It's been a while, but I did manage to finally get the time to answer the second part of Shawn Darling's question, below:
“Now, on to Heidegger. His critique of metaphysics, of Western "reason" (to be adopted by many "post"-modernists) seems itself to be a metanarrative. Of course, there is no historical unity of philosophical or social thought that can be reduced to "Western" reason. (Note that it was Hitler who wanted to "unite" Europe through aggressive, chauvinistic imperialism, to become the new Rome, however antithetical the German Reich was to the historical Roman Empire). The cultural identity itself is a construction, so the premise for the critique is faulty. Moreover, "Western" reason, if it can be said to exist, was often the construction of bourgeois interests, i.e. it was closely tied to the development of property. So, from a Marxist viewpoint, Western reason is the synthesis of reason, property, and law, where the law primarily (though not exclusively) serves the interests of the ruling classes. But is the legal association of property and reason (as in the Enlightenment philosophies of Locke, Kant, and Hegel) always reasonable? Can the rational study of society start with reason, rights, and equality, or is this simply representative of the dominance of ruling class ideas? Why not start with inequality, lack of rights, and the irrationality of the system? It is no mistake that Heidegger's "destruction" of reason ends up as an illiberal attack on property, on the state's legal right to confiscate property without reason (hence the confiscation of Jewish property, an attack on their rights, which, along with their planned dehumanization, led to their genocide, i.e. death and slavery). Hence, it is not just the Christian (or, in Nietzsche's case, anti-Christian) bias against the Jews that led to their dispossession, but a rejection of liberal thinking. (Of course, this could be considered an ethnocentric critique, since I am basing it mainly on English/American utilitarianism/pragmatism, which did not develop in Germany.) It is very interesting that, following the European Enlightenment, a so-called counter-Enlightenment developed. This other school of thought, which some people (somewhat justifiably, somewhat not) have identified as a precursor to post-modernism, included such thinkers as Rousseau. In addition to the more well-known Social Contract, he also wrote The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. In this work, he anticipates (or perhaps inspires) Marx's critique of philosophical idealism (and, I suppose, bourgeois empiricism). Social inequality is based on the introduction of private property, of the division of wealth (social) into property (individual), which is often considered reasonable by the above stated philosophers. This is the true origin of rights (i.e. property rights) from which, in a capitalist system, all other meaningful rights are derived. But is it reasonable to cut off the bulk of humanity from their means of subsistence to benefit the few? Is this not the origin of revolutions (and not, mind you, bourgeois revolts from above)? Is not revolution more necessary today in the allegedly post-socialist, post-modern era of identity politics? Are not the "Third World" genocides and nationalisms not class based struggles over resources in the absence of centralized state power (i.e. supposedly "failed" states)? And how does Western structural adjustments in these areas (the new imperialism based on aid rather than territorial conquest, which historically required uneven "development" to facilitate exploitation of these areas) contribute, even accelerate, these processes?”
