Monday, August 18, 2014

On Aristotle, Nietzsche and Anarchism

Aristotle is regarded by many to be the founder of Political Science.  In many respects this is the case.  And like the first in anything he is prone to large amounts of error whether due-to poor reasoning or from internalizing the poor values of his time.  It is my opinion that Aristotle is a “proto-Liberal” and with that carries nearly all of both the achievements and blunders of Liberalism.  He loves education and is a secularist but is Aristocratic and condones certainly a type of slavery if not slavery in its most explicit form.  He glorifies the notion that the State is a community of “freemen” and yet believes that the health of the State is primary to the health and freedom of the individual, resorting to a crass Utilitarianism that one finds in Liberal Democracies.
Reading Aristotle’s Politics it becomes clear how much of Nietzsche is directly in Aristotle or rather the other way around if one is speaking from a chronological perspective.  To what extent Aristotle had an influence on Nietzsche and to what extent they are merely individuals with common values (though there is of course the radical distinction of Aristotle’s Liberalism of Government serving the common good – at-least overall this appears to be Aristotle’s purpose for Government but he contradicts this at-times which I’ll get to – and Nietzsche’s merciless Right-wing and Social Darwinist view of hierarchy as justified through conquering and instilling notions of rank and obedience in the weak and through the Will to Power.) is hard to say, but what is clear is that they both share the entirely illiberal and anti-individualist view that some people are slaves by nature, or at the very least have a slavish nature.  In some sense they are utterly right.  The most obvious example being Christians who not only mindlessly go into Church and believe whatever their pastors instruct them is the truth, but people who yearn for authority; not only this, but yearn for this authority to be a fundamental law of reality like the Law of Conservation that no one can escape from and all are bound to by the tyranny of God.  Nietzsche of course focuses on and illustrates the components of Slave Morality in human beings far better than Aristotle but both take these facts of human beings having a slavish nature (ignoring the question of whether or not or to which extent submissiveness and passivity is genetic and inculcated into humans) and arrives at the conclusion that not all human beings deserve the same rights.  Therefore some human beings may be treated as cattle and told what to do and how to act whether for their own benefit or for that of society – both seem to believe that both happen simultaneously but Nietzsche is at-times far-more honest about what slavery does to the slave, but them being confined to slavery is simply the best of a terrible situation and is the dictate of the strong man via Will to Power. 
This understanding seems on the surface to contradict the very essence of Liberal Individualism but one must remember that this is the exact same view of the citizen in a Liberal Democracy the only view being that in a Liberal Republic one is a freeman until one does drugs unapproved by the Government or does anything else not allowed by law.  Then one’s freedom is stripped from him and he is turned into a slave who works for an incredibly low wage for corporate profits; and if he refuses, he is very-likely placed into solitary confinement and driven insane.  The only serious difference is only that of sincerity and viewing the ability to take one’s freedom away on one’s general nature (i.e. if one is by their very nature a slave) or if one has performed an act that warrants the State to make a slave of the individual (i.e. if one performs a solitary action that the State finds disagreeable rather than examining the organism’s general nature) whether for the good of the State (which both Liberalism with its background in Utilitarianism and Aristotle agrees is of higher precedence) or for the good of the individual to “teach him a lesson.”
This line of logic in Liberalism or rather the similarities to the defense of hierarchy in Aristotle and Nietzsche to Liberalism does not desist there.  The very notion of some being proper rulers and some being instead fashioned to lead and is viewed as natural by Liberalism.  But I will momentarily show how absurd such a divide of natural and artificial is.  Also we see quite persistently that the “Government by the People for the People” line contained in Liberalism (the latter half of which is in Aristotle and none of which is in Nietzsche) is trampled upon and given sway to typically class interest (the same which would occur in a explicit Oligarchy or Meritocracy which is closer to what Aristotle wants and is exactly what Nietzsche wants) and always to secure and expand its own existence and strength rather than to safeguard the health and freedoms of the State’s citizenry.
