Hayek, Habermas and Schmitt Together

Friedrich Hayek, Jürgen Habermas, and Carl Schmitt do not look like a group of the like minded. Schmitt was the legal and political theorist who emphasised that law and politics rest on the capacity of someone to make a decision.

Schmitt thought that political theory should take sovereignty as its object not the state. If political theory takes the state as an object, it becomes primarily concerned with the institutional and administrative aspects of the state. He took a critical view of confusion of the state with civil society. Where politics itself engages with civil society, the state becomes one of various pressure groups. The order and unity of the state which is necessary to the exercise of sovereignty is undermined in a pluralist view of the state. Democracy itself is not best represented by the divisive nature of parliamentary politics, since the single ruler is much better suited to representing the majority as a unity, rather than as a divided aggregate of many points of view, where no unified will of the majority can emerge. Politics also contains the dimension of struggle between friend and foe, in which we struggle to defend ourselves against the enemy who threatens our existence. Schmitt considered that to be the basis of international relations. Attempts at world confederation, and world government, can only produce new wars with an enemy who inevitably resists other countries ganging up on it.

Habermas, a Marxist in principle but more of a social democrat/left liberal in practice, condemns Schmitt for reducing international relations to this constant war which leaves no room for the just war that enforces international order. One point at which Habermas raises this criticism is when he writes on the NATO intervention in Kosovo. Habermas does not think this intervention can be fully justified by the international law as it previously existed. The UN charter strongly opposes interference in the internal affairs of member states. Habermas did not write to condemn the Kosovo intervention It is an intervention which refers to morality rather than existing law, it is the intervention based on acting as it there is a global civil society, though it does not yet exist. The intervention was not wrong, it was however a precedent that should not be taken as a precedent. Self-legislating improvement should not be accepted. Habermas talks about being between morality and law, but he is halfway between legalism and decisionism. Some force took the decision to intervene rather than follow international law, and that itself is a welcome intervention There is an Enemy, Slobodan Milosevic who must be defeated regardless of previous law. With regard to internal law and administration, Habermas emphasises the difficulties that arise from social legislation This is inevitably administered outside the apparatus of parliamentary supervision. Increased administration is inevitable for these kinds of programs The regulatory nature of social intervention must come into conflict with the universality of law, democracy is fragmenting ştself.

Hayek, the best know advocate of pure free market and an almost non-existent state, condemns Schmitt, like Habermas, always in passing He appears to be condemned but disappears before he contaminates the surrounding text. Hayek thinks democracy should be limited, or should limit itself, in order to restrict the state to state matters, including the foundation of law, a foundation which must also be an apex. The state should not be interfering in society, it should be protecting its own sovereignty from any confusion about its role. The state is most admired before the establishment of mass democracy, and is most legitimate when defending itself against enemies. There is a strong element of elitism in Hayek, who would like constitutional constraints on democracy to the advantage of property owners. Hayek’s wariness of democracy follows a tradition that goes back to Humboldt Humboldt recommended the free development of the individual after paying very little tx. Humboldt also opposed democracy, because he thought that would lead to increasing social demands on the state. Humboldt thought there should be just a king, remote from and above society. That itself recalls Hobbes. Hayek, and others with similar views, attack Hobbes as a supporter of a strong state. This misses the point that Hobbes thought the only purpose of the state was to leave people to be free in civil society while defending the state against its enemies. Hobbes preferred monarchy to democracy, a monarchy of the sword unconcerned with social questions, but wielding immense force to protect sovereignty within and without.

This is all consistent with Schmitt’s enthusiasm for a separation between the political sphere and the economic sphere. Hayek assumed that since Schmitt refereed to the modern tendency for society and the state to be confused, that he was endorsing that tendency, and saw in the Nazis an ideal aspect of that trend. However, there is no reason to believe that Schmitt supported the Nazis for socialsit or statist reasons. He justified the idea of a Caesar like leader, and the rights of any large nation over its smaller neighbours. That is all. Schmitt was complicit with a totalitarian state, but that should not lead us to the conclusion that totalitarianism was his goal. A post-war speech to business people strongly suggests he though that the state should concern itself with politics without interference from above in the economy.

Like Habermas, Schmitt did not think all war must be founded on existing international law. Like Hayek, Schmitt was suspicious of democracy and particularly of welfarism.
Like both Hayek and Habermas, Schmitt thought that the modern state is fundamentally lost in a contradiction between general laws and administrative bodies which regulate more and more of life.

Fear and Trembling: Ethics of Marriage

Further thoughts while teaching Kierkegaard.

Marriage and Ethics
What is the topic of Fear and Trembling? Is it the story of Abraham and Isaac? Yes, but we should not be distracted from the other topic. This is the topic defined in the ‘Diapslamata’ of Either/Or I, in the first sentence of the section on ‘Either/Or: An Ecstatic Discourse’

Marry, and you will regret it. Do not marry, and you will also regret it. Marry or do not marry, you will regret it either way (Princeton University Press, edited and translated by Hong and Hong: 38)

Either/Or I deals with the aesthetic stage in which marriage is to long term in a perspective dominated by the interest of the immediate. Most of Either/Or II deals with the ethical stage, and that is defined by marriage. The ethical stage is presented by Judge William, the aesthetic stage in the fragments of an anonymous young man.

