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Freedom and the Amorphous Individual

A year ago, Donald Devine offered readers of Law and Liberty an expert summary and a warm endorsement of the political philosopher Larry Siedentop’s latest book Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. Siedentop traces the modern, “secular,” and liberal ideas of moral equality and equal liberty to the Christian overturning of “the aristocratic assumption upon which all ancient thinking was based, that of natural inequality,” and he finds in this intellectual genealogy an argument for a contemporary alliance of secular liberals and Christians in affirmation of individual rights.

Devine sees in this Christian genealogy of liberalism a bulwark, not only against the totalitarian “war on individualism,” but against the positivist rejection of “fixed individual rights” in favor of “what secular courts could decide at any particular time.” For Devine as well as for Siedentop, “consent and free will” provide the only just and necessary basis for political and social authority.

“The assumption of moral equality gave rise” to “the claim of equal liberty,” Siedentop writes. “For if humans have an equal moral standing, then it follows that there must be an area in which their choices ought to be respected.”

According to the American-born British philosopher, who spent much of his academic career as a fellow of Keble College, Oxford, the believer’s submission “to the mind and will of God as revealed in Christ” is at the same time the “beginning of a ‘new creation,” the revelation of human equality and autonomy. He sees no practical tension between “Christian liberty” as, on the one hand, the liberation of the individual from all given social bonds and, on the other, the subjection of the individual to a submission to the Christ “in which charity overcomes all other motives.”

Siedentop finds the liberal liberation of the individual entirely reconcilable with Christian submission to the demands of charity—as long as charity is interpreted liberally, as implying “moral equality and reciprocity.” Thus he believes that he has dispelled the illusion of an essential tension between Christian ideals and “Godless secularism.” The liberal idea of reciprocity based on moral equality is virtually identical, in his view, with the New Testament injunction to love thy neighbor as thyself; and the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation cashes out as liberal commitment to “equal liberty”: the “moral equality of humans implies that there is a sphere in which each should be free to make his or her own decisions, a sphere of conscience and free action.”

Devine, for his part, at one point seems to notice the vulnerability of the bare “assumption of moral equality” as a basis of moral and political order. He writes that

The very idea of the individual became amorphous. Was a fetus human? Was assisted suicide acceptable? Were men and women different or precisely the same? Were human individuals the only ones with rights?

But no more than Siedentop does he suspect that the severing of morality from the idea of a meaningful natural order might be implicated in this undermining of the meaning of “the individual.”

In fact Siedentop has no qualms about taking the nominalists’ side against Thomas Aquinas on the question of will versus nature:

For Aquinas, natural law consisted of rational principles that governed God’s will as well as the human will. For Duns Scotus and Ockham, however, that position both threatened divine omnipotence and misunderstood the role of reason. They saw God’s will as limited only by his free nature. And it was God’s will, revealed in the Christian faith, that humans should be equal and free agents. Thus, freedom became the bond between God and man. God, not any “necessary” dictates of reason, created our world. Reason is a part of creation. But reason by itself is not the creator.

Human equality and freedom are purchased at the price of any substantial understanding of the human good, or indeed of the meaning of human nature. Equal freedom wholly replaces nature as a moral standard. Indeed it is in our equal freedom that we are most like the willful God whose creation is in no way bound by reason. Herein, according to Siedentop, lies the perfect convergence between secular individualism and the essence of Christianity.

From this point of view, any Catholic “rhetoric deploring the growth of ‘Godless’ secularism” is based in a gross confusion, as is the Christian “fundamentalist” reaction against secularism.  These “fundamentalists,” Siedentop writes,

may now jeopardize the traditional American understanding of secularism as the embodiment of Christian moral intuitions. In the Southern and Western states especially, “born-again” [Christians] are coming to identify secularism as an enemy rather than a companion. In struggling against abortion and homosexuality, they risk losing touch with the most profound moral insights of their faith. If good and evil are contrasted too simply, in a Manichaean way, charity is the loser. The principle of “equal liberty” is put at risk.

