Nuclear Winter…What if India and Pakistan Were to Engage Here?

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We split the sub-continent with atomic burn,

The population is dead, we seal the urn,

Negotiations are over, we’re off the beaten track,

Civilizations en masse are interred through the crack.

 

Skies are turning to a horrific crimson,

The smoking bodies hide the moon and the sun,

The nuclear winter descends from the stratosphere,

Scorched earth is the writing on the wall everywhere…

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Žižek’s Dialectical Coincidentia Oppositorium. Thought of the 98.0

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Without doubt, the cogent interlacing of Lacanian theorization with Hegelianism manifests Žižek’s prowess in articulating a highly pertinent critique of ideology for our epoch, but whether this comes from a position of Marxist orthodoxy or a position of a Lacanian doctrinaire who monitors Marxist politics is an open question.

Through this Lacanian prism, Žižek sees subjectivity as fragmented and decentred, considering its subordinate status to the unsurpassable realm of the signifiers. The acquisition of a consummate identity dwells in impossibility, in as much as it is bound to desire, provoked by a lacuna which is impossible to fill up. Thus, for Žižek, socio-political relations evolve from states of lack, linguistic fluidity, and contingency. What temporarily arrests this fluid state of the subject’s slithering in the realm of the signifiers, giving rise to her self-identity, is what Lacan calls point de capiton. The term refers to certain fundamental “anchoring” points in the signifying chain where the signifier is tied to the signified, providing an illusionary stability in signification. Laclau and Mouffe (Hegemony and Socialist Strategy Towards a Radical Democratic Politics) were the first to make use of the idea of the point de capiton in relation to hegemony and the formation of identities. In this context, ideology is conceptualized as a terrain of firm meanings, determined and comprised by numerous points de capiton (Zizek The Sublime Object of Ideology).

The real is the central Lacanian concept that Žižek implements in his rhetoric. He associates the real with antagonism (e.g., class conflict) as the unsymbolizable and irreducible gap that lies in the heart of the socio-symbolic order and around which society is formed. As Žižek argues, “class struggle designates the very antagonism that prevents the objective (social) reality from constituting itself as a self-enclosed whole” (Renata Salecl, Slavoj Zizek-Gaze and Voice As Love Objects). This logic is indebted to Laclau and Mouffe, who were the first to postulate that social antagonism is what impedes the closure of society, marking thus its impossibility. Žižek expanded this view and associated antagonism with the notion of the real.

Functioning as a hegemonic fantasmatic veil, ideology covers the lacuna of the symbolic, in the form of a fantasy, so that it protracts desire and hence subjectivity. On the imaginary level, ideology functions as the “mirror” that reflects antagonisms, that is to say, the real unrepresentable kernel that undermines the political. Around this emptiness of representation, the fictional narrative of ideology, its meaning, is to unfurl. The role of socio-ideological fantasy is to provide consistency to the symbolic order by veiling its void, and to foster the illusion of a coherent social unity.

Nevertheless, fantasy has both unifying and disjunctive features, as its role is to fill the void of the symbolic, but also to circumscribe this void. According to Žižek, “the notion of fantasy offers an exemplary case of the dialectical coincidentia oppositorium”. On the one side, it provides a “hallucinatory realisation of desire” and on the other side, it evokes disturbing images about the Other’s jouissance to which the subject has no (symbolic or imaginary) access. In so reasoning, ideology promises unity and, at the same time, creates another fantasy, where the failure of acquiring the anticipated ideological unity is ascribed.

Pertaining to Jacques Derrida’s work Specters of Marx (Specters of Marx The State of the Debt, The Work of Mourning; the New International), where the typical ontological conception of the living is seen to be incomplete and inseparable from the spectre, namely, a ghostly embodiment that haunts the living present (Derrida introduces the notion of hauntology to refer to this pseudo-material incarnation of the spirit that haunts and challenges ontological present), Žižek elaborates the spectral apparitions of the real in the politico–ideological domain. He makes a distinction between this “spectre” and “symbolic fiction”, that is, reality per se. Both have a common fantasmatic hypostasis, yet they perform antithetical functions. Symbolic fiction forecloses the real antagonism at the crux of reality, only to return as a spectre, as another fantasy.

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

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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.

Genesis and Evaluation of Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Part 1.

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The following five processes can broadly characterize the genesis of Hobbes’ political philosophy:

  1. The moving away from the idea of monarchy as the most natural form of State to the idea of monarchy as the most perfect artificial State.
  2. The moving away from the recognition of natural obligation as the basis of morality, law and the State to the deduction of morality, law and the State from a natural claim; thus denying every natural obligation.
  3. Moving away from the recognition of a superhuman authority; whether that being revelation based on Divine will or a natural order based on Divine reason, to the recognition of an exclusively human authority of the State.
  4. Moving away from the study of past and present States to the free construction of the future States.
  5. Moving away from honour as principle, to fear of violent death as principle.