Marriage and the Daemonic
Fear and Trembling deals with the drama of Abraham and Isaac, but in large part it deals with relations between men and women and the possibility of marriage. There is more to be said about Fear and Trembling but will concentrate on the marriage theme which is deeply embedded. It was published in the same year as Either/Or, so we would expect some common themes. Kierkegaard deals with various ways in which the possibility of marriage, and barriers to such a possibility, are presented. In comedies, Kierkegaard gives Danish examples which seem to correspond with Hollywood Romantic Comedies in structure. A barrier to love and marriage is overcome through happy accident. In the more sombre examples, marriage is related to terrible danger. Sarah and Tobit in the Old Testament/Torah book of Tobit, are married despite the deaths of seven previous husbands of Sarah. Faust avoids marriage with Gretchen in Goethe’s poem to protect her from his daemonic side. In a very Danish touch, Kierkegaard refers to the story of Agnes and the Merman in Hans Christian Anderson, the story is non-Danish in origin but given that it was published by Anderson and that it fits with various reference Kierkegaard makes to Nordic myths and monsters, we can see it as belonging to the Danish-Nordic element Kierkegaard regularly introduces. Kierkegaard thinks of various possible alternative versions of the story of the girl seduced by a merman. They all deal with the daemonic in the merman.

Kierkegaard discusses various fictional and scriptural examples of the daemonic in the individual coming into conflict with the desire to marry, in a way which relates to Abraham’s choice between ethics and obeying God. Abraham’s solution is the paradox in which he obeys both, Kierkegaard recommends the same solution for the marriage dilemma. The ethical relation of marriage is threatened by the daemonic within the individual, the daemonic element within makes marriage apparently unethical for that person because it threatens the destruction of the loved person

Ethics and the Absolute Self
Kierkegaard recommends faith that ethics will not be contradicted in marriage, just as Abraham is a hero because he had faith that God’s command could be obeyed while remaining within ethics. Ethics must be suspended in order to preserve it. Ethics rests on the absolute, the absolute self, the absolute capacity of the individual for a decision. Ethics is always suspended in relation to that absolute, the necessity of the judging self.

Hegel
By any standards, marriage can be defined as an ethical relation because it requires two people to think of at least one other person, and because it provides a basic structure for the existence of a society based on ethical principles. This is particularly clear if we think of the way Hegel thinks of marriage, it is the first step of the ethical. For Hegel, the ethical is a social form, a form of life as opposed to nature and as opposed to purely individual morality.

In the very first page of ‘Problema 1′ in Fear and Trembling, Hegel is referred to with regard to individual conscience as evil. In the section on morality and conscience in Philosophy of Right, Hegel refers to individual conscience as evil in its results, because it is purely individual. Opposing the individual to universality can only be evil. Hegel describes a move from morality to ethical life (Sittlichkeit, which is something like the being of ethos/mores), in which individuals are part of universality through marriage, family, civil society, and the state.

Absolute Individual and Marriage
The project announced in Fear and Trembling is that of showing that the individual is higher than the universal but is not evil. That should encourage us to read the Abraham/Isaac story as referring to individuality rather than God. This is very clear with the accounts of marriage dilemmas which in their most serious refer to the daemonic within an individual.

Fear and Trembling deals with the aesthetic individual who is beneath marriage and the absolute individual who is above marriage. The individual as individual is beneath and above the ethical relation or marriage. There is no complete distinction between the aesthetic individual and the absolute individual. The absolute emerges from the aesthetic through the melancholy of mere immediacy.

Nietzsche against Master Morality

The assumption is widespread that Nietzsche’s ethics can be explained as the master morality which he diagnoses in the Essay 1 of On the Genealogy of Morality. The assumption is widespread among those who are semi-informed, and even more disturbingly among those who have some claims to expertise on Nietzsche. As a reaction to Nietzsche, it’s not totally inappropriate, the texts do provoke the reader to think of master morality as something better than slave morality. That is somewhat different from a committment to master morality as a form of ethics.

Nietzsche sometime says he is referring to a philosophy of life rather than ethics or morality. I believe it would be going to far to say that there is no ethics, or moral philosophy in Nietzsche. However, it is important toı recognise that Nietzsche is challenging (which is not the same as rejecting) the bases of ethics or morality. What he is doing is to find something like what Hegel calls immediacy, and Kierkegaard calls wonder in a reaction to nature and human nature. Though whether that means we can classify Nietzshe with contemporary Naturalists of a scientistic reductionist orientation is another thing. Nietzsche looks at the wonder, or immediacy of the master’s view of the world in the most primitive of moralities, the original master morality. That he explains particularly in relation to Homeric heroes, and in general an approach in which mutual obligations are recognised between masters, but not to those outside the relevant group of masters. From this point of view, the masters define themselves as good, beautiful, truthful and so on. The salves are those who have the opposite of those characteristics.

The slaves are not evil, because they behave according to nature in the master world view, they just behave as they do without evil intention. For Nietzsche, the concept of evil is deeply embedded in ideas of soul, strong personal identity, free will and inner intentions. It is the slaves who have a good/evil dichotomy who assume there is strong personal identity and intentionalism. For the master, there are immediate reactions There is no assumption for strong personal identity and all that might go with that: free will, intentionalism, memory over time. These aspects of master morality are clearly part of what Nietzsche advocates, but it is not what Nietzsche advocates as a whole.