In this case Devine seems untroubled by Siedentop’s argument for identifying secular individualism with the essence of Christianity. The culture war between secular humanists and those who appeal to a divine standard of morality is a mere illusion. To avoid the distractions of the culture war, we have only to embrace the synthesis of Divine creative will and the pure and equal rights of humanity.

A political philosopher who is not here in person to assess Larry Siedentop’s argument may yet prove illuminating. Leo Strauss (1899-1973) left us an acute criticism of and response to the argument for a Christian genealogy of modern secular humanism when he famously responded to Alexandre Kojève’s apology for rational humanistic tyranny. Kojève (1902-1968) sees the Christian origins of modern secular equality at least as clearly as does Siedentop; the main difference is that Kojève is under no illusion that the offspring can be reconciled with its parent.

Kojève agrees with Siedentop in cashing out the meaning of Christian universalism in the rather prosaic democratic morality of reciprocity. The great political, military, and religious actors who drove the march of History understood themselves as serving some god or some understanding of truth and right, but the only real and abiding motive in the historical process is, for Kojève, the desire to be recognized in one’s humanity by other human beings. And the medium or currency of this recognition can be nothing other than effective attention to the simple material needs and interests of our common, bodily humanity.

The Christian leveling of aristocratic pride released the energy of human labor for the service of common human needs; thus the effectual truth of a God who transcends social differences is an ethic of formal universality, and this can have no concrete meaning except a universal society of equal recognition.

Kojève’s advantage in realism over Siedentop lies in the former’s awareness that fulfilling the idea of a universal society of equal freedom and reciprocity will require a coercive apparatus: the universal and homogenous state. Thus, Kojève acknowledges, the final and absolute ascendancy of the plainest democratic satisfaction is the only real truth of the ecstatic religion of grace; a collective life supported by total technological mastery, the absolute victory of a final, rational tyranny, a prosaic life in which all poetic projections have been banished along with the cruelty of History—this, Kojève sees, is the final historical and thus real meaning of the transcendent Christian Event that first laid the axe to the root of all aristocratic pretensions.

Despite impressions that Leo Strauss willingly conveys, he agrees fundamentally with Kojève’s and Siedentop’s diagnosis of the Christian roots of modern liberal democracy. The important difference, of course, is that Strauss deplores this development.

Turning to Strauss’s “Restatement” to Kojève on tyranny[1], we see that Strauss does not really contest the Hegelian thesis of the Christian root of modernity. In fact he explicitly leaves open the question of “how far the epoch-making change that was effected by Machiavelli is due to the indirect influence of the Biblical tradition,” insisting only that “that change” must first be “fully understood in itself.”

In other words, once the effectual truth of modern rationalism is understood—that is, Machiavellian humanism—then Christians and others inclined to give the modern revolution a Christian baptism, to cover what is a this-worldly project with the veil of a vaguely Christian humanitarian “spirituality,” can judge for themselves whether they want to be responsible for this interpretation. Let us not sugarcoat modernity by evoking its “spiritual roots” before we ask the question in all sobriety: What is modernity? Thus, although Strauss emphatically prioritizes the question of the character of modernity over that of its “indirect” Biblical origins, he quite clearly does not refute or even dismiss the proposition that such religious influences were a significant factor in the rise of the modern project.

Strauss is less immediately interested in the historical question of “influences” than in the essential character of modernity. Nowhere does he make clearer than in his response to Kojève his fundamental assessment of the modern project, understood in its full implications—that is, as Kojève understands and embraces it. Strauss, for his part, makes clear that he abominates this project and considers it antithetical to any adequate understanding of genuine nobility or of plain human decency.

The identification of philosophy and rational-humanistic tyranny, the liquidation of philosophic transcendence in total devotion to the cause of an utterly unphilosophic humanity, represents for Strauss the collapse of all human meaning. Where Kojève is resigned, with more than a touch of irony, no doubt, to this inhuman or post-human culmination of secular humanism, Strauss bends every effort to resisting this culmination, even allowing himself (with a touch of his own irony, probably) to issue a militant call to resistance:

Warriors and workers of all countries, unite, while there is still time, to prevent the coming of “the realm of freedom.” Defend with might and main, if it needs to be defended, “the realm of necessity.”

