Cthulhu Swims Left, Cthulhu Like Strauss, is not Christian


Nevertheless, Strauss’s unhappiness with the Left in the Cold War period is not tantamount to a categorical rejection of all leftist or modern thought per se….Strauss and his students largely agree with the traditional leftist dismissal of Christianity as an irrational influence on the political philosophy of the West. This fundamental consensus between Strauss and the Left, which has been neglected in most of the literature on Strauss, gravely affects their understanding of Anglo-American political thought. For Strauss was compelled to read out of this tradition any sign of a serious indebtedness to Christianity. Unlike the anti-democratic Far Right, which often faults Christianity for its universalist morality (e.g. charity) that made modern democracy possible, Strauss is ultimately critical of Christianity as a foundation for Anglo-American democracy because it is not sufficiently universalist (that is, intelligible to all human beings): it is sheer historicism to hold up one faith as the principal foundation of the West. As as result of this hermeneutical rationale, the very tradition that Strauss and his students wish to preserve as a  repository of rational accessible “eternal principles” is reinvented as a secular liberal artifice. (Leo Strauss and Anglo-American Democracy: Grant Havers)

Neoconservative thought is ultimately based on the notion that Christianity does not matter. In fact, Strauss’s understanding of European civilisation rejects the notion, first given express formulation by Aquinas, that there is no incompatibility between the Christian faith and reason. For Strauss, faith and reason were incompatible, yet influential upon each other. Whatever Strauss’s view of religion, it is clear that he felt that it had no obligatory right on reason: it existed in a separate domain. Sure, religion may be an influence, an inspiration, a tradition, etc.,  but if reason came to a conclusion separate to religion, reason had to be given its “latitude.” At its best, Straussian Neoconservatism is a secularism that is “respectful” towards religion, at worst, it plays cynical lip service to it.

Indeed, Strauss’s separation of faith and reason is contra to the Christian understanding of the two. Strauss may not have said much against Christianity, but the system he espouses is inherently incompatible with Christianity. In fact the lip service given to Christianity by the Neoconservative moment disguises the fact that that the secular agenda is still given primacy, and while attacks by an openly hostile Left may be easy to spot, the undermining of the Right goes unnoticed by an agent which talks about the importance of  “Athens and Jerusalem”, while pushing the metaphysics of the Left.

The importance of the dualistic hermeneutic in Strauss’s thought is hard to overstate, since it makes any significant attempt to spy rationality in faith almost impossible. It also throws into question Strauss’s respect for the tradition of Anglo-American democracy, whose main defenders, mightily attempted to distinguish “true religion” from superstitious dogma. If Strauss believes that no distinction is possible, does the religious basis for this civilization fall by the wayside? And, if this is the case, does the irreligious Left score the ultimate victory over the Right?

Athenian Secularism, Jacobin Secularism, Managerial Secularism, Socialist Secularism, Natsoc Secularism, Right secularism, Left secularism…….secularist market specialisation is still secularism. Cthulhu swims left because Cthulhu is a secularist.

Cthulhu swims left, Cthulhu like Strauss, is not Christian.

Organic and the Orgiastic. Cartography of Ground and Groundlessness in Deleuze and Heidegger. Thought of the Day 43.0


In his last hermeneutical Erörterung of Leibniz, The Principle of Ground, Heidegger traces back metaphysics to its epochal destiny in the twofold or duplicity (Zwiefalt) of Being and Thought and thus follows the ground in its self-ungrounding (zugrundegehen). Since the foundation of thought is also the foundation of Being, reason and ground are not equal but belong together (zusammenhören) in the Same as the ungrounded yet historical horizon of the metaphysical destiny of Being: On the one hand we say: Being and ground: the Same. On the other hand we say: Being: the abyss (Ab-Grund). What is important is to think the univocity (Einsinnigkeit) of both Sätze, those Sätze that are no longer Sätze. In Difference and Repetition, similarly, Deleuze tells us that sufficient reason is twisted into the groundless. He confirms that the Fold (Pli) is the differenciator of difference engulfed in groundlessness, always folding, unfolding, refolding: to ground is always to bend, to curve and recurve. He thus concludes:

Sufficient reason or ground is strangely bent: on the one hand, it leans towards what it grounds, towards the forms of representation; on the other hand, it turns and plunges into a groundless beyond the ground which resists all forms and cannot be represented.

Despite the fundamental similarity of their conclusions, however, our short overview of Deleuze’s transformation of the Principle of Sufficient Reason has already indicated that his argumentation is very different from Heideggerian hermeneutics. To ground, Deleuze agrees, is always to ground representation. But we should distinguish between two kinds of representation: organic or finite representation and orgiastic or infinite representation. What unites the classicisms of Kant, Descartes and Aristotle is that representation retains organic form as its principle and the finite as its element. Here the logical principle of identity always precedes ontology, such that the ground as element of difference remains undetermined and in itself. It is only with Hegel and Leibniz that representation discovers the ground as its principle and the infinite as its element. It is precisely the Principle of Sufficient Reason that enables thought to determine difference in itself. The ground is like a single and unique total moment, simultaneously the moment of the evanescence and production of difference, of disappearance and appearance. What the attempts at rendering representation infinite reveal, therefore, is that the ground has not only an Apollinian, orderly side, but also a hidden Dionysian, orgiastic side. Representation discovers within itself the limits of the organized; tumult, restlessness and passion underneath apparent calm. It rediscovers monstrosity.

The question then is how to evaluate this ambiguity that is essential to the ground. For Heidegger, the Zwiefalt is either naively interpreted from the perspective of its concave side, following the path of the history of Western thought as the belonging together of Being and thought in a common ground; or it is meditated from its convex side, excavating it from the history of the forgetting of Being the decline of the Fold (Wegfall der Zwiefalt, Vorenthalt der Zwiefalt) as the pivotal point of the Open in its unfolding and following the path that leads from the ground to the abyss. Instead of this all or nothing approach, Deleuze takes up the question in a Nietzschean, i.e. genealogical fashion. The attempt to represent difference in itself cannot be disconnected from its malediction, i.e. the moral representation of groundlessness as a completely undifferentiated abyss. As Bergson already observed, representational reason poses the problem of the ground in terms of the alternative between order and chaos. This goes in particular for the kind of representational reason that seeks to represent the irrepresentable: Representation, especially when it becomes infinite, is imbued with a presentiment of groundlessness. Because it has become infinite in order to include difference within itself, however, it represents groundlessness as a completely undifferentiated abyss, a universal lack of difference, an indifferent black nothingness. Indeed, if Deleuze is so hostile to Hegel, it is because the latter embodies like no other the ultimate illusion inseparable from the Principle of Sufficient Reason insofar as it grounds representation, namely that groundlessness should lack differences, when in fact it swarms with them.

Some content on this page was disabled on May 4, 2020 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from Columbia University Press. You can learn more about the DMCA here:


Financial Entanglement and Complexity Theory. An Adumbration on Financial Crisis.