One of Aristotle’s main defenses of both slavery and the State is that it’s “natural.”  First of all this is clearly a naturalistic fallacy and odd how the philosopher whose known as the founder of the School of “Logic” or the philosopher who is known to first speak of logic out-right would commit such a blaring crime of it.  Of course he means it in the way of telos or a natural end rather than natural in the sense of hippies shopping at Whole Foods because the food is “natural.”  For Aristotle a State is akin to the health of the organism the way water is akin to the health of a growing tree.  For Nietzsche the State is ideal simply if the wills and embodiments of the strong men who will perform their acts of greatness that justify all horrors and miseries of their society are the guiding forces of it.  Aristotle to some extent shares this view (or does in contradiction with his view of Government being for the benefit of the citizenry) if his proposal that one of the main purposes of a State isn’t individuals living together (as it is in Hobbes) but rather to perform “noble acts” has nothing to do with ethical acts or acts that increase the well-being of society (science, technology, education, etc) but more along the lines of great acts (acts of rarity that require a certain excellence seen in art, writing, music, etc) in Nietzsche’s sense.  However considering he is considering the telos or the good of the State based on the health of the individual it would seem that this is a different type of justification than that of Nietzsche’s and therefore such a criticism is unwarranted though it does show an interesting distinction between those who view the acts of greatness by the oligarchs and the good of the community as the same thing.  To them the “looters” (to steal a term from Ayn Rand who largely embodies this scandalous view) are simply those who must be contended with and domesticated to the extent that they can; it is the elite (either of corporations, governments or religions) that are the ethical and virtuous (in the Aristotelian sense) giants that allow us all the bounty of our meager material existences.
However there is still the issue of his justifying things such as slavery and marriage in the sense of radically differing forms of telos and not in the egalitarian sense.  For Aristotle the master is primary and the slave is secondary by their very natures; just as the man in a marriage is primary and the woman is secondary.  It is supposedly good for the wife to obey her husband and therefore it is right for the husband to expect compliance with his dictates as it is just to expect the same out of a slave or a citizen when ordered by his government or when his government creates a law that his will is in contradiction to.  You see here obvious justification of force within a “Liberal” or a beneficent framework – something which Nietzsche has the honesty and earnestness to not try to deceive us on.  It is also entirely untrue that marriage is “natural” in the most immediate sense – neither of course is slavery.  Everything in existence is natural in the most basic sense of being allowed within the framework of physics.  It is a naturally occurring phenomena complying with natural law.  However, if by natural one means what human beings will do if not compelled by force, then marriage is largely unnatural but is also natural as is slavery – allow me to expand.
Though there were primitive societies and hunter-gatherer tribes that did have the notion of marriage, largely humanity is polyamorous which is obvious considering once Man and Woman are free from the evils of religion or any other force they have sexual congress with as many willing participants as they can.  Or rather many or even most do; for we must avoid any universal notions of human nature or psychology.  For some monogamy is natural and others it is done out of expectation by Puritan society.  It could be said to have its sociological benefits as opposed to the collective parenting model proposed in Plato’s Republic for instance, but even if this is the case (which I’m willing it is to some extent or rather for some aspects but that is not to say that collective parenting would not have its redeeming qualities as well) to say that it is “natural” simply because it is beneficial is like to say that Americans are incredibly obese because it is beneficial and therefore being incredibly fat is simply “natural” rather than caused by external conditions.  Largely human beings are organisms that respond to cause-and-effect and are molded both by their environment (e.g. material conditions, larger aspects of society such as how such material is organized and managed) and by their culture (e.g. the elements of society that are largely made by the consequences of his material conditions, their organization and management, or more largely what effects said material and their conditions did in conditioning them) and this has very-little to do with what is or is not beneficial.  Human sacrifice was a practice in parts of the globe for hundreds of years.  Is it to be argued that there was sociological benefit in this practice as-well? 
Now that is to clarify not to say that marriage is not without benefit, it is to say rather that it exists not solely or even largely because it is beneficial but rather due-to the chance nature of certain aspects of society becoming ingrained into cultural expectation while others are lost to the pages of history.  A fine example would be the social expectation to shake a person’s hand (particularly for men) when one is either first meeting their acquaintance or they are meeting again under formal situations.  This seems to be the very essence of civility for some and those who refuse to follow could be demonized as “anti-social” or “pointlessly rebellious.”  However, most forget, or rather are ignorant of the fact that the custom started to check that the individual one is meeting is not hiding a firebrand.  Therefore it could be argued that the true nature of the custom is the exact antithesis of civility for it presumes the possibility of violence in a cowardly fashion, and therefore those who do not practice the custom could be argued either they do not practice customs they themselves find no value in (and which have no value save what we find in them) or perhaps (though this argument serves more as a joke than an actual repost) they are signifying that they trust the person and do not need to check them for any weaponry they may have on their person.
