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“In this new state of things, the simplicity and solitariness of man’s life, the limitedness of his wants, and the instruments which he had invented to satisfy them, leaving him a great deal of leisure, he employed it to supply himself with several conveniences unknown to his ancestors; and this was the first yoke he inadvertently imposed upon himself, and the first source of mischief which he prepared for his children; for besides continuing in this manner to soften both body and mind, these conveniences having through use lost almost all their aptness to please, and even degenerated into real wants, the privation of them became far more intolerable than the possession of them had been agreeable; to lose them was a misfortune, to possess them no happiness.”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins and Foundations of Inequality among Men.
When we last left off our discussion of the origins of the technological disposition we found its roots deep in the basic features of the human psyche. Yet this account cannot be the whole story. Certainly, not all human societies would be rightly described as technological, even though all of them practice at least some sort of craft-making, or some of the arts. In place of the disposition to rational control, in these societies, we see something different. The ancient Hebrew or the Native American tribes were not technological the way Western society is. In place of the disposition to rational mastery of man and nature, these societies are ruled by the spirit of reverence, or national pride, or the passion of righteousness or holiness or nobility. The emphasis is on some intense devotion to something outside of man, even, transcendent. This technological phenomenon, undoubtedly, had its inception in Western society. Yet it seems that modern technology also differs from ancient techne, not only in scale, but, decisively, in nature.
Ancient science sought knowledge of what things are, to be contemplated as and end in itself satisfying to the knower. In contrast modern science seeks knowledge of how things work, to be used as a means for the mastery and control of nature, man, and for the pursuit of comfortable self-preservation of all humanity. This was and has been the practical intention at the heart of modern science from inception.
If up to this point we have grasped somewhat the meaning of “technology,” and if we are to address the tragic condition of technology, which is essentially the problem of technology, we must have an understanding of what one means by a “problem.” The word problem comes from the Greek word problema, meaning literally “something thrown out before” us. A problem is any challenging obstacle, from a task set before someone to be done to the task of finding a cure for cancer. When we encounter a challenging obstacle we formulate them into question that become articulated tasks that challenge us to solve them, i.e. to do away with them. Now when a problem is solved, it disappears as a problem. The solution is usually is something we make, human convention, assembled from elements into which the problem is broken up. We formulate the problems into questions convenient for analysis and construction—we figure it out. Moreover, a solution to a problem never goes beyond the original problem as given, the solution must answer the problem in its own terms.
With this in mind, we may ask what then does it mean to treat technology as a problem, to ask about the problem of technology? Before whom is technology a problem, an obstacle? What desiderata does technology obstruct? Does technology pose a threat to human happiness or to justice or to self-knowledge? Could technology, understood as the disposition and activity of mastery, turn out to be the stone that crushed the master in his path? If technology is a problem, an obstacle, an imminent threat, could there be a solution? Is there a solution? These are the question this project aims to elucidate.
Finally, as noted before (and will be expanded in further detail in later essays), technology seeks man’s liberation from chance and necessity, both without and within. Technology, as the disposition of mastery, seeks freedom from a life of toil and lack, freedom from misery and sickness, freedom from the threats of death. We can positively formulate these goals by calling them, comfortable sustenance, health (physical or/and psychic), and longevity or the preservation of the self. In short, it seeks comfortable self-preservation. Yet, we may ask, are these wonderful things human flourishing? Do they provide the conditions for human happiness? Is there a clear notion of human happiness that guides and informs the technological disposition? And in what are these goals grounded, i.e. what is their foundation? Does freedom from chance and natural necessity liberate man from nature’s necessities? Does not man remain within the grip of nature, even qua master of nature? Are not the desires for survival and pleasure, for example, given to man by his own nature? If so, then mastery over nature seems to be more like service to nature. Subjugation to the dictates of nature spontaneamente working within and finally beyond human control. Mastery becomes enslavement to instincts, drives, impulsions, passions(1).
On the other hand, perhaps technology can enable man to liberate himself completely from the clutches of nature, even his own nature. If so, then conquest of nature would simply mean the complete liberation of man from nature’s control. Modern science would not only be a tool, but would also create. This would enable man to freely and fully exert himself towards goals and ends he freely sets for himself. Man’s end and goals, like the means he use to attain them, would be of his own making.
But, then, what would make these goals and projects good, even good for us. Would not the setting of these projects by the unrestricted human will be anything but arbitrary? If history is any indication, we already know what to expect from the arbitrary positing of human will, not only on a political scale and social scale, but on a personal scale. That to live under one’s own arbitrary will with no guidance for what is genuinely good for oneself is really liberating, is hardly a self-evident proposition. On the contrary it would seem slavishly nihilistic.
Our first step in understanding the problems of technology is to attempt to grasp what technology is—no easy matter. We must first start with the phenomenon as given, that is with the term itself. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, its meaning is defined as, “the practical application of knowledge in a particular area,” or “a capability given by the practical application of knowledge.” But these definitions seem to be merely superficial in that they don’t reveal anything substantial about technology.
Etymologically speaking the term “technology” has its roots in the Greek word, techne, art, meaning craft-making as it relates to useful crafts rather than the fine arts, i.e. masonry and carpentry rather than poetry, painting, and dance; and logos, articulated speech, or discursive reason. However, the compound word, technologos, was not known to the Greeks. The closest thing the Greeks came to our notion of technology would have been something with the emphasis reversed, i.e. not logos of techne (an account about art) but a techne of logos ( the art of rhetoric). The art of persuasion was the a techne of logos, and, according to the sophists, a means of rationalizing political life free from the need of force(1).
Nevertheless, art and speech are intimately related. Humans, exhibit both of these capabilities, in view of the fact that man is the animal having logos (language). In the words of Aristotle, man as zoon logon echon, i.e. animal “having” (echon) language—understood as speech and discourse. What is uniquely different of human craft from animal making, is not instinctive or spontaneous. Human craft involves deliberating, calculating, ordering, thinking, planning—all manifestations of logos. A connection that Aristotle wisely discerned when he says techne is the habit of making involving logos (true reasoning), in contradistinction to the rational quality concerned with doing (praxis)(2). All craft making has a non-automatic element to it, but to be truly technical it must be guided by mind, savoir-faire, by expertise. It is this rational element that makes the various arts eminently teachable. Following up these clues, one might think that technology is the sum of the products of craft and industry, and, even more, the sum of know-how, skills, and other devices for their production and use.
However, this is, at best, a partial view. Technology, especially modern technology, occupies itself not only with the bringing-into-being of machines and tools and other artifacts. It is certainly involved in the harnessing of power and energy—thermal, hydroelectric, chemical, solar, atomic. The drill for oil, the damming of rivers, the splitting of atoms provide not objects of art but an undifferentiated ready resource for all sorts of human activities, in both war and peace. Indeed, according to Heidegger, this aspect of modern technology is essential and decisive. Modern technology is less a bringing-forth of objects than a setting-upon, a challenging forth, a demanding made of nature: that nature’s concealed materials and energies be released and ordered as standing-reserve, available and transformable for any multitude of purposes(3). Not the loom or the plow but the oil-storage tank or the steel mill or the dynamo is the emblem of modern technology.
Illuminating as this may be, it is still falls short of the phenomenon technology. For technology today is not limited to the mastering and control of the external and natural world. It has now extended into the realm of what is most noble, man himself. There is burgeoning biomedical technology, usable for genetic engineering and the like. There is psychological technology that include various techniques of psychotherapy and psychopharmacology. There are abundant techniques of education, communication, and entertainment; techniques of social organizations and engineering (e.g. police and the army); techniques of management (e.g.factory or boardroom); techniques of inspection and regulation; techniques of selling and buying, learning and rearing,dating and mating, birthing and dying. In our modern age technology is ubiquitous, much wider and deeper than the mechanical. Technology is an entire way of being in the world, a social phenomenon more than a merely material one, characterized by the effort, through rational analysis, methodical artfulness, and correlative organization, to order all aspects of our world toward efficiency, ease, and control—to achieve the fullest control at the highest efficiency at the least possible cost and trouble. In short it is a way of thinking and believing and feeling, a way of standing in and toward the world. Technology in its full meaning, is the disposition rationally to order and predict and control everything feasible, in order to master fortune and spontaneity, violence and wildness, and to leave nothing to chance, all in the service of human benefit. It is technology, thus understood as the disposition to rational mastery, whose problem we hope to discover.
But whence comes such a disposition to mastery? Differently put, what is the source of the technological attitude? Again a terrible difficult question to answer. According to some its deepest roots are somehow tied to human weakness; necessity is the mother of invention. Need lies behind the fish hook and the plow, fear of the beast and men behind the club and barricade, and fear of death behind medicine. It is, according to Hobbes, fear of violent death that awakens human reason and the quest for mastery. But, as Aristotle rightly observed, to much fear can enervate the body and soul(4). According to Aeschylus’s Prometheus, only when men ceased seeing doom before their eyes were they able, with his aid, to rise up from abject nothingness, poverty and terror(5). On this view,the world’s inhospitality and hostility toward human need and aspiration inspires the disposition to self-help through technology.
Ecce, the master does not seek mastery just to escape from the cold.
Yet, on other accounts, the root is not primarily human weakness but human strength: huperefania, human pride rather than needy fear erects the technological attitude. According to Genesis, the first tool was the needle, and the first artifact the fig leaf, as shame (which in this context is perhaps nothing but wounded pride) moved the primordial human beings to cover their nakedness, right from the moment of their rise to painful self-consciousness(6). Pride lies behind the technological project of the city and tower of Babel, the humanity moved by the desire to make itself a name through artful self-assertion(7). It was Francis Bacon after all who at the beginning of modern era, himself moved by honor and glory, calls mankind to the conquest of nature for the relief of man’s estate, which project he regards as the highest and most magnificent human possibility(8). Ambition—the desire for wealth, power, and honor—prompts many a man of science and industry. Ecce, the master does not seek mastery just to escape from the cold.
