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A

JOURNAL

OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

September 1985

Volume 13 Number 3

297 321

David Lowenthal Jan H. Blits Kit R. Christensen

Leo Strauss's Studies in Platonic Political Socratic

Philosophy

Teaching
and of

and

Justice: Plato's Clitophon

335

Individuation

Commonality

in Feuerbach's

Man"

"Philosophy
359
403
Allan D. Nelson Michael P. Zuckert

John Stuart Mill: the Reformer Reformed Appropriation


and

Understanding
on

in the

History

of

Political Philosophy:

Quentin Skinner's Method

Book Reviews
425 429
J. E. Parsons, Jr. Locke's Education for The Modern
to

Liberty by

Nathan Tarcov
a

Charles Butterworth

St. Augustine

Self in by

Rousseau's Confession: Ann Hartle

Reply

432

Nicholas Capaldi

Hume's

by
434
Francis Canavan

of Common Life Donald W. Livingston

Philosophy

Selected Letters of Edmund Burke edited introduction by Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr.


American Conservatism
and

and with an

435

Dennis Teti

the American

Founding

by Harry

V. Jaffa

interi
Volume 13

.retation
number

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Copyright 1985

Interpretation

Leo Strauss's Studies in Platonic Political


David Lowenthal
Boston College

Philosophy

Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy. By Leo Strauss and others, with an in troduction by Thomas L. Pangle. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.
264
pp.:

cloth,

$25.00.)

I
This
collection of essays was arranged

by

Leo Strauss

a year

before his death

in

1973.

Thirteen

of

the fifteen have already appeared in journals or elsewhere,

five here in Interpretation.


printed at the

Only

two short pieces on Maimonides seem to be

for the first time. A

complete

bibliography

of

Strauss's

writings appears

back.
we are and

Again

indebted to Joseph

Cropsey for executing his mentor's


has

wishes so

faithfully
puzzle order

seeing to this publication. He

at the same time transmitted a


a somewhat obscure

arising from the fact that the essays were placed in and given the title, "Studies in Platonic Political
additions

Philosophy,"

by

Strauss

himself. Two

had

also

been

contemplated

by

the author

a chapter on

Plato's Gorgias
tion would

and an

introduction. Neither
essays on

was written.

No doubt the introduc

have indicated how


can

Husserl,

the Bible and

Machiavelli,

among others,

be Platonic

studies.

tory essay has been


his der
all work on of

prepared at

up for this lack, a long introduc Cropsey's request by Thomas Pangle, known for To
make explain

Plato

and

Montesquieu. Pangle found that to

the title and or

the subjects nothing


was needed. show

less than

a comprehensive analysis of

Strauss's follower

over

teaching

Pangle tries to

the

manner

in

which

Strauss became

of

the
of

Socrates described

by

Plato (and Xenophon).


conceived

Starting
turn

with

Plato's doctrine
natural

ideas, he
and

explains

how Strauss

Socrates'

from

philosophy

toward the study of human things. But if Strauss

resurrects political

the

philosophic

had for Plato

and

life, setting Xenophon, he also


way
of
with

them once again on the


seems

philosophy foundation they foundation.

ready to

shake that

Pangle is forced
and revelation

to cope

the

mortal

threat to philosophy presented


argued

by faith

philosopher or theologian.

by any other antirelicontrary to the gious bias of modern philosophy and science, Pangle tries nonetheless to find a Socratic justification for philosophy's continued existence, and hence for
a threat more

powerfully

by

Strauss than

Accepting

this argument, so

Strauss's "Studies in Platonic Political These are the highest highpoints of Pangle's

Philosophy."

complex

exposition,
with

and we must of

be

grateful

for his

willingness

to

undertake a

task so

fraught

difficulties

298

Interpretation
interpretation. In

collation and often

fact,

assisted

by his

numerous cross-references,

found

myself

critical

asperity The Claremont Review of Books. Does Pangle, as Jaffa charges, drastic underestimate Strauss's interest in political action? Does he so far abandon ally Strauss's position as to adopt an Epicureanism that under modern conditions

with which

disagreeing with the analysis. But I was unprepared for the Harry Jaffa greeted Pangle's essay in the Fall of 1984

issue

of

must

lead to nihilism, thus promoting the extremes of both corruption and tyr anny? And is Jaffa right in claiming that Strauss's lifework was primarily aimed
at

rescuing

modern political practice

from

modern political

theory? that

he fa

vored

placing

modern political practice on a

foundation derived from

classical

political philosophy?

that he actually

shared

Yehuda Halevy's

passionate

interest
asser

in morality

and consequent

longing

for

revelation?

For it is true that these

tions are not to

be found in Pangle's
of opinion about

essay. can stem

Differences

Strauss's teaching

from many

sources:

from its complexity, from its having unfolded over time to some degree, from differences of emphasis required for different circumstances, from the interests
and capacities of opinion

the interpreters themselves. We


men

can assume

that differences of

between

like Pangle
and of

and

Jaffa, however
But

unfortunate

in

some

ways,
us re

will prove

instructive

helpful in

others.

where shall we

begin? Let

turn to the main

body

the

work under review

to get a better idea of its contents.

Most

of

its

essays

originality Most of these


monides

merely extend Strauss's treatment of

though with characteristic


subjects

he has dealt

with

profoundity and extensively before.


and

subjects are premodern


which must

Plato, Thucydides, Xenophon


essay
on

Mai

to

be

added an

Machiavelli Husserl

and one on

the natu

ral

law,

premodern and modern.

By

comparison, the first

and

last

of

the fifteen
on

deal
one

with subjects and

little treated

elsewhere: with

and

Heidegger,

the

Hermann Cohen, on the other. The same is true of the essay on hand, Nietzsche, and of at least the part of "Jerusalem and analyzing the Bi ble. All these have the special interest that comes from novelty.
Athens"

While the
ceptions

order of

to this rule.

is generally chronological, there are some ex The first chapter is clearly meant to demonstrate the failure
the chapters
and

of modern

dialogues, the philosophy directly most important of which by far is the Apology of Socrates. After this, the chapter on the gods in Thucydides is perhaps be slightly out of chronological order
chapters enter political

philosophy Platonic

the

need

for returning to the

origins.

The

next

two

through three

cause of the need to establish the


out of as

Platonic foundation first. But the


on
Athens"

chapter most and

Pangle notes, is the one place, which, by succeeding "Jerusalem and


monides

Nietzsche's Beyond Good


and

Evil,

preceding the three Mai

Notes,

appears

in

what might

be

called

the medieval section of the

book.

II
Before
modern political

ters a coma

philosophy becomes moribund, and, so to speak, en in the twentieth century, it suffuses the world of action and becomes

Studies in Platonic Political


commonplace.
and

Philosophy

299

Strauss introduces Husserl


show what

with remarks about

Marx, Nietsche
Hegel. He

Heidegger to

happens to historicist

philosophies after

ends

these remarks somewhat darkly: "One is inclined to say that Heidegger has learned the lesson of 1933 more thoroughly than any other man. Surely he leaves
no place whatever

for

philosophy."

political

"Let

us,"

fantastic hopes,
Husserl"

more to

be

expected

from

visionaries

he adds, "turn from these than from philosophers, to


means

(34). Now

by

"fantastic

hopes"

here he certainly

the

view of

the

future he had

ascribed

life facilitated
marked

by

just before to Heidegger, anticipating a new era in human the combined efforts of the thinkers of East and West, and
hopes"

by

the return of the gods. But "fantastic


"visions"

ply before that.

as well to the

of

the

future he had
we

ascribed

is probably meant to ap to Marx and Nietzsche

By

what peculiar

inversion,

which modern

philosophy originates entirely visionary as it works its way through historicism toward existentialism? "Fantastic may be the natural consequence of false oversimplification a realism which begins by reducing man to certain masquerading as
hopes"
"realism"

may ask, does the realism with in Machiavelli, Bacon and Descartes turn

passions, denies the rationality


philosophic reason

of

the universe as well, and

ends

by

making

itself impossible.
seems

Husserl's thought
or science

to have rested on the idea of a theoretical philosophy

that is

not

historically

determined. For

purposes of

action,

however,
cannot

this science must be augmented, in the foreseeable


ungen meet a

future, by
conduct of

Weltanschau-

kind

of

historically
Having
rested

variable wisdom

in the

life that

the rigorous standard of science. Here Strauss's criticism of his teacher be


approached a point

comes expansive.
serl seems and

to have

instead

on assumptions

requiring political reflection, Hus derived from the Enlightenment

liberalism. He did
in

not wonder about or about

the necessary effect of rigorous science

on the

Weltanschauungen,

the

political conditions

isting
after

diversity
so

side

by

side.

Husserl's

concern

1933, but he

was confident that

"ideas"

necessary to their ex for the fate of philosophy grew were stronger than the "empirical
beings"

powers,"

that ultimately those in the "circle of philosophic human

would win out

in the

political struggle with

"those

who are

conservatively Strauss does

con

tradition."

tented

with

the

In this connection, Husserl

refers

to the persecution
not ob

that set in at the very

beginning of philosophy as

archetypal.

ject, as well he might have, to the implicit likening of Nazi Germany to Periclean Athens, and of the fate of philosophy in both. Instead, he calls for examining the
political
conflict

between

Husserlian generally

philosophy
understood.

and

the

alternative

to

it
way

presumably "the
of

tradition,"

I take this to be Strauss's

indicating the original and perennial character of the conflict between phi losophy and the opinion-based sphere of politics. He is beckoning the reader to
move
nings

beyond the
of

assumptions of philosophy.

Enlightenment With
an

and

back to the Socratic begin


of

political philosophy in support for the his and its near- absence Nazis, engendering of even the effects and conditions of his own phi in Husserl, enfeebling his grasp losophy, the stage is set for a new look at the ancients.
political

absence

Heidegger

capable of

300

Interpretation
of

Strauss's treatment
as

Plato's

Apology begins
to the text
and

on

the next

page.

One is amazed,

usual,

pointed

his capacity for to find him staying so


at

observation and
close

inference, but

somewhat

disap

and

abstaining from broad

conclu

sions of

the kind found in Natural Right

losophy? When Pangle Socrates's "new

deals, in

History and What is Political Phi his introduction, with the threat posed by faith
piety"

to philosophy, he even uses the Apology's Delphic Oracle as the symbol of

hearkening

to the voice of authoritative

(p.

21).

Socrates

does, in fact, portray his public philosophizing Delphic god, but the evidence in the dialogue
hearkening."

as a mission commanded

by

the

As Strauss

indicates, it

was

any such "new Socrates himself who decided to test

hardly
he,

supports

the Oracle's affirmation that no one is

wiser

than

and who

chooses,

on

his

own, the

route of

publicly confronting politicians,

poets and craftsmen

(41-42).

Instead ety to ble

of

taking

the claims of piety seriously, Socrates seems merely to use pi


also

excuse

these confrontations. And I think it


us

true that only prejudice in


and

Socrates'

favor keeps

such confrontations

from admitting how politically really were. Certainly no one has


always

morally irresponsi

ever repeated

them,

nor

are we tempted to now.

Socrates keeps know


nothing.

drawing

By confounding his victims with his questions, the conclusion that we human beings only know that we
gives

After this, he

indications that "human

wisdom

is

more than
our

the insight
norance of virtue

into the
the

worthlessness of

human

wisdom"

(45)

that

is, into

ig

most

important things. And in the


thing"

process of

exhorting

people to

indeed, "His philosophizing


is. Yet has he
not

tue as the most valuable


virtue

consists chiefly in exhorting people to vir he lets them believe they already know what

already implicit

cast

prove an exception to our general

doubt on the possibility that virtue could ignorance? From the outset, then, the Platonic
to traditional piety, tradi

Socrates

presents a

deep

or explicit challenge

tional politics
can

and even

traditional morality, and with

little

assurance that these


virtue.

be

replaced

by knowledge,
of

except, perhaps, regarding

If philosophy
set

proves

incapable

making

progress

from this

point

onward, Socrates has

the

for tradition's re-entry into this vacuum with a vengeance. Jaffa seems unwilling to admit that Strauss, as a follower of this Soc rates we are not discussing his relation to Aristotle yet is essentially like
stage

Socrates. Jaffa
tional moral

cites modernity's prejudice against

"traditional

piety"

and

"tradi

philosophy,"

philosophy divorced from the morality of 'the Bible and Greek (p. 20, col. 2). But Strauss's study of the Apology the anchor of these "studies in Platonic po
philosophy'

and condemns the

"questionable

status of
"

litical

philosophy"

reveals a

Socrates

whose

thetical to anything called


phy,"

"traditional

piety"

or even not even and

questioning is intrinsically anti "traditional moral philoso include the


guidance of political

and whose expressed

interests do Strauss
as spirit

life Jaffa
should man

considers so vital to
added

himself.

By

Jaffa's

logic, Socrates
not

be

to Strauss and Yehuda Halevi as still another example of moral


revelation

yearning for

the best of

"believers."

But is this

to

mis-

contrue

entirely the Socratic

the spirit of philosophy?

Even

Pangle,

who

Studies in Platonic Political


tries to preserve the

Philosophy

301

fullness

of

this spirit in both Socrates and

Strauss,

speaks

too

loosely

in referring to
to

Socrates'

"new

hearkening

to the

voice of authoritative

piety."

According
to the city
two ways:
pirations
pected

Pangle,
of

the

new or mature

Socrates

of

The

Apology

admits

his

"idiosyncratic"

and

life has to be "justified according to standards acceptable way its moral-religious (14). He tells us Socrates does this in
beliefs"

first, by claiming that as a gadfly he recalled the city to its highest as (to virtue, presumably); second, by claiming "that his life is the unex summit of human and offering to the city the life of the philos
existence"

opher

(or

"noble image in

speech of that

life")

as

the "otherwise
can

unrecognized

standard"

in the light

of which moral

disagreements
to the

be

arbitrated and moral

questions clarified.
ever came

Now Socrates does explicitly


service and

claim

that "no greater good

to pass in the city than my this he does say that virtue cities,
and

god"

meaning his
virtue

"gadfly"

function

of

interrogating everyone he meets


or

spurring them to
of

(30a). In

support of

the perfection

the soul is good

for in
man"

dividuals

and

the source of

"money

and all other good

things to the

(29d,e;
other good

30b).

And

we

find him adding that


Socrates'

conversation about virtue and

things concerning which he examines himself and others is the "greatest


man"

to

(38a). But

second

justification

the principal one, in

Pangle's judgment
might

be

as a studied

explicitly appears in the dialogue, however valid it inference from what does transpire there, or as a transcrip
never

tion

of what

Strauss

says elsewhere.

It's

a claim

Socrates

never

makes,

and

is in

no position to make.

So the
city,
and

"gadfly"

claim

is

philosophy's sole means of

justifying

itself before the

the gadfly is

said

to be sent

by

the god of the oracle. The philosopher

is

on a religious mission

that becomes

a public good

only through the gadfly func

tion. The philosophizing


social

he engages in is therefore understood as essentially a with done others, aiming at the mutual improvement of their activity, direction of souls in the virtue, and of benefit to individuals and the city of Athens alike. Most important, and most surprising to us, philosophy as the open

inquiry into
forms
than

all

things,

or even

into

all

human things,

including

political

things,

no explicit part of what

Socrates defends. What

we would call ethics rather

physics or politics

is

made

to appear his sole subject, and ethics publicly un

derstood
tue.
also

as presuming, rather than


result at

having to prove,
this search

the supreme goodness of vir


virtue a

The

this point

is to

give

for

traditional cast, and

to democratize it

through the
all men.

impression that it

can

be

undertaken and

brought to fruition Socrates

by

After this it

comes as a

distinct

shock to

hear

pronounce not virtue

the highest good,


such a radical

fully

itself but talking philosophizing will be unable to convince his he realizing


what

about virtue

audience of

departure from

they

take

for

granted

(38a).

Otherwise,
part. mission

the

positive part of

his

mission

finds him

being

less

offensive

than in the interroga

tions

testing knowledge
us

that caused such consternation

in the first in

Socrates'

Let

frankly

acknowledge

something

extravagant

gen-

302
erally.

Interpretation
Someone
who

thinks all men can


and

be

made

to examine their

own

lives,

ac

actually improve in virtue is extremely impolitic in tively the precise sense of the word. He does not seem to realize that the virtue or cor ruption of large bodies of men is a function of the political regime and its condi
search

for virtue,

tion,

rather

than of efforts to improve made

by

individuals through thinking

and

talking. Socrates may


ations.

have been led into this

apparent

difficulty by

two

consider

One is the very politic recognition that democratic Athens lacks the ca pacity for dedicating itself to virtue. He seems also to have decided against at as an aristocratic activity in tempting to justify his activity as fit only for a few
Justification before the city democratic appeal "alike to rich and
some sense.
men

of

Athens

seems

to require an

inherently
of all

poor"

(33b)

and

hence

calling

to what can only be accomplished

by

few. Here the


as

philosopher seems

to

act as a responsible part of the

city,

as an

Athenian, just
51).
as a general

he does in accepting

the authority of

him (48, 49, Yet Socratic self-examination is treated


over
of men everywhere and at all

its laws

tentiality

times, independent

a po human possibility of the city itself. Such part of

independence of, and even superiority to, the city is another sion Socrates leaves for philosophy. He himself is sent on his
the city acknowledges as its superior, and is guided

the impres

mission

by

being
He
view,

by

his Saifioviov
in

as well.

impudently

challenges

the knowledge

of politicians and others

public

and establishes

his

to a standard of
nian.

authority by defeating them in goodness that is human (or by nature)


own upon

verbal rather

battle. He

appeals

than simply Athe to


participate

He looks down

the goods sought in political

life,

refuses

in the injustices constantly required by political life, and will not be intimidated by the threat of death itself if the price is abandoning philosophic examination. He
as even assumes a certain anticipates

superiority to the

greatest of

those

dwelling

in Hades,
nervier

he
It

subjecting them to
move

similar examination: at

the end

he is

than at the beginning.


would as

have been easy to


the classic always

from the

concern

for

virtue

to a

concern

for

politics,

step

at

his trial. In

keeping

with

do in their writings, but Socrates does not take this the nature of democratic Athens, virtue, while
pursuit, like
wealth.

urged on all at

the god's

behest, is left to private

And

philos

ophy,
rather

as

the means of attaining virtue, is limited to certain things on the earth

than in the

stood will

derive

the part
pher's close

of

or under the earth. Respect for philosophy thus under from piety on the part of the many, or a love of virtue on the few. But preserving this respect seems to depend on the philoso

heavens

either

walking

tightrope

to

impiety,

too far from virtue,


political

venturing observably in his expression or too much into politics. Such philosophy to
emerge.

neither

too

restrictions
guidance

will make of

it difficult for

Even direct

the philosopher's own society goes

beyond,

and

therefore endangers, the po

litical

impartiality

required

for the

circumscribed area

in

which

he

can

safely How

operate.

Socrates defended philosophy only

by limiting it to

the pursuit of virtue.

Studies in Platonic Political


good a

Philosophy
in

303
a passage

defense is this?

According to Plutarch,

Strauss likes to cite,

Plato

gave

currency among the

peoples to all philosophic

studies,

including

the

generally-suspect natural philosophy.


own

He did this

by

the sterling

reputation of

his

life,

and

by

his

having

"subjected

principles"

cellent

(Nicias,

23).

natural necessity to divine and more ex Strauss himself puts it even more strongly. What

defense

of

regime might not

philosophy has been required "always and everywhere, whatever the have been"? It is: "In satisfying the city that the philosophers are

atheists, that

they do

not

desecrate everything

sacred

to the city, that

they

reverence what

the city reverences, that


adventurers

they

are not

subversives, in short, that the best


of citi

they

are not

irresponsible

but
p.

good citizens and even

zens"

(What Is Political Philosophy?,


this standard,
Socrates'

126).
was

By
city's

defense

inadequate. If he fended

off
with

the the

charge of

impiety,

he

nevertheless made all too plain

his dissatisfaction
with

worldly

pursuits and

injustices,

and,

above

all,

the claims

of

its

politi

cians,

poets and artisans

to have knowledge. But Socrates may have


against

wanted

to

do

more

than defend philosophy

the city. He may have


need

wanted

to make

clear,
of

once and

for all, that the first human

is for philosophy, for knowledge


win

the chief good, for perfection of the soul. To

the city's

approbation or

itself, Socrates may have used a novel shock treatment, public examination, softened, to some extent, by its subsequent restriction to the search for virtue. And he may have used his death as he used his
even admiration of

for this transcending

life. We

always remember

three things

about

Socrates: the Socratic method; his

talking back to the city, even somewhat defiantly; and his obediently drinking the hemlock. After Plato, political societies would concede unlimited scope to a So
cratic

philosophy that
the

supported

the rule of

divine

principle

in the universe,

affirmed

dignity

of

the city

itself,

and, to the extent possible, avoided the im

putation of political sans

partisanship by weighing impartially the claims of the parti themselves. Only in modern times were the political prerequisites of philos
removed

ophy completely

by

the combination of enlightenment

and

liberalism.

Ill
As Strauss observes, the Apology tells us nothing about philosophy, on the basis of which he was already accounted
phon
Socrates'

pre-Delphic
wise.

For Chaere
and this was

had

asked

the oracle

whether anyone

is

wiser

than

Socrates,

before Socrates began publicly questioning one and all. Against the background provided by Strauss's Socrates and Aristophanes Pangle assumes that the earlier
,
"pre-Socratic"

Socrates
Clouds

was

the

philosopher

ridiculed

in

Aristophanes'

The

for undermining the social conditions necessary to philoso says of the soul, and for atheism. "The new ignorance phy, for and political psychological prudence that Aris Pangle, "has learned the lesson in
ridiculed
Socrates,"

tophanes

sought

to teach. He has
on

recognized

his

manifold

dependence (both
(15). As the

erotic and

calculative)

those

who are not philosophic.