Nietzsche is against a metaphysical theory free will, resting as he sees it on a strong sense of personal identity in which the self is a soul thing rather than a combination of forces as Nietzsche thinks. However, he is not against the ideas of autonomy, sovereignty of the self, or self-creation. These are all given great emphasis. Both art and science are taken as products of the creative self, which creates itself as a it creates a perspective on natural forces in nature or the creation of art. The master is not an artist or scientist. Neither of these would be a complete model for Nietzsche. Nietzsche sees value in the life that is like art, he finds that beauty is a product of the desire for happiness. Happiness comes in life led as self-creating and self-legislating. It is here that Nietzsche sees the origin of value, not in the brutishness and borrishness of the master towards the slave. He does not think that value originates in utilitarian calculations of maximised benefits, or any set of abstract principles or social institutions. Nietzsche refers to the master who forgets offence and only takes revenge where it is immediately possible, but he admires the individual with no need to punish or take revenge at all, much more.

Islam and Kierkegaard: Abraham and Sacrifice of the Son

I’ve been teaching Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling recently in Istanbul. One advantage of teaching that text in a Muslim country, is that everyone is familiar with the story of Abraham and Isaac.

For those who don’t know it, for Jews and Christians, it is the story in Genesis 22 of Abraham commanded to kill his son Isaac by God. Abraham takes Isaac to the place of Sacrifice, but God relieves him of the sacrifice by revealing a sheep for a substitute sacrifice. Sura 37 of the Koran refers to Abraham/Ibrahim nearly sacrificing his son, which is often interpreted by Muslims as referring to Ishmael rather than Isaac/Isak; and it refers to a great sacrifice rather than a specfic animal but it is always understood as a goat or sheep.

In any case, the story is very familiar because one of the major Muslim festivals is the Sacrifice Festival, which started on the 20th December this year. The Sacrifice Festival includes the ritual sacrifice of sheep, goats, and bulls to commemorate İbrahim’s obedience and Allah’s offer of the sheep as substitute.

From Kierkegaard’s point of view the Koran story is significantly different from the version because Ibrahim tells his son of a vision of the sacrifice, and the son is willing to be sacrificed, so the trial is just as much of the son as the father. Kierkegaard emphasises Abraham no telling Isaac, as part of the emphasis on the silence appropriate to the absurd dialectic, the paradox of faith. The tragic hero may explain the problem, but not the Knight of faith.

Even if Kierkegaard had incorporated the Muslim account, I don’t think it would have been too much of a problem. Fear and Trembling includes an account of different possible stories to fill in the very sketchy original story. The possibility that the son is Ishmael not Isaac, and that the son knows of the sacrifice would not change the factors Kierkegaard discusses. It would still be a miraculous son of Abraham’s old age, and it could still be the case that Abraham did not tell his wife Sarah (mother of Isaac) of his servant Hagar (mother of Ishmael). Kierkegaard makes up the supposed silence of Abraham anyway, and if the silence was directed towards the mother that would fit with the various painful love stories Kierkegaard brings into Fear and Trembling in comparison with Abraham’s story.

Philosophy and Gambling: Pascal and Hume

Blaise Pascal and David Hume were united by a love of gambling

Pascal’s interest was as far as I understand terminated by his conversion to intense Catholicism, inspired by the Jansenism dominant at the convent at Port-Royal in Paris. Port-Royal produced distinguished philosophers like Pierre Nicole and Nicholas Arnaud and educated the great tragedian Jean Racine. Pascal’s interests encompassed mathematics, physics, theology, philosophy of religion, metaphysics, epistemology, and social philosophy.

David Hume was sceptical of all revealed religion though valuing moderate religion as a part of civil society. He certainly did not engage in the asceticism that Pascal followed in his later years, and which may have hastened his death.

Though his attitude to religion was instrumental, Hume has a social philosophy similar in some respects to Pascal. For both, organised society and state institutions emerge through convenience rather than from basic principles. For Hume, this is a happy reality, for Pascal it is part of the view that God is absent from the universe, and from human society. For Hume, humans follow self-interest rooted in ‘passions’ (Hume used the word in a way that covers all psychological motives), and learn to adopt the rules and institutions which enable everyone’s self-interest to flourish enhancing commerce and the arts. For Pascal, this is true but is evidence that humans are half angels half beast, who have lost the grandeur which belongs to divine life.

For both, a godless universe lacks certainty. The world is not guided in every respect by divine purposes, those purposes are distinctly absent. For both, there is a sceptical aspect to their philosophy, for without God’s immediate presence what guarantee is there that our perceptions are reliable. Both dealt with questions of probability and chance. Science looks like it contains probabilities, though never certainties. However, some aspects of experience do not even lead us to probabilistic expectations about the future.

Gambling is an obvious example. Hume focuses in his work on knowledge, on the throwing of dice. We know there is a one in six chance of any one side being thrown However, there is nothing we can say about which is more probable, experience does not help ıs, because however many times we throw a die, for the next throw it is still a one in six chance for any one side. For Hume, that is the probabilistic nature of the universe in its most extreme aspect. For Hume, induction establishes probabilities for scientific laws of nature. However, since Hume does not think we know at what the future will be, even at the next moment, his induction has a weak basis, and even more so when we consider that induction rests on a continuity over the mind in time, which Hume thinks has not real justification, since we must regard continuous personal identity as a fiction for unifying states of mind at different times.