There are several issues which need to be addressed in this section. First, you are right in saying that Heidegger was mistaken about the historical or cultural unity of “Western reason.” We was, of course, talking about Reason as typified by Kant’s version of reason, which Heidegger then mistakenly applies to the ancients. He is also thinking, though, of Medieval Reason, which was typically deified (remember that Heidegger began his education studying the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas). God was Rational, was Reason Itself. To be rational was, therefore, to try to attain the mind of God. To engage in a rational investigation of nature was to try to understand the mind of God. However, we can see several kinds of rationality through the history of the West: Platonic/Aristotlean, Medieval, Continental Modern (Cartesian), and Scottish Modern (and these too were not entirely monolithic, of course). The ancient Greek idea was related to mathematics (rationality is related to “ratio: -- especially to the Golden Mean Ratio) and logic. Logos is the communication of information, while logic is a mathematicized Logos. Reason – seeing proper ratios in logic – allows us to understand when logic results in nonsense. John 1:1 identifies God with the Logos and, thus, with Rationality – resulting in the Medieval identification of the two. Descartes separated the body from the soul/mind and, thus, separated reason from the world. The result is Kantian reason, which is critiqued by Nietzsche and Heidegger (and the postmodernists). What is ignored by both (all three) is that there was another version of rationality out there: Scottish Enlightenment Reason. This results in there being two kinds of individualism as well. One is based on rational philosophy, which started with René Descartes and was further developed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Emmanuel Kant, Georg W. F. Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, and the existentialists, including Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir (I am sure the last three would object to being put in the "rationalist" tradition, but their ideas did not really deviate much from Kant’s). I will call this Cartesian Individualism (the digital-exclusive view). The other is in the Scottish tradition of David Hume, Bernard Mandeville, Josiah Tucker, Adam Ferguson, Adam Smith, and John Locke, and further developed by Edmund Burke, Alexis de Tocqueville and Lord Acton (the digital-analog agonal view). Cartesian Individualism sees man as rational; the Scottish tradition does not see man as fully rational, but also, perhaps primarily, influenced by his drives, wants and needs of the moment. These different views give rise to different forms of individualism. Perhaps the best way to show the differences would be to put the two traditions side by side in a table showing the difference between the two, and the consequences of each of these, traditions:
COMPARISONS OF TWO PHILOSOPHIES OF INDIVIDUALISM
the individual is found within the social, leading to free markets
man is not always rational, or even capable of always being rational – man also has impulses and instincts
since man is not rational, he cannot design or plan something like a society or economy
the individual participates in the social (cooperates) through being selfish
It is not necessary to find good men to run the society, meaning anyone can play
it is not necessary for us to become better than we already are, making it easy to enter the game to play it
freedom is granted to all
no one group ever always wins, which keeps people playing
reason is seen as process in which any person’s contribution is tested and corrected by others.
inherently unequal people are treated equally
inherent inequality allows diversity
hierarchical – intermediates encouraged
radical individualism, leading (ironically (?)) to socialism
man is rational and has no instincts and can always control his impulses
since man is rational, he can create through planning the ideal society or economy
individual vs. the social – i.e., selfishness vs. cooperation – therefore need coercion
social processes can be made to serve human ends only if they are subjected to the control of individual human reason
only the best can or should run society and make economic decisions – few can play
men need to be improved (presumably made more rational) before a good economy or society can be created – hard to play
freedom granted only to the good and wise
the "good and wise," "rational" rulers always win – no reason to play the game
reason found in the individual, especially in certain "good and wise" individuals
people are made equal in actuality – thus, have to arbitrarily assign tasks
only State and Individual, thus flattening society – intermediates suppressed
The Scottish form of individualism provides us with a broader, more inclusive set of game rules. Anyone can play the social and economic games – making these systems more complex by containing more parts acting in coordination and cooperation. Man does not have to be "improved" for systems set up using Scottish principles to work as he does for those using Cartesian principles (historical examples of attempts to "improve" man to make him more suitable for "rationally" designed societies include the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, the Terror of Revolutionary France, and the slaughters of millions in the Marxist states of the Soviet Union, Maoist China, and Cambodia). In the Cartesian view, there is one rationality; but in the Scottish view, there are many, which can often come into conflict.
The differences between the two can be seen in the different political entities set up under those ideas of rationality: the U.S. foundation under Scottish reason, and the French Revolution (and, I would argue, fascism and communism as well) under Cartesian reason. We also see two different ideas of liberty and equality when comparing Scottish and Cartesian ideas, with those differences again being highlighted in the founding of the U.S. vs. the French Revolution/Fascism/Communism, so we need to be especially careful when we use these terms, as “reason,” “Equality,” and “liberty” mean quite different things in these different traditions (again, for the Medieval Christian, we gain liberty through submission to God, and we are all equal in God’s sight). The fact that so many people mean such different things by these terms creates a lot of confusion.