 These movements have an inherent inner connection and the explanations of these connections are to be sought after for a proper analysis of Hobbes’ political philosophy. It becomes clear explicitly that the philosophy is rather an homogenous connection between the final stages of the movements mentioned. The unity of this connection is a derivative from the unity of Hobbes’ moral attitude.

The resulting political philosophy is the unfolding of the moral attitudes to its universal significance, thus bringing in, in its league the whole nexus comprising of its presuppositions and its consequences. Thus it seems that his moral attitude is not only objectively ‘prior’ to the argument and presentation of his political philosophy, but it precedes his pre-occupation with mathematics and exact sciences. However, there remains a fundamental question concerning the addition of ingredients thus furthering his political philosophy to take its final form.

Before Hobbes discovered Euclid, his belief lay in the Aristotelian moral and political philosophy. His investigation deals not so much with the essence of ‘virtue’ and avoiding ‘vice’. With the pre-supposition that reason is, in principle, impotent, the problem of application which took a back seat in the form of being secondary, itself became the central problem. Thus Hobbes turns to history. And in this, he is constantly taught by tradition about what man is, what man should be and what forces really determine him and in the end his endeavour to discover passions. Among the discovery of passions, the ones he pays strongest attention to are vanity and fear. According to him, vanity is the force, which makes man blind and fear, is the force, which makes him see. By emphasizing the antithesis of vanity and fear of violent death, Hobbes was already beyond the traditional horizon.

Apart from the historians and the poets that Hobbes had at disposal for the study of passions, he already knew of the passions in Aristotle’s ‘Rhetoric’, to which his political philosophy owed so much. Hobbes had an early scientific ambition whereby he would perhaps write on passions, in concomitance with the style of the ‘Rhetoric’ to further the theory of the application of the moral precepts. Hobbes’ approach to passions was divergent from that of Aristotle’s. For Aristotle, honourable and estimable passions are emphasized as base and culpable ones, Hobbes from the very beginning held ‘dissembled passions’ in condemnation. Aristotle was concerned with passions which ‘carry the greatest sway with men in their public conversation’, but for him the positive connection of a passion with public life does not mean a criticism of that passion, since passions in public life can be both estimable and despicable. Hobbes, on the other hand, finds from the beginning that the passions which counsels men well is hardly or at times not at all displayed in public. Such characteristic deviations from the rhetoric are found in the few sentences of the introduction to the translation of Thucydides, which touch upon themes of the Rhetoric. Some of the changes that Hobbes makes in Aristotle’s assertions cannot be explained by the influence of mathematics and natural sciences; these divergences may be taken as original reservations on Hobbes’ part against Aristotle.

A large part of the changes which Hobbes makes in his model stems from his fundamental opinion that fear of death, is the force, which makes men blind. This change in the estimation of fear is shown by the fact that Hobbes in his enumeration of good things mentions life as the first good in the first place, whereas on the other hand Aristotle mentions happiness in the first place and life only in the penultimate place. Hobbes speaks of good things as good because they serve as the protection of life, whereas Aristotle stresses good things which produce good, rather than good things, which preserve good. Hobbes declares the regaining of a lost good to be better than the undisturbed possession of that good; the memory that, that good was once imperiled is the condition of a sound estimation of it, just as the frightfulness of death rather than the sweetness of life reveals the value of living. The change in the estimation of vanity is shown by the fact that Hobbes in his discussion of emulation and envy makes no mention of the difference in the value of these two passions, according to which emulation is more nobler than envy. Besides, he traces the pleasure of victory to vanity, whereas Aristotle characterizes the reason for this pleasure as a conception of superiority. According to Aristotle, shame is no virtue, but a passion, but, nevertheless, it is that passion which holds noble youth in check, whereas according to Hobbes, shame, as confusion arising from disgrace endured, is only the opposite of satisfied vanity. According to Aristotle, the typical example of what is pleasant is the ease which constitutes a customary state; thus everything which one can do with ease and convenience, counts as pleasant, like, freedom from care, idleness, sleep, play, laughter etc. In his enumeration of pleasant things, Hobbes names in the first place progress; ease of any kind, in his opinion a state neither desirable nor attainable: ‘continual delight consisteth not in having prospered, but in prospering’, not in possession and enjoyment, but in successful striving and desiring. Thus, diverging from Aristotle, Hobbes names in his enumeration of pleasant things, work or occupation. According to Hobbes, the pleasant is not so much what is naturally pleasant, as the ‘pleasant’ movement from one pleasant thing to another pleasant thing.

