and finally… 5) Conservatism stifles 6) Inaccurate diagnosis of human progress: nature? • Burke’s closed society • Burke has little faith in man’s does not allow for existing capability as a rational animal – this moral and social forms the basis of his rejection of paradigms to be Enlightenment thought. Instead he challenged as this would argues that humans are governed by lead to instability. emotion & instinct. • Pinchin uses the example • Yet, is he right to be so sceptical? of clashes between Liberals such as Mill will argue that science and the church. individuals are able to apply reason in • If moral certainty is to be order to work out what is best for preserved then the them. NB Liberalism is very much an outcome of such an Enlightenment project. exchange may not be the • Further, anarchists will also insist that truth. humans are capable of self government and should not be restricted by external influence. Liberalism Many commentators differentiate between political and economic liberalism. Economic liberalism is sometimes referred to as “libertarianism” and is embraced by most Liberals and Conservatives. It advocates proliferation of the free market economy. Classical political liberalism, as advocated by J S Mill, focuses on individual freedom, expressed primarily in terms of freedom of speech and action. It is concerned with negative freedom, though recent manifestations advocate the positive e.g. Welfare Liberalism (Rawls – Original Position). Neo-liberalism is a term associated with the promotion of global free trade and rabid capitalism (guess where I pin my colours?!) John Locke • Key Work: Two Treatises of Civil Government. • Ideology: Locke believed that the rights of individuals to life, liberty and estate come before the rights of society. He advocated a Social Contract Theory where the individual surrenders to the community his natural right to enforce the law of nature, in return for “the preservation of life, liberty and estate” by the community. Locke’s theory of government also established the “Separation of Powers” – legislative, executive and judicial. Locke Quotes • "Government has no other end but the preservation of property." • "Where law ends, tyranny begins." • “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom.” • “All mankind... being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.” • “Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself.” • Not hugely relevant, but one I like! - “Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.” The significance of law • Each individual is aware of “natural laws” that include the right to liberty, equality, and self-preservation. • Natural Laws are ordained by God and understood by all rational beings. • Yet, each man will interpret the natural law differently, some using it to justify personal vendettas/ambition. • As such, a social contract is again required to protect. • Once entered, the social contract is totally binding and enforced by law. All who live under it are bound by it. • The contract is established primarily to protect individual rights to life, liberty & property and is enforced by a limited government. • As Nozick observes, Locke limits the State to that of a “protection agency”. The central importance of Property • Locke argues that in the state of nature, God gave the earth to all human beings. • Men are free to make use of the earth’s resources. • All humans are held to own their own bodies. • When they mix their labour with nature, that which they are utilising becomes their property and is no longer part of the common store. Consequently, humans can claim a natural right to property, upheld by the natural law. • Lockean provisos: i) no one should take more than they can make use of, ii) one must leave “enough and as good” for others. Some Criticisms • Nozick argues that it is difficult to justify the idea that mixing one’s labour with land gives one indefinite rights to that land – “If I own a can of tomato juice and spill it in the sea so that its molecules mingle evenly throughout the sea, do I thereby come to own the sea?” (Reductio ad absurdum) • A right to inheritance of that land is even more difficult to uphold – if all is inherited, how can future generations “mix their labour?) – here it would seem that “property is theft!” (Proudhon) • For Locke, property rights are an integral part of human freedom. Inequality simply reflects the way in which God rewards the industrious. • Yet, such inequality surely excludes many from the freedoms that Locke appears to hold dear and does not satisfy any reasonable doctrine of distributive justice. John Stuart Mill • Committed Utilitarian, economist, activist, academic and MP, Mill had a considerable impact on the world in which he lived and continues to exert significant influence in political thought today. • Despite his obvious distaste for the conservatism of his day, modern conservatism exhibits many liberal traits – particularly economic ones. The quote in full: "I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it." [Letter] Combining with Utilitarianism • For Mill, his concept of freedom is underpinned by the principle of utility i.e. the experience of liberty inevitably leads to maximal happiness. • This places enormous faith in the individual knowing what will make them happy. • Yet, there is an apparent contradiction here – Mill’s writings on democracy suggest that the majority of people require representation as they do not always know what is good for them. • Plus his qualitative utilitarianism appears paternalistic. • That said, many critics have also argued that On Liberty focuses too much on negative freedom and fails to recognise the need to protect individuals from exploitation – Rawls later seeks to address this. Negative Freedom “The only part of conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part, which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.” (On Liberty) • Mill is obviously more concerned with “freedom from” (negative) rather than “freedom to” (positive). • The extent to which Mill was prepared to allow individual liberty was shocking to his contemporaries. • He advocated the “experiment of living” which serves to enliven both the individual and society • Liberty is also required if society is to resist stagnation. The harm principle • “My freedom to swing my fist ends where your face begins” (Berlin summarising Mill) • This quote sums up Mill’s central doctrine: that the individual has liberty in every aspect of existence other than that which causes harm to others. • This emphasises negative, rather than positive freedom. Consequently, paternalism is rejected (though possible contradiction with writings on authority – see earlier notes) • But what is harm? A strong criticism of the harm principle is that it fails to make clear what counts as harm. • Physical harm is clear, but what of psychological damage? Rights • Mill agrees with Bentham’s diagnosis of natural nights as “nonsense on stilts”. • He argues that freedom is not a natural right, but a right born of utilitarian justification i.e. reason is required to apply the principle of utility to the idea of a free future. It is only because freedom is advocated by this principle that it should be considered “a right”. • NB Bentham believed Utilitarianism to be a scientific theory and rejected the idea the reason was required to implement it. Freedom of Speech and Action (Fallibility Thesis) • “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” (On Liberty) • Controversial opinions/actions should never be suppressed as: • 1, they may be right • 2,even if wrong, discussion encourages better understanding • 3, if some truth is contained, discussion will enable it to come out. Infallibilism • Mill claims that any attempt to suppress opinion is tantamount to claiming infallibility. • He held a deep conviction that humans ought to pursue the truth and that this could not take place unless we open ourselves up to the possibility that we may be wrong and allow for change. • Such a vision of the open society would obviously not be acceptable to conservatives such as Burke or absolutists such as Plato. Gibbs against the infallibility argument • Gibbs criticises Mill’s infallibility argument – to remove freedom of speech infers infallibility. He argues that it is acceptable for a ruler to protect the public from dangerous opinion e.g. that British foreign policy is threatening national security. • “A ruler might silence an opinion without assuming himself to be infallible, without even assuming that he knows this particular opinion to be false. He might know it to be true, and silence it because it is dangerous.” • Such a perspective obviously runs contrary to Mill’s need for the truth. • Many would rather be subject to the consequences of the truth than have it denied them. (think Tom Cruise vs Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men!) • For others “Ignorance is bliss” (think Cypher in The Matrix – I don’t get out much!) Gibbs on truth • Gibbs also criticises Mill’s commitment to “truth” • For Mill, the truth is always better than falsehood. • This seems to contradict Mill’s commitment to a connection between utility and truth. • Gibbs agrees that the truth is important, but claims that it should not take precedence over all else – “One would obviously have the • Yet, Gibbs fails to show why this is the case. Law • Mill very much directs his writing in favour of legal positivism. Morality is considered to be a private affair, not de jure (according to law). • This stands in contrast to a more conservative perspective that advocates the overlapping thesis and commitment to a natural law theory. • Mill also guards against “the tyranny of the majority” – social pressure to conform. Individuals should not have their freedom of speech/expression curtailed by the indignation of the masses – yes Mark, it’s alright to wear your mum’s Sunday dress. That said, there is no compulsion to approve of the behaviour/words of others. Devlin • Devlin’s ideas were formed in response to the Wolfenden Report (1959) which recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuals. • He argued that the idea of private morality harms society. • Laws must reflect the moral values of citizens • In this sense, he is advocating an overlapping thesis (akin to natural law) • The law ought to protect against vice! • Thus, Mill’s position on freedom of expression is challenged – though we could If prostitution is…not the law’s argue that Devlin is simply redefining the business, what concern has the harm principle. law with the ponce or the brothel-keeper…? Where to draw the line? • What counts as harm? Physical violence is reasonably clear cut, but what of my subscription to “Mammoth Melons Monthly”? • For Mill, being offended does not count as harm. Does he understate the reality of psychological harm? It seems that sustained exposure to disturbing imagery can cause significant damage to the individual and those around. • Child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron has recently argued for tighter controls on censorship, particularly with use of video games. Hart – “The Concept of Law” • Hart famously reacted to Devlin’s conservative position, claiming that the State has no business interfering in people’s personal lives. • Hart offers a defence of legal positivism. He restates Mill’s position, arguing that the “moral majority” should not be able to suppress individual expression. • Actual harm must be evident and demonstrated by a panel of experts before human expression is subjugated. • Is anyone so qualified to offer “expert” advice of this nature? • To