Our penchant for, and appreciation of technology’s comforts and conveniences, its relief from drudgery and want, have grown proportionally to its advancement and success. As technology has advanced in combating diseases, in producing an ever-increasing abundance of life’s material goods and an unending stream of innovations, so has our dependence and appreciation for it grown ever stronger. But this daemonium ex machina also brings with it affliction and deadly perils, and that dark side is something we have altogether lost sight of. Increasingly terrible weapons of war have become more and more terrifying. The specter of thermonuclear war is evermore present and seems more imminent than ever. We’ve let slip from our purview the fact that the machine can corrupt the garden as subtly as the serpent (1).
This simple ambiguity about technology as a demonic force capable of vast good or catastrophic evil may seem to point to the fact that technology itself is neutral, and the only moral consideration is located in the intent of the individual using the technology. But upon reflection the problem becomes more complicated. Indeed, if the most pervasive and profound characteristic of the modern age is its ever-expanding conquest of nature, which seems now to be a permanent structure of the human condition, then the problem of technology can only lead in tragedy. Nevertheless, this is certain: the problem of technology is the problem of our time.
We must then adequately confront this issue in its full theoretical and philosophical dimensions if we are to truly grasp our present situation, i.e. whether technology has “that which saves” within it or whether its condition is one of tragedy. The following series of essays will tackle the problem of technology from its inception to our present understanding of technology. This means that our discussion will begin with the emergence of modern technology, with its origins in classical Greek thought, and end with the destiny of modern technology. In between we will focus on different conception of human nature, of justice, on the supposed different modes of knowing, on Nietzsche’s will to power, and the Biblical anti-technological conception of the good life among many others. The reader is advised to keep in mind not only the most obvious questions (e.g. Is it moral or desirable to do what our technological capacities enable us to do? On whom devolves the right to decide this question? And how does one control the unanticipated or unintended consequences that may emerge from the exercise of this power, i.e. power to manipulate and control nature?) but also the deeper, and much larger, theoretical/philosophical questions that lurk beneath the surface concerning the rational coherence, the impact on humanity and our psyche, and the moral propriety of the whole modern technological project. Can modern scientific rationalism really give an adequate account of the world and especially the human world? Is the vision of nature and man that it imposes on us compatible with a truly human life? Does not the modern project for the mastery of nature violate some sacred or salutary limit on human power established by nature or God? As we follow along this project the reader is encouraged not to let these larger questions escape their direct attention.
Genesis 11: 4-9, see also Leo Marx, The Machine in The Garden
Oedipus: “You pray to the gods? Let me grant your prayers.”
Tiresias: “So, you mock my blindness? Let me tell you this. You with your precious eyes, you’re blind to the corruption of your life, to the house you live in, those you live with-who are your parents? Do you know? All unknowing you are the scourge of your own flesh and blood, the dead below the earth and the living here above, and the double lash of your mother and your father’s curse will whip you from this land one day, their footfall treading you down in terror, darkness shrouding your eyes that now can see the light!”
Chorus: “Pride breeds the tyrant violent pride, gorging, crammed to bursting with all that is overripe and rich with ruin…. Can such a man, so desperate, still boast he can save his life from the flashing bolts of god?”
Oedipus:“O god-all come true, all burst to light! O light-now let me look my last on you! I stand revealed at last-cursed in my birth, cursed in marriage, cursed in the lives I cut down with these hands!”
Oedipus: “You, you’ll see no more the pain I suffered, all the pain I caused! Too long you looked on the ones you never should have seen, blind to the ones you longed to see, to know! Blind from this hour on! Blind in the darkness-blind!….What good were eyes to me? Nothing I could see could bring me joy.”
The Nature of International Terrorist Organizations
By Stefan Sandor
The nature of international terrorist organizations have become more complex in our time enabling them to survive and surpass the challenges and pressures of governments, either regional or further remote. Therefore, in contradistinction to the classical approach of combating terrorist organizations by treating them as complicated systems, I argue that governments should combat terrorist organizations from a complex system approach. This would entail the proliferation of nonprofit organizations and networks, with emphasis in disseminating humanitarian ideals, and providing access to resources and economic support to disenfranchised groups.
I. Complex systems
Throughout the natural and artificial world one observes phenomena of great complexities. Complex system is a concept that is very well known in the disciplines of physics and biology. Extensive research, in these disciplines, have shown that although the basic components of many systems are quite simple, in the aggregate the system displays complexity and a vast amount of spontaneous behavior. In contradistinction to the second law of thermodynamics which implies that initial order is progressively degraded as systems evolve, many systems exhibit quite the opposite behavior, transforming initial simplicity or disorder into greater complexity. Thus, a complex system is a group or organization which is made up of many interacting parts. In such systems the individual parts, or agents, and the interactions between them often lead to large scale behavior which are not easily predictable (if they are at all) from a knowledge only of the behavior of the individual agent. Unlike in a complicated systems where much of its characteristics are predictable, linear and reducible to cause and effect, the components of a complex system interact in ways that defy a deterministic, linear analysis.
II. Hezbollah and ISIS as complex systems
Hezbollah is known as the most organized and business savvy terrorist organization that relies on global groups engaged in drug, arms, counterfeit trafficking and money laundering for funding and support. With globalization, Hezbollah, and many other terrorist groups have “internationalized their support and operations, brokered formidable alliances, and present complex transnational threats that put security and prosperity at risk around the world”(1). According to the article The Terror-Crime Nexus by Celina B. Realuyo, Hezbollah has significant support, beside the land of its inception, i.e. Lebanon, in Iran and Syria. From its infancy, Hezbollah obtained substantial amounts of financial aid and support from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Furthermore, according to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Counterterrorism, Hezbollah operates terrorist cells in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. According Realuyo, there is a nexus between Hezbollah global facilitators of terrorism and crime. These facilitators can be individuals, groups, and even institutions. The used car trade-based money laundering scheme is an example where one finds the three agents mentioned above, i.e. individuals, groups, and institutions. The scheme operates in the following manner. Money from within Latin America, is sent to Colombia where it is used to produce and grow coca plants. Cocaine is sent from Colombia to European markets via Africa. The drugs are sold in Europe. Proceeds are mixed with legitimate used car sale profits (used cars shipped from U.S.) in Africa and sent to Lebanese banks through exchange houses. Some money from these exchange houses are diverted to Hezbollah and some are sent to Lebanese banks, from where once again some are sent to Hezbollah and some are returned to the U.S. to purchase more used cars to be shipped to and sold in Africa, where the cycle continues on. Thus, the acceleration in technology, in telecommunication, the internet, transportation, combined with globalization resulting from accelerated changes on all fronts, political, economic, social, has allowed for the convergence of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and terrorist-crime networks to capitalize on global resources, markets, capital, and “facilitators” which in turn have allowed them to pursue their political and profit agendas, respectively.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) is also among the converging terrorist-crime networks ( more specifically it is an insurgency that nevertheless acts as most converging terrorist-crime network) that capitalize on global resources, supply chains, markets, and facilitators. Like Hezbollah, the scope, pace, and impact of ISIL’s activities is not limited to the Levant and Iraq region, but focuses on international objectives, i.e. on activities that endanger national security and prosperity across the world. Its aim is to establish a global caliphate through a world wide war. It is also clear that its main objective is to acquire territory, i.e. a caliphate can only exist if it holds territory. We can say that its raison d’etre is to sustain itself and expand. ISIL cannot exist underground, territorial authority is a must and a requirement. Arguably, if you take away its command of territory most of its oath of allegiance would not be binding, its would lose its legitimacy among the islamic extremists.
If we look at its financing it is similar to other terrorist-crime networks. ISIL’s major source of revenue comes from illicit oil smuggling, donations from deep pocket donors in the Gulf and elsewhere, kidnap-for-ransom payments, efforts to access the antiquities black market to sell looted ancient artifacts, and more (2). ISIL financing also crosses international borders and leverages the international financial system, e.g. the formal financial sector, banks, and alternative financial transfer mechanisms. Similar to Hezbollah, ISIL uses pre-existing crime networks to facilitate its aims and goals.
ISIL is also orchestrating well through the information and communication technology in its different means. Despite all the efforts to curtail their influence it still remains strong in YouTube, Facebook, and especially on Twitter. Through these social media tools and other websites ISIL is able to send its message world wide. ISIL’s expected goals are, to show their religious beliefs and to justify their attacks religiously, to show their strength virtually and on the ground, and to recruit more followers. Perhaps, one way to counteract this is to proliferate social media with negative images of ISIL and related groups, e.g. atrocities committed by ISIL, territorial loses, humiliating defeats of ISIL, and the like.
Moreover, ISIL and other terrorist-crime networks will soon start recruiting private military contractors and consulting firms. One such contractor is Malhama Tactical a jihadi private military contractor and consulting firm that seems to be going global (3). A heavily armed and expertly equipped group of men, with body armor and ballistic helmets that promote their battles across online platforms, a relentless marketing scheme that seems to have paid off. The outfit’s fighting capabilities and training programs have become renowned among the jihadi admirers, e.g. Syria, Iraq, and abroad. This is but another component of the vast and complex system of terrorist-crime networks interacting in ways that defy a deterministic, linear analysis.
It is clear that terrorist groups have become more network centric and complex where the predictability of the interacting parts and their relational behavior has become very difficult. The urgency is how do we combat these complex terrorist-crime networks with somewhat indeterminate predictable behaviours.