The complex system approach in finance could be described through the concept of entanglement. The concept of entanglement bears the same features as a definition of a complex system given by a group of physicists working in a field of finance (Stanley et al,). As they defined it – in a complex system all depends upon everything. Just as in the complex system the notion of entanglement is a statement acknowledging interdependence of all the counterparties in financial markets including financial and non-financial corporations, the government and the central bank. How to identify entanglement empirically? Stanley H.E. et al formulated the process of scientific study in finance as a search for patterns. Such a search, going on under the auspices of “econophysics”, could exemplify a thorough analysis of a complex and unstructured assemblage of actual data being finalized in the discovery and experimental validation of an appropriate pattern. On the other side of a spectrum, some patterns underlying the actual processes might be discovered due to synthesizing a vast amount of historical and anecdotal information by applying appropriate reasoning and logical deliberations. The Austrian School of Economic Thought which, in its extreme form, rejects application of any formalized systems, or modeling of any kind, could be viewed as an example. A logical question follows out this comparison: Does there exist any intermediate way of searching for regular patters in finance and economics?

Importantly, patterns could be discovered by developing rather simple models of money and debt interrelationships. Debt cycles were studied extensively by many schools of economic thought (Shiller, Robert J._ Akerlof, George A – Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism). The modern financial system worked by spreading risk, promoting economic efficiency and providing cheap capital. It had been formed during the years as bull markets in shares and bonds originated in the early 1990s. These markets were propelled by abundance of money, falling interest rates and new information technology. Financial markets, by combining debt and derivatives, could originate and distribute huge quantities of risky structurized products and sell them to different investors. Meanwhile, financial sector debt, only a tenth of the size of non-financial-sector debt in 1980, became half as big by the beginning of the credit crunch in 2007. As liquidity grew, banks could buy more assets, borrow more against them, and enjoy their value rose. By 2007 financial services were making 40% of America’s corporate profits while employing only 5% of its private sector workers. Thanks to cheap money, banks could have taken on more debt and, by designing complex structurized products, they were able to make their investment more profitable and risky. Securitization facilitating the emergence of the “shadow banking” system foments, simultaneously, bubbles on different segments of a global financial market.

Yet over the past decade this system, or a big part of it, began to lose touch with its ultimate purpose: to reallocate deficit resources in accordance with the social priorities. Instead of writing, managing and trading claims on future cashflows for the rest of the economy, finance became increasingly a game for fees and speculation. Due to disastrously lax regulation, investment banks did not lay aside enough capital in case something went wrong, and, as the crisis began in the middle of 2007, credit markets started to freeze up. Qualitatively, after the spectacular Lehman Brothers disaster in September 2008, laminar flows of financial activity came to an end. Banks began to suffer losses on their holdings of toxic securities and were reluctant to lend to one another that led to shortages of funding system. This only intensified in late 2007 when Nothern Rock, a British mortgage lender, experienced a bank run that started in the money markets. All of a sudden, liquidity became in a short supply, debt was unwound, and investors were forced to sell and write down the assets. For several years, up to now, the market counterparties no longer trust each other. As Walter Bagehot, an authority on bank runs, once wrote:

Every banker knows that if he has to prove that he is worth of credit, however good may be his arguments, in fact his credit is gone.

In an entangled financial system, his axiom should be stretched out to the whole market. And it means, precisely, financial meltdown or the crisis. The most fascinating feature of the post-crisis era on financial markets was the continuation of a ubiquitous liquidity expansion. To fight the market squeeze, all the major central banks have greatly expanded their balance sheets. The latter rose, roughly, from about 10 percent to 25-30 percent of GDP for the appropriate economies. For several years after the credit crunch 2007-09, central banks bought trillions of dollars of toxic and government debts thus increasing, without any precedent in modern history, money issuance. Paradoxically, this enormous credit expansion, though accelerating for several years, has been accompanied by a stagnating and depressed real economy. Yet, until now, central bankers are worried with downside risks and threats of price deflation, mainly. Otherwise, a hectic financial activity that is going on along unbounded credit expansion could be transformed by herding into autocatalytic process that, if being subject to accumulation of a new debt, might drive the entire system at a total collapse. From a financial point of view, this systemic collapse appears to be a natural result of unbounded credit expansion which is ‘supported’ with the zero real resources. Since the wealth of investors, as a whole, becomes nothing but the ‘fool’s gold’, financial process becomes a singular one, and the entire system collapses. In particular, three phases of investors’ behavior – hedge finance, speculation, and the Ponzi game, could be easily identified as a sequence of sub-cycles that unwound ultimately in the total collapse.

Viral Load


Even if viruses have been quarantined on a user’s system, the user is often not allowed to access the quarantined files. The ostensible reason for this high level of secrecy is the claim that open access to computer virus code would result in people writing more computer viruses – a difficult claim for an antivirus company to make given that once they themselves have a copy of a virus then machines running their antivirus software should already be protected from that virus. A more believable explanation for antivirus companies’ unwillingness to release past virus programs is that a large part of their business model is predicated upon their ability to exclusively control stockpiles of past computer virus specimens as closely guarded intellectual property.

None of this absence of archival material is helped by the fact that the concept of a computer virus is itself an ontologically ambiguous category. The majority of so-called malicious software entities that have plagued Internet users in the past few years have technically not been viruses but worms. Additionally, despite attempts to define clear nosological and epidemiological categories for computer viruses and worms, there is still no consistent system for stabilizing the terms themselves, let alone assessing their relative populations. Elizabeth Grosz commented during an interview with the editors of Found Object journal that part of the reason for the ontological ambiguity of computer viruses is that they are an application of a biological metaphor that is largely indeterminate itself. According to Grosz, we are as mystified, if not more so, by biological viruses as we are by computer viruses. Perhaps we know even more about computer viruses than we do about biological viruses! The same obscurities are there at the biological level that exists at the computer level (…)

As Grosz suggests, it is no wonder that computer viruses are so ontologically uncertain, given that their biological namesakes threaten to undermine many of the binarisms that anchor modern Western technoscience, such as distinctions between organic and inorganic, dead and living, matter and form, and sexual and asexual reproduction.

Viral Load

Holism. Note Quote.


