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Politics and Ethics: Moral Foundations of a Just State

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Ethics and politics, which are the practical sciences, deal with human beings as moral agents. Ethics is primarily about the actions of human beings as individuals, and politics is about the actions of human beings in communities…The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (It is important to remember, adds the writer, that for Aristotle ethics and politics are closely linked and each influences the other.)

Nicomachean Ethics was Aristotle’s monumental work in the field of morality, while Politics remains one of the definitive texts on the nature of the state and the beginning of all serious thinking in political theory. At the end of his work on ethics, Aristotle concludes that the inquiry into ethics necessarily follows into politics. Consequently, both works are believed to comprise a larger treatise dealing with the “philosophy of human affairs.” I’ll be bolder, however, than the writer of the Encyclopedia and assert that the notion of a just state presupposes a resident notion of a basic morality; that the two are in fact inseparable; that the former is but an extension of ethical thinking to affairs of human beings as they interact with one another in the context of, and with respect to, a just state or polity.

It’s not feasible to offer here a comprehensive, foolproof argument. Suffice to say, I regard Aristotle's proposition as a given. Let me cite, however, from a more recent source, the philosophy of John Locke:

Regarding the origins of society, Locke . . . distinguishes a state of nature (natural state) and the transition from this state to the state of society through a contract… Men even at this time were rational and had the notion of the fundamental rights of life, of liberty, property, etc. To better guarantee such rights, man has entered, through means of a contract, into society, and has conceded some of his natural rights to the sovereign, together with the power to defend them.

From man's natural condition to the state of society, there is hence a progression; but no innovation is involved. The sovereign who fails in his obligation to defend the rights of his subjects is no longer justified in his sovereignty and may be dismissed by his subjects.

A state-of-nature theory by Thomas Hobbes was the subject matter of the first installment in my "Politics and Ethics" series. We’ve seen that Hobbes’s depiction of "man's natural condition" is quite at odds with that provided by Locke. For the former, the life of men under those conditions was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” For Locke, humans are already “rational and [have] the notion of the fundamental rights of life, of liberty, property, etc.” We shouldn’t be too disturbed, however, by such a glaring discrepancy because we’ve also seen that aside from historical circumstances and philosophical demands of the day, Hobbes' experiment was a thought-experiment of sorts and all-consuming project: there was a dire need to re-establish the rule of the sovereign; and the best way to draw attention to the fact was by portraying the state of nature as a condition no one in their right mind would choose to persist in. In short, the state of nature for Hobbes was nothing but a philosophical construct — a brilliant construct but a construct nonetheless.

What was it for Locke? Well, Locke’s concerns were different. With the concept of sovereign firmly in place, Locke’s main preoccupation was safeguarding the subjects’ basic rights from possible violation. Hence an entirely different picture of the state of nature, where those rights are taken for granted, commonly recognizable, and natural. And so is the matter of transition from less- to fully actualized stage at which the civil society is operating on all four, its political system fully intact. The transition is smoother and more intuitive for the fact because it’s made contingent on the simple notion of consent, or contract, formalized later by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in another masterpiece, The Social Contract. Both Locke and Rousseau made use of the Hobbesian model but put it to different purposes.

The very qualities which Locke attributes to the denizens of the state of nature could well go, and be totally subsumed, under the name of morality; and furthermore, that it is none other than some basic morality, shared in common, which Locke’s version of the state-of-nature presupposes and which, in turn, makes those qualities possible. Consequently, since the transition from Locke’s pre-political or quasi-political stage in the development of a civil society to a stage at which that society is fully politicized is made all the more natural (and therefore easier to stomach) by virtue of those qualities, I will argue a corollary thesis as well: namely, that the formation of a just state is predicated on the existing or pre-existing moral relations between the individuals, and represents therefore an extension of those relations, or their projection, if you will, upon a larger plane. We must bear in mind, however, Locke’s all-important proviso: once the state ceases to exercise its proper function as the ultimate guarantor of the said relations, it may be rightly dissolved.

Can we attribute to moral thought the kind of primacy which our argument requires in order to serve as a precondition to political thought and organization? And if so, how is that primacy to be grounded?

There is a sense, of course, in which moral thinking predates religious thinking. The point is not simply about the chronology of events. From that aspect alone, it’s possible to argue either way. Thus, one could say, for example, that the ethical teachings of the ancient Greeks predated Christianity; and one would be right. By the same token, however, one could point to any number of indigenous, primitive peoples who had occupied Asia Minor, any region in fact which would later become a part of the Athenian Empire, and one would also be right to say of those peoples (or “the barbarians,” as the Greeks would eventually call them) that for them the religious response had come before the moral one. So perhaps it would be more accurate to say that any ethical component in religious thinking (if it includes any such) is a borrowing, in a manner of speaking, from purely ethical thinking (which is to say, thinking that is unadulterated and therefore unencumbered by any religion-woven context or concern).

Even this restatement, however, is subject to misinterpretations. Thus, the ancient Hebrews, for instance, would hold that the moral law had come directly from Yahweh in the form of the Ten Commandments handed on two stone tablets to Moses on Mount Sinai; and most Christians would agree. Consequently, the mainstream of the Judeo-Christian tradition has it that religious and moral thinking are, in that sense, inseparable; and if anything, that moral thinking is God-given as well. (Eventually, this gave rise to "the divine right of Kings" theory, but that's another story.)

At the risk of sounding sacrilegious here, let me state the following. It’s highly improbable that the Hebrews had no concept of right and wrong prior to Moses’ descent from Mount Sinai; such reading of Exodus and Deuteronomy represents the extreme in fundamentalism. The proper significance of the narrated events concerns the codification of the already-known moral laws and precepts and their ratification, with their acceptance by the children of Israel as the basis of the Covenant between them and their God. The point of contention is that moral or ethical thinking is embedded in our language, not in religion. (Which doesn’t preclude anyone from embracing a larger, theological view if they so choose – namely, the belief in God, the Creator, from whom everything, including language and morality, ultimately springs. But that’s a horse of another color and subject matter for another time and place.)

What is the force of moral statements or precepts, one might ask.

Consider “Stealing is wrong” (or “Adultery is wrong,” for that matter). You may trivialize the content of these pronouncements all you want, think them old-fashioned and passé, imagine extenuating circumstances under which they mightn’t necessarily apply – like in Jean Valjean’s case in Les Miz when a loaf of bread had nearly cost him his life. And you’d be all the more justified if you held “private property” (or “fidelity”) in lesser regard than your predecessors, your mother and father and the generations prior. Still, you’d feel somewhat uneasy about dismissing these injunctions offhand. There’s something compelling about them, what exactly, you don’t know, but you’re certain you can’t just disengage. The imprint is in your mind.

It’s characteristic of moral type of statements or injunctions that they tend to trump all other considerations and circumstances – pragmatic, practical, or otherwise. Thoughts of benefit or gain, of what’s cost-effective or cost-efficient, of what’s good for this party or for that, of how better we would all be if and only if… – all these fade into insignificance when measured against possible violation of a moral precept.

There’s only one circumstance I can think of when morality can be overridden. Kierkegaard provided us with a perfect example when Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac, presumably to test his faith. Ever since, it’s been known as "the theological suspension of the ethical." Other than that, morality rules. It’s in our language and our heart. We're moral to the core.

Which isn't to say that one and the same morality necessarily spans across all civilizations and cultures. The practice of cannibalism, for instance, may seem abhorrent to our moral sensibilities. But to the indigenous peoples who (still?) engage in the practice, the meaning of the act may well have altogether different, amoral significance – having to do with rites and ritual, with the idea of celebration, even paying homage to the conquered. The very term mores, from which the English words “morality” and “moral” derive, refers to the established practices of a society, its norms and customs.

It's arguable, therefore, that at least parts of the accepted moral code within a society – the fringe part, that is – could well be relative to the society in which it is rooted. Besides, there's no question the mores are always evolving. One should hope, of course, that someday the moral code should converge and that all our sensibilities would become one and, to the extent possible, universal. Indeed, human history lends credence to this progression towards an ever-expanding, unified consciousness (because, at bottom, we're all one and the same). But that’s in the future.

To add another complication, not all social customs or mores carry moral connotation. More precisely, morality is a subset of mores, those social norms which are held to be of central importance in view of their content and which are often formalized in some kind of moral [though not necessarily legal] code – the commandments, for instance. In “primitive” cultures, the mechanism of enforcement is by means of a taboo. (Taboos are the most extreme form of mores as they forbid a society's most outrageous practices, such as incest or murder; and ostracism is one of the most likely penalties for breaking a taboo.) In more “advanced” societies, there are laws. And for the less egregious of the offenses, moral rebuke will usually suffice.

It’s time to recap the argument. I tried to show that Locke’s view of the state of nature, though modeled after Hobbes’s, is much more intuitive than the one offered by his predecessor. And further, that when reinforced by the writings of Rousseau, especially in the area of “social contract,” it’s almost palatable. And it’s more intuitive (and palatable) by virtue of the fact that the rights Locke ascribes to the denizens of the state of nature are rooted in, and presupposed by, a certain morality held in common by all members of a pre-political society.

Which is why Locke is justified to refer to those rights as “natural rights,” as rights, in other words, with which we are endowed by virtue of our makeup – the moral beings that we are. (Forget for now Locke’s implication that we’ve been endowed so by the act or will of God: I think it’s possible to argue to the same effect regardless.) In a sense, therefore, Locke is the first in the series of “natural rights” theorists. And his mode of accounting for the eventual transition from a pre-political stage to a civil society which is fully politicized is also, for the very same fact, the most natural, intuitive, and least objectionable. Again, because morality was the cornerstone for Locke, rooted in our language and form of life; and that's regardless of culture or other affiliations, irrespective of who we are, where we come from, or what we happen to believe. And further, because the consequent transition from a moral to a political community was but a matter of taking one small step: the simple notion of consent (or contract, if you like) as regards the codification of the existing moral code into laws.

How does it relate to the point under discussion — the privatization of prisons in the present instance?

If you accept the thesis that politics (and the idea of a just state) is but an extension of the moral, then you must also conclude that certain actions and functions must remain in the sole province, and the sole prerogative, of the state. And it’s no use arguing here that privatization would be more cost-effective or cost-efficient. Whatever the case and whatever argument one could launch on behalf of privatization, pragmatic arguments or cost-benefit analyses are of no consequence here: they can’t be allowed to trump questions affecting morality.

That’s why I’m not going to examine the pros and cons of the issue or whether the reported abuses are causal or merely coincidental; I’ll leave it to lesser minds. The very fact that there exists a possibility of a collusion between private and public interests is reason enough to discredit the idea – because the suspicion of taint looms in the background. Ever!

("Abstain from every appearance of evil" may be a mistranslation, but it’s a wise say nonetheless and good adage for all times.)

Ultimately, the argument against privatization of prisons (or any other such service or function the government might wish to deputize to extraneous agencies) is not that it’s simply immoral (on the likeness with "Stealing is wrong," for instance) but a much more egregious offense – because it undermines the very moral structure and the integrity upon which a just state must rest.

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About Roger Nowosielski

  • http://screambucket.wordpress.com/ Aetius Romulous

    My Philosophy days are well behind me I’m afraid, but this was just a really well written primer. Really enjoyed it.

    How ’bout this Roger;

    That classic philosophy was developed and written long before this current age, and could not have known or understood a civilization that measures everything by personal gain. Democracy and free markets were powerful concepts unknown in their age.

    In that sense, the classic philosophers are no guide to contemporary life, when they try and measure morality and ethics in 2009.

    Out to lunch here, or what?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Give me a little time to construct a response. You are raising an interesting question.

  • bliffle

    Democracy was well-known to the Athenians and specifically rejected by Plato, for example. After all, Socrates was condemned by a democratic jury of some 300 people. Even then the dangers of demagoguery were well-known: they invented the word.

    As for Free markets, one seldom sees mention of markets at all in ancient writings, presumably because societies were so local, so contained. The problems of markets only arise in colonial times when the abilities of ‘companies’ of men to control large wealth at a distance becomes a vital consideration.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Of course, the Greek term “agora” – the market – had a far wider and more significant connotation, to mean the market for exchanging ideas and generally speaking, for political kind of intercourse which, to the ancient Greeks, represented the epitome and the actualization of the human condition.

    But I’ll respond to Aetius’ rather challenging idea of debunking the past in another comment.

  • Cindy

    Re #1

    That sounds almost as good as if I had said it myself. (42 times or so)

  • bliffle

    This premise is often offered but seldom proven: “And it’s no use arguing here that privatization would be more cost-effective or cost-efficient.”

    IMO there are serious doubts about this, tho it is often taken as an article of faith by some.

    Unfortunately, the belief in ‘privatization’ is too often linked to the belief that we must abandon caution to solve todays pressing problems, leading to no-bid contracts and other defeating notions, and then leading to results such as the current economic collapse.

    IMO privatization can only work in certain small instances of economics tactics, and then only when properly circumscribed.

    IMO privatization fails when extended to broad strategy.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    No bid contracts? Isn’t that what Bush and Cheney were handing out to the likes of Halliburton and others in Iraq?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And the saga continues.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    …because it undermines the very moral structure and the integrity upon which a just state must rest.

    Roger, I LOVED this piece. And your final conclusion gave me chills. Thank you for taking the time to write it and then share it with the rest of us.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, thank you Silas. It’s not very provocative, I’m afraid, just dealing with fundamentals. But I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the principles now and then.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Indeed, Roger. But every now and again we need to be reminded from whence we came so that we don’t squander the blood, sweat and tears of those who came before us to give us the life we have.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m all for that, though the first comment to this piece, to which I still must respond, was to the effect that history is passe.

