Monday, April 26, 2010

248: Montesquieu (1689 - 1755)

The Age of the Enlightenment is a turning point in the development of European civilization. Some people complain about the individualism and the empty churches of today.

However, this is not a modern phenomenon at all. It all began with the Enlightenment, when knowledge became scientific knowledge and christianity had ceased to be one religion, but a multitude of different interpretations.

These are the roots of our contemporary world and in Montesquieu (1689 - 1755) we again meet a political philosopher who set the beacons for the centuries to come.

He was famous in his own century both in France and in foreign lands, from Russia to the American colonies. He was a follower of John Locke and the outstanding champion in France of the supposedly “English” notions of freedom, toleration, moderation, and constitutional government.

The dominant role of religion in political philosophy had come to a definite end. Locke already proposed to separate state and religion.

God is described by Montesquieu in Book 1 of his "De l'esprit des lois"as creating nature and its laws; having done so, He vanishes, and plays no further explanatory role.

In particular, Montesquieu does not explain the laws of any country by appeal to divine enlightenment, providence, or guidance. On his view it is generally a mistake to base civil laws on religious principles. Religion aims at the perfection of the individual; civil laws aim at the welfare of society.

The civil laws are not an appropriate tool for enforcing religious norms of conduct: God has His own laws, and He is quite capable of enforcing them without our assistance.

When we attempt to enforce God's laws for Him, or to cast ourselves as His protectors, we make our religion an instrument of fanaticism and oppression; this is a service neither to God nor to our country. How modern these ideas sound, if we look at islamic fanaticism and its cry of the Sharia.

Montesquieu's masterpiece is definitely his "De l’esprit des lois". It was first published in Geneva in 1748 against the advice of all the friends to whom Montesquieu had shown the manuscript. It was promptly placed on the Index by the Pope, but it sold twenty-two editions in less than two years.

Montesquieu's aim in "The Spirit of the Laws" is to explain human laws and social institutions. And thus he became the fist scientist formulating sociological research on a strict empiricist basis.

According to him the laws we have are man made and adapted "to the people for whom they are framed..., to the nature and principle of each government, ...

to the climate of each country, to the quality of its soil, to its situation and extent, to the principal occupation of the natives, whether husbandmen, huntsmen or shepherds:…"

In all the diversity however , Montesquieu, saw a general law. At the highest level of abstraction, he saw a uniform law—“Men have always been subject to the same passions”—but in various societies this higher natural law is expressed in differing systems of positive law. The systems differ because the external conditions differ.

To make things work you need the right government. Montesquieu holds that there are three types of governments: republican governments, which can take either democratic or aristocratic forms; monarchies; and despotisms.

If it is to provide its citizens with the greatest possible liberty, a government must have certain features. First, since "constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it ... it is necessary from the very nature of things that power should be a check to power".

This is achieved through the separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of government. If different persons or bodies exercise these powers, then each can check the others if they try to abuse their powers.

And here we see the legacy of a man, who lived a three hundred years ago: the separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of government, still a cornerstone of our democracy and thus our liberty.

