Saturday, May 9, 2009

28 Thomas More

The best society is one whose aim is the temporal well-being and happiness of all the citizens, not only of the rich or well-born. All are to share equally and equitably in al the good things -- or pleasures -- of this life and this world: food, clothes, houses, work, play, sleep and education.

"It seems to me, that everywhere, where exists personal property and where everyone values everything by its money value, it is hardly possible, that there can be justice and happiness in the state, unless one has the opinion, that justice rules, where the best things are due to the most wicked or that happiness dwells there where all falls to the share of the few."

All citizens have to wear the same simple clothes. All 54 cities of Utopia must have the same architecture and layout. All streets have to be 6 meters wide and all houses look the same. The citizens have to move and change houses once in a while to prevent the feeling of private property.

Who is talking here....Marx, Lenin , maybe Mao? No...not even any close contemporay person. It is Thomas More in his book Utopia, published in 1518.
Three years after Machiavelli finished his 'Il Principe' (1513). Two such different views.

While Machiavelli focuses on the power of the state to organize society (Italy was a chaos in those days), is Thomas More more focused on the social abuses and inequalities (England was a well organized state, but socially and economically a disaster regarding the haves and have-nots).

Machiavelli goes for power and a strong ruler and has rather liberal views on the social and economical organization of the state. Thomas more preaches a real communism andemphazises ehtics. They had one thing in common: neither Machiavelli nor Thomas More mention an institution such as the Catholic Church as a matter of importance.

This is such an amazing moment in history. That is why these men are in my list. They are not real philosophers in the strict sense of the word, but they set the beacons for what has to come.

From now on we'll have two areas of interest: on the one hand the epistemological matters and on the other hand matters concerning the condition humane: ethics.

Machiavelli from Italy, Thomas More from England. That will stay with us from now on too: the philosophical development in England and the philosophical development on the Continent.

From England will come a strong empiricism; on the Continent rationalism is predominant. It is the sources of knowledge: the senses or the ratio.

That makes me wonder....would the fact that Henry VIII made himself pope of his own christian church about 1530, while the Continent stayed under rulership of Rome, have something to do with this historical subdivision?

Whatever our answer is, let's head for the next philosopher, an englishman, Sir Francis Bacon, in next class.