III. Insufficiency Of Past Approaches To Terrorist Groups
Most of the approaches in dealing with terrorist organizations have been concentrated at finding and eliminating the leader of these organizations. Furthermore, in response to the threats posed by terrorist groups, the CIA and other intelligence agencies have simply enhanced the existing hierarchical structures. The most significant organizational change made, by the intelligence agencies within the US government since 9/11, was to add yet another vertical layer to the existing hierarchy by creating a directorate of national intelligence. The intelligence community’s policy has been to create an entity that would wield ever greater central control to combat the complex system of international terrorist organizations. This approach to combatting terrorist organization has shown to be deficient in predicting the trajectories of these terrorist-criminal networks and their behavior. The failure is due in part to the fact that these terrorist-crime network are complex systems and therefore, are not predictable in a mechanistic way indicative of complicated systems. The behavior of these inter-related nods of networks are unpredictable. The bulky hierarchies and massive sizes of the intelligence agencies, the slow decision process representative of such hierarchical agencies, their necessary inflexibility, and their bureaucratic behavior undermines their ability to successfully deal with complex systems of networks where quick decision making is needed and resilience to cope with unexpected outcomes is necessary. What is needed is a more nuanced approach in dealing with the complexity and indeterminacy of terrorist-crime networks.
IV. New approach
In order to deal with complex systems governments must employ an approach that is efficient, effective, and resilient, i.e. an approach which has the ability to cope with strategic shock and is quick at adapting to rapid and turbulent changes. Thus, resilience is one of the most important prerequisite for governments to operate effectively in a complex environment. In dealing with complex systems a government ought to be proactive in shaping the future, rather than trying to estimate the cumulative effects of complex systems and predict them.
The Italian political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli in his work The Prince could not have said it better when he wrote “it has appeared to me more convenient to go after the effective truth of the thing rather than the imagination of it” (4). In effect Machiavelli argued for the shaping of habits which are conducive to freedom form chance and nature, and hence the effectual truth is in the results they produce. By approaching the complex global environment from a Machiavellian perspective, governments will be more apt in dealing with the complex systems of terrorist-crime organizations and networks. The best way to approach the complexity problem is through international governmental and nongovernmental organizations and networks. The building of networks by governments will allow them to shape the behavior and outcomes of complex global environments, while international organizations, more specifically the non-governmental organizations, will deal with the unsuspected changes and strategic shocks arising from the complex nature of terrorist-crime networks.
Advances in information technology have empowered leaderless groups unified more by pursuit of a common goal than any kind of central goal. These networks are particularly helpful in shaping outcomes and facilitating movements, as seen in the overthrow of Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi where networks played a significant role. Governments should build networks that tie together civilian and military personnel from United States and other democratic governments that support the fight against terrorism. Civilian and military personnel can work together to promote humanitarian goals and ideals. In countries where illicit actors, e.g. Hezbollah, ISIS, etc. seek out governance gaps, socio-economic vulnerabilities, and other character weaknesses to conduct their nefarious activities, military personnel can help and ensure completion of civic improvement projects, e.g. school building, roads, provide medical and disaster relief facilities. Thus, military and civilian interactions, complemented by the aforementioned actions and by reaching out to civilians in these areas with niches coveted by terrorist, will ultimately give rise to a proliferation of social networks and physical networks which will more than likely endorse democratic ideals. Arguably, these networks will not only shape the outcomes of the parts within the complex interrelated system of networks but will also improve the response time to attack, the intelligence-process, and overall relation with the populace.
One of the weaknesses of intelligence community is its inability to deal with strategic shocks and sudden changes due in part to its bulky hierarchical structure and slow decision-making process. International organizations, especially non-governmental organizations, have the ability to reach further than governments can. According to Kim D. Reimann, numerous studies have shown that NGOs are an ideal alternative to approaching international problems because their “ability to reach poor communities directly, their cost-effectiveness, their more flexible, and innovative approach to problems, their ability to increase popular participation in projects and their emphasis on self-help” (5). Not only are NGO effective at reaching communities directly and more flexible, but they are also in a better position to perceive changes in environment symptomatic of terrorist-crime exertion. The peculiar nature of NGOs can be joined together in a symbiotic relationship with government agencies to deal with problems that arise from the complex interrelated behavior of terrorist-crime networks, and ultimately eliminate such networks. This would imply, not only that governments should endorse a more emphatic pro-network policy but also a decentralization of power to other multiple agencies within the government. This would require the intelligence community to change from a vertical structure where power is concentrated at the top, to a more horizontal structure where decision-making power is given to multiple agencies, with different degrees and nuances of power in the decision making process. If more power is given to military personnel working in conjunction with NGOs to deal with problems arising at ground level. This approach encourages greater initiative at all levels of command. In World War II German military adopted with great success this approach to decision-making. Junior officers in the German military were empowered to make decisions on the spot, because they had a better and more direct feel for the situation on the ground. This meant that every officer had to understand not just the orders but also the intent of the mission. Thus, this approach, i.e. the network’s ability to shape outcomes and to penetrate societal levels along with NGOs reach in communities, joined with government agencies, will be able to deal with the complexity and chaos of terrorist-crime networks and organizations.
These are not without possible negative effects. Attempting such an approach accountability becomes more difficult especially in a world where human beings seek accountability. People want to know who is responsible for certain actions and who should be accountable for the consequences of those actions. In this approach where greater access is given to more individuals in the decision-making process pinning down how is responsible accountable for actions taken on a global scale becomes more difficult. Perhaps, we should ask ourselves if this is a worthy payoff, i.e. to sacrifice some accountability for greater security and peace. Another possible outcome to this approach is that as accountability becomes more difficult to determine responsibility will decrease. People will be less likely to take responsibility for certain actions since they are less likely to be held accountable for those actions. These are possible outcomes we must take into consideration. Nevertheless, this new nuanced approach should be complemented with an approach that empowers Islamic women.
V. Empowering Muslim Women
Muslim women are a key element in strengthening counterterrorism efforts. According to our recent Council on Foreign Relations report, research shows that women are well-positioned to detect early signs of radicalization because their rights and physical integrity are often the first targets of fundamentalists.
To see more on this see the following article which lays out a pretty convincing argument to empowering Muslim women.
Immigration is a privilege not a right. When we say that “we have a fundamental right to do such and such” we are invoking more than a mere right. We are invoking a right arising from actions and activities that are inseparable from the human existence and identity of our individuality. It is not merely about what we are free to do, but more about what we are substantively required to do in order to preserve our human existence and identity. Therefore, all unalienable rights are grounded in the obligations and responsibilities pursuant to human self-preservation. We, as humans, are obligated to fulfill these obligations, and every one of us has the right to fulfill those obligations without state interference, provided that the respective behavior is in conformity with the standard of action that constitutes the human existence and identity of each and every one of us. Respect for moral obligations constitute the rightness of a right. We shall call this the principle of moral rightness. There is nothing inherent in the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country that suggests one has a fundamental right to do so, or that the foreign country has a moral obligation to receive the respective individual/s. Moreover, since all individuals have a moral obligation to their own self-preservation when taken in the aggregate as a single unite, e.g. a nation, the principle of moral rightness is transferable to the whole, i.e. the sovereign nation. Thus, ad idem with the individual a nation has a fundamental right to preserve its existence and identity, even when it requires that it slams shut its door to immigration. We can conclude that the right of a sovereign nation to exclude and alien is absolute and the acceptance of aliens is a privilege bestowed on them not a right by the receiving country.
Who has The Power to Receive or Exclude Aliens within a Nation?
The power to receive or exclude aliens falls within the powers of the Executive and the Legislative branch. More specifically the power of Congress “to exclude aliens from the United States and to prescribe the terms and conditions on which they come in” is absolute, being an attribute of the United States as a sovereign nation. “That the government of the United States, through the action of the legislative department, can exclude aliens from its territory is a proposition which we do not think open to controversy. Jurisdiction over its own territory to that extent is an incident of every independent nation. It is a part of its independence. If it could not exclude aliens, it would be to that extent subject to the control of another power, i.e. to a foreign power. The United States, in their relation to foreign countries and their subjects or citizens, are one nation, invested with powers which belong to independent nations, the exercise of which can be invoked for the maintenance of its absolute independence and security throughout its entire territory” (1). Moreover, the powers over foreign immigration is delegated through Article 1, section 8, clause 4, e.g.”to establish a uniform rule of naturalization,” to the Congress. Thus, not only does a sovereign nation have a right to exclude aliens simply by applying the principle of moral rightness to the nation as a single entity, being a fundamental sovereign attribute which is of a philosophical and political character and therefore subject only to narrow judicial review, but it is a power specifically vested in Congress by the constitution. Now how is the Executive involved.
The President must exercise the powers delegated to the executive branch, but he/she must also refrain from executing any powers not delegated by the constitution to the executive branch. Article 2, section 3 lists the powers delegated to the executive branch among them the clause that, “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” The president must “take Care” that these laws enacted by Congress be executed; that would include the uniform rules of Naturalization and Immigration. Among these rules are, 8 U.S. Code, section 1182 (f) and section 1187, which give the president specific powers over immigration.
The federal immigration law Section 1182(f), states that, “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as
he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate” (emphasis added).
Section 1182(f) plainly and extensively authorizes the president to issue temporary bans on the entry of classes of aliens for national-security purposes. President Trump was principally relying on his inherent constitutional authority, without any doubt. In fact, in doing so, he expressly cites Section 1182(f), and his executive order employees the same language of the statue, e.g. finding the entry of aliens from these countries at this time “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” There is no doubt President Trump acted within his constitutional authority.