The Discussion

[13:18] herman Bergson: This on Montesquieu...
[13:18] herman Bergson: Time for questions and remarks ㋡
[13:19] Repose Lionheart: Montesquieu got it right, I think ㋡
[13:19] Gemma Cleanslate: this looks so simple~!!!!!!!! On his view it is generally a mistake to base civil laws on religious principles. Religion aims at the perfection of the individual; civil laws aim at the welfare of society.
[13:19] Gemma Cleanslate: i love that
[13:19] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:19] herman Bergson: I agree Repose....and we are still on the liberal train....
[13:19] Gemma Cleanslate: why cannot our citizens get that throught their heads
[13:19] oola Neruda: yay Gemma.. ye
[13:19] oola Neruda: yes
[13:20] herman Bergson: Good question Gemma ^_^
[13:20] Gemma Cleanslate: this is at the root of so many of our conflicts here in government today
[13:20] herman Bergson: It is amazing that a man 300 years ago already thought of these things
[13:20] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:20] Gemma Cleanslate: well not necessarly
[13:20] herman Bergson: what exactly Gemma?
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: no wonder the church did not like him
[13:21] Repose Lionheart: oh, yes ㋡
[13:21] herman Bergson: Oh no....immediately put on the INdex
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: well 300 years ago that was the root of the puritans formulation
[13:22] Bruce Mowbray: Is our country's refusal to see churches as corporations a sign of continuing M's liberalism - or a step backward from it?
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: the idea of separation of church and state
[13:22] Abraxas Nagy: our country?
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: our country
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: usa
[13:22] Bruce Mowbray: I'm sorry!
[13:22] Bruce Mowbray: I really am sorry.
[13:22] Bruce Mowbray: The Unitged States.
[13:22] Abraxas Nagy: ah ok
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:22] herman Bergson: It is ok Bruce
[13:23] oola Neruda: a lot of what the church wants and the state wants...overlap... like consequences for murder, stealing etc. the church could make an issue of how they serve all of society as well as the individual
[13:23] herman Bergson: I dont know Bruce... churches dont pay taxes....
[13:23] herman Bergson: that I know
[13:24] Bruce Mowbray: That's part of it, yes.
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: maybe a step back ㋡
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: religion does get special treatment
[13:24] herman Bergson: Well first of all aIlready in those days the political philosophy was that the church has no relation with the affairs of state.
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: but they all get it
[13:25] herman Bergson: Locke already suggested a clear separation…
[13:25] herman Bergson: Religion is something of the individual
[13:25] Zinzi Serevi: i agree
[13:25] Zinzi's translator: i agree
[13:25] herman Bergson: And he only should be protected by law to be free in his choices of religion
[13:25] Bruce Mowbray: Would Mont. and Locke agree that churches should not be treated as corportations, though -- I mean, that they should be granted special status apart from civil laws?
[13:26] herman Bergson: Well...we now witness what the consequences can be of that special status....
[13:26] Repose Lionheart: interesting question
[13:26] Alaya Kumaki: i see that today , we have rather the problem of power abuse checking to organise better also
[13:27] Alaya Kumaki: but what is the difference between the religions executive and the parliament executive?
[13:27] herman Bergson: All those priests that broke civil law regarding sexual abuse...should have been put to trail
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: of course
[13:27] Zinzi Serevi: sure
[13:27] Zinzi's translator: sure
[13:28] Alaya Kumaki: dowe have a some slack, in our executive according to the civil laws?
[13:28] herman Bergson: In fact religions have no executive power in the state
[13:28] Bruce Mowbray: If church and state are REALLY separate -- then the churches have their laws/punishments and the states have theirs.
[13:28] herman Bergson: Nor has the Elvis Presley fan club
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: but the person broke the law of the state
[13:28] herman Bergson: No....I wouldnt agree to that Bruce...
[13:29] Kiki Walpanheim: what about religions in public school and the military... does accomodating their need of religion conflict with the strict separation
[13:29] Bruce Mowbray: ;-)
[13:29] herman Bergson: When church and state are separated the church is to obey the civil laws
[13:29] Alaya Kumaki: but they were those who abuses of their power over the civil, and we have the law executive, what are we waiting
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: someone once said to me it was none of my business... the priest problem.... because i was not a catholic
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: that is the way they believe
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: believe*
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: that the church should punish the sinner
[13:30] herman Bergson: Well Gemma..that person was wrong...the priest broke the civil laws YOU obey to as well
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: and it is not our business
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: exactly!!!!!!!!!!
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: everybody's business when someone breaks a law we all make...a civil law ㋡
[13:31] oola Neruda: if the priest confesses and says he will not do it again... the church believes in redemption... which is a touchy subject