304

Interpretation
accounting for Socrates's interest in human things,
"erotic"

means of

and

hence his
Hiero,"

origi

"calculative"

and nating political philosophy, those curious words to be made much clearer. In his "Restatement on Xenophon's

need

Strauss

had described the


ment

combination of

detachment from human things,


To
protect

and attach

to

them,

experienced

by the philosopher.
is
also a

his

philosophic

detach
things

ment, the philosopher has only to show respect for the religion and

other

dear to the
on others

being who not only depends While wishing to mitigate the evils all men experience, he naturally "cannot help being more attached to his and will "give advice to his family and city than to city or to other rul ers. Since all advice of this kind presupposes comprehensive reflections which as
city.

But the

philosopher

human

but has

a natural concern

for

all men.

strangers,"

such are the

business

of

the philosopher,

he

must

first have become

a political

philosopher"

ment

(What Is Political Philosophy?, 120, 118-26). The special attach experienced by the philosopher is to well-ordered souls, and particularly to

those whose souls can


such people

be

perfected

through philosophy.
social side of

Finding

and

teaching

is his

natural

love

the

his love

of wisdom.

Pangle

concludes

phizing

by drawing
One is

upon

his discussion (17, 18) of the nature of Socratic philoso Strauss's distinction (in another essay from the same
earlier) between two
meanings of

volume, but
losophy."

written nine years

"political

phi

philosophy that
represent

as

its

subject. of

They

is politic, the other philosophy that has politics different views of why the philosopher turns to the
of opinion out of which

study it had to

human things. At
reflect upon

some point after

the sphere

philosophy in its original form arose, it had arisen, and also

demonstrate just why it was necessary to human life. This meant showing that "the well-being of the political community depends decisively on the study of
philosophy"

(What Is

93),

which

in turn,

addressed as

it

was

to citizens, re

quired an

litical

life."

understanding of political things "exactly as they are understood in po So the deeper meaning of political philosophy is the first rather than

the second.

political

These two essays, back to back in the same volume, give different accounts of philosophy, but they share the principle that philosophy is higher than The
a
earlier account allows whose main

political philosophy.

Pangle to

emphasize a

Socrates

remains philosophy proper Strauss) life is essentially solitary. On the other side, as if to overcompensate, we have Jaffa insisting that Strauss's life work aimed mainly at redeeming mod ern political practice that it was more concerned with political benefit than with anything else. Consequently, as Jaffa tends to regard him, Strauss remains
and whose closer

(and, by implication,

interest

in

spirit

to Aristotle's political

teaching

than to either

Socrates

or

Plato.
not

But why is it that Strauss himself

called

this new book studies in

Platonic,

Aristotelian,
tioning

political philosophy?
as

Strauss thought that Aristotle,


character of political
end points

inquiry,

distinguished from Plato, limited the ques both with respect to its beginning and its
and

(Natural Right

and

History, 156-57; City

Man,

21).

This

effort

Studies in Platonic Political


to make political
creased
men.

Philosophy
more

305
political, naturally led to
an

inquiry more responsible,


actual

in

interest in the

Now the
political

subjects

variety in these essays


Maimonides'

of regimes and of problems

facing
most

states

of

Strauss

range

from the

immedi

ately

remotely

Xenophon's Anabasis) to the only Book of Knowledge) The first essay deals with highly abstract thinkers, Heidegger and Husserl, but against the background of modern politics in general and Hitler in particular. The last ends a difficult ex
account of so
.

(for example, the (the note on

amination of

Jews

under

Hitler

Cohen's Jewish philosophy with and in the Soviet Union. This


"Platonic,"

a reflection on

the plight of the

range of considerations

from the

most practical

to the most theoretical seems to indicate a conscious adoption


so that no
while still

by

Strauss

of

the term

questions,

including the basis

of moral

ity,

are

beyond it

action.

Whether Strauss did

so

preserving the Aristotelian closeness to political because of the theoretical problems that must be
the phi

faced today or on more general grounds is not clear. Strauss's rejoinder to Kojeve about the detachment losopher is
of course

and attachment of

intended to apply to himself. The practical motive of help men can, in great crises, supplant philosophy itself. Sometimes the other ing cause of philosophy and the cause of the nonphilosophers coincide, and so it was for Strauss in the his last
word

great wars and revolutions of

the twentieth century. This is why the world to unite


com

to Kojeve

is

a call

for the

warriors and workers of

against communism

with

the

help

of philosophers

(131-33)! As for the

patibility
one, the

of

the philosophic and political


other

dispositions, it is

true that the one is

disposed to inner tranquility, the


other

to emulousness; the one to

harming

no

to striking out against enemies; the one to gentleness, the other to


combine

harshness. These divergent dispositions Strauss did

in himself

per

haps

more

naturally than Shakespeare's Prospero. Jaffa suggests that nourish

ing

the

combination

is the

unique

function

of political

philosophy (15,
to

col. 2). so ex

If so, Strauss's

studies must

have themselves

contributed civil and pages

developing
on

traordinary

an appreciation of political

greatness,

military,

the part

of one whose

customary
engaged

actions consisted of

turning

in

an armchair.

The West is
philosophy,

in

a great political struggle

to preserve

liberty, decency,
time, it is
un modern rational

religion and

every
crisis

element of civilization.

At the

same

dergoing
principles

an

intellectual

by

which

its

confidence

in the

that

have

made

it

what

it is has been

badly

shaken.

Pangle's introduc

tion does understate Strauss's interest in these overarching and intertwined issues of our time, as Jaffa charges, and, perhaps for similar reasons, the Aristotelian
element

in his

teaching.

As for the first


writings

and more

directly political issue,

it is

pos

sible

to

collect

from Strauss's
survival of

the

powerful and persistent expressions of

his

concern

for the

the West and the Jews. The second

issue (the "cri

West") is so often in the forefront of Strauss's attention that it has been Perhaps this fact, along with his decision to con repeatedly discussed by others.
sis of the
centrate

single-mindedly

on

Strauss's Platonic conclusions,

caused

Pangle to

ne

glect

Strauss's

long

critique of modern political

philosophy, past

and present.

306
His
the

Interpretation
is
much more on

emphasis

the theoretical we,

solution

Strauss

arrived at

than on

long

way to

it. Nor

would

then,

expect

Pangle to be particularly inter


Platonic
political phi

ested

in the

possible political effects

today

of a revival of

losophy that is, in a coming together of the two issues. By contrast, Jaffa never lets us lose sight of these active
sophical concerns of the present ment of

political and philo restate

Strauss's

and ours.

Accordingly his

Strauss's

legacy

ends with a corrective

logy
can

of

Churchill. But the

stirring commentary on his marvellous eu Jaffa offers has problems of its own. One
that "Strauss's entire
work pointed

be found in his basic

conviction
of

toward

rescuing the political practice


political

the

modern world

from the

consequences of
toward"

the

philosophy"

theory

of modern
at,"

(14,

col. 2).

If "pointed

means

"primarily aimed
Strauss's time, the
of or statement crisis of

this view is somewhat off the

mark.

Jaffa draws

attention

to

(at the

beginning
is
what

of

The

City and Man)


us

that "the crisis of our


political

the

West"

impels

to turn to the

thought

of

classical antiquity.

And Strauss certainly does want to help guide the the modern world. But what motivates him is the wish not simply to do this, even to save the West: it is to discover the true principles required for the human life generally
principles that must

"practice"

guidance of

necessarily be
and

related

to an understanding of realities beyond human life.

Repeatedly

constantly,

philosophy is understood by Strauss as the effort to gain knowledge of the most important things, and especially of the whole (What is Political Philosophy?
,

39).

Political philosophy is the

crucial

"core

of

philosophy

or rather

the 'first phi

losophy,' "

opening
the West
a new
nal

out

to philosophy generally
as

(City and Man,

20).

The

crisis of

is the

crisis of all of

basis to
,

modernity life and thought,

such,

and comes

down to this:

modern

philosophy

having given proceeds, by an inter

logic to

undermine

itself,

thus

leaving life and thought without rational foun


classical political

dation. Strauss turns back toward


philosophic tradition overthrown rests on cal.

thought to discover how the

by

modern

philosophy for

began,

and whether

it

better foundations. His intention is


goes

philosophical even

before it is

practi

It includes but

beyond Jaffa's

concern

current political

guidance,

however
It is

vital and urgent.

even more questionable

to

claim

that Strauss's work "can therefore

be

un

derstood,
false
rightfully

at

least in

one of

its fundamental aspects,


The

as a refutation of all

those

modern

theories that prevent gentlemen from

exercising
review

the authority that is

theirs"

(16,

col. 1).

beginning of Jaffa's

dwelled

on

the im

portance of the

Declaration

of

derstanding
sage

of

America's

present

Independence for Lincoln, and for Strauss's un intellectual plight as well. But the quoted pas
is
adverse to

has

a practical political connotation that

Lincoln,

untrue of

impolitic in itself. It suggests, if it does not say, that the true political philosophy held by Strauss wants to see the gentlemen of the modern world "ex an authority of which ercising the authority that is rightfully they have
and
theirs"

Strauss

been

stripped

by "false

theories"

modern

(like the doctrine


most

of

the rights of man?).


phi-

But the hallmark

of classical

(as distinguished from

modern) political

Studies in Platonic Political

Philosophy

307
universal

is to deny that what is abstractly best has deed any necessary applicability in a particular set

losophy

applicability

or

in

of circumstances. of wisdom

Moreover,
was much

the rule of philosophers


more

as

the only true embodiment

basic to the

classics than the rule of gentlemen: made a prior call

in their name, made or should have "the authority that is rightfully


establishes

does it follow that Strauss, for philosophers to exercise

theirs?"

Again,

there is no classical principle that

authority in all time and places, and hence that has any direct applicability to the United States whatsoever, whether involving philosophers, gentlemen, or anyone else. So the notion of allowing
of political

the practical basis

gentlemen

to exercise "the authority that is

rightfully
American

theirs"

is in
It

principle

in

classical principle

entirely

ungermane to
and

politics.

raises

the spec
unin

tre of

a shock

to both the Declaration


author of

the Constitution that

is surely

tended

Crisis of the House Divided. In this country, the idea of the gentleman as a person
the the
end of

by

of

wealth, leisure and


compatible
"authority"

education survived
with and perhaps

aristocracy,

and was

democracy Today little remains of even the attenu ated form of that idea, a gentleman with good manners or politeness. identifying Consequently, attempts to revive the term and the institution of "the risk being interpreted as restoration of something alien and dangerous to democ racy. Adding notions of rightful political authority would conjure up images of
that
"rightfully"

beneficial to

widely believed but not because of any

belongs to

such persons.

gentleman

both George III

and

Bastille Day. Few things

could

do

more

harm to Strauss's
with a regime

legacy
is to

than to cause

it, however
was

unintentionally, to be linked
overthrow.

the

American Revolution

intended to

If classical

political

philosophy

rescue modern political practice

a practice

formed

by

modern political

philosophy
a

it

cannot

directly

replace modern with classical terms or


certain

ideas. If

city

or nation

midstream principle.

is originally formed in a into something different and

way, it cannot be transformed

antithetical.

This is itself

a classical

Jaffa's study of Lincoln already provides the guideline: to perpetuate our po litical institutions, the master statesman must make use of powerful political ele ments at hand, like the spirit of liberty and the spirit of Christianity. The classical
spirit and

its kindred

elements

remain

among

us

in nothing like the

same

strength.

The

assistance

furnished It

by

classical political

fore be
inspire

of another sort.
suggest

can provide

philosophy must there the broad framework for political under

standing,

the

moderation of extremes needed

by

liberal

democracy,

and

moral and political virtue.

It

can

supply

an additional

incentive to

revive

those notions of

wisdom and virtue

the

founding

fathers

connected with example

liberty
forbids

and thought essential

to

republican government.

But Lincoln's

direct

attack on

the
of

principle of natural

political

defense

this

principle

still, for the


tellectuals"

most

part,

remains

rights underlying such government. The is simply that it is the source of much good and the intellectual life-blood of the nation. Even "in
still accept and subsist on much of

who reject

its form

its

content.

308

Interpretation
much others political

But however
within

"modern
again

practice"

fall away from it, the defenders of all that is good will, like Lincoln, remain ever faithful to it,
understanding better than
anyone else

while

like Lincoln

its

possible stand

defects. In short, the


point of

standpoint of politics must remain

different from the

philosophy, even where

it is philosophy that has fashioned

politics.

IV
Now let
changes us

look

little
what as

more

closely
of

at what preceded
calls

Socrates "the

and

the

he

wrought

Pangle, following Strauss,

problem of

Socrates."

Philosophy
few
on

such, the kind

philosophy Socrates first pursued, be


minds, for the
natural

gan when a

men questioned

the ancestral codes of their own and other socie

ties,
ture"

and

insisted
things

looking,

with their own eyes and

causes of

as

particularly for the originating causes of all things, or for "na the first things. Strauss's account of this beginning of philosophy, this

very discovery of nature (Ch. 3 in Natural Right) is certainly among the most amazing and far-reaching of his reflections. It forms the background of what he
calls conventionalism

the first

philosophical view of

justice
on

and

the city, ac
agreement or

cording to Pangle

which

they
an

are against nature and stand

only

human

convention.

gives

extensive

description

of pre-Socratic conventionalism a statement of

(6,
er

10-12), but Jaffa takes the description to be


ophy, presumably
ror

Pangle's

own philos

some

form

of

Epicureanism

(18,

col.

2, to 19,

col. 2).

This

is

inadvertently
have

encouraged

by

Pangle's direct

mode of expression

there,
Jaffa

combined with might versed

his failure to say plainly


the

whose views

he

was expressing.

pointed out

possible confusion

for the

sake of those not so well

in Strauss. Instead, he presses home the charge of Epicureanism against Pangle and sounds the full alarm. Under modern conditions, he insists, Epicure
anism of

anny an innocent Epicureanism is impossible these days is


the
context of

necessarily points in the direction of Hugh Hefner, nihilism and the tyr that is, the worst evils of the modern world. Whether Hitler and Stalin
an

interesting question,
defense
and

but

the passage in Pangle's essay, his repeated


manifest

of virtue ples

(6,

10, 14), his

devotion to Socratic

of the nobility Straussian princi

the same devotion that brought him to write this essay


of

suffice to

free

him from the imputation


rates'

any Epicureanism
of and

at all.

Against the background


turn toward the

the philosophy of nature, Pangle

does clarify Soc

forms,

in the

process

toward words, conceptions and

opinions.

Whatever the

varieties of pre-Socratic

philosophy,

they

all seem

to

have

understated or even overlooked of

the importance of the obvious

of a world and

divided into different kinds

things that are mirrored in


effort

language,
whence

that

have

to be understood in themselves before any

to explain

they

came

(3,

5),

or

the whole of which

they

are parts.

excellence"

cause par

(City

and

The "class, or the class character, is the Man, 19). Now this is. the view Strauss ex-

Studies in Platonic Political


presses

Philosophy
will

309
make

time and again, but his students


to

have to

their

own

pre-Socratic philosophers

be

able

to

speak with similar confidence.

study of the We should

also

note, beyond

what

is

said

above, that
of

discovering just
remains

away from them all to the study Was it for a theoretical reason

human things

why Socrates turned exceedingly difficult.

readily known than the natural ing the whole (Pangle emphasizes
23)?
or

for example, because human things are more things, or because they are the key to understand

knowing

the human soul

pp.

5, 13, 18, 19,

Or

was

it for

a practical reason

such as

protecting theoretical philosophy,


necessary for man Strauss's writings, and are
was un

justifying

theoretical philosophy, or, more broadly and we would suppose


such a

naturally kind? These


mentioned

because
all

knowledge is the

most useful and

have

basis in

one or the other of

in different
a clear

places of

by

Pangle

(e.g., 8,

10, 12-15, 18), but I

able

to form

idea

their relation to each other and order of priority. the turn to the forms and the turn to the study of
as one and

We
Pangle
not

should also ask whether occurred

human things

together,

the same move, or separately.

(4-6) follows the former alternative, as Strauss usually does too. But it is that clear from the Phaedo and Parmenides, and at least once Strauss himself
and Aristophanes ,

(Socrates
the

logic

by

which

4) Strauss
to be

suggests moves

that the turns were separate. In addition,

from

noting

the

class

character

of

things
them

their eldog

to

having

to work one's way through the opinions about

dialectically,
is
said about

needs

elaborated

by us

step-by-step.

We

want

to be sure

we can

fully justify
Are
all

the paradox of moving from the visible looks of things to

what

them (Natural
we see

Right, 123-24)
wrapped

that

is,

to the realm of the

political.

the things
of

The Republic's image study simply


understand phy?

already the cave? Or does the


the

in

city-formed

opinion,

as

in

political

become

an object of

by

virtue of

need of already-formed

theoretical philosophy to

the realm of opinion, from which

it

arose

(What Is Political Philoso


practical questions
manner of origin

92),

and

before

which

it

must

justify
to

itself? Or do the
an

about

the city and the

good

life

somehow

have

independent

either on

their own or
not attribute

in

response

conventionalism?

Why is it

that Strauss
what

Socrates'

himself does

turn to his

directly

raising the question,

is the best way


ested

of

life,

or

the good life? When Socrates meets with


calls the

Ischomachos,

in that dialogue

of

Xenophon's Strauss
not what

in

discovering
in the

the good

Socratic discourse, he is inter life is but what the perfect gentleman The biggest
question seems

is

and

context of

household

management.

concealed

in

what at

first looks like

a much more restricted one not

(Xenophon's So

cratic

Discourse,

27-28).

Was it important

to challenge the city


and

by implying

a possible

difference between the best way

of

life

the

one

it

provides?

V
Of the
essays

in this volume,

all except

that on The

Apology presume,

without
In-

Socratic turn that retracing or rearguing, the

justly

preoccupies

Pangle in his

310

Interpretation
The explicitly closest to the center of Platonic political philos dealing with Plato's Crito and Euthydemus. Crito's presence is
others

traduction.

ophy the link between them, but the former seems as serious as the latter seems frivo lous. In the Crito, Socrates argues Crito into accepting his refusal to escape from
prison with and

are those

his

help

and

therefore

magnifies

the authority of the city of Athens


sophistic

its laws. In the Euthydemus,


concludes

after

farcically
pupil of us

interrogations, Socra
eristic

tes seems prepared to make himself a

two

insuperably
to

brothers.
was

And Strauss
the

only

by

reminding

that, according

Socrates, it

multitude and not

the

sophists who constituted

the greatest enemy of philoso

phy.

The figure

of

Socrates becomes important in four

other places as well.

Com

of paring him with Xenophon is one of the main reasons for Strauss's treatment 2Soc "Jerusalem and the latter's Anabasis (1 1 13, 119, 128, 135). In
Athens,"

rates's mission

is

compared and

to that of the Hebrew

prophets

(167-73). Nietz
and

sche's

Beyond Good

Evil is

understood as an attack on

Plato

Socrates for

the sake of freeing philosophy from the illusions of reason, truth, goodness and nature. And the final appearance is in connection with Machiavelli's attack on
the political teachings Socrates engendered
sists

(210-11,

227-28).

So Strauss

per

in

keeping

him

at the center of everything: of

the contrast between the politi


within

cal and the philosophic alternative

life,

of the attacks

coming from
revelation.

philosophy,

of the
which

to philosophy found in Biblical


conclusions varies

And the degree to


another.

Strauss draws Xenophon's

from

one

instance to

With the

help

of

account of

his

element otherwise absent

suggests

the

impossibility

he corrects Socrates by adding a political from his nonharming view of justice and virtue. He of Nietzsche's accomplishing what he sets out to do

"ascent,"

without self-contradiction.

vision that gives

He explicitly criticizes the narrowing of horizon and Machiavelli's philosophy its entirely novel look. But "Jerusa
ends

lem

Athens"

and

The

great alternative
well

abruptly and ambiguously. indicated by the last-named title bears


particular essay.

on much

in the

volume, going
clared

beyond this

Strauss, Pangle

tells us, de

in 1965 that ever since his first work on Spinoza (1930) "the theological(19). It involves political problem has remained the theme of my
investigations"

the conflict between the two roots

of

Western Civilization
on

revelation and rea

demands to be the ruling principle of life, dominating every part of life, from politics downward. Is this conflict essentially the same as that between Greek poetry, speaking in the name
and philosophy.

son, Biblical faith

Each

its

own

of

divine wisdom,

and

Greek

philosophy?

Pangle

says yes

(10-12, 20), Jaffa

no

(Claremont Review 17, 18), and here Jaffa's position at once looks stronger. But does it completely overcome the central point in Pangle's? Let us go from one to
the other. In "Jerusalem and
Athens,"

Strauss has
and

occasion

to compare the teach

ing

of

the Bible with that of the Greek poets

philosophers, and
gulf

he does

so

in

such a

way

as to make almost visible

his belief that the


than that

between the

poets

and philosophers

is

much

less

considerable

between them both

and the

Studies in Platonic Political


Bible. So the mystery
ture.
of

Philosophy
for

-311

the one omnipotent God seems to change the entire pic

Moreover,

we could

be

excused

having

formed the impression that So


before

cratic

philosophy, like the philosophy


the existence
of of

of nature

it, had rationally dis


general

counted

the gods, whereas Strauss hammers away at the

inability

philosophy (pre-Socratic and Socratic, Greek and modern) to defeat Biblical monotheism. Strauss's argument to this effect is most fully presented in
two places: in "The Mutual

Influence
Bible

of

Theology
book
the
on

Philosophy"

and

(1954),

and

the

new

introduction
says:

to

his

re-published
are

Spinoza (1962). In the former


the antagonists in the

Strauss drama

"Philosophy

and

alternatives or

of

the human

soul"

(1

14).
also

All this for Jaffa. Yet it is


as

true that if
and

we

lay less

stress on

the Greek poets

something like

makers of

the gods

report, these
point

are remarkably similar is that miracles, revelations, prophecies have their place in the one as in the other, thereby rendering them comparable, and thus accounting for the epigraph from Avicenna that Strauss uses in his work on Plato's Laws: "the treatment of

look instead to the divine things they in the Greek and Biblical worlds. Pangle's

Viewed in this way, the prophecy and the Divine Law is contained in the Bible may have brought to perfection in a reality or possibility rather gener knowally known before. This implies that the apparent differences in power and
. .