By his own account, philosophising brought melancholia to Hume which he relieved by gambling. The gambling, the encounter with uncontrollable chance and intrinsically futile attempts to overcome chance, or to play with chance within a framework of play between individuals which enables us to try and control chance.

Pascal saw the universe as governed by physical laws, but for him they lacked foundations. The only foundation could be God who is absent. Like Hume, Pascal contributed to early probability theory, and as with Hume we can see the gambling as resulting a fear of pure chance, the attempt to control pure chance, or the experience of surviving pure chance. Pascal also emphasised that life could be a dream, that ı could be a king dreaming that I am who I think I am. There would be no difference between being a king and the pauper who dreams vividly half the day of being a king. Our own identity is a matter of uncontrollable chance.

Pascal even produced an argument for religious faith (Pascal’s wager) based on chance and simple ideas about probability. Famously, he argued that life without faith is despair. If we have faith, and there is no God, we have lost nothing and gained a life with hope; if we do not have faith but God does exist, we will have less happiness in life and we will suffer damnation in the next life. The rational thing therefore is to have faith. It is a mistake to look at the argument in isolation, as this can make it seem weak and self-deceiving, an argument in which we suppress doubt to make life more pleasant. It is just one part of Pascal’s argument about belief and his arguments need to be judged as a whole. I would say that on the whole, he is building up a way of thinking in which we can only grasp reality in any way through an idea of God, which may or may not be correct in the end, but is more than a matter of comforting self-deception.

Gambling, anxiety about reality, and the wish to find a way of contolling chance, of experiencing it as part of a rational universe, or of playing with inner anxiety in order to control it are a strong feature of Pascal and Hume. Where would philosophy be without their interest in gambling?

Future of British Liberalism

Nick Clegg leader of British Liberal Democrats

A few hours ago Nick Clegg was elected leader of the British Liberal Democrats by a a few hundred votes. I followed the moment of announcement on the Internet, and since then I’ve been following reaction from Liberal Democrat bloggers on the libdemblogs feed. I rejoined the party, I never left it in spirit, from Istanbul to make sure I could vote for Nick Clegg. After a cautious defensive election campaign against Chris Huhne who grabbed every chance to appeal to party activists with a more left wing kind of liberalism, Nick Clegg just made it to victory. The margin is irrelevant, though I often found Huhne deeply irritating before and during the campaign due to his rather transparent attempts to ingratiate himself with the activist core, his concession speech was admirably gracious and supportive. He has proved he is a great political campaigner, against the advantage Clegg had from overwhelming media support and support of well known party members. To some degree Huhne was benefitting from a deeply inbuilt bloody mindedness amongst the activist core about receiving advice from the party establishment, but it doe stake campaigning and argumentative talent to take advantage. Clegg was annoyingly passive for most of the campaign, but at some moments he showed the mixture of passion and reasoned calm argument he is capable of, and the victory speech was such a moment. The understated campaign cannot be taken as indicative of his approach to inter-party contests, though clearly he does not go in for demagogy as a style.

Which Liberalism?
Another poll I took part in, and I find just as interesting is on Liberal Democrat Voice an activist run news and discussion site. It is a poll which continues on where participants want the Liberal Democrats to be on the political spectrum.
Results so far

Not a scientifically based survey isolating variables, but probably genuinely typical of the views of more involved members. The significant result here is that the most popular option is Socially (meaning socially tolerant/open) and Economically Liberal (meaning free market in economics), but that this option is only marginally ahead of Socially Liberal and Economically Centrist and Socially Liberal and Economically Left-Of-Centre. Essentially there is a three way tie between these three positions, with a remainder left over of social conservatives.

As far as I am concerned the Liberal Democrats should be a party of 50% plus Social and Economic Liberals. That in itself covers a wide range of views from Hayek type almost-no-staters to those favoring a modest incremental shift towards open markets and choice in public services. I would place myself somewhere in between, at the point where anti-statist thinking and progressive welfarist liberalism border each other. Huhne’s campaign was based on trying to colour even the most modest market based reforms of public services as dangerously right wing. My support for Nick Clegg was based on the belief that the party will move in that direction under his leadership, combined with his various leadership qualities. Clegg has not identified himself in such terms and would be unwise to do so, given that judging by this survey only just under a third of party members would define themselves in that way, though I am sure that is more than 1o years and even more than 15 years ago.

Where Clegg Should Go Further in Free Market/Limited State Liberalism
Certainly Nick Clegg is not calling for a reduction in the proportion of national income that goes on taxes and public spending. On the contrary he attacks the possibility that a Conservative government might reduce spending, though the Conservative leader David Cameron is vague on the topic. The accusation is in any case based on an ambiguity. Cameron has hinted at the possibility that tax/public spending might go down as a proportion of national income, this is not the same as a cut in spending or tax revenues. It is wholly compatible with increasing spending and tax revenues. A properly managed government can secure increased economic growth by reducing the disincentives to growth that are created by taxes.

Where Clegg is Already at the Right Point
It should be noted that the USA with a smaller proportion of tax/spending than the richer parts of Europe, is richer than those countries, has higher long term economic growth and spends at least as much in total public spending per person. Of course there are serious gaps in social provision in the USA, certainly the failure to institute universal health insurance is a scandal. Weaknesses in social provision is in large degree due to the very poor productivity and inefficiency of public services in the USA compared with Europe. Public services are heavily unionised in the USA, those unions have a lot of cash from very high membership subscription, and are brilliant talented lobbyists. We can see what happened in California where a popular persuasive governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was unable to get referendum support for proposals for very moderate public sector reform, such as increasing by one year the probationary period of employment. The public sector in California, and elsewhere, is full of inefficient working practices and staff who cannot easily be sacked regardless of financial circumstances or their personal performance .

