologized society, in which computers, mobile phones and other technological conveniences are used by pupils and students in schools on a daily basis, 2

Similarly, the authors of the project mentioned earlier emphasise that, apart from teaching pupils to think for themselves, it is also necessary to teach them ways of obtaining information through dynamic, creative activities, which is, after all, a lot more effective process than trying to instill loads of raw information into pupils' heads (Rosa et al., 2000, p. 29).

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we should demand, bearing in mind their healthy physical development that our students get involved in physical activities. In the concrete, the value of recognising the dynamic place of interest in an educational development is that it leads to considering individual children in their specific capabilities, needs, and preferences (Dewey, 1922, p. 163). Contemporary education emphasises the importance of treating every single personality on an individual basis. It is necessary to take into consideration any given individual's unique personality characteristics, peculiarities, and abilities to grasp the knowledge that is to be gained. Since the intellect played a sole role according to Dewey, namely that of using experience to solve problems effectively, the main emphasis in education should be put on activities and various forms of problemsolving. The process of education thus changes from handing down pieces of experience to organising their actual acquisition. The strategy of learning by doing was employed to ensure that the child is in constant contact with nature and social reality. It is thanks to activity and communication with society that man's personality is encouraged to develop (Krankus, 1992, p. 533).

Importance of values in education The term “value” had two different meanings. On the one hand, it denoted the attitude of prizing a thing, finding it worth while, for its own sake, or intrinsically. To value in this sense is to appreciate. But to value also means a distinctly intellectual act - an operation of comparing and judging to evaluate (Dewey, 1922, pp. 284-285). The specific values usually discussed in educational theories coincide with aims which are usually urged. They were such things as utility, culture, information, preparation for social efficiency, mental discipline or power, and so on. Every adult has acquired, in the course of his prior experience and education, certain measures of the worth of various sorts of experience. He has learned to look upon qualities like honesty, amiability, perseverance, loyalty, as moral goods; he has learned certain rules for these values- the golden rule in morals, harmony, balance, etc. Since Dewey did not make a strict distinction between the goals of education from the process that lead to it, it merged with the process of personality development. According to him “(i) the educational process has no end beyond itself; it is its own end; and that (ii) the educational process is one of continual reorganising, reconstructing, transforming” (Dewey, 1922, p. 72). Bearing in mind our understanding of human activity, the goal of


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education cannot be a given for all pupils alike either: it is situational, circumstantial, and has to reflect changes dynamically (Krankus, 1992, p. 533). Dewey criticised the old school3 for its detachment from life, lack of awareness of children's mental individuality, and relegating the pupil to the passive role. He claimed these elements were in contrast to the demands of the sort of developing society that calls for a new type of man. Instead, he advocated a radical change in the conception of education, one that brought school and life together. He showed respect for various psychological and social aspects, most of which became the cornerstone of his concept of society based on democracy (Dewey, 1922, p. 113). In his opinion, any new, plausible model of education had to correspond to the development of society and its new forms of social life, the dominant features being the ability of an individual to react to changing situations, search for creative solutions, and fight against rigidity and prejudices. In connexion with some negative phenomena in school and non-school institutions in Slovakia, it has been increasingly emphasised that the role of school is to establish contact with new forms of social life, unify them, and make a selection of the most essential ideas thereof. Furthermore, it must be ensured that the child understands these ideas, enjoys active contact with its social environment, and gains control over its behaviour and conduct.4 Another thing that Dewey considered invaluable was teachers' awareness of various psychological methods: a detailed knowledge of the 3

Nowadays, similar issues are brought into focus by Boyles, who states that, at the start of their professional career, many teachers had their own visions and experiences regarding what to do and how to do it in their future career. However, the social climate and fear of losing their job often makes it impossible for them to differ or stand out from the average, thus potentially imparing the structure of the school system. Instead of implementing innovations that they would greatly appreciate, many of them prefer to stay “in the old ruts” (Boyles, 2006, p. 67). 4 The authors of the Millenium project emphasise the importance of pro-social behaviour on the part of pupils, students, and other moral subjects taking part in the educational process. Furthermore, they stress the significance of ethics; abilities and skills to communicate effectively, live with other people, and help them establish progressive social relationships. Assuming that the new millenium is likely to be a millenium of humanity and emphasis on the spiritual dimensions of man and mankind, they stress the necessity to support shared values and tolerance and prepare the young for the role of responsible European citizens and participants in the working process in an integrated Europe (Rosa et al., 2000, pp. 16-17).

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child, its mental characteristics and the social environment that it comes from is a complementary part of the teacher's acquired personal knowledge.5 In this connexion Brian stressed that according to Dewey psychology should be taught in high schools as a bond between other studies and a means of making the mind more open to new ideas as well as for the student’s own self-awareness (Brian, 1998, p. 20). The pragmatic school was based on the pivotal idea of organising educational situations around specific issues that the teacher considers important. Rather than a systematic classification of knowledge, the teaching process was understood as a development of the child's experience. It is for this reason that the child was to become familiar with and remain in contact with its social and physical experience. Experience was understood to be acquired through personal activities. In this connexion, I would like to stress that nowadays demands are increasingly placed on pupils to learn by problem-solving designed to make them think effectively.6 The pupil is thus expected to seek and weigh all sorts of information, opinions, and solutions. The way Dewey saw it, the basic method of acquiring knowledge was involving in practical activities and experiments on the part of the pupil. This kind of work was seen to offer sufficient room for freedom as well as to create a sufficient number of problem-solving situations. The child's ability to solve a problem was a benchmark of its mental development.


Especially in an era when we bear witness too many negative, violent manifestations and instances of vandalism in and out of school in Slovakia as much as elsewhere, though particularly in Western countries, it is very important to get acquainted with the mentality of pupils and students influencing their behaviour and conduct. Even though knowledge of pupils and students' mental processes is repeatedly emphasised at present, university graduates training future teachers keep pointing out that, based on various studies carried out in Slovak primary and secondary schools, teachers are still not sufficiently prepared to face these issues. More thorough preparation for understanding children's and adolescents' minds is demanded so as to facilitate understanding this age group and become more prepared to face the kind of ethical and moral issues that are becoming ever more frequent in school institutions nowadays. 6 However, bearing in mind the rapid development of information and communication technologies, we often witness students giving precedence to computers and the Internet over their own reasoning and problem-solving. We should therefore look for ways of taking advantage of their interest in information technology in the process of forming their experience related to real-life situations.


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Democracy in education According to Dewey, one of the fundamental goals of the pragmatic, active school was to mould the citizens of a future democratic society and their moral and social qualities. Project-based schoolwork created the necessary preconditions for individuals to assert themselves in a group, which laid the fundaments of rational communication and cooperation habits. Learning as a cooperative form of activity is thus a process of forming the socio-ethical qualities of an individual. When addressing the issue of children’s education as preparation for life in society, Dewey adhered to the principles of his philosophy of education. Education has to be based on psychological evidence and child’s needs, interests, and process of acquiring experience, but equally also on acquiring social experience. Through individuals' integration into various groups, levels, and social environments, life itself is to be seen as a starting point of ethical education. In this connexion, Dewey claimed that a number of interpersonal relationships in any given social group are automatized. Emotional and intellectual predispositions were absent (Brian, 1998, p. 20), and social experience, primarily involving contact with other people, was one of the most essential kinds of experience. Dewey described democracy as the only social form in which selfrealisation and self-identification are possible. It gives its citizens both the right and duty to participate in and have control over public affairs, while directing them towards an identity of interests and social goals. Democracy was marked by an intensive experience exchange, securing that everyone has their right to seek their own way and to assess the situation by means of independent judgement and rational control. The moral aspect of democracy involved making it possible for citizens to think critically in order to become familiar with inevitable social changes and interpret events from a holistic point of view. Dewey's moral education was conceived of along the same lines as the newly-emergent socially-oriented individualism. Although he knew that democracy was a process that would never be brought to completion, the task incumbent on schools was to contribute to the implementation of this process. When dealing with morality, Dewey kept stressing the importance of rational, scientific principles: the moral conduct of an individual was formed by their social context and studying the demands and problems of social life. The socially-oriented function that schools are to play in order to bridge individual and social interest’s involved shared activity, establishing new contacts and cooperation, all of which make it possible for a child to develop its own social experience (Dewey, 1922, p. 417).

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The teacher's role is to help the pupils understand current moral issues, although not by means of precepts (nonetheless, verbal expressions of moral principles are important, too) (Krankus, 1992, p. 537). Nowadays, teachers face an even greater demand because schools are not isolated from society. It is ever more difficult to emphasise moral and ethical principles in schools when students frequently bear witness to lawbreaking in their own society. Dewey put emphasis on creating the kind of environment for children that would enable them to acquire social experience, make their own way in life, and establish democratic relationships with other people. The development of personality and individuality manifests itself through a growing understanding of one's actions, interest in social life improvement, social goodness, freedom, and progress. Whereas the basis of democracy lies in an individual's moral self-determination, its development depends on voluntary cooperation among all citizens. Dewey rejected isolated moral education, claiming it was to be implemented through all aspects of school life. Schools were to teach cooperation, support awareness of mutual dependence, responsibility for shared tasks, and individuals' ability to cooperate. Always involving some problem-solving, education ensured that habits related to cooperation and understanding the importance of social changes were formed. Not just the teacher, but the whole situational context, including all circumstances of the educational environment, “has to make pupils' conduct more conscious, self-consistent, and decisive” (Krankus, 1992, p. 538). Interpreted as an education of the will, character, and reason, moral education should potentially be included in any educational subject matter or teaching method – whenever children happen to be learning to think independently, organise and plan their work, make decisions and assessments, and behave responsibly. Siegel claims: “In order that theory and practice may be coordinated, there needs to be a forum where philosophers and educators can talk to each other about their common interest in improving social life. This forum is philosophy of education, that is, philosophy and education properly understood in their necessary dependence on each other. By viewing philosophy and education as Dewey does, philosophers and educators can and should work together, and talk together, so as to preserve and enhance the precarious life of their society. And those who


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largely play the role of intermediaries, facilitating the conversation as a whole, would be philosophers of education” (Siegel, 2002, p. 274).7

Dewey's place in the philosophy of education Many historians concerned with the philosophy of education claim that Dewey's insistence on a radical transformation of school and its adaptation to the demands that life places changed the structure of American schools. Moreover, it had an impact on many pedagogical innovations as well as on the development of pedagogical reformism in other countries of the world. His views on the position of the child/pupil in the process of teaching, importance of motivation, interests and child’s experience with the social function of school (central to which is cooperation and the principle of individualisation) had a considerable influence on subsequent theoreticians concerned with reforms in pedagogy in both the USA and Europe. One of the positive aspects of Dewey's philosophy of education is his effort to transcend the formalism of the old school and its detachment from life; instead, he promoted realism in the teaching process, emphasis on work education, and various social and democratic elements in education. As for teaching methodology, his contribution includes project methods and problem-based teaching. Based on a balanced diet of providing theoretical information reflecting children's interests and supporting their motivation, independence, and morality, his contemplations on the organisation of subject matter in schools were similarly important. The pivotal idea of his work – connecting school with life, school as both an institution and a place for free, creative work and preparation for life – has been the subject of pedagogues' discussion for many generations until today.


