Uncool, Unpopular, Anachronistic, Morally Suspect And Perhaps Even Diabolical-Some Links On Angels

From Conservative Minds, I very much enjoyed this discussion: Alexander Hamilton & James Madison-The Federalist Papers.

As to human nature, and taking a longer, deeper view of human nature in the face of many current liberatory movements (sexual, spiritual, political), spearheading what appears to be a deeper Statist, ‘human-rights’ and Civil-Rights based political and economic order.

One clear problem is this:  If our rights come from not from God, nor Natural Law, nor Natural Right, then often they are inferred to come from (M)an or sufficiently abstract conceptions of (M)an or (M)ankind.   In practice, this often becomes the (Right) Men or (Right-Thinking) Men/Women/People (me/us) against (T)hem.

This, in turn, does not exactly lead to Peace, Equality, and ever more Freedom.

One way to understand many of our current institutions and traditions is that they are living representations, to some extent, of who/what we already are.  It remains prudent not to confuse liberation for freedom, nor mistake the claims of equality absolutists as desirable for all.

Karl Popper:

…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”

James Madison:

‘If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.’

Sometimes ya gotta tell Donahue straight to his face:

Two Quotations From Keeping The Tablets

Referring to this book:

“Rationalism in politics means, in Oakeshott’s challenging phrase, making politics as the crow flies, i.e. ideologically.  Hayek, a student of the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises and for many years a professor of economics a the University of Chicago, shows that this mode of thought is characteristic of one major stream of Continental (primarily French) social criticism, which he labels “scientism” to distinguish it from the other principal stream, which issues into social science properly understood (recall Jeffrey Hart’s essay.  The one tradition insists on science’s ability to order society according to a rational plan; the other counsels the dependence of reason on nonrational circumstances, its inability to survey and command the whole of society, its limited room to maneuver in the interstices of society.  Placing Burke, Hume, and Tocqueville squarely in the latter camp, Hayek shows why traditionalism is closer to the free market analysis of libertarianism than is commonly thought.”

and:

“In contrast to both Hayek and Vogelin, Leo Strauss presents a profound critique of rationalism that culminates in the renewed authority of reason to guide moral and political life.  Not the reason of Hegel or Rousseau or Hobbes, however, but the practical wisdom, the prudence, of statesmen-especially as explicated and defended by Aristotle.”

Buckley Jr., William F. & Charles R. Kesler.  Keeping The Tablets: Modern American Conservative Thought-A Revised Edition of American Conservative Thought in the Twentieth Century. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. Print.

Related On This Site: Martha Nussbaum has her own project with Aristotelian roots:   Bryan Magee Via Youtube: ‘Martha Nussbaum On Aristotle’Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Some Quotations From Leo Strauss On Edmund Burke In ‘Natural Right And History’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Surely you think science should be taught in schools, but what about administered…is Dennett deeper than the following criticism?: From The Access Resource Network: Phillip Johnson’s “Daniel Dennett’s Dangerous Idea’Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters’…does Kant lead to a liberal political philosophy?: From JSTOR: Excerpt From “Rousseau, Kant, And History” By George Armstrong Kelly

From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

Full post here.

‘It seems, then, according to Strauss, that Nietzsche was correct in his critique of modern rationalism, which created a crisis leading to fascism, and that Nietzsche offered no way out of this crisis.  But any reader familiar with Nietzsche’s writings must wonder why Strauss says nothing about Nietzsche’s acceptance of Darwinian science in his middle period as an alternative to the apocalyptic rhetoric of “will to power” and “eternal return” in his later writings.  It is this Nietzsche of the later writings that Strauss and the Straussians have embraced–the Nietzsche who shows the “manly nihilism” admired by Harvey Mansfield.’

A commenter responds.  Worth a read.

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For a friend at her request, here is a crude summary of some of Strauss’s thinking:

Most modern thinkers since the Enlightenment, because of the triumph of physics, mathematical physics and a split from natural philosophy, theology, and the Church’s old Aristotelian models, have had to wrestle with a new set of problems regarding the pursuit of truth and our claims to knowledge.  Some of them have believed that just as physics (and metaphysics as Kant intended to put metaphysics on the same ground as the natural sciences) yields new knowledge of the natural world, so too can epistemologies can be built and entire disciplines based upon the universal truths of historicist and positivist thought.

For Strauss however, historicism and positivism both lead to relativism and nihilism, which pose great dangers to liberal democracy and which have led to the three crises of modernity, including the most recent descent into fascism upon the European continent.