Public Services in Britain
The UK, under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, has suffered from growing problems of that kind. Despite mythology about New Labour being the same as the Conservatives, the fact is since 1997, public spending has increased dramatically particularly in health and education. Apart from some politically high profile targets, such as reducing waiting lists for operations, the growth in spending has not been a success. State health services continue to be dogged by poor hygiene in hospitals, a high proportion of new spending has gone on wage inflation. State school education in Britain continues to be very inferior, particularly for low income groups, compared with private education in Britain and state education in other parts of Europe. Though there is not as much room for reform as in the USA, there is plenty of room for greater competition in the provision of public services and the greater efficiency which results from the kind of disciplines that exist in the private sector.

Clegg’s Promising Policies
Clegg was rather quiet about it during the leadership campaign, but at some points he made clear that he favours consumer choice in public services, and importantly money following the choice. He hinted at a move away from party policy on favouring free university tuition There is nothing socially progressive n levying taxers on low earners to pay for the relatively week off to go to university and become more valuable commodities on the job market. Making soft long term loans guaranteed by the state creates a reasonable balance between keeping down taxes and making higher education widely available. He has ruled out private insurance funds as contributing to state health services, but past remarks suggest he is open to any reform which would leave health care universally available and free at the point of use. Sıme substitution of competing private insurance funds for general taxation would not block universal access.

Clegg seems to be taking long standing Liberal Democrat committments to localism seriously, he has said his leadership will be active in the localities. Tying this into clear policies to shift taxation and control of public services to the local level could producer a great shift away from central state power, and Clegg has clearly supported such a position. He has shown a committment to reducing unnecessary legislation, as in his proposal for repeal of unnecessary laws, the Great Repeal Act. This proposed title echoes the Great Reform Act of 1832 which spread voting rights and reformed electoral practices, and was a very serious shift away from the previous system of a Parliament of oligarchy, patronage and landed interests, a great moment for liberal reformism.

Summary
My idea of the best results from the Clegg leadership are as follows:

  • A clear shift towards a party that is Socially and Economically Liberal, in other words leaning towards a limited state and free markets.
  • Reduction of tax and spending as a proportion of national income in order to encourage economic growth and consequent increases in total public spending.
  • Seeking to repeals laws and regulations where the costs outweigh benefits.
  • More competition and choice in the provision of public services.
  • More privater providers of public services.
  • Use of private health insurance funds as a partial substitute for general taxation in funding universal services.
  • A big shift towards localism in tax , spending and provision of services; and in the whole political culture.

Kierkegaard’s Epistemology

I’m including some Kierkegaard in an Introduction to Philosophy course, where I concentrate on questions of knowledge. Kierkegaard is not obviously a reference for Epistemology for most people, but I believe he made an important contribution. My teaching is drawing on Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments and on Johannes Climacus or De omnibus dubitandum est, and that’s what I will mostly refer to here.

Kierkegaard against Descartes and Epistemic Scepticism
Kierkegaard questions the method of doubt in philosophy. He contrasts Cartesian doubt with the ‘wonder’ with which the Ancient Greeks regarded the world. Descartes claims that philosophy begins with doubt. Kierkegaard’s reply is that doubt in Descartes is only possible after philosophy has begun. Descartes’ method of doubt casts doubt on previous philosophical positions. Wonder better describes a pre-philosophical attitude of curiosity and questioning with regard to the world. Descartes’ claim, or implicit claim, that modern philosophy begins with doubt, leaves two unanswered problems: what was philosophy before doubt? From where did the method of doubt originate? In general the idea of philosophy as the appearance of pure doubt in the mind, leaves finite consciousness in a confrontation with the absoluteness of pure doubt. Consciousness cannot grasp such an abrupt intrusion of an external absolute. That is another reason why we need to begin with ‘wonder’. With regard to general positions in Epistemology, Kierkegaard is against scepticism. It should follow that he rejects Foundationalist attempts to find pure foundations, beyond doubt, for Epistemology.

Kierkegaard against Hegel and Epistemic Coherentism or Internalism: Definitions
A lot of what Kierkegaard writes in many texts is directed against Hegel. Where Kierkegaard talks about Hegel, he is also referring to earlier Rationalism, particularly Spinoza. We can also take him to be referring to Kant and to the more recent phenomena of Coherentist and Internalist Epistemology; and Analytic Hegelianism. Coherentist Epistemology argues that the criterion for there being a state of knowledge, is that a set of beliefs cohere with each other. Internalism develops from this position, because it argues that there is knowledge where is agreement amongst inner beliefs. Donald Davidson’s paper ‘A Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge’ is probably the best known argument for Coherentism in recent philosophy. Hegel could be taken as a forerunner of Coherentism, certainly the Preface and Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit are open to that interpretation. Hegel is not so clearly an Internalist, because he takes consciousness is general as what knows. The earlier Fichte (first and second editions of the Grundlage der Gesamten Wissenschaftslehere, mistranslated into English as Science of Knowledge) might be a better example of an Internalist in German ıdealist philosophy, a he takes the ‘I’ as a starting point for philosophy. We might also think of recent ‘Analytic Hegelianism’ as a kind of Coherentism (thinking particularly of John McDowell and Robert Brandom).

