Wednesday, March 31, 2010

243: on Rights

" i'd rather call this as right than power" was a remark of Kiki Walpanheim in our latest discussion. This remark points at a quintessential issue in political philosophy.

In my latest lecture I already referred to the relation between power and right in the example of the stronger against the weaker.

The stronger TAKES the right to command the weaker by using his physical predominance.

But intuitively you feel that this would puts us in a "homo homini lupus est" situation, "a man is a wolf for his fellowman" - situation, which we'll get explained when we'll discuss Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1679) soon.

Power and rights are closely related. Maybe we could say that there is no power without rights. That means that we derive power from rights. Or we take rights by using physical power, in fact overpower the weaker.

I suppose that we all have at least that much political insight, that we are prone to say that the later situation, the situation of overpowering the weaker by (physical) force, is the least desirable.

It is all around us. We live in a world with a United Nations, an Amnesty International, a Google that leaves China, because its (alleged) rights to distribute uncensored information is not repected.

And so the picture, with which all political philosophers had and will have to deal, is the observation that power over your fellowmen is derived from rights and that we have to respect and protect these rights. For that purpose we make laws.

in an earlier lecture I quoted Cicero (died 43 BC), who said "True law is right reason in agreement with Nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting … there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens,"

This I think completes our picture. Cicero gives an explanation for how laws protect our rights. it adds the final piece to the puzzle: the human being is obliged to obey the law. Here we are faced with the moral duty to do so.

Thus we arrive at the point that political philosophy is not primarily about power, which a man like Machiavelli might have thought, but mainly a matter of rights and Cicero already shows us where to find the source of these rights:

The combination of Reason and Nature, our reason as means to understand Nature. In the period before Machiavelli, there was a conviction that there was an external creator of nature and its order.

The human being lives in accordance with the natural law, which is known by using our reason. Because with Machiavelli we have arrived at a moment in history that beliefs shift from a creating God to a scientific explanation, all kinds of new questions emerge.

Wikipedia defines natural law thus: "Natural law or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis) is a theory that posits the existence of a law whose content is set by nature and that therefore has validity everywhere.

The phrase natural law is opposed to the positive law (which is man-made) of a given political community, society, or nation-state, and thus can function as a standard by which to criticize that law."

Does such a natural law really exist? Where does it come from and how can we know it? Natural law implies and protects natural rights. Which rights?

What to do with people who break the law? Do we have a right to punish these people? Do we have a right to chop of a hand, when someone steals?

Fortunately we still have some centuries to go and we may hope that the political philosophers we will meet,will come up up with some good answers.