Laws."

ability between the Greek

gods and

the Biblical God

the poets are constantly

describing
make

the actions, words and even thoughts of the gods

do

not suffice

to

them

totally different. After all, the

"god,"

same word used

beings

with mysterious powers of

action, is

in both. It is

signifying a final corollary


seem

superior of

this comparability that the view Socrates or Plato had formed of the gods

might

apply in the Biblical case as the epigraph Pangle quotes


.

well

as

Avicenna,

and

Strauss,

to suggest in

In

capsule

form, Strauss's

view of

the argument between philosophy and the


cannot prove

Bible is this.
of

Philosophy

must admit

it

the

impossibility of the
the
world.

God
Rev

miracles,

cannot provide a comprehensive rational account of possible.

elation

is therefore life

But if possible, the

choice of of

philosophic

as opposed to revelation and the

life

philosophy and the faith is an arbitrary pref

erence, resting

on an act of
shows

case, philosophy

faith (in reason) rather than on reason per se. In this itself inconsistent with its own distinctive claims to be

ing

the evidently right way of


must concede

life,

while

faith

remains consistent with

itself. So To

philosophy
Pangle it
might

victory to
this

revelation.

Now Pangle does


nor

not question col. 3).

the compelling

character of

demonstration,
for

does Jaffa (19,

poses a grave

be

posed

is

overcome

difficulty by Strauss's
quoted

philosophy.

To Jaffa

whatever

difficulty
Greek

support of

Jewish orthodoxy

and

philosophy
the

together.

Pangle had

Strauss's in

remark about moral man

being

potential

believer

a remark made

connection with

Halevi's far

objection to

philosophy
recognizes
Strauss'."

on moral grounds.

Jaffa does

not think

he

goes

enough:

"Pangle

that the defense of Jewish orthodoxy

He

means

that Strauss makes

is moral, but not that it may be the same defense of Jewish orthodoxy as

312
Halevi

Interpretation
that

both,

as

"moral

man,"

are potential
ground"

believers. In

fact,

Jaffa

claims

Socratic
phy
and

skepticism

is the "rational
col.

for both

classical political philoso

Biblical faith (17,

2),

and seems over

quence,

the superiority of the


not

latter

the former:
appeal

willing to accept, as a conse Socratic philosophers


to

"would
2).

only support, but if possible direct the


Jaffa

revelat

(20,

col.

Just faith phy

what

intends

by

this

seeming
route

submission

of

philosophy

to

whether

is

not

it is really the serious clear. At any rate, it is a


settles

outcome of the

argument against philoso not choose

Pangle does

to take. In the

stead of

resolving the antagonism of

faith

and

philosophy in favor

of one or

other, Pangle

for

finding

a means

whereby philosophy
without who

can continue

in

good conscience

that the

is, consistently
"mature"

Pangle

claims

it

was

Socrates

first

succumbing to faith. In fact, realized how dire the conse


comprehensive ac

quences were
count of

things"

for philosophy of its inability to produce "a (22). He suggests, without directly saying,

that

Socrates found
faith."

the solution too.

philosophy would not be arbitrary if the philosopher He must kept seriously examining the "phenomena and the arguments of fuller and show he has a ac strongest claims of the both scrutinize the faithful,

Choosing

count of

their most significant moral


to the

experiences:

his dialogue

with

the faithful
clear

will always return

human

soul and

its longings. It is

not

perfectly

from Pangle's
revelation at

proposed regimen whether or win

its intention is to

save

philosophy, hold

bay,

having

thus

brought his
which

victory for philosophy by another route. Nevertheless, inquiry into Strauss's Platonic political philosophy to a
consistency, Pangle
proceeds

conclusion

by

it

can persevere with

to apply

his interpretation to the


proposed central

order and content of

Strauss's

essays

in this

volume.

The

Socratic

examination of

faith

or

piety is

what

Pangle takes to be the


ends

theme

holding fully

the

fifteen

essays

together,

and

he

by indicating

the

particular contribution of each

to this theme.

Stated

more

now, Pangle's interpretation requires that the Platonic phi


time to a

losopher devote
spokesmen

much

"painstaking,

critical examination of

intelligent

for,

and students

of, the various forms of

poety."

Yet this is

hardly
the

true

of

these essays: often the piety

is there but

"critical"

not the

examination,

and sometimes neither. subject at not

The Crito The

and

Euthydemus do
where

not contain much on

all, but treat it

even

The

Apology
same

piety is

of great

importance
kind

does
which

"critically."

is

largely

true of the Thucydides essay,


undertake a

refers

to the gods

in its very title. There Strauss does


"theology"

of critical

Thucydides'

examination of

own

as compared to two extremes


100-

fol

lowed

by

certain

Athenians he describes (96,

101).

But it is

all conducted

on a moral and political rather

than a strictly theological


whether

plane:

it

never questions

the existence of the gods, but simply asks

the

gods

favor the strong, the

just,
phon

or

the just who are also strong.

Similarly,

the essay on to

Xenophon

makes

much mention of

his piety, but its

leading

purpose seems

the military

commander and stateman as a

whole, and

be to study Xeno to compare him with

Studies in Platonic Political

Philosophy

-313

his teacher, Socrates. His apparent belief in the gods so man is again not subject to deeper critical examination.
one not

vital

to the

political

Even the essay on Nietzsche has a primary purpose anterior to the theological Pangle emphasizes. It is properly placed after "Jerusalem and but
Athens,"

because Nietzsche "continues


as

and surpasses

biblical thought in

some critical

respect,"

explaining (24). He himself notes that Strauss introduces Beyond Good and Evil as Nietzsche's (and hence modern phi
surmises
without

Pangle

losophy's) final

attack on

Socratic
se.

and

Platonic philosophy, taken to be the

model for philosophy per true, good, and beautiful,

After completely

denying help

reason's access

to the

and to nature

itself,

while also of a

rejecting

the

Bible,

Nietzsche tries to

deify

man

the creator with the

lated to that

of

the Bible. This is the other side of


of

religiosity closely re the statement Pangle finds


"surpass"

Strauss reiterating, that "the doctrine


God."

the will to power is in a manner a vindi


said

cation of
atheism

But Nietzsche
and

could

only be
unless

to

the Bible if this

is true,

it

cannot

be true

his

attack on reason and nature what

is

false,
ward

since atheism

itself

requires them.

At least this is

Strauss implies to
a problem

the end: "As we have observed, for Nietzsche nature

has become
study
of

and yet

he

cannot

do

nature"

without

(190,

Strauss'

and 183).

Nietzsche

as

the last

stage of modern

philosophy

seems

to have the effect of compelling a


and

return

to the two great alternatives philosophy, and

Jerusalem

Athens

that preceded

modern subject.

is

therefore appropriately coupled with the essay on this

so directly and continu Nor is it evident, finally, that even this essay involves the kind of ously devoted to the most important religious subject Pangle thinks both Socrates and Strauss call for. On the "critical
examination"

contrary,

it

can of

consistency

only be described as an astounding appreciation of the amazing thought to be found in the first Book of the Bible. It is the kind of

understanding,
more ety.

likely

to

strangely enough, that a Platonic philosopher would be much look for, perceive and elaborate than a man of the most intense pi

If it is the necessary prelude to criticism, as well it might be, its function is to show how admirably thought out and comprehensive in scope both of the main
alternatives are.

It certainly
revelation

makes us wonder about

the place of thought within

foresee philosophy, already know philosophy, in a revelation: in order to counter it so thoroughly? But in this place way include philosophy Strauss confines himself to comparison, summarizing the points of similarity and

does

dissimilarity between the Bible,


ophers, on the
other.

on the one

hand,

and

the Greek poets and philos

VI
in applying Pangle's interpretation of the theologi cal-political problem to these essays not for their own sake but because they bear on the accuracy of the interpretation itself. Did Socrates, long before Strauss, come to the same conclusion about philosophy's inability to refute "revelation"?
I
mention

these difficulties

314

Interpretation

If Plato's Euthyphro is any


shares with

indication,
put

theism are

hard

only polytheism but certain features it to survive Socratic questioning: are we sure
not

apply similar questioning to the God of the Bible? Would Socrates be compelled in the end to admit a fundamental arbitrariness in the Socrates
would not

choice of

the

philosophic

way

of

life,

as

Pangle

suggests?

And

while

Socrates is

surely
ous
critical

eager

to

examine our common moral experience


unusual strength

the experience the pi

may have in

he does

not often

do

so

in the

context of a
faith"

"preoccupation"

with
might

"the

phenomena and the confronted the

arguments of perhaps

(22).

As to how Socrates
thought the answer

have

Bible itself,
three

Strauss
unequal

lay

with

Maimonides,

to

whom

pieces of

very

length front

are

devoted in this volume,

all with

their usual difficulty.

In his

own explicit accounts elsewhere of

each

other, Strauss himself surely

makes

how philosophy and the Bible con the Bible the winner over modern

philosophy in one (new Spinoza preface) and Greek philosophy in the other (Mu tual Influence). Now the consequence of this for philosophers should be their
surrendering philosophy
and

going only

over

to the side of revelation, or at least

conceding that philosophy

can

operate

in

a sphere allowed

it

by revelation.
which

Without spelling

out all

the

details,
on

this seems to be the direction in

Jaffa is

prepared to move.

Pangle,
for

the other

hand,

wants

to

keep
so?

philosophy's

inde

pendence, but does he


phy's

establish

its

rational

right to do
Athens,"

The fact

of philoso

defeat He

and need

submission seems

to be obscured but not undone

by his

solution.

claims

that, in "Jerusalem
faith"

and
what

fully
ing?"

capable of

meeting biblical

(24), but

does he

Socratic philosophy "is mean by "meet

And his

solution concedes

to victorious piety points of little interest to it:

from the

outset piety disclaims the possibility of philosophy's and need for of moral experience than it does. As for Strauss him giving a better his studies in Platonic political philoso self, his own continuing studies seem to belie the of the conclusion favorable to revelation that phy necessity
"account"

his

own argument compels.

Sometimes he
to

even goes so

far

as

to follow the clas

sics

in reducing the

great alternatives with

praising philosophy, litical Philosophy?, 40, This


suggests

little if any

regard

life, or in philosophy for revelation (compare What is Po


and

the political

with

City

and

Man, 29,

and this

volume, 176).
Athens,"

likelihood that Strauss thought philosophy could do more than he allowed in his own argument. Thus, in "Jerusalem and he seems to include himself among "all of us who cannot be (150) and
the
orthodox"

who must

therefore approach the Bible critically. Yet


not enough

he

opens
of the

The

City and Man


as

by

saying it is

to obey the "Divine


and

message"

"Faithful City": to
as

spread that message

among the heathen if left to his

to

understand

it

fully

is hu
the

manly possible, "outlines of that


out

one must consider the extent


City"

to

which

man can

discern

own natural powers.

The first passage,

with

explanation,

allows at

least

an

independent

place

to philosophy; the second

allows

philosophy only

a place subordinate to our natural

revelation, where,

nevertheless, it

is

required to

apply nothing but

capacity for

understanding.

Strauss's

Studies in Platonic Political


overall position

Philosophy

-315

hardly seems consistent. But much of it presupposes the possibil ity that philosophy can indeed extricate itself from the argument favoring revela
tion. In what

direction The

might

this extrication lie? Let

us consider

the problem and

the alternatives.

is that philosophy cannot disprove the possibility of the Biblical God, with all His mystery, miracles and revelations. As along this to be the what follows? Is the philosopher to go searching for a case, suming revelation he can personally experience? What if it never comes? How can he
problem

judge among past revelations? And what should he do with the reason naturally welling up in him, that still demands evidence? Since, apart from this abstract possibility
why
wise nation? of a mysterious

God,

the life

of

should

he

not pursue says

it? Would God


of

punish such

philosophy is the evidently right life, inquiry with eternal dam


certain"

Strauss

the philosophers

the past were

"absolutely
what

an

all-

God

would not

do this (Mutual,
not

113).

Would God

endow men with reason

and command

them

to use

it, but

to rely entirely on

He has told them?


of

Now

what are

the possible ways of

disproving
four:

the

possibility
an appeal

revelation,

according to

Strauss? Altogether he
principle of

mentions

by

to experience,

by

providing a total philosophical explanation of things, and by showing that miracles are incompatible with the nature of God (Spinoza, 28-29; Mutual, 1 16-17). The first two seem utterly
contradiction,

applying the

by

hopeless,
theology,
which

and the third


and

completely impracticable. The fourth involves natural there the main obstacle is overcoming the view (asserted by
name) that God's
perfection requires

Strauss in his in turn

own

His incomprehensibility,
says natural

makes revelation possible

(Mutual). Strauss

theology
unknow

was never able

to

get rid of

God's incomprehensibility. Earlier in the


omnipotence

same piece

he had
able
man

argued
man:

from God's

to His

being

One to his

being

to

"But

an omnipotent

God

who

is in

way

subject

to man, in so far as

perfectly knowable to knowledge is in a way Such


principle

is in

power.

statements as these all


which seems

form

part of what

Strauss later
of

calls natural

to be the

philosophical

study

the nature and


words or

attributes of

theology, God.

Part

of

this study comes down to the meaning of

conceptions, such as

omnipotence,
sumption

incomprehensibility,

wisdom,

perfection.

Its fundamental

as

that verbal is that reality must follow the logic of words or ideas incompatibilities necessarily involve real ones. For example, if God is omnipo

tent, and man's knowing God would involve power over God, then man cannot know God. The Biblical position, as Strauss states it, calls God omnipotent and
mysterious or unknowable.

For the thought involved to be tested, its


If by

parts must
al

be

clear

as

in any

statement.

God, for example,


we are

we mean a

being who

ways exists and reigns over about ous.

Him,

and

the same

making a claim to know something holds for calling Him omnipotent, and even mysteri
us, then
certain respects at

It follows that He must, in


exception, and must

least, be intelligible.
to all things

We normally
without

assume that the principle of contradiction applies

be

granted

by

all men as a principle of

being

as well

as thought.

This is probably why it is

mentioned

by

Strauss

as a possible means

316
of

Interpretation
though

disproving revelation,

he

immediately
new

and

flatly

dismisses it

as not ob

taining: "The orthodox premise cannot be refuted


contradiction"

the principle of
not mean

(28,

that

finding

a contradiction

that a contradiction cannot

be found

by experience or by recourse to preface). By this Strauss could in the premise would fail to refute it, but implying that finding one would refute it.
Spinoza
and

God

cannot

be both God

and

non-God, both omnipotent

limited in power; he
of

cannot
One,"

both
and

exist and not exist.

If,

as

Jaffa

claims

for the God


one,"

the
can

Bible, "He is
be truly said (18, col. 1),
and

that He

is

"absolutely

"unknowable precisely because He is and if it separate from the universe He has

created"

then on two accounts He

is

not unknowable.

For He is known to be both One


in the
same respect.

separate,

and cannot quite

be both knowable

and unknowable

This

is,
of

of

course,

ral means.

different from saying that He is in any way knowable by natu It does mean God is bound by a requirement derived from the nature
He is the
supreme

being

as such:

being,

not supreme over

being. A

counter

part can

truth
not?

insisting at one point: "But there can be only one (Mutual Influence 114), not two or more contradictory truths. Why Because it is the nature of being to be this but not that, to be something, to
,

be found in Strauss's

be in

a certain

way,

and so on

(Natural Right,
that
a

122).

It is

what

it is

and cannot at

the same time not be what it is. In this sense, to be

is to be intelligible.

Every
thomable

statement about
will

God

implies that He has

He is one, eternal, separate, even of unfa fixed nature and is therefore, in principle,
and

what sense

wholly intelligible. As to God's will, what is meant by unfathomable, is God thought to have a will at all? Is it compatible with His

in

perfec

tion? And

does

mysterious mean

arbitrary,

or

uncaused,

or

irrational,
that

or

puzzling to man? In general,


volved each about

for God's

nature to

be

possible

is,

not

simply in

in

contradictions each must

not

other, but

only must all such attributes be consistent with be free of inconsistencies within itself. The claim

God's justice

meets with a special

difficulty
God

not

different from

one raised

by

Socrates in the Euthyphro. It is

whether

commands the

just (or

holy)

things because

they

are

so,

or whether no

them. The latter alternative


people can

leaves

they become so by His commanding independent standard by which actions or


the essential idea behind

be

judged, hence destroying


cannot either make or

justice. God's
no other

omnipotence suggests that

there is nothing

independent

of

Himself,

thing

that He

model of

justice

not

destroy. But if He is to be just, be independent of His making it? The alternative


murder without

must the

suggests
com

that God could have commanded

its

being

less just than

manding its

prohibition.

cussions of revelation's

It is surprising to find that Strauss's two extensive dis challenge to reason state its main claim in terms of God's

omnipotence and
or wisdom.

mysteriousness, omitting His


attribute

justice,

and even

His

omniscience
cf.

This

is

added

in "Jerusalem

Athens"

and

(162;

166,

153),

where

God's

mysteriousness

is

stressed more than regard

ever, yet without speak


of

ing

of

His
the

omnipotence as such.

With

to the question

justice, Strauss
is God's

gives

impression that

the model for understanding such things

Studies in Platonic Political

Philosophy

-317

creating the world by His word, rather than by looking first to the eternal ideas (166). Perhaps with this in mind, he never speaks of God's reason, only of His
will, and does
not

usually

speak of

His

perfection

(the

main exception

is Mutual

Influence,

117).

paying almost exclusive attention to God's omnipotence and mysterious Strauss ness, may have several things in mind. One of these leads in the direction

By

of

posing the theoretical


of

problem as of

to whether philosophy can prove the neces


universe at

sity

causation,

or

the absence

arbitrariness, in the

large: does the

universe proceed

at any time, or change into by something utterly different at any moment? This goes back to the very idea of as first things, or the permament underlying causes, and the omnipotent necessity? could
"nature"

it disappear

God only gives the difficulty of proving nature something like a personalized form. Another and perhaps more obvious reason for Strauss's concentration on
these attributes

is to indicate

fundamental
of

psychological

difficulty

within

the

Bible

as a whole.

In the interest

mystery, and extend them as

inspiring awe, it must stress God's power and far as possible. But in the interest of relevance to
love, especially
God's
power and

human
must

concerns

to justice and
ends

mystery
even

be directed toward

that are morally intelligible to human

beings,
they

if the

particular applications often elude whom

their understanding. The God of


whom

faith is
cannot

the God in
trust a

they

can

have faith, in
Socratic

they

can

trust,

and

being

whose sole attributes are power and mysteriousness. where moral

Perhaps this is Strauss's

philosophy

shows

strength

that

rendition of

the struggle between philosophy and revelation

drastically

understates, and that Pangle's suggested solution tries to deploy. As an effort to

clarify the

moral experiences all people

have to

some

extent,

and pious people

take more seriously than most, Socratic philosophy has a firm anchorage in what we immediately know. It can therefore judge the moral aspects of religion by this

knowledge; it may

also

be in

a position

to render an impartial verdict as to

how

the actually function in life, and whether any given religion or form of piety lives up to its own expectations. Of such interests there are many prominent examples in these essays. theology is based on the idea that
various religions
Nikias'

the gods

support

the just and virtuous,


refuted

but he
his

and

Strauss

says

"his theology is

by

fate"

his army met a miserable end: (101). If so, ordinary facts do

falsity! Or again, concerning Xenophon's bearing from Nikias', and hard to distinguish different it is that says Strauss totally piety, (118). Soon af wittiness and from Xenophon's combined "toughness, have
a
on theological truth or

wiliness"

terward, Strauss wonders about how Xenophon's extraordinary piety went along with his extraordinary wiliness, asking whether a man can be wilier than a god, and whether attributing omniscience to the gods may not itself be a part of man's
wiliness.

He

concludes

this discussion

by noting that Xenophon and his

Socrates

characterize

the

pious man as one who

never asks

"what is law?

adding that neither Xenophon nor


a

knows the laws regarding the gods but his Socrates ever
god?"

asks the still more

fundamental question, "what is

(122). This is the

318
point,

Interpretation
one

surmises,

at which

Socratic philosophy
even more

would confront polytheism


anticipated.

and monotheism

together, but

directly

than Pangle had

Pangle may not allow sufficiently for the direct power of Platonic philosophy, in Strauss's sense, to undo philosophy's apparent defeat at the hands of revela
tion. But we are
now

in

better

position to appreciate what

he has in
the

mind when

he

speaks of

the "fuller

account"

philosophy

can provide of

moral experi natural under

ences valued most

by

the pious (22). After elaborating its own


experiences

standing

of

human things, starting from


of

that are extensively if not

completely

the same

kind, philosophy
human life
It

can offer a comprehensive comparison

of the alternatives offered to

by itself and revelation.


and compare what

It

can point

to in

ternal inconsistencies within revelation, and incompatibilities with

facts

likely to
he
says

be

acknowledged

by

everyone.

can

derlying
be right,

different

parts of revelation.

clarify If this is

the

assumptions un

Pangle

means when
faith"

that "Socratic philosophy is


and right as well
Athens"

(24), he may fully meeting biblical in the importance he attaches, for this purpose, to both
capable of

"Jerusalem

and

and

the Maimonides
raise

pieces. of revelation

No doubt Strauss intended to


possible

the position

to

its

greatest

heights

to

strengthen

in fact, he has done more by far than anyone else in centuries both of Western civilization: the Bible and Greek philoso
"roots"

phy.