Kierkegaard against Hegel and Epistemic Coherentism or Internalism: The Critique
Kierkegaard asserts that objective knowledge must be a contradiction. What he is referring to here is knowledge as something outside subjectivity. Since it must be the subject that knows, what is know cannot completely stand outside subjectivity according to Kierkegaard. An object of knowledge is known by subjectivity and therefore cannot be absolutely objective. It mus tbe an object for a subject, though that should not be taken to mean that Kierkegaard is a Solipsist. He is an anti-Solipsist since he shows how the subject can have knowledge, if not absolutely objective knowledge. Coherentism is contradictory because we cannot enter the Coherentist circle of mutually supporting beliefs from outside. The beginning of Coherentist Epistemology cannot be epistemic since it does not already have a set of mutually supporting and connecting beliefs. There cannot be a entry into the Coherentist circles accept by weakening the criterion of Coherentism that there should be a complete set of strong mutually justşfying beliefs. Hegel was aware of this problem, as can be seen in his Prefaces and Introductions, where he announces the Preface of Introduction cannot be part of the system. He leaves open the question of why there is a Preface or Introduction. This will not do for Kierkegaard, it is the subject that knows. Hegel gets into the same problem as Descartes: knowledge is such an absolute it is not possible to understand how to enter it, and it is not possible to understand how one contingent consciousness can come into contact and union with it.

Kierkegaard’s Epistemic Alternative: Realist and Subjectivist
Fichte.
As was pointed out above, the early Fichte could be taken as a proto-Internalist. Indeed Fichtean has been critically examined by a major Analytic philosopher, RobertNozick as contributing to the internal understanding of the ‘I’. I hope to return to Nozick and Fichte at a later date. Fichte was certainly very important for Kierkegaard, and Kierkegaard paid exhaustive attention to the internal reflections of consciousness. He also pays great attnetion to similar aspects in the work of other German ıdealists, as in theConcept of Anxiety, where he develops Kant’s account of the inner traumas free will in Religion within the Bounds of Reason and Schelling’s development of that account in the Essence of Human Freedom. Should we see Kierkegaard as an extension of Fichtean Internalism? Kierkegaard strongly criticises Fichte in his first book, his dissertation on The Concept of Irony. The context is irony in literary aesthetics. The starting point here, and in Kierkegaard’s later work is an Ironic Subjectivism, in epistemic terms Internalism. However, this is not enough for Kierkegaard.
The Paradox. Like the method of doubt (and foundationalism), and Coherentism, Fictean Subjectivism runs into paradox. The paradox is good for Kierkegaard, it is the passion of paradox. The point though is to make a ‘leap’ beyond the paradox. It must be emphasised that the phrase ‘leap of faith’ is never used and that the leap is a twist in dialectical reasoning rather than an irrational unmotivated jump in to the beyond. There must be a dialectical move to surpass paradox, because the concepts must change. The paradox is never left behind, the existence of the paradox and the surpassing of the paradox belong together. Kierkegaard’s Epistemology is Subjectivist. It is strongly Subjectivist, because it is based on a double reflection, in which reflective knowledge reflects on its belief that something is the case.
Time. However, Subjective consciousness escapes from the isolated moment of Subjectivity because that double reflection can only be grasped over time, in a moment known as the leap, as the reflection on the paradox that subjective knowledge is not knowledge of the objective. That movement in time establishes the self as existing over time as well as in moment to moment. The self is aware of something permanent in relation to itself, indepedent in relation to itself, but which is within it What is known is Real though Subjective. It does not disappear in a moment because it can be the object of double reflection, and subsequent indirect communication. It is only grasped through those movements. If what is known endures over time, it is Real and can be known to others, and we can communicate this even if only indirectly.

Kierkegaard Against the Ethics of Aristotle

We are concentrating on Fear and Trembling here, which I am teaching in an Ethics course.

For Kierkegaard, Aristotle defines something accurately, that is the Ethics of the Ancient world. In Fear and Trembling, he does this more with reference to Arisotle’s Poetics rather than the Nichomachean Ethics, or any other of Aristotle’s texts on Ethics.

What Kierkegaard concentrates on in Fear and Trembling is the recognition of the sin of the tragic hero. There is disclosure and recognition through necessity beyond the control of the hero. Oedipus’ tragic error is revealed not by his confession but by the plagues which assault Thebes, where he is King.

For Kierkegaard, Aristotle defines a view in which the individual is not responsible for sin. It is the nation, the family or fate. Greek tragedy in Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides, shows that a sin is inherited from the family , or fate makes the sin inevitable, as when Oedipus actions to avoid the prophecy of his sin, leads to that sin.

In the modern world, it is clear that the individual is responsible for guilt, bears sin. The idea that ethics may contain conflict between the individual and the universal, for the social good, is replaced by an extreme of individual responsibility. The şissue of sin becomes harder to bear than the ethics derived from social habit in Aristotle.