Transforming the philosophy of education in Slovakia also implies that upbringing is to become more important than education; more precisely, education is only a part of upbringing. Upbringing is a matter of society as such, not just a matter of school. The philosophy of education is based on humanism, personality development and creativity. Instead of making efforts merely to acquire knowledge, those who are being educated should also try and learn to be positive about life, find motivation and reasons to live no matter how difficult the conditions, acquire skills for social life and progressive interpersonal relationships, adopt the values of creating and protecting human rights and natural environment, and learn to be free, responsible and creative (Rosa et al., 2000, pp. 20-22).

Marta Gluchmanova


Bibliography Arcilla Vincente: Why Aren’t Philosophers and Educators Speaking to Each Other? In: Educational Theory, 2002, vol. 52 (1), pp. 1-11. Boyles, Deron R.: Dewey’s Epistemology: An Argument for Warranted Assertions, Knowing, and Meaningful classroom practice. In: Educational Theory, 2006, vol. 56 (1), pp. 57-68. Brian, A. Williams: Thought and Action: John Dewey at the University of Michigen. Bentley Historical Library, The University of Michigen, 1998. Dewey, John: Democracy and Education. New York, MacMillan 1922. —. Experience and Education. New York, 1938. —. O pramenech vychovatelské vČdy. Praha, Samcovo knihkupectví, 1947. Ellett, Frederick S., Jr.: Why aren’t Philosophers and Educators Speaking to Each Other? Some Reasons for Hope. In: Educational Theory, 2002, vol. 52 (3), pp. 315-325. Krankus, Milan: Škola a demokracia v pedagogike J. Deweya. In: Pedagogická revue, 1992, vol. 44 (7), pp. 530-543. Rosa, Vladimír – Turek, Ivan – Zelina, Miron: Návrh koncepcie rozvoja výchovy a vzdelávania v Slovenskej republike (Projekt „Milénium“), Bratislava, Slovdidac, 2000. Seals, Greg: Conceptualizing Teaching as Science: John Dewey in Dialogue with the National Research Council. In: Educational theory, 2004, vol. 54 (1), pp. 1-26. Siegel, Harvey: Philosophy of Education and the Deweyan Legacy. In: Educational Theory, 2002, vol. 52 (3), pp. 273-280. Suchodolski, Bogdan: Wstep. In: John Dewey, Demokracja i wychowanie, Wroclaw, Polska akademia nauk, 1972, pp. v-lxxii.


1. Introduction Economists usually defend the idea of a free market economy by arguing that under a specified set of conditions a free market can be shown to yield an outcome that is Pareto-Efficient relative to a state in which there is no such exchange—that is, every one is at least as well off and some are better off—and is itself Pareto-Optimal—that is, there is no outcome that is Pareto efficient relative to it.1 In what follows, I shall confine myself to making an appeal to a modified version of these efficiency requirements. Specifically, I shall be interested in cases in which some arrangement is strictly efficient relative to another, that is, everyone is better off, and there is no other alternative that would make everyone better off. 2 One can distinguish these more restrictive criteria by speaking in this case of one arrangement being strictly Efficient relative to another, and being such that it is strictly Optimal. In very general and somewhat loose terms, to show a person that undertaking a particular course of action works to his or her own advantage, promotes his or her own interests, is to offer that person a pragmatic argument for that course of action. But what are we to say about the case where a number of different persons are contemplating participating in a certain practice? Here, I suggest, a pragmatic argument will take the form of showing that the practice is to the advantage of each and every participant, and that there is no alternative arrangement that would be even more advantageous for each participant. In this sense, the economist's brief for a competitive market is a kind of pragmatic 1

This is established in what is known as the First Theorem of Welfare Economics. See, for example, Arrow, K. J. (1969). 2 Intuitions might differ here. My concern is that if one arrangement A is only weakly efficient relative to another, B, what argument for selecting A rather than B can be offered to those who do not gain, but only do as well under A as under B? There is more that can be said here, but I will leave this to another occasion.

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argument, or at least it would be if it could be shown that a competitive market is strictly efficient relative to any non-market alternative, and that there is no alternative exchange practice that is strictly efficient relative to it. If the economist can make this sort of case for the virtues of the market, can similar arguments be offered for other arrangements as well? Obviously, yes. There are any number of arrangements that are mutually advantageous, and with innovation and experiment, we can hope to make them optimal as well. It does seem, however, that there are two institutional arrangements that most have thought are resistant to any attempt to ground them in such explicitly pragmatic considerations: those pertaining to what basic rights persons should have, and those pertaining to distributive justice. I think this is a mistake. In this paper I shall attempt to offer a pragmatic defense of a particular principle of distributive justice that could be taken to apply to the manner in which the benefits of the basic social structure in a society are to be distributed.3

2. A Methodological Device In constructing such a pragmatic defense I shall make appeal to a hypothetical (counterfactual) choice situation, in which persons assess institutional arrangements solely in terms of instrumental considerations regarding their interests, and have well grounded beliefs regarding those interests. This amounts to deliberately abstracting from one typical characteristic of human attitudes towards institutional arrangements, namely, that individuals tend to prefer one institutional arrangement to another by direct reference to their own conceptions of what is intrinsically valuable or politically defensible. Simply put, I want to address the issue of what can be said about a society of persons each of whom views the basic structure from a pragmatic perspective. I do not suppose that my hypothetical agents have exclusively self-regarding interests, but I do suppose that the principle problem they face is to work out cooperative schemes with persons whose own interests are distinct from theirs—persons with whom the more personal bonds of friendship and caring regard do not obtain. I believe that the argument I shall present


Space considerations preclude my offering a somewhat similar argument for principles of basic rights. The issue about the ground of rights is discussed in a parallel fashion in a draft of a book, to be entitled Rational Society, upon which I have been working.

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can be extended beyond this kind of hypothetical situation, but I will content myself with arguing for the more modest thesis.

3. The Standard Theory of Bargaining The focus of my inquiry can be thought of as calling for the application of a theory of bargaining to settle on the appropriate distributive principle for a society. Since the middle of the last century, the most accepted theory of bargaining has been the one first put forward by John Nash, and subsequently elaborated upon by John Harsanyi. Nash’s original theory covered only the two-person case, and was derived by him from what many took to be an extremely plausible set of axioms. The account was originally developed in two articles. The first dealt with a rational solution to bargaining given a fixed (exogenously specified) point of no agreement between the two players, and offered, in effect, an account of the solution to such a bargaining situation in terms of the relative bargaining advantage of each player.4 The second article extended the analysis by addressing the issue of the specification of the point of no agreement itself, and essentially concluded that the point in question would be the function of each player selecting his or her optimal threat advantage.5 Harsanyi’s contribution was two-fold. First, he showed that the theory could also be derived by appeal to an independent set of assumptions that had been developed by the economist Zeuthen to characterize the psychological dispositions of rational bargainers.6 Second, he showed how the theory could be extended to cover the case of n-person bargaining, in which a given player’s payoff could be represented as an additive sum of what that player could achieve in each of the two-person games that he or she could be presumed to play with the other n—1 players.7 The way all these results fit together—especially the fact that Nash’s original theory could be derived in two apparently distinct ways—has seemed to most theorists to settle the question of the shape of bargaining between fully rational players.


Nash, J. (1950). Nash, J. (1953). 6 Harsanyi, J. C. (1977). 7 Harsanyi, J. C. (1963). 5

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4. The Role of the Pareto Conditions The Nash-Harsanyi theory builds upon a pair of assumptions that I mentioned in my opening remarks: the Pareto conditions. Indeed, those conditions have a ubiquitous place in virtually all normative theories of interaction. An arrangement A between persons is said to be ParetoOptimal if and only if there exists no (feasible) alternative arrangement B such that at least one person is better off and no one is worse off in B than in A. An arrangement A is said to be Pareto-Inferior to another arrangement B if and only if at least one person is better off, and no one is worse off, in B than in A. An arrangement that is Pareto-Optimal is clearly one that is not Pareto-Inferior to any other; but an arrangement can be Pareto-Inferior by reference to another arrangement that is not itself Pareto-Optimal. On the usual account, it is a requirement of rational interaction that the outcome of bargaining be (1) a point that is itself Pareto-Optimal, and (2) Pareto-efficient relative to the situation that would obtain were no bargaining to take place.8 As mentioned above, the Pareto conditions have been shown to be satisfied by the outcome of a set of perfectly competitive market transactions. In contrast, in the NashHarsanyi model of interaction, the Pareto-Optimality and ParetoEfficiency of the outcome is taken as postulates, rather than derived as a theorem.9 But nonetheless they play a significant role in the standard theory of rational interaction.10 In the alternative theory of bargaining that I shall propose, the Pareto conditions will also be taken as requirements of rational interaction, although, as I indicated above, I will appeal to criteria that are framed in terms of strict efficiency.

5. Two Important Qualifications Two qualifications must be noted here. First, while the Nash-Harsanyi theory presumes that rational players will arrive at a Pareto-Optimal 8

Characteristically, the outcome of rational bargaining is required to be in the negotiation set, where that set consists of all possible outcomes of bargaining that are themselves Pareto-Optimal and also Pareto-Efficient relative to outcome that would result if no agreement were reached. See Luce, R. D. and H. Raiffa (1957). 9 Moreover, it can be shown that for any interaction that meets the conditions of being a zero-sum game (in which no mutual gains are possible), the outcome of that form of competition will also meet the condition of being Pareto-Optimal. 10 They also play a key role in both social choice theory and the theory purely cooperative games. For their assumption in social choice theory, see Arrow, K. J. (1963). For games of pure cooperation, see Schelling, T. (1960).


