Two Wednesday Quotations

“Democratic and aristocratic states are not in their own nature free. Political liberty is to be found only in moderate governments; and even in these it is not always found. It is there only when there is no abuse of power. But constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it will go.”

-Montesquieu, from ‘The Spirit Of The Laws

 “That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

From the ‘Declaration Of Independen

Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution Of War And Lethal Violence’

Full post here.

‘Over the years, I have written a long series of posts on whether evolutionary science can adjudicate the debate between Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau over whether our earliest human ancestors were naturally violent (as Hobbes argued) or naturally peaceful (as Rousseau argued). Many social scientists have been vehement in taking one side or the other in this debate. But I have argued that John Locke took a third position that is closest to the truth–that our foraging ancestors lived in a state of peace that tended to become a state of war. Hobbes is partly right. Rousseau is mostly wrong. And Locke is mostly right.’

Much depends on where you start, for in seeking a definition of man’s State in Nature, enough to claim a moral and legal foundation for the justification of authority, this definition matters a lot. Much modern political philosophy has been engaged in trying to define who has the moral legitimacy to be in charge (I personally find myself attracted to the government having a role to secure life, liberty, and property…and little else).

Arnhart:

It’s easy to understand why the Rousseaueans love the bonobos–there’re the hippie apes who make love not war.

On the other hand, it’s also easy to understand why the Hobbesians love the chimps and not the bonobos, because the chimps are closer to Hobbesian expectations for a evolutionarily close human relative. Frances White once observed…’

Darwinian science can explain quite a bit about our behavior, both individually and in the aggregate, yielding insights grounded in data and close observations of how we actually behave, and how our closest ancestors in the wild also actually behave.

Yet, this field will also interact with what we already know of our natures based on the political, civil and religious institutions we see around us every day which I presume also reflect much of who we are and how we behave…especially with power (and why the separation of powers is so important).

This blog is concerned with a fundamental problem in the West since the Enlightenment: Some people are seeking to mold human nature and smash civil society and its laws (to be replaced with something else, often the remnants of failed authoritarian/totalitarian rationalist systems or…nothing).

Other folks are seeking inclusion into civil society from previous injustice and oppression by vast expansions of Federal authority. This has had important consequences for the moral claims to authority which currently justify that authority.

Still others are claiming legitimate moral authority from the Sciences and Human Reason which can easily outstrip the ability of the Sciences and our Reason to justify such claims. I often find myself retreating to a position of Skepticism regarding many such claims.

As has been pointed out to me, Lockean liberty does correct for Hobbes’ Leviathan, but when did individuals consent to such authority in the first place?

As previously posted:

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Presented by Lawrence Cahoone, at College Of The Holy Cross, and focusing on ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.’

Via a previous post:

‘If a man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to nobody, why will he part with his freedom? Why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and control of any other power? To which ’tis obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others. For all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very insecure. This makes him willing to quit this condition, which however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and ’tis not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others who are already united, or have a mind to unity for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.’

*Locke, John. Two Treatises Of Government. London: Everyman, J.M. Dent, Orion Publishing House. 1993.

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And the comments:

–Chris, do you have the exact date when man agreed to “join in society with others”

My response which has not really answered the question:

I’m still trying to figure out exactly when, or how, it was that each man was granted rights derived from God, or reason, or some sufficiently abstract principle(s) that keeps him free enough to be neither master nor slave, and at least free enough to choose voluntary association through protection of law, property, contract, and some of the ‘negative’ liberties.

Given my understanding of human nature and my own experience, I don’t see how this is possible without family, the dependence upon institutions, tradition and the habits derived from them forming the backbone of civil society. That may well be a lack of faith in human nature, but I consider it quite realistic

How the voluntary association and the obligations and duties to these institutions fit together is a matter of deep debate and one I clearly haven’t resolved.

Related On This Site: From Darwinian Conservatism-‘Smith and Strauss on Bourgeois Liberalism and the Philosophic Life’…Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

 

Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’

Repost-Thomas Sowell Discusses ‘A Conflict Of Visions’

Can’t You Just Make The Trains Run On Time?

Theodore Dalrymple: ‘The Soviet Way

‘Increasingly in our daily lives we find ourselves in analogous situations, especially if we have the misfortune to work for bureaucracies, whether governmental, quasi-governmental, supposedly independent, or commercial. We must not only keep silent about propositions that we find not only false but ridiculous, but assent to them, to show willingness and demonstrate that we are (to use a vile modern locution, redolent of a tyranny exercised over us) on message. The message must never be of our own devising, or indeed attributable to anyone in particular. It must be absurd and unassailable at the same time.’

Wit, irony, satire, skepticism and independence of mind can be problematic: Many activists have doctrinal interests, motivating and organizing political ideals within which solidarity, identity, friendship and life’s purpose can be found.  Like all forms of belief (gathered around the doctrines), most people aren’t satisfied most of the time, so seeking influence within political institutions, universities, and various other cultural pulpits are required to bring about the ideal world to come.