It is a basic tenet of systems theory/holism as well as of theosophy that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If, then, our individual minds are subsystems of larger manifestations of mind, how is it that our own minds are self-conscious while the universal mind (on the physical plane) is not? How can a part possess a quality that the whole does not? A logical solution is to regard the material universe as but the outer garment of universal mind. According to theosophy the laws of nature are the wills and energies of higher beings or spiritual intelligences which in their aggregate make up universal mind. It is mind and intelligence which give rise to the order and harmony of the physical universe, and not the patterns of chance, or the decisions of self-organizing matter. Like Capra, the theosophical philosophy rejects the traditional theological idea of a supernatural, extracosmic divine Creator. It would also question Capra’s notion that such an extracosmic God is the self-organizing dynamics of the physical universe. Theosophy, on the other hand, firmly believes in the existence of innumerable superhuman, intracosmic intelligences (or gods), which have already passed through the human stage in past evolutionary cycles, and to which status we shall ourselves one day attain. There are two opposing views of consciousness: the Western scientific view which considers matter as primary and consciousness as a by-product of complex material patterns associated with a certain stage of biological evolution; and the mystical view which sees consciousness as the primary reality and ground of all being. Systems theory accepts the conventional materialist view that consciousness is a manifestation of living systems of a certain complexity, although the biological structures themselves are expressions of “underlying processes that represent the system’s self-organization, and hence its mind. In this sense material structures are no longer considered the primary reality” (Turning Point). This stance reaffirms the dualistic view of mind and matter. Capra clearly believes that matter is primary in the sense that the physical world comes first and life, mind, and consciousness emerge at a later stage. That he chooses to call the self-organizing dynamics of the universe by the name “mind” is beside the point. If consciousness is regarded as the underlying reality, it is impossible to regard it also as a property of matter which emerges at a certain stage of evolution. Systems theory accepts neither the traditional scientific view of evolution as a game of dice, nor the Western religious view of an ordered universe designed by a divine creator. Evolution is presented as basically open and indeterminate, without goal or purpose, yet with a recognizable pattern of development. Chance fluctuations take place, causing a system at a certain moment to become unstable. As it “approaches the critical point, it ‘decides’ itself which way to go, and this decision will determine its evolution”. Capra sees the systems view of the evolutionary process not as a product of blind chance but as an unfolding of order and complexity analogous to a learning process, including both independence from the environment and freedom of choice. However, he fails to explain how supposedly inert matter is able to “decide,” “choose,” and “learn.” This belief that evolution is purposeless and haphazard and yet shows a recognizable pattern is similar to biologist Lyall Watson’s belief that evolution is governed by chance but that chance has “a pattern and a reason of its own”.

While the materialistic and mystical views of mind seem incompatible and irreconcilable, mind/matter dualism may be resolved by seeing spirit and matter as fundamentally one, as different grades of consciousness-life-substance. Science already holds that physical matter and energy are interconvertible, that matter is concentrated energy; and theosophy adds that consciousness is the highest and subtlest form. From this view there is no absolutely dead and unconscious matter in the universe. Everything is a living, evolving, conscious entity, and every entity is composite, consisting of bundles of forces and substances pertaining to different planes, from the astral-physical through the psychomental to divine-spiritual. Obviously the degree of manifested life and consciousness varies widely from one entity to another; but at the heart of every entity is an indwelling spiritual atom or consciousness-center at a particular stage of its evolutionary unfoldment. More complex material forms do not create consciousness, but merely provide a more developed vehicle through which this spiritual monad can express its powers and faculties. Evolution is far from being purposeless and indeterminate: our human monads issued from the divine Source aeons ago as unself-conscious god-sparks and, by taking embodiment and garnering experience in all the kingdoms of nature, we will eventually raise ourselves to the status of self-conscious gods.

Metempsychosis of the Ancients’ Veritability


The impenetrable veil of arcane secrecy was thrown over the sciences taught in the sanctuary. This is the cause of the modern depreciation of the ancient philosophies. Much of Plato’s public teachings and writings had therefore to consist of blinds or half-truths or allegories, and just as Jesus spoke in parables, so the Mysteries were ever reserved for special groups of neophytes – and, needless to say, they did not reach the Church of the days of Constantine, which never held the keys of the Mysteries, and hence can hardly be said to have lost them.

The ancient philosophers seem to be generally held, even by the least prejudiced of modern critics, to have lacked that profundity and thorough knowledge in the exact sciences of which a couple of last centuries and present are so boastful. It is even questioned whether they understood that basic scientific principle: ex nihilo nihil fit. If they suspected the indestructibility of matter at all – say these commentators – it was not in consequence of a firmly established formula, but only through intuitional reasoning and by analogy. The philosophers themselves had to be initiated into perceptive mysteries, before they could grasp the correct idea of the ancients in relation to this most metaphysical subject. Otherwise – outside such initiation – for every thinker there will be a “Thus far shalt thou go and no further,” mapped out by his intellectual capacity, as clearly and unmistakably as there is for the progress of any nation or race in its cycle by the law of karma. Much of current agnostic speculation on the existence of the “First Cause” is little better than veiled materialism — the terminology alone being different. Even so a thinker as Herbert Spencer speaks of the “Unknowable” occasionally in terms that demonstrate the lethal influence of materialistic thought which, like the deadly sirocco, has withered and blighted most of current ontological speculation. For instance, when he terms the “First Cause” — the Unknowable — a “power manifesting through phenomena,” and an “infinite eternal Energy,” (?) it is clear that he has grasped solely the physical aspect of the mystery of Being — the energies of cosmic substance only. The co-eternal aspect of the ONE REALITY — cosmic ideation — (as to its noumenon, it seems nonexistent in his mind) — is absolutely omitted from consideration.

The doctrine of metempsychosis has been abundantly ridiculed by scientists and rejected by theologians, yet if it had been properly understood in its application to the indestructibility of matter and the immortality of spirit, it would have been perceived that it is a sublime conception. Should we not first regard the subject from the standpoint of the ancients before venturing to disparage its teachers? The solution of the great problem of eternity belongs neither to religious superstition nor to gross materialism. The harmony and mathematical equiformity of the double evolution – spiritual and physical – are elucidated only in the universal numerals of Pythagoras, who built his system entirely upon the so-called metrical speech of the Hindu Vedas.

Weyl’s Lagrange Density of General Relativistic Maxwell Theory

Weyl pondered on the reasons why the structure group of the physical automorphisms still contained the “Euclidean rotation group” (respectively the Lorentz group) in such a prominent role:

The Euclidean group of rotations has survived even such radical changes of our concepts of the physical world as general relativity and quantum theory. What then are the peculiar merits of this group to which it owes its elevation to the basic group pattern of the universe? For what ‘sufficient reasons’ did the Creator choose this group and no other?”

He reminded that Helmholtz had characterized ∆o ≅ SO (3, ℜ) by the “fact that it gives to a rotating solid what we may call its just degrees of freedom” of a rotating solid body; but this method “breaks down for the Lorentz group that in the four-dimensional world takes the place of the orthogonal group in 3-space”. In the early 1920s he himself had given another characterization living up to the new demands of the theories of relativity in his mathematical analysis of the problem of space.

He mentioned the idea that the Lorentz group might play its prominent role for the physical automorphisms because it expresses deep lying matter structures; but he strongly qualified the idea immediately after having stated it:

Since we have the dualism of invariance with respect to two groups and Ω certainly refers to the manifold of space points, it is a tempting idea to ascribe ∆o to matter and see in it a characteristic of the localizable elementary particles of matter. I leave it undecided whether this idea, the very meaning of which is somewhat vague, has any real merits.

. . . But instead of analysing the structure of the orthogonal group of transformations ∆o, it may be wiser to look for a characterization of the group ∆o as an abstract group. Here we know that the homogeneous n-dimensional orthogonal groups form one of 3 great classes of simple Lie groups. This is at least a partial solution of the problem.