A Pragmatic Defense of Justice

outcome, a distinction is made between the outcome of bargaining itself, and the subsequent execution of that bargain. With regard to its subsequent execution, it is admitted that typically some will find that it is in their own interest to deviate from the terms of the agreement.This is because the outcome of the bargaining process is typically not itself in equilibrium.11 Thus there will have to be some sort of surveillance and enforcement mechanism in place to ensure that participants will keep to the terms of the bargain. The need for surveillance and enforcement mechanisms is clear in the case of “one-off” encounters between persons. However, the need also arises in cases where encounters between persons are repeated. One class of such situations consists in well-defined encounters between any two or more persons that are subject to indefinite iteration, and the past histories of choices by each are known by all. In this case, conformity to the agreement can be achieved, at least in certain situations, by each participant employing an individual retaliatory strategy when he or she next encounters a player who has previously defected. Thus, the individual who is contemplating defecting will have to recognize that how he or she chooses on any given round has implications for future encounters. That is, the repeated nature of the process means that the “shadow of the future” can play an important role. All of this is developed in very great detail in a series of what have come to be known as the “folk theorems” of indefinitely iterated games.12 In the real world, however, most interactions are not so well-defined. One does not encounter the same individual(s) over and over, in exactly the same bargaining situation, and knowledge of the past behavior of those who one does encounter is non-existent or fragmentary. In such situations, adherence will rarely be achieved by persons employing individual retaliatory strategies; it will only be achieved by having in place a “thirdparty” system of surveillance and enforcement. Moreover, by the logic of the situation, this will also require that those who are charged with applying sanctions are themselves subject to sanctions, etc., etc.13 In these more realistic situations, the Nash-Harsanyi theory has an additional and important implication. Whatever a randomly selected 11

The equilibrium requirement was also introduced by Nash. See Nash, J. (1951). See, for example, Fudenberg, D. and J. Tirole (1992). It must be noted, however, that one of the important limitations of the folk-theorems is that retaliatory strategies will not work if the players discount the future "too much." 13 See, for example, Kreps, D. M. (1990). 12

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person can expect to realize in each of an indefinite series of encounters with different sets of players will vary with each encounter. Each new situation will have to be judged from the perspective of the amount of relative threat advantage and bargaining power that the person in question possesses at that point in time. But this is something that will be influenced by the extent to which the individual has invested resources in the past that improve his or her bargaining position in some present encounter. One can expect, then, that such investments will be made by a rational bargainer, and that he or she will also expect other rational players to make such investments.

6. Worries about the Nash-Harsanyi Theory of Bargaining A “third-party” system of surveillance and sanctions is not costless. Such costs will have to be paid for, and on the assumption that these costs are shared (not necessarily equally!) by participants, this will mean that each could expect to do even better, in principle, if each simply agreed to keep to the arrangement, i.e., do his or her part, without being watched, and without the threat of such sanctions. Similarly, in repeated interactions over time, investments that improve one’s own bargaining position will also entail costs. Once again, each could expect to do even better if each could agree to not invest resources in improving his or her threat and bargaining advantage, in exchange for others doing the same. There is a third respect in which the Nash-Harsanyi theory poses a problem. The manner in which the outcome of bargaining is determined is likely, in many situations, to generate a significant amount of resentment, resentment that will not be ameliorated, but more likely exacerbated, by repeated encounters between persons over time. This is because the NashHarsanyi theory gives absolutely no place to ordinary considerations of distributive justice. Its principle of distribution is simply: to each according to their threat and bargaining advantage. Some recent work in bargaining theory suggests that such resentments arise quite naturally when the manner in which many encounters are resolved fails to meet a basic principle of reciprocity with regard to the distribution of benefits and costs. The significance of such resentment, on this account, is that the failure of persons to offer reciprocal terms to others not only occasions resentment, but that this takes the form of a participant being willing to forego advantages he or she could secure, in order to “punish” those who seek to obtain more than reciprocity would allow. In short, one must expect that, in the absence of an agreement on reciprocal terms, such interaction will generate a suboptimal outcome. But


A Pragmatic Defense of Justice

the Nash-Harsanyi theory implies that reciprocal terms will only occur in very special cases.14 Recently, there has been exploration of a model of interaction that explores such a disposition. This has been developed under the heading of a disposition on the part of participants to demand “strong reciprocity.” The finding here is that many (if not most) persons have preferences that express what could be termed inequity aversion, a disposition to give up some material payoff to move in the direction of a more equitable outcome between themselves and others.15 As the point is put in one recent article, this is a “cooperation-enhancing force” in which each agent is willing “(i) to sacrifice resources to be kind to those who are kind (= strong positive reciprocity) and (ii) to sacrifice resources to punish those who are being unkind ( = strong negative reciprocity).”16 On this account, strong reciprocity can give rise to “almost maximal cooperation” in circumstances in which the standard repeated interaction approach predicts no cooperation, and that strong reciprocity can generate cooperation in nperson interaction situations. The significance of achieving a state of maximal cooperation, I take it, is that everyone can expect to be better off in that state than in one in which there is less than maximal cooperation. This is a theme that I shall explore in considerable more detail in the latter sections of this paper. It is important to note that in the literature on strong reciprocity, it is presumed that the typical individual approaches a bargaining situation with a particular preference, not simply for monetary gain, but also for a distribution of gain that meets a condition of equity. The suggestion then seems to be that in at least certain kinds of bargaining situations, the parties have special utility functions that encode equity considerations, specifically that each not receive less than others. And this has led to an exploration, in the articles cited above, of the conditions under which the evolutionary process would support the emergence of such a disposition. One could argue, however, that the demand for equity (by those who would otherwise do less well) is really simply grounded in the desire to increase one’s own payoff. That is, the disposition in question is really just another manifestation of the rational desire to gain more rather than less benefits.17 On such a way of thinking there is no need to tell a special story about the evolution of certain dispositions. On this sort of account, one 14 More specifically, this will only occur when threat and bargaining power are precisely matched among the parties involved. 15 Fehr, E. and K. Schmidt (1999). 16 Fehr, E., U. Fischbacher, and S. Gachter (2003). 17 This is a line of reasoning that is explored in McClennen, E. F. (1989).

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need not posit an independent desire for reciprocal outcomes. Whatever the explanation of the disposition to demand strong reciprocity, however, the net effect of bargainers being so disposed, of course, is that bargaining that does not respect considerations of strong reciprocity once again will tend to generate suboptimal outcomes. That is, in such circumstances, resentment will manifest itself in a willingness to accept less for one’s self if this will prove costly to the other parties as well. Rawls, for example, makes this a central point of his theory of justice: In the absence of a certain measure of agreement on what is just and unjust, it is clearly more difficult for individuals to coordinate their plans efficiently in order to insure that mutually beneficial arrangements are maintained. Distrust and resentment corrode the ties of civility, and suspicion and hostility tempt men to act in ways they would otherwise avoid.18 With regard to surveillance and enforcement costs, as well as the costs involved in investing in improving one’s future threat and bargaining power, one could try to argue that all of these costs are simply part of the ordinary or normal costs of interacting with others, and that, as such, they cannot be charged as undermining the Pareto-Optimality of the outcome. For example, one could argue that the Pareto-Optimality to which I have appealed requires only that there is no feasible alternative arrangement that would leave everyone better off. The point would be that everyone agreeing to simply abide by the terms of the agreement, without any enforcement mechanism in place is simply not a feasible alternative. And similarly, everyone simply refraining from investing in improving his or her threat and bargaining position is not feasible. Those who chose, over time, to not invest in improving their threat and bargaining power, would simply find that they would be taken advantage of others who did make such investments. On this way of reasoning, the employment of some sort of a costly enforcement system is necessary if the Pareto-Optimal outcome that the theory identifies is to be realized, and failure to make appropriate investments would simply lower one’s expected return from future transactions. But even when they are treated in this fashion, it would be irrational of persons to accept such expenditures if there were some alternative way to interact with others whose expected return (net of its own costs of reaching agreement) were greater for each participant. Moreover, it remains an open question, at this point in the analysis, whether there might not be such an alternative.


Rawls, J. (1972).


A Pragmatic Defense of Justice

With regard to the resentment that can be occasioned by at least some of those who find that they have no choice but to accept interaction in terms of the Nash-Harsanyi theory, this poses a barrier to efficient interaction that cannot be dismissed as no more than another of the costs occasioned in bargaining. Here the claim is that resentments that are bound to arise (both in the “one-off” and the repeated bargaining situation), directly result in sub-optimal outcomes, that is, cannot be interpreted as simply the unavoidable costs of interacting with others.

7. The Domain of Applicability of the Nash-Harsanyi Theory It is important to recognize that the problems to which I have drawn attention—regarding different respects in which it may not be possible to satisfy the Pareto conditions—do not point to the existence of any logical inconsistency between the various postulates of the Nash-Harsanyi Theory. In point of fact, there can be no question but that the theory has a plausible application to a significantly large set of bargaining situations. This is particularly true with regard to the problems of resentment to which the Nash-Harsanyi mode of interaction is subject. Recall that on Rawls’s account, mutually beneficial interaction can be achieved if there is an agreement on a principle of distributive justice. And there is nothing to preclude that all parties might agree, for some types of encounters, to let the distribution of benefits be determined by their adhering to the principles of the Nash-Harsanyi theory of bargaining. And where this is the case, such a mode of interaction need not generate a sub-optimal outcome. For example, in some particular context, it may happen that all the participants are persuaded that utilization of the principle of to each according to their relative threat and bargaining advantage, will generate a series of outcomes that each judges would yield a greater expected return to themselves than any alternative way of interacting. The argument, presumably, would be that the competition thereby engendered would work, over the longer haul, to their mutual advantage. Where this turns out to be the case, it would be rational for persons to agree to bargain in accordance with the principles of the Nash-Harsanyi theory. Note that, in such a context, the kind of non-cooperative interaction that the Nash-Harsanyi theory of bargaining advocates, is rationalized by the consideration that it gives rise to a Pareto Optimal and Efficient outcome to interaction. In this case the Pareto conditions serve to sanction the interaction in question, in a manner parallel to the way that perfectly