The Discussion

[13:22] Kerya Beresford: yet More is the rationalist
[13:22] Kerya Beresford: Machiavelli the empiricist?
[13:23] Herman Bergson: I guess you are right Kerya..:-)
[13:23] AristotleVon Doobie: So the seed is split and the antagonism begins.
[13:23] Kerya Beresford: it is curious
[13:23] Kerya Beresford: I agree with your general point
[13:23] Herman Bergson: yes is..
[13:23] Kerya Beresford: but in this instance the roles are reversed
[13:23] Herman Bergson: yes..funny actually ..didnt realize that..but you are right
[13:24] AristotleVon Doobie: either method is a formula for controlling the masses
[13:24] Herman Bergson: but both men, Machiavelli and More werent philosophers.
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: interesting that that would happen and yes aristotle
[13:25] Herman Bergson: for these two men indeed Aristotle..
[13:26] Herman Bergson: but what is most interesting to me is to see how these ideas already developed about 1500 in Europe
[13:26] Herman Bergson: I and political thinking
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: Machiaveli could have been Henry's teacher
[13:26] Herman Bergson: Oh yes..:-)
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: but a backlash from More
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: no wonder he was canonized!!
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: ha
[13:27] Kerya Beresford: I think the key word might be temporal
[13:28] Herman Bergson: Well with Machiavelli and More and Erasmus we had some kind of philosophical break...
[13:28] Kerya Beresford: a temporal proto communism clears the decks for a contemplation of the spiritual
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: Opposing forces of power
[13:28] Kerya Beresford: maybe?
[13:28] Herman Bergson: What do you mean Kerya?
[13:29] Kerya Beresford: it was in that text
[13:29] Kerya Beresford: you gave at the start
[13:29] Kerya Beresford: so I am pun unintended thinking aloud
[13:29] Herman Bergson: ok..:-)
[13:29] Kerya Beresford: the Catholic distinction between matters spiritual and temporal
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: these two forces last even to today
[13:30] Herman Bergson: which forces do youmean Aristotle?
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: Machiavellie and More
[13:30] Kerya Beresford: yes
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: the concepts they offered
[13:31] Herman Bergson: yes...
[13:31] Kerya Beresford: agency versus structure
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: you have adherrents to both
[13:31] Herman Bergson: but I would define them as power politics against social politics
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: but the adhesion is on the ruling side of each
[13:31] Herman Bergson: liberalism against socialism
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: yes
[13:32] Kerya Beresford: or realpolitik against functional collectivism
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: the masses have no say in either
[13:32] Herman Bergson: yes indeed Kerya
[13:33] Kerya Beresford: in international relations they talk of the two schools realist versus idealist
[13:33] Herman Bergson: and it is interesting to see that in those days these ideas already existed
[13:33] Kerya Beresford: yes
[13:33] Herman Bergson: tho the functional collectivism as you call it would slumber for still a few hundred years
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: It is amusig to see how folks were just as smart 100s and 1000s of years ago
[13:34] Kerya Beresford: there is a risk though
[13:34] Kerya Beresford: of reading them anachronistically
[13:34] Herman Bergson: yes.Aristotle...the more classes I give the more it amazes me too
[13:34] Kerya Beresford: as if they were talking to us
[13:34] Kerya Beresford: and not their own time
[13:35] Kerya Beresford: they were both practical men
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: what of evolution, I wonder?
[13:35] Riven Flare: evolution of thought or of man?
[13:35] Herman Bergson: yes Kerya..and Italy was a mess and England a social mess
[13:35] Kerya Beresford: yes
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes Riven, I think it is the tabula rasa handicap.
[13:36] Herman Bergson: Evolution of thought or of man....!!!
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: thought as far as refinement
[13:36] Herman Bergson: Let's hold on for a minute on that question
[13:37] Herman Bergson: This is a very important question
[13:37] Herman Bergson: we follow all these philosophers through time...
[13:38] Herman Bergson: we see the developments of ideas, theories, political philosophies...
[13:38] Herman Bergson: Now...what do we observe..evolution of thoughts or man...
[13:39] Herman Bergson: is man evolving....getting wiser through time and history?
[13:39] Kerya Beresford: are they inseparable
[13:39] Kerya Beresford: ?
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: I would say that thinking process tho
[13:39] Kerya Beresford: thoughts and 'man'?
[13:39] Herman Bergson: yes..are they...?
[13:39] Herman Bergson: well..Kerya..I interpret this as follows...
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: As far as physical evolution acquired traits are pass on at birth not so thoughts
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: i heard someone say that the evolution of man has slowed due to technilogical helps. Man does not have to adapt any more
[13:40] Kerya Beresford: Richard dawkins thinks there are 'meme'
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: physically
[13:40] Kerya Beresford: memes
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: but mentally??
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: mmm
[13:40] Herman Bergson: do we develop more insight...or do we as biological organisms in the course of evolution acquire more skills to survive socially?
[13:40] Kerya Beresford: ideas that evolve and are transmitted like genes
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: i think we have a loooong way to go
[13:41] Herman Bergson: But I think there is another level to consider..
[13:41] Laila Schuman: it seems to me that we keep going back and starting at zero again and again