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:31] Bruce Mowbray: Seems to come down to who has the most power -- In Islamic countries, it's the "church," and in secular countries it's the state.
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes oola
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: the church is not a civil law unto itself anymore
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: though it once was
[13:31] herman Bergson: Well when the murderer confesses and promise not to kill anymore he may walk?
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: old habits die hard, maybe
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:32] Kiki Walpanheim: "secular" countries?
[13:32] oola Neruda: exactly ... prof..
[13:32] Abraxas Nagy: state and church separated
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: yes, Bruce
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: agree
[13:32] Bruce Mowbray: Good point - mmmm. . . OK, countries in which there is a "separation between church and state" - which does not exist in Islamic countries.
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes Bruce..
[13:32] Kiki Walpanheim: nods...ty
[13:32] Abraxas Nagy: exact;y
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: there in is a great example of the problem
[13:33] herman Bergson: and the funny thing is that Montesquieu thought that despositm was 'best' for islamic countries
[13:33] Alaya Kumaki: but for the natures laws, what dies montesquieu says, like if we put that in the context of the protection of the environment? are they god s law, so link to religions?
[13:33] herman Bergson: Monarchy for catholic countries and protestantism for Republican countries
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmmmm
[13:34] Kiki Walpanheim: there are places with no religions too
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: not working lolol
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: minorities were freer under the Shah than they are under the Islamic Republic
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: so he had his list lol
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: his directives
[13:34] herman Bergson: Montesquieu is quite clear about that Ayala...
[13:34] Bruce Mowbray: This reminds me of Ghandi's separation of Hinduism and Islam by sending all the Hindus to India and all the Muslims to Pakistan.
[13:34] Bruce Mowbray: And NOW look at the mess!
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:35] herman Bergson: God created the earth and natural law and then vanished :-)
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: Ghandi resisted that.....
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: that was the idea of the politicians
[13:35] Alaya Kumaki: aaah so,its up to us, than?^^
[13:36] Abraxas Nagy: of couirse
[13:36] herman Bergson: yes Ayala....
[13:36] herman Bergson: This whole idea of natural law, the idea that all mankind is driven by the same passions...
[13:36] Kiki Walpanheim: in whichever way things were created.... we are here at this stage...which is the only truth we can feel
[13:36] herman Bergson: there ideas are now alive even stronger...
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:37] Bruce Mowbray: Mont. said that differing circumstances in different countries would determine how church and state were in relationship with each other. . . What would such circumstance be?
[13:37] herman Bergson: evolutionary theory..... neurobiology....themes like that
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: did mont say they should be or that they would be
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: ahhhh...that's where you're going when you go beyond liberalism?
[13:38] Bruce Mowbray: That they would be... ?
[13:38] herman Bergson: Well.. like catholics like a head of their church a pope, thay are also more inclined to accept a king as hea dof contrats with protestants
[13:38] oola Neruda: think tribe... and isolation... do they have those circumstances bruce
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: that seems to be a good explanation as to why they are
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: not how they should be
[13:39] herman Bergson: Mont. was the first who compared legal systems of countries
[13:39] oola Neruda: because we come from the isolated tribe... so how did it all eveove... back to basics
[13:39] Bruce Mowbray: Could the circumstances change?
[13:39] herman Bergson: a brilliant step
[13:39] oola Neruda: evolve
[13:40] Bruce Mowbray: Like, if an evangelican Christian had sufficient backing to take over the government of an otherwise "secular" nation. . . ?
[13:40] herman Bergson: The circumstances changed in Europe Bruce...
[13:40] Bruce Mowbray: Yes.
[13:40] herman Bergson: with the advent of protestantism we also got republics...kings were decapitated even
[13:40] Bruce Mowbray: Puritans were exiled. . .
[13:40] herman Bergson: The Netherlands became a republic...
[13:40] herman Bergson: now we are stuck with expensive royalty again
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: but still have a king and queen
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: ahhha
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: lolol
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: money
[13:41] Bruce Mowbray: Yayyyy. . . . Spinoza, my hero!
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: darn yes
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: kick em out I say
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: hehehe
[13:41] Bruce Mowbray: ;-)
[13:41] herman Bergson: I agree Abraxas...such outdated folklore
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: exactly
[13:41] Alaya Kumaki: whay was he the first to compare, ? were they not near one another in europe?
[13:42] Bruce Mowbray: BUT . . . the US is still living the legacy of the Puritans...
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: the best part of their legacy