He left it open why it ought to be “wiser” to look for abstract structure properties in order to answer a natural philosophical question. Could it be that he wanted to indicate an open-mindedness toward the more structuralist perspective on automorphism groups, preferred by the young algebraists around him at Princetion in the 1930/40s? Today the classification of simple Lie groups distinguishes 4 series, Ak,Bk,Ck,Dk. Weyl apparently counted the two orthogonal series Bk and Dk as one. The special orthogonal groups in even complex space dimension form the series of simple Lie groups of type Dk, with complex form (SO 2k,C) and real compact form (SO 2k,ℜ). The special orthogonal group in odd space dimension form the series type Bk, with complex form SO(2k + 1, C) and compact real form SO(2k + 1, ℜ).

But even if one accepted such a general structuralist view as a starting point there remained a question for the specification of the space dimension of the group inside the series.

But the number of the dimensions of the world is 4 and not an indeterminate n. It is a fact that the structure of ∆o is quite different for the various dimensionalities n. Hence the group may serve as a clue by which to discover some cogent reason for the di- mensionality 4 of the world. What must be brought to light, is the distinctive character of one definite group, the four-dimensional Lorentz group, either as a group of linear transformations, or as an abstract group.

The remark that the “structure of ∆o is quite different for the various dimensionalities n” with regard to even or odd complex space dimensions (type Dk, resp. Bk) strongly qualifies the import of the general structuralist characterization. But already in the 1920s Weyl had used the fact that for the (real) space dimension n “4 the universal covering of the unity component of the Lorentz group SO (1, 3)o is the realification of SL (2, C). The latter belongs to the first of the Ak series (with complex form SL (k + 1,C). Because of the isomorphism of the initial terms of the series, A1 ≅ B1, this does not imply an exception of Weyl’s general statement. We even may tend to interpret Weyl’s otherwise cryptic remark that the structuralist perspective gives a “at least a partial solution of the problem” by the observation that the Lorentz group in dimension n “4 is, in a rather specific way, the realification of the complex form of one of the three most elementary non-commutative simple Lie groups of type A1 ≅ B1. Its compact real form is SO (3, ℜ), respectively the latter’s universal cover SU (2, C).

Weyl stated clearly that the answer cannot be expected by structural considerations alone. The problem is only “partly one of pure mathematics”, the other part is “empirical”. But the question itself appeared of utmost importance to him

We can not claim to have understood Nature unless we can establish the uniqueness of the four-dimensional Lorentz group in this sense. It is a fact that many of the known laws of nature can at once be generalized to n dimensions. We must dig deep enough until we hit a layer where this is no longer the case.

In 1918 he had given an argument why, in the framework of his new scale gauge geometry, the “world” had to be of dimension 4. His argument had used the construction of the Lagrange density of general relativistic Maxwell theory Lf = fμν fμν √(|detg|), with fμν the components of curvature of his newly introduced scale/length connection, physically interpreted by him as the electromagnetic field. Lf is scale invariant only in spacetime dimension n = 4. The shift from scale gauge to phase gauge undermined the importance of this argument. Although it remained correct mathematically, it lost its convincing power once the scale gauge transformations were relegated from physics to the mathematical automorphism group of the theory only.

Weyl said:

Our question has this in common with most questions of philosophical nature: it depends on the vague distinction between essential and non-essential. Several competing solutions are thinkable; but it may also happen that, once a good solution of the problem is found, it will be of such cogency as to command general recognition.

Genesis and Evaluation of Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Part 2.


Hobbes recognizes the nature of the ideal of an exact philosophical morality,which is paradoxical and makes it the backbone of his political philosophy. In his moral philosophy also, the antithesis between the virtue and pseudo-virtue forms a constituent part. He also teaches that true virtue and pseudo-virtue differ only in their reason. Like Plato, he also recognizes only political virtues. Hobbes also distrusts rhetoric, in a way, which recalls Plato.

A pleader commonly thinks he ought to say all he can for the benefit of his client, and therefore has need of a faculty to wrest the sense of words from their true meaning, and the faculty of rhetoric to seduce the jury, and sometimes the judge also, and many other arts which I neither have, nor intend to study.

Basing his reason on Platonic approach, he thought that the difference between the analysis of ordinary values and of passions given in Aristotle’s rhetoric on the one hand, and the theory of ethics on the other, not nearly great enough. While in Aristotle’s view the common passionate valuations have a peculiar consistency and universality, Hobbes, by reason of his radical criticism of opinion as such, cannot but deny them this dignity. 

What Hobbes’ political philosophy owes to Platonism is the antithesis between truth and appearance, the fitting and the great, between reason and passion. From the very outset, Hobbes’ conviction was the antithesis between vanity and fear and for him, it was of fundamental importance for morals. But in the beginning, Hobbes understood this antithesis as an antithesis within the domain of the passions. But when he turned to Plato, he began to conceive this antithesis between vanity and fear as the antithesis between passion and reason. However, resolutely Hobbes demands a completely passionless, purely rational political philosophy, he desires, as it were, in the same breath, that the norm to be set by reason should be in accord with the passions. Respect for applicability determines the seeking after the norm from the outset. With this, Hobbes does not merely tacitly adopt Aristotle’s criticism of Plato’s political philosophy but he goes much beyond Aristotle.

Primary reason for Hobbes’ opposition to Plato, is the motive for turning to Euclid as to the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method. In this method, the given object of investigation is first analysed, traced back to its reasons, and then by completely lucid deduction the object is again reconstituted. The axioms, which Hobbes gains by going back from the existing State to its reasons, and from there he deduces the form of the right State; are according to him, the man’s natural selfishness and the fear of death. Hobbes’ political philosophy differs from Plato in that, in the latter, exactness means the undistorted reliability of the standards, while in the former, exactness means unconditional applicability, under all circumstances. Hobbes took the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method over from Galileo. He believes that by this method he can achieve for political philosophy what Galileo achieved for physics. But the adequacy for physics does not guarantee its adequacy for political philosophy. For while the subject for physics is the natural body, the subject of political philosophy is an artificial body, i.e. a whole that has to be made by men from natural wholes. Thus the concern of political philosophy is not so much knowledge of the artificial body as the production of that body. Political philosophy analyses the existing State into its elements only in order that by a better synthesis of those elements the right State may be produced. Political philosophy thus becomes a technique for the regulation of the State. Its task is to alter the unstable balance of the existing State to the stable balance of the right State. The introduction of Galileo’s method into political philosophy from the outset renounces all discussions of the fundamental political problems, i.e. the elimination of the fundamental question as to the aim of the State.