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competitive market interaction can be sanctioned by appeal to its satisfaction, as shown in the First Theorem of Welfare economics, of the condition of Pareto Optimality. But just as the optimality of the outcome of competitive market exchange must be demonstrated, so the optimality of Nash-Harsanyi bargaining must be demonstrated, and not simply presupposed, in the very axioms that characterize such interaction. Two plausible examples of such situations are competitive games and some kinds of market interaction. It is no surprise that Von Neumann and Morgenstern titled their watershed book, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, which is essentially a study of non-cooperative forms of interaction. Competitive games constitute so many different structured and typically stylized forms of conflict. They serve, we may suppose, as proxy for real conflict. Their usefulness seems to be that they help to encourage persons to avoid unstructured and unstylized (real) conflict of a sort that would prove mutually costly. In such cases, individual participants interact with one another in accordance with rules that constrain the encounters that take place. Thus, for example, in competitive sports situations, certain competitive interactions are permissible, in so far as they take place in accordance with the rules of the game. And in a game of poker, one is free to employ whatever bargaining and threat advantages one possesses, subject to the rules of the game. Thus, one can raise another person’s bid, but one cannot threaten other players with a gun. Economic contracts also permit the striking of bargains, that are themselves shaped by considerations of relative threat advantage and bargaining power. The point of this, the economist will insist, is that such controlled competition works to the mutual advantage of all. It is interesting to note, however, that the neoclassical theory of perfectly competitive markets provides no room for such a form of controlled mixtures of cooperation and conflict. In this case, laws of supply and demand set exchange rates, not relative threat advantage and bargaining power. But commercial bargaining does not exist except where interaction is significantly constrained by rules of interaction, especially by rules requiring, that all respect the property rights of others, that contracts are honored, and that the goods exchanged have been accurately described, etc. The issue is whether the Nash-Harsanyi theory is appropriate to all situations that are not covered by the theory of perfectly competitive markets, and the other exceptions discussed above. One can begin by noting that a distinction needs to be made between specific bargains that individuals might strike, and bargains that are directed at establishing the very rules in terms of which future interactions are to be conducted. Once


A Pragmatic Defense of Justice

again, there is no question but that rules of this sort can be the object of Nash-Harsanyi non-cooperative bargaining, but in this case it is, I want to suggest, an open question whether the rules that result are themselves Pareto Optimal. Second order Nash-Harsanyi bargaining over the rules themselves would presumably lead to rules that work to the advantage of some, and to the disadvantage of others. The result is likely to occasion much resentment, to occasion no incentive to be guided by such rules beyond the point where the corresponding surveillance and enforcement mechanisms coerce adherence to the rules, and a willingness of the part of many participants to expend significant resources over time in enable them to change the rules to be more to their own advantage. All of these concerns would seem to be fully applicable, in particular, to any bargaining that takes place over the basic rules governing civil and political society. The rules governing society as a whole hardly define a stylized form of competition and conflict between persons: They define the framework within which real interactions between persons take place. When bargaining takes place in a context where has been no agreement on distributive considerations, there is every reason to suppose that, over time, the bargains reached would not engender any real commitment to the terms reached—except in so far as those terms are reinforced by surveillance and enforcement mechanisms. Thus there would have to be a significant investment in surveillance and enforcement mechanisms. Nor is there any reason to suppose that participants would not invest resources in improving their relative threat and bargaining position. Such an investment would make sense, incidentally, regardless of whether others do or do not make such an investment. And finally commitment to strong reciprocity would engender interactions that lead to suboptimal outcomes. The prognosis, then, for Nash-Harsanyi bargaining in the absence of any agreement on distributive terms, is that the outcome would be suboptimal. This will be especially true in the case of economic transactions that involve bargaining (as opposed to price-taking). It is hard to imagine how rational individuals would be willing to accept economic transactions governed by Nash-Harsanyi rules unless they could enter the market from, and return to, a position in civil, political and legal society that assures them of a wide range of basic rights, governed (unlike the market) by stringent principles of equality. The Nash-Harsanyi theory is not very plausible at all in a wide range of interactions between persons that are not covered by the account of competitive market interaction. What is needed for those cases is a very different theory of bargaining.

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8. An Alternative Model of Bargaining In the case of the Nash-Harsanyi theory it is supposed that rational bargaining will focus on the set of optimal and efficient outcome, and the one picked out of this set will be determined by the interplay of relative threat advantage and bargaining power. If there is a plausible alternative account of rational bargaining, it will also need to offer an account of how the optimal and efficient point upon which the parties agree is reached in each situation in which bargaining takes place, and why the process of bargaining itself does not interfere with the on-going attempt to secure outcomes that are Pareto-optimal. What would a theory of bargaining look like that did not present the problem that the process of bargaining itself tends to undermine the requirement that it issue in an optimal outcome? One can begin by noting that an outcome that treats bargainers as equal—that accords to any one participant no more or less than it accords any other participant—would not be expected to present the problem that arises when the process is based instead on relative threat advantage and bargaining power. Let us suppose, then, that the concept of strict reciprocity offers us at least the beginning of the sort of alternative that we seek. That is, prima facie, we can expect that the benefits of cooperation will be distributed equally among the bargainers. There is no reason, however, why rational parties would insist upon an equal distribution, if it turned out to be the case that an unequal distribution worked to the advantage of all of the parties. Thus we can suppose that this alternative theory would allow for departures from equality in the benefits distributed, just so long as this would work to the advantage of all. That is, an equal distribution of benefits is the appropriate benchmark, but it can be set to one side if it can be shown that an unequal distribution would work to the advantage of all participants. The condition that an unequal distribution can, under certain circumstances, be defended is meant to be a stringent condition. Not just any mutually advantageous departure from equality is permissible. If there is more than one unequal distribution that would be Pareto-superior to the equal distribution, the one selected is the one that is the most equal. And, of course, the unequal distribution that is selected must not itself be Pareto-inferior to some other distribution. The nature of rational bargaining can thus be characterized in the following fashion. We can think of the bargaining process as meeting the following requirement, which I shall characterize as the basic condition of cooperation:


A Pragmatic Defense of Justice

(1) The outcome at each bargaining point is to be strictly ParetoOptimal and Pareto-Efficient relative to the situation that would obtain were no bargaining to take place. This amounts to a minimal condition that must be satisfied. Now the Nash-Harsanyi theory purports to meet this condition, but I have argued that a non-cooperative process of bargaining casts doubt on whether the basic condition of cooperation can be met. On the alternative view, however, we suppose the following additional condition, which I shall characterize as the condition of full cooperation: (2) The outcome selected must be the most egalitarian of the Pareto outcomes available. Recall now that the orthodox theory involves being disposed, ceteris paribus, to cooperate with others when such cooperation works to one’s own advantage (see Section 2). Moreover, the presumption is that if, in any bargaining situation, all act upon that disposition the outcome will meet the Pareto conditions (1) of cooperation. In effect, the assumption is that rational persons will continue to bargain, ceteris paribus, so long as there are still mutual gains to be realized, and will only stop bargaining, then, when there are no further gains to be realized, i.e., when an agreement is reached that meets the Pareto conditions. On the alternative theory that I am now proposing, however, the disposition to cooperate is conditional upon both requirements (1) and (2) being satisfied. That is, the disposition to cooperate will only be triggered by a sense that the other participants are prepared (disposed) to cooperate fully (to propose terms that meet condition (2) concerning fairness).

9. What About the Traditional Equilibrium Condition? It is also a feature of the Nash-Harsanyi theory that the outcome upon which the parties agree must be reachable by strategies that are in equilibrium. That is, it is an assumption of the Nash-Harsanyi theory that a rational choice in a bargaining situation must meet both the Pareto conditions and the equilibrium condition. When the optimal outcome of a bargaining game fails to meet the equilibrium condition, the orthodox view takes the position that a system of sanctions will be necessary to motivate the participants to act on their agreement, that is, to ensure that the agreed upon strategies are equilibrium strategies in each game in the sequence of bargaining situations. Suppose it is granted that surveillance and enforcement costs are simply ordinary costs, the expenditure of which cannot be take to imply that the negotiated outcome is not Pareto optimal. What about the costs involved in investing in improving one’s threat and

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bargaining power? Once again, one can treat these costs as ordinary costs of interacting with others over time. There is, however, no way to treat the costs of the resentments that are generated as simply ordinary costs. It would appear, then, that the imposition of the equilibrium condition tends to undercut the requirement that the outcome of bargaining be Pareto-Optimal. The appropriate term here is ‘tends,’ because it is always possible that in some well-defined context, the participants would accept having the distributive dimensions of their interaction resolved by the Nash-Harsanyi principles of bargaining. For this reason it cannot be claimed that there is any logical inconsistency in imposing both the equilibrium condition and the Pareto Conditions.

10. The Argument for the Equilibrium Condition Of course, satisfaction of the equilibrium condition is not an axiom or postulate of the Nash-Harsanyi theory. What the theory in question postulates is that rational persons are expected-utility maximizers. If an outcome upon which persons have agreed were not in equilibrium, then, at least one player would have an expected-utility maximizing reason to defect from the agreement. This point is separable from the assumption that rational players will choose in accordance with their relative threat and bargaining power. The equilibrium condition arises as a result of the assumption that persons are governed in their interaction with other persons by the same constraints that are supposed to obtain when they make a decision that does not involve any other person—when, for example, a person make a decision whether or not to carry an umbrella, when he or she has estimated the likelihood of rain that day. But are the choices of others just so many other variables that a decision-maker must estimate? Can an interaction between rational persons be reduced in this fashion to each playing a game against nature? This issue has a most interesting history. At the very outset of Von Neumann and Morgenstern's seminal work, they suggest that one encounters a conceptual, as distinct from a technical, difficulty in moving from the study of the problem facing an isolated individual (the proverbial Robinson Crusoe) to the study of the problem facing interacting agents. Crusoe's task, they argue, given his wants and resources, amounts to a simple maximization problem, complicated at most by the need to incorporate probabilistically defined outcomes. In the case of social interaction, however,


A Pragmatic Defense of Justice ”...the result for each one will depend in general not merely upon his own actions but on those of the others as well. Thus each participant attempts to maximize a function...of which he does not control all variables. This is certainly no maximum problem, but a peculiar and disconcerting mixture of conflicting maximum problems”.19

This poses a problem which, they suggest, cannot be overcome simply by appeal to probabilities and expectations: “Every participant can determine the variables which describe his own actions but not those of the others. Nevertheless those "alien" variables cannot, from his point of view, be described by statistical assumptions. This is because the others are guided, just as he himself, by rational principles--whatever that may mean--and no modus procedendi can be correct which does not attempt to understand those principles and the interactions of the conflicting interests of all participants.”20