Ethics must refer to subjectivity, Aristotle detracts from that in his view of humans governed by fate. The difficult situation that must be faced now is the melancholic within. The real anxiety we have to face now, on or own, is the need to have faith which will enable us to endanger another person with our melancholia. We can overcome melancholia as an expression of subjectivity that can only see itself as contingent. That may require silence and an inner suffering, which cannot be explained to another person. The universality of Aristotle’s ethics is replace by the bond that exists between the melancholic person and the person who might be a sacrifice to that melancholia. The melancholia that mişght lead us to think, Like Abraham that God has commanded him to kill Isaac . Ethics at its highest rests on a subordination of universal rules to the inner struggle to find the absolute within the contingency of the self.

Ethics at its highest is not obeying rules, it is developing the self that rises above itself in the dialectic of the absurd, in the passion for paradox, with regard to the actions in which the subject becomes ethical in the strongest sense. The self that can be ethical must emerge from the paradoxes of subjectivity. The self that is ethical because it has the capacity to be unethical. Ethics emerges fully when we take the risk that the unethical will destroy in our relations with others.

What’s Wrong with Republican Political Theory Today? Force, Conflict and the Moment of Decision

Growth of Republican Theory
There has been a recent growth in Republican political theory, though the earliest aspect of it in J.G.A. Pocock goes back some way now. Pocock worked on Civic Humanism in Renaissance Italy and Early Modern Atlantic Republicanism. In the former field, he worked particularly on Machiavelli; and in the latter on James Harrington and the continuation of Machiavelli. Machiavelli’s line of influence obviously goes up to Rousseau, after which the idea of a direct Republican line of influence is harder to maintain.

Kinds of Liberty
More recent work on Republicanism has included Phillip Pettit’s work of normative (analytic) political philosophy of that name, Quentin Skinner’s work on Roman Freedom/Liberty and Machiavelli, and Samuel Fleischer on a third liberty, between the negative and positive liberty I discussed in a recent post, ‘Negative and Positive Liberty: A Short History’. That idea of the third liberty corresponds to the idea of ‘non-domination’ in Pettit. In a comparable manner, Skinner opposes ‘Roman Liberty’ to ‘Liberalism’ which he defines a pure negative liberty, on utilitarian grounds.

Tocqueville and Egalitarian Liberalism
Here I am continuing themes in a recent post on Tocqueville on Republican Politics and the Tyranny of Small Communities, where I suggested that Republicanism recently has been a form of social democracy, a development out of Rawlsian egalitarian liberalism. The recnet Republicans continue Rawls’ theme of defining harm resulting from inequality very broadly, and defining necessary compensation very broadly. For Tocqueville Republicanism is more about maintaining institutions that prevent those with lower incomes from seeking to compensate themselves through limiting the property rights of those with property. That goes along with the wish for institutions that prevent a temporary majority from undermining liberty through any kind of attack on unpopular minorities. Tocqueville’s version of Republicanism has clear precedents in Montesquieu, Locke, and Aristotle. Considering that Tocqueville was inspired by the emergence of democracy as we know it now, in the USA, we could say that this kind of anti-egalitarian Republicanism is at the heart of modern liberal, or representative, democracy. The issue is somewhat more ambiguous than that. Though Tocqueville was against strong egalitarian social measures, he recognised that modern liberty was democratic in the sense that a broad equality of conditions was emerging between citizens of all classes.

State Force
There is another question here. We can place Tocqueville in the context of more egalitarian style liberalism, but we would still need to notice something else about Republicanism, it does not just uphold moral community action, it upholds the state and the authority of the state as something that rests on force as well as consent. That is the dimension that Lockean liberal republicanism and Rousseauesque egalitarian republicanism are overlooking. The state has a an active role in establishing and maintaining republican beliefs, and it uses force against those who threaten those beliefs. Centralised force is necessary to restrain the conformist force which can build up to an irresistable intensity at the local level. as Spinoza suggests, democracy rests on the force of the majority of the people.

Elites and Aristocracy
The point of Machiavelli’s Republicanism is not not just the moral advantage of a community of citizens. While it is important to avoid the still prevalent image of ‘evil Machiavelli’, we should not ignore that recognition of force and coercion in Machiavelli, which does sometimes have a gleeful edge to it. It can be like Nietzsche’ enjoyment of wickedness, which is certainly not an enjoyment of evil for its own sake though. Nietzsche expresses admiration for those states which institute a great political aristocracy, or elite. Tocqueville considered the formation of a modern democratic substitute for aristocracy as necessary in order to maintain liberty under democracy.

Natural and Positive Law
Republicanism in Aristotle is the idea that the political community is a natural good in its own right beyond the aggregation of individual interests. Republicanism in Machiavelli adds the recogniiton that state power is not ‘natural’ and must be instituted, and maintained by force. Tocqueville’s own thought is rooted in Pascal who emphasised that law is based on force in a godless unjust world, as Derrida also emphasises. Pascal finds positive law (law created by institutions, by the sovereign) is not rooted in natural law (objective moral order outside individual interests and historical constructions).