Hobbes doesn’t question the necessity of political philosophy, i.e. he doesn’t ask first, ‘What is virtue?’ and ‘Can it be taught?’ and ‘What is the aim of the State?’, because for him, these questions are answered by tradition, or by common opinion. The aim of the State is for him as a matter of course peace, i.e. peace at any price. The underlying presupposition is that violent death is the first and greatest and supreme evil. After finding this presupposition as a principle when he analysed the existing State, he proceeds to deduce from it the right State; opposed to Plato, whose consideration of the genesis of the State seems superficially akin, but has the character of reflection, of deliberate questioning of what is good and fitting. Convinced of the absolutely typical character of the mathematical method, according to which one proceeds from axioms to self-evident truths/conclusions, Hobbes fails to realize that in the ‘beginning’, in the ‘evident’ presuppositions whether of mathematics or of politics, the task of ‘dialectic’ is hidden. Hobbes considers it superfluous, even dangerous, to take as one’s point of departure what men say about justice and so forth: ‘the names of virtues and vices…can never be true grounds of any ratiocination’. The application of the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method to political philosophy is of doubtful value as it prevented Hobbes from asking the questions as to the standard. He begins his political philosophy with the question as to the nature of the man in the sense of that which falls to all men before education. If the procedure of deducing the right State is to be significant, the principles themselves contain the answer to the question as to the right State, as to the standard. Hobbes characterizes the two principles viz., limitless self-love on the one hand and that of violent death on the other as he principles of the wrong and the principles of the right. But this characterization does not arise from the analysis, for the analysis can only show the principles of the existing State, and cannot, therefore, teach anything about the rightness and wrongness of those principles, and, on the other hand, this characterization is the presupposition of the synthesis, which as a synthesis of the right State cannot arise until it has been established what is the right. This qualification, which follows the analysis and precedes the synthesis, is certainly into the frame of the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method; but it is not to be understood from this method, either in general or even in particular. The justification of the standard, which is the fundamental part of the political philosophy, is hidden by the ‘resolutive-compositive’ method and even made unrecognizable.

What is justified in this way is indeed not a standard, an obligation; but a right, a claim. According to Hobbes, the basis of politics is not the ‘law of nature’, but the ‘right of nature’. This right is the minimum claim, which as such is fundamentally just, and the origin of any other just claim; more exactly, it is unconditionally just because it can be answered for in face of all men in all circumstances. A claim of this kind is only the claim to defend life and limb. Its opposite is the maximum claim, which is fundamentally unjust, for it cannot be answered for in face of any other man. The maximum claim, the claim man makes by nature, i.e. as long as he is not educated by ‘unforeseen mischances’, is the claim to triumph over all other men. This ‘natural’ claim is checked by fear of violent death and becomes man’s rational minimum claim, and thus ‘right of nature’ comes into being, or atleast comes to light. That is to say, the ‘right of nature’ is the first juridical or moral fact, which arises if one, starts from man’s nature i.e. from man’s natural appetite. The ‘law of nature’ belongs to a much later stage of the progress from human nature to the State: ‘natural right’ is dealt with in the first chapter of De Cive, ‘natural law’ in the second and third chapters.

The ‘law of nature’ owes all its dignity simply to the circumstances that it is the necessary consequence of the ‘right of nature’. We may ask the question as to what is the peculiarity of modern political thought in relation to the classical political thought?  While modern thought starts from the rights of the individual, and conceives the State as existing to secure the conditions of his development, Greek thought starts from the right of the State. Modern and classical political philosophy are fundamentally distinguished in that modern political philosophy takes ‘right’ as the starting point, whereas classical political philosophy has ‘law’ as its starting point.

Hobbes marked an epoch not only by subordinating law to right. He was at the same time ‘the first writer to grasp the full importance of the idea of sovereignty…he must take the credit of being the first to see that the idea of sovereignty lies at the very root of the whole theory of the State; and the first to realize the necessity of fixing precisely where it lies, and what are its functions and its limits’. By this also Hobbes stands in contrast to classical political philosophy: ‘Amongst the most notable omissions of Greek philosophy is the absence of any clear attempt to define the nature of sovereignty, to determine its seat, or settle the ultimate sanction on which it rests’. In classical times, the question, ‘who or what shall rule?’ has the antiquity answer running, ‘the law’. Philosophers who could not acquiesce in the Divine origin of the law justify this answer in the following way: the rational should rule over the irrational (the old over the young, the man over the woman, the master over the slave) and therefore law over men. Granting that there are men who by force of reason are undoubtedly superior to others, would those others submit to them merely on this ground, and obey them? Would they recognize their superiority? But doubt does not stop at that. It is denied that any considerable difference in reasonableness exists between men. Because reason is essentially impotent, it is not enough to reply that reason is the origin and the seat of sovereignty. Thus it becomes fundamentally questionable, which of the men who are equal and alike is to rule over the others, and under which conditions and within which limits, they have a claim to rule. Because all men a re equally reasonable, the reason of one or more individuals must arbitrarily be made the standard reason as an artificial substitute for the lacking natural superiority of the reason. Because reason is impotent, the rational ‘law of nature’ also loses its dignity. In its place we have the ‘right of nature’ which is, indeed, according to reason but dictated not by reason but by the fear of death. The break with rationalism is thus the decisive presupposition for the concept of sovereignty as well as for the supplanting of ‘law’ by ‘right’.

Hobbes in his writings conceives sovereign power not as reason but as will. Hobbes expressly turns against the view still predominant in his age that the holder of the sovereign power is in the same relation to the State as the head to the whole man. The holder of the sovereign power is not the ‘head’, that is, the capacity to deliberate and plan, but the ‘soul’, that is, the capacity to command, in the State. The explicit break with rationalism is thus the reason for the antithesis of modern political thought to classical and is characterized thusly: ‘the Greeks believed in the need of education to tune and harmonize social opinions to the spirit and tone of a fixed and fundamental law. The modern belief is the need of a representation to adjust and harmonize a fluid and changing and subordinate law to the movement of a sovereign public opinion or ‘general will’.

The view of classical rationalism, that only reason justifies dominion, found its most radical expression in Plato’s saying that the only necessary and adequate condition for the weal of a State is that the philosophers should be Kings and Kings philosophers. This amounts to stating that the setting up of a perfect commonwealth depends exclusively on ‘internal policy’ and not at all on foreign policy. From here on, Plato’s theory of justice can be summed up thus: there is no happiness for men without justice; justice means attending to one’s own business, bringing oneself into the right disposition with regard to the transcendent unchanging norm, to which the soul is akin, and not meddling into other people’s affairs; and justice in the State is not different from justice in the individual, except that the State is self-sufficient and can thus practice justice; attending to its own business; incomparably more perfectly than can the individual who is not self-sufficient. The citizens of the perfect State, for this very reason to foreigners, happen to be either allies to be esteemed or foes to be feared. Let us take Plato’s example; if the essence of the thing is to be preferred to its external conditions, to the self-realization and self-assertion of that thing against its external conditions, then, for instance, the right constitution of the body, its health, is to be preferred to its return to its health, to its recovery after its loss of health. By this example, Plato makes clear that the good statesman carries out his legislation with an eye to peace, which is to the good internal constitution of the State, and not with an eye to war, that is, to the assertion of the State against external conditions. Hobbes differs from Plato and asserts that the recovery of health is to be preferred to the undisturbed possession of health. While for Plato and to an extent for Aristotle, and in accordance with the primary interest they attach to home policy, the question of the number of inhabitants of the perfect State, that is, the limits set to the State by its inner necessity, is of decisive importance; Hobbes brushes this question aside in these words: ‘The Multitude sufficient to confide in for our security, is not determined by any certain number, but by comparison by the enemy we feare…’ The primacy of foreign policy is not specifically taught by Hobbes, but it is an integral part of all of modern political philosophy. Immanuel Kant in one of his works has a phrase, which runs like: ‘The problem of establishing a perfect civil constitution is dependent on the problem of a lawful external relation between the States and cannot be solved independently of the solution of the latter problem’.