Fascinating perspective…. ^_^

The Discussion

[13:17] herman Bergson: Our next stop is Thomas Hobbes
[13:18] herman Bergson: You have the right to ask questions and make remarks now ^_^
[13:18] Zinzi Serevi: can you give one example of a natural law?
[13:18] Zinzi's translator: can you give one example of a natural law?
[13:18] herman Bergson: well.... the right to your own life
[13:19] herman Bergson: the right to the integrity of your own body
[13:19] herman Bergson: the right to property
[13:19] Zinzi Serevi: ok
[13:19] Zinzi Serevi: thanks
[13:19] Kiki Walpanheim: ((thanks for the quote))
[13:19] herman Bergson: the right to free speech
[13:19] herman Bergson: cute wasnt it Kiki ^_^
[13:19] Kiki Walpanheim: ;-)
[13:19] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:20] herman Bergson: these could be regarded as natural rights
[13:20] herman Bergson: in contrast with positive law...which means that man creates rights by law...
[13:20] herman Bergson: for instance the right on Health Care ....
[13:21] Kiki Walpanheim: i think men are born with empathy as well as selfishness(or rather, self-interest/ greed, depending on how we call it)
[13:21] Liza Deischer: it sounds like the natural rights apply more to constitutional rights
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:22] herman Bergson: Yes Liza..of course...
[13:22] herman Bergson: And Kiki...
[13:22] herman Bergson: that will be the issue to deal with by our political philosophers...
[13:22] Kiki Walpanheim: so perhaps natural law means sth. accomodating them? like acknowledging selfishness, or self interest
[13:22] Kiki Walpanheim: rather than surpressing them
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: oh i am not sure of that
[13:23] herman Bergson: comes in to play the idea of virtue!
[13:23] Kiki Walpanheim: like , free market , takes advantage of self interest, or rather , greed
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: i think by natural law we are bound to respect the rights of others
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: because they are natural
[13:23] herman Bergson: In a way the moral obligation of the human being to excel, not to be selfish but social
[13:24] herman Bergson: Well Gemma...there are those who will claim that these natural laws are products of our imagination
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: lol ok
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: i know
[13:25] herman Bergson: yes...philosophers, know the breed
[13:25] Liza Deischer: yes you can ask yourself the question what is so natural about the respect of the rights of others
[13:25] herman Bergson: Well market is not just about plain greed
[13:26] Kiki Walpanheim: not to be selfish but social?....depending on how we call them.... the right on health care is more of the social aspect, as i see it
[13:26] herman Bergson: Yes Liza..the fundamental ethical question
[13:26] Repose Lionheart: don't think we know enough about "nature" to what is and isn't a natural law
[13:26] Repose Lionheart: sheesh
[13:26] Repose Lionheart: to know what is and isn't a natural law
[13:26] Kiki Walpanheim: nods at herman, yes free market is more than that, but self-interest is one of the issue
[13:26] herman Bergson: Hi Repose...good remark...yes that IS a question too
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: Hi Prof ㋡
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: some thought it unnatural for women to vote
[13:27] herman Bergson: Well Kiki..Hobbes can be an interesting fellow in this context then ㋡
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: and had a right to own slaves
[13:27] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: their "natural" superiority
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: refuge of scoundrels
[13:28] Repose Lionheart: moral scoundrels ㋡
[13:28] Kiki Walpanheim: ((would look it up))
[13:28] herman Bergson: What are you referring too Repose?
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: the tendency of people to write their own bigotry into the laws of nature
[13:29] herman Bergson: so..selfishness
[13:29] herman Bergson: ?
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: bias
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: foolishishness
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: hatred
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: bad stuff
[13:30] Abraxas Nagy: ignorance
[13:30] Kiki Walpanheim: and also, are the rights accommodating natural laws, negative rights, or positive ones
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: sorry i missed the lecture -- may be a bit off point
[13:30] herman Bergson: Well...that will be a major point for the coming lectures and political philosophers
[13:30] Kiki Walpanheim: nods
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: and has been with us from the beginning of humankind
[13:30] Kiki Walpanheim: would be interesting
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes ..we HAVE to deal with these question....
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:31] herman Bergson: does natural law exist?
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: oh dear
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: hmmm...
[13:31] herman Bergson: and if so..what is can we KNOW it?
[13:31] herman Bergson: and what when we break natural laws???
[13:32] herman Bergson: and if it doesnt exist...where are we then???
[13:32] Kiki Walpanheim: negative rights sometimes is nothingness for men, and positive rights entail that other ppl have obligations to aid those in need with coersion of law
[13:32] herman Bergson: Really...and exciting landscape of fundamental questions
[13:32] Kiki Walpanheim: *coercion
[13:33] herman Bergson: a c or an s....I dont know kiki ㋡
[13:33] Kiki Walpanheim: ;-) seems to be a c
[13:34] herman Bergson: We have 600 years to go....still
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:34] herman Bergson: there must be at least one with a good idea ^_^
[13:34] Kiki Walpanheim: as back to the issue of "right to health care"
[13:34] herman Bergson: yes Kiki
[13:34] herman Bergson: amazing story how the US deals with that
[13:34] Kiki Walpanheim nods
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: ridiculous
[13:34] herman Bergson: from a European point of view of course
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: from a humane point of view, too, I think
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: we are so antiquated in health care
[13:35] herman Bergson: so anti - social
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:35] herman Bergson: so expressively AGAINST sharing
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: not in the care but in providing it
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:36] herman Bergson: responsability
[13:37] herman Bergson: In a world like ours you cant uphold the idea...let every one take care of himself
[13:37] Kiki Walpanheim: sharing sure is justified with consent, but how about imposed one with coercion of law
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: there are still those who believe it tho
[13:37] herman Bergson: oh...another issue of course..liberalism
[13:37] Liza Deischer: well, it seems that that is where we are going back to
[13:38] Liza Deischer: everybody taking care of oneself
[13:38] herman Bergson: Well Kiki...we are already very well used to that for centuries....taxes was one of the greatest inventions of all times
[13:39] Kiki Walpanheim nods... maybe the crux is how much ppl can be taxed justly
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: well depends on the services provided
[13:39] herman Bergson: that has been the core of all political debate through the centuries too ㋡
[13:39] Kiki Walpanheim nods
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: a question of economic efficiency in the level of taxation too
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: oh well
[13:40] herman Bergson: and in that sense I am not so much in sympathy with US Republicans ㋡
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: no
[13:40] Abraxas Nagy: neither am I
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes REpsoe...very good
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: it is a non-moral good though -- efficiency
[13:40] Abraxas Nagy: but there's not to much difference tho
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: me either lol
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: Europe has opted for the greater moral good of helping people
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: what did i hear it called
[13:41] herman Bergson: Europe isnt a saint
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: while sacrificing some bit of effiency economically
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: nope
[13:41] Kiki Walpanheim: natural law---efficiency----what makes a law justified
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: codependency something
[13:41] Liza Deischer: and Europe going back in time
[13:41] Kiki Walpanheim: or perhaps natural law helps with efficiency too?
[13:42] Repose Lionheart: maybe
[13:42] Abraxas Nagy: natural law = survival of the fittest
[13:42] herman Bergson: The laws are basic helping the weaker might be one of them
[13:42] Kiki Walpanheim nods at herman
[13:42] herman Bergson: no Abraxas.. I dont agree
[13:43] Abraxas Nagy: well how is it not?
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: or, natural law = survival of the kindest, who can cooperate in social groups
[13:43] Abraxas Nagy: same effect
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: true
[13:43] Abraxas Nagy: only in cooperation
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:43] herman Bergson: a social being you also could help the less fitted to survive...or should we kill all our handicaped people
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: agree
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: i think as soon as groups are formed they begin to cooperate to keep peace and prosperity
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: among the group
[13:43] Abraxas Nagy: exactly
[13:44] herman Bergson: exactly what..kill them?
[13:44] Kiki Walpanheim: or we dont kill the handicapped but leave them be and let them rot naturally?
[13:44] Liza Deischer: good point gemma
[13:44] Abraxas Nagy: noooo
[13:44] herman Bergson: lol
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: but then along comes another group
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:44] Abraxas Nagy: we take care of them
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: not in agreement
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: and here we to
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: go
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes good point is about interests
[13:45] herman Bergson: the balance of interests
[13:45] Abraxas Nagy: ah yes good point iondeed
[13:45] Abraxas Nagy: survival of the fittest again
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: yep
[13:45] Abraxas Nagy: as groups
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: and so the war begins
[13:45] Liza Deischer: :-)
[13:45] Kiki Walpanheim: leave the handicapped be and let them rot --- is back to the issue-right to health care.......
[13:45] herman Bergson: I dont agree with putting it in an evolutionary context Abraxas...
[13:46] Abraxas Nagy: mmmm war can have many ignitions
[13:46] Kiki Walpanheim: tho i dont think it is a good idea to force ppl to share
[13:46] Abraxas Nagy: how to say
[13:46] Abraxas Nagy: ah but sharing would be natural
[13:46] herman Bergson: I think it is one of our human qualities that we share, survive together...the weaker and the stronger
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: yes i agree
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: true, if sharing were natural, why not a law to share ㋡
[13:47] herman Bergson: In evolution the 'fittest' means 'best adapted to its environment'
[13:47] Abraxas Nagy: the idea of having more than the other is an illusion brought to you by commerce
[13:47] herman Bergson: but that is not a social feature of behavior
[13:47] Liza Deischer: I wouldn't be surprised if the weakest are the best adapted
[13:48] Liza Deischer: need to adapt in order to survive
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: pretty sturdy illusion...
[13:48] Abraxas Nagy: hmm
[13:48] herman Bergson: Well in a way your words make sense Liza...if I see homeless people living for years in the streets....
[13:48] Abraxas Nagy: ah yes
[13:49] Liza Deischer: well, I think there is something between the weakest and the strongest
[13:49] Abraxas Nagy: on the streets survival is back
[13:49] Liza Deischer: I think those are the most adapted
[13:49] Abraxas Nagy: you cant survive if you dont adapt
[13:49] herman Bergson: adapted to what?
[13:50] Abraxas Nagy: the streets in this case
[13:50] Liza Deischer: the strongest will try to make there own laws
[13:50] herman Bergson: to the not sharing of others?
[13:50] Repose Lionheart: your immediate environment? Your true nature?
[13:50] Liza Deischer: who can't do that will adapt
[13:50] Kiki Walpanheim: maybe the art is about balance between our self interest part and social part
[13:50] Abraxas Nagy: ah yes good point
[13:50] herman Bergson: Very true Kiki
[13:50] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:51] herman Bergson: That is what all philosophy is about in these matters
[13:51] Kiki Walpanheim: I see.
[13:51] herman Bergson: This was a great discussion....!
[13:51] Abraxas Nagy: it sure was
[13:51] herman Bergson: May I thank you all
[13:51] Repose Lionheart: yep!
[13:52] Sartre Placebo: thx herman
[13:52] Kiki Walpanheim: Thank you herman
[13:52] Qwark Allen: ty heerman
[13:52] Sartre Placebo: thx all
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: thank YOU herman
[13:52] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^
[13:52] Kiki Walpanheim: and thx all
[13:52] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: see you thursday
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: wow time went so fast
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: yes lol
[13:52] herman Bergson: Thomas Hobbes will be our guest on Thursday
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[13:52] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:53] Qwark Allen: nice
[13:53] Qwark Allen: ;-)
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: Mhh *Kiss* Bye bye!
[13:53] Sartre Placebo: don´t you think he might be a bit smelly ?

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Monday, March 29, 2010

242: An introduction to Power

When you do a search on "political power" in the Stanford encyclopedia of Philosophy ( you get al least 1029 hits. So we may conclude that is was not only Machiavelli who had ideas about political power.

It is historically an interesting moment to use his ideas on power and authority in politics as a starting point for our elaborating on this subject.

We have seen the small scale democratic Greek cities, the development of a huge Roman empire, its collapse and a return to small scale (city)states,

again the move to larger states under control of the church and for instance Charlemagne (died 814). Today he is regarded not only as the founding father of both French and German monarchies, but also as the father of Europe.