Supreme Court Cases Cited and Precedents
Chinese Exclusion Case (Chae Chan Ping v. United States), 130 U.S. 581, 603, 604 (1889); see also Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698, 705 (1893); The Japanese Immigrant Case (Yamataya v. Fisher), 189 U.S. 86 (1903); United States ex rel. Turner v. Williams, 194 U.S. 279 (1904); Bugajewitz v. Adams, 228 U.S. 585 (1913); Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U.S. 52 (1941); Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U. S. 753 (1972). In Galvan v. Press, 347 U.S. 522, 530–531 (1954), Justice Frankfurter for the Court wrote: “[M]uch could be said for the view, were we writing on a clean slate, that the Due Process Clause qualifies the scope of political discretion heretofore recognized as belonging to Congress in regulating the entry and deportation of aliens…. But the slate is not clean. As to the extent of the power of Congress under review, there is not merely ‘a page of history,’ . . . but a whole volume…. [T]hat the formulation of these policies is entrusted exclusively to Congress has become about as firmly imbedded in the legislative and judicial tissues of our body politic as any aspect of our government.” Although the issue of racial discrimination was before the Court in Jean v. Nelson, 472 U.S. 846 (1985), in the context of parole for undocumented aliens, the Court avoided it, holding that statutes and regulations precluded INS considerations of race or national origin. Justices Marshall and Brennan, in dissent, argued for reconsideration of the long line of precedents and for constitutional restrictions on the Government. Id. at 858. That there exists some limitation upon exclusion of aliens is one permissible interpretation of Reagan v. Abourezk, 484 U.S. 1 (1987), affg. by an equally divided Court, 785 F.2d 1043 (D.C.Cir. 1986), holding that mere membership in the Communist Party could not be used to exclude an alien on the ground that his activities might be prejudicial to the United States.
“A manliness, that seeks glory in risk and cannot abide the rational life of peace and security”
Given our overwhelming acceptance of gender-neutral society and the abolishment of sex differences I thought it best to give a defense of the quality of manliness rather than a defense of the gender-neutral society. Perhaps the catalyst that brought to light some of the problems with the gender-neutral society and its effects on manliness was the election of President Donald J. Trump. On the one hand we have president Trump the embodiment of manliness and on the other hand Caitlyn Jenner the result of the gender-neutral society. Our society seems to be divided between the insistence on manliness typified in the election of President Trump and the abolition of sex epitomized by Caitlyn Jenner. What explains our current predicament? To answer this question we must first define and describe what manliness is, what are its negatives and its positives sides. We must describe the gender-neutral experiment occurring at the present moment and whether we can get rid of manliness all together. Nay, whether it is wise to get rid of manliness altogether.
What is Manliness?
The most profound philosophic analysis of manliness is given by a professor of Political Philosophy at Harvard University Harvey Mansfield in his book Manliness. In the book Mansfield defines manliness as “confidence in the face of risk.” Manliness is composed of a number of qualities or features thought to belong to men. As Mansfield states, “ these ingredients of manliness make manliness specifically male” (1). But in order to see what manliness is we must start with the phenomena that is accessible to most individuals, our common sense understanding of manliness. In order to do this it is best if we take the characteristics seen in most men and contrast them with characteristics seen in most women. By contrasting these qualities we will see the difference between the male and female sex more pronounced. Thus, some of the contrasting differences between men and women are the following.
Men are more aggressive, women are caring. Men are promiscuous in sex, women faithful and have less adventurous sex drives. Similarly, are the beliefs that men are assertive, women sensitive, men are hard, women soft, men are direct and women are indirect, men are risk-seekers and women are risk-averse, men are detached, women are sympathetic, men boast off, women are modest. It is also said that men are abstract and idealistic while women are empirical and realistic. Arguably, men use their reasoning skills to yearn for that which is beyond the immediate, they try to abstract from the present situation in order to reach for something more distant, while women use reason to deal with the present situation and make the best of it. According to Mansfield this is why men are more resolute because they reject the immediate, and women are more perceptive because they are more reluctant to ignore what they see before them. Thus, it seems that men and women have both reason and emotion but use them differently and for different purposes.
The contrasting features mentioned above can be lumped into two categories, aggressive and nurturing. It can be suggested that men are by nature more aggressive than women and women are by nature more nurturing than men. Men being more aggressive are more self-centered. Aggression is selfish or self-centered. In being self-centered you need to be free or make yourself free from the environment in which you find yourself. For example whereas girls, being contextual, look at what surrounds them, infant boys, being more single-minded, orient themselves to objects. Similarly boys have better mechanical skills and ability than girls. For this reason one needs to be able to abstract oneself , one needs to think abstractly, to see things as they might be in different contexts or without a context. This is the connection Mansfield makes between aggression and abstraction. Aggression and abstraction are two forms of being single-minded.
Manliness is rooted in aggression but it is not mere aggression. It is aggression that develops an assertion, it takes up a cause. According to Mansfield, the quality of manliness is seen when an individual uses his power to assert something, to assert the value or worth of something, to make an assertion or protestation on behalf of someone or something. It is not mere aggression or pushiness, but rather a claim on your attention. This is why the very essence of the male animal is to strut and display himself, and the manly man parades himself and boasts. He has an important point to make! We can conclude that his aggression takes the form of an assertion of importance applicable both to himself and the cause he espouses. This is also seen in his ability to command which comes from his confidence and ability to impart some of his confidence on everyone else.
But manliness does not come without consequences. Manliness has fueled an enormous amount of human achievement and success and as well as a decent amount of pain and disaster. Not only is it a quality used for good but also a quality employed for evil. There is no doubt that this quality has caused much harm and violence in the world due to the fact that it is rooted in the most brute instincts of man, i.e. aggression. The lowest level of manliness, vulgar aggression, is the most dangerous level of manliness being purely self-serving. It is important to note that Mansfield examination of manliness also demonstrates that manliness can come in different levels, vulgar aggression, assertive manliness (manliness of gentlemen), and philosophical manliness. And it is the latter two levels of manliness that have been most beneficial to mankind with philosophical manliness as the highest form of manliness.
In sum, a manly man is an individual who separates himself from the crowd, set himself apart from the herd, who holds the world to be essentially a theater for heroism. Life to the manly man is more than just survival of his individual being. He finds his survival only in his honor. As Mansfield states, “ Manliness is not so much what all males share, or what most males share with a few females, as what a few males have superlatively”(2). The rest of men merely show traces of these few. Manliness is what the Greeks called thumos (a quality of spiritedness), the catalyst that induces individuals, more specifically manly men, to risk their lives to save lives. Manliness in short is confidence (and competence) in the face of risk and the ability to command.
(Examples of manliness see: Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea, Homer’s Iliad, more specific Achilles and Odysseus, also individuals like, Nietzsche, Hemingway, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, and the like).
The gender-neutral society
The gender-neutral society simply stated is the idea that there needs to be a leveling of all sex differences and especially those that have prejudiced one sex over the other in order to bring about a truly equal society. History is replete with women getting the short end of the stick. And the quality that has caused most of the damage has been manliness, toxic masculinity, a quality of the male sex. But such a quality, manliness, does not really exist, it is only a stereotype taught to us by our patriarchal tradition, and serving the interests of that tradition in which women are held to be unequal to men. We have lived with it up to now but there is no necessity, there is nothing in nature, requiring us to continue living under a delusion that so drastically limits our freedom of choice. The gender-neutral society regards manliness as a stereotype in the deepest sense. By deepest sense they mean to say in the pejorative sense. In other words society makes a distinction between men and women that it need not have made, one that is wrongly and unjustly imposed. Proponents of gender neutrality are eager to support public policies devised and designed to eliminate any sex/gender distinction, e.g. gender-neutral bathrooms (public restrooms made accessible without distinguishing the sex of the person using them). For a society to be equally open in all aspects to both genders, there must not, strictly speaking, be any quality pertaining to one of them that gives it an advantage or a disadvantage in life’s occupations. But is this really so, does society’s impress create the form, as if molding a block of clay, or does it work upon, or form, a modal made by nature, as if dressing a doll.
The gender-neutral parenting movement is an attempt of the gender-neutral project to bring about the leveling of all sex difference in society. It is an approach to parenting that attempts to parent in ways that do not reinforce the “stereotypes” and preconceived notions that have traditionally defined gender roles. For example boys are encouraged to dress in traditional girls outfits and girls in boys outfits (3). The toy industry is another example where the gender-neutral society has attempted to change the landscape. The influx of gender-neutral flooding the market, compelling companies and stores to stop catering certain types of toys to specific sexes (4).
However, much of the movement is aimed at enervating manliness. This is clearly seen on campuses where universities are encouraged to purge male students of toxic masculinity. Examples abound on campuses hosting training sessions, group meetings, lectures and other programs to effectively cleanse what the gender-neutral society contends is an unhealthy masculinity in young men. For example University of North Carolina and Duke University both launched programs specifically designed for male students to explore “violent masculinity” and “healthier masculinity” and discuss issues like gender fluidity (5).
Common sense seems to contradict the gender-neutral society assumption that gender is fluid. As state earlier, common sense and human experience seems to suggest that men are more aggressive and women more nurturing, that men tend to be risk-seekers while women risk-averse. The first thing one sees with one’s eyes when encountering a human being is his or her sex. The gender-neutral society would want us to suspend such judgements for the sake of equality. The gender-neutral society asks us to maintain contact with the bodily shapes we see with our eyes while refusing to draw conclusion from them. But such a spectacular acrobatic cognitive feat seems impossible for most humans. Rational beings, even. The male’s assertiveness, his “willful will”, and the female’s nurturing desire, are not empty concepts, airy, bodiless wishes with nothing behind them. It has been found that they have a basis in the hormonal difference between men and women; men have much too much testosterone (6).