The

overall

impression he leaves is that


Machiavelli

classical

modern

Plato

over

(227-28)
his

philosophy wins out over but then itself succumbs to revela

tion. We must not, them.

however,
will

accede to

arguments

Rather,

we must examine all

the complications

simply because he made of all his arguments with


to decide

the greatest
ever can
statesman.

care.

It

take a

long

time before

we are able

if

we

whether

Strauss's

argument

for

revelation

is that

of a philosopher or a

Certainly

he knew that the

modern prejudice against revelation

is

even stronger

than the one against Greek philosophy, and that religion, so vital to

healthy society, is something philosophy cannot provide from within itself. Certainly he believed that the life of western civilization depended on the coex
a

istence, in tension,
says against

of revelation and philosophy.

We

should

hasten to

add

that

this tension is also threatened, from the other side,

by exaggerating philosophy in forcing its loss to revelation. It is not that the case for turning to philosophy, before Biblical revelation came on the scene, was weak. On the contrary, it was compelling. Nor does Strauss argue that Socratic philoso
what

Strauss

phy makes little progress, or learns nothing of importance. Its sole defect is that it cannot refute the possibility of revelation, either by way of direct theological
argument or

by producing a complete rational explanation of all things (Spinoza, Mutual Influence, 16- 117: notice that the requirement in one place is 28-29; even greater than in the other). Nor does Strauss fail to point out the defect in
revelation's victory:

it is

victory for any orthodoxy

rather

than a particular one

(Spinoza,
Jaffa
norance

30).

goes too

far in making Socratic skepticism the knowledge of our ig the "rational for both classical political philosophy and the
ground"

Studies in Platonic Political


"argument for faith in the Biblical
we

Philosophy
(17,

-319

God"

col. 2).

do have to
a

wonder about
of

the extent of philosophy's

Nevertheless, at some point worth if, while moving


knowledge
of

beyond
a

knowledge
of

ignorance, it must stop


Strauss's

at a partial

parts,

or

knowledge

the

fundamental

and permanent problems

but

not of

the

solu

tions,
about

and so on

to use
and

own expressions.

human life

the world that

Strauss's

explicit words

philosophy can indicate not, but is this also true

Is there nothing less limited know definitively? Certainly


of what

he

says

in
Is

treating

particular subjects?
of

Many

such points appear of

in Pangle's

presentation.

the "enigma
man"

the

soul"

the "clearest signal

the elusiveness of the whole for


we

or

is the

enigma

itself

also elusive

(5)? What do

know here? Is the


as

distinction between
erence

nature and convention sound


things"

forever

sound

in the
to

ref

to "the unfailing nature


is"

of sound

(12)? Was

Socrates'

turning
Socrates'

his

"What

questions sound
needs

forever

(5, 6)? Was


premise"

expertise on
and

the soul's

on erotic matters said

definitive (20)? In Natural Right


of original

His

tory (89), Strauss


"no
and

it

was a

"fundamental

philosophy that
said:

being
how

emerges without a cause": what made

the first philosophers think so,

certain

is this

most

important truth? In The


the
whole or

City

and

Man he

"...

the city is the only


essence can
claim

whole within
known"

the only part of the whole whose


small or

be wholly

(29). There is nothing


of

tentative in this

for

philosophy! philosophic

In reviving the
tainties

way

life, Strauss had to

turn

from the failed

cer
ev

and systems of modern

philosophy

and reestablish

the simplest, most


of

ident

and most solid

basis for

philosophy.

This is the importance


maintains

Socrates for

him

and

for

us.

In his

argument with

Kojeve, Strauss
the

that the sectarian


of a solution

is born
tion"

at

the

moment when a philosopher's

"subjective

certainty"

becomes

stronger than

"his

awareness of

problematic character of

that solu

(What Is Political Philosophy?,


of our
without some

1 16).

A few

pages

later he

says that

"Phi

losophy, being knowledge


is impossible

ignorance regarding the most important things, knowledge regarding the most important
be
stronger.

things"

(121). The warning


true that the hope
portant

against sectarianism could not

And
of

yet

it is

also

of

attaining definitive Nor


us. can we

and certain

knowledge

the most im
what

things, far exceeding


philosophy.

the dim awareness from

which we

begin, is

inspires

know for certain, in advance,

whether all such

applies not only to the quest for knowl of Strauss. Few philosophers have for knowledge quest but to the generally done so much for their students, restoring depth and subtlety where there was

knowledge is beyond

This dilemma

edge

only shallowness, and covering so wide a range of experience and reflection. None has done so much to revive the serious study of all previous thought, spanning so many centuries. None has, to the same degree, rescued all forms of human greatness from the mire. None in our time has inspired so much deeper hope for
mankind.

In
of

following
his

such a

master, our

duty

and

interest is to

pre

serve the freshness

approach even more than

his conclusions,

until we can

make those conclusions our own on the

basis

of slow and

painstaking thought.

320

Interpretation
essays

These possibly final mentary


us

by Strauss,

taken together

with

these

often comple prove

efforts at overall comprehension

by

two of his best students,


of our common

the

task to be exceedingly difficult. Yet the objects


to persevere in

devotion

require

it,

together.

Socratic

Teaching
of Delaware

and

Justice: Plato's Clitophon

Jan H. Blits

University

Clitophon
share.

raises a criticism of

Socrates that many

of

Plato's

readers no

doubt

While Socrates is
them what

excellent at

teaching
them?

it is

or

urging men on to virtue, he is useless at how to attain it. Instead of leading men to virtue, his

exhortations

lead only to
not

more exhortations.

How, then,
will

are we

to

understand

Are

we to suppose that this

is

all

there

be to

our

those who
possible

been exhorted, and for them to to accomplish virtue in deed?


must

have

exhort still others?

life's work, to exhort Or is it

Whatever

finally

be

said

in defense

Socrates'

of

ability to teach, the dra


criticism.

matic situation of

the Clitophon underscores

Clitophon's

Socrates has

previously discussed justice with him, and those conversations have had two principal effects. They have aroused and confused Clitophon. Socrates first
aroused his desire for virtue by convincing him that to become happy one must become virtuous, but then confused him by first telling him that justice consists in helping friends and harming enemies but later indicating that the just man

never

harms

anyone

but benefits

everyone

in

everything.

Similarly, Socrates ini


renewed

tiates the present conversation with Clitophon and


request

directly provokes his


to

to be taught
or

about

justice,

yet makes no attempt either to resolve


or unable

his

per

plexity

to explain why

he is unwilling
of

do

so.

Remaining
silence.

silent

throughout all

but the

beginning

the

dialogue, Socrates

seems

to go out of his

way to incite Clitophon's criticism only to corroborate it his refusal to teach Clitophon about justice be itself an act
I

by
of

his

Could

justice?1

The Clitophon has languished in


and

undeserved

obscurity for

century

and a

half. Although the

traditionally considered the introduction to the Republic (see Diogenes Laertius, ill. 60; Proclus, In Timaeum i.7b), nearly all scholars since the early nineteenth century have either dismissed it as spurious thereby defending Plato against the unanimous tradition of anti 0r else defended it on the trivializing ground that it is a fragment or preliminary sketch of an quity
brief brisk dialogue
was
unfinished

Platonic

work.

The first group

of scholars considers

Clitophon's

criticism of

Socrates

easily refuted. Neither group sees anything fundamentally problemat wholly ical in teaching Clitophon justice, nor does either believe that Plato does. Both groups, it should be noted, agree with Clitophon that justice is a doctrine or a teaching. examples of scholars who regard the dialogue as spurious include Schleiermacher, Intro
unfounded; the second,
Socrates'

Leading

duction to
consider

the Dialogues of Plato (1836) and W. A. Heidel, Pseudo-Platonica (1896); of those who it incomplete, George Grote, Plato (1865) and G. M. A. Grube, "The Cleitophon of Classical Philology, XXVI (1931). The dialogue is ignored by Jowett, Apelt and, more recently, Hamilton and Cairns in their translations of Plato, but included in The Loeb Classical Library, though
Plato,"

not without a vigorous warning.

For a brief and depreciating treatment, see Paul Shorey, What Plato Said (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1933) p. 422; for an intelligent and informative treatment, see Clifford Orwin, "The Canadian Journal of Political Science, XV4 (Decem Case against Socrates: Plato's
Cleitophon,"

ber,

1982),

741-53-

322

Interpretation

I. THE PROLOGUE: TEACHING AND PRAISING (406a-407a)

seem

The dialogue begins strangely and abruptly as Socrates reports what might to be mere gossip concerning himself and Clitophon. "About Clitophon,
Aristonymus,"

son of

he tells

Clitophon,
with

in

a conversation with

Lysias he found fault informant told him friend


impersonal
way.

"someone recently described to us that with spending time with Socrates but
(4o6ai-4). Socrates
reports
and unnamed others about what

praised

highly being
said

together

Thrasymachus"

what some anonymous phon

Clito

had

to a mutual

or companion

behind his back. Yet he

reports

the gossip in a pointedly


phon what

By
it.

referring to both himself and

Clito

the only two men present

in the third person, he in

effect separates

is

being

said

from those

discussing

Speaking
he

as though

he

were

telling

what some

third person had said about a


and

fourth,
subject

manages

to

remove

both the

present

speaker

listener from the


of

matter

of

their conversation.

Socrates,
in

almost a

parody

the just man, seems to have forgotten his own good

speech.

Clitophon

feigning
own. mant

confidently but cautiously. He is sure that Socrates is simply indifference to his criticism and responding with a personal attack of his
replies

He therefore

immediately

tries to correct him. Whoever

Socrates'

infor

was, he explains, he did not correctly relate the conversation with Lysias, (4o6a6-7). "for in some things indeed I did not praise you, but in others I
did"

Whereas Socrates blame


of

spoke of

both Clitophon's

praise of

Thrasymachus

and

his

Socrates, Clitophon speaks only of what he had said about Socrates. His remarks, in contrast to Socrates', are entirely personal. And just as Clito phon replaces his reported praise of Thrasymachus with his unreported praise of Socrates,
so, too, he suppresses the fact that he had
blame.2

criticized

thing, ful to emphasize his

acknowledging only that he had not praised


praise and minimize

him in

everything.

Socrates in any He is care


that Socra

his

Saying frankly
they

tes is clearly rebuking

him

while

pretending to be unconcerned, he eagerly offers


are now alone.

to repeat the original conversation, especially since

He
and

hopes to

convince

Socrates that he does

not

hold

so

low

an opinion of

him

thus induce him to

be

more

friendly

in

return.

Socrates readily
made.

Concluding

Clitophon's offer, but not in the spirit in which it was the scene-setting prologue, he says it would be shameful of
accepts

him

not

to bear with

Clitophon

when

Clitophon is

so eager

to

benefit him, for it is


have been
made

clear, Socrates says, that

when

his better

and worse points

known to him, he will practice to his strength. Socrates thus What


2.

and pursue places

the one and avoid the other, according


position of

Clitophon in the

his

teacher.
might

matters to

him is

not whether
acknowledge

Clitophon

will praise
until

him, but

that he

He does

not

explicitly

blaming

Socrates

the very end of the

dialogue

(4ioe5).

Socratic

Teaching
says

and

Justice: Plato's Clitophon

323 Clitophon's
his bad

improve him.
teaching.

Socrates, however, limits


he
that he
will

the possible benefits of

He
not

will practice and pursue

his

good points and avoid

ones, but

The

most

he

might

develop any learn from Clitophon that

good points

he does

could cause

already him to change his

not

possess.
ac

tions is the need to practice greater self-restraint. But even this

lesson's

effect

may be greatly limited inasmuch as Socrates promises to act to the full extent of his strength, not to the full extent of his knowledge. His strength may fail his knowledge. He may not always be able to act as he knows he should.

II. CLITOPHON'S PRAISE: EDUCATION AND NEGLECT (407a-e)

Clitophon begins
memorized3

with

and which

cism.

He

says

he

was

his praise, the first half of which is a set-piece he has he introduces in a way that anticipates his central criti often amazed at hearing Socrates, who seemed to him to

nobly compared to other human beings, when, rebuking human be he ings, sang his words like a god upon a tragic stage (407a8). In saying this Clitophon suggests that Socrates, at his best, resembles the tragic poets who,
speak most when

faced

with a

difficulty, have
as

recourse

to a

deus

ex machina.

pears at

just the

opportune moment to

do

what

ordinary
a

men cannot

Socrates ap do, but then

disappears
had
said

again

just

suddenly,

sons'

grounding in reason. Clitophon first quotes Socrates at length rebuking fathers for neglecting their (and their own) education to justice. Are they ignorant, Socrates asks, that
425d).
should?

(cp. Cratylus

giving an His exhortations lack

without

adequate account of what

he

they do nothing they


tion
will of

While

devoting

all their seriousness


whom

to the acquisi
will

wealth, the fathers


use

neglect

to see that their sons to

they

leave it if

know how to
can

it justly,
or

and

they do

not

find for them teachers

of justice

indeed it

be learned,

those

who can

justice if justice is
of

a matter of

training
of

and practice.

sufficiently practice and train them in Socrates accuses the fathers


acquisition of wealth

putting means before ends, use. But he is indefinite as to


needed so the sons will
of education while

putting the

before its just

what sort of education use wealth

teaching

or

training

is

know how to
over

justly.

Emphasizing

the power

glossing

seems

to argue that as

neglect

differences among the types of education, he leaves men unjust, so education can make them
opposites, so are their
effects.

just. Just

as education and neglect are

Rather than try to prove his point, Socrates appeals to something the fathers already believe. He says that they consider an education in grammar, music and
gymnastics

"the

complete education
makes neither

in

virtue"

(407C2-3),

and yet

this educa

tion, he
spect
3.

points

out,

them
not

nor

their sons any

less

vicious with re mode of


educa-

to

wealth.

Why, then, do they


in fact "go
through"

despise this traditional

Clitophon

will

in the broadest

sense.

Consider his

performance

(SiE^eX&oifii [40639]) his conversation with Lysias only in light of section VI, below, and Phaedrus 228a ff.

324

Interpretation
after

tion and seek

those who will put an end to this "lack of


of

(407C6)?

And
not

yet

it is because

this dissonance and easy spiritedness, he concludes, and the

because the foot is city

out of time with

lyre,

that brother

with

brother

and

with

clash together without measure and

harmony
what

and are at

strife, and
presumes

city in
the

their warring commit and suffer the most extreme things. Socrates

fathers
tion to

mean

by

"complete

education

in

virtue"

he*

means

by

an

"educa

justice,"

education, and

but they may mean nothing more than a so-called gentleman's in fact he acknowledges that the fathers deny that any sort of edu

cation can make men education or

just. The

unjust are

unjust,

they insist,
commit

not

through

lack

of

through

ignorance, but
with

willingly.

They

wrongdoing know

ing it to be
fathers. He
also

wrong.

Faced

their strong resistance, Socrates tries to shame the

points out

that while

they

argue that men are

knowingly
gods.

unjust,

dare to say that injustice is

shameful and

hateful to the

they How, then,

could anyone choose such an evil?

Anyone, they say, who is weaker than plea sure. But, Socrates rejoins, "Is not this involuntary, since victory is (407d6-7)? Although the fathers are unmoved by pious shame, they are silenced
manly shame, allowing Socrates to every way that injustice is involuntary every city publicly Socrates claims to have
one should
conclude and

voluntary

by

that the argument proves


man

in

every

(avdga) privately
they
now

and

pay

more attention

to this matter than

do.
no

shown that education can make men

just because

premise. men

is willingly unjust. His conclusion that men


naturally
resist

His argument,

however,

rests on

exactly the opposite


the premise that
pleasure

are receptive to

justice

rests on

justice. No

man wishes

to be ruled
mastered.

by

because

no

man wishes

Thus, just as Socrates be gan his rebuke by addressing the fathers contemptuously as "human (407bi), so he ends it by challenging their manliness. Concern for manliness,
to be ruled. To be ruled

is to be

beings"

not

justice,
but

silences them. education

Socrates'

treatment of the
sons.

fathers

seems

to

be the

model

for the

he

means

for their

It is

not an education of

to knowl

edge

rather an

habituation,
of justice

training

or

conditioning

the soul. It does not

rest on

knowledge

but

on

the opinions of others. The virtue


shame. changed

it

produces

is merely a kind of duty manly Clitophon does not say that Socrates
on pressed
rates'

based

any

of

the fathers. What im


of

him

was not

the

effect so much as

the godlike, censuring tone

Soc

gard

Socrates in his opening statement mentioned Clitophon's high re for Thrasymachus, and Clitophon in his closing statement will threaten to
speech. and

leave Socrates
pears

join Thrasymachus, in particularly strong


at

whose

in the Republic (340a-b). In the Phaedrus

company and defense he ap (267d) Socrates describes Thra

symachus as

being

defending
Socrates'

against such personal attacks.

both attacking someone's character and Recalling Clitophon's interpretation of


least
part of what

opening statement, we might him to Socrates is what impresses him

surmise that at
about

draws
to at

Thrasymachus

the

ability

tack people with words and to counter such

attacks.

Socratic

Teaching

and

Justice: Plato's Clitophon

325

III. CLITOPHON'S PRAISE (cont.): KNOWING AND USING

(407e-408b)
Clitophon
praises at

extends as

his

praise to a series of
Socrates'

least

highly
says

as
Socrates'

rebuke of the

Socratic contentions, which he fathers. No longer quoting


who

him verbatim, he ies but


rule neglect

that

next point

is that those He does

train their bod


what should what

their soul do something else of this kind in neglecting


serious about what should

but

being

be

ruled.

not

say in

way,

or even

whether, the

higher

should care

for the lower

or what

obligations, if any,
Socrates'

the ruler owes the ruled.

Turning next to what he understands to be

ma

jor point, he says Socrates also argues that unless someone knows how to use something, it is better for him not to use it. Clitophon and Socrates agree that
beneficial
of practice presupposes

knowledge, but they


spoken of

seem

to

mean

different

sorts

knowledge. Whereas Socrates had

knowing

how to

use wealth

justly, Clitophon speaks only of knowing how to use something. He says nothing about knowing its just use. Where Socrates meant knowledge of the goodness of
something's

end, Clitophon seems to

mean

knowledge

of

its

operations.
means.

The

one

seems concerned with will

knowing

ends, the

other with

knowing

The

sequel

show,

however,

that Clitophon's silence about justice does not indicate an

indifference to, but


cal

rather a particular

understanding of, justice: justice is identi


of

to art.

Clitophon
should

gives three sets


use.

of examples

know how to

The list

seems meant

things, to be

or types of exhaustive.
.

things,

one

The first

ex

ample concerns one's session

body and its


knowledge

parts, the

second

"any

instrument

or pos

(40833-4),
of use as

and of

the third one's soul. The first

understands

knowledge

ends,

as

judgment
to use

rather

than as technical

competence.

If

someone

does
not

not

know how

his

eyes or

ears, Clitophon

says, it is better for him

to hear or to see. In

other

words, one can use one's

body
hear

without without

knowing knowing what

how to do

so: one can see without

knowing

what to see or

should

be heard. The

second

example, which intro


of means.

duces art,
of the

confounds

knowledge

of ends and also

knowledge

What is true

body,
does he
nor

Clitophon continues, is
not who

true of art,

for it is evident, he says, that


know how to
use anoth use

he

who

know how to does


other not

use

his

own

lyre

will not

er's,

and

know how to

use another's will not


"Use"

know how to

his own,
refer

any

instrument
to
ends.

to

operations or

know how to judge the


not

value

here is equivocal. It may or possession. Someone may know how to play a lyre but not of its end (407b8-d2) or how to judge its end but

how to play it (4iob8-c4). Either way, he may know how to use it in one which now becomes the sense without knowing its use in the other. Art or xe%vr], between the two distinction obscure the theme of the dialogue, tends to

leading

sorts of

knowledge. A

physician or ship's captain

knows both

what needs

to be

326
done
and

Interpretation how to do it. His knowledge for is


or art appears

and

to

contain

both know-how

judgment.
model

Clitophon's

reason

art.

Art, he believes,
he
of

embodies

knowledge.

Turning
tes ends to be

to the third and most important example,

says this argument of


use one's soul
whim.

Socra

beautifully,
and not good

that without

knowledge live life

how to

it is better
posses

dead,
any

to

live,

than to

and act or

according to

The

sion of
can

thing, including only if the possessor Clitophon continues, if it is necessary for


one's

be

good

soul, is only conditionally good. It knows how to use it or use it well. But,
a person

ignorant

of such

knowledge to
over

live, it is better for him to live der of his thought, as it were

as a slave than as a
of a

freeman, handing

the

rud

ship, to

someone who

has learned the

art of

often calls the steering human beings, which art, he adds, Socrates same as that of judging and justice (cp. Rep. be the it to declaring

political

art,

590c8-d6).

to according to art, Clitophon believes, is the same as living according live ac necessity. To reason. It is the opposite of living according to whim or life. Furthermore, a person cording to art is to live a rational and hence a good

Living

able

to rule himself is also best able to rule


use

others.

Just

as someone who

knows

how to

his

own

lyre

also

knows how

to use another's, so the person who


guide others.

knows how to is both


a

use

his

own soul also

knows how to

Such knowledge
the person who

necessary knows how to rule

and a sufficient claim

to just rule.
rule

Conversely,

others also

knows how to

himself. Just

as someone who

knows how to play another's lyre knows how to play his own, so, too, someone who knows how to guide other men knows how to use his own soul. In Clito
phon's

view, the

political art

to the statesman.

is ultimately identical to wisdom, Justice in the city is identical to justice in the him to
He
understands

and

the just man

soul.