These aspects of humanity are “natural” in the sense that human beings when conditioned to obey these social mores will; and that these social mores are constructed out of either benefit to at-least one group of humanity, a result of acts and systems created out of benefit to at-least one group of individuals, or simply as a result of consequence to human formation in the world.  None of these however are solid grounds for the continuation of practice of a social custom or way of organizing society.  In fact if one examines human history, if something is serving specifically one group or class of people it can easily be argued that it is likely a class or group of people will suffer simultaneously.  A key example being the archaic and pointless social convention in some languages of certain words being used to address a superior, some an equal in rank or social circumstance and some for your supposed inferiors.  Having notions of rank and class in the very words one speaks clearly indoctrinates in the “self-evident” rightness of the system of oppression one is living in.  Much like to have a “whites only” and “blacks only” drinking fountain as a social more (though perhaps one could argue that in itself it is not harmful to anyone) perpetuates the idea of racialism if not racism (considering the disparity of quality in the fountains for blacks and whites) and therefore is a practice of segregation that that is as immoral as replacing the word black with a racial exploitative that in its very definition presupposes that negroes are inferior or are low in value or character.
Aristotle claiming marriage and slavery as natural and therefore as right (and therefore also as rights, because for someone like Aristotle if rights exist they are rights to do what he would consider virtuous and not to stray from this moral and self-critical path that we all tarry from; this is close to the view of some Christian Evangelicals where rights only exist in concordance with obedience to their notion of a god – I go into further detail of this in an essay on Trotsky I did for those who are inquisitive) or as the most fundamental rights or aspects (which he to his credit doesn’t say about slavery to his credit but he does say about the family) of society is essentially what Liberalism has always done in-regards to rights.  First let me clarify that for Aristotle marriage is at-least in-part another form of bondage for it includes the wife obeying the husband and the children obeying the parents (but largely the father) to an extent that I would have complaint with.  However I won’t go into argument of the gradation that a child should obey his or her parents and instead focus on marriage and other aspects being seen by Liberalism. 
Just as right to marriage is seen as a fundamental right in-regards to Liberalism (either because it is a religious practice or simply because it is a social more) right to commerce is seen as a fundamental right.  Liberalism takes the conventions of its society and prescribes them as the “ultimate rights” because they are the main essence of its own time and place but retaining a Statist and class structure will contradict its own verdicts when it harms the State or profits of corporations.  Having right to protest (by a group of revolutionaries who still owned slaves) be a fundamental right in the American Constitution seems like something that would support the weak to protest the actions of the strong.  However such has not been the case historically for blacks and Leftists marches and protests have been routinely broken up with force resulting in unjust incarceration, severe injury and death while Right-wing protests largely orchestrated by business interests have never been met with police brutality though they certainly have their faction that views the Federal Government as illegitimate just as much as Left-wing protestors.  Also in recent history right-wingers have been far-more predominant in acting on these views as well as racist and religiously fundamentalist ideas when Anti-State or Anti-Status Quo Leftists (e.g. Anarchists, Marxists, Socialists, etc) have been largely peaceful and Anarchists in particular believe largely in peaceful resistance and Civil Disobedience to unjust laws and any failure of the Non-Aggression Principle.  Liberalism creates the “rights” that are necessary for the rulers of their society to simultaneously rule over the populous while having the masses feel as if (though this façade is slipping) they have universal rights respected by their government and that they have a voice and power within their government – even though they clearly don’t.  Conservatism is merely the more religious, right-wing, typically racist and xenophobic and obvious form of Liberalism; this fact however has been misconstrued or blurred in our society by creating a false dichotomy ‘tween “Liberal” and “Conservative” while the true distinctions are between “Progressive” and “Conservative” and the dichotomy of “Anti-State” and “Statist.”
Just as Aristotle and Liberalism contends that the conventions of contemporary society (or the conventions of society when it was in formation) are universals of human existence, so it contends that Man is fundamentally a Political Animal, rather than an organism that is transformed into one.  Examining the Native American culture I would bet one would not find any political discussions or quarrels in statecraft over the role of Government and the source of human rights.  That is because they existed in largely hunter-gatherer societies where no such discussions would arise in a truly naturalistic (that is original without the development of agriculture, animal husbandry, cities and systems of management) social gathering as Rousseau depicts in his State of Nature.  Human beings are made political both by hierarchy and the illusion of Democracy in society.  Artificial constructs require artificial or propagandistic rationale to be justified by the rational and moral.  This is why hierarchy is concerned with the opinions of the common and either feeds them a steady line of explicit propaganda (usually involving religion and custom to make it seem matter-of-factly and natural both by being commonplace and by being supposedly objective by being claimed as a law of reality by a god or gods) and force or does the same secretly and gives them the illusion that their opinion matters through elections that are largely shades of gray, make almost no difference in the majority of policy rather than any real distinction that would show a contrast in Political Philosophy or even share the views and sentiments of the majority of voters that are explicitly Statist and Pro-Status Quo (and even this is changing to some degree) but implicitly or unknowingly subversive in their ethics and views to the extent they are moral and sane.  If one were to examine the nature of Mutual Aid, one would find that it is apolitical to the extent that it is without agenda – it is truly and entirely naturalistic both in the realm of economics and ethics.  But of course very political in today’s atmosphere for being Anti-Capitalist and Anti-State.  It is political in the sense that it is radical and radical in the sense that it is uncompromising, intelligent and knowledgeable of human beings as they actually are in the face of forced stupidity and ignorance.