    By the way, are you Polish-born? You cited Polish National Anthem on the other thread.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Roger, I am of solid Polish peasant stock. My father was the first of his brood to be born in the U.S. His 9 older siblings were all born in Poland. I was schooled in a Polish-catholic school all my life run by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth — a Polish order.

    My grandfather and his family owned the majority of the real estate in the Warsaw ghetto which was first confiscated by the Nazis and then annexed by the Russians. That is why I have such strong feelings with regard to Israel. My family was in the heart of the ghetto. Many of our tenants were the very people who were carted off to the concentration camps. When the 6 Day war hit in the 60’s I remember my grandmother and uncles cursing Truman because they always referred to Israel as Palestine. They felt that it was the racism of White European Jews against the Ethiopian Jews which created the mess which is now Israel. Ruvy and I have debated this issue before.

    In any case, every morning I went to school it was a ritual — Mass at 7:20 AM (in Polish), in the classroom at 7:50 AM. We pledged our allegiance to the American flag and then we sang the Polish National anthem followed by Boze cos Polske (God Save Poland). By virtue of our education we were never allowed to forget that it was Poland which faced obliteration from the world map 3 times in her history. It was Poland who always submitted to outside forces. And, in the end, the Poles prevailed. This is where I feel truly blessed because I was given an education where civic responsibility, personal accountability and a sense of fairness were part of the daily educational dialog. It is in these areas where the American public school system lacks — and that is the way unions and politicians want it.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Roger, I don’t know if I am going to get this out the way it is intended but here goes. I want to take what you’ve written a step further. Do you think that the overall structure of a language may very well play into the way its’ society develops? Greek is, for lack of a better word, a very ‘logical’ language. The same can be said for Latin, Arabic and Armenian. I’d venture to say that of all languages, Armenian may very well be the most ‘logical’. English, or our bastardization thereof, is not steeped in logic. It’s fractured, sloppy and, quite frankly, lazy. Am I making sense?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t think so, Silas. Language, as you know, is like a growing organism, always changing. I don’t think there’s any fault here with language, only with our inattention to it. People will always be people, and some will twist words and meanings to suit their purposes. The problem rather is with our culture in general – a movement away from true literacy to computer literacy and too much faith in the modern technology. Language still is and continues to be our greatest resource – a repository of all wisdom. That’s why it ought to be cultivated and cherished. But the love of language is something that ought to be taught, for it can only be acquired. I was rather fortunate because English was my second language, and I made it a point to try to master it, be attentive to it, develop an ear. I had a couple of outstanding teachers, but the motivation was always there.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    There is where you have the advantage, Roger. Knowing English as a second language actually makes it easier for you to cut through the chaff. The vast majority of my friends are not American-born. Most are from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. I count Muslims, Hindus and Jews as dominant in my relationships over my former fellow Christians. When they speak in English they use the logic of their native tongue in expressing themselves. There’s no fluff, no political correctness, just good old fashioned communication without editorial comment. Which leads me to the second quote of the day from Ben Franklin:

    If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Good quote. I guess quite apropos BC. But I haven’t thought in Polish in years – strictly English. Logic as such has little to do with it. Every language has a logic all its own. You just have to develop an ear for the language – like with music. You should pick up a copy of Wittgenstein, not The Investigations perhaps but The Blue and Brown Books (paperback). It’s like a bible when it comes to the subject matter of language.

  • Cindy

    In school we’re taught that we are “bright” if we can grasp, and conform to the desired view of correct language use.

    We might then aim to be bright for this reward. When we come to consider ourselves “bright” we take pleasure in comparing ourselves to those who are less bright and we feel humbled by those who are more.

    This indoctrination is what passes for learning something important in a general sense. This is only important to reinforcing the views of the dominant culture. It creates a belief in being right. People who are bright might then dismiss other ways of communicating (such as Ebonics or txt language) as ignorant, or look down on those they can now believe are below them somehow.

    But, if you ask yourself what is language for, you may begin to wonder how and why these hierarchies in language have been created.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I have a better suggestion. Why don’t we throw away Shakespeare and Milton and Aeschylus and just pretend they haven’t existed? That way we can start from scratch, without any inbuilt prejudice and bias.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Have you ever read any of the works of Rainer Maria Rilke, Roger? I have a distant cousin who is a professor at the University of Paris and his concentration is in the work of Rilke. Letters to a Young Poet should be required reading for any student.

  • Cindy

    No, no Silas! Read Karl Popper instead!

    Wittgenstein…just say no!

    :-)

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I reread this essay, and frankly, even though I studied political philosophy, over time, I’ve found it rather lacking. And this essay, ecghoing what I learned in political philosophy was similarly lacking.

    When I look at my sources for political philosophy, I look to the Torah (somewhat older than the Greeks, and certainly older than the Roman savages who destroyed Jerusalem) to the writings of Solomon, and the writings of the prophets.

    For practical ideas, I go to Machiavelli, a brilliant man who tried to get a job with the tyrant who kicked him out of public office in pre-modern Firenze.

    Most of what you put forth, I find foreign and alien, and somewhat incomplete.

    I find what you write to be fundamentally misleading. As for guidance of how to run a country of any size, the Torah precept, tzédek tzédek tirdóf – justice, justice, shall you pursue – seems adequate. The Proverbial concept tzedaká matzilá memávet – righteousness saves from death (thanks, SJ, for reminding me!) – provides the reason to provide social welfare institutions that work effectively.

    The Torah contemplated a monarchy, but in doing so insisted on basic limits on the monarch, placing him under, and not above the law, and requiring him to limit his wives, horses and money. The ancient Israelite state machinery was simple, but can be adapted to a modern age. What is generally not known is that the ancient Israelite monarchy was not an absolute authority, but one that had limits placed on it by the national priesthood, the prophets, the Sanhedrin and a large assembly of elders. It wasn’t democracy, but democracy and demagoguery often get confused, don’t they? And in the American feeding frenzy called “politics” both seem rather far from reality.

    But then again,you were not writing for a Jewish audience, but a non-Jewish one living in a foreign country.

    Nevertheless, when I hear on the radio Israelis prattling on about dimokrátia yisraelít – Israeli democracy – I laugh. The modern state, pretending to imitate western institutions, has no real due process, no habeas corpus, a corrupt and politicized police force, a corrupted and politicized judicature, a very powerful bunch of organized criminals, a plutocracy of 18 families who run the country like organized criminals, and a pliant series of prostitutes for a press.

    Imitating you is getting us sick spiritually and politically. The sooner we stop, the better off we will be.

    Sorry, Roger, those are my impressions.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Very interesting comments, Ruvy. For lack of a better word, I’d characterize them as a “view from abroad.” Allow me a little time to rethink this so I can respond to the best of my ability.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, that’s poetry, Silas. Not my strongest suit. But I’ll give it a shot.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    …and a pliant series of prostitutes for a press.

    Well, that sums up United States’ media, Ruvy. From David Gregory on Meet the Press to Katie Couric, they are all whores of Babylon. Our press is neither free or objective.

  • Clavos

    Our press is neither free or objective.

    Hell, We, the People are neither free nor objective…

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Clavos, a man of few words but of them such profundity. You are so right.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Ruvy (#22)

    What we may have is a simple misunderstanding, I hope, rather than “culture clash.”

    Your first point: “even though I studied political philosophy, over time, I’ve found it rather lacking. And this essay, ecghoing what I learned in political philosophy was similarly lacking.” And then you continue, “When I look at my sources for political philosophy, I look to the Torah (somewhat older than the Greeks, and certainly older than the Roman savages who destroyed Jerusalem) to the writings of Solomon, and the writings of the prophets.”

    I tend to agree with you but let me tell you why. The “lack” you’re referring to is (I take it) a lack with respect to certain “sprituality”; and that is correct that most of writings on politics and political theory does not have the status of sacred or spiritual texts – not even that of wisdom literature – Plato’s Republic being one notable exception. So if the complaint is “not sufficient inspiration,” then I might go along with that – especially as regards such people as yourself who might entertain a larger perspective than that offered by the subject matter of politics and political theory – an eschatological perspective (which, by the way, I share also).
    So if we can shelve those concerns for the time being, what emerges is that political thought and theory, like any subject matter, has its natural limits; but there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Even so, and having those limitations in mind, the subject matter of what ought to count as a just state (or any political community) is an important one regardless. Just look how many specious kinds of arguments, even here on BC, evolve because of some basic misunderstanding or unwillingness to consider the principles.

    So in essence, therefore, my thesis is very simple (however limited), one besides with which I doubt would disagree: namely, that some kind of morality is the cornerstone, and the building block, of any just polity or political community – it’s foundation – not a religious or a religious-political community, mind you!

    You bring up the “original,” theocratic form of government of the ancient Hebrews. Wiki definition:

    “It was first coined by Josephus Flavius in the first century AD to describe the characteristic government for Jews. Josephus argued that while the Greeks recognized three types of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and anarchy, the Jews were unique in that they had a system of government that did not fit into those categories. Josephus understood theocracy as a fourth form of government in which only God and his law is sovereign.”

    I suppose in biblical history, it corresponds to the period before the Kings (Solomon being the first, no?) – from Moses onwards, through the rule of the prophets (Samuel?) and the Judges. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Well, however it may be so that the ruler was believed to have a direct connection/line with Yahweh, it still was a government my men – don’t you agree?

    From thence, we have a kind of deterioration as to the form of government – some would say – if theocracy was supposed to represent the ideal form on earth. Monarchy, oligarchy/aristocracy, eventually direct democracy, representative democracy, republic, and so on and so forth.

    Notice, however, that all throughout this “deterioration,” if you like, there have always been attempts to connect the ruler to, and to justify the rule in terms of their connection to, God: “the divine right of kings,” and “vox populi vox dei” being the obvious examples. Heck, Plato himself speaks of “the philosopher-king” as being the most qualified to rule – and for Plato a philosopher was the most enlightened of humans – again, something comparable to your Samuel or King Solomon, no?

    So all throughout history, all just forms of governments, I argue, must be based on and respect the basic morality of the peoples thus governed. Naturally, political theory excludes religion here (and so do I), because that phase is accidental when you consider the history of governments. So if your objection has to do with this aspect of my analysis, maybe we should zero in on that.

    As regards your remarks on Machiavelli, your remarks are well taken, but consider this (and I’m citing here from Robert Nisbet):

    “Machiavelli had no clear idea of the state as an institution, but his perceptions of the nature of political rule and his insights into the relation between ruler and ruled, set forth in his classic The Prince, are among the most profound after Plato and Aristotle [whereas] Jean Bodin’s Commonweale is generally regarded as the first work in political philosophy to set forth clearly and definitively the idea of the modern political state, complete with absolute sovereignty over other institutions and with a corporate identity that is independent of the individuals who may form the government at any given time.”

    Consequently, I excluded the first for the reason stated above; the second, because Bodin did not figure in the Hobbes/Locke/Rousseau state-of-nature paradigm

    As I stated at the outset, this may not answer some of your objections IF what we have here is a type of “culture clash” – between religious and secular thinking. If so, our views may be beyond reconciliation.

    Your thoughts?

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Roger,

    You’ll probably see a response to what you wrote develop before your eyes as you read this.

    For openers consider the following. The narrative of the Books of Samuel and Kings basically describe a situation where the prophet is the supreme authority – the representative of G-d. The king is merely a COO. When this situation changes and the prophet loses his stature because the king (and the high priests he appoints) has decided to chase idols and not G-d, the situation deteriorates from a mixed monarchy with a reasonable amount of justice to a tyranny.

    Example: David, cursed by Shimei as he flees the country with Avshalom hot on his tail, allows Shimei to live and promises that he will not kill him (a task he delegates to his son Shlomo). AHav, king of the breakaway northern kingdom of Israel, goes into a blue funk because Navot, a vintner, won’t sell him a choice field. So AHav’s wife, Izevel trumps up charges of treason and sedition against Navot and has him executed. The kingdom of David sorta pursued justice – the kingdom of Shlomo, by the time he was an old man worshiping idols, no longer pursued justice (see Ecclesiastes), and his son ReHavam was a fool, raising taxes on an already overtaxed people and setting up the situation for a rebellion against him. By the time we get to the days of AHav in the breakaway kingdom of Israel, not only is justice not pursued, but being a prophet of G-d is a very hazardous profession. Yirmyahu (Jeremiah) finds this out as well, as the king in Jerusalem consigns him to a jail cell and destroys his writings (in recounting this, it dawned on me how much the modern day government of Israel resembles the rightfully condemned governments of Yehuda and Israel).

    By the time a just king finally arises in Jerusalem, G-d has lost His Patience. It can be dangerous to fool Mother Nature. It is downright fatal to try to fuck over G-d. King Josiah does what is right – but it is just too damned late.

    Just something to mull over.

    Another point to mull over. The various laws in the Torah that set up this mixed monarchy (or to be precise, allow its development) do not apply to those who are not Children of Israel – that means you and most all the other folks reading this. You are governed by the Seven Laws of Noah.

    They are more general in nature, and allow for a different kind of regime to develop amongst those who are not Children of Israel.

    This is (from my point of view) a forward looking analysis – one that looks forward to the overthrow of the evil entity presently governing in Jerusalem and its replacement with a just régime that indeed pursues justice. Similarly the entities that now oppress you outside of Israel will be overthrown and more just entities will replace them.

    The reason I found what you originally wrote lacking is that you were still “playing in the starting blocks”, Locked in Hobbe-nailed boots that hurt your toes while trying to balance a Plato on your head….