The church became the binding force in the years after and then we have Machiavelli who puts the generally accepted assumptions about political power to the test and comes up with a sobering picture: political power only is enforced by arms and is authorized by the fear for these arms.

No virtues, no positive belief in human nature. This is a breaking point and we have a whole history ahead of us. A time of individualization, the decapitation of kings, revolutions of the people ending up in our present situation.

This brings us down to the most fundamental question in political philosophy: how can we justify the right, which is claimed by one person, to rule over another person?

If you compare two persons you see differences.That is the biology of nature, but one of the differences can be physical strength. I cannot deduce any right from that difference, but the stronger person nevertheless can say: if you don't obey I'll kick your ass.

Thus you create or take that right by physical force and the obedience is the product of fear. Machiavelli might have liked this reasoning. But we could approach the situation from another perspective.

You then may be the strongest, but it forces you to a constant state of vigilance. There is no way to prevent that the weaker will sneak up on you and stab you in the back.

Therefore you decide to choose another strategy: you make a deal with the weaker, a contract. I wont kick your ass, if you promise not to stab me in the back. Thus we can both work the field safely to supply for food.

But again something nasty creeps in. The weaker promises not to stab the other in the back. What is a promise? That the weaker controls himself and forbids himself not to stab the stronger?

Why should he. With this deal he was smarter than the stronger. Now he never got kicked in the ass and when harvest is done he still can stab the stronger and have it all for himself. Clever thinking!

And again here we are at the heart of political philosophy. Keeping a promise is an ethical issue. Thence political philosophy has its beginnings in ethics: in questions such as what kind of life is the good life for human beings.

Since people are by nature sociable – there being few proper anchorites who turn from society to live alone – the question follows as to what kind of life is proper for a person amongst people.

A fundamental assumption is that the human being is a social being. What can that mean? Let's begin with the thesis: the human being is destined by nature to live in groups.

An interesting thought is, that you don't need to live in a group for survival. So there is more to the group than just survival. A group implies co-operation, exchange of goods.

Based on individual qualities, differences in strength and intelligence for instance, members of the group will produce different things.

To produce something by your own hands means private ownership. Also an interesting assumption, because communism denies this logic.

As you see we have hit on the central nerve of our own social existence. We accept --- we don't call it power, but authority every day of our life. We are willing to obey all kinds of laws and regulations.

There is a power that makes us act like that. To understand political philosophy we will have to understand what power is and where it comes from.

Oh, and last but not least, it is not just a discussion over a phenomenon called power. We definitely have to pay attention to the feminist interpretation of power.