Freedom as an all-too-human project necessarily degenerates, Strauss thinks, into a rational and technological tyranny; the compulsion to make mankind completely at home in this world, a world of man’s own making, has left him utterly homeless. He recommends following the ancients in a turn to a philosophic “realm of necessity” in order to recover an appreciation of the permanent contours and therefore the permanent limits of the human condition.

In this text, Strauss tips his hand more than once to reveal the human and political springs of the philosophic idea of a “realm of necessity.” But he also provides plenty of encouragement to the pride of philosophers who would not wish to be reminded of their dependence on moral and political sources of meaning. For Strauss, the possibility of satisfaction in serene impersonal contemplation grounds the moderation of philosophic wisdom. But it would be at least as true to say that a moderate practical wisdom, the noble reserve represented by, say, the characters in Jane Austen (as opposed to those of Fyodor Dostoyevsky), the aspiration to resignation concerning common human hopes, is the very human ground of contemplation of an impersonal and therefore inhuman eternity.

Strauss’s most decisive concession to Kojève is his acknowledgement that “subjective certainty” is impossible; thus all knowledge is embedded in social-political context. He does not disagree that the classical thinkers “were fully aware of the essential weakness of the mind of the individual”—but affirms the superiority of an aristocratic over a democratic-universalist context.

The Straussian philosopher takes his bearings from the admiration of the few; his orientation is determined originally and fundamentally by a concern for honor, whereas the modern philosopher is conditioned by an original motive of “love” for human beings, or concern for the “love” of human beings, irrespective of their humanly esteemed qualities. Thus it is clear that Kojève’s universal recognition is indeed for Strauss a descendent—perversely, to be sure, but still in a very significant sense a descendent—of the Christian idea of universal charity.

To retreat from the modern synthesis is, for Strauss, necessarily to distrust the Christian impulse toward a fusion of elevation and universalism and to wish to restore the original tension between the few and the many. But such a restoration is inseparable from a moderate partisanship on behalf of the few; it is bound up with that “noble reserve” that characterizes the man of classical prudence, and that implies an aristocratic metaphysics and cosmology associated with resignation to the limitations of human action and therefore the pretension to serene detachment from human concerns.

This, then, is Strauss’s lesson for Larry Siedentop: If purified of all reference to Greek virtue as well as Jewish law, obedient love as Christian charity becomes reducible in practice to Kojève’s “recognition” (or Siedentop’s “reciprocity,” the Golden Rule), and thus open to the instrumentalities of rational tyranny called for by universal technological reason. Devotion to the cause of the universal, homogeneous state is the effectual truth of Christian love purified of proud virtue and of particularist law.

The ideal of pure charity, severed from Law and from Contemplation, humbles the pride implicit in all hierarchical virtue and thus fatally opens the horizon of natural right and undermines its implicit teleology.

[1] Leo Strauss, On Tyranny, Corrected and Expanded Edition Including the Strauss- Kojève Correspondence, edited by Victor Gourevitch and Michael S. Roth (University of Chicago Press, 2013), pp. 185, 201.

Reader Discussion

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on March 17, 2016 at 12:34:50 pm

It would take an essay as detailed and thoughtful as Professor Ralph Hancock’s own to reply fully to his wonderful article. He very well states the essential difference between Leo Strauss and himself on one side and Larry Siedentop, Christian (classical) liberals, and yours truly on the other, all of whom he gets just about right. His focus upon the clash between the two syntheses—“the Christian impulse toward a fusion of elevation and universalism” and the Straussian “wish to restore the original tension between the few and the many” gets right to the heart of the matter (although as I have written Strauss denies his is a synthesis http://www.libertylawsite.org/2014/05/21/the-real-john-locke-and-why-he-matters/0; https://home.isi.org/journal-issue/winter-1988). We all can learn from Professor Handcock even if we disagree with his conclusions. Donald Devine

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Donald Devine
on March 17, 2016 at 13:48:33 pm

But could it be said that the "goal" (unstated, perhaps) of philosophy (and politics, properly understood) was to infuse in, or at least allow for sufficient conditions for the recognition by, the *many* of this required "tension". No, I do not suppose that Strauss, etc. would a) think this likely nor b) even of paramount importance. And although Strauss, and others, valued the Noble Lie, and thought it a necessary instrument for politic association, still there appears to be, at least in my mind, an urge or an inclination to infuse the recognition of this tension in a somewhat larger proportion of the political association.