    But in attempting to provide Josephus’ point of view, you’ve made some progress.

    As for Machiavelli, it must never be forgotten that his devious description of how a prince should behave is the effort of a man trying to create a principality (because that is what Firenze was while he was in internal exile) strong enough to eject the Pope, the French and the Austrians, and create a united Italy.

    Machiavelli the cynic was under it all a patriot and a radical, seeking to return his nation to what he regarded as its golden days, Roman Republican rule.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Ruvy,

    We may have here beginnings of a dialogue, I hope.
    You understand, of course, I’ll need a little time to respond.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Don’t worry, Roger. Take all the time you need…..

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Would love to read your stuff but I indulge in this stuff over my breaks and on my short stints of leisure and in between projects.

    Your title sounds like something that I would love to delve into but DANG! Can you make your point in a more concise manner?

    If its solid, you can state in succinctly. It’s the internet man, give us links and we’ll get the picture.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, did you try to get through Part II, Zedd? I kind of had to be methodical there because it’s a complex argument.

  • Zedd

    I will try when time permits.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    OK. We’ll talk then.

  • Baronius

    Roger, I read these articles and threads after seeing your comments about government and power elsewhere. I’m left with the same feeling as Ruvy, but from a Catholic perspective. Aquinas dealt with a lot of questions of politics from a state-of-nature root, and he wasn’t alone. He built on Jewish, classical Greek, and early Christian writings. I don’t really know how the Enlightenment can be seen as the beginning of political and ethical thinking.

    Jewish and Christian political philosophy share two things, a focus on the common good and a low opinion of the decision-making of Adam’s offspring. I think Ruvy will back me on that. But there’s an even deeper similarity, also found in Islam: a sense of order implicit in monotheism.

    If humanity sprang from drops of blood when Marduk killed the great dragon Tiamat, there’s probably no inherent structure in the universe. If matter is a quantum accident and humanity the result of a series of mutations, the same is true. But monotheism intuitively “gets” structure. Creation, existence, judgement, heaven, hell. Things have a reason. This kind of thinking greatly influences a society’s approach to politics. And there are still enough of us that hearken back to that thinking that it’s got to be part of your survey.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Hopefully this weekend will give me some time. I’d like to do more than just glance at it. If your comments on BC are any indication, I think I should like to spend time on it.

    Cindy,

    Re #18.

    I think that tendency comes from an attempt of the lower classes to distinguish themselves within their class as being more like the aristocracy. A lot of comments even here on BC
    support this idea. :o)

    “Blue Bloods” work really hard to convince us that they deserve the distinction that they possess in society. They design a code and off course the lower classes work really hard to decipher it so that they may be considered eligible to be among the better.

    I think that as we evolve we will develop a different understanding of what intelligence is. I think that as we understand the human mind, we will discover a broader sense of the range of our processing capabilities. I’m guessing, the more we learn, the more humbled we will be. Oh how beneficial that will be, however.

    A crude example is that of autistic people who can not speak and low functioning in as far as activities of daily living but have genius abilities in certain areas. These individuals in past years, over human history were considered to be idiots and their range never discovered.

    I could very possibly be veering off topic since I haven’t read the article. But I found your comment interesting.

    My first language is Shakespearean in a way. It’s highly descriptive and emotive yet subtle all at once.. It’s very tongue in cheek and assumes the intelligence of the listener. There’s a use of colloquial metaphors. Often times it takes on a sparring quality between its speakers; each person turning a phrase (almost poetically) in a different direction to entertain and challenge the other. In the exchange, there is an understanding that there is a deeper matter that is going to be revealed. So the expectation of depth is always there. The assumption is that the person speaking is smart enough and has a real point. The challenge is that you had better have a real point. :o) I am not sure if it’s because it evolved out of a more egalitarian society or a society where everyone knew their place and was comfortable with it(??). I’ve been lazy to do the study…. Will some day.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Bar,

    I don’t believe I speak of Enlightenment or refer to it as any kind of beginning. Hobbes had come way earlier, and so did John Locke (with the exception of Rousseau). And even for Hobbes, it was a discovery of sorts, because the classical Greek texts weren’t exactly available. And so my argument, in effect, is that the notion and the idea of modern statehood started with Hobbes.

    To be honest, I am having somewhat of a difficulty in responding to Ruvy’s comments. Part of it, I’m afraid, has got to do with our religious differences – not insofar as beliefs and faith is concerned, because in that respect I’d like to think that we agree more than disagree – but only insofar as his belief appear to color his view of politics – which is to say that he seems bound somehow to consider a political community as somehow intricately connected and inseparable from a religious community. I don’t share those sentiments (but apparently you do, too), and that’s where my problem with a proper response resides. In short, my argument (to Ruvy and the like) really is that however it may have been true that in our distant past, those two kinds of communities may have been intertwined, they’re no longer so, and that the subject matter of politics cuts its own separate universe of discourse, religious concerns aside. And such has been the history of the Western political thought since the Greeks onward – including Hobbes who, by the way, was a religious man.

    Aside from the kinds of questions that Ruvy (and you, too) apparently seem to be raising, the rest of the argument is really simply: that any notion of a just sovereign (or the modern state, if you like) derives its political authority from observing and paying heed to the basic morality/moral code/etc which is shared in common by all those it governs; that moral code is eventually, in the political context, translated into laws.

    That’s only partial, I’m afraid, answer to your concerns, but I appreciate nonetheless you posing the question(s), because I should allow me to get better prepared to the kind of objections that Ruvy raised.

  • bliffle

    The title says it all: “Politics and Ethics: Moral Foundations of a Just State”

    The powerful ALWAYS hark up some ‘ethical’ or ‘moral’ justification for their oppression of the weak.

    George W. Bush said: “The poor are poor because they are lazy”.

    This from a man who never put in a days work in his life.

    The ‘just state’ was summarized by Victor Hugo:

    “The law, in all it’s majesty, declares that rich man and poor man alike are prohibited from sleeping under bridges”.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I second that, bliffle. On another note, one could say that we’ll be judged by how we treat the most unfortunate amongst us.

  • Clavos

    “The law, in all it’s majesty, declares that rich man and poor man alike are prohibited from sleeping under bridges”.

    Except in Miami, where the authorities themselves require sex offenders to sleep under bridges.

  • Baronius

    Bliffle, so now you’re not just accusing McCain of lying about being tortured, you’re failing to cite the source of your Bush quote: Kitty Kelley.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Sex offenders should be controlled and kept at bay rather than simply being allowed even a modicum of liberty – like sleeping under the bridges.

  • Cindy

    “I second that, [too] bliffle. On another note, one could say that we‘ll should be judged by how we treat create the most unfortunate amongst us.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    We have less power over the creation aspect and the misfortune of others; but as regards how we treat them, we have total control.

  • Cindy

    If I support that which oppresses someone, then I am in part an instrument of their oppression. In that way, I create their oppression.

    With your reasoning in #45, we all might be victims who have no responsibility nor even self-determination to even mentally disavow an oppressive system. But rather we should be kind to the victims.

    Consider the consequences of this line of thinking in relation to Nazi Germany.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Supporting or not supporting it is beside the point. As I said in the comment above, most humans have little control over such things. Consequently, all we can do – what’s required of us to do – has got to do with what we can affect and make a difference. It’s not very much, I admit. But that’s all there is.

  • Cindy

    Supporting or not supporting is the entire point. If something has no support it collapses.

    Consequently, all we can do – what’s required of us to do – has got to do with what we can affect and make a difference.

    So, would you say, if we cannot see that it can immediately be changed we should accept it?

    It’s not very much, I admit. But that’s all there is.

    You don’t seem to be considering those who ended slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc. Years and years of struggle in the face of adversity. What would any great change have come to if that were the case?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    All I’m saying there are limits to what people can do.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Interesting!

    Zulus have a concept that is called ubuntu. Take a look-see whenever you get a chance. I won’t go into it because I can’t stand it when Ruvy spends paragraph upon paragraph talking about his people. No one cares that much.

    Now… What I believe Locke talks about really has its foundation in psychological development. It is not innate. It is learned behavior that becomes unconscious. We are who we are because of imprinting. We gain our humanness from watching what humans do. We learn essentially that humans have to give in order to get. Empathy, compassion, patience, and benevolence come out of that knowledge. We gain a sense of what is “natural” from our understanding of what humans do. Sociopaths do not imprint (or attach) well so they behave “un-human” or unnatural. A child who is raised by dogs does not behave “naturally” even though they have the physical capability to do so. They have not learned how to be human. It’s the best argument that an atheist can make.

    Off course we then have the history of human civilization which is basically humans trying out different ways to organize themselves, hitting and missing along the way but progressing for the most part. The more they interact, the more they recognize the humanness in each other and treat each other they way they want to be treated. If you think your tribe consists of the only humans then you can do all sorts of things to the other tribe, perhaps even eat them (???)

    I won’t bore you. You get where all that is going.

    But the inalienable rights start with the individual understanding what being human is. Without that there is no consensus for building societies.

    Did I miss something?

  • Zedd

    Cindy,

    Check me out at #50. This is your field sorta isn’t it. I’m a little mush brained today. Did I get it essentially right? I mean outside of the reason that cannibals actually indulge in cannibalism — I was just trying to make a point there. Did I make my ideas understandable?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    You must realize (I don’t see how you can’t) that with your #50, you presented me with a helluva comment. So do allow me to regroup, and thank you for your participation.

  • Cindy

    Zedd,

    You have some interesting ideas there that relate to what Mark Schannon was saying (much of which is in the comments section). Did you see his article? We’re still having an ongoing discussion related to what you are saying. If you’re interested, I hope you have a look. Your perspective would add something.

  • Zedd

    Glad to oblige. I can’t wait to get your hellva respoonse! A good exchange is almost as good as the best woopie; it and good music.

    I’m in dense mode (I get that way) but I will engage with you. The response may sound flighty but it will have some lucidity. Hopefully enough to keep the conversation interesting for you.

  • Cindy

    Zedd,

    As far as what’s right Zedd, I wish I could say I knew. I suppose we’ll all just have to keep making our best guesses.

    If you think your tribe consists of the only humans then you can do all sorts of things to the other tribe, perhaps even eat them (???)

    This is sort of the same way I see things. That we care most for those in our group and we either ignore (don’t fully comprehend) the humanness of those who we don’t consider part of our group or even do things like eat them.

    I am thinking that if we expand the definition of “our group” to everyone, it might help. what do you think?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    “But the inalienable rights start with the individual understanding what being human is.”

    This may well be the crux of your argument – though I could cite a great many, equally memorable lines. (Bear in mind, this is my first reading.)

    Exactly! But how do we get that understanding? Is it inbred, genetically transmitted, a matter of evolution or hard thinking, something we can logically discern by looking at other forms of life and then realizing, all of a sudden, that we’re different?

    I happen to think it’s what and who we are. Case closed. You may bring divine origins if you like, or the extraterrestrials. I don’t care. There’s something about human species, beyond the animal form, which argues for uniqueness. And in my simple view of things, it all comes down to language. Language is a gift, the only thing of distinction, it’s something that can make us gods or, if we choose, mere brutes. Take language away, and we’re no better than beast of burden – dumb, mute and inarticulate.

    So let this stand as my initial response to your thought-provoking comment.

    Roger

  • Zedd

    Cindy,

    I read that (about expanding our group) on the other thread and I agree.

    The problem is that its really difficult.

    You and I have a connection because we are women. We have disagreed on a couple of issues and duked it out for days but because you are a woman, I have a soft spot for you. Also because boys are smelly ;o). When Maurice is on, even though we have different ideological beliefs on a number of things, he cuts me some slack, cause he’s a brother.

    I think we will do better to acknowledge our affinity for one another because of DIFFERENT reasons instead of hoping that we will accept each other equally at all times. That in the end will help us to be accepting of difference instead of wanting homogeneity.

    Perhaps that is the stage in our social evolution.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    See, just goes to show. I could never be as diplomatic as that.

  • Cindy

    …but because you are a woman, I have a soft spot for you. (me too)

    Also because boys are smelly ;o)

    lol :-)

    I think we will do better to acknowledge our affinity for one another because of DIFFERENT reasons instead of hoping that we will accept each other equally at all times. That in the end will help us to be accepting of difference instead of wanting homogeneity.

    Okay, that is sort of what I think too. I’m not for homogeneity, and tolerance of differences is something I think has to be a part of a solution–along with equal rights.

    (I’m off to bed. I hope you check back at that discussion though. I’m going to post something there tomorrow. It’s probably just getting started. –nite nite)

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Thank you! I became giddy after reading one of your lines but had to compose myself in order to regain my cool points (to myself and my biggest fan, my puppy).

    It’s important to know how we come by our humanness. Understanding that gives or takes away the weight of some presuppositions.

    For example, if we arrive at being human by circumstance, one may conclude that he is “blessed”. Being blessed could result in one being more humble and he may treat his fellow man better as a result.

    I’ll be right back. I have a feeling that I watered down the thrust of what I was going to say because my pup is rushing me. She’s gotta go potty and I have to give good night kisses to the kids.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Good to know you’ve got all kinds of life teeming about. Life is a miracle. And so are humans – even “the worst kind.”

    I like your flair for language. It’s refreshing.

  • Zedd

    So is life a miracle Roger or a fluke?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’s a miracle – no doubt in my mind. How it came about, it’s not for me to tell. But we are divine!

    I’ll continue this tomorrow if it’s OK with you. It’s been a long day, and I’m re-watching my “Elizabeth” movies with Cate Blanchett et al.