Politics on this view, for example, won’t be studied as it was for Aristotle (man is a political animal) in the polis, but now as a (S)cience.  A modern wall has been put up.  Political scientists will be necessary.  Politics, too, involves groups of people, therefore a new field of study like sociology is required to understand groups of people.  Groups of people are made up of individuals, therefore a field of study like psychology is required to understand individuals.   Next, perhaps, would be a general theory of personality for all of those individuals.  And if we can observe individual humans in a political group, why not animals, or plants, or bacteria?  If we must look at all cultures, and all epochs in their specific contexts…why is our time, our culture, and our traditions any better than anyone else’s?  This reasoning should be familiar to us all, though it clearly has it uses.

Here’s Strauss:

‘The new political science denies in a way that there is a public reason: government may be a broker, if a broker possessing “the monopoly of violence,” but it surely is not the public reason. The true public reason is the new political science, which judges in a universally valid, or objective, manner what is to the interest of each, for it show to everyone what means he must choose to attain his attainable ends, whatever those ends may be.”

Strauss’s critique of the new political science highlights the limits and logical fallacies he sees within modern thought and modernity itself.  And much like a man who wears glasses, historicist and positivist thinkers soon forget they are wearing them.  The “Is” become “Oughts” and crowd out other possible, differing and perfectly valid ways of thinking about man, politics, man’s nature and his natural ends which Strauss wanted to recover within his own project of returning to the ancients.  Hegelian historicism, in particular, comes under Strauss’ criticism and the collectivist political ideologies (Marxism, Communism) that have sprung from it.

Obviously, this approach has been very important to many conservative thinkers in the U.S, those who are particularly religious, Natural Law thinkers (addition:  many have disagreements with Strauss), and other assorted enemies of the collectivist projects of the Left, including the actual Communists and Neo-Marxists, moral relativists, modernists and post-modernists etc.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Link to a paper given at Oxford suggesting there are reasons to be skeptical of Strauss’s motives.

*Essays On The Scientific Study Of Politics, edited by Herbert J Storing (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962).  (2nd paragraph of this post is a summary in my own words from pg 318…2nd quotation is from pg 320):

Related On This Site:  Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

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Repost-A Few Quotations: Leo Strauss On John Locke

A quick quotation.  Leo Strauss On John Locke:

‘Hobbes identified the rational life with the life dominated by the fear of fear, by the fear which relieves us from fear.  Moved by the same spirit, Locke identifies the rational life with the life dominated by the pain which relieves pain.  Labor takes the place of the art which imitates nature; for labor is, in the words of Hegel, a negative attitude toward nature.  The starting point of human efforts is misery:  the state of nature is a state of wretchedness.  The way toward happiness is a movement away from the state of nature, a movement away from nature: the negation of nature is the way toward happiness.  And if the movement toward happiness is the actuality of freedom, freedom is negativity .’

Strauss, Leo.  Natural Right And History.  Chicago:  The University Of Chicago Press, 1965. (Pg 250).

According to Strauss, the rational life for an individual, from Hobbes to Locke, is defined negatively, respectively as either a removal from fear or a removal from pain. And more broadly: Strauss has Locke remaking Hobbes’ more intrusive Leviathan into a smaller role for government:  to secure them in their lives, liberty and estate (property).   The key formulation of nature here, though, remains the same.

The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy elaborates:

‘Leo Strauss, and many of his followers, take rights to be paramount, going so far as to portray Locke’s position as essentially similar to that of Hobbes. They point out that Locke defended a hedonist theory of human motivation (Essay 2.20) and claim that he must agree with Hobbes about the essentially self-interested nature of human beings. Locke, they claim, only recognizes natural law obligations in those situations where our own preservation is not in conflict, further emphasizing that our right to preserve ourselves trumps any duties we may have.

On the other end of the spectrum, more scholars have adopted the view of Dunn, Tully, and Ashcraft that it is natural law, not natural rights, that is primary. They hold that when Locke emphasized the right to life, liberty, and property he was primarily making a point about the duties we have toward other people: duties not to kill, enslave, or steal. Most scholars also argue that Locke recognized a general duty to assist with the preservation of mankind, including a duty of charity to those who have no other way to procure their subsistence (Two Treatises 1.42). These scholars regard duties as primary in Locke because rights exist to insure that we are able to fulfill our duties.’

And of course, there’s this problem:

‘Another point of contestation has to do with the extent to which Locke thought natural law could, in fact, be known by reason.’

So what does Strauss offer instead as a possibility for man and nature?  Nature revealing itself to man without the use of his reason…or through his reason without a lot of Enlightenment metaphysics? Or through some return to Natural Right, or Platonic metaphysics? Through divine intervention or some unknown source?  He’s a fine corrective against those (and they are many) who seek to use reason to institute secular authority, but where does his thinking lead as a positive doctrine?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.  Here’s another quote:

 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 Independence.

Addition:  Link sent by a reader.

Also On This Site:  Getting a better hold on Strauss. See the comments: Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Enlightenment project?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

Hilary Putnam On The Philosophy Of Science:  Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On YouTube

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