From Mill to Machiavelli

In John Stuart Mill, liberalism retains some elitist-aristocratic aspects, but is on the way to being a doctrine of politics based on consent, discussion and rationality which has difficulty with discussing what makes such activities possible. It is the sociologist Max Weber, who was more able to deal with this because he saw politics in terms of a ‘realist’ theory of pursuing power. Though current Republicanism emphasises politics as a human activity and goal, it lacks any sense of power and the foundations of the state in force. Despite Skinner’s references to ‘Roman liberty’, it lacks a sense of the absolute devotion of the classical citizen to the sovereignty of the state and its laws. They push the more realist ‘wicked’ aspects of Machiavelli aside as they see Machiavelli in rather Rawlsian terms. Machiavelli did not see politics in those terms, he thought that interests permanently clash and not in the sense of constant dialogue, just as Tocqueville thought that politics must be rooted in human pride and the necessary conflicts in pursuing pride. There is something Realist in Machiavelli and Tocqueville, and there is something ‘decisionistic’, that is politics refers to the moment of decision which is never completely justified and is never completely rational.

What’s Wrong with Republican Political Theory Today? Liber

There has been a recent growth in Republican political theory, though the earliest aspect of it in J.G.A. Pocock goes back some way now. Pocock worked on Civic Humanism in Renaissance Italy and Early Modern Atlantic Republicanism. In the former field, he worked particularly on Machiavelli; and in the latter on James Harrington and the continuation of Machiavelli. Machiavelli’s line of influence obviously goes up to Rousseau, after which the idea of a direct Republican line of influence is harder to maintain.

More recent work on Republicanism has included Phillip Pettit’s work of normative (analytic) political philosophy of that name, Quentin Skinner’s work on Roman Freedom and Machiavelli, and Samuel Fleischer on a third liberty, between the negative and positive liberty I discussed in a recent post, ‘Negative and Positive Liberty: A Short History’. That idea of the third liberty corresponds to the idea of ‘non-domination’ in Pettit. In a comparable manner, Skinner opposes ‘Roman Liberty’ to ‘Liberalism’ which he defines a pure negative liberty, on utilitarian grounds.

Here I am continuing themes in a recent post on Tocqueville on Republican Politics and the Tyranny of Small Communities, where I suggested that Republicanism recently has been a form of social democracy, a development out of Rawlsian egalitarian liberalism. The recnet Republicans continue Rawls’ theme of defining harm resulting from inequality very broadly, and defining necessary compensation very broadly. For Tocqueville Republicanism is more about maintaining institutions that prevent those with lower incomes from seeking to compensate themselves through limiting the property rights of those with property. That goes along with the wish for institutions that prevent a temporary majority from undermining liberty through any kind of attack on unpopular minorities. Tocqueville’s version of Republicanism has clear precedents in Montesquieu, Locke, and Aristotle. Considering that Tocqueville was inspired by the emergence of democracy as we know it now, in the USA, we could say that this kind of anti-egalitarian Republicanism is at the heart of modern liberal, or representative, democracy. The issue is somewhat more ambiguous than that. Though Tocqueville was against strong egalitarian social measures, he recognised that modern liberty was democratic in the sense that a broad equlality of conditions was emerging between citizens of all classes.

There is another question here. We can place Tocqueville in the context of more egalitarian style liberalism, but we would still need to notice something else about Republicanism, it does not just uphold moral community action, it upholds the state and the authority of the state as something that rests on force as well as consent. That is the dimension that Lockean liberal republicanism and Rousseauesque egalitarian republicanism are overlooking. The state has a na active role in establishing and maintaining republican beliefs, and it uses force against those wjo threaten those beliefs. Centralised force is necessary to restrain the conformist force which can uild up to an irresistable intensity at the local level. as Spinoza suggests, democracy rests on the force of the majority of the people.

The point of Machiavelli’s Republicanism is not not just the moral advantage of a community of citizens. While it is important to avoid the still prevalent image of ‘evil Machiavelli’, we should not ignore that recognition of force and coercion in Machiavelli, which does sometimes have a gleeful edge to it. It can be like Nietzsche’ enjoyment of wickedness, which is certainly not an enjoyment of evil for its own sake though. Nietzsche expresses admiration for those states which institute a great political aristocracy, or elite. Tocqueville considered the formation of a modern democratic substitute for aristocracy as necessary in order to maintain liberty under democracy.

Republicanism in Aristotle is the idea that the political community is a good in its own right beyond the aggregation of individual interests. Republicanism in Machiavelli adds the recogniiton that state power is not ‘natural’ and must be instituted, and maintained by force. Tocqueville’s own thought is rooted in Pascal who emphasised that law is based on force in a godless unjust world, as Derrida also emphasises. Pascal finds positive law (law created by institutions, by the sovereign) is not rooted in natural law (objective moral order outside individual interests and historical constructions).

In Mill, liberalism retains some elitist-aristocratic aspects, but is on the way to being a doctrine of politics based on consent, discussion and rationality which has difficulty with discussing what makes such activities possible. It is the sociologist Max Weber, who was more able to deal with this because he saw politics in terms of a ‘realist’ theory of pursuing power. Though current Republicanism emphasises politics as a human activity and goal, it lacks any sense of power and the foundations of the state in force. Despite Skinner’s references to ‘Roman liberty’, it lacks a sense of the absolute devotion of the classical citizen to the sovereignty of the state and its laws. They push the more realist ‘wicked’ aspects of Machiavelli aside as they see Machiavelli in rather Rawlsian terms. Machiavelli did not see politics in those terms, he thought that interests permanently clash and not in the sense of constant dialogue, just as Tocqueville thought that politics must be rooted in human pride and the necessary conflicts in pursuing pride. There is something Realist in Machiavelli and Tocqueville, and there is something ‘decisionistic’, that is politics refers to the moment of decision which is never completely justified and is never completely rational.