Does science disprove the common sense understanding of manliness, and can manliness be eliminated?
In the case of manliness, the sciences on the whole confirm common sense; they generally repeat the common-sense view that the sexes differ: men are more aggressive, women are more caring. Psychologist Eleanor Maccoby in her book The Two Sexes shows how biologically influenced propensities of girls and boys which differ to a certain degree can nevertheless lead to quite large differences in behavior between the sexes. She points out that in regards to toy preferences, children first select spontaneously the kind of toy they prefer, and then, after they become aware that it is the kind of toy boys or girls prefer, they apply the stereotype consciously (7). It seems that the thesis maintained by the GNS, that stereotypes concerning sex differences are human convention, products of culture and society, is disputed by Maccoby’s findings. Her findings seems to suggest the common sense view that some stereotypes concerning sex differences are the consequence of biological differences, not the causes of sex differences or the differences in behavior boys and girls display regarding sex roles.
A similar landmark study conducted in 2002 by Gerianne Alexander and Melissa Hines, published in Evolution and Human Behaviour, rocked the scientific community. According to the study the researchers offered gender specific toys to 44 males and 44 females vervet monkeys. Each monkey was given a ball and a police car (masculine toys), and a cooking pot and soft ball (feminine toys), and a picture book and a stuffed dog (neutral toy). Preference was then determined by the duration of time a monkey spent with each toy. What the data revealed was astonishing. The male monkeys preferred the masculine toys while the female monkeys preferred feminine toys (8). One might ask, “Monkeys aren’t humans, why is this relevant?” Well the radical feminist view represented by the gender-neutral society claims that gender socialization, or the practice of parents offering “gender specific” toys to children is a direct correlation to gender roles or the ultimate preferences in a given society. The study seems to suggest the opposite, i.e. that sex roles and ultimate gender preferences to a certain degree are a result of biological behavior. The same ground-breaking empirical data was later replicated by other studies and published in the Hormones and Behavior (9).
Brain studies also show a significant difference between the physical brain composition between the sexes. These brain patterns play a significant role in biological preferences and behaviors that seems to point to more developed cerebral spatial abilities for men and better verbal-fluency skills for women (10). Other studies have shown that testosterone levels are linked to rough-and-tumble play. The higher testosterone levels, the more likely the child was to exhibit male-like behavior, i.e. aggression (11).
What these studies show is that there is some biological determinacy in gender behavior. Manliness, in contradistinction to the assumption that the quality of manliness is a product of human convention, seems more and more to be a result of nature and a consequence of biological behavior. The proponents of the gender-neutral society must ask themselves, why do differences among the sexes still persist? What explains those differences? The gender-neutral society does its best to destroy them but at best only succeeds in minimizing them or in suppressing overt reliance on them. Thus, it would seem, in contradistinction to the gender-neutral society claim, human convention did not cause the difference. They must be traced to a deeper cause, to something that is unchangeable, i.e. to nature.
Manliness, a quality of the soul seen mostly in men but not exclusively in men since “formidable women” do exist, is confidence (and competence) in the face of risk and the ability to command. As stated above, this quality seems to be a permanent aspect of the human condition. Abolishing sex difference by removing the principal source of irrational insistence is not the answer to facilitating the management of human beings. The proponents of the gender-neutral society begin with man and women but never return to man and women as wholes. Men have better spatial abilities than women and are also more aggressive and violent. Are these two connected? They never try to connect or even consider that these two might be connected. Moreover, is the quality of manliness a necessary condition for human flourishing, and can it be eliminated? So long as nature is unconquerable and risk ineliminable manliness will be needed. Manliness is a necessary quality for human flourishing.
The gender-neutral society battle with manliness will not succeed, there is far too much fraternizing with the enemy. Men and women love each other too much, and especially their differences, for the gender-neutral society to succeed. A better approach is to find a way to employee manliness for the betterment of human progress and to reduce its not so great propensities. Repressing the sex differences will not transcend the sex differences. Respecting the sex differences is more in accord with nature. But nature does not prescribe exactly how she is to be respected. Thus, it is important that men listen to women because neither sex has a monopoly over what is correct and right rather both see and act from a justifiable point of view. Perhaps the best advice is for our society to frankly and unapologetically acknowledge the differences between men and women, without engaging in legal discrimination.
(1). Mansfield, Harvey C. Manliness, 23.
(2). Mansfield, Harvey C. Manliness, 38.
(3). Watkins, Olivia. “Development of the authentic self: An exploration of gender neutral parenting.” School of Education and Childhood 1 (2016): 21.
(4)Hughes, Thea, and Christia Spears Brown. “Should toys be gender neutral?.” (2016).
(6) Lamminmäki A, Hines M, Kuiri-Hänninen T, Kilpeläinen L, Dunkel L, and Sankilampi U. 2012. Testosterone measured in infancy predicts subsequent sex-typed behavior in boys and in girls. Horm Behav. 61(4):611-6
(7). Maccoby, Eleanor E. The Two Sexes: Growing Up Apart, Coming Together. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998. Print.
(8). Alexander G and Hines M. 2002. Sex differences in response to children’s toys in nonhuman primates (Cercopithecus aethiops sabaeus) Evolution and Human Behavior 23(6): 467-479. See also
Williams CL and Pleil KE. 2008. Toy story: Why do monkey and human males prefer trucks? Comment on “Sex differences in rhesus monkey toy preferences parallel those of children by Hassett, Siebert and Wallen.” Horm Behav 54(3): 335-358.
Lutchmaya S and Baron-Cohen S. 2002. Human sex differences in social and non-social looking preferences, at 12 months of age. Infant Behavior and Development 25(3): 319-325. See also
Auyeaung B, Baron-Cohen S, Ashwin E, Knickmeyer R, et al. 2009. Fetal testosterone predicts sexually differentiated childhood behavior in girls and boys. Psychological Science 20(2): 144-148.
(10). Eagly, “Science and Politics of Comparing Women and Men,” 147; Halpern, Sex Differences, 59-97; Geary, Male, Female, 218-21, 289, 312: Jorm, Anthony F.; Anstey, Kaarin J.; Christensen, Helen; Rodgers, Bryan (2004). “Gender differences in cognitive abilities: The mediating role of health state and health habits”. Intelligence. 32: 7–23. See also
Wai, Jonathan; Cacchio, Megan; Putallaz, Martha; Makel, Matthew C. (2010). “Sex differences in the right tail of cognitive abilities: A 30year examination”. Intelligence. 38 (4): 412–423.
(11). Auyeaung B, Baron-Cohen S, Ashwin E, Knickmeyer R, et al. 2009. Fetal testosterone predicts sexually differentiated childhood behavior in girls and boys. Psychological Science 20(2): 144-148.
Parental rights has been a topic of little interest to philosophers and thinkers throughout the ages, perhaps because most societies took for granted that parents have certain rights in regards to rearing and educating their offsprings. It is only recently that we have been confronted with the issue of parental rights and whether parents possess certain fundamental rights in regards to the child-parent relationship. The parental rights issue has come to the forefront primarily with the advent of progressivism and their approach to child education on continental Europe, and more recently in our country. In this section we will address the following questions: Is there such a thing as a parental right? If yes, what does it mean to possess a right, as a parent? Why think that such rights exist? What obligations to parents have towards their children? What is the role of the State, if any, concerning the child-parent relationship? These questions are paramount for our understanding of the moral, social, personal, and political dimensions of the parent-child relationship. More importantly we must also keep in mind that we must be concerned not merely with these theoretical questions but we must also focus our attention on the practical questions in this realm of human life. We will start with several approaches to parental right that are compatible with traditional American values. We will then discuss the progressive view in regards to child-parent relationship and where it goes wrong. But, before we start let us get some preliminary aspects out of the way concerning the concept of right.
When discussing right two notions of right must be distinguished, negative right and positive right. A negative right is a right of non-interference, such as the right to make decisions on behalf of one’s child concerning his/her education without state intervention. A positive right in this context is a right to have the relevant interests one has as a parent in some way promoted by the State. For example some argue that all individuals should have access to healthcare, and that it ought to be funded in part or as a whole by the state. Thus, a right in the broad sense is an acknowledgment and/or respect for certain activities or actions. But when we say that “we have a fundamental right to do such and such” we are invoking more than a mere right. We are invoking a right arising from actions and activities that are inseparable from the human existence and identity of our individuality. It is not merely about what we are free to do, but more about what we are substantively required to do in order to preserve our human existence and identity. Therefore, all unalienable rights are grounded in the obligations and responsibilities pursuant to human self-preservation. We, as humans, are obligated to fulfill these obligations, and every one of us has the right to fulfill those obligations without state interference, provided that the respective behavior is in conformity with the standard of action that constitutes the human existence and identity of each and every one of us. Respect for moral obligations constitute the rightness of a right. Let us start with the traditional approaches to parental rights.
The Traditional Approaches to Parental Rights.
Among the traditional approaches to parental rights the biological connection is one such approach that seeks to ground the rights and obligations of parents either by emphasizing the genetic connection or arguing that gestation is crucial in grounding parental rights. Advocates of the genetic account argue that a particular child’s genetic makeup being derived from the genetic material of an individual or the fact that the child is “tied by blood” to that individual is what yields parental rights and obligations. A individual has rights and obligations with respect to a particular child insofar as that individual and the child share the requisite DNA. This is seen in many of societies where perceived blood ties have been the main factor in determining the rules of inheritance.
Critics of genetic accounts state that this account seems to be flawed in some important ways. For example, if genetic connection is necessary for parental right and obligations, then how must one deal with the relationship between a child and his/her step-parent or adoptive parents? Moreover, what of cases where two identical adult twins have the same genetic connection to a child? It does not seem to follow that both are that child’s parents.