I myself do not see any necessary association between property and reason. Keep in mind that many early socialists called for the abolition of property based on reason (Cartesian, of course). They saw the arguments for free markets as irrational (“what’s with this mythical/mystical “invisible hand” nonsense anyway?”) and believed that societies could be rationally designed and economies rationally planned. Aside from this, I take an evolutionary approach to things, and thus see the very idea of property as being deeply rooted.
Property is not a physical property – it is a biological property. We find the idea of property rights deep in evolutionary history, in the first territorial fishes. Most of today’s territorial fishes are lobe-finned fishes, and there is little doubt that lobe-finned fishes have been territorial for literally hundreds of millions of years. An example is the brightly-colored gobies, which are very territorial. "For many vertebrates, a clearly defined territory for offspring rearing seems to be fundamental. This involves aggressive behavior of a great variety on the part of the male (and sometimes the female too), usually of a ritual nature, but effective in defending an area" (John T. Bonner The Evolution of Culture in Animals, 86). These fish establish territories where they live, feed, mate, and protect their eggs from predators. Schooling fish, like herring, are simple in both coloration and behavior. Why spend energy on dangerous bright colors to attract mates when everyone releases their eggs and sperm at once, collectively? And why develop complex behaviors if there is no reason to, if there is no conflict, since there is no need to defend territory if you are a schooling fish in the open ocean? A great deal of energy is spent on making literally millions or even billions of eggs, let alone sperm – and there is only a limited chance that it will be either your sperm or your egg that survives. But with territorial fishes, the energy is put into protecting the fewer numbers of eggs, but those eggs are more likely to survive. And, more importantly for the individual fish, the female knows her eggs are protected until they hatch, and the male knows the eggs were fertilized by his sperm. Thus, there is a certain advantage to protecting territory, since it ensure that any particular individual fish has passed on its DNA to future generations. Herring can never know for sure. One of the consequences of the establishment of territory by lobe-finned fishes was that complex behaviors has to evolve as well. This is due to the conflict created by the creation and defense of territory. The conflict comes about between the needs to aggressively defend territory and sexually reproduce. If one just defends, one runs off potential mates. But passive gobies lose territory – and cannot attract mates. What develops from the conflict between the straightforward actions of defense and sex is the mating ritual, a nonlinear feedback behavior designed to allow members of the opposite sex to enter one’s private space. It is a dance. It is a dance wherein linear elements conflict to create nonlinear systems, which reorganize the chaos created by the conflict into a new order. Ritual is the emergent system created out of the conflicting elements. It is a safe space in which the participants play out the conflicts, to ensure mating can occur. One result is that gobies differentiate between individuals. Territoriality (notions of private property) created individuality through the need to ritualize sex. More, it resulted in the creation of ritual itself, which led to more and more complex behaviors as different species evolved, including art and religion in humans. And it was, incidentally, the lobe-finned fishes that evolved into the first amphibians – and territoriality was carried onto the land, and into every land vertebrate. All amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are territorial. And this includes humans. Thus, evolution established property rights as a fundamental way of ensuring reproductive fitness. In social mammals, this became partly socialized, since it was the tribe or family group as a whole that owned the territory they defended. And all humans groups have always believed that they owned the land – otherwise they would not have spent so much time, energy, and lives on protecting it from others. In social animals, including pair-bonding animals, this resulted in the development of personal relationships, including love. But none of this could be possible without a complex neural system to allow for the creation of such complex behavior. Social mammals have strong social bonds even among those who are not mates. These bonds were generated through elaborating mating rituals into things like grooming rituals. Primates have strong grooming rituals, which have led to sexual pleasure, leading to recreational sex in humans and bonobos, and massage in humans. We can see this behavior in the fact that "the human neurotransmitter vasopressin, which is closely associated with aggression, is also deeply implicated in the drive to stay with and cherish one’s mate and protect one’s offspring. Without the resistance to strangers there could be no individuality and love" (Frederick