    If you haven’t seen it, you don’t know what you’re missing.

    Say hello to the pups and other members of the household.

    Manana

  • Zedd

    ” like your flair for language. It’s refreshing.”

    I think he just called me ghetto. sigh. Roger I’m not really ghetto. I have to work at it. I do confess to being dense though. I have flighty days but on other days, you’d better eat your Wheaties.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    No, Zedd. We all have to work at it, but after a while, it comes “naturally.”

    But I’m gonna check out, as I promised.

    Happy dreams.

  • Zedd

    I saw the first one (Elizabeth movie). Good stuff.

    Enjoy.

    And yes we are indeed divine. I think we’ve only tapped into a small portion of what we are capable of.

    I like you Roger. Good night.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    “What I believe Locke talks about really has its foundation in psychological development. It is not innate. It is learned behavior that becomes unconscious. We are who we are because of imprinting.”

    I’d like to take this as a starting point. Locke’s views concerning epistemology/”theory of knowledge” are important here, because they guide his thinking.

    The expression, Tabula Rasa, is credited to Locke (although the idea goes back to the ancients). We are empty vessels then, according to Locke, born with a blank slate, upon which our experiences make an imprint.

    Locke was the first modern (since the Greeks) – nothing is new under the sun, which is what Aetius (see remark #1) fails to understand – to have launched so-called sense-data theory: fully-developed by David Hume – a theory which survived even to this day (e.g., some of the writings by Bertrand Russell) and which forms an integral part of the British brand/school of empiricism.

    In short, all we have is sense-impressions (sense-data) to go by; and our knowledge of the external world is therefore limited to this and no other kind of data. Hence Hume’s unflinching skepticism.

    I may have to rethink this problem a bit (perhaps Jason C. Campbell will step in and take part), because Locke was also a religious man (I believe); but I don’t thing his belief/faith influences his epistemology.

    The problem you sort of brought to light concerns matter of reconciliation of Locke’s theory of knowledge with his description of humans in “the state of nature,” as having (inalienable?) rights, etc. – which I conveniently grouped by the name of “morality.”

    This is as far as I’m going to go now.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Roger,

    I find your comments rather amusing. Hobbes is the foundation of the modern state? Rather dismissive of all those who came before him, isn’t it? Also, what makes you assume that “modern man” is so advanced, and so much better and so much more civilized than his ancient forbears?

    The Nazi holocaust only differs from more ancient massacres in its more effective use of technology. Otherwise, a pogrom was just as efficient in killing Jews (or others), and Romans took a long time (six centuries) to effect an ethnic cleansing program in Judea because they lacked the technology (railroads, gas chambers, etc.) to speed it up. Lacking the technology, they therefore also lacked the sense of immediacy that much of modern technology implies in its operations.

    But speaking of technology, what makes you think that ancient man was so ignorant of it? Again, it pays to look at the Bible to get an idea of how what is very modern technology was used over three millennia ago.

    The Red Cow [bamidbár/Numbers 19:1-13] used for purification purposes is an excellent example. The text talks of using a cow that is all red and a virgin for purifying altars etc. The cow is burned to carbon entirely and the carbon mixture is mixed with herbs and placed in a container so as to provide “water for sprinkling”. Ever hear of a Britta water filter, Roger?

    The concept of “mixed monarchy” I used in my comment above was not drawn from the Bible – it was drawn from cultural anthropology – an analysis of Lesotho society some 70 years ago. But it applies to the ancient Hebrew monarchy just as it did to the Lesotho under study when I was taking cultural anthro years ago.

    And this Lesotho society was just as effectively governed as a “modern” country. They didn’t have reference to Hobbes or Locke, but they seem to have done alright in terms of governance without them. Hobbes and Locke are all nice, but the concepts use to govern man are far older than either. I look to the Bible for my examples because the idea of ONE G-D provides the underpinning of Unity of Knowledge so necessary for science – and technology….

    Have a good week….
    Reuven

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    As I explained, I’m not in thinking cap mode so I will let lazy Zedd do the talking.

    The most important thing is that we will make the attempt to organize ourselves (establish governments) and we intend to be humane or just, because of that we will progress. What has been challenging for our species is that we are limited by our experiences AND we want to please each other (because we’ve learned that you get if you go along). So unless we have had a taste of a certain experience, it is difficult to make and evolutionary leap and execute something more ideal. While we can imagine a more just society, we don’t know how to pull it off so we accept our current state.

    In the instances when huge leaps were taken, things fell apart. Hitler and his vision of a Utopia for those that he saw as human… Bad example but it was way out and off course failed. Communism – too revolutionary, even though every kid on the play ground can imagine a world where everyone is treated the same regardless of what inborn talents they have. What we do do is inch towards the ideal over time because it isn’t as great a leap. Democracy exists because of those gradual shifts towards a more perfect union.

    I’m trying to remember if I’m still on topic :o)

    On intending to be just:

    Hitler dehumanized non Europeans so he didn’t see his actions as unjust. He was dedicated to uplifted those that he saw as “human”. He behaved naturally. He sought justice for humanity (in his mind).

    Most dictators see their mission to be the best solution for their society and view those who oppose them as standing in the way of implementation of that utopia. They have good intentions in their mind.

    What ends up happening is that we learn from all of the false starts, progressing in our evolution as we strive to create a just society.

    On wanting to please each other: Its difficult to stand up in a group and say “that’s stupid”.

    Gosh, I hope this makes sense. Oh well….:o)

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Off course we then have the history of human civilization which is basically humans trying out different ways to organize themselves, hitting and missing along the way but progressing for the most part.

    I’m not as generous as you are in my view of humanity, Zedd. The ability of the United Nations, allegedly the highest organization of human civilization so far, to ignore the genocides going on in the Sudan or the Congo so as to concentrate all of its attentions on the deaths of a few Arab terrorists in Israel, tells me how little man has advanced over the millennia.

    They are just as savage and petty, and just as willing to ignore the deaths of their fellow humans, as they were when they tossed their deformed kids over a cliff in Scandinavia – or baited bears in Poland.

  • Zedd

    Ruvy,

    I don’t think there were ever any savages, just people encountering other folks that they didn’t understand. In most cases the people who were doling out the title of “savage” behaved more savagely (political spin you know).

    What I meant is that we have Democracy. It come as a result of a lot of hit and misses. We have a body that unites the entire planet. That is a feat.

    Yes, we are still wobbly. I certainly hope no one among us believes that we have arrived.

    “the idea of ONE G-D provides the underpinning of Unity of Knowledge so necessary for science – and technology….”

    Boy we finally agree. What form that Necessity exists in I don’t dare try to discuss.. Alpha and Omega, “all that none greater can be conceived of”?

  • Clavos

    …the United Nations, allegedly the highest organization of human civilization so far…

    Definitely not the way I would characterize the UN.

    I see several individual countries, flawed as they are, as far superior, in their civility and civilization, to the UN; including USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, many EU countries etc.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Ruvy,

    Perhaps there is an honest misunderstanding or two that might clarify.

    1) I’m talking about political theory – not the instances as they occurred in practice. And Hobbes, along with Locke and other theorists represent a certain continuity in political thought until today (and their contributions cannot be ignored)

    2) One reason why the Middle Ages were also called Dark Ages is that a great deal of knowledge from the ancients was not available and required translations by Arabic and other scholars to bring the old knowledge and wisdom to light; you know that of course

    3) Regarding/amplifying point #1: The emergence of the Greek political community (the city-state) was one thing; and it arose due to many varied circumstances – fortification, protection vs. invasions – and a whole bunch of other historical and practical causes; but that’s not the same as efforts by such as Plato and Aristotle to write about politics and the nature of the state/government as the object of theory.

    4) There is nowhere in my comments any suggestion that we’re not indebted to the ancients; I’m more of a classicist that most people on this site to make such a silly claim;

    4) furthermore; the same with my views as regards technology; nowhere did I suggest that its a be-all-end all (after the manner of the Greeks for whom “techne” was just a means to an end, “telos.”

    So no – I’m never suggesting or hinting at the superiority of the modern man. Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics remain – in my thinking – the definitive texts in political theory. As Karl Popper, I believe, was once reputed to say (in the Open Society and Its Enemies) all philosophy is but a bunch of footnotes to Plato. I believe he should have included Aristotle as well.

    I’m not comment at this point on wisdom and usefulness of the scriptures – as wisdom literature among other things; and about other things, I’m certain you could teach me. The reason being is because I want to see how this argument develops first.

    Zedd,

    I’ll come back to you a bit later. Kind of exhausted and wanted to wait with this particular reply to Ruvy, but I decided it couldn’t wait.

    Roger

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Clavos,

    I see several individual countries, flawed as they are, as far superior, in their civility and civilization, to the UN; including USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, many EU countries etc.

    Don’t mention that to the “civilized übermenschen” who walk the halls of the UN building in New York, grateful as all hell that they have a posting in New York City rather than their home countries.

    Of course those “civilized übermenschen” don’t come from the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada….

  • Zedd

    Clav,

    Considering how difficult to get humans to work together, its quite a feat.

    It’s easier to organize a nation. But put together an organization which represents all people on the globe, all religions, all “races”, all cultures, all political ideologies, all classes, most countries…. Come on. Give them their props. T’aint been done.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Zedd,

    What form that Necessity exists in I don’t dare try to discuss.. Alpha and Omega, “all that none greater can be conceived of”?

    The beginning of Wisdom is the Awe of G-d.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    put together an organization that represents….. Taint been done.

    Still taint been done. The UN is a collection of overpaid bureaucrats who have agreed to ignore most murder in the world and concentrate on just a few cases in Israel. They are a tiresome bunch of bastards who deserve not props but the stocks.

  • Zedd

    Did you just call me wise?

    I’d better run.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    Just a quick response to at least part of your comment(s) as I’ve skimmed through it.

    Of course progression of knowledge is evolutionary but I’d say not to the extent that you think. Wasn’t it Ecclesiastes (or Solomon perhaps – Ruvy, correct me!) who said – “there is nothing new under the sun.” It’s great wisdom.

    All the ideas of democracy (even in use today) are ancient ideas – freedom, demos, justice, law – you name it. It’s the whole gamut. Those ideas are perennial – they have and will survive the passage of time. They are ideals in fact – beacons of light.

    So it’s not that we don’t know what to do and that in every step we make we have to stumble. The problem rather is with human nature: or the difference between knowing the walk and walking the walk (From the Scriptures and the Matrix movie as well). Those who are self-centered and put their own self-interests above the interests of the common good are not likely to be converted. Socrates had spent his lifetime arguing that point; and most of the times he was dealing with the sophists (modern-day lawyers). The record in Plato’s dialogues is for all to see: but you can’t convince those who don’t want to be convinced (because you’ve also got to change hearts). So what was Socrates’s end: charges of treason for corrupting the young, And mind you, it was the Athenian society, much more enlightened as a whole than our own.

    You tell me!

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    the Athenian society, much more enlightened as a whole than our own.

    This was a society that was comprised of 90% slaves, Roger – enlightened? The death of Socrates was just the elite trying to keep serious questions from being asked. The vast majority of residents of Athens never got to talk to the man for fear of their masters’ whip.

    I guess this is the reason that I do not look too hard at Greek scholarship. It comes from a society where the vast majority of humans were silenced into slavery. Only the elite got to speak at all. Kind of like South Africa under apartheid, or the American south of 175 years ago.

    For contrast, let’s pull an example of one of the Hebrew prophets, Elisha, the successor to Elijah, was a farmer pushing cattle across a field when Elijah came across him. Saul, the first king of a united Israel was a shepherd on an errand when Samuel anointed him to be king.

    If you open kohelet/Ecclesiastes and actually read it, you will see that King Solomon was using a pen name, “Kohelet”.

    As for the “dark ages” it was Arabs, Jews and Indians who preserved and augmented the wisdom that the Christians finally discovered anew. Mathematics, for example, got one hell of a push from the Hindu concept of “shunyata” – zero or nothingness – that the Persians carried west with the term “cipher”.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m using it restrictively, Ruvy, to 5000 citizens who participated in politics on a daily basis. *t they, not the slaves or non-citizens, who convicted Socrates.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You’re referring to who we know as Avicenna.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, the ancient democracy was direct democracy – certainly not a workable concept today. And yes, they were elitists. Still, Plato and Aristotle will live forever – just like the Hebrew Scriptures will for those who make it an object of study.

  • Cindy

    Sounds like Gone with the Wind and the Romanticized South. Or the romantic notions of chivalry.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Margaret Mitchell’s book will, too.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Socrates was jailed because he was too revolutionary. They weren’t ready for him to put it plainly. Just the point that I was making earlier. He frightened them.

    I am intentionally shying away from referencing the great thinkers of the ages. Doing so somehow detracts from the innateness of the ideas that you are proposing. I understand you using their conclusions as a starting point, but quoting them somehow suggest that what is “natural” had to be “discovered”. In that, I agree with Ruvy. So I will rely on dense Zedd to get to the crux of what we are discussing. If she can get there then its more apt to be “natural”.

    Now…
    The truth is that universal laws exist whether we are aware of them or not. By stumbling upon a conjecture or theory, we come closer to the revelation of all there is. As we make our endeavors; our propositions and computations, we are bound to make errors. However through trial and error, we eventually find the correct answer and get even closer to understanding our universe.