Carl Kaysen, in a very early review of Von Neumann and Morgenstern's book, takes this to imply that, in the case of games, “...there is no possibility of what we have called parametrization that would enable each agent to behave as if the actions of the others were given. In fact, it is this very lack of parametrization which is the essence of a game.”21

How is it that this arguably right way to think about interaction as opposed to reaction to the "moves" of nature is so quickly abandoned in favor of a unifying theory of expected-utility reaction? One explanation is that Von Neumann and Morgenstern immediately turn to the special case of games of strict competition ("zero-sum" games) where there are no mutual gains to be realized—where what one gains the other must loose. Under such conditions there is no point in trying to coordinate one's actions with another, so that anything that could be regarded as a principle of coordinated or cooperative interaction is essentially irrelevant. What they introduce at that point is an argument to the effect that a rational player must presume that given "common knowledge" of the payoff and strategy structure of the game, and the mutual rationality of the players, a player will have to assume that the rational strategy for him or her to select will be one that the other player will anticipate, and that the other player 19

(Von Neumann, 1953: 11) idem 21 (Kaysen, 1946-1947: 2, emphasis added) 20

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will then choose for himself or herself, a utility-maximizing response. In short, the second player will simply react to the first player's anticipated choice—and not think in terms of coordinating his or her choice with the first player. The case for reconceptualizing rational interaction is not to be made by simply appealing to the fact that interacting with other human beings is different in some respect or other from interacting with nature. Our argument is that interaction with other rational beings cannot satisfy the strict Pareto-Optimality and Efficiency requirements unless the participating individuals abandon utility maximizing considerations, and focus instead on considerations of strict Pareto-Optimality and Efficiency, and unless they abandon considerations of threat and bargaining advantage (except when there is an agreement on the part of all who are involved to employ such considerations). In effect, if the equilibrium condition and Pareto-Optimality and Efficiency conditions conflict, it is open to us to seek an account of rational interaction that respects the Pareto Conditions. This point needs to be put carefully, because it cannot be argued that any model in which the Pareto-Conditions are not satisfied is inferior to any model in which they are satisfied. What needs to be shown is that any model that satisfies the bargaining approach of the Nash-Harsanyi theory will be strictly Pareto-Inferior (Pareto-Dominated) by the model of full cooperation set forth in Section 6 above.22 It is both the insistence on the equilibrium condition and the appeal to the Nash-Harsanyi account of bargaining that creates a disconnect between an agreement on a coordination scheme and its implementation. And that disconnect is, given those two aspects of the standard theory, perfectly understandable. If a given person is forced, in effect, to agree to certain terms, there is no reason to suppose they will regard themselves as bound to those terms: those were terms forced upon them, not terms to which they have freely assented.23 Notice, moreover, that to the extent that the cooperative terms are settled in the manner projected by the NashHarsanyi theory, any agreement on the required surveillance and enforcement measures will also be set by Nash-Harsanyi bargaining. Since there is no assurance that these measures will be structured so that persons are treated equally, this will typically result in additional resentment, and less willingness on the part of persons to abide by these measures. It is no surprise, then, that when persons have not freely agreed to bargain in terms of the Nash-Harsanyi account, interaction will prove decidedly sub22

See Section 11 below. The exception to this, as I have already noted, is when the parties involved have freely agreed to let the distributive issue be settled in this manner. 23


A Pragmatic Defense of Justice

optimal. Correspondingly, if it is a mark of rational persons that they always choose a strategy that maximizes expected-utility given what they expect the other participants to do, there can be no rational interaction except in the presence of expensive surveillance and enforcement devices. Thus, the standard theory fails twice over to constitute a plausible theory of rational interaction. Its theory of rational motivation implies that "rational" persons will have to expend costly resources on surveillance and enforcement; and its theory of "rational" bargaining is a theory of bargaining that will typically occasion much mutually disadvantageous interaction.

11. Some Characteristics of Bargaining on the Basis of Principles of Full Cooperation What can be said about bargaining in terms of the principles of full cooperation? The model of full cooperation has four interesting implications, with respect to the strict Pareto Conditions. First, the principles of full cooperation pick out a unique point on the strictly optimal frontier. If there are two or more outcomes that are both strictly Efficient to an equal distribution of benefits, and that are each optimal, then the solution, from the perspective of full bargaining, is the one that is the most egalitarian of those in the set. Second, there is no reason to suppose that the solution to full cooperation will occasion resentment on the part of participants. Each receives a distribution that meets any individual participant's concerns about the fairness of the distribution of benefits and costs. Even if some receive an amount that is less than they would ideally like, there is nobody that receives an amount that they can complain about by reference to considerations of reciprocity or fairness. Third, no one has a reason to make an investment in increasing one's relative threat and bargaining advantage, since one's relative position in those regards has no bearing on what one will receives in subsequent negotiations. Fourth, in being committed to full cooperation one is also committed to not subsequently free-riding on the contributions that others make to cooperation. Given an agreement on how the benefits that cooperation makes possible are to be shared, to subsequently free-ride is to change the distributive formula to which one has already agreed. In the case of full cooperators, what are we to take to be the motive for compliance? Do participants comply simply because (1) they are disposed to comply when others are also willing to comply, and moved by the consideration of the gains to themselves to be secured by cooperating, or is it because (2) they expect to be “punished” on subsequent rounds if they

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fail to comply while others do comply? If the latter is the case, then it is just the orthodox account of rationality that is being invoked to understand the motivation of the participants. That is, we have not introduced any new conception of motivation, as opposed to a new outcome of rational bargaining. I am suggesting that an account of full cooperation involves, among other things, a new account of motivation. Full cooperators are disposed to seek the gains to them that come from cooperating over those that are to be secured by unilateral defection. This is not to say that they will cooperate in the "one off" case. In those situations they will lack the assurance that others will also cooperate. But in situations involving repeated encounters with others, they will typically have the necessary assurance about others, and thus will be disposed to fully cooperate.

12. The Optimality and Efficiency of Full Cooperation An essential property of a theory of fully cooperative bargaining is that players are prepared to make concessions to ensure an efficient and optimal outcome to bargaining, but they will also demand that others make reciprocal concessions as well. I have also suggested that a plausible candidate for such a concession principle is the one specified by idea of full cooperation: that the distribution either treats every participant as equal, or, if inequalities are allowed, the benefits are still distributed as equally as possible, consistent with the demands of efficiency. Now, bargaining that satisfies condition (2) of full cooperation has a very important feature, which directly pertains to the possibility of an optimal bargain, i.e., one that meets the Pareto conditions, as specified in (1). All can expect that over time, changing circumstances will call repeatedly for changes in existing arrangements. New circumstances will arise, and this will mean that, in some cases, the arrangement will cease to be one from which every person benefits—that is, either the ParetoOptimal condition fails any longer to be satisfied, or the condition of full cooperation fails to hold. But in either of these cases, full cooperators will be disposed to renegotiate the agreement. However, in negotiating either kind of needed change, the parties involved will expect that the same considerations that shaped the original agreement will shape the alterations. That is, those who negotiate in a fully cooperative manner will not be disposed to renegotiate in a manner that simply secures more for themselves at the expense of others. In contrast to the strategic negotiation approach of the orthodox theory, there is no reason to suppose that such negotiations and renegotiations as take place will occasion mutually disadvantageous conflict, or the expenditure of scarce resources to


A Pragmatic Defense of Justice

unilaterally improve their own position. Participants will not have to worry that changing circumstances can leave them in a greatly weakened bargaining or threat advantage position. For these factors play no role in the manner in which benefits will be distributed. Thus one can expect that full cooperators will settle upon an arrangement whose distribution of benefits satisfies the Pareto-optimal condition. To be sure, under conditions of declining prospects all may have to settle for less, but the new distribution will still apportion the losses to be incurred in an equal manner or apportion losses unequally, to but only to the extent that this would work to the mutual advantage of all. Notice also that in this alternative theory of bargaining, Paretooptimality is part of condition (1), but also part of condition (2) as well. The requirement in (2) is that Pareto-optimality can justify departures from equality, so that Pareto-Optimality and Pareto Efficiency are not to be sacrificed for equality. These considerations lend support, then, to the hypothesis that full cooperators will be able to coordinate their choices in a manner that leads to the maintenance of the Pareto-optimal condition, as applied to each of the bargains in the sequence of bargains that take place. This is, of course, precisely what I suggested is unlikely in the case where the bargaining process conforms to the assumptions of non-cooperative bargaining theory. In the latter case, nothing will prevent those who so interact from encountering conflicts that work to the mutual disadvantage of the parties, and from expending significant resources, over time, to improve his or her own threat advantage and bargaining power in ways that, once again, do not serve to generate mutual gains.

13. The Pareto-Superiority of Full-cooperation There is still one question that remains to be addressed: what motivates rational persons to bargain cooperatively as opposed to non-cooperatively? To establish rational motivation we need to show more than that the orthodox theory is likely to yield suboptimal outcomes, while the alternative theory does not. Those who approach bargaining from the perspective of the principles of non-cooperative bargaining theory may well realize that they will fall short of an optimal form of interaction, but some may still be convinced that they themselves will do better than if they approach the situation as cooperators. That a certain outcome, O, is strictly optimal, while another outcome O* is strictly suboptimal, does not imply that everyone is better off at O rather than O*. To show the inferiority of bargaining conducted in the Nash-Harsanyi manner, we need to show that

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the outcome of full cooperation is itself Pareto-superior to the outcome of the orthodox method of bargaining. What prospect is there that this could be shown to be the case? Certainly it couldn’t be shown for the case of “one-off” bargaining. Effective and optimal bargaining depends upon the “shadow of the future” generated by indefinitely repeated encounters, no less than does relatively effective enforcement mechanisms. Moreover, it cannot be shown to be true for just any case of indefinitely repeated bargaining. The cases of competitive games and contract negotiations clearly undermine such a claim. Moreover, any argument that could be mounted in regard to the virtues of a cooperative approach to some class of interactions would have to presuppose that all of the parties had access to full information, and were not taken in by various forms of ideology. If I manage to convince you that I have rights to a larger share than you, based on some argument about my inherent superiority, unequal shares that fail to meet the conditions of full cooperation will likely prevail. But it appears plausible to suppose that for many types of bargaining— especially those, for example, that pertain to the establishment of basic civil and political society—the historical record of persistent and mutually disadvantageous conflict between persons, and the extraordinarily wasteful investment of resources in forms of interaction that do not generate mutual gains, but only redistribute benefits, suggests that in the long run as opposed to the short run, fully cooperative forms of bargaining result in outcomes that are Pareto-superior to what could be achieved by noncooperators. One could raise an objection here to the proposed alternative theory on the grounds that if it really is more rational to approach bargaining from a fully cooperative perspective (when others are also willing), why isn’t there more cooperation? A plausible answer is that there are many persons who are just not very rational. In particular, their irrationality may well be rooted in a disposition to excessively discount the future. When rational persons encounter those who are not rational for this or other reasons, they will have little option but to resort themselves to a non-cooperative approach to bargaining, and since those others are not to be trusted, whatever agreements are reached will have to be backed up by expensive enforcement devices. All presumably do less well, of course, but those who are disposed to be full cooperators will have to use these devices so as to avoid doing even less well. Even orthodox game theorists should be prepared to acknowledge that if one ‘s model of rational interaction fully accorded with the orthodox view, so that every participant would, in the absence of effective enforcement devices, be disposed to defect, the costs

A Pragmatic Defense of Justice


of cooperation would be prohibitively high. One can try to explain why many, if not the majority, are prepared to voluntarily comply on the grounds that they have special preferences (preferences, say, shaped by moral considerations), but this explanation is somewhat ad hoc, and at any rate, not necessary, if one takes the more expansive view I have argued for above, regarding what rationality itself requires.