reduce application of the law to cover only “actual harm” may well lead to the continued suffering of many. E.g. what of my neighbour’s desire to play Val Doonican LPs at 3am every night? – do I experience actual harm? Welfare Liberalism • Key Work: John Rawls - A Theory of Justice • Ideology: Contemporary libertarian and social contract theorist. Arguably the most important political philosopher of the 20th century, Rawls' guiding idea is that in a just society the laws and institutions would not confer advantages on some people at the expense of others based on natural and social contingencies that are arbitrary from a moral standpoint. • In developing his own account of "justice as fairness," Rawls asks us to imagine ourselves choosing principles of justice from an original position of equality in which we lack knowledge of our social and economic standing, race, sex, natural abilities, and other socially relevant facts. • Rawls argues that we would put priority, first, on providing equal liberties and fair opportunities for all and, second, on maximizing the share of income and wealth of those least advantaged. The Revolutionary Image (Socialism) • Pinchin focuses primarily on Marx, though he is not the only, nor the first socialist. Yet, it is difficult to deny that he has been the most influential. • Marx was inevitably influenced by a rich period of German philosophy that had preceded him. German Idealism had directed European philosophy in the 18th century with thinkers such as Kant, Schopenhauer, Hegel dominating the landscape. • In particular, the ideas of Hegel and the materialist, Feuerbach, helped shape Marx’s philosophical vision. John Rawls • Quotes: “Ideally citizens are to think of themselves as if they were legislators and ask themselves what statutes, supported by what Space for a humorous interlude: reasons satisfying the man goes to the zoo. criterion of reciprocity, they There’s only one dog there. would think is most It’s a Shih Tzu. reasonable to enact.” • “The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance.” Anarchy, State and Utopia • This is the title of Robert Nozick’s influential reply to his Harvard colleague, Rawls. • Nozick argues that the state should not interfere with individual liberties, particularly economic freedoms. • He refutes Proudhon’s claim that “property is theft”, believing instead that most property has been acquired fairly. • Nozick is obviously a supporter of individualism. Welfare provision is rejected, with even income tax rejected as a type of forced labour - individuals are compelled to spend some time working to pay the government. • Market forces should be left unhindered. Wealth should be distributed according to merit and good fortune. • It is difficult to see how such a system could ever be considered just or, indeed, tolerated by the majority…but it is! John Donne – no man is an island Donne rejects individualism, considering us to be defined beyond material terms: "All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.“ This leads us nicely to: Marx Quotes • "The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle." • “From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need.” • “The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property” • “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” Hegelian Dialectic & Feuerbach’s materialism • From Hegel, Marx developed the idea of history as process. Hegel viewed this as a spiritual process, involving thesis, antithesis and synthesis. • Marx’s reading of Feuerbach enabled him to decouple Hegel’s dialectical process from his idealism. It also fuelled his atheistic ideas and helped him to develop a material view of history as process. • Feuerbach viewed expressions of spirituality as mythical. Marx believed that such expressions were the product of man’s alienation from his true humanity and revealed a hope for a better life post mortem – “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Dialectical Materialism • Marx viewed history as an economic process – a cycle whereby an underclass would rise up against their masters, overthrow them and then become the new ruling class. • This is represented in the form of Thesis-Antithesis- Synthesis. • For Marx, this is a scientific process. He viewed history as subject to deterministic economic laws. Changes are inevitable and ideas are reflections of economic interests. • Marx identifies four great changes in history, each with a modal point (point of change). Dialectic in process: 1. Nomadic and pastoral era. Modal point: soil cultivation and domestication of animals. 2. Classical period – concentrated wealth and slavery. Stability and development of the arts. Modal point: big, hairy Barbarians with sharp pointy sticks, too many orgies (what is too many?!) & need for decentralisation. 3. Feudalism – conflict between land owners and serfs. Modal point: Industrialisation - need for urban workforce 4. Capitalism and the Liberal ideology that supports Democracy. Conflict between bourgeoisie (industrialists etc) and proletariat (workers). Modal point: “the peasants are revolting!” – the proletariat become conscious of exploitation and seek to overthrow the ruling class, resulting in: Communism • This will result in the abolition of private property and the creation of a truly socialist society. Modal point – none! Communism will signal the removal of the means of antagonism and conflict i.e. capitalism. • Communism brings an end to the pre-history of mankind. • Initially, the overthrow of capitalism will result in antagonisms and a brief “dictatorship of the proletariat” will be required. Once the class system has been abolished, “the state will wither away” • Yet, history has not borne this out – Russia etc • NB Fukuyama saw things differently – advent of libertarianism: end of history?!