Speaking in modern terms, it would be damn nice if some of our current political aristocracy (politicos, "activists", opinion shapers) were familiar with the "tension" and would recognize / contemplate the inherent limits of human reason that is consequent to such a "tensional" understanding.
Perhaps, we could abandon our rather quixotic pursuits of human paradise.

After all, "tampon equality" would not appear, (at least at first glance) to be a suitable predicate for human freedom and proper civic association.

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gabe
on March 17, 2016 at 16:50:59 pm

I think Mr. Devine has the more robust view here, at least as described in his linked post on Locke.

Professor Hancock presents what seems to be an impressionist rendering of various concepts, rather than a compelling defense of a particular thesis. This is partly due to the absence of a clearly defined method, or an explanation as to why certain premises or assumptions were adopted.

It is of course reasonable, but not exclusively so, to trace an idea back to its origin, to find the source of some truth about human life, and then to proceed to either deduce or infer its relevance to modernity. This method necessarily suggests certain caveats: the realities of human life may not emanate from a monist, point source. The conclusions that follow from such an approach may be path-dependent; i.e." reason" and revelation may both allow the drawing of conclusions although those conclusions may differ. In such circumstances it does not seem impudent to request a defense of a particular foundational source, or even the assumptions made regarding the necessity of a single source, nor does it seem so with regard to particular form of reasoning. It certainly doesn't help help that the terms "equality" and "liberty" are vague and ambiguous, and for all we know, the bastard offspring of the same father.

The disputes examined by Professor Hancock are certainly legitimate, but not exhaustive, nor remotely dispositive. There are certainly arguments to be made that the "sources" of liberty, or equality, or dignity, etc. are not in fact point sources, but bipolar pairs, of necessary opposites, or even triplets or higher order combinations. In particular, it may be that reasoning from a dualist perspective will lead to dualist conclusions; i.e. will be able to conclude nothing more than that there is more than one right answer.There is at least a notion that peering back into the past to discover the sources of our current thought is not necessary to adopting those current thoughts as the assumptions for future philosophies and see where they lead, regardless of pedigree.

This, I think is where Mr. Devine has the edge. He at least explicitly mentions a monist perspective, and in discussing probabilities hints that reason may simply lead us to a spectrum of possible truths, (or probabilities of truth, if you will) that don't really tell us much more than we knew when we started.

It may be that Western thought is not dominated so much by the clever who arrive at an irrefutable truth through reason, as it is by the bold, who declare a given truth based on no more than observation and are simply skilled in their defense of it.

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z9z99
on March 17, 2016 at 20:55:23 pm

Z:

Nicely said.

"There are certainly arguments to be made that the “sources” of liberty, or equality, or dignity, etc. are not in fact point sources, but bipolar pairs, of necessary opposites, or even triplets or higher order combinations. In particular, it may be that reasoning from a dualist perspective will lead to dualist conclusions; i.e. will be able to conclude nothing more than that there is more than one right answer."

And, what some others have argued is that what we currently observe (not a time-dependent in the "currency") is simply the result of unavoidable "collisions" resulting from human civic association. I believe Oakeshott is of this opinion.

Yet to accept the "collision" hypothesis at face value would imply a moral and civic relativism that, I suspect, many of us would not want to accept, nor are we prepared to do so. Many may find this unacceptable either as a consequence of certain religious precepts, ethical or moral reasoning or finally as a result of the fact that one, in so accepting, must conclude that "Reason" itself is consequently faulty or insufficiently robust to reach a determinative outcome / effect.

As for the Rationalists amongst us, I would argue that they need only recognize that the immanentization of their conception of human perfection, liberty and equality, requires force and compulsion. No clever reasoning or lofty prose can enable us to avoid this bedrock truth (small "t", of course). It is so now and it has always been so.