14. Rawls and the Concept of Full Cooperation It will not escape the observant reader that the principle of fairness or justice that I have placed at the heart of the alternative account of rational bargaining is a version of Rawls’s principle of justice. The principle to which I have appealed is not, however, the version of the principle that Rawls sought to derive in the veil of ignorance construction. That is, it is not the “difference” principle. It corresponds to what Rawls describes as the first part of a conception of justice that requires that: Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage, and (b) attached to positions and offices open to all.24 In order to derive from this his favored version, which is framed in terms of maximizing the advantages of the least well-off person (the “difference” principle), Rawls argues that the equivalence is secured by appealing to two somewhat technical assumptions, chain connectedness, and close knitness. This is how he re-describes the principle with a view to making clear how it could be defended from the point of view of the veil of ignorance. Interestingly enough, he also takes the position that if one or the other of the technical conditions is not satisfied, the difference version is still the appropriate one. All of this seems calculated to allow him to appeal to the literature on choice under conditions of (complete) uncertainty to make the case for his principle of justice. In contrast, I have framed the whole discussion above in terms of what he might have called an equality/efficiency principle, and I have sought to defend it without any appeal to the veil of ignorance argument, but, rather, in terms of a principle that would serve to ensure that the strict Pareto-optimal and Pareto-Efficient condition are satisfied.


(Rawls, 1999: 53).

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15. Pragmatism Once Again It is central to the argument that I have sketched above that no model of interaction that lacks an account of why individuals can be motivated to act in a manner that will satisfy the strict Pareto Conditions could count as a model of rational interaction. But, of course, as I suggested at the outset, if each and every participant does better under a system of full cooperation than under a system based on the Nash-Harsanyi model, this constitutes a fully pragmatic justification for bargaining in terms of the principles of full cooperation, rather than those of the Nash-Harsanyi theory. It might be thought that pragmatically oriented persons will be bound to choose reactively to maximize their own preferences against what they expect other participants will do, and to use whatever bargaining and threat advantages they have against others; but that cannot be the case. In the context of repeated choices this can only result in the individual participant doing less well in terms of outcomes than he would prefer to do. That being the case, it is just wrong to suppose that such behavior can be pragmatically defended.

Bibliography Arrow, K. J. (1963). Social Choice and Individual Values. New Haven, Yale University Press. —. (1969). The Organization of Economic Activity: Issues Pertinent to the Choice of Market versus Nonmarket Allocation. The Analysis and Evaluation of Public Expenditures: The PPB System, Joint Economic Committee Compendium, 91st Congress, 1st Session 1: 47-64. Fehr, E., Fischbacher, Urs, and Gachter, Simon (2003). Strong Reciprocity, Human Cooperation and the Enforcement of Social Norms. Economics Working paper Archive at WUSTL, no. 0305008. Fehr, E. and K. Schmidt (1999). A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation, Quarterly Journal of Economics: 817-868. Fudenberg, D. and J. Tirole (1992). Game Theory. Cambridge, MIT Press. Harsanyi, J. C. (1963). A Simplified Bargaining Model for the n-Person Cooperative Game, International Economic Review 4(2): 194-220. —. (1977). Rational Behavior and Bargaining Equilibrium in Games and Social Situations. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Kaysen, K. (1946-1947). A Revolution in Economic Theory. Review of Economic Studies 14(1): 1-15. Kreps, D. M. (1990). Game Theory And Economic Modeling. Oxford, Clarendon Press.


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Luce, R. D. and H. Raiffa (1957). Games and Decisions: Introduction and Critical Survey. New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. McClennen, E. F. (1989). Justice and the Problem of Stability, Philosophy and Public Affairs 18(No. 1). Nash, J. (1950). The Bargaining Problem. Econometrica 18: 155-162. —. (1951). Non-Cooperative Games. Annals of Mathematics 54(2): 286295. —. (1953). Two-Person Cooperative Games. Econometrica 21: 128-140. Rawls, J. (1972). Reply to Lyons and Teitelman. Journal of Philosophy 69(18): 556-557. —. (1999). A Theory of Justice, Second Edition. Schelling, T. C. (1960). The Strategy of Conflict. Cambridge, Harvard University Press. reprinted with brief new preface in 1980 Von Neumann, J. and O. Morgenstern (1953). Theory of Games and Economic Behavior Third Edition. Princeton, Princeton University Press.


This part represents a delightful debate on art and community between Buffalo’s former professor emeritus, Dr. Peter H. Hare, and Jagiellonian’s Krystyna Wilkoszewska. Dr. Hare found it relevant that, since the discussion took place in Brancusi’s land – the town of Targu-Jiu, Gorj County, in Romania, the famous Romanian sculptor, whose name the Targu – Jiu University bears, be mentioned on this occasion.


My paper consists of three unequal parts. At first I briefly introduce the idea of community in general and mention the debate that is carried on about the problem. Then I try to reconstruct Dewey’s idea of a community of experience. Finally I will outline some issues that are significant for the idea of a community of art.

I By the idea of community we usually understand the different kinds of groups made up of individuals that interact more or less closely with each other in a net of mutual, varied relations and connections. The relationships can be of a diverse character, from intimate and personal to formal and institutional, and on this ground the typologies of communities are created. The discussion between liberals and communitarians that took place especially in the American philosophy of politics in the second part of the last century and is still continued shows that the old questions, raised some centuries ago, such as those concerning the relation between individualism and community, between the liberty of a human being and the demands of society, are constantly alive and controversial, still expecting the best solution. The latest discussions about these old problems are marked with the aura of the dusk of modernity. In an atmosphere of many objections to modernity there has appeared also the conviction that the 20th century inherited from modernity a weakened culture of community and above all weakened interhuman relations that are even in a state of decline. Robert Nisbet, a well-known American sociologist and philosopher of politics, submitted a proposition in his book, The Quest for Community, published in 1953, that modernity constantly crumbled the spirit of human community, bringing it finally to decay. The process of the autonomization of the individual expressed in the watchwords of individualism, rationalism and emancipation, that began in the period of the Enlightenment and was

Krystyna Wilkoszewska


intensified in the 19th century, caused society to be finally understood as a set of independent individuals realizing their own aims. Not only philosophical thought but also social changes as French revolution, Protestantism and capitalism are responsible for this process of the decline the idea of community in Europe. According to Nisbet, a real community it is a rather a small social group based on personal human connections. Small communities such as the family, the religious congregation, the country, just disappeared, displaced by communities based on institutional relations that are deprived of personal engagement. Nisbet speaks about today’s “hunger for community”, that is about our nostalgia for close and intimate relations between people. Being a conservative Nisbet evokes medieval monasteries as a model of such communities, but his idea is of a more universal character. The main problem is how to build at the beginning of 21st century communities that involve their members personally and in this way support the dynamics of the spiritual life. It is not easy question, because on the opposite pole to excessive individualism there occurs the risk of the rise of strongly intensive groups like sects or gangs in which the relations between members reach a pathological dimension. Nisbet calls them “extreme communities” and sees the reason for their occurrence in the atmosphere of emptiness that appeared after the decay of the old small human communities. In the project of building communities we should take into account the traps which are present both on the side of luxuriant individualism and on the side of extreme communities.

II John Dewey worked out his idea of community and his theory of democracy in the first decades of the 20th century and already then he recognized that modern individualism, which was constructive and progressive at the time of its appearance, finally led to “the lost individual” and to the decay of traditional social connections.1 Nevertheless, Dewey optimistically believed that a human being realizes oneself fully in a community and that we can build such communities that serve good an individual’s fulfillment. In our thinking about society we need to reject the abstract and therefore absolutised concepts of individual and community that produced an impassable abyss between them. Dewey never and nowhere in his philosophical thinking understood the ideas of human liberty and community, the individual and 1

J. Dewey, Individualism, Old and New. 1930, LW5 p.66


Community of Art

the social as conceptual oppositions but rather as a continuum that is characterized by consecutiveness and graduation. For him self and community are not fixed entities but rather “the task before us”. An individual and a society are not “objects” but process states, they are in statu nascendi and their transitory form emerges every time from the network of their mutual relations and interactions. Therefore Dewey finally gives the broadest formula of democracy as a way of life that involves formal and informal, personal and institutional human relations. The democracy understood in the broad sense is not limited to the political dimension; as an ideal of the social life it embraces all fields of human activity, including, alongside politics, economics, science and many other areas. Community is an idea of political philosophy and Dewey developed it in his theory of democracy. But pragmatism paid much attention to the socalled scientific community. For Dewey, the scientific community is both a part of the social community and a general model for imitation. Comprehending democracy as the task before us, Dewey speaks about an experimental society, which means that social issues should be treated as a kind of experiment and be realized by using one’s intelligence - in formulating our aims, in anticipations their results, in finding the best means for their realization, and in planning alternative solutions. Science is a model of the problem solving. We will succeed by detecting how science solves its problems and applying its methods to social problems. Science understood of course not as the solitary effort of one gifted researcher but as the scientific community. Dewey writes: 1. „Science has made its way by releasing, not by suppressing, the element of variation, of invention and innovation, of novel creation in individuals.” 2. “In spite of science’s dependence for its development upon the free initiative, invention, and enterprise of individual inquirers, the authority of science issues from and is based upon collective activity, cooperatively organized.” 3. “Every scientific inquirer, even when he deviates most widely from current ideas, depends upon methods and conclusions that are a common possession and not of private ownership.” 2