The Discussion

[13:25] Rhiannon Dragoone's ear perk up
[13:25] herman Bergson: Thank you ㋡
[13:25] herman Bergson: If you have any questions or remarks..feel free. ㋡
[13:26] Rhiannon Dragoone: I think the feminist interpretation is really a variation on the outsiders view of power
[13:26] herman Bergson:I took a picture of the class..
[13:26] herman Bergson: I hope you dont mind if I publish it in the blog?!
[13:26] Repose Lionheart: ㋡
[13:27] Rhiannon Dragoone: go right ahead, herman
[13:27] Kiki Walpanheim: sure, which means, no, i dont mind
[13:27] Rhiannon Dragoone: did you get me in it? Since i'm behind u?
[13:27] darx Taurus: sure you can publish
[13:27] Liza Deischer: np
[13:27] herman Bergson: yes especially you Rhiannon ㋡
[13:27] herman Bergson: But back to our issue at stake here..
[13:27] Rhiannon Dragoone giggles
[13:28] herman Bergson: POWER is the main concept...
[13:28] Rhiannon Dragoone: I'm influenced in my notions by Simone D'Beauvoir
[13:28] Rhiannon Dragoone: And her notion that women are the ultimate aliens, the outsider
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: she is so interesting
[13:28] herman Bergson: Just close your eyes helps
[13:28] Rhiannon Dragoone: how is that addressed in ur power analysis?
[13:29] herman Bergson: The important thing is that this not a matter of power but of psychology
[13:29] herman Bergson: We are all beings that obey....
[13:29] herman Bergson: and you all take it for granted
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: true
[13:29] Quizzle Mode nods
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: Psychologizing power is preliminary to the creation of a politics of virtue?
[13:29] herman Bergson: and that is philosophically of course a remarkable observation
[13:30] Kiki Walpanheim: yes the ethics is not as sacred as imagined
[13:30] herman Bergson: indeed kiki
[13:30] Rhiannon Dragoone: Well, then the outsider view would be crucial, if we're talking psychology
[13:30] herman Bergson: Is it a matter of psychology..or in other words a matter of human nature
[13:31] herman Bergson: Ialready mentioned it
[13:31] Rhiannon Dragoone: human nature? Or masculine nature?
[13:31] herman Bergson: but does being a social being justify or explain power
[13:31] Rhiannon Dragoone: it doesn't justify power or explain it by itself, herman
[13:32] herman Bergson: thnx Rhiannon...
[13:32] Rhiannon Dragoone: I'm thinking of the Marxian dialective which roots power relations in historical context
[13:32] herman Bergson: for now we know what we have to investigate...
[13:32] Rhiannon Dragoone: *dialectic
[13:32] Liza Deischer: it depends; you said: you don't need to live in a group for survival. I'm not so sure about that
[13:32] Rhiannon Dragoone: ur welcome, herman
[13:32] Quizzle Mode: Can we look to nature, other social spiecies who do or do not have power systems?
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes for instance..historical contexts
[13:33] herman Bergson: Well Quizzle that is an interesting point...
[13:33] herman Bergson: we are inclined to look at nature...and social animals..wolves, chimps etc
[13:33] herman Bergson: But in that same nature there are as many solitaire living animals...they dont need a group to survive
[13:34] herman Bergson: so that isnt of much help, I guess
[13:34] Kiki Walpanheim: it's the subtle control that really counts.... without threatening, chains... we sometimes are much more helpless
[13:34] herman Bergson: YEs Kiki..that is what I am looking at too...when it is about political power
[13:34] Kiki Walpanheim nods
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: language is a social form without which our brains don't fully develop...we are dependent on the group from the earliest age...
[13:35] herman Bergson: may be a little at a loss at the moment
[13:35] herman Bergson: but it proves that we definitely have to analyze the concept of political power
[13:35] herman Bergson: where does it come from, how is it justified
[13:35] Rhiannon Dragoone: political power isn't the only kind of power, and is secondary to other forms of power, imo
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: like what?
[13:36] herman Bergson: In a way true Rhiannon, on the other hand could be a matter of the definition of political...
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: political power varies so from place to place and time to time
[13:36] herman Bergson: but ture...economic power that controls societies...
[13:36] herman Bergson: for instance
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes
[13:37] herman Bergson: religious power..take islam
[13:37] Quizzle Mode: The essence of political power is always the same though, to have "power over a group".
[13:37] Rhiannon Dragoone: herman, if we go that root, we can expand any kind of power to include any other kind of power, but then we lose clarity
[13:37] herman Bergson: RODNEY!
[13:37] herman Bergson: Welcome!
[13:37] Rodney Handrick: Hi Herman
[13:37] herman Bergson: Dont tickle the is calm now...
[13:37] Rhiannon Dragoone: It seems to me that political power is about the same everywhere; its just a question of which group *is* in power
[13:37] Quizzle Mode waves a tentacle in greeting to Rodney
[13:38] Rhiannon Dragoone: hi Rodney
[13:38] herman Bergson: ok...we also could define it as the power of one group over the other...
[13:38] Rodney Handrick: Hi Rhiannon
[13:38] Kiki Walpanheim: for me wherever there are ppl, there is politics... maybe it is an expanded version , my way to interpret politics
[13:38] herman Bergson: maybe that is a way in
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: "power" is the control of one person by another?
[13:39] herman Bergson: maybe politics can be easily defined as the conflict of interests
[13:39] herman Bergson: and power is the force that gets your interests satisfied
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: hmmm....
[13:40] herman Bergson: yes Repose...a mindckacker ㋡
[13:40] herman Bergson: cracker
[13:40] Liza Deischer: but if there is a conflict of interest and we don't depend on each other, why should we cooperate
[13:41] Rhiannon Dragoone: herman, one group over another is the way it manifests--men over women, the rick over the poor, European nations over the 3rd world
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: decreases conflict
[13:41] Quizzle Mode: Because life/living is easier and more pleasant if we cooperate?
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: makes regards more certain
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: rewards*
[13:41] herman Bergson: that is a bit paradoxal Liza....if there is a conflict of interests...we have to resolve it, not necessarily by cooperation
[13:41] herman Bergson: war is an option too ㋡
[13:42] Liza Deischer: true, but what I mean is, we are social beings, why? if we don't depend on each other
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Quizzle....there has to be some truth in your observation
[13:42] Liza Deischer: or survival
[13:42] Repose Lionheart: oh, good point, Liza
[13:42] herman Bergson: that might drive us indeed
[13:42] Kiki Walpanheim: propaganda, mind control too. and sometimes it is not only you do things to control, but you dont do things you are supposed to do... to control..
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: makes sense
[13:43] oola Neruda: can it date back to fighting over food, shelter, etc.... and got more complicated from there
[13:43] herman Bergson: That is a bit contradictory being and not depending on eachother
[13:44] Liza Deischer: that is exactly what I mean
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: yep
[13:44] Liza Deischer: but you stated: you don't need to live in a group for survival
[13:44] herman Bergson: welll...the being social means that the stronger finds food for the weaker for instance...
[13:44] herman Bergson: while the weaker produces kids
[13:45] Kiki Walpanheim: even Henry David Thoreau admitted he couldn't live in solitude for too long
[13:45] Liza Deischer: then there is a dependency
[13:45] herman Bergson: Yes LIza...there are plenty of organisms that dont need to live in groups
[13:45] Liza Deischer: true
[13:45] Quizzle Mode: survival is grey, cooperating and compromising offers humans a life like a rainbow, humans reach out to that and willingly submit to power (within reason) for the rainbow rather than the grey?
[13:45] herman Bergson: But as I said...we are destined to that fate by nature
[13:45] Liza Deischer: (i'm just a bi confused)
[13:45] Rhiannon Dragoone: I think we often surrender our power when there is no need to
[13:46] Kiki Walpanheim: nods at rhi
[13:46] Liza Deischer: so, depency means, it is easier to live together
[13:46] Rhiannon Dragoone: I mean, look at the Soviet Union. People just had to stop supporting it and it collapsed
[13:46] Liza Deischer: that makes us social beings?
[13:46] herman Bergson: Well..Rhiannon..that is the hot issue now in the US for instance between Democrats and Republicans
[13:47] Rhiannon Dragoone: herman a good example, as Democrats and Republicans only differ from one another in their social psychology--which groups they identify with
[13:47] herman Bergson: Cant believe that Jerome is coming from the Buddha Center
[13:47] Liza Deischer: :-)
[13:47] Kiki Walpanheim: yes we are weird creatures, annoyed when being too close and lonely when we dont get social
[13:47] Avatar ejected.
[13:47] Rhiannon Dragoone: kiki, horses aren't like that
[13:48] herman Bergson: I am sorry..had to use my power to eject
[13:48] Kiki Walpanheim: oh
[13:48] Kiki Walpanheim: who was ejected?
[13:48] herman Bergson: The dancing Jerome
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: oh?
[13:48] Quizzle Mode: The starman
[13:48] Liza Deischer: Jerome was
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[13:48] Rhiannon Dragoone: herman, u ejecte Jerome?
[13:48] herman Bergson: I am sorry ..I had to
[13:48] Kiki Walpanheim: not sure if he was the one i knew, the one who annoyed me before...
[13:48] herman Bergson: no offense
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: that is fine
[13:49] Rhiannon Dragoone: Well, i had to once 2, herman
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: has to be done sometimes
[13:49] Rhiannon Dragoone: he defriended me
[13:49] Kiki Walpanheim: is he the one in PI, if so then that was him
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:49] Liza Deischer: watch out Herman, you don't want to get in a fight with a horse :_)
[13:49] herman Bergson: Let's concentrate on our subject
[13:49] Jerome Ronzales shouts: i cant believe you have a horse in there
[13:49] Quizzle Mode listens to the Teacher
[13:50] herman Bergson: ok...
[13:50] herman Bergson: I think we have tons of interesting material here in our discussion to spend a lifetime on
[13:50] Kiki Walpanheim: ahh, yes it is.... ((yes , gets back to the lecture....))
[13:50] Rhiannon Dragoone: i seem to cause controversy where ever i go. sorry
[13:50] oola Neruda: i find that what you said last week... self any means... to be really unsettling
[13:50] herman Bergson: I must say..I am fascinated by this concept of power...
[13:51] herman Bergson: You dont Rhiannon..not at all
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: it has always been fascinating
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: power
[13:51] oola Neruda: particularly with what has just been happening in the us
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes
[13:51] oola Neruda: by any means
[13:51] Rhiannon Dragoone: thanks, Herman
[13:51] herman Bergson: So, I want to thank you for your participation today and be prepared for some more hot debates and lectures on this subject
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: next week the time will be all back
[13:52] Qwark Allen: thank you herman
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:52] Sartre Placebo: thx herman
[13:52] Kiki Walpanheim: Thank you Herman,
[13:52] lin Anton: thank you herman:)
[13:52] Liza Deischer: thx Herman
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:52] herman Bergson: Unless you still have a question, class dismissed ㋡
[13:52] Quizzle Mode doesn't want the class to be over
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: see you tuesday then quizzle
[13:52] Kiki Walpanheim: me neither
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:52] darx Taurus: thank you
[13:53] herman Bergson: Thank you Quizzle, but it is my power to set this rule ㋡
[13:53] Quizzle Mode wonders if this dynamic of power is hard-wired into humans and other animals
[13:53] Qwark Allen: l ☺ ☻ ☺ l
[13:53] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:53] herman Bergson: there always is a next class!
[13:53] Kiki Walpanheim: i'd rather call this as right than power
[13:53] Quizzle Mode jiggles tentacles happily hoping the be here next week
[13:53] herman Bergson: THAT is what we gonna try to find out Quizzle ㋡
[13:54] Qwark Allen: rodddnneeey
[13:54] herman Bergson: Nice you could come Rodney
[13:54] Rodney Handrick: Hi Qwark
[13:54] Quizzle Mode thanks the Teacher and all the participants today
[13:54] Qwark Allen: how are you my friend?
[13:54] Rodney Handrick: thanks Herman
[13:54] Qwark Allen: paarty at relaxation after class
[13:54] Qwark Allen: :-)
[13:54] Rodney Handrick: good qwark
[13:55] Qwark Allen: ˜*•. ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Bye ! •°*”˜.•°*”˜ .•*˜ ㋡
[13:55] Rodney Handrick: bye
[13:55] Liza Deischer: cu all
[13:55] herman Bergson: Lin..are you still awake?
[13:55] lin Anton: yeah:)
[13:55] Rhiannon Dragoone: thanks herman for a good lecture
[13:55] herman Bergson: Cool!
[13:55] lin Anton: good lecture
[13:55] lin Anton: hmm..
[13:55] herman Bergson: thank you Lin
[13:56] lin Anton: how's phenomenology define power?
[13:56] Kiki Walpanheim: btw, the remark on madness from alice in wonderland seems popular these days, i saw another person in sl with that in the profile yesterday...
[13:56] lin Anton: alice in wonderland is good:)
[13:56] herman Bergson: is a copy/paste text Kiki ㋡
[13:56] herman Bergson: sheer madness
[13:56] Kiki Walpanheim: ;-)
[13:57] Rhiannon Dragoone: lin, phenomeonlogy defines power phenomenologically, of course
[13:57] herman Bergson: do you know the name of that person Kiki?
[13:57] lin Anton: :)
[13:57] lin Anton: sure
[13:57] Rhiannon Dragoone: Less flip, it does so by its appearance, not by what might lie behind it
[13:57] lin Anton: chiense
[13:57] Kiki Walpanheim: harm
[13:57] lin Anton: yeah
[13:57] Kiki Walpanheim: i dont remember her full name, but she is in PI
[13:57] lin Anton: oh
[13:57] Kiki Walpanheim: she is there often, harm is the shorter version
[13:57] lin Anton: not the chiense one?
[13:57] herman Bergson: I have been there too several times
[13:57] Kiki Walpanheim: i see
[13:58] herman Bergson: Maybe the word spreads in SL ㋡
[13:58] Kiki Walpanheim: ;-)
[13:58] Kiki Walpanheim: and it really is exellent;-)
[13:59] herman Bergson: they did?
[13:59] Kiki Walpanheim: yes
[13:59] herman Bergson: wow..thank you
[13:59] Kiki Walpanheim: ;-)
[13:59] Kiki Walpanheim: ty#