What was the task of the political philosopher (or the philosopher in general). Was a formulation of, or for, human perfection required to consider History (capital "H" intended) or more appropriately the "history" (again small "h") of men in civic communities.

My reading of Strauss, Jaffa and, yes, Oakeshott et al, suggests that there was in these fellows a) a recognition of the deficiencies of Reason (Athens) and consequently History (forgive the shortcuts here), b) a further recognition that the project of modernity had gone horribly wrong owing in part to "a" as well as to a similar but superficially different form of an all encompassing epistemological system, i.e. religion (Jerusalem), c) that the task of the philosopher was to mitigate the effects of both "a" and "b' and to provide a balanced understanding of, and approach to, civil association, with all that entails such as freedom, liberty, equality, etc. that would enable both the intellectual / philosophical / political aristocracy to strike, or at least *assume* a reasonable balance.

This is the "tension" of which Strauss and others speak.

We may look at, and have certainly heard of, the "new science of politics" about which both Madison and Jefferson expounded when seeking to justify the new order of government they sough to implement. Some have acclaimed this as proof of the influence of the Enlightenment and the new Age of Reason. Yet this is simply not so. What was conceived and implemented was the result of a careful consideration of the centuries long accumulation of "collisions" of these English speaking peoples, their habits, practices and traditions AND a fairly well Reasoned (capital "R" intended) construction of what, on balance would assure the continuation / growth of those practices / beliefs.

In short, I believe, that there was present in the minds of those political practitioners a sense of the needed balance or TENSION required of the political statesman / philosopher and about which Strauss and others commented.

There would be a Reason based predicate for liberty, yes.
But there would also be a structure predicated upon, and acknowledging the frailty of human nature as evidence by some rather adverse collisions from their past experience in both England and the early colonial period, designed to limit or contain the foreseeable excesses of Reason ( as in Thomas Paine, etc.) Liberty was, as folks now like to say. "cabined" subject to some "aristocratic" oversight.

A nice plan / structure, yes again!

A fellow blogger at LLB, likes to decry the forces of populism. He is absolutely correct.
Yet, it may be argued that the greater threat to our liberty is Reason / Rationalism as clever men and women may stretch Reason beyond its capacity to illuminate human practical reality / limitation. It may very well be that the Reason (allegedly, and surely self- appellation) based political prescriptions we encounter today do far more damage, not simply because of their ultimate utopian or teleological end points, but rather because they engender in the "many" a false conception, an UN-balanced conception, if you will, of liberty, equality and the limits of human individuality.
The Rationalists / Utopian Historicists, who perceive the ultimate "end," the perfect end state of human affairs, have abandoned, or are otherwise unable to "live in the tension" about which Strauss, and some classicists spoke; rather they have proceeded to infuse in the "many" the same distorted / unbalanced understanding of human capacity.

So yes, liberty, freedom, equality may be the end state resulting from numerous starting points. It would be nice if our well Reasoned brethren, on both the Left and the Right, would be somewhat more willing to accept that "collisions" are not only unavoidable but that they often leading to a new and better, if still somewhat unguided, formulation.

Balance in all things - a little Jerusalem and a little bit of Athens.

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gabe
on March 18, 2016 at 00:15:00 am

Gabe,

Very nice post. Simple observation tells me that very few people are capable of living their lives guided solely by reason. People's lives are largely guided by those experiences, emotions and interactions that release dopamine in the basal ganglia. the whole concept of rationalizing is to disguise a desirable behavior or belief that does not originate in reason and make it appear as though it does. The "collisions" you refer to are otherwise known as the inevitable and normal interactions that occur between people having different interests, experiences and beliefs. They aren't really affected by how reasonable anyone is.