The antithesis between Platonic and Hobbesian political philosophy, reduced to principle, is that the former orientates itself by speech and the latter from the outset refuses to do so. This refusal originally arises from what may be called natural valuations. While Plato goes back to the truth hidden in the natural valuations and thereof seeks to teach nothing new and unheard of, but to recall what is known to all but not understood, Hobbes, rejecting the natural valuations in principle, goes beyond, goes forward to a new a priori political philosophy, which is of the future and freely projected. Measured by Aristotle’s classical explanation of morals, Platonic moral philosophy is as paradoxical as Hobbes’. But whereas the paradoxical nature of Platonic moral philosophy is as irreversible as the  ‘cave’ existence of men bound to the body, Hobbes’ moral philosophy is destined sooner or later to change from paradox to an accepted form of public opinion. The paradoxical nature of Hobbes’ moral philosophy is the paradox of the surprisingly new, unheard of venture. Whereas Plato retraces natural morals and the orientation provided by them to their origin, Hobbes must attempt in sovereignty, and without this orientation, to discover the principles of morals. Hobbes travels the path, which leads to formal ethics and finally to relativist skepticism. The enormous extension of the claims made on political science leads at least to a denial of the very idea of political science and to the replacement of political science by sociology. Plato does not question the virtue character of courage, to which speech bears witness but simply opposes the over-estimation of courage, which underlies the popular opinion. Hobbes, because he renounced all orientation by speech, goes so far to deny the virtue character of courage. And just as disdain of speech finally leads to relativist skepticism, the negation of courage leads to the controversial position of courage, which becomes more and more acute on the way from Rousseau by Hegel to Nietzsche and is completed by the reabsorption of wisdom by courage, in the view that the ideal is not the object of wisdom, but the hazardous venture of the will.

Relinquishing orientation by speech does not mean that Hobbes ‘forgets’ the question of standards, but that he poses this question only as an afterthought, and, therefore, inadequately. Whereas Plato distinguishes between two kinds of reasons, the good and the necessary, Hobbes recognizes only one kind, the necessary. Since as a result of this he is obliged to take into account the inevitable difference between the good and the necessary within the necessary itself, the question of the standard, of the good, becomes for him the question of what is par excellence necessary, and he discovers the retreat from death as the necessary par excellence. For Hobbes, the denial of natural standards was irrefutably evident on the basis of his materialist metaphysics. Thus this metaphysics is the implicit pre-supposition even of his turning to Euclid, provided that the acceptance of the ‘mathematical’ method presupposes the negation of absolute standards. For the question arises; why did Hobbes decide in favour of materialism? On the ground of what primary conviction was materialism so vividly evident for him? The answer can be based on rough indications i.e. Hobbes’ turn to natural science is to be explained by his interest not so much in nature as in man, in self knowledge of man as he really is, i.e. by the interest that characterized him even in his humanist period. His scientific explanation of sense perception is characterized by the fact that it interprets perception of the higher senses by the sense of touch; and the preference for the sense of touch, which this presupposes is already implied in Hobbes’ original view of fundamental significance of the antithesis between vanity and fear. If Hobbes’ natural science is dependent on his ‘humanist’, that is moral, interests and convictions, on the other hand a particular conception of nature is the implicit basis of his views on moral and political philosophy. It is certain that the conception of nature, which is the presupposition of his political philosophy and the conception of nature, which he explains in his scientific writings, has a kinship and which in principle are to be kept separate. It is for these reasons that his scientific investigations could exert a powerful influence on the evolution of his political philosophy. He could not have maintained his thesis that death is the greatest and supreme evil but for the conviction vouched for by his natural science that the soul is not immortal. His criticism of aristocratic virtue and his denial of any gradation in mankind gains certainty only through his conception of nature, according to which there is no order, that is, no gradation in nature. From this standpoint we can understand the difference between Hobbes’ conception of Pride and the traditional conception. ‘Pride’ in the traditional sense means rebellion against the gradation of beings; it presupposes, therefore, the existence and the obligatory character of that gradation. Hobbes’ conception of ‘Pride’, on the other hand, presupposes the denial of natural gradation; this conception is, indeed, nothing other than a means of ‘explaining’, i.e. of denying that gradation: the allegedly natural gradation concerning the faculties of the mind proceeds from a ‘a vain concept of ones own wisdom, which almost all men think they have in a greater degree, than the Vulgar’. The idea of civilization achieves its telling effect solely by reason of the presupposition that the civilization of human nature can go on boundlessly, because what tradition in agreement with common sense had understood as given and immutable human nature is for the main part a mere ‘natural limit’, which may be over passed. Very little is innate in man; most of what is alleged to come to him from the nature is acquired and therefore mutable, as conditions change; the most important peculiarities of man; speech, reason, sociality are not gifts of nature, but the work of his will. This example creates a duality in his political philosophy. The idea of civilization presupposes that man, by virtue of his intelligence, can place himself outside nature, can rebel against nature. The antithesis of nature and human will is hidden by the monist (materialist-deterministic) metaphysic, which Hobbes found himself forced to adopt simply because he saw no other possibility of escaping the ‘Kingdom of darkness’. This signifies that the moral basis of his political philosophy becomes more and more disguised, the farther the evolution of his natural science progresses. In other words, with the progressive evolution of his natural sciences, vanity, which must of necessity be treated from the moral standpoint, is more and more replaced by the striving for power, which is neutral and therefore more amenable to scientific interpretation. But Hobbes took great care not to follow this path as he thought that consistent naturalism would ruin his political philosophy. To compare Spinoza with Hobbes, Spinoza was more naturalistic than Hobbes. Spinoza relinquished the distinction between ‘might’ and ‘right’ and taught the natural right of all passions. Hobbes, on the other hand, by virtue of the basis of his political philosophy asserted the natural right only of the fear of death. On the other hand, if we consider Montesquieu, who carried the naturalistic analysis of the passions to its logical conclusion, came forward with the result that the State of nature cannot be the war of all against all this clearly exemplifies that if inconsistent naturalism is compatible with Hobbes’ political philosophy, the consistent naturalism, which Hobbes displays in his scientific writings cannot be the foundation of his political philosophy. This foundation must be another conception of nature, which although being related to naturalism is by no means identical to it.

Therefore, the foundation of Hobbes’ political philosophy, which is the moral attitude to which it owes its existence, is objectively prior to the mathematical scientific founding and presentation of that philosophy. The mathematical method and the materialistic metaphysics each in their own way contributed to disguise the original motivation to undermine Hobbes’ political philosophy. Hence, Leviathan is by no means an adequate source for an understanding of Hobbes’ moral and political philosophy, although the presuppositions and conclusions dealing with moral attitude are clearly manifest in the Leviathan.

Automorphisms. Note Quote.