Hobbes’ break with tradition was doubtless the result of his turning to mathematics and natural sciences. Precisely for this reason he became conscious of the antagonism of the new moral attitude of the whole tradition. Before turning to Galileo and Euclid, he in principle kept to the traditional political philosophy. It wasn’t the idea of political science, but its method that became a problem through the study of Euclid. This however, shows that the might of the scientific tradition is the reason why the need for a reform in political philosophy comes into being primarily as the need for a new reform in the spheres of political philosophy. This explicit break, which the whole tradition of political philosophy makes, thus becomes possible only after ‘Euclid’. Hobbes himself admits in his own view that the application of mathematical method to political philosophy elevates it for the first time to the rank of a science, a branch of rational knowledge the reason for this is that in politics up to that time, it was not reason but passions that held sway. The only completely passionless, purely rational science, and therefore the only science, which is already in existence, is mathematics; thus only by orienting oneself by mathematics, i.e. by progressing as mathematicians do from self evident principles by means of evident conclusions, can politics be reduced ‘to the rules and infallibility of reason’. Exact passionless mathematics is indifferent to passions; exact passionless political philosophy is in conflict with the passions. The need for exact political philosophy is justified by no means less only in reference to the failure of the old and traditional political philosophy, but especially in reference to the wrongness of opinions, which is betrayed first by the fact that most opinions are wrong. Now, since all opinion is as such wrong, the true knowledge of the good must be opposed to all opinion, must have exact knowledge and must be completely free of the character of opinion. Thus Hobbes’ political philosophy is against every system of morals, which is popular and pre-scientific. The ideal of exact scientific philosophy is thus asserting the fact that only science discloses to man the obligatory aims of his volition and action. One must try to define the philosophical meaning of turning to ‘Euclid’ on the basis of what that turning means to political philosophy.

During his humanist period, wherein Hobbes tried to remedy Aristotelian moral philosophy by studying history. Hobbes moved towards an exact moral and political philosophy. The confusion with regard to the good, the just, and the beautiful, which caused Aristotle to acknowledge and maintain the peculiar lack of definiteness of these subjects, which explain these confusions; this for Plato was a reason for transcending the whole field in which such confusion was possible. Whereas, Aristotle’s political philosophy is and means to be in harmony with the opinion as to the just, the beautiful and the good, and with political experience Plato’s political philosophy is in principle with full readiness to make demands, which cannot be fully justified by political experience. Thus, when Hobbes, stimulated by mathematics, demands an exact political philosophy, he is departing from Aristotle and going back to Plato. The most profound expression, which Hobbes finds for the difference between Aristotle and Plato, is that Plato’s philosophy starts from ideas, and Aristotle’s from words. But as for the difference between Plato and Aristotle, which develop in the course of an approach, which was common to them both, it consists rather in this, that Plato, much more than Aristotle, orientates himself by speech. When Hobbes says that Plato philosophizes not from ‘words’, but from ‘ideas’, he fundamentally misunderstands him. However, as Plato turns away from things, not to speech in itself, but to speech in its contradictoriness, it is certain that it is just the apparently pedantic allegiance to speech, which he observes, that brings him in opposition to what men usually say and believe. And, thus Hobbes’ conception of Plato is to a certain extent, justified. Let us first recall the significance of Plato’s moral philosophy to the antithesis between true and pseudo-virtue. True virtue has as its basis a complete change of objective, whereas pseudo-virtue is based entirely on ordinary human aims and interests. True virtue is essentially wisdom. True virtue differs from pseudo-virtue in its reason. Pseudo-virtue is pseudo virtue because its aim is not virtue itself, but the appearance of virtue, reputation for virtue, and the honour, which results from that reputation. In other words, it can be said that pseudo virtue seeks what is imposing and great, while true virtue seeks what is fitting and right. Thus, according to Plato, courage, the virtue of the warrior, is inseparable from military glory. No virtue seems more brilliant, more worthy even of reverence than courage; for courage is the standard ideal of the Lacedaemonian and Cretan laws. And yet it is the lowest virtue. Its problematic nature expounds itself in full clearness only when one considers it not in its archaic form, in which its sense is, narrowed and limited by obedience to law, and in which, for that very reason, it is hidden wisdom, but only when one considers it apart from its limitations, in itself. Courage, as it is usually understood, is the virtue of the man, his capacity, without fear or effeminacy, to help himself, to protect himself from injustice or injury, to assert and save himself. If we take this ideal, then the perfect man is the tyrant, who disposes of the greatest possible power to do what he will. In limitless self-love, in frenzied arrogance, the tyrant seeks to rule not merely over men, but even over Gods. It is not courage, which is the highest virtue; self-mastery stands higher, and higher still than self-mastery stand wisdom and justice. In itself wisdom stands supreme. Aristotle teaches that the ethical virtues, headed by justice, are available to men, whereas his true happiness, which to a certain extent transcends human limitations, consists in philosophy. Plato denies that the philosopher has a right to seek its own happiness, without a thought for the unphilosophic many. The law of the ideal State compels the philosophers to take thought for other men and to watch over them and not ‘to turn whither each will’.  Since the pursuit of philosophy as a human undertaking is under a higher order, justice, with regard to men, stands higher than wisdom. Whereas Aristotle, by unreservedly setting theoretic life higher than ethical virtue, unconditionally oversteps the limits of the State and thus indirectly attains the possibility of recognizing virtues, which are not really political virtues, but virtues of private life, for Plato there are only political virtues, i.e. to characterize popular virtue.