To clarify the thought about sources and methods, consider Professor Hancock's assertion

Siedentop traces the modern, “secular,” and liberal ideas of moral equality and equal liberty to the Christian overturning of “the aristocratic assumption upon which all ancient thinking was based, that of natural inequality,

Is this a hypothesis, an observation, a conclusion, or what? It seems to me to be almost certainly incorrect. I doubt seriously that that the readily observable fact of natural inequality was overturned by Christianity or anything else. To the extent that there is a religious doctrine of equality it would have roots in a particular theology; if there is a secular basis for such an assertion it arises from either a philosophical abstraction, incautious sentimentality, the first instinct of which is to impugn the character of anyone questioning it, or a view of human experience that borders on the delusional. To say that all men and women are equal may pass muster as a theological concept, or a tightly defined philosophical one, or a legal one (although one would have to ignore a lot of headlines to buy this), but certainly not as an economic, biologic, anthropological or sociological one. Not to mention the fact that Christianity, like all major religions and institutions has its own aristocracy.

I feel quite justified in concluding that tyranny or a "coercive apparatus" are bad things based on nothing more than their observable effects. I don't feel obligated to give the benefit of the doubt to scholars that want to convince me that "reason" and subjective ideals should lead me to believe otherwise.

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z9z99
on March 18, 2016 at 07:24:49 am

I would like to thank both Ralph Hancock and Donald Devine for an exceptionally valuable exchange of views (and indeed Larry Siedentop). I find Hancock's critique of the harmonious if not tautological relationship between "secular individualism" and "the essence of Christianity" persuasive. An important key comes in the last word, "teleology." What is meaning or purpose other than a sense and legitimacy of direction? Language may define and logic weigh, but neither replaces them. I also find "Strauss's lesson for Larry Siedentop" consistent with the recognizable concept of an arbitrary and jealous God, one who would be unamused by "a Chrstian love purified of proud virtue and of particularist law." This is not to beg the question: what we need are boundaries and history proves that we cannot draw the lines ourselves. In that regard I am thrilled to read of Locke's academic reconsideration, or perhaps rehabilitation. Maybe the project will mature in time to save natural rights and the Constitution.

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Mark Baughan
on March 18, 2016 at 09:26:51 am

I worded some of that poorly. It is the view that Hancock attributes to Siedentop that I think incorrect, not that Hancock attributes it to him.

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z9z99
on March 18, 2016 at 12:26:51 pm

Z - I see Hancock's overall argument as broadly analogous to Locke's severing natural law from its roots in divine law, which worked until it didn't. I think that is Hancock's point about secular idealism: it works until it doesn't (which is sometime just before it turns despotic). The equality story is the same - peeling away the action from the impetus. Everything is beautiful in its own way. Because.

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Mark Baughan
on March 18, 2016 at 13:16:32 pm

It may be a bit less profound than the considerations given to "universality" (monism) and "pluralism(s)" (by whatever name or characteristics), but through all the thinking, reflections and examples there is mankind's atavistic concern with uncertainty.

Uncertainty has bedeviled mankind from its primitive origins. It is still observed in much of its primitive forms in some societies.

Many of the dialogues, philosophies, social proposals and attempts at forms of human organizations can be seen as attempts at reducing uncertainties; or, in their extremes and extensions as attempts to achieve absolute certainty. The absolute certainties are reflected in the efforts at universality.

With their recorded or remembered history, periods of disorders, extensive human movements (particularly those associated with the dissolution of preceding forms of social order), and resulting conflicts, the quests for certainties has resulted in the creation or adoption of facilities of "universality" such as the Christian church in the unification of Continental Europe.

However the experience of mankind with the extensions of universality, whether military, social, political, economic or ideological, range from unsatisfactory to disastrous. We have only to look at the universality aspects of Islam and its effects upon the humans swept up in its quest for that particular certainty.

It can be noted that the suggestions for "reform" of Islamic ideology are basically to reintroduce uncertainties. The "Protestant Reformation" reintroduced uncertainties into the Christian ideology (and those uncertainties have continued to multiply).

We may mistake degrees and kinds of uncertainties for what is today called "relativism." Still, it appears that we have to live and deal directly with reducing, but not expecting to eliminate them. Such ways as we have so far sought for any absolute certainty in universality have led the way to dusty death for millions, and untold misery for survivors who lived to try again.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on March 18, 2016 at 15:12:54 pm

Richard,

Very true. Aversion to uncertainty is a large part of the appeal for both astrology and totalitariansm.