    Whether the end is social or scientific (they converge at some point), the false starts get us closer. Ruvy will argue that we will never reach full knowledge and I am tempted to go back to philosophy but we’ll let Dense Zedd continue…. I’ll have to take a break so she may figure out how to say this without using cliff notes or a cheat sheet.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    I wouldn’t say that with respect to what’s “natural,” as you call it. Civilizations are build by accretion, one stone at the time. So first, you must specify what kinds of things you’re referring here when you use the term.

    But as to discovery bit – yes, wisdom has to be discovered. Doing philosophy is more a business of discovery than of invention.

  • Zedd

    I am really tempted to get into a discussion on reductionism. Things could get really interesting but I will be faithful to Dense Zedd and keep things simple (homage to a discussion on another thread).

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    Don’t be throwing such terms around. I’ve already been accused by the Politics editor that I’m trying very hard to over-intellectualize things. So don’t be adding fuel to the fire).

    Just what “natural” things are you talking about?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You can post your response. I’ll be back in twenty.

  • Zedd

    Roger

    You are a breath of fresh air. Keep at it.

    Natural things: If Locke suggest in essence that what we desire is what we know (because of our nature) we or Dense Zedd possess the ability to decipher what that is because she knows what it is. However, you say it doesn’t matter whether it is innate or comes as a result of imprinting or if God grants it. Sorry if I’m taking you away from your original intent with the article.

    Lets move on

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    I’d make one distinction first (1) between the structure or the mind (as evident by human language); this part, I happen to believe is innate. 2) learning is a matter of accretion (or of developing language). I don’t think there is a contradiction here, or do you disagree?

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Roger,

    My main problem with what you write is that you never go beyond the bounds of standard Western Civ. That’s like my high school social studies teacher who never went beyond the bounds of the State curriculum in teaching about Europe. I got pissed off at him once, asking him why he never taught about Lithuania, Poland, Bohemia and Russia; he just shrugged and said it wasn’t in the curriculum. That doesn’t mean they didn’t exist!

    I use the Bible because I’m most familiar with it, but there are Polish philosophers, Russian philosophers, both accessible to you in the original (unlike yours truly who has to grasp at straws to understand Slavic languages) and many many models of society you can turn to beyond the stale and over-studied Greek ones – and they need not be Biblical either. I mentioned the Lesotho model of mixed monarchy studied 70 years ago, something that Zedd might be more familiar with on a real basis, considering she is from Jo’burg originally, and a lot closer to these places and cultures than I ever will be. The rulers of Lesotho, at the time of the study, probably had never heard of either Lockes or Hobbes (before I got to university, I had heard of lox and locks, but not Lockes – come to think of it, I had heard of hobs, too, but not Hobbes).

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    But Ruvy, my piece wasn’t a historical study, which is valuable in its own right. It was a study in the history of (Western, I must preface) ideas and making certain connections. The thesis I proposed and argued was really very simple. Don’t try to make something of it what it was not intended to be. It was a very limited focus on my part, for BC audience. To develop the discussion more fully I couldn’t do in the space alloted. That’s why I hope this conversation will not died out on this thread because we may hit on some salient points.

    Roger

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I’d make one distinction first (1) between the structure or the mind (as evident by human language); this part, I happen to believe is innate. 2) learning is a matter of accretion (or of developing language). I don’t think there is a contradiction here, or do you disagree?

    I suggest you look at this article for a view on some of this. It’s not on point or directly related to the topic at all, but might give you some food for thought and reflection.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’ll need a little time to read it and respond.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    I had posted (and I was brilliant!!) but I’m in a public setting so I got ousted (electronically) and found myself offline. What a gem it was :o). I will try to get back there. It wont be as genius, I just know it. sigh. My one chance to rid myself of the air head stigma. I could have been a contender. Alas….

    ” between the structure or the mind (as evident by human language); this part, I happen to believe is innate.”

    Kids that are raised by animals don’t speak or communicate in any way that we would consider human language even though they have the capability to do so.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Great piece, Ruvy. You’re quite facile in communicating complex scientific theories.
    I believe it supports my distinction. And the so-called “emergent mind” about to grasp the Idea is comparable (given another universe of discourse) with emergent Unified Consciousness (which, again, is the Mind of God).

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    “But Ruvy, my piece wasn’t a historical study, which is valuable in its own right. It was a study in the history of (Western, I must preface) ideas and making certain connections.”

    Darn it, I wish you hadn’t said that. Then your premise is useless. You cant expand your conclusion to all homosapiens. It’s useless or immature or out dated. If it matters, it has to be “extrapolate-able” to fit all humanity. Your premise began with a claim about our genetic make up.

    Did I just agree with Ruvy again?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    “Kids that are raised by animals don’t speak or communicate in any way that we would consider human language even though they have the capability to do so.”

    That’s a great example and something to think about. So it would seem that there’s a need for a human community. It would appear that language can sprout forth in solitude. There must be a reason – primitive, at first, forms of communication, and them moving on.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    In other words, “the structure of the mind” without language is like a dead stump.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Which also goes to show why humans are not meant to live alone!

  • Zedd

    Our development into “humans” depends on the existence of other humans.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Looks like a necessary ingredient. That’s why “Robinson Crusoe,” in my thinking, was a fable. Not until good boy Friday showed up.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Thanks for the kind words, Roger. Remember I was writing for substantially the same audience here that you were. I was willing to go beyond the standard Western Civ models available to take something that would lead in different patterns of thought. But I shouldn’t pat myself on the shoulder too hard – I may break my arm in the process.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    No, it was a very eloquent piece, and you should be proud. It made some nice connections.

  • Zedd

    Ruvy’s alright. His main flaw is that he hasn’t come to the full awareness of and resignation to Zulu Supremacy. Poor lad. But he’ll do.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Me, too, I’m afraid. What was, BTW, your concentration of subjects?

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    What was your premise again?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I think we moved on beyond that, no – discussing what’s “natural,” etc. You mean the article? Ask a more specific question.

  • Zedd

    Yes the article.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, the premise is that morality is language-based; and so every just state/government is an extension of morality unto political place – as people move from a moral community to a political community. The difference is mainly (ideally speaking) of formalization of unwritten mores (moral code) into laws

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    His main flaw is that he hasn’t come to the full awareness of and resignation to Zulu Supremacy.

    That’s alright Zedd. When the Zulu Defense Force comes marching up the Sinai Peninsula attempting to take Eilat, we’ll worry about Zulu Supremacy. In the meantime, I’ll just have to struggle along with my faulty awareness….

    ;o)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The’re reputed though to be mighty warriors. It wouldn’t hurt to have the Zulu Task Force on your side.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Roger, there are a whole bunch of folks I wish were on our side – like the Pathans (who are indeed descended from Jacob – like me) but these days they are Moslems who are the backbone of the Taliban. So, for the time being, we’ll just have to struggle along with the Jewish boys we’ve got. I’m sure we’ll manage until we get some real Help.

    As for the Zulus, at present, they are OK – except that they swallow all the anti-Israel shit the government of South Africa puts out these days. So they are not likely to be on our side….

    But like the Maoris (and Pathans), they gave the Brits a run for the money. The difference between the Zulu and the Pathans is that the British never defeated the Pathans. Brave warriors that they were (and probably still are), British force of arms eventually did defeat the Zulu.

    That Luo fellow running the States these days is going to find out just how ferocious Pathan warriors really are soon. And it will not be a pleasant discovery.

    It’s getting kind of late. Police volunteers like me need their beauty sleep.

    So, we’ll see you later

  • bliffle

    #42 — Baronius, is erroneous again. He should know better than to make a supposition in order to slime someone.

    “Bliffle, so now you’re not just accusing McCain of lying about being tortured, you’re failing to cite the source of your Bush quote: Kitty Kelley.”

    First, I don’t think McCain lied as much as I think his followers lie and exaggerate about his torture. What I said about McCain were his own words from his interviews after release.

    The Bush quote was NOT from Kitty Kelley (who I would never look to for an accurate quote or anything else; why would you?). It was from an interview with one of Bush’s Profs about 10 years ago before he was a presidential candidate. And Bush said it twice.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    “The difference is mainly (ideally speaking) of formalization of unwritten mores (moral code) into laws”

    Yes!

  • Zedd

    Oh I missed those posts. I didn’t mean to ignore.

    Do utter the word “Zulu” with caution and trembling. Did I say anything about military might? Oh we are charged to tirelessly offer benevolence to the lesser among men… You are forgiven. You may rise. Carry on.

    Don’t ask me how I do it. I’m just kind that way. Generous? Gifted? I cant say. It’s simply my “nature”. I cant take the credit. ;o)

    I’d better go. I’m loosing my cool points again. My puppy is blushing.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, I got tired of waiting yesterday, so I turned in. Do resume because we have unfinished business, no? I think we’re getting somewhere, but I want an intense questions & answers session. I know you can do it.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Don’t be condescending. I’m only pretending to be dense. Sorta.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    I just noticed it (in #99):

    And I quote:

    “But Ruvy, my piece wasn’t a historical study, which is valuable in its own right. It was a study in the history of (Western, I must preface) ideas and making certain connections.”

    Darn it, I wish you hadn’t said that. Then your premise is useless. You cant expand your conclusion to all homosapiens. It’s useless or immature or out dated. If it matters, it has to be “extrapolate-able” to fit all humanity. Your premise began with a claim about our genetic make up.

    Consider that you’re saying here.

    1) a historical/anthropological study/inquiry is an empirical inquiry and it leads to thesis as based on observation. So you must distinguish that first from what’s a premise.

    2) You’re operating, it seems to me, under an erroneous model here. As my quote (which you cite) states, it’s a study in the history of ideas. But why should you think that any less binding and less generalizable than an empirical study? Just think – for Plato, ideas (or the Forms, as some translated it) were eternal, perfect in every way; their manifestations (as everyday appearances) – i.e., their instances as we experience them as reality were not, but not the Ideas themselves.

    So I’m coming from that tradition, and this is a rational inquiry, not an empirical one.

    So are you ready to take back what you said?

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    What do you mean by language?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t have any hidden, metaphysical meaning here. Normal use. It’s how we, humans, communicate, except you’ve got to allow here for symbols – because they might be other forms of “communicating” (in the animal kingdom, e.g) which do not make use of symbols; and I wouldn’t want to deny the communication faculty to other species.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    “Don’t be condescending. I’m only pretending to be dense. Sorta.”

    Why would you assume that I am?

  • Zedd

    So you mean human exchanges not language.

  • Zedd

    If you mean what I think you mean then YEP!

    Roger you don’t need Locke to come to that conclusion.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Now, that’s condescending.

    And that.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    We won’t get to second base till we clear this up.
    Sorry.

  • Cindy

    con·de·scend·ing (knd-sndng)
    adj.
    Displaying a patronizingly superior attitude.

    Keep at it Roger, you can get the meaning, whether you realize or not, I know you can do it!

    (sorry for butting in, sorta)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I well know the meaning of the term. Don’t need you to be giving me lessons in English.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Relax. Your inner nerd is showing – not the nouveau sexy kind either, the drooling version.

    Cindy was kidding, sorta.

  • Clavos

    Don’t be condescending.

    Annoying, isn’t it, Zedd?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, I don’t care for your comments either. So unless you explain yourself, we have no conversation. You wouldn’t be saying shit like that to me in person – if you knew me, that is. So the internet is no excuse.

  • Zedd

    Now lets move on.

    What’s next. We are who we are and we do what we do and learn how to organize ourselves better as time progresses. Where do you see the next stage of development, politically. Where do you see our species going?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You’re crazy if you think I’m going to carry conversation with you on those terms.

  • Zedd

    Clav,

    It’s my fault. I told him that I was dense.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Calm down. Now please entertain my comment. Pleeeeeeeeeeease with a donut on top?

  • Zedd

    I have a kooky sense of humor. Please continue. I enjoy engaging with you. I told you, its almost better than woopie. Let’s do it. Please

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t consider such insinuations one bit humorous. It makes for an uneven exchange; and I won’t participate under the circumstance, unless you come clean.

  • Zedd

    Come clean with what?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Your perception that I was condescending.

  • Zedd

    I forgive you.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You’re skirting the issue. I haven’t done anything to merit yours or anyone else’s forgiveness.

  • Zedd

    Then will you forgive me?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I haven’t taken any offense. Just that until this gets resolved between us, it’ll loom forever in the background. Not good for communication.

  • Zedd

    You simply cant be upset about me calling you out on being condescending. I know guys. Its an ego thing. Here’s a hug. Now man up and lets move on.

    “1) a historical/anthropological study/inquiry is an empirical inquiry and it leads to thesis as based on observation. So you must distinguish that first from what’s a premise.

    2) You’re operating, it seems to me, under an erroneous model here. As my quote (which you cite) states, it’s a study in the history of ideas. But why should you think that any less binding and less generalizable than an empirical study? Just think – for Plato, ideas (or the Forms, as some translated it) were eternal, perfect in every way; their manifestations (as everyday appearances) – i.e., their instances as we experience them as reality were not, but not the Ideas themselves. ”

    Am I to assume that 1) only Western ideas can or have been formalized into theory. 2) Are we now decrying metaphysics a wash. Are we now limiting the expanse of what is knowable because it doesn’t fit into a particular category or hasn’t been discussed in the past by those that we are familiar with?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m not upset, Zedd. It’s just for as long as you think I’m doing it, it’s a no go – not an equal level playing field, you see.

    Nothing to do with pride or ego – just an obstacle to a conversation.

    It’s part of intellectual training not to be condescending, because a true dialogue is an exchange among equals. So I don’t do the kinds of things you suppose in principle and as a matter of habit. If you object to aspects of my style, then say so; but I will need examples.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Come on lets do it! Don’t be mad.