Dewey wants to say that even the most creative individuals, full of novel invention, live in a community and they are formed by it as much as it is by them. Then he stressed that the authority of science consists in 2

J. Dewey, Authority and the Individual, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard 1937 p. 185-6

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achievements, commonly elaborated by scientists that build the tradition. The tradition undergoes permanent development, it is still modified by the invention of researchers and therefore it does not stand up to their freedom. Dewey speaks explicitly about the extension of the idea of a scientific community over the whole of society. Lawrence Haworth comments this as follows: “We are confronted with a massive ideal and there can be no doubt that for Dewey it is the most important conception in his entire philosophy: let humanity become a scientific community.”3

I would like to recall that Dewey was born in the year in which Darwin’s famous book was published and that he lived during a period of strong development of the natural sciences and of the significant emergence of the social sciences. Therefore Dewey’s deep trust in science and his making it a model for democracy is not surprising. He wrote: “Only the experimental method corresponds to the democratic way of life”.4 It would be interesting to ask if Dewey – living in our time, when belief in science weakened as a result of skepticism inside science itself – would point to science as a model of democracy or maybe he would rather seek the model somewhere else? I already mentioned that in comprehending democracy as a way of life and as a task before us Dewey claimed that a community is worked out and still improved in all fields of human activity. He distinguished science but he also mentioned among other things artistic activity, although he never developed in analogy to the scientific community an idea of an artistic community or the idea of a community of art. In Art as Experience, his basic work in aesthetics, Dewey considers the multiplicity of relations and interactions between works of art, artists and recipients; he does not use the term “community of art” and he also does not refer to the idea of a scientific community but he employs the term “community of experience”. What does it mean? Dewey cautions us that the answer will not be easy: … “but the nature of community of experience is one of the most serious problems of philosophy – so serious that some thinkers deny the fact.”5 They do so because a community of experience is conditioned by the necessity of 3

L. Haworth, p. 31 J. Dewey, The Underlying Philosophy of Education, 1933, LW8 p. 102 5 J. Dewey, Art as Experience, Perigee Books 1980 p. 334 4

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mutual communication between its members and according to their assumptions such communication is impossible on account of the physical and mental distinctness of every individual. Dewey does not share these assumptions and in his naturalistic anthropology claims that mind and body, a man and his surrounding, are not separate beings but a continuum of interactions. On the level of social life the mutual relations between human beings take on great significance and a self becomes a product of the community. It has – as a result of its own course of interactions – an inimitable quality of individualism. Nevertheless, even the quality of individualism is not formed outside the community. Although we as the individuals differ from each other, each of us is to a certain extent formed by the others and the others by us. Therefore a community of experience is possible. Dewey agreed that communication plays a great role in the life of a community of experience, communication by language in general and especially by a language of art. It is art that lets us build real communities, unlike the apparent communities in which deeper human relations are displaced by formal institutional relations. Dewey writes: “A vast number of our contacts with one another are external and mechanical. There is a ‘field’ in which they take place, a field defined and perpetuated by legal and political institutions. (…) …relations of investors and laborers, of producers and consumers, are interactions that are only to a slight degree forms of communicative intercourse. There are interactions between the parties involved, but they are so external and partial that we undergo their consequences without integrating them into an experience”.

In such external relations …. “meaning and value do not come home to us. There is in such cases no communication and none of the result of community of experience that issues only when language in its full import breaks down physical isolation and external contact. Art is a more universal mode of language than is the speech that exists in a multitude of mutually unintelligible forms. The language of art has to be acquired”.6

We can see that Dewey attributed to art a great power for the creation of integrated communities based upon deeper human relations that involve the personal engagement of the members. Unfortunately, as I already said, Dewey did not develop this problem in a systematic way. I will try now to reconstruct, by referring to small and dispersed fragments, how according 6

Ibid. p. 335

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to Dewey art builds a community of experience. I restrict my considerations to two examples: the first concerns the function of art criticism, the other – the problem of intercultural communication. Although the language of art is universal (by ‘universality’ Dewey understands not metaphysical generality but the “way in which things functions in experience”7), it is sometimes very difficult and here is the place for the special function of art criticism. Art criticism does not consist in offering judgments and Dewey sharply criticized the so-called juridical school of criticism. Criticism fulfilled its function being the inquiring relation of a critic’s own experience, which has nothing to do with the socalled impressionist current in art criticism, in which subjective sensations are recorded. The description of a critic’s own experience means, according to Dewey, grasping the objective qualities of a work of art and in this sense art criticism is always a risk for a critic because it requires his personal engagement and thus it testifies to his sensitivity and maturity. The criticism “demands a rich background and a disciplined insight”.8 The real task of art criticism does not consist in the evaluation of a work of art but in giving examples of possible experiences of art. If a critic describes the objective qualities of the work of art experienced by him, then his experience becomes helpful for others on their way of building the immediate experiences of art. Such a help is especially needed when we are confronted with very novel works of art, in which the relation between the traditional, familiar and common on the one hand, and the new and individual on the other, is troubled to such extent that we can neither conduct our perception of a work of art nor integrate our experience. Dewey articulated his opinion about the function of art criticism very clearly: „The function of criticism is the reeducation of perception of works of art; it is an auxiliary in the process, a difficult process, of learning to see and hear. The conception that its business is to appraise, to judge in the legal and moral sense, arrests the perception of those who are influenced by the criticism that assumes this task. The moral office of criticism is performed indirectly. The individual who has an enlarged and quickened experience is one who should make for himself his own appraisal. The way to help him is through the expansion of his own experience by the work of art to which criticism is subsidiary”.9


Ibid. p. 286 Ibid. p. 300 9 Ibid. p. 324 8

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The function of art itself is the deepening of relations between human beings and the building in this way of a community of experience; art criticism helps and facilitates this process. These problems were considered by Dewey primarily in relation to one culture. The problem of building a community of experience by art between cultures, which is so important today in a time of globalization, was also taken up by Dewey before years. As has already been said, according to Dewey the language of art is a better means of building a community of experience than speech, which is diversified into many languages. The best example is music, which forms very strong connections between individuals. Dewey writes: „The differences between English, French and German speech create barriers that are submerged when art speaks.”10 At this moment I ignore, as Dewey does also, the problem of literature and its translations. Although the language of art is (relatively) universal, it is true that every culture has its distinctiveness, its “collective individuality”, as Dewey says, that stamps all its products, including works of art. The question arises: is the experience of works of art that were created in the foreign cultures possible? Or in a little different formulation: can art build a community of experience beyond time and space? It is not a matter of whether we can experience, for example, the art of ancient Greece in the same way as the Greeks living in this time experienced it or whether we can experience African art in the same way as the inhabitants of Africa. Dewey disposes of the problem by reminding us that aesthetic experience is always “a matter of interaction of the artistic product with the self. It is not therefore twice alike for different persons even today”.11 Human relations generated by art do not consist in duplicating or coping experiences; every experience has a trait of individuality that is elaborated in interaction with what is common. But maybe there are such different cultures that they have no common features? According to Dewey in art produced in this or that culture there is always expressed the basic relation between a man and his surrounding. …”the art characteristic of a civilization is the means for entering sympathetically into the deepest elements in the experience of remote and foreign civilizations. By this fact is explained also the human import of their arts for ourselves. They effect a broadening and deepening of our own

10 11

Ibid. p.335 Ibid. p. 330

Krystyna Wilkoszewska


experience, rendering it less local and provincial as far as we grasp, by their means, the attitudes basic in other forms of experience”.12

It is a very important statement that a community built by art does not consist in an identity of experiences (this is not possible at all) but in broadening the spectrum of various forms of experience. By means of art we become open to foreign and strange forms and contents because they express, though in a different way, what is common and significant for all human beings independently of time and space. It is the relation between a human being and the surrounding world that is realized in many ways and these ways are a source of differences both between individuals and between communities. Dewey underlines: „Works of art are means by which we enter, through imagination and the emotions they evoke, into other forms of relationship and participation than our own.”13 We see that the problem of transcending the barriers of strangeness and distinctions refers to the same extent to the possibility of experience another man as another culture. Art is helpful because according to Dewey the penetration of the different ways of experience demands not so much reason or knowledge but rather emotions and creative imagination. Dewey finally compares the process of experiencing the art of a foreign culture to the effort to understand a friend. „Friendship and intimate affection are not the result of information about another person even though knowledge may further their formation. But it does so only as it becomes an integral part of sympathy through imagination.”14

Thanks to imaginations and feelings in the experiences of art, the strangeness of a foreign culture is crossed and the discrete is replaced by the continuous. Dewey concludes: “The community and continuity that do not exist physically are created”.15 For this process no institutional protections are needed.

III When we speak about art in the context of society, it usually means that we ask whether works of art should reflect the problems of a 12

Ibid. p. 332 Ibid. p. 333 14 Ibid. p. 336 15 Ibid. p.336 13


Community of Art

community, that is, the political, ethical, and customary aspects of social life. This is fully understandable considering that the aesthetics that dominated in our culture through the centuries was an aesthetics rooted in Greek mimesis. According to this aesthetics works of art imitate the reality in which they are created. This reality was at first understood as a nature and then since the 19th century as the social and historical world; at this time imitative aesthetics took the form of realism. The best of standard works of realism are H. Balzac’s novels. In so-called socialist realism the rule of representing of social reality became the political dictate. I tried to show that Dewey understood the problem of the relation of art with the social community in a quite different way. His original philosophy of art was distant both from the tradition of art as imitation and from the contemplative theory of reception that was closely connected with this tradition. Dewey did not see in art a means for representing reality but a great power for broadening and deepening our experiences. Thanks to such experiences the familiar and the strange are integrated and in this way communities of experience come into being. Although Dewey did not develop the idea of a community of art, this task could be undertaken today and Dewey’s ideas of art, philosophy of experience and theory of democracy would offer a good ground for it. At the end I would like to call attention to some issues that await broader reflection today. First, Dewey rather spoke about a community of recipients of art. It would be worth to reconsider the phenomenon of communities built by artists, especially by avant-garde artists, cubists or Russian constructivists. The special and unique kind of artists’ communities could probably be instructive in the context of building social communities by 21st century standards, that is, communities that are not based on institutions but on voluntary and free connections between individuals. Analyzing the common life of such individuals as artists could help in understanding the problem how to reconcile the need of freedom of the creative person with restrictions from the side of the community. Secondly, in a time of the growing presence of electronic media in our life, the problem of building communities that are not anchored in physical place is of great importance. We know that in cyberspace all spatial relations are submitted to radical transformation. The community of experience that was sketched by Dewey could be a valuable source of inspiration. Thirdly, traditional aesthetics preferred the contemplative reception of art that was suitable for high art. The contemplation of a work of art tends

Krystyna Wilkoszewska


to takes place in solitude and even in a concert hall listeners are not in contact. The new postmodern aesthetics reconstructs the modern idea of aesthetic experience and it tends in the direction pointed by Dewey; the ideas of contemplation and disinterestedness are replaced by the ideas of participation and engagement. In the theory of multimedia art the interactive character of art is especially stressed. So Dewey’s idea of interaction in experience that allows building communities could be applied today in totally new contexts.