Aristotelian Influence on Hobbes

Let us begin by surveying the forces, which exercised a decisive influence on Hobbes before he turned to Mathematics and Natural Sciences. From 1603 to 1608 he studied at Oxford. During this time, dissatisfied with academic teaching, he turned to classical texts, which he had already read. He read them with the interpretations of grammarians. His purpose in this study was to develop a clear Latin style. The continuation and conclusion of this study was the English translation of Thucydides, which was gradually published in 1628.

At Oxford Hobbes was introduced to scholastic philosophy. He himself recounts that he studied Aristotle’s logic and physics. He makes no mention of studying Aristotle’s morals and politics. According to the traditional curriculum, the formal disciplines viz., grammar, rhetoric, and logic were in the foreground. We may therefore assume that scholastic studies were for Hobbes in the main formal training, and that he acquired the more detailed knowledge of scholasticism, which he afterwards needed for the polemical defence of his own theories. Later on, he did not take up the studies of scholastic studies as he defected to the studies of humanities.

There were four major influences on Hobbes viz., humanism, scholasticism, Puritanism, and aristocracy. But humanism in Hobbes’ youth was the most prominent of all the influences. Hobbes after the end of his university studies read not only classical poets and historians but also classical philosophers. Which philosophers? In a foreword to his translation of Thucydides he say:

It hath been noted by divers, that Homer in poesy, Aristotle in philosophy, Demosthenes in eloquence, and others of the ancients in other knowledge, do still maintain their privacy: none of them exceeded, some not approached, by any in these later ages. And in the number of these is justly ranked also our Thucydides; a workman no less perfect in his work, than any of the former.

Hobbes later considered Plato to be the best philosopher, not the best philosopher of all, but the best philosopher of antiquity. But at the end of his humanist period he repeats without raising any objection the ruling opinion according to which Aristotle is the highest authority in philosophy. The break with Aristotle was completed only when Hobbes took to the studies of mathematics and natural sciences. The polemic against Aristotle is definitely not as violent as it is in Hobbes’ Leviathan and De Cive. In the Elements of Law, in his definition of the State, Hobbes asserts the aim of the State to be, along with peace and defence, common benefit. With this he tacitly admits Aristotle’s distinction between the reason of the genesis of the State and the reason of its being. In the later stages, Hobbes rejects the common benefit and thus defects from the above mentioned Aristotelian distinction. The linkage of Aristotle with Homer, Demosthenes, and Thucydides provides the answer i.e. Aristotle seen from the humanist point of view. Fundamentally it means the shifting of interests from Aristotle’s physics and metaphysics to his morals and politics. It also means the replacement of theory with the primacy of practice. Only if one assumes a fundamental change of this kind does Hobbes’ turning away from scholasticism to poetry and history cease to be a biographical and a historical peculiarity. Even after natural science had become Hobbes’ favourite subject of investigation, he still acknowledged the precedence of practice over theory and of political philosophy over natural science. The joys of knowledge for him was not the justification of philosophy, but rather the justification only in relation of being beneficial to man, i.e. the safeguarding of man’s life and the increase of human power. Where Hobbes develops his own view connectedly, he manifestly subordinates theory to practice. He did not, like Aristotle, attribute prudence to practice and wisdom to theory. He says: ‘Prudence is to wisdom what experience is to knowledge; wisdom is the knowledge ‘of what is right and wrong and what is good and hurtful to the being and the well-being of mankind… For generally, not he that hath skill in geometry, or any other science speculative, but only he that understandeth what conduceth to the good and Government of the people, is called a wise man’. The contrast with Aristotle has its ultimate reason in Hobbes’ conception of the place of man in the universe, which is diametrically opposed to that of Aristotle. Aristotle justified his placing of the theoretical sciences above moral and political philosophy by the argument that man is not the highest being in the universe. This ultimate assumption of the primacy of theory is rejected by Hobbes; in his contention man is ‘the most excellent work of nature’. In this strict sense Hobbes always remained a humanist, and only with the essential limitation which this brings could he recognize Aristotle’s authority in his humanist period.