Aristotle’s simplistic “Three Good  Three Bad” outlay of the forms of Government also deserves criticism both for its simplicity and for its innate elitism while masquerading as Universal as appealing and benefiting all individuals – but if this is not a outright hypocrisy it’s a lack of understanding of human nature and of cause-and-effect.  It’s simplistic in ignoring the class, religious and other possible motivations of State, and is honest in its caprice towards individuals in not making all who live in the State citizens – being defined as being involved in Government.  While our society suffers from the deceit of Universal Rights and all individuals having a potential voice in Government – such is the lie of Liberalism.  If the State excluded no one and no voice it would cease to be a State. 
There is a moment where he seems to be a proto-Thomas Paine but then blunders.  Namely, when he seems to be criticizing the nature of Hereditary Rule by saying that the Noble King’s son could be a jackass but then defends Monarchy (as opposed to Tyranny) as a legitimate form of Government.  Not only is this absurd for even a beneficent king will blunder and use force in attempt at a at best noble Utopian scheme it suffers from both the delusion that all there is is the self-interest of the king (also it could be argued it would be in the King’s own self-interest if he had the right nature or simply for rational self-interest to be just) and that of the commonwealth, ignoring class interest, interest of sex, race, religion and various other arbitrary dividing lines and forms of power throughout history and that the King could rightfully represent every individuals interests or will if a more Representative Government be idealized.  Every system of control first and foremost prioritizes itself to secure and if possible expand its own existence.  Everything, including (some would say especially) the rights and interests of the populous are secondary and if they conflict with the States’ or any other hierarchies’ power (as a intelligent and healthy society naturally will) then their health and happiness will be sacrificed on the altar of not only Might Makes Right but the fundamental code of Statism and force:  Might is right.
There are aspects of Aristotle’s ethics and politics (particularly the ethics) however that deserves to be commended.  He focuses on education more-so than many if not most philosophers.  There is at-least an attempt to have Government serve the interests of everyone (not even the majority, though Aristotle argues that the good for a slave involves being a slave so he’s not exactly giving an accurate account for a Government where the needs and best for all is addressed) which is not something that will be attempted in well-known philosophy to my knowledge until Hobbes (who suffers from many of the faults of Aristotle except in some ways even worse and more explicitly) unless one is to take into account the Roman politicians and emperors who were also Stoic thinkers.  But although they give far-more respect to women and slaves (but we must remember that although these Stoics considered slaves equal to freeman they did not disbar or ban slavery; which will remind one of the gentile racism of the upper-class, who is always willing to tip the black chap nicely who washes his car or buses his table but doesn’t want any of “them” several houses in proximity to where he lives – and that their economic “pragmatism” takes primacy to their ethical idealism of Virtue; which vindicates the Materialism of Marx and the Anarchists) other more comprehensive elements of their political philosophy are either lacking, ambiguous or I’m simply ignorant to.
Aristotle however is antithetical to the idea that the good of the State and the good of society (and the will of the individual) are at-ends with each other.  So largely should be considered not only incorrect in much of his ideas – though he gives a proper rebuttal to Plato’s epistemology and politics – on the nature of scientific methodology (which is not to say he was of no assistance to humanities understanding of knowledge, the gathering of it and a great gatherer of it himself – he clearly was; however from my limited understanding of the formation of the Scientific Method, Francis Bacon had to overthrow the methodology of Aristotle which was prone to over-assumption) but wrong in his view of politics.  Political Philosophy must be based on human nature not on contemporary society’s mores and circumstances.  For Aristotle, the State exists to create great citizens.  And although this is far-more commendable notion of a state than religious or Right-wing Libertarian perspectives of the role and nature of Government, it ultimately falls apart because any Government that has in its duties education and raising (at-least partially) of the individual will naturally favor patriotism and inculcation of National values into the child rather than to raise him up to be a critical thinker who can examine evidence critically and act independently from authorization.  Anarchism too holds Positive Liberty (or a execution of the telos into society viewed as a fundamental right if you like) as well as Negative Liberty as indispensable, the main distinctions being that Anarchists view that not only is it unethical to propose the latter be sacrificed for the function of the former, such a notion is harmful to the organism’s fruition and has shown to cause much harm to society, individual families and millions upon millions of individuals in practice.

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