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

241: Machiavelli

In contemporary vocabulary, the terms ‘machiavellian’ and ‘machiavellianism’ capture an understanding of politics as a domain that embraces naked self-interest, the maintenance of rulership at all costs, the utility of unethical behavior and the centrality of power as an end that justifies any means.

Machiavelli was born in Italy in 1469 and died in 1527. Maybe fortunate for him that he is dead, because I don't think that he would have been pleased with the prejudice about his political thinking.

Machiavelli was a man of the Renaissance. The moment in history, when mankind started its adventures in science and tried to free itself from the domination of religion and church.

In his days political philosophers held the view that there exists a special relationship between moral goodness and legitimate authority.

The ultimate authority came from God, who gave mankind natural law. The ruler should have a virtuous character to give him the right to use political power. He earned the right to be obeyed and respected because of his virtuous character.

Machiavelli was a man of practical politics. He had been a politician, had been imprisoned, tortured, released again and removed form power. He knew better.

Power isn't the result of moral virtue. Away with that! For Machiavelli, there is no moral basis on which to judge the difference between legitimate and illegitimate uses of power.

Rather, authority and power are essentially coequal: whoever has power has the right to command; but goodness does not ensure power and the good person has no more authority by virtue of being good.

That is the rule of political power. He is a realist. He himself had experienced that goodness and right are not sufficient to win and maintain political office.

Only by means of the proper application of power, Machiavelli believes, can individuals be brought to obey and will the ruler be able to maintain the state in safety and security.

For Machiavelli laws and good arms constitute the dual foundations of a well-ordered political system, but laws as such mean nothing. He says, “Since there cannot be good laws without good arms, I will not consider laws but speak of arms”

In other words, the legitimacy of law rests entirely upon the threat of coercive force, or to quote himself:"“one can say this in general of men: they are ungrateful, disloyal, insincere and deceitful, timid of danger and avid of profit….

Love is a bond of obligation which these miserable creatures break whenever it suits them to do so; but fear holds them fast by a dread of punishment that never passes”

Authority depends on the sheer possession of power. For Machiavelli, people are compelled to obey purely in deference to the superior power of the state. This power comes from arms not from God.

This doesn't mean that for Machiavelli the best state is one which is ruled by a violent, cruel and merciless tyrann. Almost on the contrary. The people plays an important role in his ideas.

Machiavelly did not only write "The Prince" (1514) but also the "Discourses on the Ten Books of Titus Livy" (1518), in which he takes antique Rome and its republican organization as example of a good city-state.

His highest political value is "liberta", freedom, not oppression of the people. The state exists to protect and defend the common good.

In the Discourses, he ascribes to the masses a quite extensive competence to judge and act for the public good in various settings, explicitly contrasting the “prudence and stability” of ordinary citizens with the unsound discretion of the prince. Simply stated, “A people is more prudent, more stable, and of better judgment than a prince”

In Machiavelli's opinion most beneficial to republican liberty is a government that combines ‘a prince, a nobility and the power of the people’ under the same constitution.

This was the case in ancient Rome, where the consuls, the senate and the tribunes maintained a tense equilibrium, and kept each other in check. And to make it complete Machiavelli insists that: ‘every free state ought to afford the people the opportunity of giving vent, so to say, to their ambition’

As you see, we end up with a completely different political philosophy than the standard view, with which we began, but I must admit, that Machiavelli allowed every action of the Prince, moral and immoral, to preserve the liberate of his people.