A group automorphism is an isomorphism from a group to itself. If G is a finite multiplicative group, an automorphism of G can be described as a way of rewriting its multiplication table without altering its pattern of repeated elements. For example, the multiplication table of the group of 4th roots of unity G={1,-1,i,-i} can be written as shown above, which means that the map defined by

 1|->1,    -1|->-1,    i|->-i,    -i|->i

is an automorphism of G.

Looking at classical geometry and mechanics, Weyl followed Newton and Helmholtz in considering congruence as the basic relation which lay at the heart of the “art of measuring” by the handling of that “sort of bodies we call rigid”. He explained how the local congruence relations established by the comparison of rigid bodies can be generalized and abstracted to congruences of the whole space. In this respect Weyl followed an empiricist approach to classical physical geometry, based on a theoretical extension of the material practice with rigid bodies and their motions. Even the mathematical abstraction to mappings of the whole space carried the mark of their empirical origin and was restricted to the group of proper congruences (orientation preserving isometries of Euclidean space, generated by the translations and rotations) denoted by him as ∆+. This group seems to express “an intrinsic structure of space itself; a structure stamped by space upon all the inhabitants of space”.

But already on the earlier level of physical knowledge, so Weyl argued, the mathematical automorphisms of space were larger than ∆. Even if one sees “with Newton, in congruence the one and only basic concept of geometry from which all others derive”, the group Γ of automorphisms in the mathematical sense turns out to be constituted by the similarities.

The structural condition for an automorphism C ∈ Γ of classical congruence geometry is that any pair (v1,v2) of congruent geometric configurations is transformed into another pair (v1*,v2*) of congruent configurations (vj* = C(vj), j = 1,2). For evaluating this property Weyl introduced the following diagram:


Because of the condition for automorphisms just mentioned the maps C T C-1 and C-1TC belong to ∆+ whenever T does. By this argument he showed that the mathematical automorphism group Γ is the normalizer of the congruences ∆+ in the group of bijective mappings of Euclidean space.

More generally, it also explains the reason for his characterization of generalized similarities in his analysis of the problem of space in the early 1920s. In 1918 he translated the relationship between physical equivalences as congruences to the mathematical automorphisms as the similarities/normalizer of the congruences from classical geometry to special relativity (Minkowski space) and “localized” them (in the sense of physics), i.e., he transferred the structural relationship to the infinitesimal neighbourhoods of the differentiable manifold characterizing spacetime (in more recent language, to the tangent spaces) and developed what later would be called Weylian manifolds, a generalization of Riemannian geometry. In his discussion of the problem of space he generalized the same relationship even further by allowing any (closed) sub-group of the general linear group as a candidate for characterizing generalized congruences at every point.

Moreover, Weyl argued that the enlargement of the physico-geometrical automorphisms of classical geometry (proper congruences) by the mathematical automorphisms (similarities) sheds light on Kant’s riddle of the “incongruous counterparts”. Weyl presented it as the question: Why are “incongruous counterparts” like the left and right hands intrinsically indiscernible, although they cannot be transformed into another by a proper motion? From his point of view the intrinsic indiscernibility could be characterized by the mathematical automorphisms Γ. Of course, the congruences ∆ including the reflections are part of the latter, ∆ ⊂ Γ; this implies indiscernibility between “left and right” as a special case. In this way Kant’s riddle was solved by a Leibnizian type of argument. Weyl very cautiously indicated a philosophical implication of this observation:

And he (Kant) is inclined to think that only transcendental idealism is able to solve this riddle. No doubt, the meaning of congruence and similarity is founded in spatial intuition. Kant seems to aim at some subtler point. But just this point is one which can be completely clarified by general concepts, namely by subsuming it under the general and typical group-theoretic situation explained before . . . .

Weyl stopped here without discussing the relationship between group theoretical methods and the “subtler point” Kant aimed at more explicitly. But we may read this remark as an indication that he considered his reflections on automorphism groups as a contribution to the transcendental analysis of the conceptual constitution of modern science. In his book on Symmetry, he went a tiny step further. Still with the Weylian restraint regarding the discussion of philosophical principles he stated: “As far as I see all a priori statements in physics have their origin in symmetry” (126).

To prepare for the following, Weyl specified the subgroup ∆o ⊂ ∆ with all those transformations that fix one point (∆o = O(3, R), the orthogonal group in 3 dimensions, R the field of real numbers). In passing he remarked:

In the four-dimensional world the Lorentz group takes the place of the orthogonal group. But here I shall restrict myself to the three-dimensional space, only occasionally pointing to the modifications, the inclusion of time into the four-dimensional world brings about.

Keeping this caveat in mind (restriction to three-dimensional space) Weyl characterized the “group of automorphisms of the physical world”, in the sense of classical physics (including quantum mechanics) by the combination (more technically, the semidirect product ̧) of translations and rotations, while the mathematical automorphisms arise from a normal extension:

– physical automorphisms ∆ ≅ R3 X| ∆o with ∆o ≅ O(3), respectively ∆ ≅ R4 X| ∆o for the Lorentz group ∆o ≅ O(1, 3),

– mathematical automorphisms Γ = R+ X ∆
(R+ the positive real numbers with multiplication).

In Weyl’s view the difference between mathematical and physical automorphisms established a fundamental distinction between mathematical geometry and physics.

Congruence, or physical equivalence, is a geometric concept, the meaning of which refers to the laws of physical phenomena; the congruence group ∆ is essentially the group of physical automorphisms. If we interpret geometry as an abstract science dealing with such relations and such relations only as can be logically defined in terms of the one concept of congruence, then the group of geometric automorphisms is the normalizer of ∆ and hence wider than ∆.

He considered this as a striking argument against what he considered to be the Cartesian program of a reductionist geometrization of physics (physics as the science of res extensa):

According to this conception, Descartes’s program of reducing physics to geometry would involve a vicious circle, and the fact that the group of geometric automorphisms is wider than that of physical automorphisms would show that such a reduction is actually impossible.” 

In this Weyl alluded to an illusion he himself had shared for a short time as a young scientist. After the creation of his gauge geometry in 1918 and the proposal of a geometrically unified field theory of electromagnetism and gravity he believed, for a short while, to have achieved a complete geometrization of physics.

He gave up this illusion in the middle of the 1920s under the impression of the rising quantum mechanics. In his own contribution to the new quantum mechanics groups and their linear representations played a crucial role. In this respect the mathematical automorphisms of geometry and the physical automorphisms “of Nature”, or more precisely the automorphisms of physical systems, moved even further apart, because now the physical automorphism started to take non-geometrical material degrees of freedom into account (phase symmetry of wave functions and, already earlier, the permutation symmetries of n-particle systems).

But already during the 19th century the physical automorphism group had acquired a far deeper aspect than that of the mobility of rigid bodies:

In physics we have to consider not only points but many types of physical quantities such as velocity, force, electromagnetic field strength, etc. . . .

All these quantities can be represented, relative to a Cartesian frame, by sets of numbers such that any orthogonal transformation T performed on the coordinates keeps the basic physical relations, the physical laws, invariant. Weyl accordingly stated:

All the laws of nature are invariant under the transformations thus induced by the group ∆. Thus physical relativity can be completely described by means of a group of transformations of space-points.

