Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Social & Political Philosophy: Midterm Review

Apes, Tribal Culture & Early City States
Ape hierarchy, tension between authority and individuality, owning, lying. Human thought pairs of opposites, belief (positive) and doubt (negative), conservatives believing and affirming the institution (stability of the past), progressives doubting and questioning the institution (openness of the future). Philosophy as "thinking about thinking", questioning and answering. All cultures have philosophers, question and change traditions. Radin argues same distribution of intelligence in all societies, philosophers are rare but in all societies. Individuals relative freedom and individuality, no complete agreement to truths. Sumer has first writing, schools, bicameral congress. Barthes in Myth Today, magazine supports colonial French mythology.

Mencius, Xun Zi, Mo Zi & Human Nature
Times of war good for thought, warring states/hundred philosophers period, mandate of heaven. Confucius, heart center, right mind over right act/ritual/tradition, civil service system, treating others as equal, developing/examining the self. Mencius, human nature is good/compassion, child/well proof of essential goodness, four part heart (compassion, shame, courtesy/modesty, right/wrong), battle with Moists over degrees of love, parental compassion/burial as basis of culture, sister-in-law drowning and discretion, compassion like water, barley on various ground. Xun Zi, human nature is evil/desire, city vs. countryside, compassion can be taught given law, tradition and effort, children as immature, environment important. Mo Zi, universal love, possible if accepted by princes, war as killing and theft, Confucians focus on ritual and support warfare and rebellion.

Plato, Aristotle, Caste & Class
Republic three level city corresponding to head, chest, stomach/hands, caste system very like India, one job per person, noble lie, common property/family, allegory of the cave, republic as meritocracy not democracy. Aristotle, each a single job/ergon, thought/philosophy as highest human activity and goal of society, slaves and women as inferior by nature, human as political animal, balance of common and private property vs. Plato.

Machiavelli & Power
Misunderstood, Republican writings vs. the Prince, possible lesson to ruled not rulers, realism vs. Plato & Aristotle ideal city models, necessity of brutality and deception for despot, completely crush the enemy, better feared than loved, everyone reads but also despise work.

Hobbes & Sovereignty
Supporter of Monarchy vs. Parliamentarians, life “solitary, brutish, short”, all more equal than unequal, state of nature as unhappy war of all vs. all, self-preservation as natural right, declaration of social contract transfers liberty of harming others to sovereign, sovereign acts as everyone, has right to kill anyone in name of everyone, can’t commit injustice, like “sun to the stars”.

Locke, Rousseau & Liberty
Locke influential on American Revolution, sided with Parliamentarians vs. Hobbes’ Royalists, need checks and balances vs. unchecked power of the sovereign, natural rights to life and property, social contract necessary to preserve these satisfactorily, right to fruits of labor (for self and servants/slaves), money accumulation unproblematic, blank slate/tabula rasa. Rousseau for individual liberty, state of nature innocent, noble savage, society and progress/technology a mask that conceals brutality, human nature an undefined freedom that can be corrupted, turned to machines and slaves, society must preserve liberty or social contract not valid, bandit with gun metaphor, social contract founded on general will & agreement, society grows out of family but has no love, problem of minority vs. general will.

Mill, Thoreau & Freedom
Tutored by Bentham, Mill the great Utilitarian, rethink principles and assumptions based on usefulness/overall happiness (long view & social view), two sides (max happy, min pain) and capitalism vs. socialism, continuous problems & rethinking, paradox of bad example, problem of authority, egalitarianism for slaves and women, democratic economics vs. economic tyranny, problem of “primitive” societies, freedom of speech as best. Thoreau for simple living and nonparticipation in the corrupt and brutal state, comforts and luxuries as hindrance to humanity, balance of nature and society, jail for tax evasion, nonparticipation with Mexican-American war and slavery, Civil Disobedience as opposing the machine with humanity, American democracy not the final step in political evolution.

American & French Revolutions
American calls for checks on sovereign but fear of mob rule, Bill of Rights as compromise with states for federal government, terrorists vs. freedom fighters, most still wanted a monarch, African and Native between/outside the two sides. Paine’s The Rights of Man attacks Burke, authority must arise out of people not over people. Constitution, checks & balances, impeachment, freedom of speech. French Revolution hard times, third estate declares self National Assembly, throwing off the clergy and nobility, left vs. right wing factions, Assembly goes radical left with Paris Commune, Great Terror atrocities, gang warfare till Napoleon takes over as dictator.

Capitalism & Adam Smith
Practiced most extensively in America with privatization so far, other movements as opposition to industrialization/capitalism and problems. Money as better than barter, device to amass and divide, ancient Assyria ruling empire primarily through trade. With industrialization, owners become capitalists, own business/materials/land and make profits while workers trade labor for wages, profit sharing and co-ops as socialist counter to economic tyranny (Mill). Adam Smith argues invisible hand of markets and everyone acting in self-interest more efficient than government trying to provide a planned economy. Mixed economies lean either way, social market capitalism vs. free market capitalism, debate over democracy hand in hand with capitalism.