Even when Hobbes had come to the conclusion that Aristotle was ‘the worst teacher that ever was’, he excepted two works from his condemnation: ‘but his rhetorique and discourse of animals were rare’. It would be difficult to find other classical work whose importance for Hobbes’ political philosophy can be compared with that of the Rhetoric. The central chapters of Hobbes’ anthropology, those chapters on which, more than on anything else he wrote, his fame as a stylist and as one who knows men rests for all time, betray in style and contents that their author was a zealous reader of the Rhetoric. In the 10th chapter of Leviathan, Hobbes treats under the heading ‘Honourable’ with what Aristotle in the Rhetoric discusses. Aristotle says ‘And honourable are the works of virtue. And the sign of virtue. And the reward whereof is rather honour. And those things are honourable which, good of themselves, are not so to the owner…And bestowing of benefits…And honourable are…victory…And things that excel. And what none can do but we. And possessions we reap no profit by. And those things which are had in honour…And the signs of praise’. In reply to this Hobbes comments ‘…victory is honourable…Magnanimity, Liberality, Hope, Courage, Confidence, are Honourable…Actions proceeding from Equity, joyned with losse, are Honourable’.

Let us try to chart out a dependence of Hobbes’ theory of the passions on the Rhetoric. In the Rhetoric, Anger is desire of revenge, joined with grief, for that he, or some of his, is, or seems to be neglected. While in the Elements of Hobbes, Anger hath been commonly defined to be grief proceeding from an opinion of contempt. To kill is the aim of them that hate, revenge aimeth at triumph. In the Rhetoric Pity is a perturbation of the mind, arising from the apprehension of hurt or trouble to another that doth not deserve it, and which he thinks may happen to himself or his. And because it appertains to pity to think that he, or his, may fall into the misery he pities in others; it follows that they may be most compassionate: who have passed through misery. And such as think there be honest men…Less compassionate are they that think no man honest and who are in great prosperity. In Hobbes’ Elements, Pity is imagination or fiction of future calamity to ourselves, proceeding from the sense of another man’s present calamity; but when it lighteth on such as we think does not deserve the same, the compassion is the greater, because then there appeareth the more probability that the same may happen to us. The contrary of pity is the hardness of heart, proceeding from extreme great opinion of their of their own exemption of the like calamity, or from hatred of all, or most men.

In Rhetoric, indignation is the grief for the prosperity of a man unworthy. In the Rhetoric, envy is grief is for the prosperity of such as ourselves, arising not from any hurt that we, but from the good that they receive. Emulation is grief arising from that our equals possess such goods as are had in honour, and whereof we are capable, but have them not; not because they have them, but because not also we. No man therefore emulates another in things whereof himself is not capable. In the Elements, Emulation is grief arising from seeing one’s self exceeded or excelled by his concurrent, together with hope to equal or exceed him in time to come.

Hobbes in his later writings uses passages from the Rhetoric, of which he had made no use of in his earlier writings, it follows that when composing all his systematic expositions of anthropology he studied Aristotle’s Rhetoric afresh each time. Hobbes’ pre-occupation with the Rhetoric can be traced back as far as about 1635. in 1635, Hobbes had considered the writing of personal exposition of the theory of the passions and as just seen, his earliest treatment of the theory of the passions was clearly influenced by Aristotle’s Rhetoric. In addition, he himself recounts that he instructed the third Earl of Devonshire in rhetoric.

Hobbes’ closer study of Aristotle’s Rhetoric may be proved with certainty only for the 1630s, i.e. in the time in which he had overtly completed the break with Aristotelianism. Moreover, one gathers from his introduction to the translation of Thucydides that the phenomenon of eloquence on the one hand, and of the passions on the other, occupied his mind even in the humanist period of his. On the whole, it seems to us more correct to assume that the use and appreciation of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, which may be traced in Hobbes’ mature writings, are the last remnants of the Aristotelianism of his youth. Hobbes after exclusive pre-occupation with poets and historians

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.

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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.