The Discussion

[13:24] herman Bergson: well...this a rather long lecture ..:)
[13:24] herman Bergson: sorry for that ..
[13:24] herman Bergson: sometimes I get taken away by the subject...
[13:24] Repose Lionheart: Very interesting, though...
[13:24] herman Bergson: of power this time
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: not really
[13:24] Ganymede Blackburn: It's all good, if it had been shorter, I would have missed more of it. =)
[13:25] herman Bergson smiles
[13:25] herman Bergson: if you have questions or remarks..plz?
[13:25] Repose Lionheart: Those who founded the American republic must at least have read those who read Machiavelli
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: i read there are those who thought perhaps The Prince was sarcasm
[13:25] herman Bergson: defintely Repose
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: and his real beliefs were that the early roman empire model ws best
[13:26] herman Bergson: yes Gemma...there are different opinions
[13:26] herman Bergson: when you compare The Prince with the Discourse for instance
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:27] Ganymede Blackburn: Even though these are two very contrasting views from Machiavelli, from Discorsi to Il Principe, they're not contradictory, are they?
[13:27] herman Bergson: it ilso is said that the Prince was written in pure opportunism
[13:27] herman Bergson: Actually, Ganymede I dont think
[13:28] herman Bergson: For a quintessential issue for Machiavelli is still the common good
[13:28] herman Bergson: not just simple power by force
[13:28] Ganymede Blackburn: the former is about what a government should be like, the other about what it takes to create one under real world conditions.
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: I think that whole florence era was so so insidious
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: in history
[13:29] herman Bergson: must have been at least an exciting time
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: scary lol
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: or...interesting
[13:29] Ganymede Blackburn: A curse: 'May you live in interesting times'
[13:29] herman Bergson: They were used to that in those days ㋡
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: if one was not poisoned
[13:30] herman Bergson: Related to the writings of Machiavelli was also thta he was very eager to get reinstalled in power
[13:30] Diatoma Clarity: What is the difference between today and yester years?
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: not much
[13:30] Diatoma Clarity: things today are done more under a disguise
[13:31] herman Bergson: Well...... I am not sure...
[13:31] Diatoma Clarity: my opinion!
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: in some countries yes for sure
[13:31] herman Bergson: Machiavelli had a rather limited interpretation of human only under fear...
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:32] herman Bergson: Is that realistic...
[13:32] Ganymede Blackburn: they were always concealed when necessary. Statecraft doesn't really change, though circumstances might.
[13:32] herman Bergson: For instance..for Machiavelli moral obligation as a value didnt exist
[13:33] herman Bergson: is that realistic?
[13:33] oola Neruda: i was listening to a discussion of the way things are in Juarez.. with the drug gangs being so prominent...
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: I hope not
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: then why did the feel promote the public good, Prof
[13:33] Zinzi Serevi: not realistic
[13:33] herman Bergson: While we have seen since the greek that political philosophy was closely linked with ethics...for Machiavelli this isnt the case
[13:33] oola Neruda: they said the major reason was that there was no law enforcement... or effective law enforcement
[13:34] oola Neruda: and predicted that poverty in the third world has the possibility of evolving much of society into that kind of situation
[13:34] herman Bergson: moment...
[13:34] Repose Lionheart: and yet "for M the quintessential issue is the common good"
[13:34] herman Bergson: two things...Repose and oola....
[13:34] herman Bergson: Why the common good?
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: yes, if he is so skeptical of it...
[13:35] herman Bergson: The common good and to prosper and do great things was the meaning of the state for Machiavelli
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: or of the good, at least
[13:36] herman Bergson: You might say that he was the first who came with sociological interpretations of society
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: so a good outcome rests on nonmoral and immoral acts and processes?
[13:36] herman Bergson: not with a philosophical antropology, but with a description of how it works
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: ahhh...
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: yes, i see that
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: i do not think a ruler can keep power if there is no common good or the people will uprise against the ruler and his controllers at least not SOME common good
[13:37] herman Bergson: Not by definition on immoral actions..only
[13:37] herman Bergson: the actions are the means to the end...the common good, prosperity...
[13:37] herman Bergson: whether moral or immoral isnt relevant for Machiavelli
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:38] herman Bergson: Like keeping the people in control...
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: the lynch pin exposed for pulling there ㋡
[13:38] Diatoma Clarity: so his views was kill ten to save hundreds?
[13:38] herman Bergson: Like oola describes ..that you could say is a sociological phenomenon...
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmm
[13:38] herman Bergson: if fact to some extend it proofs Machiavelli's point
[13:39] herman Bergson: They people in those regions deal in drugs because the state doesnt provide prosperity
[13:39] herman Bergson: so theese fgroups become classic city-states so to speak..we call it drug gangs
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: interesting
[13:40] herman Bergson: Almost like the North italian cities in 1500 were fighting each other al the time too
[13:40] Ganymede Blackburn: only then it was over the spice trade. =)
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: yes all the time
[13:41] herman Bergson: But what in Mexico is happening is without description from our perspective
[13:42] herman Bergson: But is looks like small states fighting each other to obtain prosperity, or all the profits
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: oh i think not
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: it is illegal cartels of drug runners
[13:43] herman Bergson: yes.... but social groups with their own rules
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: that are fighting to get control of distributing to the USA for moore money
[13:43] oola Neruda: the discussion i heard was exactly as herman describes...
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: that is true oola
[13:43] oola Neruda: but it is also as gemma says... the gangs are the city states
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: Gemma makes a good point at 13:36. And for M, the good is simply anomolous, and can not be accounted for in his political theories.
[13:44] herman Bergson: and the main line with Machivelli's ideas...power is enforced by arms
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: if the usa would only legalize the drugs and control them this would stop also
[13:44] herman Bergson: oh yes...would be the same in europe
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:45] herman Bergson: But dont forget....
[13:45] Diatoma Clarity: no
[13:45] herman Bergson: with legalisation not only the drug dealers loose their job!
[13:45] Diatoma Clarity: exactly
[13:45] herman Bergson: And THAT is the real problem perhaps
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: true
[13:46] Liza Deischer: :-)
[13:46] Zinzi Serevi: i agree
[13:46] Zinzi's translator: i agree
[13:46] Liza Deischer: who is really in control
[13:46] Diatoma Clarity: ...the creation of something else illegal will occur.. yes I agree
[13:46] herman Bergson: Well…so you see …Machiavelli is still alive...
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: that is always true
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: yes!
[13:47] herman Bergson: what fascinates me in him is how he deals with the concept of power...
[13:47] herman Bergson: he has a clear view on how it emerges
[13:47] herman Bergson: Maybe this concept will be our next focus...
[13:48] herman Bergson: the power of the state...
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: hmmm....
[13:48] herman Bergson: very interesting if you link it to the new HealthCare bill ㋡
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: ganymede why are you hiding in the wall
[13:48] Zinzi Serevi: lol
[13:48] Zinzi's translator: lol
[13:48] Ganymede Blackburn: I came in late and didn't want to disturb...
[13:49] Diatoma Clarity: which is unfair to the poor!
[13:49] Ganymede Blackburn: Also, *I'm not myself today...
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: wellyou are very disturbing in the wall
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: lolol
[13:49] Ganymede Blackburn: sorry
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: lololol
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: not really just kidding
[13:49] Zinzi Serevi: was het zo dat voor Machiavelli het doel alle middelen heiligde?
[13:49] Zinzi's translator: Machiavelli was so that the end justifies the means sanctified?
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: i knew you were here somewhere just saw where
[13:49] herman Bergson: For me she is just sitting there
[13:50] herman Bergson: You could say that Zinzi
[13:50] herman Bergson: yes
[13:50] Zinzi Serevi: ok
[13:50] Zinzi's translator: ok
[13:50] Zinzi Serevi: tot hoever ging hij daarin?
[13:50] Zinzi's translator: how far it went?
[13:50] herman Bergson: All the way
[13:50] Zinzi Serevi: ok
[13:50] Zinzi's translator: ok
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: sounded just like the bush white house to me
[13:50] Diatoma Clarity: lol
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: as the first statement ws read
[13:51] herman Bergson grins
[13:51] Diatoma Clarity: right
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: or written
[13:51] Ganymede Blackburn: well, Bush didn't inherit a deadlocked dog eat dog situation that he could use as justification...
[13:51] oola Neruda: yes.. especially cheny
[13:51] herman Bergson: Well...I think whenI find good material we'll discuss the phenomenon of power next time
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: n contemporary vocabulary, the terms ‘machiavellian’ and ‘machiavellianism’ capture an understanding of politics as a domain that embraces naked self-interest, the maintenance of rulership at all costs, the utility of unethical behaviour and the centrality of power as an end that justif
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: the means
[13:52] Diatoma Clarity: how come he didn't?
[13:52] Diatoma Clarity: 9/11
[13:52] Diatoma Clarity: was that not unethical?
[13:53] herman Bergson: You see...this contemporary view is as such meaningfull, but in my opinion not the deduction from Machiavelli's ideas
[13:53] Diatoma Clarity: yes!
[13:53] herman Bergson: centrality of power as end in itself was never his idea
[13:53] Ganymede Blackburn: What I'm saying is, he used the means, but didn't have much in the way of ends that I can see...
[13:54] Repose Lionheart: the common good was...
[13:54] Ganymede Blackburn: but that's a digression
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:54] Ganymede Blackburn: Order?
[13:54] Liza Deischer: hmm, but I get a weird feeling about common good in this perspective
[13:54] herman Bergson: well..I guess the same as the Greek meant... the welfare and wellbeing of everyone in the state
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: thursday will continue Machiavelli?
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: or another view
[13:55] herman Bergson: I think on the concept of power (of the state) and its backgrounds
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: ah ok
[13:55] Zinzi Serevi: interesting
[13:55] Zinzi's translator: interesting
[13:56] Repose Lionheart: weak goals would be a problem in a clearly consequentialist political ethic, huh?
[13:56] herman Bergson: especially related to the ideas of Machiavelli...
[13:56] Diatoma Clarity: what time does the discussion starts professor?
[13:56] herman Bergson: Always at 1 PM PST
[13:56] Diatoma Clarity: ok
[13:56] Ganymede Blackburn: It's ironic how any politician who's taken Machiavelli's works to heart would never admit to having read him?
[13:56] Diatoma Clarity: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:57] Repose Lionheart: hehehe
[13:57] Repose Lionheart: yeah
[13:57] Sartre Placebo: thx herman
[13:57] Repose Lionheart: they dare not
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: lolo maybe it is just natural to them
[13:57] Sartre Placebo: night everyone
[[13:57] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation.... ㋡
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: bye sartre
[13:57] Zinzi Serevi: bye sartre
[13:57] Zinzi's translator: bye Sartre
[13:57] Ganymede Blackburn: Like no career-conscious economist will admit to having studied Marx...
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: and all see you !
[13:57] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor ㋡
[13:58] Repose Lionheart: hehe