[13:42] Bruce Mowbray: Spinoza was a sort of Pantheist, I believe.
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: fortunately we do not burn witches anymore
[13:42] Bruce Mowbray: He was also Jewish, of course.
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Ayala...MOnt. was in fact the first sociologist
[13:43] Bruce Mowbray: Are you SURE "we" don't?
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: i cannot remember him from the first project
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: will have to back and look again
[13:43] Bruce Mowbray: Yes, I love Mont's ideas concerning climate and the state, culture.
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: depends on the part of the country bruce lol
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes..he had very specific ideas about that....also remarkable
[13:44] Bruce Mowbray: Those 'hot' Italians - lazy? -- and those brilliantly crisp Scottish.
[13:44] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: hehehehe
[13:44] herman Bergson: well...I think ..let's stick to colorful avatars here Bruce
[13:44] Bruce Mowbray: ok.
[13:45] Alaya Kumaki: so he has brought moderation, by doing this, unless our law executive is weakened,, but by what? alack of civil voice?
[13:45] herman Bergson: what do you mean Ayala?
[13:45] oola Neruda: propaganda
[13:45] oola Neruda: techniques
[13:45] Abraxas Nagy: spindoctors
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: and wow do we have them
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: sadly
[13:46] Abraxas Nagy: very sad indeed
[13:46] Alaya Kumaki: if the church is no longer the state, how did they went over the law, and nobody did nor do nothing about it,, who has more voice, to make the law in executions, who inforce the executive power of the law than?
[13:47] Bruce Mowbray: When Mont. wrote of the influence of 'circumstances,' one of the things he took into consideration was climate. That's why, he said, there were political/cultural difference between Spain or Italy and England or Scotland.
[13:47] oola Neruda: render unto ceasar what is his... and unto god what is his
[13:47] herman Bergson: All these priests should have been arrested in my opinion Alaya...simple as that
[13:47] Abraxas Nagy: right
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: the church used to be the law, and acted like it was still
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: no question
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: it was wrong ㋡
[13:48] oola Neruda: i would go so far as to cut of body parts
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: thanks to Montesquieu in part
[13:48] Abraxas Nagy: mmmm its tempting oola
[13:48] herman Bergson: One Dutch Bishop has transferred a priest to police custody because of sexual abuse and fraud lat seek
[13:48] Alaya Kumaki: we are the civil opinion os we have some representative in the chambre of parliament, what is preventing the law to be apply than?
[13:48] Bruce Mowbray: But if the church and state are truly SEPARATE, shouldn't the church take care of its own, and the state punish its own...?
[13:48] Bruce Mowbray: In other words, these are two separate entities under separate jurisdiction.
[13:49] oola Neruda: right bruce... it is a quandry..isnt it
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: no one can be above the civil law in a culture in which there is the rule of law
[13:49] herman Bergson: No Bruce...
[13:49] Kiki Walpanheim: i think any ideology could be bad if u impose it on ppl, atheism could be the same as this way
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: no one, no institution
[13:49] Bruce Mowbray: I'm trying to see it from Mont's pont of view, not ours.
[13:49] herman Bergson: Like every one the church is under civic law too
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: i see
[13:49] Bruce Mowbray: Would Mont. say that everyone is under the state's laws?
[13:50] herman Bergson: well in my opinion
[13:50] oola Neruda: but they seem to be keeping ceasar and god separate and rendering only to their own
[13:50] Kiki Walpanheim: so...i guess the separation entails compromise
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: i have to leave now
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: see you all tuesday
[13:50] herman Bergson: AS he said... the law is to protect social welfare....has nothing to do withthe church, which only aims at individual improvement
[13:50] Bruce Mowbray: Bye, Gemma.
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: very interesting class
[13:51] Zinzi Serevi: bye Gemma i have to leave as well
[13:51] Zinzi's translator: Gemma bye i have to leave as well
[13:51] Zinzi Serevi: bye bye
[13:51] Zinzi's translator: bye bye
[13:51] herman Bergson: Our time is up....power to the class here !
[13:51] Abraxas Nagy: bye Gemma
[13:51] Alaya Kumaki: yeah
[13:51] Bruce Mowbray: POWER to the CLASSES!
[13:51] Abraxas Nagy: YEAH!!!
[13:51] Repose Lionheart: lol
[13:51] Kiki Walpanheim: thank you professor, it was great
[13:51] herman Bergson: So I rest my case for today and dismiss class ^_^
[13:51] Kiki Walpanheim: see you all later
[13:51] Abraxas Nagy: :D
[13:51] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor ㋡
[13:52] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation...
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: see ya Kiki
[13:52] Bruce Mowbray: Thank you for putting up with me, Herman.
[13:52] Alaya Kumaki: byby thank yu prof herman
[13:52] herman Bergson: You did a find job Bruce, thnx
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: well it wasnt to bad Bruce
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: o A o!
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: poof
[13:52] herman Bergson: Gone he is ㋡
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