    What do you say? Move on?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I stated my case as clearly as I can. I have nothing to add.

  • Zedd

    :o) Clever and cute wasn’t I on the last post? Admit it.

    Okay, I get it. I do the same thing and Clavos and the rest accuse me of being condescending (see 132). Only it doesn’t bother me as much as it does you. I just tell them they misunderstood and move on. Thats BC for you. NOW are we on?

  • Zedd

    Come on…!

    Is that a smile I see there?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    This is my last posting in this regard.

    I said it doesn’t bother me. And my denying it ain’t gonna cut it for me. I don’t give a hoot about Clavos or the others. You impugned on me, so the onus is on you. I don’t have to defend myself to you or to anybody. Case closed.

  • Cindy

    (Zedd, I figure since Roger said the case was closed, I might be able to put in my two cents without interrupting your exchange.)

    Roger,

    These are my imperfect thoughts. Related to the above and to the comments in another thread.

    I see you as having the best motive at heart. You seem to want to offer aid in furtherance of rational discourse. You offer praise when you see evidence of this. But not the praise of a cheering equal, more the praise of an approving teacher. You offer direction or criticism when you see people veering astray. By your own words, you wish to “cure” people of their–what? their flawed styles of arguing and sloppy thinking?–push them to be rational, maybe?, help them develop better habits? I don’t know what to call it exactly.

    Is any of this close?

  • Clavos

    Ladies, you are both far more patient than I, probably because you both have experience with children.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I was being rash when I said what what you’re alluding to in your last paragraph. Even if I have some such thoughts now and then, I should have never expressed it – if for no other reason it’s self-defeating.

    But I do believe in certain standards as regards an honest debate/dialogue. And among the first things I must count an assumption of good faith/good will on the part of both participants. Henceforth, I don’t see any purpose or gain to be derived if those rules are not adhered to. And there cannot be an equal, even exchange for as long as they’re not. That’s why I don’t care to engage myself with people whom I regard as sophists (and have disengaged in fact). It serves no purpose.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Fuck off!

  • Cindy

    I should have never expressed it – if for no other reason it’s self-defeating.

    Well, I am glad you did. As I think it might be a source of problems. Even if you hadn’t expressed it, people are generally keen in sensing such things.

    And were there such a hidden motivation it might hold problems for being able to accomplish this:

    And among the first things I must count an assumption of good faith/good will on the part of both participants.

    …as good faith and an expression of wanting to be on even ground is not possible if one party is placing themselves secretly in the role of teacher, regardless of how noble their motivation.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I am not placing myself, as you say, “secretely …” one way or another. The reason why I shouldn’t have said it in public I provided. A Socratic method of questions and answers is a tool, so yes, I do employ it – in order to advance the dialogue. But with those I can, I engage on even grounds because all open minds are on an equal level. So if I do leave the impression of “being/acting as/ a teacher, I don’t mean it because it’s not me. No doubt, my rash statement contributed to that impression.

    On the other hand, I have nothing to apologize for being confident as regards my thinking. I believe in intellectual integrity, I believe further that I practice it. And if I’m proven wrong, I also believe I’m humble enough to admit it. So no apologies are necessary.

    Since you’re intervening here (and I don’t mean it in any bad way), why don’t you answer the question I put to Zedd, which she chose not to respond to.

    Look at this thread for our exchanges and show me the example(s) of my condescending. I think it’s a fair question, because if I am doing it (or perceived as doing it), it’s something I’d want to correct, because I certainly don’t want to leave this kind of impression.

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    Yes, I’m interviewing. I considered whether it was appropriate and looked at the comments in two threads begging for discussion, and I felt it was an opportunity. So, thanks for allowing that.

    Okay, so here’s my example. I think this is the phrase that caused the problem.

    “I know you can do it.”

    I think the reason is that the phrase implies a hierarchy in the relationship. Even though it was given with an intention of encouragement. It is the encouragement one give to someone who is “weaker” (possibly “weaker” is an inadequate choice of word here).

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “”I know you can do it.”

    Meant as “go ahead,” “give it a shot,” “providing encouragement,” “issuing a challenge,” things of that sort.

    Not meant to be condescending.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Listen, I get what you were saying. I told you I did. It’s very rude for you to say you don’t care about Clavos…. You shouldn’t have brought his name up. I’m guessing however that you are not so socially adapted.

    You probably didn’t pick this up in our exchange, I’m not impressed. If you want to have a dialogue, lets. Use your noggin. Quit hiding behind the philosophers of old who had enough smarts to figure things out for themselves. You are offended because I basically said “big wup” or “so” to your premise. Our political structure comes from language which is an expression of our nature – SO. Off Course! Look we have a world of information that Locke and his lot didn’t have. USE IT. I get the Socratic method, I use it with my kids but just because it was done then (a google years ago by some guy who liked being a big shot with young kids) doesn’t mean it is holy, neither is any other method or notion that has come to be revered.

    Now if you want to discuss a topic, lets. I will resume with glee. But if you are more romantically attached to a method of exchange (that neither one of us ever contracted to) then that is problematic.

    I enjoy good dialogue so much that I’d be willing for us in the future to agree on the terms of our discussion then you will have a legitimate reason to find the veering off from it to be of putting. As things are right now, you are being silly. If I hadn’t read your mini bio, I would have thought you were 12yrs old.

    I’m offended that you didn’t find my attempt to make good with you charming or at least cute. (I’m joking, before you start throwing another tantrum). I’m not offended just stunned that you didn’t see my cuteness. I’ll have you know, I’m really adorable.

  • Zedd

    Cindy,

    I really do get what he was trying to do. Tone and inflection is difficult to pick up. He should however be willing to say that he sees how it might have come across as condescending. Also, yes the discussions on BC are a little shallow. I can see why he assumed that he was the teacher at some level. What was ridiculous was the pouting that went on after I brought his condescending tone to his attention and couldn’t let it go.

    I don’t mind the Socratic method. It’s fun. Rodger is just wound a little tight and is very literal and that ignites my silly gene. The mix of the two personality types doesn’t always work.

    Overall, he’s a guy. It’s an ego thing. It always is when they act up. I still like him.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    Number one: “It’s very rude for you to say you don’t care about Clavos…. ” This brings nothing to the table; and I had my reasons for saying that, just as he had his. It was a good parting.

    I don’t find it cute when you are disparaging my character or question my intellectual integrity. I ask you for specific examples, but you refused to provide any. Since you were the one who leveled that against me, it was up to you (not Cindy) at least to try to substantiate your claim; but no, you didn’t care to and just allowed to let it stand. And it stands therefore as a barrier to our conversation. I don’t know how much plainer can I be.

    And if it’s true that cannot understand what I’m saying, then indeed there is nowhere further for us to go. And I would feel sorry for the fact, because you have an engaging mind, and it would be a loss not to have you around. So either deal with what I’m saying or forget it.

  • Cindy

    It’s something to consider, that phrased as such, it is understood to be encouragement that implies perceived weakness.

    It seems appropriate for a teacher, where the student has agreed to the lessons or perhaps a parent to a child. It’s difficult to think of it being an exchange between two equals though (unless one has agreed to be assisted).

    Consider whether, As an equal, you would use the same wording with a teaching colleague in a debate.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Cindy,

    It was my article, for crying out loud. Zedd had questions concerning it; so rather than just responding it, I was asking her to come up with her own thoughts about it. Nothing fucking wrong with that. First off, my answers wouldn’t go as far. And since she’s capable of thinking for herself, it’s always best when people come up with their own ideas rather than being told what the answer may or may not be. Besides, her own thoughts would provide further stimulation to my thoughts – and so on and so forth – and that’s how a dialogue goes. So there’s a selfish reason for me to do that anyway – because all mind reaching mind is interplay. No other way to go beyond where you’re at, and I’m always willing to go beyond. I expect the same of the participant.

    So I’ll have this to say: to accuse me of being condescending here is not only childish. It’s a display of a false sense of intellectual modesty. Minds are fearless; and I’m always going to proceed on this assumption until proven otherwise.

  • Zedd

    Both of you stop! It’s ridiculous.

    Roger, I didn’t answer you because it was silly. It still is. You didn’t answer my question and you don’t see me acting a nut on the world. I’m here to discuss issues. A few personal exchanges are fine but really…. If your feelings are getting hurt and you cant go on unless I really couldn’t tell you what, then maybe this isn’t your arena.

    You read that Cindy and I have gone toe to toe, seriously on a couple of topics but I didn’t take it personally. It was all about he topic. Here we are today scratching our head about you.

    IT WAS OVER. Are you alright?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Not until you take it back!

  • Zedd

    didn’t answer my question and you don’t see me acting a nut on the world wide web- that is
    :o).

  • Zedd

    I take it back.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    We can proceed then. What was your question?

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    6 people, some of whom hold very disparate philosophies, have said they noticed a similar thing. It’s up to you whether to dismiss this as unfounded or not.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Sorry, I don’t count noses. I gave you my account as to what I was doing and why in #165. So if you want to deal with that, I’m game. If not, I’m not going to respond to statistics.

  • Zedd
  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, but not for Marvin Gaye. I’m listening to Met Opening Gala.

  • Zedd

    What’s next. We are who we are and we do what we do and learn how to organize ourselves better as time progresses. Where do you see the next stage of development, politically. Where do you see our species going? Share your vision of utopia.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Outside my expertise, I’m sorry. If we recover from this crisis with private enterprise still intact but properly regulated, there may be a kind of renewal of the idea of America (I wrote about it in Hidden Dimension of American Politics, Part III, on BC). If not, check my The New World Order, Parts I and II, also on BC. But neither are utopias. I don’t believe any such thing can happen on this here earth.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m out of cigarettes. Back in twenty.

  • Cindy

    Zedd, just so you understand why I butted in, I’ll just say, Roger and I have been through similar misunderstandings numerous times. And there was yet another on another thread at the same time.

    Roger,

    Sorry, I don’t count noses.

    In each incident the same problem seems to crop up. These “noses” as you say, have provided feedback. Therefore, it’s not about statistics (in saying the majority must be right), it’s about hearing the same feedback from many people, and considering whether they are all wrong or whether there may be something to what they are saying. But, you know this already and it’s your choice if you want to disregard it.

    I don’t really have anything else to say regarding the above.

    Back to my homework.

  • Zedd

    Opera huh. It’s alright. I prefer funk and off course Choral Music (LOVE Handel) Big fan of The Kings College’s renditions and off course SA music. Music is a transcending thing. What a gift.

  • Zedd

    Cindy,

    It needed to be said. Only I don’t think he didn’t understand as much as he pretended not to so I ignored. Pride is a huge thing.

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    You have to be able to extrapolate. Are you simply a historian?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Cindy,

    Re #178. If you wish to peg me one way or another, if it makes you comfortable, fine with me. And let’s just leave it at that.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Zedd,

    Re #180. Why don’t you two ladies, then, have your own conversation? I’m butting out, and that’s final. It’s been nice while it lasted.

  • Zedd

    Oh grow up.

  • Cindy

    Kids gloves needed in the “fearless minds” aisle!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t want to be rude, but if you insist I will. So you can bug off. No more responses from me.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And you, too!

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Is this BC Politics or BC Playpen? Hard to tell from the comments.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    My stars and garters! What a mess! Sixty comments and not a damned thing said!

    Mr. Comments Editor: A point of Order, please? Is there some way you can erase the last sixty odd comments on this thread as being more like a Joseph Heller novel (Good As Gold) than a comment thread?

    Then maybe we can get beyond Roger’s pride and Zedd’s pleasure in dangling a fish on a hook and learn something?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’d done, Ruvy; but if you wish to join the chorus, go for it. But it’s going to be a one-way conversation.

    Respecfully,

    Do we still have points of difference with respect to earlier comments, or shall I consider this matter as closed?

  • Cindy

    Roger,

    That was honest criticism Roger. I’m sorry if you can’t see that. And I’m also sorry to see that with Zedd you couldn’t have a sense of humor. Because humor is a way of being friendly and reaching out to lighten conflict.

    I suppose that having respect for you is what causes me not to just have given up long ago. At some point I stop trying, but it’s generally at the point I’ve lost respect for a person.

    To hold oneself up as the arbiter of rational discourse and yet to be found to be as flawed as the rabble must be difficult.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    I keep seeing this, or some variation on the same theme: I’m butting out, and that’s final. I haven’t counted, but there must be half a dozen such solemn promises on this thread alone. It just doesn’t happen.

    Can’t we have a virtual pie throwing contest, or a separate thread for that sort of stuff or something else less diverting?

    Dan(Miller)

  • Cindy

    I choose chocolate cream pie.

    Dan(Miller), I do hope you will thaw your pie out this time.

  • Clavos

    Dan(Miller), I do hope you will thaw your pie out this time.

    Spoilsport :>)

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Roger,

    Zedd was carrying a lot of my points for me until the two of you got all bollixed up like a lox omelet.

    The difference between her and me is that she has a sense of humor and I’m a humorless sourpuss (except when I’m not). Also, she was doing a better job of making my points than I was. I like to talk, but I do know when to shut the hell up.

    To bottom-line it all, I tend to go to my wisdom literature because it’s got what the Greeks don’t got – wisdom. Frankly, when I read the Books of Samuel and Kings, I see more reality and intelligent analysis of how real people behave than all the Greeks, Romans, and other European philosophers stacked in a pile. I read kohélet/Ecclesiastes and see a man disappointed in fucking up the fantastic possibilities he had, and knowing it – too damned late for it to do him any good. I read the tehillím/Psalms and read a young man crying out for justice/protection/salvation all at the same time – with an eloquence that few can match.