Clitophon's
speech

emphasis on art causes

exaggerate the power of reason or

in

politics. and

guiding

someone's thought to

be the

same as

ruling

him,

and ruled
phasizes

why anyone inclined to act according to whim willingly obey reason's commands. Even as he em by necessity the difference between knowers and nonknowers, he minimizes the nat he
never explains would

ural recalcitrance of most men of

to

reason.

In this respect, he is the direct


art.4

opposite

the acquisitive fathers and close to the sophists who suppose that the art of

rhetoric

is identical to,
governed

or superior

to, the

political

Politics

and education

are are

ultimately the same, because men, easily


art. metaphor

being essentially reasonable and tractable,


The
art of rhetoric

by

persuasion through speech.

is the

rul

ing

for the ruling art is the captain's art, for the captain's art clearly demonstrates that having knowledge means having the ability to com mand. The captain rules his ship because of what he knows. He is the authority because he is the
who
4.

Clitophon's

expert.

His knowledge
one's
1

gives

him

genuine

authority

over those
ulti-

lack it. Yet, despite

first impression, the


181*12-

captain's

knowledge is

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

16.

Socratic
mately how to

Teaching

and

Justice: Plato's Clitophon

327

only with means and not with ends. While his art teaches him his ship safely to port, it does not teach him whether it is better or not for anyone to arrive there. That is something the art simply assumes. The same is true of art. Just as medicine teaches physicians how to restore every health but not why health is good, so every art ultimately takes the goodness of
concerned

guide

its
its

own end

for

granted.

Guided

by

some opinion or
art

knowledge that lies beyond


serves an end whose

particular sphere of

competence, every

ultimately

goodness

it

cannot explain.

Its knowledge is retail,

not wholesale.
agrees with

Clitophon, too,
the good

takes the good for granted. While he


accordance with
end.

Socrates that
that such a

life is the life in

reason, he

never suggests

life is distinguished
or

by

its

In his account,

happy lives,

their

lives

are not

while only knowers can lead good distinguished from the lives of nonknowers by

the ends
are

they pursue, but only by the means they possess. Their only differences instrumental. Clitophon seems to recognize that teaching and justice are simi
are concerned with

lar in that both


cation might

improvement. But he

never supposes

that edu
might

turn someone's soul around (cp. Rep. 5i8b-c), only that it


conventional sense of

improve his life in the


fulfill the
those
ends

providing him

with

the means to

means.

he already pursues while at the same time justifying his claim to The life of reason, as he understands it, is not the life devoted to,

but the life


granted.

served

by, knowledge. Modeled


for
art

after

art, it takes the

good

for

Clitophon's
of men.

regard

blinds him to
never of

nature
souls5

and, particularly, to the natures


or

He

speaks of

soul, but

types

of

souls,

and

he
the

never
soul.6

distinguishes among the intellectual, spirited, He regards the mind as the soul and hence art
tinction among
joy.7

and appetitive parts of

as

virtue, and thus the

makes no

dis
en

men except

for the

arts

they

possess and of

reputations of

they

Instead

of

looking

to the inner disposition

the parts

the

soul and

their

ordering for his

model of

rule, he looks only to the

soul's external relation

to the

body
ited

and thus reduces political rule to


slaves.

despotic

rule.

The

rulers are

masters; the

ruled, willing

Clitophon destroys

politics

by ignoring

the

middle or spir

part of the soul and the

opinion.

He

confuses

understanding that corresponds to it, namely, knowledge and opinion (and philosophy and politics) be

kind

of

cause

he

sees

nothing in between knowledge

and

ignorance,

or reason

and

desire.
In the Republic (34oa-b), Clitophon defends
Thrasymachus'

definition

of

justice

that justice is the

advantage of

the stronger

machus meant whether or not

by
the

advantage whatever the stronger


advantage.

by arguing that Thrasy believes it is, regardless of


identical is
con-

it is his true

Just

as

this implies that the just is

to the legal
5.

or

lawful,

so

it

also

shows, more

broadly,

that Clitophon

Note
See

407e6.
spiritedness"

6. Clitophon
7.

mentions

"easy

(Qadvuiav)

when

quoting Socrates (40706-7).

esp. 408C5-7.

328

Interpretation

tent with apparent goods. What he says in defense of Thrasymachus confirms


what

he

suggests

in the Clitophon

about

himself:

as

the

spokesman

for art, he is

above all

the defender of convention.

IV. CLITOPHON'S BLAME: SPEECHES AND DEEDS

(408b-409d)

Clitophon

says that to these and

it is

asserted that virtue


himself,8

many other very beautiful speeches, in which is teachable and that a person should above all pay atten

tion to
pose

he has

hardly

ever said a word

in opposition,

nor

does he sup
awak

he

ever

will, for he

considers

them

most

exhortatory

and most

useful,

ening

us as

if

we were asleep.

But, having been


fellow-desirers
you"

awakened, he is

now unable

to

find

anyone who can explain what comes next.


contemporaries

He tells Socrates that he first


or

went

to "your

and

comrades,
and asked

or

whatever one of all

should name

those so disposed to

(408C5-7)

first

those

he

Socrates holds in especially high regard what the argument would be after this. Quoting himself at length as he had earlier quoted Socrate's rebuke and say
says

ing that he questioned


he first
asked
we regard

Socrates'

Socrates'

companions after
Socrates'

own manner,
exhortation

he

says

them how we are now to accept


all

to virtue.

Do

this as

there is and "suppose

it is

not possible all

to accomplish

it in

practice and possess


work

it

completely"

(408CI4)? Is this

there will be to our

life's

(egyov)

to exhort those who have not yet been exhorted, and for them to

exhort still others?

Or

should we ask

Socrates
to

and one another what comes next?

How

should we

begin the

learning

related

justice? entirely in the dark, he


assumes

Although Clitophon
that

complains about

being

justice is he
and

an art similar

to gymnastics and medicine.

Comparing
young

the predica
says

Socrates'

ment as

other companions are

in to that

of

boys, he

it is

though someone had exhorted them to care


no notion

like boys, had drink


and all

that

such care

for the body, observing that they, belongs to gymnastics and medicine, and

afterwards rebuked

them

by

the things we

saying it was shameful for them to care for food and labor to acquire for the sake of the body, but not to

seek an art or

device to

ensure that the

body

is in the best

possible

condition,

even

though such an art exists. The problem,

the art

is that is

related to

the virtue of the

soul"

he concludes, is to determine "what (40933).


when

Clitophon takes for


the
person reputed

granted

that this is a productive art. He reports that

to be the strongest at

the very one Clitophon has

answering heard Socrates mention, namely, is


an art called medicine

such questions said this art

is

justice, he immedi

ately

rejected

the answer,

demanding more than merely

a name.

again, he says he replied that there


8. For the bilia
iv. 6.

Quoting himself

by
see

which two things

sort of virtue that


what

Socrates may have

considered

teachable,

the assertion that one should above all pay attention to oneself, see Republic 44309-44432 and Alcibiades Major i3oe ff. Clitophon's understanding of these two asser tions seems, characteristically, to ignore the inner disposition of the soul.
means

For

he

Xenophon, Memora

by

Socratic

Teaching

and

Justice: Plato's Clitophon


are always

329

are accomplished.
physicians and

Physicians

health. "Of
of

these,"

producing (i^sgyd^eo'&ai) both new he explained, "the latter is no longer an art,

but the
call

work

(egyov)

that art which both teaches and is

taught,

which effect we

health"

effect,
with

and

Similarly, in carpentry, there is the house, which is the the art, which is the teaching (to jjlev egyov, to de didaypia). So, too,
argued: one part

(409b3-5).

justice, he

is to

produce

just men,
work or

as each of the other arts


can

produces man

artisans; but

what shall we

say is its

effect, "what

the just

do (jioieiv) for

us"

(409b8-ci)?

Two considerations, at least initially, make the productive arts a plausible model for justice. First, the productive arts seem to possess the disinterestedness usually
to their
associated with

justice. The

carpenter

builds houses for his


have

others and

only

incidently
for the

for himself; the


not

physician qua physician treats

patients with a view a selfless concern

benefit,

his

own.

Artisans

as artisans seem to

welfare of others.

Second,
For

the productive arts seem to

possess

the sort

of

knowledge justice

requires.

whether

the good in question is that of others, of

the community, or (as Thrasymachus argues in the


san

Republic)

of

the ruler or arti

himself, justice is

concerned with

intending it;

and while anyone might

securing be disposed to

someone's good and not

give someone good produces

artisans as artisans

have the

sort of

technical

knowledge that
suggests),
art

merely things, them. If

knowledge is
deed.9

virtue

(as Socrates

sometimes

may be justice in producing He

Clitophon

wants wants

to to

be

told what

justice

accomplishes other than

just
says

men.

He

know the

counterpart

in justice to health in

medicine.

the

same companion who gave

the previous answer said that the work of

justice is the advantageous,

another said

it is the needful,

third the useful,

and a

fourth the
guishes

profitable.

But Clitophon
other arts. and

objected

that none of these answers distin

justice from the

rectly, profitably, usefully


ward which
beautiful,"

the

All the arts, he explained, act (ngaxreiv) cor like, but all the others can say what it is to
production of

these

tend,

as

carpentry, for example,

"the

needful"

tend to the

"the say that "the wooden things. While Socra


will understands

well,"

tes'

companions spoke of what

the art produces, Clitophon

them to

have described how it


must

operates

its means,
recognize

not

its

end.

Insisting

that

justice is

be

a particular art as such

art, he fails to

his

own assumption

that art as art

just,

that

is justice.
men's

Despite his

concern

phon subordinates
model

for possessing the art of steering education to its extrinsic effects. If the
could

thought, Clito
the
an art

productive arts are

for justice, justice

be

considered

identical to education, for


taught"

is

"teaching"

a or

(409b6)
new

it

"both teaches and

is

(409b4)

but

education

justice

would

then not be an end in itself. The development of a just man, physicians,


would serve some end outside

like

the development of tion


and
9.

itself. Educa Its


speech

would

then teach without

benefitting
would

and

benefit

without

teaching.

deed

its

Xoyog and
City

egyov

be

separate and perhaps even opposite.


p. 79.

Leo Strauss, The

and

Man (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1964),

330

Interpretation
would

Justice then
not

be "the

art

that is related to the

soul"

virtue of

the

(40933),

in the

sense

that the soul is its

beneficiary,
to what

is its tool. The

goal of

justice

would not

but only in the sense th3t the soul be to improve the soul, but to use it for

the sake of something else.


phon neglects what

Contrary

he

supposes about

himself, Clito
he
says should

he

says should rule and

is

serious about what

be

ruled

(40765-8,

4iod5-ei).
not

affairs, but he does in itself.

He may believe that knowledge can rule human believe that knowledge is the highest good or even an end
Socrates'

Clitophon's
with

general criticism of

exhortations,

which

is

of a piece or con

his

general emphasis on

the productive arts, follows the traditional


what exists

ventional
deed.10

Greek distinction between


would agree with

in

speech and what exists

in

Socrates

Clitophon that

speeches should

lead to

deeds,

that
of

exhortations cannot resembles

be

an end

Socrates

Socrates'

in themselves. In fact, Clitophon's criticism criticisms of the poets, who, he says, are unable

to leave any true works behind because

they

are removed as

from

what

is

most real

(Rep.

599b).

But Clitophon

and

Socrates disagree

to whst

is truly

deed.

Whereas Socrates
actions gues

argues that speech can


means

grasp truth more completely than can


to possess or grasp it per

because to be

to be intelligible (ibid. 473a, 477a), Clitophon ar

that to accomplish something completely


means

fectly
cause

to do so in action or in practice.

Doing

is better than

knowing be
in

the real world is the world of bodies in action, not the world of the mind

thought:

stands speech and

knowledge is derivative, not primary. Thus, whereas Clitophon under deeds as opposite sorts of things with the former subordinate
considers them ultimately the same, united in philosophical The city Socrates founds in the Republic exists in As a community, it is obviously incomplete, as Socrates himself points out
speech.11

to the

latter, Socrates

conversation.

political

(473a). Yet insofar

as

he

establishes an educational rather than a political com


of

munity, it exists in deed as well as in speech. It exists in and among the souls its members. The development of the just city in speech is Socrates' education

of

his interlocutors
stitutes

and

Plato's

readers

in deed. Its development in

speech con

his

educational or
what

ductive arts,
the
same

dialogic community in deed.12 Unlike any of the pro his speeches are, is what his speeches do. His speeches are at

time deeds because their effects lie in the soul.

V. CLITOPHON'S BLAME (cont.): POLITICAL AND

TRANSPOLITICAL JUSTICE (409d-410b)

Clitophon
was

reports that at
speak most

last

Socrates'

one of

companions,

who seemed

(or

reputed) to

elegantly, answered that the

work which

belongs to

10. 11.

See,

e.g., Republic 382e8, 38335, 49804.

36935, C9, 472ei, 592311. 12. Eva T. H. Brann, Introduction to The Republic, trans, Heights, 111.: AHM Publishing Co., 1979), pp. xxxvi-xxxvii.

and ed.

Raymond Larson (Arlington

Socratic
justice
meant when

Teaching

and

Justice: Plato's Clitophon


is to
just
produce

331
cities.

and to no other art

friendship

in the

The

speaker

the sort of
exhorted

friendship
cities

suggested and not the sort

Socrates indicated
to strife

he

the fathers to seek an education that

would put an end

and violence

in the

(407c6-d2). He

meant

philosophical,

not

political,
evil,
and

friendship. When questioned, he said that friendship is good for that reason he also denied that the attachments of children
we call rather

and never
and

animals,

which

friendships,

are

friendships,

since

they
and

are

for the

most part

harmful

Friendship existing really truly, he said, is most clearly a unanimity or agreement in mind (dptdvoiav). But the agreement, he explained, is not in opinion (dptodo^iav), but rather in knowledge (imoTrjnr]v) for of neces
,

than good.

sity many
wholly
sists

agreements

in

opinion

good and

the

work

among of justice. Political


is

people are

harmful but

friendship

is

or civic

friendship that holds the city together


in
shared

not true

friendship. As

friendship the sort of friendship con

knowledge concerning

the good, only the wise can be friends.


reached attack

Clitophon
present,
ment

reports that when

they

this point in the argument those

being
a

perplexed,

were

ready to

the speaker
medical

and

cry that the

argu

had

circled

back to its starting


of agreement
or

point.

For the

art, he

quotes them as

saying, is
what

kind

(6/j.ovoia),

as are all

the other arts,

but,

unlike

the speaker calls justice

what

they deal

with and what

unanimity (6fj.6voiav), the other they produce. Clitophon does not say

arts can anyone

say sug be

gested

that the art of justice

might

be the

art of

conversation, that justice

might

philosophy.

Nor does he realize that the speaker's answer, rather than returning full circle, actually repudiates art as the model for justice, for whereas on the model of the arts justice would exist between knowers and nonknowers (for ex
ample, between
would exist physicians and

patients),

on

the basis of what the speaker said it

only among knowers. Clitophon's model for justice is political; the speaker's is not. It is worth noting that, whereas Clitophon previously empha sized that it was he who questioned companions, he does not say who
Socrates'

cross-examined
what

this

speaker

(cp.

4o8c4ff. and 409d2ff.).

That friends

must

know
in

is

good

is precisely the
says

suggestion

Clitophon dismisses

as unimportant

the Republic.

Clitophon only do

that

when

he

finally

put

his

questions

to

Socrates, Socrates
injure
one's ene

confused

him. "You told


to one's

me

that it belongs to

justice

to

friends, but later on it appeared that the just man never (4ioa8-b3). injures anyone, for he acts to be useful to everyone in Clitophon sees this as a contradiction, because he sees no difference between po
mies and
well
everything"

litical

and transpolitical

justice. The first

part of what

Socrates told him is the friends


and

most political

definition of justice. The


of all civic

principle of

helping

harming
as
of one's

enemies

is the basis

virtue,

for,

as the

Republic

shows,13

justice

the dedication to the

city's common good entails the

disinterested love
to transpolitical

fellow

citizens and

the disinterested hatred of one's city's enemies. The second


on

part of what
13.

he told him,
ff.

the

other

hand,

pertains

justice.

See

esp. 414b

332 While
not

Interpretation
is
a

harming enemies

necessary

part of political or at

life,

the

truly just
do

man will

harm anyone, but any dealings and who

will

help

everyone,

least

everyone with whom

he has

can

be helped, for the

goods
will.

he

pursues

not require

him
be

to take anything from others against their

Socrates'

statements would

contradictory only if the just man were identical to the statesman, only if the king.14 losopher were identical to the

phi

VI. THE CONCLUSION: LOVERS AND NONLOVERS

(410b-d)
he
endured such

Clitophon is disheartened
answers not

and

disaffected. He

complains

that

only once,

nor even

twice, but for

long time,

and was

finally

worn

out

by his perplexity. So after repeated questioning and getting nowhere, he finally gave up, concluding that although Socrates is most excellent at exhorting
men

to virtue, either of two things

must

be true. Either he is
may
praise

capable of

and no

more,

as someone who

is

not a captain

the captain's

only this art as be

ing

of great value

to people, or else he is unwilling to share his knowledge with


no

Clitophon. Clitophon has


wanted

doubt, however,
and go to

that Socrates could teach him if


what

he

to. He is sure that virtue is teachable and that Socrates knows

it is.

So,

after

threatening
one

to

leave him

Thrasymachus

and

others, he gives

Socrates

last

chance

to teach him and save his own reputation.


agrees

Socrates, he
for
other and

says, should
things

"suppose Clitophon
that I have spoken in
through"

that it is ridiculous to care


which we

but

neglect

the soul, for the sake of


such a

labor in

other

things;

suppose also

I have just
agreement

now gone

way (4iod5-e3). Clitophon does


or opinion.

on all

the subsequent points which


not as

(6fj.okoyovvta) is in knowledge
memorize,
so

Just

say whether this he wants an an


an argument

swer

he

can
of

he

sees no

difference between
it in the

knowing
sense of

in

the sense
or

being
to

able

to repeat it and

being

able

explain

it,

let

alone

knowing living by it. Indeed,

understanding it he thinks it sufficient if

Socrates merely supposes (r?eg) that he agrees. His speech is several times re moved from what exists in deed. As Clitophon lives fully in the realm of other
men's

opinions, his

speech

is entirely imitative

and

derivative,

as

his

name

sug

gests.15

Returning

to the dialogue's

beginning, Clitophon entreats Socrates

to do as he

asks, lest he praise him in some things but blame him in others to Lysias and the rest. For Clitophon will say that while Socrates is worth everything to someone
who

has
of

not

been exhorted, to

someone who

has he is

almost a

hindrance in
in
a

the

way is unjust.
14.

his reaching the

goal of virtue and

becoming

happy.

Socrates,

word,

Just
of

as

Clitophon fails to distinguish between


medicine's

politics and

philosophy,

so

he

also sees no

difference between health

healthy

ones; see

restoring health to unhealthy bodies and 4080-40932. Consider in this connection

gymnastics'

improving
"judging
and

the
at

justice"

408b3-5. 15.

Clitophon is

also

the only person in the

dialogue identified

by

reference to

his father;

see

4o6ai-4.

Socratic

Teaching

and

Justice: Plato's Clitophon


no effect on

333
nor

Clitophon's
tion worked

exhortation

has

Socrates. Neither intimidated Whereas his initial

ashamed, he does nothing to

resolve

his

perplexity.

exhorta

like

gadfly to arouse
opposite

discussions have had the


well as confused

Clitophon (Apol. 30e-3ia), his subsequent effect of a torpedo fish, leaving him tired as

(Meno 8oa-b).
other not

Clitophon's fatigue is, among


reputation, not

things,

a sign of

his lack

of

love. He loves opening and Lysias as well

wisdom; opinion,

knowledge. Both

Socrates'

Clitophon's closing
opinion

statements associate

Clitophon

with

the orator

as with the rhetorician

Thrasymachus. Lysias is the


to
value. of

audience or

judge

whose

Socrates is

supposed

Lysias

argues

for the superiority


236c),

only for his utility to


speeches

(228c,
a

ff.), (227c, 228d, lover, praising the lover the unloving beloved. Like Socrates, he is a lover of but, unlike Socrates, he reduces reason to selfish calcula
23oe

In the Phaedrus

the nonlover to the

tion (230c ff.). His understanding of love and speech implies the ascendancy of
utility.

It lacks
and

love

of

(i77d-e)
pursuit of

the Theages

beauty. Socrates, by contrast, claims in the Symposium (128b) to know only the erotic things. Because his

knowledge

stems

from

love

of

knowledge,

reason and of

love

converge

for him in

philosophy.

Yet Socrates

argues

for the superiority


Philosophers

the nonlover to

the lover in one major activity. Those who would be the best those
who would

political rulers are

be the

most reluctant to rule.

must

be forced to

re

turn to the cave from the Isle of the

Blessed,

to the realm of appearance and opin


must

ion from the

realm of

being

and

truth.

They

be forced to become kings, for

political rule can

deed,
scent

what

duty.16 In be nothing more to them than a necessary burden or would be unjust for its for for the the de would be just rulers, city

to

political rule cannot

possibly improve

a wise man's soul.

In

becoming

king,

a philosopher would

necessarily

sacrifice

his

virtue

to his

duty, his

own

good and

happiness to the
who sees

common good of

the

city.17

Clitophon,
osophical

the only difference between a philosophical and nonphil means, and


who

life

as one of

in fact

never mentions

philosophy, be
that knowl
and

lieves that what Socrates says about the prerogatives of wisdom


edge

is

political

applies directly necessary and sufficient claim to goods rule. The prerogatives of wisdom become the prerogatives a theoretical and a practical

fully

to

of rule as

the distinction between

philosopher-king, Clitophon proves to


phanic counterpart
Socrates'

be

a would-be

An aspiring artisan-despot. His Aristo life


vanishes.

is Strepsiades (see Clouds

12761?.).