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z9z99
on March 18, 2016 at 22:22:47 pm

Richard:

"It can be noted that the suggestions for “reform” of Islamic ideology are basically to reintroduce uncertainties."

Now that IS a gem of great value!!!

Now herewith another of my oddball thoughts:

Recently reviewing The Laws by Plato, I was struck by some comments by The Athenian Stranger (AS) that would appear to be an attempt to resolve the uncertainty, at least in the political order, of which you speak. (I'll spare the quote as the impression garnered is more contextual). In an effort to provide some legitimacy, and thereby some certainty, AS invokes the ultimate authority of the Gods for some preferred mechanism of social order / control.

Yet, it strikes me that something more was afoot - the concept of the IDEAL. Given humanity's inability to contend with the uncertainties of existence / civil association, what better way to provide a measure of, or aspirational path to, certainty than to posit an Ideal, which by definition is perfect, harmonious and complete unto itself. AS, as other of the Ancients, recognized human frailty, the inequality of the individuals perceptual capabilities, and their desire to pursue virtue and the difficult task of *educating* the many in the concept / practice of virtue. A ready expedient may have been to formulate a rather clear description of the perfect social / moral order. The Philosopher was to define and propagate this Ideal, this conception of the good order. Employing the mechanism of the Gods would serve to render legitimacy to the Philosophers conception of the Ideal. (Was this the Noble Lie?).

How different is the Athenian Stranger from the modern social engineer? Not much, I would contend. It would seem that there has been through the millennia an urge (overwhelming desire?) to combat the uncertainties of human existence / civil association through the use of various schemes, mechanisms, ideological / religious systems that would (of course, to the proponents SHOULD / OUGHT WOULD BE MORE APT) not only reduce uncertainty but assure harmony and happiness.

So long as humanity confronts uncertainty, others amongst us will proffer certitude and beneficial outcomes IF ONLY -

The "IF" is the issue. Given the present potency of the STATE / FAS the "IF" is far more certain and the "ONLY" is comprised of far greater impositions across a broader spectrum of human interactions or "collisions."

The certitude and legitimacy is sought in either REASON, HISTORY or an IDEAL sense of JUSTICE and EQUALITY.

Now my Glencorrie Couvee Marquis, 2011 awaits!

In vino veritas!!!!!! I believe you are familiar and agree with that, don't you!!!!!

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gabe
on March 19, 2016 at 18:10:13 pm

Thanks, Donald, for your fair reading. It would certainly be interesting to discuss sometime.

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Ralph Hancock
on March 20, 2016 at 12:47:59 pm

PLATONISM

The varieties of Platonists (clerical, academic and secular) must be as great as the variety of Marxists; however differentiated those two classifications may be.

The "Ideal" seems to be something in the past (the clan and tribal) which provided the certainties of prescriptions and proscriptions of conduct and relationships; but, whose (extensive) uncertainties were handed down in the "copies" that formed the reality of those subsequent times. The "copies" dropped out many of the older certainties ; and for the recovery of some of them recovery of the "Ideal" should be sought.

The reality (or realities) of today expressed in the Open Society (not to be confused by limitations with the concept of "Open Access") are not "copies" of some former "Ideal" as in Platonic theses. They are the results of mixing and merging, migrations and extinctions. There is no "Ideal" derivation to which Western Civilization might return.

The differentiations in the responses to uncertainties, as much as the quests for certainty, are probably a major, if not the, source of the characteristics of Western Civilization, and of its Open Societies.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on March 20, 2016 at 16:48:33 pm

Richard:

Agree wholeheartedly. My point was only to remark upon what appears to be an innate urge in humans, or a genetic inability, to counter uncertainty.

It is funny, isn't it that the more likely the topic is prone to uncertainty, the greater the degree of certainty exhibited by the proponents of the *fix."

take care

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gabe
on March 20, 2016 at 17:02:55 pm

Yes, indeed it would. Wonderful discussion you have provoked.

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Donald Devine
on March 20, 2016 at 17:40:59 pm

Ain' at d' truuf !!

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R Richard Schweitzer

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