Published on January 7, 2008
Transition to the Modern World: Transition to the Modern World Machiavelli (1469-1527) Hobbes (1588-1679) Bacon (1561-1626) Machiavelli: Machiavelli Two disagreements with Aristotle The nature of the state The nature of political science First disagreement: First disagreement Aristotle: the state is founded on friendship & trust, a partnership for common good Machiavelli: founded on fear of the prince, a stable system of coercion. Three Ways to Organize Society: Three Ways to Organize Society 1. As a partnership, based on the joint pursuit of common goals. 2. As an ongoing ceasefire among individuals and groups with disparate goals, who remain essentially in a state of belligerency. 3. As an authoritarian system, in which all dissent and opposition is ruthlessly suppressed. What is required for the partnership model?: What is required for the partnership model? 1. The shared conviction ("we hold these truths to be self-evident...") that there is a scale of value that is universal and accessible to all. 2. The inclusion in this scale of value of weighty non-egotistical values: the value, for example, of participating in a common pursuit of justice and mutual respect. Slide6: Historically, this has depended on the acceptance of an Aristotelian conception of human nature, as the basis of universal values, and including the idea that we are social animals, whose happiness depends on genuine friendship and virtuous activity. Machiavelli is rejecting this conception of human nature. Favors the authoritarian model. Second disagreement: Second disagreement Machiavelli conceives of politics as a positive empirical science, concerned with what is, not with what ought to be. A fact/value distinction. E.g., whether we like it or not, a too-scrupulous ruler is likely to fail. Aristotle too consider politics an empirical science, but he models it upon biology. Ideal types, final causes. Machiavelli on Human Nature: Machiavelli on Human Nature The generality of men: “ungrateful, fickle, dissembling, anxious to flee danger, and desirous of gain. With such subjects, it is better to be feared than to be loved: “the prince who bases his security upon their word…is doomed.” Men, “being scoundrels” will break the bond of love “whenever it serves their advantage to do so. Strauss on Machiavelli: Strauss on Machiavelli Morality depends on immorality, since it depends on a context (political stability) that cannot be created morally. Man is by nature selfish, but almost infinitely malleable (by training and institutional incentives). Shift from trust in character to trust in institutions. Strauss on M., cont.: Strauss on M., cont. M. argued that political art must aim lower, so as to have a greater probability of success. Inhumanity (e.g., the Inquisition) is the result of aiming too high, as classical theory recommends. Like Marx, Machiavelli aimed, not just at understanding the world, but at changing it (through an activist philosophy, directed to future leaders). Thomas Hobbes: Thomas Hobbes Materialism Subjective Theory of Value Fear as basis of political order Materialism: Materialism The human mind consists of nothing but certain motions in the brain. Thoughts, desires, etc. are essentially physical phenomena. Subjective Theory of Value: Subjective Theory of Value We call something "good" because we desire it, “bad” because we are averse to it. Contrast Aristotle's objective theory: our desires are ordered to an objective final cause (a natural end). Fear as the Foundation of the State: Fear as the Foundation of the State In Hobbes’ system, there are two central fears: Fear of the “state of nature”, in which life is “poor, solitary, nasty, brutish and short”. After the state has been established, it persists through fear of the sovereign. Aristotle vs. Hobbes on the “state of nature”: Aristotle vs. Hobbes on the “state of nature” For Aristotle, humans are social animals. So the well-ordered city is the "state of nature". For Hobbes, the "state of nature" consists of stripping away all political culture and order. Hobbes’ Three Theses are Interconnected: Hobbes’ Three Theses are Interconnected Materialism leads to subjective theory of value (no final causation) Subjective theory of value leads to the Hobbesian state of nature (conflict as essential) Organization of state is based on the lowest common denominator: avoiding violent death. Summum Bonum vs. Summum Malum: Summum Bonum vs. Summum Malum On Aristotle’s theory, the state is ordered to happiness, the summum bonum (supreme good) of human life. On Hobbes’ theory, the state is ordered to avoiding the summum malum (the supreme evil, violent death). The Social Contract: The Social Contract Political society arises by means of a social contract, in which everyone binds himself to obey the commands of a sovereign (either a monarch or a small body of rulers). The commands of the sovereign are law, which is the only basis of justice, right/wrong, property. John Locke’s Modifications: John Locke’s Modifications John Locke, a later British thinker, modifies Hobbes’s account of the social contract. Influenced the American founding. According to Locke, justice and right do exist in the state of nature. The social contract creates the state in order better to define & defend justice. Strauss on Hobbes: Strauss on Hobbes More palatable than Machiavelli: political justice doesn’t rest on a foundation of crime. Shares 2 points with M.: (1) man is naturally selfish, (2) classical theory aimed too high. Reduces human motivation to the most elementary drives (avoiding violent death, fear, aggression). Strauss on Locke: Strauss on Locke Locke in turn makes Hobbes more palatable. The social contract creates a structure of positive law designed to protect natural right, not an absolute