It is

no real wonder

that

exhortations

lead, in his case, only to

more exhortations.

For

exhorta

tions cannot lead men to pursue things

which are

the

objects of genuine
-e2),

love.
not

Men

can

be

exhorted

to the sort of virtue that rests on shame (407b 1

but

to the sort that


cal

springs

from
not

a spontaneous

desire.

They can be exhorted to politi


from the fact that

justice

or

duty, but

to philosophy

or wisdom.

Socrates'

treatment of

Clitophon

gains added significance

Clitophon foreshadows the


16.

modern or

contemporary
I264bi6ff.

view of scientific education.

Republic 519b Ibid. 5i9d8ff.,

ff.,

539e

ff.

17.

and see

Aristotle, Politics

334

Interpretation
concerned with

Education, he believes, is
soul around so cation

communicating

answers or

imparting
the

technical knowledge or know-how to those who lack it. Rather than

turning

the

mind's eye can contemplate put

the brightest part of

what

is,

edu

is thought to
in blind

in the (Rep.

soul

knowledge
It

or skills that are not

already there,

like

sight

eyes

5i8b-c).

provides power, not

direction. Clito

phon

thus
and

"open-ended."

sees education as considers purpose

Destroying

the distinction

between

liberal
ends

illiberal education, he outside itself. Education's

it technical

and

instrumental, serving
oneself, but outside

is

not to master

things.18

Accordingly, his understanding of education ignores all but intellectual differences among men. It fails to consider the possibility that the sort of knowl
the just man must possess can be learned only by someone naturally gifted for it. What Clitophon ignores is exactly what causes Socrates not to answer him. silence is ambiguous, however. If to practice justice means to im
edge
Socrates'

prove those with whom one


what ment.

he

wants

to hear

would

has dealings, it is hard to see how telling Clitophon be just. Clitophon needs restraint, not encourage
of

Yet Socrates
and

will

discuss justice in front


clear that what

him, if not

with

him, in the^?ewill serve

public,

it is

by no means

Clitophon hears there


Socrates'

him

any better than what he has already heard from Socrates. Clitophon is no Alci failures. It is not clear biades, Critias or Charmides, but he is one of
that
and

he learns or hears from Socrates benefits him or his country in any way, it may do both real harm.19 At the end of the prologue, Socrates promised to avoid his bad points when they have been made known to him, "according to my
what
strength"

(40734). His qualification may not have been simply ironical. Socrates may lack the ability to refrain from doing some of the things he knows he should not do. Where duty is concerned, his knowledge may not be identical to, or
sufficient

always

As Lysias suggests, a passionate man like Socrates may not be in full control of himself. He is not likely always to perform his duty.

for,

virtue.

The Clitophon is thus the

proper what

introduction
not

Socrates discusses there

he does

Republic, discuss here, but

to the

only because also because the


not

difference between
his

what

he does in the two dialogues

reflects the

difference

and

the tension between the two senses of justice or virtue.


out

Socrates
no

can

easily carry
toward

duty

in the Clitophon because its


and

performance

in

way

goes against the

grain; desire
men

duty

coincide.

In the Republic,

on the other

hand, duty

like Clitophon may demand one thing, but the desire to converse with others like Glaucon and Adeimantus demands another, and love, not duty, wins out.

misleading to associate Clitophon with technology. While, on the one knowledge as a form of external mastery, on the other, he is close to the original sense of the term, for originally referred to the art of rhetoric the art that spoke about the artful use of speech. It was at once the speech concerning art and the art concerning speech. See Aristotle, Rhetoric I354bi7, 26, 1356s! 1. 19. For Clitophon's political career, see Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians 29.3 and 34.3. Lysias and his family turned out to be victims of his political see ibid.

18.

It is

not altogether

hand, he is

concerned with

"technology"

mistakes;

35.1 and

Against Eratosthenes 4ff.

Lysias,

Individuation

and

in Feuerbach's

Commonality "Philosophy of

Man"

Kit R. Christensen
Bemidji State

University

European intellectual history is usually un in light of his concomitant aims of critically reformulat derstood, appropriately, ing Hegelian philosophy on a materialistic basis, and exposing the "anthropolog
place of

The

Ludwig Feuerbach in

ical
this

essence"

of religious

belief. Feuerbach himself intended the


philosophy"

chief product of

dual

project to

be

"new

grounded
"man"

in the

affirmation

of,

and a

more concrete

came

as such. At least after 1839, Feuerbach understanding of to believe that such a new "philosophy of was needed to combat and
man"

overcome

the alleged oppressiveness (for the "human spirit")

of

both Hegelian

speculative

philosophy

and

really the first


"system"

notable philosopher to extract provided

Since he was especially Christian religious himself from the then-dominant ide
and

doctrine.1

alist

to be

a radical critique of

ness of

his

reduction of

subsequently engage in what appeared that system, and because of the novelty and thorough "religious to "human his work also was

by Hegel,

truths"

truths,"

greeted with a great

deal

of enthusiasm at the

time

by

other

thinkers

who were

becoming

disillusioned
years

with

Hegelianism. Frederick Engels, for example,

ac

knowledged
".

later in

Feuerbach's influence in
.

looking back on the period of the early 1840s, when Germany was at its peak, that in response to his work
Feuerbachians."2

.we

all

became

at once

clear

to

at

least Engels
blood"

and

Karl Marx that

Of course, it eventually became Feuerbach's "new of

philosophy"

human life remained, for the most part, abstract and idealist in right, ignoring as it did the actual, historically determined material rela tions between human beings that constituted the true sources of oppression and
and

"flesh its

own

alienation

in their
the

lives.3
man"

Even
1.
will

given

legitimacy of the charge that Feuerbach's "philosophy of

be

In 1839 Feuerbach's book Philosophy and Christianity was published. Prior to this time, as pointed out, he was actually a proponent of Hegelian philosophy in all his writings, and this

was the last one in which he would actively defend Hegelianism against its opponents. After 1839 Feuerbach became one of Hegel's most vocal critics. The text is found in Ludwig Feuerbach: Sdmtliche Werke edited by Wilhelm Bolin and Friedrich Jodl (Stuttgart: Frommann 1903- 11), Vol.

text

III. Karl Marx bach


3.

Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, found in and Frederick Engels: Selected Works in Two Volumes (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962), Vol. II, p. 368. The original German text was published as Ludwig Feuer
2.
und

der Ausgang der klassischen deutschen Philosophie (Berlin,


and

1886).

Frederick Engels, The German Ideology, translated by Clemens Dutt, W. Lough, and C. P. Magill, and reprinted in its entirety in Karl Marx I Frederick Engels: Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, and New York: International Publishers, 1976), Vol. 5. The

Cf. Karl Marx

principal elements of

their critique of Feuerbach

are

to be

found in Part I

of this text.

336 does

Interpretation

nearly far enough towards an adequate materialist view of human ex istence, it can still be argued that, particularly in his analyses of the "human es and of human "species he has provided us with some accurate and
not go
sence"

life,"

important insights into


I
will restrict myself

various

dimensions

of

human

experience.

In

what

follows

to an analysis of what I believe to be this


of

more positive con


anthropology."

tribution to the

field

inquiry

nowadays called

"philosophical

Specifically, I
perspective on

will attempt

to evaluate and to make some

sense of

Feuerbach's from

the dynamics and the outcomes of interpersonal relations, and of


nature"

his
the

position

that "essential human that these

itself

cannot

be

understood apart

constitutive role

relations

As background for the


earlier part of

present

play in conscious life. inquiry, it should be pointed out first that in the
career

Feuerbach's intellectual
rather than as a

he

saw

himself

as a

faithful fol

lower

of

Hegel

critic,

one who was

fying the
period

Hegelian

philosophical project.

In

most

carrying on and further clari of his written works during this


often even almost

Feuerbach took
against

an

explicitly Hegelian standpoint,

defending
start

Hegel

the latter's many opponents.


'anthropologized'

However,

from the

Feuerbach in
while still

effect

much of

viewing himself

as not of

having

Hegel's idealist metaphysics, departed from the basic philosophical


mentor.

"system"

categorizations and

his (then)

doctoral dissertation,
maintains

which

again was a

For example, in Feuerbach's self-consciously Hegelian work, he


"man"

that

"man"

as such

is

Spirit,

and

that the essence of

(of the hu Appar

man species

taken as a whole) is Reason in the sense that Reason is universal and


as

self-unified, just

the species is essentially a unitary, universal


not

being.4

ently

here, (Geist) and Universal Reason


human

Feuerbach did

think that the Hegelian notions of


referred to some supreme

Absolute Spirit
or
non-

superhuman,

Being

which

self-actualization.

merely embodied itself in humanity as part of its progressive This 'supreme for Feuerbach is mankind itself, seen as
being'

unity

constituted

only beings, but at the sality


of
reality.

species

by the community exists, however, in so far


same

of as

living,
it

conscious

human beings. The

actualizes

itself in individual human

Geist, Reason,

time the human essence is only to be found in the univer and thus also thought, itself taken as a supra-individual the essence of
as well:
"man"

In this

characterization of

then, Feuerbach does

re

tain the organicist perspective of


.

Hegel

one can

not a

say that the human being is not born, but is developed. For in nature, he is thinking being, but a reason-less being who is completely separate from others.
not

Reason is
4.

inborn,

or

implanted,
referred

as magnetic

force is in

a magnet.

Nor does it

grow

was titled "De ratione, una, Auctore Ludovico Andrea Feuerbach, phil. Doct., Erlange MDCCCXXVIII. Written in Latin, it was first published in German in Ludwig Feuerbach: Sdmtliche Werke edited by Wilhelm Bolin and Friedrich Jodl, Vol. IV. The passage quoted here in English was translated by Marx Wartofsky, and found in his book Feuerbach (Cam bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), p. 43. I should note in passing that I consider Wartofsky's text to be the best study of Feuerbach available in English, and I must acknowledge
infinitd"

The dissertation (hereafter

to just as the

"Dissertation")

universali,

Dissertatio inauguralis

philosophiae

the major

influence that this text has had

on

my

own

investigations.

Feuerbach'

"Philosophy
on a

Man"

of

337
man

in

man as

fruit does

tree. As a single individual

has

no part of

Reason

at all.

For Reason is community, universality; but man as a single individual is completely divided and separated from every other As reason is a communal thing, not an in
.

born property of single individuals, so man, unless he lives in a community, cannot at tain to Reason. He comes to Reason not by himself, but through the actual presence of
Reason in the form
we

of a

living

find

man

in

living

communities.

community Animals
.

are animals as single

From the very beginnings of the race, individual beings;

men are men

only as one man, as the human race, as a whole, as a community. The or igins of Reason, insofar as they are present in single human beings, can only be under
stood

in terms

of

the

totality
is

of mankind

...

it follows that the individual, in the


to look for
society,
a

strict

sense of

the word, is only a


one who

fiction;

and whoever wants

human

being

in

himself, i.e.,

still untouched and untainted

by

must

look for

one

who was neither

bom,

nor

raised, but must have been created from

nothing.5

Two

years after

the completion of his


which

dissertation, Feuerbach's first published


a stand that was much more

work appeared

(1830), in
in

he took

clearly

antireligious and

opposition

to Christian

doctrine,

and yet which was still ex

plicitly Hegelian. In this text, entitled Thoughts on Death and Immortality, Feuerbach again argues both that the essence of the species, that is, of "human is Spirit, where Spirit is consciousness, and that the essence of the individ
ity,"

ual

human its

being

is the

species.6

Consciousness (which for


"Thought,"

all practical purposes characterized never

here is the

"Reason"

same as

and
always

as well as

"Spirit") is
a

by

essential

universality, but

in

such a

way that it is

reality that

transcends the

human:
itself is purely universal; knowing is an activity of essence, of Spirit as such is self-equal, self-identical, one in all humans. Only con various; variety belongs only to the objects that are determinate per
consciousness.

But

consciousness

itself. Consciousness
scious

beings

are

sons who

know themselves in

In their

knowing,

all

humans

are

one, as

if undivided, but in that which they know, they are various and separated, for that which they know in the knowing that is consciousness is just themselves, the various
particular persons.

Consciousness is the

light;

persons are

the

colors.7

Here
and

also

it

seems as though

Feuerbach did interpret Hegel's Absolute


self-developed

Spirit,
that
of

Absolute Idea,
as

as

being

the actualized,

'human

spirit,'

is,

"man"

such; there

was no transcendent or more

reality, or

God,

and no

Subject

than, that was other than, Given this view, a case can be made for the claim that Feuerbach's interpretation Feuerbach's career, is very similar to that of Hegel, at least in the earlier part of Hegel's Geist more anthropologically. seen have also who of later commentators

history

the human species taken

in its totality.

Dissertation; see Wartofsky, Feuerbach, p. 44. from the Papers of a Thinker, along 6. Ludwig Feuerbach, Thoughts on Death and Immortality Theological-Satirical Epigrams, Edited by One of His Friends, translated by with an Appendix of pp. 107-108. The original Ger James A. Massey, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), Johann Adam Stein in 1830, in Nuremberg (the author re was edited and published
5.
man

text

by

maining
7.

anonymous).

Ibid.,

pp.

108-109.

338

Interpretation
as one
such

Alexander Kojeve, Hegel:


. .

commentator,

maintains

that, according to

never, at any

moment of

Time, is

there a

Spirit existing

outside of

the human
of

his

torical World.
and the

History

Spirit, Therefore, there is no transcendence; History is the becoming Spirit is nothing but this historical becoming of Man As for the goal of that is Philosophy (which finally becomes it is Wissen, Knowledge of self
...

Wisdom). Man

creates an

historical World only in


it."

order

to know what this World is

and thus to understand

himself in

And

again:

Hegel

means

to underline that eternal or


arises

infinite

Being

that

is,

the absolute

Spirit

solely from the totality of human or historical exis tence. Therefore, the temporal past of eternal Being is human, and only human. If one wants to talk about in Hegel, therefore, one must not forget that this

(which, in Schiller, is God),


"God"

"God's"

past

is Man: it is

Man

who

has become

"God,"

and not a

God

who

has become Man

(and who, moreover,

again

becomes

God.)'

In Feuerbach's later writings, this view of what Hegel was up to changed quite noticeably. It became more and more clear to Feuerbach that he needed to
make a

definitive break

with

the Hegelian speculative philosophy, if


man"

he

were

to
a

do justice to the break


Idea,"

"philosophy

of

towards

which

he

was working.

Such

was

ten beyond

necessary because he came to believe that Hegel had not after all got in the latter's characterizations of Absolute Spirit, "the
"theology"

History,

etc.; that in Hegel's

system the

the various profiles of "the


as

Absolute,"

had merely been


and

Christian God, re-established in made immanent as well


that this speculative attempt

transcendent,

rather than

being demystified;

to make theological doctrines more

philosophically up only mak from actual human life. As ing already indi Feuerbach's own perspective was fairly antireligious cated, early on, but he had previously seen the Hegelian system as really only in need of some clarification
them more abstract and detached

palatable ended

regarding essential human reality, not repudiation and Aufhebung. Eventually, however, he saw that the idealist philosophy of Hegel, as trans formed theology, did have to be transcended, so that his philosophical project
and extension

to derive the necessity of a became, in part, an attempt ". philosophy of man, that is, anthropology, from the Philosophy of the Absolute, that is theology Again, this construction of an adequate philosophical anthropology
. .

would need

to

be brought

about

by a prior critique of both speculative philosophy


doctrine. In
a number of

(that

is, Hegelian

philosophy)

and religious

Feuerbach's
Jr.
,

8. Alexander Kojeve, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, translated edited by Allen Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1969), pp. 161-62.
9. 10.
printed

by James H. Nichols,

Ibid.

p. 167.

From the Preface to Principles of the Philosophy of the Future, by Ludwig in The Fiery Brook: Selected Writings of translated and

Ludwig Feuerbach,
original

edited

Hanfi (New York. Doubleday, 1972), p. Grundsatze der Philosophie der Zukunft.

Feuerbach, re by Zawar
in 1843
as

176.

The

German text

was published

Feuerbach's
works after with

"Philosophy

Man"

of

339

engages in just such a critique of both types of thought, exposing their distortions on the one hand, and of bringing to light the concealed kernels of truth concerning which they also contain, on the other hand. For example, he opens his 1842 "Preliminary Theses on the Reform of with the claim: following

1839, he

the

aim of

"man"

Philosophy"

The

secret of

theology is anthropology, but theology itself is

the secret of

speculative

philosophy, which thus turns out to be speculative theology. As such, it distinguishes

itself from ordinary theology


world

by

the fact that it places the divine

being back
and

into this

ordinary theology

projects

it into the beyond

out of

fear

ignorance; in
the Divine

contrast to
Being.11

ordinary theology, it actualizes, determines,

and realizes

He then
tem:

goes on

to point out the consequences

of

the Hegelian

speculative sys

The Absolute Spirit according to Hegel philosophy. This simply means that the Absolute Spirit. But

reveals or realizes
spirit

itself in art, religion,


and

and

of art, religion,

philosophy is the

one cannot separate art and religion


nor can one separate

from human feeling, imagina

tion,

and

perception,

not separate without

philosophy from thought. In short, one can the Absolute Spirit from the Subjective Spirit, or from the essence of man,

being thrown back to the standpoint of theology, without being deluded into regarding the Absolute Spirit as being another spirit that is distinct from the being of man, i.e. without making us accept the illusion of a ghost of ourselves existing out
,

side ourselves

The Absolute Spirit is the "deceased


philosophy.'2

spirit"

of

theology that,

as a

specter, haunts the Hegelian

On the

same

grounds, Hegel's Logic

and

its 'supreme

being,'

"the

Idea,"

also

come under attack

here:
and presence;

The Hegelian Logic is theology that has been turned into reason ology turned into logic. Just as the Divine Being of theology is
embodiment same with
,
,

it is the

the ideal or abstract

the

of all realities i.e., of all determinations of all finitude s, so, too, it is the Logic. li
of

Even though Feuerbach's interpretation


change over

Hegel

underwent a

fairly

drastic

the

course of

the former's career, so that he eventually came to view

his

own philosophical project as retain

being a radical departure from Hegelian philoso


and

phy, he did
also

his focus

on

the life

development

of

the human species that


other

had been

so central

for him in his

earlier writings.

In

words, Feuer

bach's

anthropologization of

Absolute Spirit,
of all

of

the

Idea, Reason,
"Man"

etc.,

consti

tuted a good part of the foundation


species taken

his
of

analyses.

as

such, that

is,

the
re-

in its totality

and

in terms

its

essential

nature, became

and

Ludwig Feuerbach, "Preliminary Theses on the Reform of Fiery Brook: Selected Writings of Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 153. The original
1 1
.

Philosophy,"

reprinted

in The

German text

was written

in 1842, and titled "Vorlaufige Thesen 12. Ibid., pp. 156-5713.

zur

Reform der

Philosophie."

Ibid.,

p. 155-

340
mained

Interpretation
the Subject of

history,

or the

Universal Subject, for Feuerbach. Instead


coming-to-

of

history

amounting to the progression of the self-development and


the Hegelian
and

self-knowledge of

Geist, it
and

was now seen as

being

constituted

by

the self-development,

progressive

self-realization
movement was

of

the human

species

itself. Similarly, the Hegelian Idee bach into the dynamic


essence of conscious of

its

transformed

by

Feuer
of

the

self-

recognition,

by

human consciousness,

the

human life itself. At the

that this unique appropriation and


and

time, it must be kept in mind humanization of Hegel's various ontological


same

logical

constructs

only

constituted the more abstract

level

of

Feuerbach's

an

thropological investigations. At least in

his post-1839 writings, he apparently was aware that explaining human reality from the standpoint of the species-asSubject in its self-development did entail speaking in mere abstractions, since he
continually "real
asserted

that only

existence."14

On the

individual, physically existing human beings have other hand, the results of this admittedly abstract level
for
what

of analysis provided the

backdrop

Feuerbach himself

considered

to be

his

more concrete analyses of

the development of the human individual in

his/her
level

own self-actualization and coming-to-self-consciousness.

Although some, like


"concrete"

Marx

and

Engels, justifiably
was still

claimed that even at this

allegedly

Feuerbach

guilty that clearly is a difference between these two investigative standpoints on he assumed (which is not to say that he took up these distinguishable standpoints
"man"

of

hypostatization

and

misleading abstraction, there

evaluate

in any methodologically consistent manner). Thus, it seems most Feuerbach's more abstract explanations of the activities
species"

productive to
and goals of

"the

in terms

of

the larger conceptual

framework to

which

they

give

rise, within which


shape.

his

conclusions about

individual human

existence then take

If this

evaluative perspective

is

accepted as a viable one

here, it can be

pointed

14.

See,

e.g.,

Ludwig Feuerbach,
and

Lectures
1967).

on

the

Manheim (New York: Harper


Wesen der Religion. An "The
and
same

Row,

The lectures lecture

Essence of Religion, translated by Ralph were originally given in Heidelberg from


1

December 1, 1848, to March 2, 1849.


excerpt

and published

in German in
reads

851

as

Vorlesungen iiber das


pp.

from the

14th

(from the English text,


them simply
virtues and

122-23):

is

true of other
me are not

human lost
or

virtues and

faculties,

such as reason, will, or wisdom, whose value


regard
as

reality for
and

in any diminished if I

human traits

instead of

deifying
or

hypostatizing

them. What I have said of

human

faculties

applies to all uni

concepts; they do not exist outside of things and beings, they are not distinct from, independent of, the individuals from which we have abstracted them. The subject, that is the ex isting being, is always the individual, the class is only a predicate or attribute. But it is precisely this predicate, this attribute of the individual, that nonsensuous thinking abstracts from the individual and makes into an independent object. This abstraction is then held to be the essence of the individuals in question, while the differences between them are disposed of as "merely that is contin
versals and class
individual,"

gent, secondary, nonessential.