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Monday, March 22, 2010

240: The Middle Ages Revisited

if you have the impression that during the Middle Ages political thinking was shaped by christianity, then I have to correct this opinion immediately.

It is more the case that christianity was like a glove that fitted perfectly on the hand, which was offered by Greek and Roman thinking. Just listen to the next words:

True law is right reason in agreement with Nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting … there will not be different
laws at Rome and at Athens,

or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and one ruler, that is, God, over us all, for He is the author of this law, its promulgator and its enforcing judge.
-End quote

The identification of law with reason must be noticed in this process; reason carries its own claims to the individual’s obedience. The final sanction of law and authority is placed here outside the collectivity altogether, in the Deity.

Whose words are these, do you think? Some Church Father, like Augustine or a great scholastic like Thomas Aquino? No, these are the words of Cicero, Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, who died 43 BC.

The belief that there is a universal and eternal moral ordering which is common to all men and which therefore carries weight on certain issues in every collectivity is a widespread ethical and religious notion.

The source most often favored, however, is the religious-philosophical sect of the Stoics, who took their name from the stoa, or porch, before which Zeno, their reputed founder, preached and taught in Athens soon after the time of Aristotle, about 390 BCE.

Stoicism was brought to Rome during the classical generations of Roman republicanism, and it continued to be a system widely accepted, although changing in content,

from the time of the Scipios (about 100 BCE) until the closing of all philosophy schools in 529 AD by order of the Emperor Justinian I, who perceived their pagan character to be at odds with his Christian faith.

But this attraction could only be there because this christianity was congenial from a Stoic perspective and probable also because christianity was a growing worldly power as well.

Old Judaic thinking played an important role too in the development of Medieval political thinking, based on christianity.

Significant was the Judaic sense of the chosen people, the people led by the hand of God through the wilderness because they had an enduring purpose and being.

Whenever Christian political theorists thought of the people as having a voice in the appointment of a king or a regime, or of the king as having a duty to his people, their model was the peculiar people of Israel.

European kingship was also conceived in biblical terms, and the tribal hero-king whose actions committed the people before God and whose power came from God can be seen behind the western European dynastic regimes.

In De Regimine Principum (Of the Rulership of Princes) and other works Thomas Aquino (died 1274) presented his theory of the relationship between pope and emperor, which had already preoccupied Christian Europe for centuries and would continue to do so until the end of the medieval period.

He developed the traditional distinction of regnum and sacerdotal, secular and spiritual jurisdiction in Aristotelian terms, in terms of ends, the ends of humanity. Here the teleological interpretation of Nature by Aristotle was perfectly integrated in christian theology.

The doctrine of the distinction and interrelation of two great spheres of human life, the sphere of the secular and spiritual power, within one single society established the Christian society, respublica christiana.

Political philosophy tries to interpret and analyze mankind in its collectivity and the medieval situation provides the extreme example of territorial political relationships,

in which the psychological mechanism usually called religious
can be seen most clearly at work in providing the consensus on which such collective action as went forward had to rely.

Any properly empirical account of how a collectivity in fact works, at any time, has to recognize that this mechanism is still very much in operation.

What I wanted to show you is that it was not just christianity that shaped our political thinking. Its roots go much deeper into history far beyond christian thinking.

A second thing is that we learn of a psychological mechanism that made the collectivity work and it may be questionable that in our time this mechanism is replaced by rational-technical cooperation.