Gestational accountsof parental rights and obligations is another biological account that claims gestation is necessary for parental rights. On this view, men merely acquire parental rights and obligations via marriage, i.e. the gestational mother consenting to co-parenthood with the male. The argument focuses on the risk, effort, and discomfort that biological mothers undergo during their pregnancy as that which grounds their claims to parenthood. Proponents of this account also maintain that the intimacy obtained during the gestational period and the attachment which occurs during the respective period between the child and the mother is the basis for a claim to parenthood. The gestational account with its preference for gestational mothers would increase a women’s social standing by emphasizing their freedom to make choices on behalf of the child, e.g. medical or health decisions of themselves and their children.
Critics of the gestation account argue that it is objectionably counterintuitive, since it belies the intuitive belief that mothers and fathers have equal rights and obligations regarding their children. For example, many of the benefits and goods available to individuals via parenthood, including intimacy, meaning, and satisfaction that can be obtained in the child-parent relationship, are equally available to both mothers and fathers. It would seem, that this equality of parental interests, then, would justify the conclusion that both the father’s and mother’s presumptive claims to parenthood are of equal weight.
The biological account of parental rights points to the fact that biology is essential to the value of parenthood for human beings. The activities of creating, bearing, and rearing a child are thought to be a single process with inseparable parts which is valuable to parents inasmuch as they seek to create a person who in some sense reflects a part of themselves. The aim is to create someone else in the image of one’s self. It is precisely why being a father or a mother has value for us, it is why we desire it. Arguably, these selfish values apparent in the biological connection are morally significant in other ways. In principle, biological parents are more willing to sacrifice their time, property, and life for the wellbeing of the child. The biological connection between the parent and the child seems to make a more persistent claim on the love given to a child. They have a vested interest in the wellbeing of the child since there are in a sense their self-image or copy of themselves. Biological connection is also crucial in that the knowledge of one’s biological relatives, or one’s parents, plays an important role in one’s self knowledge and psychological wellbeing. The self-knowledge one gains from knowing their biological parents is central in molding a meaningful human life. It follows, then, that lack of such knowledge is harmful to children.
The following excerpt comes from the brilliant work of C.S. Lewis entitled Screwtape Proposes a Toast. I hope the article will illuminate some of the problems of Democracy. At the bottom of the article is an appendix that will clarify some of the terms and ideas within the C.S. Lewis article. Enjoy!-
C.S. Lewis ON DEMOCRACY
Hidden in the heart of this striving for Liberty there was also a deep hatred of personal freedom. That invaluable man Rousseau first revealed it. In his perfect democracy, you remember, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn’t know it) whatever the Government tells him to do. From that starting point, via Hegel (another indispensable propagandist on our side) we easily contrived both the Nazi and the Communist state….
Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose…. [T]hey should never be allowed to give this word a clear and definable meaning. They won’t. It will never occur to them that democracy is properly the name of a political system, even a system of voting, and that this has only the most remote and tenuous connection with what you are trying to sell them. Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle’s question: whether “democratic behaviour” means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same.
You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal…. As a result you can use the word democracy to sanction in his thought the most degrading (and also the least enjoyable) of human feelings. You can get him to practise, not only without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, would be universally derided.
The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say I’m as good as you….No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept.
And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority…. “They’ve no business to be different. It’s undemocratic.”Now, this useful phenomenon is in itself by no means new. Under the name of Envy it has been known to humans for thousands of years. But hitherto they always regarded it as the most odious, and also the most comical, of vices. Those who were aware of feeling it felt it with shame; those who were not gave it no quarter in others. The delightful novelty of the present situation is that you can sanction it — make it respectable and even laudable — by the incantatory use of the word democratic.
Under the influence of this incantation those who are in any or every way inferior can labour more wholeheartedly and successfully than ever before to pull down everyone else to their own level. But that is not all. Under the same influence, those who come, or could come, nearer to a full humanity, actually draw back from fear of being undemocratic…. They might (horror of horrors!) become individuals….
Meanwhile, as a delightful by-product, the few (fewer every day) who will not be made Normal or Regular and Like Folks and Integrated increasingly become in reality the prigs and cranks which the rabble would in any case have believed them to be. For suspicion often creates what it expects…. As a result we now have an intelligentsia which, though very small, is very useful to the cause of Hell.
But that is a mere by-product. What I want to fix your attention on is the vast, overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence – moral, cultural, social, or intellectual. And is it not pretty to notice how “democracy” (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient Dictatorships, and by the same methods?…
Once you have grasped the tendency, you can easily predict its future developments; especially as we ourselves will play our part in the developing. The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done at various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time…. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase – “parity of esteem”…. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma…by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career….In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers – or should I say, nurses? – will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.
Of course, this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will. That is part of the same movement. Penal taxes, designed for that purpose, are liquidating the Middle Class, the class who were prepared to save and spend and make sacrifices in order to have their children privately educated. The removal of this class, besides linking up with the abolition of education, is, fortunately, an inevitable effect of the spirit that says I’m as good as you. This was, after all, the social group which gave to the humans the overwhelming majority of their scientists, physicians, philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, composers, architects, jurists, and administrators. If ever there were a bunch of stalks that needed their tops knocked off, it was surely they. As an English politician remarked not long ago, “A democracy does not want great men.”We, in Hell, would welcome the disappearance of democracy in the strict sense of that word, the political arrangement so called. Like all forms of government, it often works to our advantage, but on the whole less often than other forms. And what we must realize is that “democracy” in the diabolical sense (I’m as good as you, Being Like Folks, Togetherness) is the fittest instrument we could possibly have for extirpating political democracies from the face of the earth.
For “democracy” or the “democratic spirit” (diabolical sense) leads to a nation without great men, a nation mainly of subliterates, full of the cocksureness which flattery breeds on ignorance, and quick to snarl or whimper at the first sign of criticism. And that is what Hell wishes every democratic people to be. For when such a nation meets in conflict a nation where children have been made to work at school, where talent is placed in high posts, and where the ignorant mass are allowed no say at all in public affairs, only one result is possible….
It is our function to encourage the behaviour, the manners, the whole attitude of mind, which democracies naturally like and enjoy, because these are the very things which, if unchecked, will destroy democracy. You would almost wonder that even humans don’t see it themselves. Even if they don’t read Aristotle (that would be undemocratic) you would have thought the French Revolution would have taught them that the behaviour aristocrats naturally like is not the behaviour that preserves aristocracy. They might then have applied the same principle to all forms of government….
The overthrow of free peoples and the multiplication of slave states are for us a means (besides, of course, being fun); but the real end is the destruction of individuals. For only individuals can be saved or damned, can become sons of the Enemy or food for us. The ultimate value, for us, of any revolution, war, or famine lies in the individual anguish, treachery, hatred, rage, and despair which it may produce. I’m as good as you is a useful means for the destruction of democratic societies. But it has a far deeper value as an end in itself, as a state of mind which, necessarily excluding humility, charity, contentment, and all the pleasures of gratitude or admiration, turns a human being away from almost every road which might finally lead him to Heaven.
Progressivism– a political movement that was concerned with ideas of equality. It is the view that human perfection and complete freedom, i.e. in a society, can be achieved. This approach to building a society is rooted in German thought, via Hegel and Kant. Thus, the main tenets of Progressivism are the following: society is not built on absolute truths based in the individual itself or nature, but on posited (theorized/ man made) truths, and second it maintains that human perfection and complete freedom in a society can be achieved and only through total equality.
Rousseau– A French philosopher (1712-1778) who influenced or at least his ideologies played a great part in the French revolution. His philosophy was an amalgamation (mixture) of different views taken from different philosophers.
These philosophers viewed the world as a mechanistic system (as opposed to the classical view that the world is like an organic body governed by natural laws) that can be manipulated and forged to the preferences of Man (these views come from the philosophy of Descartes and that of Hobbes). Descartes changed how we thought about science from the Aristotelian claim that we perceived reality directly by our senses, and therefore qualities such as ‘red’ and ‘heat’ were categories of being really within objects. Descartes’ rejected this and replaced it with his mechanical theory of nature, i.e. positivism. Positivism, in short, is the notion that all knowledge (and therefore all intelligence) is based entirely on the data of experience, that the world is a world of facts, and that these facts follow the rules of pure logic and pure mathematics. Positivism is therefore an anti-metaphysical position, it takes the position that, in short, everything that is known is experience. According to Descartes we must think of knowledge in terms of how we can control the world, that we might know how to dominate the world and become the master and possessor of it. Related to Descartes philosophy is Hobbes conception of civil society. Hobbes argued that life in the state of nature is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” and the only way out this predicament, is to construct a civil society. Liberty, he considers it as impossible in politics. In the State as well as in nature might makes right. The natural state of man consists in the bellumomnium contra omnes (war of all against all). The State/ Government is the indispensable means of putting an end to this conflict. It protects the life and property of individuals at the cost of a passive and absolute obedience on their part.
What it commands is good, what it prohibits is bad. The State/Government’s will is the supreme law. More important, according to Descartes and Hobbes, is that the world is made of facts. The philosophies of Descartes and Hobbes established a rational, atomistic tradition in which all phenomena can be described as complicated combinations of simple elements (Descartes), these elements were formal in nature and related by purely syntactical operations, so reasoning could be reduced to complex calculations, pure mathematics (Hobbes) thus civil society is a mechanistic system in which the role of the government is to regulate the machine. Positivism allowed for the abandonment of nature (legality is separate from morality, this is important because it separates morality from laws, that is laws do not legislate morality, this view is detrimental to society because morality must be legislated in order for the citizens to be virtuous and good), as a result all law worth our consideration is positive law. This was the new radical conception of a regime adopted by the US government during the post-Civil war and through the New Deal era (1900-present), in contrast to natural law theory (held by the founding fathers) which maintains that to be legally valid a norm must conform to a body of natural law that is discernible by human reason.