Thus thought for itself,

reduces all

individuals to

a single

individual,

or rather

concept, and

claims all substance

leaving

only the empty

shell

for the

sense perception and concrete

which shows us

individuals

as

individuals in

their multiplicity,

diversity, individuality,

existence.

In

other words,

cate, an attribute, a

thought transforms what is in reality the subject, the essence, into a predi mere mode of the class concept, and conversely, turns what is in reality mere at
essence.'

tribute or predicate

into

Feuerbach'

"Philosophy
character of

Man"

of
reasons

341 Feuerbach continually


species places so much

out

further that
on

one of the

primary
the

importance

the

human

itself,
what

taken as a whole,

is that

such an emphasis enables


crucial

him to better illuminate

he

sees as the single most

factor in the developmental

self-realization of the

human individual: that

individual human life human


community.

always unfolds within and

is

given shape

by

some

form

of

is

not

by

itself

so significant

Of course, the fact that human beings are "social for Feuerbach, since other species of creatures
etc.).

creatures

are

(bees, ants, wolves, naturally community life is that human beings have the capacity to
also
ception

"social"

What is

unique about

human

acquire an explicit con as members of

of the community to

which

they belong,

and

of themselves
of

that

community.

Our

cognitive

faculties

are such that our consciousness

is

not

limited to
ulars,

an awareness

(or

direct sensory apprehension) only


group

discrete
(or

partic

whether particular

humans,

or other particular organisms.

As human be
of

ings

we can

have

as an object of consciousness a

of organisms

'transindividual'

objects),

whether or not

that group, conceived as a

physically present before us. Since we are all human community of some sort then, and even though our first ready existing conscious contacts are with other individual humans (parents or siblings in most

immediately

and

any totality, is born into an al

'normal'

cases),

under

circumstances

we

as

individuals

develop

an

explicit or

awareness of
than,'

this larger human reality

which we see as

transcending,
of

being

'more

the reality of any

particular

humans

of which we are also conscious.

As

we

develop
into

a conception of

the human group


we are

(which,

course,

we

then can

refer

to,

or think

about,

even

if

physically
that

alone at the

time),

we are able

to

enter

conscious relation with

that group, partially


whole. as

by our coming to under


a result of

stand

that we are, as

individuals,

parts of

As

this cognitive

process we come

to

recognize ourselves

both

individuals differentiated from

the group as a whole, and as participants

basic

sense

belong

to it.

This

recognition of our

in the reality of that group who in a very interrelated individuality, partic


emergence of a more

'belongingness'

ipation,

and

facilitates the

developed

sense

of community, and as our conception of

this community becomes more sophisti

cated we realize that we are not part of just

any community, but that


this

we

belong to
being,

specifically human
we are

community; we see

that we are not any other type of

but that
ness,

human beings. Because

of

consciousness of our own human-

and of others as

belonging

to the community because of their


"humanity"

humanness,
the human

we are able
species

to derive

a conception of
peculiar

itself,

and

thus

of

itself. And, it is this

capacity to
with

have

one's own natural species

as an object of consciousness,

along

the necessarily associated conscious

ness of oneself as a member of one's


man

species, that Feuerbach sees as setting

hu

beings
of

apart

from,

and above, all other species of sentient creatures.

One
tus as

the ways that Feuerbach tries to get across this


natural world

idea

of our unique sta

humans in the "species

being"

vidual as a

by periodically referring to the human indi (Gattungswesen), in this context meaning that the hu
is

man

being is

naturally, again, a type of

being

that normally

has the human

342

Interpretation
consciousness,
the
beings"

species as an object of a member

and who

is

conscious of

himself/herself

as

of,

or as

belonging
can

beings
ness,

are not

"species

to, Apparently here, because they don't have this kind


species.15

other sentient

of conscious

even

though

they

be

classified as

belonging

to this or that species

by

us

(such
as

classify Feuerbach is concerned, only humans have this cognitive capacity for classification, categorization, and abstraction). In addition, this consciousness of far
as
'species-membership'

species aren't able to

themselves as members of their own species:

is

what

marks

the

individual's

attainment of self-con

sciousness itself as characteristically human. In other words, for the individual human being, to become self-conscious means becoming conscious of oneself as an individual human being who stands in a necessary relation to, but is not im mediately identified with, the human species as a whole. Actually here, to be
self-conscious of one's

oneself as

belonging

to a

species-membership involves not only being conscious of human living community, which one unavoidably par "essential human
nature."

ticipates

in, but
also

also the consciousness of one's own refers

When Feuerbach he usually feature of

to the human individual's "consciousness of the

species"

consciousness

is referring to the consciousness of "the human further constitutes the distinctively human

essence,"

and

this

mode of

self-consciousness :

But

what

is this

essential

difference between

man and

the

brute? The

most

simple,

gen con

eral, and also the


sciousness

most popular answer

to this question is

consciousness:

but

in the

strict

sense; for the consciousness implied in the

feeling

of self as an

individual, in discrimination
outward things

by

the senses, in the perception and even judgment of

according to definite sensible signs, cannot be denied to the brutes. Consciousness in the strictest sense is present only in a being to whom his species, his
essential

nature,
and

is

an object of

thought. The brute is indeed conscious

of

himself as

an

individual
cessive

he has accordingly the feeling 16 sensations but not as a species


. .

of self as the common centre of suc

Since this

unique mode of self-consciousness

is

part of

the

human

essence

itself

in Feuerbach's estimation, and since he also often uses the term in a second sense whereby it just refers generally to one's "essential human na one can say from this perspective that to be a species being is also to be
ture,"

"species-being"

conscious of one's species


capacity'

being,
of

which again means

having the natural


on

'species-

for the development

In attempting to
15.

understand

this uniquely human Feuerbach's views here

self-consciousness.17

the emergence of hu-

pecular technical term Gattungswesen, of rather obscure origin, was used by Feuerbach in his writings, and appears most often in his most famous work, The Essence sporadically of Chris tianity, translated by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) (republished by Harper and Row, 1957); the original German text was published in 1841 as Das Wesen des Christentums. as will be seen

This

Also,

shortly, he
these two
16. 17.

uses

the term

in

at

least two distinguishable senses,


any
clear rhyme or reason.

and switches

back

and

forth between

different

usages without

The Essence of Christianity, p. 1. Gattungswesen can also be translated


as well as

as

"species
the

essence,"

"generic

essence,"

or

"essence

of

the

species,"

"species

being,"

and much of

difficulty that scholars have had

understand-

Feuerbach'

"Philosophy

Man"

of
clear
an

343
of analysis

man

self-consciousness, it becomes
the human individual taken as

that his fundamental datum


which can

is

not

plained as such

in

contrast

isolated entity, to the human species taken


on

as a

be merely ex whole. Feuerbach's


in

primary focus
ness

at

this

investigative level is
interaction

the achievement of self-conscious

by

human

individuals, but only

as those

individuals

are

meaningful and

existentially

constitutive

with other

human individuals. That is, I


and

only become
conscious of

self-conscious species

in this uniquely human way,

only thus become

through
man

being, my being my relations with other at least potentially self-conscious individual hu beings. Likewise, I only stand in conscious relation to the human species it
and conscious of myself as a species

self

through my ongoing
no

interaction
immediate

with other relation

persons, in

such a

is in reality
theless
and

direct

or

(conceptual
and

or

way that there otherwise) between


which

myself, as a self-conscious individual person,

the species to

none

belong. The relationship between myself as individual and the species, my relationship to myself, are both necessarily mediated by other persons.
analyses of the

So, Feuerbach's fundamental datum in his


scious/self-conscious and

dynamics

of con

human life is human individuals in

relation

to each other, the

this approach is most clearly expressed


Thou"

in his

constant emphasis on

foundational relationship of "I and It is within the context of this I-Thou lian
ness analysis of

(Ich

undDu).n

relation

that the influence

of

the Hege

the

achievement and maintenance of

individual

self-conscious

becomes

most visible.

Hegel

also asserted

that human

self-consciousness

was attained

only through the only

mediation of

others,

and was an outcome of a con

tinual process of being


ual self-consciousness

recognized

by another self-consciousness:
insofar is
as

that

is, individ
acknowl

exists

it

also exists

for,

and

is

edged as such

by,

self-consciousness.19

another

This

constitutive process

is,

of

course,

dialectically reciprocal,

as

evidenced

by the following more formal de


not another

scription which appears

in Hegel's Phdnomenologie des Geistes:

Consciousness finds that it


that this other

immediately
when

is

and

is

consciousness, as also
and

is for itself only

it

cancels

itself as existing for itself,

has

sett

ing

the

significance of

this term in the works of both Feuerbach and Marx (who borrowed the term
multivalent character of

from Feuerbach)
nomic and

can

be traced to the

both

Gattung
are

and

Wesen. The

most

well-known and provocative examples of

Marx's

use of

Gattungswesen

to be

found in The Eco

Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, translated by Martin Milligan, edited by Dirk J. Struik (New York: International Publishers, 1964); see especially pp. 106-19. Ich-Du dyad as the cornerstone of an analy 18. Feuerbach seems to have been the first to use this in his famous text simply titled Ich und sis of interpersonal dynamics. Others such as Martin Buber,

Du (English translation

by

the Feuerbachian use of


will

Walter Kaufman; New York: Scribner, 1970), clearly were influenced by but I the phrase. Ich und Du can just as easily be translated as "I and
You,"

bow to tradition here


used

and translate

it

as

many

others always

have,

as

"I

Thou"

and

(the

"Thou"

has apparently been more formal Sie).


19.

to convey the

sense of

intimacy or closeness entailed in Du in contrast to the

Cf. G. W. F. Hegel, Phdnomenologie des Geistes (original German publication: 1807), Mind (Harper Torchbook edition; New York: translated by J. B. Baillie as The Phenomenology of
Harper
and

Row,

1967),

p. 229.

344

Interpretation
only in the
self-existence of the other.

existence

other, through

which each mediates and unites

itself

Each is the mediating term to the with itself; and each is to itself
at the same

and to the other an

immediate self-existing reality, which,


mediation.

time,

exists

thus

for itself only through this nizing


one
another.20

They

recognize themselves as

mutually recog

By
is

means of each consciousness

in this interaction
each

being

able

to recognize that

it

an object for

the

other

consciousness,

is be

able

to become an object for it

self, which means, in effect,


'stance'

being
same

able

to

conscious of oneself

from the

of another and self.

in the

Although Hegel doesn't


self-reflection,
of
which

spell and

it

way as that other, who is conscious of one out in exactly this way, it seems in this anal
"I"

ysis as though

thus the

posited

by reflective consciousness
in the reflexivity
of con

(that

is,
of

the

"I"

self-consciousness),

are grounded need

sciousness,

itself is

grounded

in the
(For

'point
sort of

view'

of, the
"I,"

conscious other.

for, and capacity Hegel, there does seem

to take the to be some


of

"ego,"

or

that emerges at an

earlier moment

in the dialectic
"I,"

the

de

velopment of

consciousness, prior to the attainment of self-consciousness; how

ever, this

is superseded, and the self-conscious as a later is less incomplete and less achievement, Although the focus on the developmental need of conscious human beings for
earlier moment
abstract).21

each other remained central

throughout

focus

clearly by interpersonal interaction, it is still difficult to find


was oriented

his

appropriation of

Feuerbach's writings, and although this the Hegelian descriptions of


a

consistency

and overall clar

ity
his

in Feuerbach's
Part

views on

this subject, both


and with respect

with respect

to the actual extent of

appropriation of of

Hegel,

to the role of the


earlier

I-Thou

relation

it

self.

this is due to the

differences between his

views,

when

he basi

cally

accepted

the Hegelian philosophical

framework,
may

shaped as

it

was

by the constant reaction


of

against and

his later perspective, attempt to go beyond Hege


and also

lianism. This lack

consistency really

and precision

be partially due to the

fact that Feuerbach


of

never

carried out an extended and systematic analysis

these interpersonal

dynamics, in

the way that

tions about the I-Thou relation abound in many of the


works.

Hegel did, even though asser former's early and later

vidual

by

In his dissertation, for example, Feuerbach argues that the human indi an insatiable desire to unite with others from whom he is divided nature but this separation between individual humans is has
"
.
.

"natural"

20. 21.

Ibid.,

p. 231.

This description

of

Hegel's

analysis would correspond to the approach to


and

namics taken

by

George Herbert Mead

the whole school

of symbolic

interpersonal dy interactionism. As part of


emphasis on
and
"self-concept"

the

American Pragmatist tradition, Mead

also was

the fact that the individual only comes to

'see'

influenced by Hegel, and his central himself/herself (and thus can have a
other'

individuated self-consciousness) by being able to "take the role of the can, I think, be viewed as just a different, and ultimately more concrete, formulation of the same basic process that Hegel was elucidating here. Cf. George Herbert Mead: On Social Psychology edited by Anselm Strauss (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964, revised edition).
22.

Dissertation:

see

Wartofsky, Feuerbach,

p. 44.

Feuerbach's
only

"Philosophy
the

Man"

of

345

overcome via the


man."

sence of

Here,

for self-differentiation

of thought, that is, Reason posited as the "es fundamental need for the is not due to the need and individuation as a distinct human since in fact this

universality

"Thou"

"I,"

individuation is just
parently
which

what one aspires

to transcend: the
with

need

for the
enter

"Thou"

ap

amounts to the

desire to be "one
of

the

other,"

to

into

unity

transcends the

particularity
of man

the I-Thou

dichotomy

itself:
particu

All the interconnections

to man such as love and


must

friendship are limited,

lar, finite, in
which

nature

There

therefore be

the yearning for the Thou can longer counterposed, where this unity is not only nection, but is absolute, unconditional, fully
essential

way in the depths of man in be fulfilled: where the / and the Thou are no
some a virtual

one, not only a mere con

realized.23

The

bond then between

persons qua

way that this thought interaction


tion
with

is both the

precondition

for

human beings is thought, in such a individual life in "truly


human"

others,

and an efficacious

reality only

by

virtue of such

interac

(whereby,
role of

as was stated

living
ating

community").

earlier, Reason is only made real in the "form of a In this context there is no acknowledgment of the individu

thought

(i.e.,

of reflective
"Thou"

cognitive
myself as

necessity of the a human individual.


other

consciousness), and thus, again, of the for my very ability to become conscious of

On the

the process of

The Essence of Christianity Feuerbach does affirm that self-individuation, as essentially entailed in the coming-to-self-

hand, in

consciousness of gues

human beings,

requires

the

"Thou."

that I

first became

conscious of another who


with another

conscious of

my commonality

In this text, he in effect ar is like me, that is, I become human being, and then recognize
as

that I am an object
consciousness

of consciousness

for

me.

This
"I."

pacity
same

of

thought)

to my

come a self-conscious

help becoming an object of consciousness to myself: I be In becoming conscious of myself in this way I at the
recognition

for that other, just leads (with the

he/she is
of

an object of

the reflexive ca

time differentiate

myself

from

all

that is other than myself,

other conscious

person,
sense

whose

my own, in the
man

that I become

individuality more fully


claims

now also recognize as


"our"

including the being like


common
"Thou,"

conscious of

hu
the

individuality. Feuerbach in fact


"I"

that without the human

human
not

would never arise as

such, because the conscious individual would


'world'

be

able

to differentiate himself/herself from the rest of the

over and other

against

which

he/she normally
mediates
"Thou"

stands

in
"I"

self-conscious

distinction. In
in

"Thou"

words, the

eral, so that
pear/or

my both my my consciousness, and I would be


without

self-conscious relation with

the world in gen


effect

the

and

the

world would

disap

more or

less merely

absorbed

into the

'flow

life'

of

without

any

consciousness of

being

so:

Only through his fellow does man become clear to himself and self-conscious; but only
when

am clear

to

myself

does the

world

become

clear

to

me.

man

existing

abso-

23.

Ibid.,

p. 45.

346

Interpretation
alone would

lutely

lose himself
The

without

Nature; he
world as a

would neither comprehend

any sense of his individuality in the ocean of himself as man nor Nature as Nature. The first
which opens

object of man

is

man.

sense of

Nature,

to us the consciousness of the

world, is a later product; for it first arises through the distinction of man

from

himself.24

In The Essence of Christianity


changed with respect

and

Feuerbach's

other

later works, the focus is


"I"

to what constitutes the ultimate ground for the I-Thou re


remains

lation. Even though thought


"Thou,"

a crucial

bond between the

and

the

and

is

still viewed as essential

both for the developmental


experience of

process of

in

dividuation,
mental

and

for the uniquely human


recognition of

that results from the

commonality, it is

no

unity longer the

with other persons

most

funda

human bond. Thought becomes, for Feuerbach, secondary and derivative in relation to, and is viewed as being dependent for its efficacy upon, the even
more

basic bond

of

Sinnlichkeit

("sensuousness"

or
blood"

"sensibility"). Whereas in

his

earlier writings our natural

"flesh

and

character

trapped
came abled which

sory experience, emotion, in our isolated individuality


to view this same human

or pleasure and

pain)

was what

(our capacity for sen kept us effectively

and apart

from others, Feuerbach eventually


that which originally en

"sensuous"

nature as

individuals to
the I-Thou

enter

into

meaningful relation with each

other,

and without of

would never emerge.

Here,

the "natural
"I"

standpoint"

human

beings is the

standpoint of

the distinction between


sensuous

"Thou,"

and and

where

both
no

are recognized

in their human

existence,

this

distinction is
"I"

longer something that needs to be transcended in order for the unity of the and to be realized: Feuerbach now sees that this natural distinction (which he
"Thou"

even refers

to as the "absolute standpoint") is what in


2S

fact

constitutes

this unity

in

the

first

place.

And,

even

though thought does

have

an essential role to

as necessarily communal capacity for abstraction it can overlook, or distort, the fundamental connective force of concrete, flesh and blood human existence, and abstract philosophical

self-conscious

human life (recognized

play in life), given its

thought

has

often

been the

most

guilty

of

this

sort of oversight:

am

I I

for

myself

and at the same time

You

far

as

am a sensuous

being. But the

abstract

for others. But I am You only inso intellect isolates being-for-self as sub

stance, ego, or God; it can therefore, only arbitrarily connect being-for-others with being-for-self, for the necessity for this connection is sensuousness alone. But then it

is precisely sensuousness from which the abstract intellect abstracts. What I think in isolation from sensuousness is what I think without and outside all
connections.26

The

relation

between humans

"I"

and

"Thou,"

seen at this most

basic level

of

human

sensuous

life

("sensuousness"

physically
24. 25.

real

and

referring to the totality of our natural capacities as to what Feuerbach sometimes calls the realm of "the
,

The Essence of Christianity See, e.g., Principles of the


244, in The

pp.

82-83.
of the

Philosophy

Future,

paragraph

56,

p.

243;

and paragraph

59.

P-

Fiery Brook: Selected Writings


32,
p. 225.

of Ludwig Feuerbach.
"You'

26.

Ibid.,

paragraph

Hanfi consistently translates Dm

as

rather

than as

"Thou."

Feuerbach's
heart"

"Philosophy

Man"

of
"the

347

as

distinct from the

concerns of

head"), is thus
of all

grounded

in the

essen

tial need of

living

human beings for


the
"I"

each other and

the concomitant

mutual

de

pendency that characterizes the


primordial need of and

underlying reality for the seems to find its


"Thou"

human

social

life. This
realized,
the rela

most

fully

in

a sense

its

most concrete

expression, according to

Feuerbach, in

tionship between
physiological

a man and a woman.


also

attraction, but
the

due solely to a more immediate involves the fact that our consciousness of our
not

This is

selves,
own

as an outcome of

I-Thou

corporeality, sexuality,

and gender

interaction, entails identity as


rather

the consciousness of our


"feminine."

"masculine"

or

In addition, Feuerbach
tween
nied

recognizes

the special nature

of

the I-Thou relation be

lovers, based

as

it is

"feeling"

on and

than mere
at

intellect,

and accompa

by an

emotional

dependency

fulfillment that
(with

times seems almost para

digmatic in Feuerbach's
and

overall account of the essential claims at one point a

human

need

for the flesh

blood Other. As he

bit

of typical

Feuerbachian

hyperbole):
Hence personality is nothing without distinction of sex; personality is essentially dis tinguished into masculine and feminine. Where there is no thou, there is no /; but the distinction between / and thou, the fundamental condition of all personality, of all sciousness, is only real, living, ardent, when felt as the distinction between man
woman.27

con and

It is

within

the

life-context
and

provided

by

the need-motivated

interaction

of ac

tually
man

existent, sensuous,

thought thus emerges.


and

hu mutually dependent human beings that That is, it is this fundamental I-Thou relation be
enables thought to

'real'

tween flesh
a

blood individuals that

develop

and

become
itself,"

uniquely human force in the world. In Feuerbach's anti-Hegelian writings, thought is no longer treated as a separate, independent reality "in and for but is always emphasized as being just the thinking activity of concrete human

individuals. In fact, he

claims

that it is only through the

need of

human beings to

communicate with each other, and through the natural

that thought (and thus reason)


which

can arise.

capacity for speech itself, Human thought is an internal dialogue,


ability to meaningfully
com

is

later

product of an original attempt and

municate with other persons:

[Ojnly
son.

where man communicates with man, ask a question and to answer


two.28

only in speech,

a social

act, awakes rea

To

are the first acts of thought.

Thought originally

demands

Our
both

cognitive capacities are such that as a result of our communication


other'

(primar
role of con

ily verbal)
"I"

with

others,

we

learn to 'take the


and

role of

the

(we play the


on

"Thou"

and

for ourselves),

thus can learn to

carry

internal

versations with ourselves whether or not others are present:

this, according to

27.
28.