[13:41] Kerya Beresford: the social level?
[13:42] Kerya Beresford: Burckhardt said individualism began in Italy
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: I think the capacity for learning increase but the neccessity to educate ourselves is the handicap
[13:42] Herman Bergson: what we see through history....from the greek till now... 1550...
[13:42] Kerya Beresford: in the renaissance
[13:42] Kerya Beresford: because of the politics of the city states
[13:42] Herman Bergson: is the economical development
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[13:42] Kerya Beresford: Vasari wrote the first
[13:42] Riven Flare: socally when we resort to watching suffering as entertainment we step back a few
[13:42] Kerya Beresford: biographies of individual artists
[13:42] Kerya Beresford: before that, they were anonymous
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes Riven , the ancient brain is called up.
[13:43] Herman Bergson: I think we also have to take into account the economical developpment of Europe
[13:43] Kerya Beresford: yes
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: at that time?
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: yes techinlogical progress
[13:44] Herman Bergson: so maybe neither thought nor man evolved, but the material wealth increased sothat sharing the goods became easier
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: hah
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: solon
[13:45] better production methods of food and goods
[13:45] Kerya Beresford: the development of print capitalism
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: but who gets the biggest share, than it the question
[13:45] Riven Flare: social intricacies evolved but not man himself
[13:45] Herman Bergson: yes Rivin..that is what I am thinking too
[13:46] Herman Bergson: all through history, in my opinion, man stayed the same thinking and feeling individual
[13:46] Manoly Demina: yeah
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: I think you are right
[13:46] Kerya Beresford: Herman that is a massive claim
[13:46] Kerya Beresford: difficult to test
[13:46] Kerya Beresford: it may be right
[13:47] Kerya Beresford: but how do you test it?
[13:47] Riven Flare: well can man over come its instincts?
[13:47] Herman Bergson: well..there is some test Kerya...literature
[13:47] Kerya Beresford: ok
[13:47] Herman Bergson: the texts of poetry through the ages havent changed...
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: the text yes.. not the subject..
[13:48] Herman Bergson: 90% of outr popsongs are about "I love you and I miss you"
[13:48] Kerya Beresford: well nobody writes public narrative poetry any more
[13:48] Herman Bergson: they wrote the same songs 1000 years ago
[13:48] Kerya Beresford: the last person to do that well was Auden
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: the evolutionary increase in intelectual capacity affords the advance in society
[13:49] Kerya Beresford: I think there is a huge difference between samuel Beckett and Chaucer
[13:49] Kerya Beresford: in literature as a whole
[13:49] Herman Bergson: Whether it is Piramis and Thisbe or Romeo and Juliet.
[13:49] Kerya Beresford: we had the Holocaust
[13:49] Kerya Beresford: they had God
[13:49] Riven Flare: but to most God is a perception.. ask 3 people what God is you'll get different answers
[13:50] Kerya Beresford: and Robert Lowell would be incomprehensible to petrach
[13:50] Herman Bergson: The holocaust is a matter of scale....
[13:50] Kerya Beresford: I was employing poetic licence
[13:50] Herman Bergson: the kilings in the Middle Ages were as bad
[13:50] Kerya Beresford: But formal verse is not written any more
[13:51] Herman Bergson: The Romans massacred complete cities
[13:51] Riven Flare: Romans were in their time as the nazis were for us
[13:51] Kerya Beresford: no serious poet now writes in iambic pentameters as Sir thomas wyatt might have done in Moore's time
[13:51] Kerya Beresford: that is more than a stylistic change
[13:51] Kerya Beresford: it is post modernism
[13:51] Herman Bergson: It is not about form is about content
[13:52] Laila Schuman: but does that make the poetry better or is it a cultural thing
[13:52] Kerya Beresford: but they are indivisible at many points
[13:52] Herman Bergson: it is about ideas....emotions that we are talking here
[13:52] Kerya Beresford: EE Cummings would not have been publihed in the time of Tennyson
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: hah to say the least
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: Emotions do not evole, only suppressed
[13:52] Kerya Beresford: yes but you are defining emotions so broadly you could justify anything
[13:53] Kerya Beresford: love
[13:53] Kerya Beresford: hate
[13:53] Kerya Beresford: etc
[13:53] Herman Bergson: Ok...let's summarize a few things
[13:53] Laila Schuman: but changing form is not the same as improving the thought inside the form
[13:53] Kerya Beresford: big words that only mean something if you specify
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: There is no justification in emotion running amok
[13:53] Kerya Beresford: sorry I sound rude
[13:53] Kerya Beresford: my apologies
[13:53] Herman Bergson: Ok...let's summarize a few things
[13:54] Herman Bergson: First of all we see the development of ideas which look very contemporary..
[13:55] Herman Bergson: then we put the question man evolving (biologicallly) or is man learning
[13:56] hope63 Shepherd: neither nore
[13:56] Herman Bergson: I would say that since we know man from the early greeks on, there is no biological evolution
[13:56] Herman Bergson: and regarding the increasing insight of man...
[13:57] Herman Bergson: I would say.....look at the underlying economical development
[13:57] Alarice Beaumont: yes, but the learning goes back and forth... look what knowledge we lost in medicine
[13:57] Herman Bergson: and how this interacts with the development of ideas
[13:57] Herman Bergson: What are you thinking off Alarice?
[13:58] Alarice Beaumont: man learns ... but also forgets it again in the process of development...