‘Conversations’ must be had to spread the gospels of social justice, equality, and ideal, harmonious societies.  Protests must express the will of ‘the People’. The poorest, most wretched, most unjustly treated victims (genuine and less genuine) must be held up as proof of systemic injustice and championed as allies in the fight against oppression.

If you, dear reader, can’t be made to properly understand the truth and knowledge the activist offers; the profound suffering and injustice of the world of which you are a part (and which can be made whole through activism), you will continue as the heathen you are: Unjust, falsely conscious, selfish, polluting, and privileged (racist, sexist, classist etc.)

From Rolling Stone a while back, on Mayor Bill de Blasio of NYC, who was recently re-elected:

‘After attending graduate school at Columbia University, where he studied Latin American politics, de Blasio took a job as a political organizer at the Quixote Center, a social-justice organization rooted in radical Catholic liberation theology, and later engaged in protests designed to raise awareness about U.S. foreign policy. “I’m a big believer in street theater,” he says.’

Ah, well.

 

From a Thomas Sowell piece, the Legacy Of Eric Hoffer:

‘Hoffer said: “The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”

People who are fulfilled in their own lives and careers are not the ones attracted to mass movements: “A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding,” Hoffer said. “When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.”

What Hoffer was describing was the political busybody, the zealot for a cause — the “true believer,” who filled the ranks of ideological movements that created the totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century.’

 

 

The Categorical Imperative And Some Links On Saudi Arabia and Iran

Via Edward Feser via BBC Radio 4–Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason…

Kantian metaphysics can lead to problems in the public square, or at least something of an aesthetic retreat, by individuals, from the public square.  Part of the Anglo-talent for governance has roots in the Humean empiricism Kant was to synthesize within his own platform, and I’d argue this empiricism is culturally much deeper within the Anglo-sphere.  There is often more deference to the uniqueness of each of our experiences and the uniqueness each that case can bring within common-law jurisprudence.

Repost-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Inside every Iranian is a Western peace activist waiting to get out…Via Mick Hartley via The National-Iran’s long-cherished Tehran to Beirut land-bridge moves closer to reality.

From Intelligence Squared: Two people on either side debating whether ‘Obama’s Foreign Policy Is A Failure‘ (some rather unsurprising anti-Trump sentiment is expressed by the panelists at the outset, to some applause by the audience in NYC).

What just happened in Saudi Arabia?  Adam Garfinkle: ‘The 1002nd Arabian Night?

‘Contrary to what the vast majority of Americans seem to think, Saudi Arabia is not a traditional Muslim country. Saudi Arabia is an attenuated neo-fundamentalist country from having been taken over, by force of arms in the early 20th century, by a “revitalization movement”—to use Anthony F.C. Wallace’s classic 1956 description of the type. The Wahhabi movement’

and:

The Trump Administration, just possibly, had one sensible idea in foreign policy: stop playing footsie with the Iranians and organize the Sunnis to confront the real threat—creeping Iranian imperial recidivism—and to whack ISIS at the same time. But having a decent idea and knowing how to make it happen are two different things. The Saudis did not whack ISIS; if any locals did, it was the Kurds, and look where their efforts have got them.

And more broadly: It’s quite possible to bring the problems of other parts of the world into your own neighborhood along with the people you are bringing in.  This can, and and unfortunately, sometimes does, include the worst elements.

Right now, service members and special forces are acting in your name as a U.S. citizen abroad, and local and federal law enforcement officials here at home, and there are many good reasons why.

When we focus on these harsh truths and bear some of the burden they carry, the conversations about freedom and responsibility tend to go better.

Wahhabism in the Balkans?:

With whom can we do business against these worst elements?

and

Previously on this site: Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

Two Poems Leading You Towards Your Inevitable Death-Take Solace In November!

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
   This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

William Shakespeare

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A Postcard From The Volcano

Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once
As quick as foxes on the hill;

And that in autumn, when the grapes
Made sharp air sharper by their smell
These had a being, breathing frost;

And least will guess that with our bones
We left much more, left what still is
The look of things, left what we felt

At what we saw. The spring clouds blow
Above the shuttered mansion-house,
Beyond our gate and the windy sky

Cries out a literate despair.
We knew for long the mansion’s look
And what we said of it became

A part of what it is . . . Children,
Still weaving budded aureoles,
Will speak our speech and never know,

Will say of the mansion that it seems
As if he that lived there left behind
A spirit storming in blank walls,

A dirty house in a gutted world,
A tatter of shadows peaked to white,
Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.

Wallace Stevens

Repost-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

Thanks: Includes anecdotes involving Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein and logical positivism, John Maynard Keynes, and a funny one with Winston Churchill; talk about being near the center of 20th-century intellectual life…

On this site, see: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Berlin puts forth a liberal political philosophy and value pluralism which hones in on one of the greatest dangers to liberty:  Thinking that there is fact one rational plan and end to human affairs, of which some men have knowledge and towards which all men should be directed:

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Somewhere from the old aristocratic Russia softly speaks a keen mind in beautiful, strange English: Michael Dirda At The Washington Post Reviews ‘Nabokov in America’

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’