Democracy and Oligarchy: The two main types of regimes that exist are democracy and oligarchy, that is, in Western societies. Democracy is the rule of the majority, since in every regime the majority has authority. An important aspect to keep in mind is that the majority will always be tyrannical since the minority will always suffer, furthermore they (majority) are easily swayed by Tyrants/Dictators (or majorities always act irrational since they mostly act on form passions). The distinction between democracy and oligarchy is that in democracy exists when the free and poor, being a majority, have authority to rule; oligarchy, when the wealthy (this should not be confused with noblemen who are those that govern in Aristocracy) and better born have authority and are few.
The middling element is basically what in modern terms would be considered the middle class. The middling element is logical, in the same manner as Aristotle believes virtue to be a mean between two extremes of vice. A large middle class is absolutely essential for a stable and well-run government because the middle class do not covet rule, are not envious, foster friendship because of their similarity, and can act as neutral arbitrators between the rich and the poor. Hemmed in between people above in which it dislikes and people below in which it fears, the middling element is more likely to listen to reason and to help maintain stability in the regime.
Behavior Democracy likes and Behavior that will preserve Democracies:
Behavior that democracies like in short is the desire to make everyone the same, no one ought to be different. Moreover, the aim of Democracy is comfortable self-preservation which results in a regime/society in which there is no encouragement offered for the exercise of higher human faculties. Furthermore, Democracy left to its own devices is actually prone to the establishment of tyranny.
The behavior that will preserver Democracies, i.e. that will deter them from becoming tyrannical is proper education in aristocratic virtues, which are values opposite of democratic values.
“If there were no eternal consciousness in man, if at bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what then would life be but despair?” – Soren Kierkegaard –
In light of the constant terrorization of the conscience in our times I have decide to tackle the issue of conscience and its importance in jurisprudence. The issues is as old as society since society is build on certain salutary truths it seeks to safeguard those beliefs by tyrannizing thought. Therefore, the problem of conscience is coeval with society. It was just as pressing to the ancients as it is in our day and age.
Some see conscience as something interposed between the individual and the state, as something to be mitigated. Conscience is also viewed as something to be protected from the state, e.g. a law guaranteeing freedom of religion to protect freedom of conscience. However, a more pressing issue is the reciprocal relationship between individual conscience and human convention/law. Is there a mutual dependence between law and individual conscience? I believe the answer is resoundingly “yes!” Individual conscience is paramount to the individual’s responsibility to determine moral norms essential to the process of law (i.e. jurisprudence) in the safeguard of liberties and the protection against the enactment and enforcement of unjust laws.
In this paper we will deal with the mutual dependence between law and individual conscience. In the first section the problem will be articulated and elaborated using Sophocles play Antigone. The second section will be a discussion of the different interpretation of the concept of conscience. The third section will deal with jurisprudence and justice. The final section will deal with the mutual relationship between conscience and jurisprudence.
The Problem As Articulated by Sophocles’ Play Antigone.
The conflict between the individual and the state was as pressing for the Greek audience as it is for modern ones. In Sophocles’ play Antigone the protagonist Antigone is a threat to the status quo she invokes divine law as defense of her action but implicit in her position is faith in the discerning power of the individual conscience. The play starts off with the burial of Eteocles and Polyneices, two brothers leading opposite sides during Thebes’ civil war, both have been killed in battle. Creon the new ruler of Thebes, has declared that Eteocles will be honored and offered a proper burial while Polyneices will not have a proper burial. The rebel brother will not be sanctified by holy rites but will lay unburied to become carrion for scavengers. Antigone, one of the sister of the dead brothers, defies the king’s edict and buries her brother Polyneices. Even at the pleading of her sister Ismene, she is unswayed. Antigone then makes an impassioned argument, declaring Creon’s edict to be against the laws of the gods themselves. Enraged by her refusal to submit to his authority Creon declares Antigone will be sealed in a tomb to die of starvation. Although the story has an even more tragic end it is Antigone’s refusal of the king’s edict in light of her internal conviction that exemplifies the tension between individual conscience and human laws.
The tragic play brings to the forefront fundamental human problems and challenges the reader to think of the various conflicting morals that are present. On the one hand, loyalty to the beliefs of one’s society are paramount because society rests on a shared trust in those beliefs. Creon statement, “As God is my witness… no man who is his country’s enemy shall call me a friend,” indicates the principle that no traitor of the state shall be honored. A principle prevalent in ancient cultures and many societies in our time. Accompanying this principle was the obligation of loyalty to the city-state and a willingness to shed blood on its behalf. Within this atmosphere of loyalty, freedom was only enjoyed with the assumption that when the time came every able bodied man would be willing to fight for his people. Creon simply wants to enforce these values of loyalty. On the other hand, the play suggests that individual conscience demands its own right of being heard. It is inward looking, involving introspection, awareness of one’s behaviour, and self-assessment. It is a motivation to act that comes from within one’s self as opposed to external impositions. If conscience is the faculty by which one apprehends or grasps all the objective value judgments about all things then it would seem that individual conscience must be respected and protected. But as Sophocles play seems to suggest, individual conscience at time comes into conflict with the laws of a society. For example Antigone must decide whether or not she must act based on what she believes to be right or submit to the authority of her king. Throughout the play, Sophocles brings up the issue in question, i.e. the value of an individual’s conscience above society’s laws. Sophocles forces us to see through the thin veneer that is civilization and to see the predicament of the human situation.
Sophocles makes it explicit that the conflict between individual conscience and society is real. The question that follows is whether the conflict between individual conscience and society can –and should– be resolved? The choice is clear to try: (a)to try as far as possible to elude the conflict between individual conscience and society by maintaining as great a distance as possible between them; or(b) to try as far as possible to resolve the conflict between individual conscience and society by working for a reconciliation between them.
Different Conceptions of Conscience
I. The Religious Conception
The religious perspective sees conscience as the faculty that brings us some form of moral knowledge or moral beliefs in an absolute sense, e.g. knowledge of divine laws. This conception of conscience does not necessarily coincide with the function of the other epistemic faculties, e.g. as reason, or senses. Conscience in this sense is understood as inward looking, which presupposes that the knowledge to which it gives us access is already within us. The religious perspective argues that this form of knowledge is acquired through some other process not involving conscience, e.g. the moral contents we discover within us are acquired through divine intervention, through the laws of nature which God infuses in our heart. One such example of God’s laws of nature infused in our hearts is founded in 2 Romans 14-15, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” On this conception the laws of God are infused in man’s heart. On similar accounts of conscience, conscience does give us direct access to moral knowledge, e.g. as an intuition about what is good and what is bad. Perhaps the most articulate position of the religious conception of conscience is that espoused by Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Saint Thomas Aquinas conceives of conscience as the act of applying our knowledge of good and evil to what we do or might do. In order to know what is a good action or a bad one, one needs to understand how things are naturally ordered, primarily what human nature is and what things it needs and deserves. This order, which dictates what is good or evil behavior, is called Natural Law. In De Veritate, St. Thomas makes a distinction between two levels, or faculties, of conscience, sunaisthesis and conscientia. Sunaisthesis is the innate habit of the practical intellect whereby man grasps or is aware of the precepts of the natural law that guide human choice and action. The very first principle of practical reasoning is “good is to be pursued and acted upon, and evil is to be avoided.” To St. Thomas this principle is the cornerstone of all practical reasoning. Sunaisthesis is a name given to our capacity to know principles of natural law. The second part of conscience, conscientia, is the act whereby we witness to truth and apply knowledge of the first principles to particular circumstances, e.g. we analyze past choices, judge present choices, and deliberate on future choices (ST part I, question 79, articles 12-13).
Saint Thomas conceives of conscience as a habit that is to a great extent natural in the sense that conscience, and the awareness of the laws that it contains, are infused in man’s nature, innate, and are awakened to use as one emerges from infancy. St. Thomas speaks of the precepts of natural law as analogous to the precepts of logic, which govern and are presupposed in all rational thinking. One does not have to learn the principle of contradiction, such a principle is presupposed in all thinking. Without knowing these precepts, one can learn nothing, nor could one think rationally or communicate. Ad idem, with man’s grasp or apprehension of right and wrong. According to St. Thomas all or most societies share basic universal norms, e.g. murder, theft, and adultery are everywhere punishable crimes. In most societies the dead bodies must be treated with respect, heroes must be honored, children ought to honor and respect their parents, and the like. However, Thomas does concede that there will be disagreement among societies concerning the specific application of or derivations from the basic normative precepts (ST I-II, Q94, art. 4). Adultery will mean something different in a polygamous society from what it means in a monogamous society. Moreover, since men are morally fallible and do not retain clearly or follow strictly the first principles grasped by sunaisthesis, they regularly violate what they know to be right or wrong (ST I, Q 79, art. 13; I-II, Q 94, art.6). Men who violate the natural law, due in part to their uncontrolled passions and deep perversity, suffer as punishment the piercing pangs of a guilty conscience. Thus, for Thomas conscience also works as a punishment or sanction for breaking the natural law (ST I-II, Q 91, art. 6). More on this in the Jurisprudence section.