The Discussion

[13:20] herman Bergson: quod dixi dixi ㋡
[13:20] herman Bergson: if you have remarks or questions..plz feel free...
[13:20] Alaya Kumaki: what does quod dix dixi mean?
[13:20] Gemma Cleanslate: good ?
[13:21] Kiiko Karu: It sounds like stupidity was well rooted in europe before it found a god figure to justify itself
[13:21] herman Bergson: I have spoken would be a proper translation, but literally it means what I have said I have said ㋡
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:21] Alaya Kumaki: thank yu
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: should be dici dici?
[13:22] herman Bergson: hmm..Gemma...
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: nto sure
[13:22] herman Bergson: What do you mean Kiiko?
[13:23] herman Bergson: I bet on dixi.... 100L
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: lololl
[13:23] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: if i lose you get no tip lololl
[13:24] herman Bergson: that isnt fair... ㋡
[13:24] Alaya Kumaki: what is the difference between the collectivity in term of psychological versus the rational -technical
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: i think you are right anyway
[13:24] herman Bergson: Well Kiiko...what about this European stupidity?
[13:24] Cherry Cupcake whispers: Enjoy!
[13:24] Alaya Kumaki: according to aristotle , model
[13:25] herman Bergson: Hello Sarte
[13:25] Sartre Placebo: hey everyone
[13:25] herman Bergson: Ah..Ayala...I get it....
[13:25] Kiiko Karu: Western thought has always baffled me. It is not rooted in rationalism as far as I have seen but something closer to Zeroastrianism. "Thinking" really only seems to occur after a person can either form a judgement rather than propose a probability to what -might- have been observed. So for a few thousand years the more expansive thoughts of the Classical Societies / Civs. persisted then the Christians ( apparently like a street cult) took hold at a time when the Roman gods (then the standing dominant faith)
[13:25] herman Bergson: What is meant is that the collectivity is driven by religious like ideas to come to consensus...
[13:26] herman Bergson: while we think to believe that our democratic procedures are a rational-technical chouice of us to get to consensus
[13:26] Kiiko Karu: weren't felt as particularly influential to people's lives. Maybe some concern for Jupiter but not as much an impact as might be expected.
[13:26] herman Bergson: Hold on...
[13:26] Kiiko Karu: sorry yes
[13:26] herman Bergson: Kiiko plz read the rules behind me... ㋡
[13:26] herman Bergson: no offense
[13:27] Kiiko Karu: *checks*
[13:28] Alaya Kumaki: we pretend that we change the model when its not, just because we become very tecnical? is it the reign of technocrate?
[13:28] Kiiko Karu: sorry
[13:28] herman Bergson: Kiiko, with all due respect but what you open up here needs a thorough studybefore I ever could respond to that ㋡
[13:28] herman Bergson: respond
[13:28] Kiiko Karu: nope, that makes sense
[13:29] Kiiko Karu: I wouldn't have made the comment if I'd read the rules but I didn't see them till you mentioned them. Ignore it. too much clutter
[13:29] Repose Lionheart: the development of a world religion is a complex thing :))
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: perhaps need to be shorter but a good thought to think about
[13:29] herman Bergson: The thing is Alaya, that we might be willing to believe that our societies are no longer driven to consensus based on religious like beliefs
[13:30] herman Bergson: But by rational desicions only
[13:30] herman Bergson: However, Islamitic countries show you the opposite
[13:30] herman Bergson: for instance
[13:30] Repose Lionheart: rational and secular?
[13:30] herman Bergson: yes Repose
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: might be secular and irrational, too ㋡
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: or subliminal
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: mythic subtexts persist
[13:31] herman Bergson: For instance..the Crusades were possible because of a religion based consensus
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: yes with the approval and funds of the kings
[13:32] herman Bergson: Well Repose..even in world politics irrationality is present....
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: and they stopped as that consensus eroded?
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: yes, Prof
[13:32] herman Bergson: just read the history books...
[13:32] Kiiko Karu: Today's "discontent" with the status quo in many regions and rumor are similar too
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:32] herman Bergson: negotiations went wrong because individual persons didnt like each other, tho they wer enegociating about (world)peace
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes Kiiko
[13:33] Zinzi Serevi: het blijven mensen
[13:33] Zinzi's translator: the people continue
[13:33] herman Bergson: It makes me think how the US wants the Iraqi people to vote
[13:33] Alaya Kumaki: yes all crusade , colonisations, were on that model, and it didnt change, it s also , given to the merchants, the corps today, the power to rule if they serve previously, the king& popeor bishop interest,, meaning taxes income maximums and developement, same as middle age now
[13:34] herman Bergson: a rational - technical solution
[13:34] Kiiko Karu: blind faith in rumor without accountability (fact checking) seems to be the dominant source of ignorance
[13:34] Alaya Kumaki: i tried to make it shorter, i coudnt ,resume in short terms
[13:34] oola Neruda: YES
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes Kiiko...a often used trick to mainpulate the masses
[13:35] oola Neruda: good example right her in the US
[13:35] herman Bergson: which one oola?
[13:35] Alaya Kumaki: well, their believes was the social rulers, while others were merchants and rulers
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: Fox News? ㋡
[13:35] Zinzi Serevi: that is religion
[13:35] Zinzi's translator: that religion is
[13:35] oola Neruda: yes
[13:35] oola Neruda: for one
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: hehe
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: agree
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:36] herman Bergson: oh my...Fox News....dont the call Obama Hitler or almost the same?
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: and more
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: well the commentators do
[13:36] Kiiko Karu: briefly, that was why I brought up my comment in frustration regarding european development. It does seem as prevalent in Asia.
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: even worse -- a socialist
[13:36] Alaya Kumaki: well maybe the bishop is behind that
[13:36] herman Bergson: What is your point Ayala
[13:36] Alaya Kumaki: the archbishops
[13:37] herman Bergson: I didnt get that well enough Ayala
[13:37] Alaya Kumaki: well they never completely disposed of their power, from england according to the religions in us,,, only economic independencies
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: who they
[13:37] Alaya Kumaki: in us
[13:39] herman Bergson: Well, what I wanted to make clear today is that our political philosophical thinking isnt shaped by christianity.
[13:39] herman Bergson: the ideas lived already much longer in European thinking
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: well may not be shaped but is bolstered sometimes
[13:39] herman Bergson: and that is amazing....
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: yes, it is
[13:39] herman Bergson: Yes Gemma..christianity took over completely...
[13:40] herman Bergson: but what it took over were tons of ideas from the pagans
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: ys
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: reinterpretation
[13:40] herman Bergson: but wht is more amazing is this continuity in thinking...
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:41] herman Bergson: as I said...christianity was only a glove that fitted perfectly on the hand of greek and roman thinking
[13:41] herman Bergson: So... what will be the future..... man freeing himself from that thinking?
[13:42] herman Bergson: Machiavelli might be one of the first perhaps
[13:42] Kiiko Karu: A great example: when buddhism moves into an area is waits for acceptance, when christianity moved in it tried to snuff anything else out. Roman was a lot like that
[13:42] herman Bergson: We'll meet him in our next lecture
[13:43] herman Bergson: If you have any question left..plz let me know ..otherwise I thank you for your participation ㋡
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:43] Iboya Cortes: well. thank you so much :-)
[13:43] Zinzi Serevi: thank you Herman
[13:43] Zinzi's translator: thank you Herman
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: Thanks, Prof. Fascinating!
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: hope we will be better on tuesday but think not
[13:43] Kiiko Karu: it was a great class! Thanks for it!
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:43] herman Bergson: thank you all
[13:43] Iboya Cortes: cu you all later...
[13:43] Iboya Cortes: ciao
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes Repose...I was fascinated by the literature I studied for this lecture myself
[13:44] Repose Lionheart: yes. Cicero seems prescient
[13:44] herman Bergson: this widening the horizon
[13:44] herman Bergson: historical depth
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: but the ideas must have been "in the air" for Christianity to rise to dominance so quickly
[13:45] herman Bergson: yes Repose it was....
[13:45] Kiiko Karu: do you think our civilization (globally) will be able to overcome our entropy toward novalty?
[13:45] oola Neruda: i am thinking that some of Islam has a similar link to that same past
[13:45] herman Bergson: Stoic philosophy was very close to christian thinking
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: novelty may be anti-entropic ㋡
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: never knew that prof
[13:46] herman Bergson: entropy?
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: will check it out ㋡
[13:46] herman Bergson: what is that?
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: oh, yes, islam
[13:46] herman Bergson: if it means ..we crave novelty..?
[13:47] herman Bergson: I would say...we'll never be freed from that
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: preserved the ancient sources i've heard
[13:47] Alaya Kumaki: yes this is what i meant , by bishops or such, its not really christian but roman descandancies
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: must have been influenced by them ㋡
[13:47] oola Neruda: Mohammed had Christian friends...
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:47] herman Bergson: Islam is a completely different story
[13:48] herman Bergson: copmpletely alienated from other cultures
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: interesting
[13:48] oola Neruda: Herman you did not mention Judism
[13:48] Alaya Kumaki: i thought that the real christian were treated a s pagan, by the romans?
[13:48] herman Bergson: I did mention Judaic thinking in my lecture oola
[13:48] Kiiko Karu: lol christians, pagan once and pagan again
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: yes, Jewish sources for kingship
[13:49] oola Neruda: sorry... will have go reread
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: bye, guys ㋡
[13:49] Kiiko Karu: i have to go soon as well, be safe!
[13:49] herman Bergson: Bye Repose
[13:49] Docka Yven: Thanks Prof it was very interesting to listen to you
[13:49] Docka's translator: Thanks Prof it was very interesting to listen to you
[13:49] herman Bergson: Nice you could come Docka ㋡
[13:50] Docka Yven: bey all
[13:50] Docka's translator: bye all

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