[13:58] Laila Schuman: are we not making this judgement based on our own cultures? is it possible that aborigines or gypsies or ... all kinds of other cultural groups... might see it differently? are we not saying these things compared to... our own concepts
[13:58] Laila Schuman: values
[13:58] Alarice Beaumont: because man doesn't need to use things he needed to use before development.. same with ideas
[13:58] Kerya Beresford: this is relativism
[13:58] Kerya Beresford: and is one reason why
[13:59] Kerya Beresford: we have changed from the days of More
[13:59] Riven Flare: have we really?
[13:59] Riven Flare: techologically yes
[13:59] Kerya Beresford: we now live in a risk society#
[13:59] Riven Flare: but otherwise?
[13:59] Kerya Beresford: we know that all the experts disagree
[14:00] Kerya Beresford: and are fallible
[14:00] Kerya Beresford: yet we still need experts
[14:00] Kerya Beresford: to help us cope
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: lol.. the old egytians knew that kerya..
[14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: I can tell you that the United States exists only because of the enlighten education of our founders.
[14:00] Kerya Beresford: with a world full of risks unimaginable to More
[14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: it is education the creates insight
[14:01] Kerya Beresford: but the Egyptians did not have nuclear weapons
[14:01] Laila Schuman: i think native americans might disagree ari
[14:01] Herman Bergson: Let's finish with one philosophical observation
[14:01] hope63 Shepherd: education creates sights.. hopefully for the good of the many and not only the individual ari
[14:01] AristotleVon Doobie: the invention of nuclear weapons is cerbreal, the udesire to use is ancient brain
[14:01] Herman Bergson: Let's finish with one philosophical observation
[14:02] hope63 Shepherd: but economy is taking care of the sights..
[14:02] Herman Bergson: Let's finish with one philosophical observation
[14:02] Herman Bergson: ok?
[14:02] AristotleVon Doobie: the many are only individuals hope
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: yes Herman?
[14:02] Laila Schuman: what is that Herman
[14:02] Manoly Demina: ok
[14:03] AristotleVon Doobie: go Herman
[14:03] Herman Bergson: There were two remarks I by Laila and one by kerya...
[14:04] Herman Bergson: laila pointed at the fact that other cultures would look completely differently at reality than we do
[14:04] Herman Bergson: and when I got it right Keryea called this relativism....
[14:05] Kerya Beresford: no
[14:05] Kerya Beresford: apologies but that needs clarification
[14:05] Kerya Beresford: if people say that is all there is
[14:05] Kerya Beresford: there is no truth just cmpeting viewpoints or discourses
[14:05] Kerya Beresford: the that is relativism
[14:06] Herman Bergson: yes,,,,that is what I understood...
[14:06] Kerya Beresford: but if everything is relative the viewpoint that everything is relative is itself relative
[14:06] Herman Bergson: in fact Laila introduced the idea of cultural relativism
[14:06] AristotleVon Doobie: :0
[14:06] Riven Flare: life is about perception
[14:07] Herman Bergson: now...relativism is a serious issue to deal with in philosophy
[14:07] Kerya Beresford: it is
[14:07] Herman Bergson: especially in realtion the the concept of truth...
[14:07] hope63 Shepherd: what is relativism..
[14:07] Kerya Beresford: very difficult
[14:07] Herman Bergson: hold on....
[14:07] hope63 Shepherd: we haven't talked about einstein so far i think
[14:08] Herman Bergson: this is just a matter you all have to keep in mind...
[14:08] Kerya Beresford: Einstein was not a relativist despite the name of his theory
[14:08] Herman Bergson: I said ..hold on..
[14:08] Kerya Beresford: sorry
[14:08] hope63 Shepherd: so you will explain it too me one day kerya..
[14:08] Kerya Beresford: the main thing for me
[14:08] Herman Bergson: philosophy is about wondering...questioning the obvious...
[14:08] Kerya Beresford: is to show consideration
[14:09] Kerya Beresford: to herman's excellent class
[14:09] Herman Bergson: as I said ..hold on
[14:09] Kerya Beresford: sorry herman
[14:09] Herman Bergson: here we have reached an interesting point..
[14:10] Herman Bergson: is our truth their truth.....Europenas versus Aboriginals...
[14:11] Gemma Cleanslate: or even our nextdoor neighbor
[14:11] Kerya Beresford: lol
[14:11] Herman Bergson: so Just keep this in mind this Western philosophy the only way (right way) to look at reality?
[14:11] Herman Bergson: yes Gemma
[14:11] Gemma Cleanslate: ah yes
[14:12] AristotleVon Doobie: Of course I still wonder about whose history of the truth it is
[14:12] Gemma Cleanslate: Maph should be here for that statement
[14:12] Alarice Beaumont: no for me.. definitly not
[14:12] Alarice Beaumont: you have to consider other cultures
[14:12] Kerya Beresford: relativism would dispute that there is a reality or even that the next door neighbour can be shown to exist
[14:12] Kerya Beresford: lol
[14:13] Kerya Beresford: you are just conceptualsing that he plays Iron Maiden at midnight
[14:13] Kerya Beresford: lol
[14:13] Herman Bergson: I think we have enough material gathered now to think about for today..:-)
[14:13] Gemma Cleanslate: i think ao
[14:13] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes indeed
[14:13] Alarice Beaumont: oh yes
[14:14] Gemma Cleanslate: little of thomas more
[14:14] Gemma Cleanslate: but lots of ideas
[14:14] Riven Flare: yes definatly
[14:14] Herman Bergson: I see we are almost breaking our fingers on the keyboard..:-)
[14:14] AristotleVon Doobie: how wonderful
[14:14] Kerya Beresford: I congratulate herman
[14:14] Kerya Beresford: the classes are always exciting and well prepared
[14:14] Herman Bergson: so I thank you for this great discussion
[14:14] Kerya Beresford: thank you herman
[14:14] Gemma Cleanslate: thank you
[14:14] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes thank you Herman
[14:15] Riven Flare: this has been fun today
[14:15] Alarice Beaumont: yes .. thank you :-)
[14:15] Herman Bergson: thank you for your contributions
[14:15] Herman Bergson: I love to put it all in the weblog of our class

Posted by herman_bergson on 2007-12-16 18:03:20

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