    And in the spirit of all that I read above, I sense what the elements are for the moral foundations of a just state. Then I read yehezkél/Ezekiel and see how this just state was foreseen two and a half millennia ago.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    What? Where? What’d I miss? Who brought pie?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Ruvy

    I’m not arguing of course there aren’t other sources. And in this regard, I might add, I could be at a disadvantage. But I do know about the value of wisdom literature, so how can I discount it’s importance?

    By the same token, I’d like to argue that wisdom was not the exclusive province of the Hebrews.

    Don’t you agree, in a way, that all roads lead to Rome?

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    By the same token, I’d like to argue that wisdom was not the exclusive province of the Hebrews. Don’t you agree, in a way, that all roads lead to Rome?

    I have to apologize, Roger. I’m tired and this will be my last comment for the evening. Wisdom literature was not the exclusive province of the Hebrews; there are the Hindus and Chinese who also have a rather large body of wisdom literature to look at. But I know of neither enough to dare to quote them. As for all roads leading to Rome – that was the problem – they ought to have been leading to Jerusalem.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Pick it up at any later time, then, Ruvy. I think we still have an issue or two.

    Roger

  • Zedd

    I’m in a long as someone throws an apple pie or a peach cobbler at me.

  • Cindy

    I don’t have any pies, just lasagne. I can throw that at you.

  • Zedd

    Sprinkle some feta and we are on!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Ruvy (re #198)

    “As for all roads leading to Rome – that was the problem – they ought to have been leading to Jerusalem.”

    Is this, then, our bone of contention – my referring to a secular political community and you to a religious and political community?

    Rome was only a metaphor here (merely noting the fact that wisdom is not an exclusive province of anyone: all cultures and civilizations are no strangers to it). But you seem to be making a distinct point, to say the least.

  • bliffle

    Baronius: “”Bliffle, so now you’re not just accusing McCain of lying about being tortured, …”

    I didn’t accuse McCain of lying, because I have no way to know. I said no one witnessed his torture. On the other hand, that was customary for the VC. Probably, they thought it was better to torture POWs privately, the better to sow dissension and suspicion.

    FWIW, I think McCain has been properly modest about his Vietnam experience. But many of his supporters are absolutely mad about the torture thing and have exaggerated his experience into qualifying him for near sainthood.

    Are you one of those?

  • Baronius

    Bliffle, I don’t know why you’d make that comment about McCain unless it was to raise doubt about his torture. It’s like me saying that Joe Biden probably didn’t kill his first wife. It’s a coy way of implying something that I can’t state outright. Is there any other way for me to interpret your statement?

    I disagree with your other comment as well. I think McCain milked his Vietnam record mercilessly to distract from his fairly mediocre legislative record.

  • bliffle

    Are we simply too readily accepting the intersection of morals and politics when we say:

    “Politics and Ethics: Moral Foundations of a Just State”?

    We have oversimplified. There is no necessary connection between the two. Indeed, many political systems are amoral and seem to go on functioning quite well on behalf of their operators, although they sometimes contrive a spurious moral theme as propaganda against enemies of the State.

    Does the bee swarm have some consciousness of ‘morality’? It seems to have some kind of politic, as new bees are assigned necessary tasks, and they accept them and perform them. The gregariousness and group goal of the hive seems to make the system work without any apparent morality. It could be a model for human society: indeed, the Fourier Societies of Europe (many of which were founded in the New World many years ago) used the bee hive as a symbol (sometimes in the NE USA you can still find the carved bee hive over the door of a very old barn).

    Apparently we bring morals into politics to force people, through the power of the state, to behave better.

    But it’s not a power-sharing deal: the political always subordinates the moral, and so the powerful in politics use morality to oppress the weak. They have no intention of following any moral obligations themselves.

    The conjunction backfires on moralists: soon they are thrown into dank cells and tortured for their ‘sins’, as defined and implemented by The State.

    Perhaps the only morality that can survive is the morality of a person who stands outside the state and rejects personal power. One thinks of Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Thoreau, who had no defense against the state, commanded no armies, had no staff. Whose only tool was the apparent justice of their personal morality.

  • Cindy

    #206

    Excellent.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Bliffle,

    As much as I respect you and don’t disagree with many of your points in #206, I believe you’re missing a point or two concerning the thrust of my argument:

    1) I’m talking about a “just state,” so obviously what you say about polities which “do quite well for its operators” – a valid point in its own right – it not pertinent to my discussion which is in the realm of political theory (i.e., what it ought to be like) rather than practice. Consequently, the connection I’m arguing for is not one of contingency – i.e., with respect to what obtains in practice – but of theoretical necessity.

    2) Your “bee swarm” analogy is interesting but I don’t know to what extent helpful. Of course animal forms have organization, but how it comes about – most say by instinct – is for us to wonder. In humans, though instinct has not been totally extinguished, we have acquired other means – such as culture and (human kind of) language, and in that we’re different from the rest of the animal kingdom.

    3) In a sense, this is amplification of #1. Again, the use of morality (or of religion, for that matter) by the powers that be (or “the operators,” as you called it) for their own purposes in order to rule and to enslave is a fact I cannot of course deny. But then again, I’m taking about how a just state ought to be constituted – not about the proliferation of forms of government which are in practice corrupt and oppressive.

    4) While I agree with you that personages like Jesus, Gandhi or Buddha are the epitomes of moral way of life, this is not to detract from us, lesser mortals, who also are, first and foremost, moral agents and beings.

    If this did’nt exactly address all your objections and problems you’ve found in my argument, let me know.

    Roger

  • Cindy

    A “just state” is an oxymoron.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Rome was only a metaphor here (merely noting the fact that wisdom is not an exclusive province of anyone: all cultures and civilizations are no strangers to it). But you seem to be making a distinct point, to say the least.

    You bet I am, Roger.

    Rome was a “civilization” of savagery. Slaves were kept in cages, women and children were the property of the “paterfamilias” to be disposed of at will, citizenship was the privilege of the few – “civitas romanus est” was the statement of the rich man attended by a retinue of slaves. The poor were terribly poor and in terror of the rich.

    Hebrew culture was, by comparison, humane and egalitarian. There wasn’t a huge amount of slavery, the Torah prescribes humane treatment for slaves, and Hebrew culture had a tradition of prophets who stood for justice and righteousness when the kings and others wouldn’t.

    Roman culture celebrated death – Hebrew (Judean) culture celebrated, and still celebrates, life. Jews have given the world a humane code of law and are still hated for it.

    Your choice of metaphors shows the real face of “Western Civ” – in the end a culture that worships sex, fear and terror (Aphrodite, Deimos and Phobos), and ultimately death.

    On such a basis, you cannot have a moral state, or morality.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Ruvy,

    OK, so we do have a disagreement here – the nature of which, all along, I suspected. A “culture-clash” of sorts. I hoped it wouldn’t come to that but hey – we both grownups and so we’ll go for it.
    Response forthcoming shortly.

    Roger

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Alright, Ruvy. Here’s the big one.

    I’ll try to be as tactful as I possibly can, but there is a clash and I’m bring it into the open. Even if it can’t be resolved, it has to stated.

    You know of course that “Rome” – secular and barbaric as it was – also represented the climax of civilization to the most peoples at the time – Pax Romana, Roman Law, the invention of civil service during the Augustus era. I say “most” because it wasn’t viewed so by the Hebrews. And understandably so. But that’s a rather minor point – and I wouldn’t bring it up if it didn’t lead to another.

    So first, let me put this deceptively simple question to you. We do speak, however loosely, of the Judeo-Christian tradition and civilization. Am I therefore to understand by virtue of your comment that you consider this to be fiction. Offhand, it’d seem to me that Western Civilization (as you speak so dissmisively of it) has absorbed (to the extent possible) the Hebrew tradition – the Hebrew Scriptures, the biblical history of the Jewish people, the place and times that gave rise to Christianity, and generally speaking, the contribution of Judaism and Jewish history, etcetera and etcetera, to Western ways of thinking and civilization. You, on the other hand, assume (for lack of a better word) the position of a separatist, disclaiming thus any connection, the intermingling of cultures, and so on and so forth. The Jewish people, on this view which you seem to espouse, stand separate and apart from the rest of the world, completely unto themselves, their own culture and their own devices – as though representing a chunk of humanity separate and distinct from anyone and everyone. So before I proceed, is this really your view? And how representative is it of other Jewish people, present and past, the Israelis, you name it?

    I have an experience to relate. While at Brooklyn College in the sixties, I befriended a Hassidic Jew – in one of our sociology or anthropology classes. I can’t speak about it in general because my experience is rather limited: this one person and one person only.

    And you know the usual background. Jeshiva University or Baruch College, then “secular” learning at the secular universities. Study Talmud and Tanach since they’re babes. Tremendous intellectual disciple instilled from the get-go. And it all shows in how well they all do in secular institutions of “lesser learning.”

    We had two classes together: one in anthropology and another one in introductory philosophy. And we wrote a joint paper for each; I suppose he must have respected my native intelligence (because I was nowhere near as schooled as he was) to even consent to a project in common.

    And you know what? I don’t remember detecting any bias or prejudice on his part – mind you, from a Hasidic Jew raised in the most severe and extreme of circumstances (most of them are poor but oh, so studious)- insofar as trying to inject his Jewish identity, his biblical and Talmudic knowledge, his superiority – into the subject matter at hand. We had totally immersed ourselves in the subject matter – yes, the stinking Western ideas and theories, and Western ways of thought – as though his Jewish heritage didn’t matter at all. I appreciated then, and you know what – I appreciate it today even more, especially in light of the kind of things you are saying.

    So my question, I suppose, is: how representative is your thinking? Do you regard your views as idiosyncratic and it shared by many of your compatriots. Judging by my experience of attending and graduating from the Israeli high school, that’s not what I encountered. My high school friends, bright without exception, were quite open-minded and quite open to the ways of the West. So what am I to think?

    Roger

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Jewish thought has evolved in the last 45 years or so since you graduated from an Israeli high school. Our view of ourselves has changed somewhat, particularly in light of “civilized” westerners screaming “Jews to the ovens!” not so long ago in demos all over the world – in places like LA, San Francisco, Miami, London.

    Forty-five years ago, the west had a shine to it that it no longer retains. In 1965, Israel was a far more secular country than it is now. And my view of the Jewish people as a people to be counted apart from Mankind is far more common now than it was then. Heck, I didn’t even have that view then! Israel, since then, has contributed substantially to the computer revolution that has overtaken the world; firewalls and all sorts of programs that are too numerous to mention are Israeli products, even if produced for foreign owned corporations.

    What is happening is that the more we are demonized outside of Israel and by the native Hebrew press, the stronger our particularism and sense of separateness from the rest of the world becomes.

    So, for example, the stinking little Nazi bastard who is now the pope will be accompanied by the State President of Israel when he visits here in May, a man who admires the west – but most of us don’t want the SOB to show up. Let Ratzinger stay in Rome, or better yet go to the mountains of Germany where he belongs. He has no place here, and no business here, and represents the worst of your alleged civilization. We don’t need trash like him to come here and pretend to be morally superior to his “elder brothers in faith” – while he pursues a strategy of stealing our holy city for his pagan hosannas and his pagan church.

    Christianity is an attempt to steal the basic precepts of Hebrew culture, meld it with pagan Greek ideas, and then to cut off the Hebrews from that culture which was stolen. That is what “replacement theology” is all about. Catholicism is just the most obvious of the Christian denominations which believe this and whifh havwe tried to make it so.

    Christian “civilization” which is what “Western Civ” really is, is merely the culture of pagan ideas that you follow – and that we Jews see less and less value in. The neo-paganism that afflicts Europe these days, the anti-clerical spirit that has emptied the churches there, is merely the final stage of a culture that continually takes a saw to itself, cutting itself from its own roots, just as it has taken a saw cutting itself from its Hebrew roots (and trying to murder off the Jews in the process to keep the cut clean).

    It is no accident that the acme of that culture, the United States, is in the midst of an economic crisis that is becoming worse by the day, and that is decimating it. You are seeing the final days of Christian culture, the final days of Christian civilization before it collapses on its own insanity – for it is insane for a man to cut himself off from his roots.

    Your culture is sawing itself down until it will fall, like a cursed tree.

    That’s how I view it all.

    Sorry if I do not seem as polite or gentlemanly as you are.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Ruvy.

    There was nothing impolite about your remarks. So you’re saying, in effect, that the present Jewish mindset – to the extent that it is separate and distinct – is the result of (how shall I say?) a kind of separation that has been imposed on it by the West, coupled of course with the general deterioration of the Western culture.

    I don’t disagree, BTW, as regards the latter proposition: the culture is deteriorating, and quickly; the extreme secularization, loss of moral compass, disintegration from within. And perhaps it’s the way with all civilizations: they rise and they fall. And I view it as a tragedy>

    Why? Perhaps because unlike you, I don’t have other identity. And so I’m afraid of losing all that West has produced. I know you’ll disagree with me here, but I think or music, visual arts, of literature. I well know it’s history has been checkered, but there was also greatness. Again, because I have no other sources, I cling to those that are available to me.

    I’m certain that you understand.

    Roger

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Of course I understand, Roger. I’m a product of American culture, just as you are a product of Polish culture and American culture. And in the coming maelstrom I have more than a few tunes to lose. Most of my family has chosen to remain in America. I fear that I may lose them as well, as my father lost his family at Treblinka in 1939 (he had moved to the United States in 1921).

    We live in interesting times, Roger. I’m really beginning to comprehend why that is a curse.