II. The Secular Conception of Conscience
The advent of evolutionary thought in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries brought with it a new set of questions about conscience. If human beings evolved from the “lower” animals (e.g. apes) then those characteristics, which seem to distinguish human beings from other animals, must also have evolved from more primitive characteristics. In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin argued that the development of conscience in human beings was inevitable once they developed the powers of reflection and memory. The altruistic and cooperative instincts, typical of social animals, are less strong than the more basic appetitive instincts, e.g. fear, hunger, or lust. Nevertheless, these social instincts make more persistent and enduring claims on the animal’s mind. Appetites, by contrast, no longer seem important once they have been satisfied. An animal, which gratifies its appetite at the expense of its neighboring animals, once able to reflect back on what it has done, will experience remorse. When reason and language enable the animal to remember these experiences, the social instincts obtain the special authority of conscience, i.e. we come to believe that we ought to obey them.
Other thinkers, most especially Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud, saw the acquisition of conscience as a decisive break with our animal past. Both believed that conscience resulted from a process of “internalization.” When our natural aggressive instincts are suppressed for the sake of social life, we find an outlet for them by turning them against ourselves, inflicting pain in our selves in the form of guilt. The process of internalization is caused by society, more specifically our parents that condition us to suppress aggression, and train us in mastering our basic instincts. Self-mastery is simply exercised for the sake of social requirements. Thus, conscience is nothing more than a kind of internally authoritative voice of one’s society and parents.
The secular accounts of the origin of conscience was due in part to the prevalent view that reality exists only within human knowledge, and that, as the object of knowledge, reality is relative to the knowing subject. Morality is not something absolute but merely a human convention or the outcome of evolutionary process. But, if conscience is only an evolutionary process of internalization of our basic instincts one is led to conclude that there is nothing objective about it, a binding order prior to, and independent of the human will. Morality is simply subjective and a product of the human will, i.e. human convention.
But as Sophocles’s play Antigone illustrates, when human laws do not conform to the natural law, justice loses its meaning, man presumes to be God, and tyranny in the form of “might is right” or “raw judicial power” violates the most natural rights of all, such as Antigone’s brother’s right to a burial. It is easy to see how these secular accounts on the origins of morality led to the many atrocities experienced just in the past century.
Jurisprudence and Justice
Jurisprudence is mostly understood as the philosophy of law with the aim in contributing to the common good by achieving justice in society. The first requirement in the process of jurisprudence is to define what is justice. However, one immediately encounter the epistemological question, can one know what justice is? If the answer is “yes,” it raises the possibility that the enacted law will be subject to a knowable standard of justice. This is the epistemological basis of every natural law theory of jurisprudence. If, on the other hand, one cannot know what justice is, then the enacted law cannot be criticized as unjust. A law enacted by prescribed procedures will be valid regardless of its content. This is the epistemological basis of every theory of legal positivism.
Legal positivism cannot allow for the absolute (i.e. a reality that exists independently of human knowledge), the thing in itself is beyond human experience, it is inaccessible to human knowledge and therefore unknowable. This is Creon’s position in Sophocles’ play Antigone. He has decreed a law that no one should bury Polynices, an enemy of the state. Creon position is a philosophical relativism approach to reality in regards to knowledge of morality and justice. It stems from Creon’s core belief that only relative values are accessible to human knowledge and human will, and if this is recognized, then it is justifiable to enforce a social order against reluctant individuals only if this order is in harmony with the greatest possible number of equal individuals, that is to say, with the will of the majority. But, it may be the opinion of the minority, and not the opinion of the majority, that is correct. St. Thomas insight comes in handy at this point.
Thomas rejected the thrasymachus approach to government and cautioned that the law should not try to prescribe every virtue nor forbid every vice. The purpose of the law, according to St. Thomas, is to promote the “common good” and that law should “led men to virtue, not suddenly but gradually.” Otherwise, the law would be unenforceable and the law itself would be “despised” and “greater evils” would result. This is essential in order to understand Creon’s precarious position, where the legislator decides what the basic norm is and whether any particular law is in accord with it. Any content whatsoever can be legal, i.e. there is no human behavior which could not function as the content of a legal norm. The only requirement for law to be valid and binding is that it has been constituted in a particular fashion. Once a law is enacted and in force, it is obligatory. There is no knowable higher law of nature, the ultimate criterion is the enforced will of the legislator. The positive law cannot be criticized as unjust. All human laws are characterized, in greater or lesser degree, by the denial of the capacity of human reason to know what is right or wrong. Thus Creon is only concerned with what the law is, not with what it ought to be. This position led Creon to his demise and the damnation of his household.
A system of jurisprudence, in order to serve a role in nation-building, ought to provide an objective guide for determining the content of general terms in the constitution of laws. And it ought to provide a reasoned basis in objective justice in order to critically evaluate the enactments enforcing those general terms. The interpretation of constitutional guarantees will promote the common good and safeguard liberties only if the interpreters recognize an intellectual knowable, objective content to the terms in which constitutional guarantees are placed. Identifying such objective contents is not a religious enterprise, rather an explication of principles rooted in natural law.
The Importance of Conscience to Jurisprudence
Natural law has several functions in jurisprudence, the function of providing a guide for the enactment of laws to promote the common good, and the role of providing a basis for criticism of the enacted laws as unjust. In the first instance, as St. Thomas emphasized, law should not attempt to prohibit every vice or enforce every virtue, rather it serves as a guide to the way things ought to work according to reason and nature. Natural law principles of morality and social justice ought to inform public discussion of issues such as family, the economy, the prevention of racial discrimination. In its second role it can be protective of the rights of the people. Differently put, it enables us to draw the line and to criticize an act of the state as unjust and legally non-binding. Without the natural law, the people have no basis other than the pragmatic and utilitarian approach to respond to unjust laws. Antigone’s recourse to natural law in her famous discourse illustrates this point succinctly. It was her ability to discern fundamental principles found in nature and their relationship to human law that allowed her to contend against Creon’s unjust law.
Conscience bears witness to the law written on the heart of men; one knows natural law through his conscience, which holds him accountable to the law. As mentioned earlier St. Thomas differentiated between conscience that grasps the precepts of natural law, i.e. sunaithesis, and conscience as applied through practical reason, conscientia. Witnessing, investigating, binding, accusing and excusing (testificare, instigare vel ligare, accusare vel excusare) were, according to St. Thomas, attributes of the conscientia, the conscience in action. Conscientia was merely the function of the sunaisthesis. Conscience was not a capability or power, rather, it was a function, the application of knowledge. As the application of knowledge, conscientia, had the function of practical reason, applying knowledge to individual cases. Concerning human law sunaisthesis grasps the truths of natural law, which provide a guide for the enactment of laws to promote the common good which allow for human flourishing. Conscientia, applies knowledge of the truths grasped by sunaisthesis to individual cases where judgment must be imparted according to human law. The second might be said to deal mostly with the safeguard of liberties prescribed by natural law. Thus, conscience is a sovereign in it own right, in its ability to challenge the very validity of an unjust law, and to protect against the enactment and enforcement of such laws. Furthermore, it allows for the perpetuation of natural rights and liberties, such as freedom of religion, speech, and freedom of conscience. This protective function (conscience) is also constructive in that the recognition that there is a protective line beyond which the state may not go may serve to encourage the enactment of laws that are truly just.
Conscience is, in its essence, inalterable and compelling. Because of its inalterable and compelling nature, conscience is a rare instance where there is a recognition of individual responsibility to define principles and to adhere to them. Conscience, as many of the founding fathers articulated, is one of the few hopes and few protections against the possibility of governmental tyranny. It is important not only for the substantive principles that it yields, but also for the process that it represents. It is one of the few indictments against the use of public opinion and their collective judgments as a justification for the failure to make individual moral inquiry. Thomas Jefferson wrote “We should… moralize for ourselves, from the oracle of conscience,”(Adams 367, 68). John Adams, referred to the “Liberty of conscience…” as “the right of free inquiry and private judgment” (607). He wrote, “the freedom of choice and action, united conscience, necessarily implies a responsibility to a lawgiver and to a law” (Cousins 105). Conscience was therefore “necessary to the people’s own safety, and orderly government” (Adams 387, 398). Only conscience, rooted in transcendent moral values, imposing a sense of responsibility upon autonomous rational individuals, provides the restrained on human conduct necessary for the survival of government by the people.
There is no doubt that leaving conscience to individual determination carries risk. There is no guarantee, the Founders said, that individuals will not suffer from imperfection in “moral sense” or, that all will agree as to what the relevant transcendent or moral principle should be. But as frail as it may be individual conscience is still a rare instance where individual responsibility to determine moral norms recognized, and in fact, often provided the only contemporary (as well as classical, e.g. Antigone) voice against what we now universally agree to have been atrocities in human history. Therefore the individually conscience is paramount to the individual responsibility to determine moral norms essential to the process of law, i.e. jurisprudence, in the safeguard of liberties, and the protection against the enactment and enforcement of unjust laws.
“If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what then would life be but despair? If it were thus, if there were no sacred bound uniting mankind. If one generation succeeded the other as the songs of birds in the woods, if the human race passed through the world as a ship through the sea or the wind through the desert, a thoughtless and fruitless whim, if an eternal oblivion always lurked hungrily for its prey and there were no power strong enough to wrest it from the clutches – how empty and devoid of comfort life would be! But for that reason it is not so, and as God created man and woman, so too he shaped the hero and the poet or speech-maker.”
– Soren Kierkegaard –
Adams, John, Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Lester Jesse Cappon. 1959. The Adams-Jefferson letters: the complete correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams. Chapel Hill: Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, Va., by the University of North Carolina Press.
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Cousins, Norman. 1958. In God we trust: the religious beliefs and ideas of the American founding fathers. New York: Harper.
Duska, Ronald. 1974. “AQUINAS’S DEFINITION OF GOOD: ETHICAL-THEORETICAL NOTES ON “DE VERITATE”, Q. 21″. The Monist. 58 (1): 151-162.
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