By this argumentation Weyl described a deep shift which ocurred in the late 19th century for the understanding of physics. He described it as an extension of the group of physical automorphisms. The laws of physics (“basic relations” in his more abstract terminology above) could no longer be directly characterized by the motion of rigid bodies because the physics of fields, in particular of electric and magnetic fields, had become central. In this context, the motions of material bodies lost their epistemological primary status and the physical automorphisms acquired a more abstract character, although they were still completely characterizable in geometric terms, by the full group of Euclidean isometries. The indistinguishability of left and right, observed already in clear terms by Kant, acquired the status of a physical symmetry in electromagnetism and in crystallography.

Weyl thus insisted that in classical physics the physical automorphisms could be characterized by the group ∆ of Euclidean isometries, larger than the physical congruences (proper motions) ∆+ but smaller than the mathe- matical automorphisms (similarities) Γ.

This view fitted well to insights which Weyl drew from recent developments in quantum physics. He insisted – differently to what he had thought in 1918 – on the consequence that “length is not relative but absolute” (Hs, p. 15). He argued that physical length measurements were no longer dependent on an arbitrary chosen unit, like in Euclidean geometry. An “absolute standard of length” could be fixed by the quantum mechanical laws of the atomic shell:

The atomic constants of charge and mass of the electron atomic constants and Planck’s quantum of action h, which enter the universal field laws of nature, fix an absolute standard of length, that through the wave lengths of spectral lines is made available for practical measurements.

Could Complexity Rehabilitate Mo/PoMo Ethics?

A well known passage from Marie Fleming could be invoked here to acquit complexity from the charges and accusation pertaining to relativism. He says,

Anyone who argues against reason is necessarily caught up in a contradiction: she asserts at the locutionary level that reason does not exist, while demonstrating by way of her performance in argumentative processes that such reason does in fact exist.

Such an absolute statement about complexity would similarly be eaten along its way.


Taking the locutionary from the above quote, it could be used to adequately distinguish from performative, or logic versus rhetoric. Such a distinction gains credibility, if one is able to locate an Archimedean point to share discourse/s, which, from the point of view of complexity theory would be a space outside the autopoietic system, or, in other words, would be a meta-theoretical framework. Such a framework is skeptically looked upon/at by complexity, which has no qualms in exhibiting an acknowledgement towards performative tensions at work. Such tensions are generative of ethical choices and consequences, since any accessibility to the finality of knowledge is built upon the denial of critical perspective/s, thus shrouding the entire exercise in either a veil of ignorance, or a hubristic pride, or illusory at best.

Morality gains significance, since its formulations is often ruptured for want of secure, and certain knowledge, and both of which are not provided for by complexity theory and French theory, according to the accusations labeled against them. Even if, in making choices that are normative in nature, a clear formulation of the ethical is obligated. Lyotard’s underlining conditions of knowledge is often considered unethical, as he admits to the desire for justice to be shrouded in an unknown intellectual territory. Lyotard has Habermas in mind in dealing with this, since for the latter’s communication therapy, what is mandated is clearly consensual agreement on the part of the public to seek out these metaprescriptions as universally valid and as spanning all language games. Habermas is targeted here for deliberately ignoring the diversity inherent in the post-modern society. For Lyotard,

It is the monster formed by the interweaving of various networks of heteromorphous classes of utterances (denotative, prescriptive, performative, technical, evaluative, etc.). there is no reason to think that it could be possible to determine metaprescriptive common to all of these language games or like the revisable consensus like the one in force at a given moment in the scientific community could embrace the totality of metaprescriptions regulating the totality of statements circulating in the social collectivity. As a matter of fact, the contemporary decline of narratives of legitimization – be they traditional or ‘modern’ (the emancipation of humanity, the realization of the idea) – is tied to the abandonment of this belief.

The fight over consensus, if it could be achieved at all, is contentious between Lyotard and Habermas. Obviously, it could be attained, but only locally and should not even vie for universal validity. Lyotard scores a point over Habermas here, because of his emphasis on the permeability of discursive practices dressed with paralogy. Justice, as a subset of ethics in the post-modern society, in order to overcome its status as a problematic, must recognize the heteromorphous nature of language games or phase regimens on the one hand, and consensus as reached must have a local space-time valuation contingently subject to refutation or nullification on the other. Such a diagnosis goes against the crux of modernism’s idea of ethics as founded upon foundational and universal set of rules, and maybe imperatives. Modernism’s idea of ethics is no different, at least in the formative structure from the rule-based analysis, since both demand a strict adherence to the dictates of rules and guidelines. A liberation comes in the form of post-modernism. Bauman sees the post-modern society as not only setting us free, but also pushing us towards a paradoxical situation, where agents have the fullness of moral choice and responsibility, while simultaneously depriving them of the comfort of the universal guidance as promised by modernism. Moral responsibility comes with the loneliness of moral choice. Such paradoxical events or situations facing man in the post-modern society only reinvests faith in agonistics of the network. At the same time, such an aporetic position is too paradoxical to satisfy many. Taking cues from the field of jurisprudence, the works of Druscilla Cornell could help clear the muddy waters here to an extent of a satisfactory resolution. Cornell aims to establish the relationship of the philosophy of the limit, or what she calls the post-structural theory of Derrida in principle, to questions of ethics, law and justice. Cornell shows no inhibitions towards accepting the complexity of relationships governing humans, and in the process accepts Hegel as the vantage point. Hegel criticizes Kant for his abstract idealism, and admits to our constitution within a social structure, which is teleologically headed for perfection. In short, the dialectical process is convergent for Hegel, since it is operative within a social/historical system aiming towards organization. Adorno differs here, since, for him dialectics is always divergent, with stress laid upon differences that characterize between humans as always irreducible to a totalizing organized system. This position of Adorno with its sympathy for difference is much closer to complexity, that at first would seem. Cornell carries further on from there and introduces the work of Luhmann, who is a towering figure in sociology, when it comes to bringing in autopoiesis within the fold. Humans are never allowed to stand outside the system that Luhmann thinks is not only complex, but autopoietic as well. Therefore, on an individual level, the choice element has no role to play, except, accepting the system that would undergo an organization to best suit its survival through a process of evolution, and not transformation. Luhmann’s understanding still prioritizes the present, and has no place for the past or the uncertain future. Cornell considers this a drawback, and makes past as an ingredient in understanding the meaning of an event, on the one hand, and following Derrida, wants to take up responsibility for the future, even if it is unknown. With a structure like this in place, it is possible to evade the rigidity of modernist claims on ethics on the one hand, and fluidity of evasive tendencies towards responsibility on the other. Instead, what Cornell calls for is an acceptance of the present ethical principles in all seriousness. That is to be resistant to change, and awareness of applications of the principles is what is called for. Ethics involves calculation in a responsible manner. In a similar vein, complexity entails irreducibility to calculation, in the sense of coming out with novelistic tendencies involving creativity that is not simply a flight of fancy, but an imagination laden with responsibility. Only, in this regard, could ethics mean not subjecting to any normativity. And, one of the ways to achieve this to obviously shy away from intellectual arrogance.