1. Krystyna Wilkoszewska's rich and stimulating discussion of the "quest for community" in Deweyan terms prompts me to ask a number of questions about what we intellectuals should say about our own communities, communities composed of intellectuals. Deweyan intellectuals have much to say about communities of many sorts but little to say about communities of intellectuals. To be sure, as KW points about, Dewey had much to say about the community of scientific inquirers. Indeed, he often uses that sort of community as a model for communities in general. Charles Peirce, himself a distinguished experimental scientist, began the pragmatist tradition of treating the scientific community as a model for communities in general. 2. But what I am anxious to point out is that intellectuals, at least intellectuals in America, seem unwilling to look critically at their own communities. Among American intellectuals, professional philosophers seem to me to be the most serious offenders. In my half century of experience in the community of professional philosophers, I have repeatedly observed how shockingly dysfunctional this community is and yet almost no one takes an interest in addressing these problems. We professional philosophers confidently consider ourselves to be practicing philosophy in the Socratic tradition, and yet the central Socratic goal of self-knowledge is missing in an important respect. We are a community who refuses to know itself as a community. We philosophers, including philosophers who consider themselves to be Deweyan, spill much ink discussing the shortcomings of other types of communities, but say very little about the shortcomings of our own communities. To use a maxim popular in America, "people in glass houses should not throw stones.” Those who have a certain fault in themselves should hesitate to dwell on this fault in others. Our hypocrisy is outrageous. 3. However, I believe that this lack of community self-knowledge is by no means limited to professional philosophers. Increasingly, it can be found

Peter H. Hare


quite generally in the world of the intelligentsia. I submit that the same lack of community self-knowledge can be found in the arts. In contemporary English-speaking poetry, for example, can be found scores of fiercely selfpromoting cliques who heap scorn on all other cliques. It would be laughable to speak of there being one "community of poetry" in the Englishspeaking world. A philanthropist recently gave many millions of dollars to the magazine Poetry with the apparent intention of encouraging broad inclusiveness, but it soon became obvious that the editors had no intention of encouraging avant-garde poetry. Community fragmentation and balkanization is the rule, in my judgment. I believe that the same is true of the graphic arts. 4. Although I applaud KW's Deweyan suggestion that art has special capacities to promote community across linguistic and other cultural barriers, I am convinced that artists in their own communities are often extremely hostile to Deweyan communities. Indeed, the Deweyan democratic way of life is rarely valued in these communities. Artistic groups in the relations between their members are often brutally hierarchically, and respect for minority opinion is in short supply. Members of these groups, like groups of philosophers, give ample lip service to the ideals of Deweyan community. They would like the community at large to give their own community of artists a privileged place, and feel sure that if the society at large follows Deweyan ideals the artistic community will be given such a place. 5. Despite these doubts, I find fascinating KW's account of how art can build community of experience. This is especially inspiring in the context of Brancusi's work in the Romanian community we are presently in and elsewhere in the world. For some 100 years people all over the world have responded to his creations. I can personally testify to that response in my own family. My father was an architect and sculptor who studied at the Beaux Arts in Paris for two years in the early 1930s. Brancusi, whose studio of course was in Paris, was one of the artists he most strong responded to. I have recently been photographing my father's work in the 1930s, and the influence of Brancusi is obvious. His piece "The Fetus", for example, treats the subject of an unborn human child in ways very similar to the way Brancusi treats birds. The type of abstraction from the biological seems roughly the same, as is the treatment of the medium, strikingly grained wood. Consequently, I find Brancusi's sculpture, despite its many ties to Romania folk art and architecture, richly accessible to me. 6. Let me now turn to another theme of KW's paper. She helpfully draws attention to Dewey's view that "the function of criticism in the reeducation of perception of works of art". Education is, of course, a central focus in all


Comments and Queries: Krystyna Wilkoszewska’s “Community of Art”

of Dewey's philosophy. So it is not surprising that he sees the critic's role in educational, not evaluative terms. But I wonder whether KW agrees that the sole legitimate function of criticism is educational. Although I don't doubt that it is appropriate that every person make his or her own appraisal of an artwork after becoming informed by aesthetic education, I see no reason why an additional function of a critic is not legitimately evaluative. Would Dewey deny that? Is it really illegitimate for a critic to give an argument that Brancusi is, say, a greater sculptor than his teacher Rodin? Or to evaluate Richard Serra's work in relation to his contemporaries? To me, it seems that a pragmatist philosopher should be extremely suspicious of any claim that the function of some particular activity is such and such. Such a claim seems essentialist. Surely, essentialism of any kind is anathema to Dewey and other pragmatists. The functions of any activity are indefinitely many—depending on the context in which the activity is carried on and the purposes of those doing it. Wouldn't we be well advised to leave the functions of criticism open-ended? 7. Let me next touch on another question of aesthetics in a way that relates the question to Brancusi. How should the Dewey an aesthetician take into account Brancusi's own philosophical commitments in understanding and evaluating his work? Brancusi repeatedly embraced Platonism as the philosophy guiding his design. More specifically, he said that Plato's theory of forms was part of the inspiration for the type of abstraction he employed. In his striking simplifications of biological forms he understood himself to be representing, for example, the Platonic "form" of a bird. Needless to say, there could hardly be an epistemology and metaphysics more in conflict with the epistemology and metaphysics of pragmatism than Plato's theory of forms. Does that striking conflict make a difference for Dewey? Would it make a difference if a sculptor were an avid fan of Dewey's philosophy? The American modernist poet William Carlos Williams was enthusiastic about many aspects of Dewey's philosophy, and many critics have found Deweyan themes in Williams' poetry. What comment do you think Dewey would have on that sort of influence of his philosophy on the arts? 8. Now a question concerning the inclusiveness of Dewey's concept of art. Dewey famously wanted to recover "the continuity of esthetic experience with normal processes of living". He stressed the ways in which art is rooted in the natural needs, constitution and activities of the human organism. Moreover, he often insisted, as KW reminds us, on art's global instrumental value, and his remarks about what he called "museum art" and "high art" were often disparaging. Though Dewey himself didn't say much

Peter H. Hare


about art in popular entertainment, he said a great deal about the aesthetic dimensions of many ordinary human activities hitherto not thought to be artistic. And some commentators on Dewey's philosophy of art such as Richard Shusterman have used Dewey in their effort to give serious attention to the aesthetic value of the popular arts, e.g. rap music. I'd like to ask the question of whether implicit, if not explicit, in Dewey's aesthetics is the view that, other things being equal, art which has greater social value is better art, and art which is, other things being equal, more deeply rooted in the natural needs of the human organism is better art, and art which, other things being equal, attracts and is accessible to a larger audience is better art? Often he seems to imply that. If so, this would mean, for example, that experimental, "difficult", avant-garde music and poetry is of less aesthetic value, as would much "museum graphic art" today. Do the democratic ideals that lie behind so much of Dewey's philosophy have such implications for his estimates of the relative value of works of art? Shusterman seems to believe that his Deweyan aesthetics demands that popular art be taken seriously as sometimes having much aesthetic value but that that demand in no way entails that "fine art" and "museum art" be considered to have less value. In other words, he thinks, the Deweyan has a much more inclusive concept of art than is usual without thereby disparaging traditional fine art. Is he correct? Or is Dewey in his attacks on elitism in what he calls "the museum conception of art" promoting an egalitarianism in art that would tend to denigrate much of the art of our day especially (but also in his time) that requires specialized education and experience to understand and appreciate. Or, to put the point in another way, does a pragmatist philosophy of art promote a "dumbing down" of art so that art can be widely understood and appreciated in a society in which only a small minority have specialized training in the arts. Does the pragmatist in aesthetics believe that the best art is art that attracts a wide audience? Does the Deweyan believe that the best art, other things being equal, is art that most effectively helps to build a democratic community? Although Dewey throughout his philosophical writings is critical of any dichotomy between intrinsic and instrumental value, does he, in effect, in his aesthetics subordinate intrinsic aesthetic value to instrumental value for building democratic community? We can all applaud the building of democratic community, but should we accept a philosophy of art which makes art's value dependent on its effectiveness in building democratic community. Perhaps the pragmatist should say that in the long run a society is more richly democratic if it strongly encourages artists to work without regard for the democratic value of their work. Artists whose work has wide appeal and builds a community of experience need little encouragement since they wiil be reliably rewarded by a grateful public


Comments and Queries: Krystyna Wilkoszewska’s “Community of Art”

and the commercial media. Does the goal of building a community of experience more easily undermine art than it enhances art? Let me summarize the questions I have posed: 1. Should intellectuals, including Deweyan philosophers and artists, look critically at their own communities before they preach the building of democratic communities to others? 2. Should we reject the view that the function of criticism is the reeducation of perception of works of art and instead hold that the functions of any activity are indefinitely many—depending on the context in which the work carried on and the purposes of those engage in it? 3. How should the Deweyan philosopher art take into account the explicit philosophical commitments of the artist (e.g. Brancusi) when those commitments are in radical conflict with Deweyan philosophy? 4. Does the Deweyan philosopher of art believe that art which has greater social value, is more deeply rooted in the natural needs of the human organism, is accessible to a larger audience, and is more effective in building a community of experience, should be considered BETTER art? Or should the pragmatist say that in the long run a society is more richly democratic if it strongly encourages artists to work without regard for the democratic value of their work, since artists whose work has wide appeal and builds community will be generously rewarded by commercial interests and the public?