Turner, The Culture of Hope, 170). The conflict is found even at the neurotransmitter level. Which should not surprise us, since we have already shown that it is the protection of territory that resulted in the kinds of rituals that created pair-bonds in the first place. Animals that have territory not only protect that territory, but work to improve it. Gobies organize rocks in their territories, and keep the caves they create to live and hide in clean. Bower birds decorate their bowers to attract females. Often the male animal himself is decorated, or he creates a larger, more beautiful territory – or, oftentimes, both. Thus undoubtedly explains why human males feel the need to accumulate more and more property, and why we try to decorate ourselves with things ranging from nice clothes to tatoos. And it also explains why, when we own property, we have more of a tendency to take care of it than if we do not own it. When we use private property, we treat it like someone else will come along and clean up the mess we make, or that if we don’t take what is there, then someone else will. We do this because deep in our evolutionary past, in our deepest of instincts, we believe that not only do we have to keep our own territories in good shape to attract mates, but that if any competition’s territory is ruined, then potential mates will be discouraged from mating with our competition. This is the purpose of raids on the territory of other tribes, or exploiting commons – which results in the Tragedy of the Commons. So if we truly want to protect the world’s resources and keep the world clean, then all property must become privately owned, without danger of a government being able to come along and take that property. No amount of social engineering will be able to change this biological imperative to owning property. And this is certainly best overall. For it is only on our own land where we can be free to be who we are. It is only on our land where we and our families – our tribes – can be safe. There, we can live and love and prosper and speak as we wish. All of our freedoms derive from property rights – and property rights are part of our evolutionary heritage. Thus, there is nothing less scientific than the idea of abolishing private property, as the socialists have wanted to do. The abolition of property is downright unnatural, from a mammalian – and even land vertebrate – point of view.
Thus, property is very deeply a-rational and quite non-ideological in its origins. This is why property has never been abolished anywhere – all that changes is who controls the property and how. Tribes fight to protect territory from other tribes.. Various ways have been developed to protect groups’ and individuals’ property. Small groups have owned huge tracts of land and allowed others to live and work on them (as we saw in slavery throughout the world, various versions of feudalism throughout the world, and in more recent forms of state like the USSR and Communist China). But there has always been property ownership and control. It’s part of being a vertebrate descended from lobe-fined fishes. One cannot go against nature without facing severe consequences.
What we should therefore be interested in is discovering what kind of property ownership has the most positive results for most of the people most of the time (keeping in mind that utopia is not an option – utopia does mean “nowhere” after all). Is there a way of organizing society – or letting society organize itself – which counteracts many of our negative natural tendencies, such as hatred of the Other, resulting in racism and genocides (two things which existed before any society larger than a tribe developed, contra Rousseau’s unfounded belief in the “noble savage,” a creature which never existed – all anthropological and primatological evidence to date shows that civilization really is civilizing). I would venture that the genocides we see in places like Africa come about through the encouragement of those in power (whose power is indeed centralized) to keep themselves in power (I would venture to guess that Mein Kampf is on all those dictators’ bookshelves). You are correct in identifying “aid” from developed countries as contributing to 3rd world conflicts, as that food and money inevitably goes to the kleptocrats in charge and the death squads they control. Withdraw the aid and let them know that as soon as they have a stable enough country to have a working economy, we’ll be happy to buy whatever they produce, and we’ll see radical transformations in these countries. Those on both sides who think impoverishing places like Africa enriches places like the West are deeply mistaken – wealth creates more wealth; poverty impoverishes all. The economy is not a zero-sum game where if I get more, you get less; it is rather a positive-sum game where we both come out better off because we are playing the “if you do something good for me, I’ll do something good for you” game rather than the “unless you do something good for me, I’ll do something bad to you” game.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
It's been a while, but I did manage to finally get the time to answer the second part of Shawn Darling's question, below:
Posted by Troy Camplin at 2:25 PM