    I have to turn in. It’s after 01:00 here and it’s time for this ol’ pup to cut some zzz’s…. So I’ll catch you again tomorrow, G-d willing, after I go to Jerusalem to get some cat litter….

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Stay well!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Ruvy,

    This is somewhat off the topic (but still relevant, I think, in an odd kind of way).

    What do you think of Woody Allen? A good or a bad Jew? A healthy specimen or a total sellout?

    His is a perfect example, I think, not just of assimilation but of total integration of cultures – of the West (and New York in particular) and the Jewish background and themes; and in a healthy kind of way, without compromising his identity but in fact accentuating it, making it vibrant and full of vigor.

    That’s one thing a value most about America. It allows people of all ethnicities and cultural background to sort of intermingle and interact with the best possible result. No other place on earth allows for this kind of dynamism and freedom. I know that “the melting pot” is an outdated and perhaps obsolete by now term; but, by golly, that’s what it was like – multi-culturalism at its best. Nobody was a looser; everyone was a winner.

    If you haven’t yet, you must get hold of a “little” book, “Of Time and The River,” by Thomas Wolfe, a heckuva Southern writer.

    It’s biographical of course (what novel isn’t?) and it tells of a young Southerner making his first time to The Big City, of the culture shock at first but eventually befriending some Hasidic and other Jews in the Williamsburg Bridge/Delancy Street district – of his travails, paramours and misadventures.

    It’s delightful reading. It’ll make you laugh and cry at the same time.

    Roger

    PS: I was trying to post this comment early this morning when all of a sudden my broadband connection went dead. I thought they disconnected my service because I’m a week behind. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Well, apparently they haven’t done it yet, so I’m OK. Talk to you later.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    What do you think of Woody Allen? A good or a bad Jew? A healthy specimen or a total sellout?

    I try not to think of Woody Allen, Roger. He is the most famous graduate of the high school I attended, Midwood High School, and when I got a job recruiting for CUNY after finally graduating college, I went back to my alma mater to recruit kids; next to the huge wall photo of the late principal (the fellow who was the principal when I went to Midwood) was an equally huge photo of Alan Koenigsberg, the original name of Woody Allen.

    Allen was a tremendous talent, an excellent comedy writer who was one of the great writers on “Your Show of Shows” with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca in the late ’40’s and early ’50’s (before even this old dinosaur’s day). He was great with parody and damned funny. And he was a good film-maker, at least in the beginning.

    But he was a lousy Jew, a sellout to the culture around him and looking at his writing even in the fifties, one could see the pedophilia that would plague him later in life. Allen is an old man now, and if the girl he fornicated with (and then married, at least) wanted to, she could run around on him and there wouldn’t be a damned thing he could do, for all of his money. I have the feeling that that wall photo of him in Midwood High School got taken down some time ago, but I could be wrong. I haven’t been to Brooklyn since 1996, and did not include a visit to Midwood when I was there last. I had better things to do.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Shucks, Ruvy,

    I was afraid you were going to say that.

  • Baronius

    This is crazy for me to butt in here, but what the heck. I’m going to guess that Ruvy doesn’t in fact agree with Roger’s comment #214. I’m saying this as someone who understands the “in the world but not of the world” perspective. Roger says,

    “So you’re saying, in effect, that the present Jewish mindset – to the extent that it is separate and distinct – is the result of (how shall I say?) a kind of separation that has been imposed on it by the West, coupled of course with the general deterioration of the Western culture.”

    That’s not the way a religious Jew would understand it. The separation is a deliberate choice, and while there are some barriers imposed on Judaism from the outside, it doesn’t change the fact that Jewish culture requires it to be distinct from non-Jewish culture.

    If the Gentile world lived up to its own standards, the Jews would share their tradition among themselves undisturbed. The lousy Gentile culture has made that impossible. The fortunate (actually, G-d given) part of the story is that the Jewish people are now able to return to their own land and practice their own religion and tradition. So there are three forces at work, not two: the imposed separation, the decline of Western culture, and the self-imposed separation (or to put it another way, the natural affinity to one’s own culture).

    How does this relate to the ongoing conversation? Well, because assimilation might be a goal of Western culture, but it isn’t a goal of Jewish culture. Woody Allen, in this view, is a perfect example of a sellout, for failing to preserve his culture. That he might have brought some Jewishness into mainstream Western culture is a good thing for the culture (although he really only brought the quirks of American Jewish life, not the beliefs that animate Judaism), but it was no benefit to him or to Jewish culture. If anything, he made it easier for a Jew to dilute himself in the surrounding culture, which is a bad thing.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Baronous, Ruvy:

    You are articulating rather succinctly what has been clarifying in my mind of late as as result of the conversation with Ruvy: so I do thank you for coming in.

    I do understand the “in the world but not of the world” perspective, BTW, but I never would have thought that shared in common with most of the Israelis (or other Jews, shall we say? in diaspora). My idea was that such a perspective would have been restricted to a select few – particularly the orthodox/religious Jewish community. Your comments, however, along with those of Ruvy, would seem to suggest that this isn’t the case and that the perspective in question is far more widespread that I have assumed. Correct me on this if I am wrong.

    And if such is the case, there is a greater problem, I should say – practical one (to be sure). But because it’s (merely) a practical problem, it doesn’t mean it’s unimportant for the fact. It’s paramount, IMO.

    Let me explain. Israel is part of the geopolitical world, such as it is. It’s a statehood with rights and obligations and representations like any other nation-state. It is in fact a member of the community of nations. It partakes of Western political institutions (the Knesset, for one, the national and local election processes, and one could go on), not to mention its participation in the world economy through trade, export-import, etcetera. These are undisputable facts.

    Therefore, at least from the geopolitical perspective, the state of Israel cannot afford to maintain the “in the world but not of the world” type of attitude – as though ti were an enclave unto itself, an island (however it might be the case that such an attitude would not perhaps cause much harm if held by any number of the individual Jews).

    Which brings me to the question: Perhaps part of the problem why the resolution of the Middle East conflict is so difficult to attain has to do with precisely such attitudes as Rivy and yourself seem to espouse. Something, at any rate, to think about as a very important topic of the discussion.

    Your comments?

    PS: This is a belated response. There was an outage in my area and I had no access to the Internet for two days.

  • Baronius

    Probably the two most relaxing days of your life, if you think about it.

    This isn’t my mindset; it’s my approximation of the religious Jewish mindset. I could be wrong. I’d feel a lot more confident if Ruvy would critique it. I hope Ruvy recognizes that my comments were made with respect.

    Every country has to balance the conflicting demands of national identity and international relations. No doubt Israel is unique in both respects.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Fair enough.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Roger, Baronius,

    I’ll get back to you in a couple of minutes. I have cheese sandwiches on the (kitchen) table that are drying out, and a bride that expects me to share dinner with her.

    And I intend to….

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Take care of business, Ruvy. Human lives, I always say, take precedence over politics.

  • The Obnoxious American

    “Human lives, I always say, take precedence over politics”

    Except if we are talking about fetuses, then it’s all good.

    Sorry to stalk but I just couldn’t resist. I’ll stop now :>

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m glad you had your last say,

  • The Obnoxious American

    Wait, wouldn’t your comment qualify as the “last say?” I guess not, now that I posted this…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Have your way. You win.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Hi gentlemen,

    Baronius basically has the Jewish mindset on the money, Roger. He may not agree with what he describes, but he is accurate. And it is obvious that he acted respectfully in his description.

    Thank you, Baronius.

    Now to get to Roger’s points above. The State of Israel is a very secular creation, in every sense of the word. Zionism, the ideology underlying the State, wants Jews to be accepted like all the other nations of the world. It was Ben-Gurion’s contention that when Israel had prostitutes and thieves, it would finally be like the other nations of the world. Well, we have prostitutes galore, thieves for our prime minister and a murderer for a president, the Russian mafia, and a pack of lawless Arabs not dissimilar to what Europe has.

    And in spite of all that, we are not accepted by the other nations, we are the damned Jews, the zionazis and all that other shit.

    That is why I am no longer a Zionist, Roger. The Zionists have lost all of their pride in who they are.

    There is no reason that we, with our nukes, should tolerate the condescension of the EU with its demands that we accept yet a second Arab state on the land set out exclusively for a Jewish one. Better that we should nuke Rome or Berlin and teach the arrogant bastards that Jewish blood does not come cheap and they better damned well tremble when they mention the name Israel.

    There is no reason that we, with our air force, should accept the existence of Egypt. Better to destroy the Aswan High Dam and destroy Egypt and flood Gaza – and teach the Arabs to tremble when they hear the name Israel.

    It won’t happen – or rather it won’t happen so long as I am not prime minister in this country.

    But it should. Let the arrogant bastards pay; let the arrogant bastards learn that there is justice in History, and there are those determined to pursue both vengeance and justice.

    If that sounds a little arrogant, well too bad. For six decades we have begged for peace. Let our enemies and persecutors beg at our knees instead.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Rinsing our feet in our enemies blood is also part of the Jewish mindset, Baronius. It would do well to remember that.

  • The Obnoxious American

    “Have your way. You win.”

    Glad you’ve finally come around. Bravo.

    Ruvy,

    Totally agree with everything you’ve said.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I perfectly understand the sentiment, Ruvy. But that does amount to self-enforced isolation, doesn’t it? And in the world of increasing globalism, it surely doesn’t promises to be the most effective foreign policy. With all the nukes at your disposal, it’s still an act of defiance against all odds (small nation that it is).

    Is that (and I’m not being facetious) what God promised to his children – all give and no take? I’d find it hard to believe because my belief in God transcends national or other interests. You may say it’s Christian’s based and therefore a cheap imitation – but I’m willing to live with it.

    I don’t believe in “chosen people.” There are empirical facts to support this contention – if going by the intellect quotient alone. But aside from that, my view of God is that he/she is much more tolerant and understanding of cultural or genetic differences. It’s all about justice and how we treat one another, even the least of us. And I’m willing to die with this idea with my last breath.

    Roger

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    No, I didn’t. I just see no point discussing this with you in light of the fact that you’re trying to live up to your reputation.

    “Obnoxious” you billed yourself, and “obnoxious” you will remain,.

  • The Obnoxious American

    “No, I didn’t. I just see no point discussing this with you in light of the fact that you’re trying to live up to your reputation. “

    More accurately, I proved you were wrong in the other thread (at least on the murder vs killing question), and you went all ad hominem on me. You can keep hurling the names my way but the old saw about me being rubber and you being glue could not be more appropriate to the situation.

  • Baronius

    Roger, OA, if you can’t play with the ball nicely, I’m going to take it away from both of you. Then neither of you will have the ball! Is that what you want? I didn’t think so. Now, look. One of you throw the ball to the other. Now back again. Isn’t that more fun than fighting over the ball?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You proved nothing, OA, except whatever you wish to prove to your closed mind. Can’t you understand that I don’t wish to engage with the likes of you?

    What clearer message do you want?

    Thanks, Baronius, for trying to intervene, but I won’t let him get away with cheap shots. And I don’t give a fuck what hole he crawled from under.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I perfectly understand the sentiment, Ruvy. But that does amount to self-enforced isolation, doesn’t it? And in the world of increasing globalism, it surely doesn’t promises to be the most effective foreign policy.

    What have we got to lose, Roger? Israel has individuals who admire her, millions of them world-wide. But every government is either neutral, barely tolerant or hateful. So, since the Europeans want to embargo our intellectuals (cutting their noses despite their craven faces), let them embargo our products. And we can embargo theirs. Really, what have we got to lose? German candies marketed in Poland and Russia? German film and cameras that we can reverse engineer and make better copies of ourselves? Medicine that we can make generics of? Cell phones that we manufacture here (like Motorola) in firms we can nationalize (like Motorola Israel, Orange and Cell-com)?

    The brutal truth is that we do not need the rest of the world to get by, and you are the ones who benefit by our technology and science.

    We can grow our own food, make our own medicine, and by focusing on missiles and nukes instead of planes and tanks, make our defense our own.

    Really? What do we need you for? To lecture us on morals? We gave you a humane code of law and you hate us for it, having tried to kill us off for 1,700 years.

    We need your money? In a few months or years the toilet paper I wipe my ass with will be worth more than a dollar! The euro eventually will follow the path of the dollar – down the toilet!

    Israel is indeed a nation that can and should be reckoned apart from mankind.

  • The Obnoxious American

    Roger, realize with each of these posts, you just prove my point more and more.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Apparently, ad hominem is the only thing you’ll understand. So keep on contributing to this thread all you like. I’m all for it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, Ruvy,

    I don’t represent the West or its policies. You realize that, I hope. But setting oneself apart from all humankind.

    Surely, that’s a tall order and not without consequences.

    Roger

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Sorry Roger,

    I don’t represent the West or its policies. You realize that, I hope.

    Sometimes, I get a bit carried away with real anger. But the anger is not against you at all. Actually, come to think of it, you do not deserve any of my anger. I may not agree with much of what you say on some issues, but you do seem to understand rather well the realities around here…..

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Thanks, Ruvy,

    Just want to let you know I have never took your anger directed vs me. Personally, I don’t don’t know how I’d feel in your shoes – perhaps just as militant as you.

    Just remember the discussion on the other thread, with David Black. Not a happy picture.

    BTW – just saw a helluva movie, European-made – “The Counterfeiters” – Auschwitz time, Nazis, and the like. Hair-raising.

    Anyone who had gone through such times or has memories of them is not for me to fathom. It’s bound to change a person forever. So who am I to judge?

    Shalom