sovereign. Locke puts “acquisitiveness”, the pursuit of property, in the place of dangerous drives for power. Like Machiavelli & Hobbes, he aims lower than classical theorists. A republic, not of virtue, but of vice channeled into the socially constructive outlet of market competition. Francis Bacon: Francis Bacon Redefines the mission of science (or "natural philosophy") De-emphasizes final causes. Shifts emphasis to material and efficient causes. Re-interprets Plato’s “forms” as hidden physical powers of matter. Fruitfulness of Bacon’s Revolution: Fruitfulness of Bacon’s Revolution Aristotle tried to model every science after biology. Final causation in physics and chemistry: a dead-end. Aristotle discouraged the use of mathematics, quantitative methods. Roger Bacon (14th c.) began to have success with mathematical physics. Aquinas’ Dichotomy: Aquinas’ Dichotomy Supernatural Grace, supernatural virtues Sacred Theology (Bible , church) Beatific vision, resurrection Natural Natural virtues Philosophy; Aristotle’s 4 causes Eudaemonia(imperfect happiness) Bacon’s Dichotomy: Bacon’s Dichotomy Theology Final causes (= Divine purposes) Ethics Science Material & efficient causes Generates technology Irving Babbitt on Bacon: Irving Babbitt on Bacon Professor at Harvard. Teacher of T. S. Eliot. New Humanism. Bacon introduces the idea of Progress through technical control of nature. Golden Age is in the future. Morally flawed: “the significance of Bacon’s moral breakdown lies in the very fact that ti had the same origins as his ideas of progress. What’s wrong with Progress?: What’s wrong with Progress? Loss of proper focus: “seeking to gain dominion over things, he lost dominion over himself.” Unduly fascinated by power and success. Pragmatism: one-sided anxiety to “get results”. Replaces classical standards with “purely quantitative and dynamic standards”. The purposes of science: The purposes of science (1) To contemplate, understand and appreciate nature (2) To control, manipulate and dominate nature For Aristotle, (1) was primary. For Bacon, (2) becomes primary Humanitarian element in Bacon: Humanitarian element in Bacon Strong emphasis on acquiring useful scientific knowledge, and applying that knowledge to solve real problems: disease, poverty, premature death. Shift in the Focus of Control: Shift in the Focus of Control For Plato & Aristotle: the most important form of control is self-control, mastering one’s own character. With Machiavelli, Hobbes & Bacon , the emphasis shifts to: control of others control of nature Shift from holism to atomism: Shift from holism to atomism We can better control the whole by understanding its constituent parts and their modes of interaction. The Aristotelian emphasis on holistic features (formal & final causes) is dropped. Raises problem: where does the mind (thought, meaning, etc.) fit in? Weaver’s Analysis of the Origin of Modernity: Weaver’s Analysis of the Origin of Modernity Begins with William of Ockham (early 14th. century Oxford) Nominalism: all that exists are particulars. There are no universals (essences, accidents), only general names. We do not share a universal nature of humanity -- we simply share the name “human”. From Ockham to Bacon: From Ockham to Bacon According to Weaver, nominalism leads to the rejection of final causation, teleology. Since there can be no standard for good/evil in a nature devoid of purpose, there is no room either for the Christian idea of original sin. All imperfections are in principle solvable via technique. After Aristotle: Pessimism or Optimism?: After Aristotle: Pessimism or Optimism? Strauss argues that, once Aristotelian teleology was rejected, the moderns decide to “aim low”, recognizing the empirically observable anti-social character of people. But Babbitt and Weaver argue that the demise of Aristotelianism opened the door to Progress, they myth of perfectability. Can both be right? Did the progress of science shift modernism from one to other? Aristotle’s System: Aristotle’s System 1. The existence of real universals, or properties of things (like humanity, wisdom, anger). (For A, these exist in things, not separately.) 2.The existence of real particulars, individual things (like Aristotle, an individual oak tree, God). 3. Cases in which an individual thing has a particular property (like Aristotle's being wise). We can call these facts or situations. Slide36: 4. The distinction between those cases in which the property is essential to the particular (like Aristotle's being human) and those in which it is accidental to it (like Aristotle's being angry). 5. The distinction between a function (essential) and a use (accidental). 6. The existence of final causes of things (the fulfillment of the thing's functions). Slide37: 7. Happiness (eudaemonia) as the final cause of human life. 8. A universal scale of human values, based on their objective contribution to or interference with happiness. 9. The state is a partnership, through which we cooperate in the pursuit of the common good. The Deconstruction of the System: The Deconstruction of the System If there are no real universals in the world, only in our minds or our language, then there can be no essences. If no essences, then no functions, and no final causes. Without functions, final causes, no natural scale of values. Explaining the movement from ancient to modern political thought: Explaining the movement from ancient to modern political thought Without a human essence, it no longer makes sense to think of human beings as political animals, whose proper function is to perform virtuously in a social setting. Instead, we must simply observe the actual tendencies of the average man. This naturally leads to aiming low: to fashioning a political technology that constrains selfish and anti-social tendencies.