Ibid.,

The Essence of Christianity, p. 83.

p. 92.

348

Interpretation

Feuerbach, is human thinking at its most fundamental level, and its development is, again, constitutively intertwined with the consciousness both of ourselves as uniquely human individuals, and of the essence of the human species itself as
that which we

belong
that

to as species beings:
converses with

Man thinks
which

is, he

himself. The brute individual

can exercise no external to

function
man

has

relation

to its species

without another

itself; but
such a

can perform the apart

functions

of thought and

speech, which strictly


once

imply

relation,

from

another

individual. Man is himself at

and

thou; he

can put

himself in

the place of another,


not

for this reason, that to him his species, his


an object of
thought.2'

essential

nature, and

merely his

individuality, is
perspective

In Feuerbach's

then,

other particular

human beings

always mediate where species

my relationship world includes (i) the human community,


that I recognize
myself as

as a conscious

human individual to
and

world,"

"my
"Nature"

that

ultimately the human

itself

belonging to, (ii)

the realm of

that I also re

late to from
a unique

self-consciously human point of view, and finally (iii) myself as being in that world who stands in essential relation to himself. It is
a

through the

dynamics

of

the I-Thou relation that my species

being,

and

my

exis

tential status as a species

being,
other

are

thus disclosed to me, especially insofar as

this dynamic also amounts to an ongoing dialectic between human commonality


and self-individuation.

In

words, I only

come to see myself

in my distinc
recognition of

tiveness and uniqueness as a particular human


the common

being,

through

my

human

character

(and "essential nature") that I

share with other per

sons,

at

the same time that I recognize that

they

too are unqiue, particular human

beings

who are also

human like

myself.

This

recognition of as

ity

with

others,

and our mutual reflective

distinctiveness
not

both my commonal individuals, does not for the


of

most part

involve the

(and ultimately abstract) activity

merely tabu
and pri rela

lating
mary tion,
other,

what attributes

I do

and

do

have in

common with x number of other


much more

persons.

According

to

Feuerbach,
in the

there seems to be a
and

basic

mutual recognition of
which originates

commonality
blood"

individuality

in the I-Thou

natural need of sensuous

human individuals for each

and

in their "flesh
and

and

other as need not

human,

thus myself as
a

interdependencies. That is, I recognize the being also human like him/her, because I
other.

just any other, but

human

And,

even

though my more purely


viewed as
of a

cognitive needs are not excluded

here, they

are now to

be

just

one as

pect, along
constitutes

with all other physiological and emotional

needs,

totality

that

the

living, breathing "whole


who

person,"

I-Thou

relation grounded
person,"

in this human

need

unavoidably enters into the for the human other. It is this


who

"whole

man"

with

type

essentially requires other humans in order to be "truly hu that Feuerbach glorifies in most of his later works (and, a different emphasis, in his earlier works also to some extent), and it is this of flesh and blood human individual who is a species being.

himself/herself,

29.

Ibid.,

p. 2.

Feuerbach's
To be

"Philosophy
being then,

Man"

of
the

349
analysis,
more or

a species

given

foregoing

less

means

living

this ongoing and peculiarly

human dialectic

of

individuation

and common

ality, as

it

manifests

itself in the

various spheres of meaningful

human life. For


such,
as a

example, in addition to the initial attainment


the human
unique

of mere self-consciousness as of who

individual
a

strives

to acquire and maintain a sense


an estimation of
self-

he/she is

'self-image,'

person,

worth,

and a recognition of

self-sameness over one's personal

time (which includes but is

not

limited to

formal

concept of

identity),

all of which emerge within

the context provided

by

the

interplay
human
yond

of

individuation

and commonality.

The

relation of oneself to one's own and

body,

as well as one's sense of

past, present,

future,

which goes

be

the narrower experience of temporal self-sameness towards a consciousness

of oneself as an

historical

being
are

who stands

in

relation to the

historical

species

(as

made

up

of

the past, present, and future generations of human beings that I

see myself as related

to),

likewise essentially

oriented

by

the interaction of

these two constitutive phenomena.


ual's relation

Again,

all aspects of

the conscious their

individ
human"

to his/her

"world"

are mediated and given

"truly

efficacy by other persons, which is to say that in all facets of our individual lives we are in some sense always already with others. At this level then, Feuerbach's
notion of
being'

"species

being"

can also refer and

to the unique, or characteristic,


being'

'way

of

of
summed
with."30

human beings,
as a

this essential

'way

of

can

probably best be

'world-generating,'

up

multifaceted,

and anthropocentric "Being-

Given that the

interplay

of

individuation

and

commonality

provides the con

stitutive context within which

the self-development of the individual takes place, that most of Feuerbach's claims about the
nature,"

it is in this investigative
"essence,"

sphere

indi

vidual's

or

"essential human Feuerbach is

appear.

Although

on

this sub

ject

of a

human
to

essence

again

regularly

ambiguous and

unclear, he
nature"

does

seem

work with at applicable

least

"essence"

a general conception of an

or

that is not only


can

to the human species taken as a whole, but which also

be

used

to describe the uniquely human features that the


"has."

individual

person

in

some sense
manness of

It

must

be kept in

mind

individuals
merely

and on

the reality of

that, for Feuerbach, the common the human species 'belonging


to'

huare

not established

the basis of these

separate

individual
at

subjects all

hav

ing
ers

a certain set of predicates

in

common.

However, he
analyses

the same time consid

it

quite

legitimate to

emphasize

in his

the

distinctively
'normal'

human fea for

tures and capacities that any individual person (under


can and

circumstances)
capacities

does

exhibit.

In addition, then, to the uniquely human

so

ciality
30.

and consciousness/self-consciousness which a person more or

less

una-

This

notion of a

foundational

"Being-with"

has

gained more

acceptance

through the
being"

works of philosophers

like Martin Heidegger,

and

in my

characterization of

in this century human "spe

cies

as grounded
mind.

in this

"Being-with"

(Mit-sein) I
original

Dasein in
son

Cf. Heidegger's
and

Being and Time,


1962).

translated

particularly have Heidegger's analysis of by John Macquarrie and Edward Robin


was published as

(New York: Harper

Row,

The

German text

Sein

und

Zeit

(Tubingen: Neomarius,

1927)-

350 voidably

Interpretation
actualizes

in his/her
or

'being-in-the-

world,'

Feuerbach does

identify

"powers,"

other specific

attributes,

that the individual

possesses which also

help

to make up that individual's essential nature qua human being. At this point

Feuerbach's

inconsistency
all, in

becomes obvious, because these

attributes are often

treated,
which

after

a more traditional manner as essential predicates without


"man."

the individual subject is simply not a member of the class

The

specific attributes

Feuerbach focuses
and

on

here is

are

Reason (or

"Thought,"

"Under

standing,"

"Intellect"), Will,
up
a
ophy.31

Affection (or
which
'there,'

"Feeling"),

which

together make

triad of the soul (so to speak)

fairly

familiar in the

history of philos

These

qualities are not

just

which

the individual is conscious

of when

however, but together constitute that he/she has achieved consciousness of

his/her "essential

nature:"

What, then, is the nature of man, of which he is conscious, or what constitutes the specific distinction, the proper humanity of man? Reason, Will, Affection. To a com
plete man

belong

the power of

thought, the

power of

will, the power of affection. The

power of thought

is the light

of the

intellect,

the

power of will

is energy

of

character,
the per

the power of affection

is love. Reason, love, force

of

will, are perfections

fections
will, to
and the

of the

human

being
are

nay, more,

they

are absolute perfections of

being. To
man,

love,
basis

to think,
of

the

his

existence.

highest powers, are the absolute Man exists to think, to love, to

nature of man as

will.32

It is primarily in The Essence of Christianity that these


will,
and and

"powers"

of

reason,

feeling

are emphasized as

the three major essential human attributes,


"love"

it is

also

in this text that

"feeling"

and as

are used as more or refer

less inter

changeable
for'

concepts, insofar

both

are

intended to

to any type of

'feeling

that which can


needed

satisfy any human


the organism

diately
possess

to

keep

(apparently, beyond what is imme alive). Again, what is uniquely hu merely


needs not just

man about

these faculties

for Feuerbach is

that

'normal'

all

human beings be

them, but that, in our manifestation of these ings also have the essential capacity to have them as
and

"powers,"

we as species

objects of

consciousness,
to

thus become conscious of our own human essence

("species-essence")

that extent. It

is this self-consciousness, as the individual's consciousness of his/her essential nature, then, that Feuerbach is trying to illuminate when he claims that the faculties of reason, will, and feeling ultimately have themselves
as

their own

objects.33

In addition,
post-

since

in large

part our uniqueness as

human
main

beings
tains
31.

resides

in

what we are capable of

being

conscious of,

Feuerbach

in

a number of

his

1839

writings

that the essence


very traditional Affection. See,

of a certain

being can
no

Other

commentators
essence as a

have

also pointed out the

character of e.g.
,

Feuerbach's

tion of
pp.

human

unity

of

Reason, Will,
Feuerbach's
For

and

Wartofsky, Feuerbach,

261-64,

where

he

reminds us that

"tripartite
32.

soul"

that the

Greeks

affirmed.

Kamenka, The Philosophy of Ludwig


33.

human nature is the classical one of the discussion of this point, see also Eugene Feuerbach (New York: Praeger, 1970), pp. 47-48.
model of

another

ent

The Essence of Christianity, p. 3. Ibid. See, e.g., Feuerbach's discussion of this formulations in many other places in the text.

on pp.

4-6; the

same

idea

emerges

in differ

Feuerbach's

"Philosophy
"objects"

Man"

of

351 any
object of a creature's

be discerned in its
needs,
or

(presumably
and so

activity,

awareness),

the objects of human conscious life can be viewed

as what

distinguish human beings essentially from other types of beings.34 Not only does the individual's human essence include the capacity to have the species, and thus that human essence itself, as objects of consciousness, but it
also seems

include the uniquely human utilization of the same sensory facul strictly speaking, we have in common with other species of animals. That is, the human individual possesses the sense of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, but not in the same way that other sentient creatures do. According to
to ties which,

Feuerbach,
respect

these

human sensory

"universal"

capacities are unlimited and

with

to their possible objects, while the same senses in


"particularized"

other animals are more

narrowly focused and sentient beings can be


needs,
what what stimuli

regarding their

objects.

The

nature of all

seen

in the

objects of their species-specific activities and

their various particular senses are sensitized

to, etc., but


sort of

essentially
of

characterizes the

human

senses

is that they lack any


can provide us

species-specific

limitation

to what experiences

they

with, at least

in terms

breadth:

all possible objects of sentient experience can

be

objects of

human sensory experience, because the human


to only certain types of The
such experience:

senses are not

in

principle

limited

senses of the animal are

relation to certain things that are

certainly keener than those of man, but they are so only in necessarily linked with the needs of the animal; and

are keener precisely because of the determination that they are limited by being exclusively directed towards some definite objects. Man does not possess the sense of smell of a hunting dog or a raven, but because his sense of smell encompasses all kinds

they

of

smell, it is free

and also

indifferent to

particular smells.

But

where a sense

is

ele

vated above

the limits of particularity and above

being

tied down to needs, it is ele

vated to an

independent,
are elevated

to a theoretical significance and

dignity

universal sense

is

intellect,
and

and universal sensuousness

is intellectuality. Even the lowest


activities.

senses

smell

taste

in

man

to intellectual and scientific

The

smell and

taste of things are objects of natural science. ter how contemptuously we


cause

Indeed, even the stomach of man, no mat look down upon it, is something human and not animal be
not

it is universal; that is,

limited to

certain

kinds

of

food. That is why

man

is

free from that ferocious voracity with which the animal hurls itself on its prey. Leave a man his head, but give him the stomach of a lion or a horse, and he will certainly cease
to

be

a man.

A limited

stomach

is

compatible

only

with a

limited,

that

is,

animal

sense.

Man's
a

moral and rational

relationship to his
treatment.35

stomach consists

therefore in his

according it

human

and not a

beastly

As the

above passage

indicates,

there is a very fundamental interconnection


"intellective"

between

sensory capacities and experience, and our rational or faculties. That is, not only are the human senses in themselves less restricted and liminarrowly focused than those same senses are in other animals, but even the
our
34.

See,

e.g.. Principles of the

Philosophy

of the

Future,

paragraph?, pp. 180-83,

inTheFiery

Brook: Selected Writings of Ludwig Feuerbach.


35.

Ibid.,

paragraph

53,

p. 242.

352

Interpretation
our senses

tations that do exist for

(e.g., being less keen

than those of other ani


or as

mals)
reflect

are more

than compensated for

on,

our

sensory

experience.

ability to think about, As human individuals we naturally have

by

our cognitive

'rational'

part of our

conceptualize, and

makeup the ability to classify, categorize, extrapolate, thus to abstract from and theorize about immediate experi
well as our sensuous

ence,

so

that all such experience (as

life in general) is in the


as

end always mediated

by

these cognitive capacities, at the same time that we, of


"feeling"

course,

remain more

sensuous,
generally,

beings. In
and

other

words,

Feuerbach

might

say here,
that gives

"thought"

"sensuousness"

continually

mediate

each other.

It is this uniquely human mode of abstractive, conceptual thought rise to the natural human propensity for generalizing, or universalizing

experiences

(sensory

or

otherwise),

and

it is

also as a result

then of this

capacity
of

for

universalization species

that the human individual is able to acquire a concept of the


at one

human

man conscious experience

itself. Consequently, for Feuerbach, the human species just is


to as such

important level

hu
and

a product of

abstraction,
one must

is
in

more or
mind

less

related

by the

individual
is

person.

Again,

keep
as

that the species qua abstract concept

not

merely

a product of philo
"man"

sophical speculation.

From Feuerbach's
the human
"world,"

perspective this concept of

such

is

a natural product of
of

individual's

cognitive apprehension and

interpretation
or

his/her

because the
this sort

exercise of

human thought itself,

Reason, demands

universals of

rather

than mere particulars. This cog

nitive

demand holds for the

countered

tion of

apprehension of all types, or species, of entities en in the world, but it is especially compelling with respect to the acquisi the human species as an object of consciousness: "Reason cannot content

itself in the

individual; it has its


. .

adequate existence

only

when

it has the

species

for its

object

Given the fact that in Feuerbach's


object of

analyses

having

the

human

species as an

consciousness,

by which

one

designates

oneself as a

human individual,
need

often means

having the

human

essence as an object of

consciousness, the
the need to

to

have the

species as an abstraction

for thought

also

indicates

identify
as a or

and relate oneself cific

to a concept of the

human

essence which

transcends any spe

particularizations, that

is,

all

individuality. In this
"my"

context

am

not,

self-conscious

unique capacities as a
ual of

individual, merely human being;


limited in
am

conscious

of

essential

attributes

also recognize

am

finite

and

relation to the abstract

existing individ universality of the "essence

that as an

man"

distinction between myself as individual existent, and the human essence as such, which amounts to the dis tinction between myself as an individual human and the human species. And, the recognition of this distinction entails the experience of the schism between my own particularity and the Given the universality of "essential human concrete diversity of human beings, no particular individual is an adequate or
an
nature."

as such.

thus able to make a crucial

complete expression of
36.

the

human essence,

and

also recognize

this fact in my

The Essence of Christianity, Appendix 4,

p. 287.

Feuerbach's
own

"Philosophy

Man"

of

353
and of

case,

such recognition

leading further to a sense of lack,

my

own

im

perfection qua

human
is

individual.37

between

what one

as a

human essence) is

as an

Further, this consciousness of the dichotomy particular human being, and what the species (i.e., the abstraction for thought, is enhanced in real life, from
as

Feuerbach's perspective, insofar


with

he

also

identifies the
where

"species"

concept of grounded again

the notion of an "ideal nature of


nature"

man,"

this normatively

"ideal
shifts

is

our essential

human

nature.38

As

can

be seen, Feuerbach

here, so that the emphasis is not now so much on the essential nature of the human individual, but more on the fact that the human es sence is really only to be the species itself, with completely discovered
"in"

his investigative focus

which

the

individual

nonetheless enters claim that

into

an essential and not

tion. In addition,

in his

the human essence does

self-defining rela "reside the in


in"

dividual, but only in the human species, he is operating once more at two distinct levels of analysis (which, again, do not appear to stand in any consistent method
ological relation

to each other

in his

species"

as
other

simply

an abstraction
mind

times

he has in

"the up

species"

writings): sometimes he is referring to "the for thought, in the way discussed above; at as an historical reality, that is, as the to

tal human

community

made

of all

past, present,

and

future

generations of ac

tual human

beings,

wherein

the human essence


at

When Feuerbach is working


sence,"

is actually realized. the investigative level where the thought, the


concepts of
"ideality,"

species
and

is

"species"

viewed as an abstracted product of

"es

"universality"

and

the characteristics of

and
individual,"

are all associated


"existence," "particularity,"

together as standing over against "the


"reality."

and

just

an

In acknowledging that, at this level anyway, the human essence is abstract object for human thought, Feuerbach wants to point out that this
human necessary and indispensable one for the indi self-understanding, because it illuminates the fact that the na
essence

concept of

is

still a

vidual's adequate

"humanity,"

"man,"

ture of
and capacities as a species qua essential

or

is

not summed

that are

possessed

by

that

particular

up merely in terms of the attributes individual. Put another way,

being

the individual comes to recognize that his/her species


nature

being

human

is

that which constitutes him/her

both

and as a existing individual in distinction from the species, individual. Actually, it was when Feuerbach treated the species object of thought that somehow stood

concretely distinctively human


as

as a

the essential

in

contrast

to the concrete existence of the

individual,
tellectuals,

that he came
most

under some of

the heaviest attacks

by

various other

in

notably Max Stirner

and

then Marx and Engels. While the latter

two thinkers

were critical of much more than

just this

aspect of

Feuerbach's

pro

ject,

and accused

Stirner did focus primarily on this notion of an abstract "essence of Feuerbach of dividing human beings into an essential and an

man,"

ines-

adequate expression of his species, 37. Ibid. See, e.g., Appendix i, p. 281: "No individual is an but only the human individual is conscious of the distinction between the species and the individual

38.

Ibid. See, e.g.,

pp. 206-207.

354
sential

Interpretation
"ego,"

"I,"

or

whereby the

("man"

species

as

such)

was our

"true

es

sence"

in

contrast

to the

"inessential"

ing analysis is
Feuerbachian

accurate, Stirner

wasn't

existing individual incorrect in pointing


seem to

"ego."39

If the

preced
of the
an ex

out

this

feature

man,"

"philosophy

of

but he did

overlook

to quite

tent just how and why Feuerbach utilized this concept of an "abstract
sence."

human

es

Given Feuerbach's
nature,"

own

imprecision
of

and

inconsistency

in his

views on

"human

however,
same at

forgivable. At the

misunderstanding on Stirner's part may be time, in his response to Stirner's criticisms (which were
this sort
also seems

directed specifically
miss

The Essence of Christianity) Feuerbach


overcome the place.

to

their point somewhat, insofar as he argues that the overall aim of the text in

question was

in fact to

rift between the


aim was

essential and

inessential

"being

man"

of

in the first

This

to be carried out through a philo

sophical analysis

(Vergotterung)
zur
Ferse.")40

of

amounting to the affirmation and, apparently, the deification des ganzen Menschen vom Kopfe bis the "whole (".
man"

Glorifying

the "whole

man"

in this

sense

does

not seem

to an
sta

swer,
tus of

at

least directly, the question concerning the essential or nonessential the existing individual vis-a-vis the abstract species qua "essence of
response

man"

as such.

In this 1845
as

to

Stirner, however, Feuerbach


truly
resided,

also

brings up the
species

point

that one of his purposes in placing so much emphasis on the that


wherein

human

itself,

the human essence more


and

was

to address the very

real

feeling of limitation
want

finitude that the individual

person often experiences

as part of the consciousness of

himself/herself

as an

individual human being.


also

Feuerbach did his

to affirm human

individuality, but he

wanted, through

philosophical

writings, to

help

people overcome

the rather self-deprecating

feeling of limitation associated with this individuality, by helping them recognize that they after all do participate in by virtue of their being mem
'unlimitedness'

bers
"in"

of

the human

species.41

This
"in"

aim of

his discloses the

other

level
as

of analysis

at which

he

operates when

he focuses
the

on

"essential human
person.

nature"

it is found

the species rather than

individual

At this level the hu


abstractive

man species

is

not a mere concept and a product of the

individual's

thought,
views

is it merely identical to the human essence as such. Here Feuerbach the species at the actual human community in its historical existence and
nor

reality,

made

up

of all

past, present,
which

and

future human beings do


enter. of

and

the

multiplic

ity

of social relations
man"

into

they

can and

In this context, then, the


attributes and capacities

"essence
39.

of

refers

both to the totality

human

York:
sein

Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own, translated by Steven T. Byington (republication; New Dover, 1973), pp. 34-67. The original German text was published in 1845 as Der Einzige und

Eigentum.

40.

My

"

rendering:
Christentums"

of

the whole man

from head

to

heel."

"Wesen des

in

Beziehung

aufden

"Einzigen

und sein

Christianity
phische

41.

in relation to The Ego and its Own"), reprinted in Ludwig Feuerbach: Kleine philoso Schriften (1842-45), edited by Max Gustav Lange (Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1950), p 182 Ibid. See pp. 187-88.

See Feuerbach's essay Uber das Eigentum'' ("On The Essence of

Feuerbach's
viewed as a

"Philosophy
human

Man"

of

355
manifestations

totality of all their different possible

(given the infinite

diversity
human

of actual

individuals),

and

to the fundamental
'

'way

being'

of a

of

human beings characterizable


mode of

as an essential

being-

with-others'

in

uniquely
to be

community life.
and

The idea that the human essence, found in the "community of


community"

thus human species


goes
on

being, is only
far
as

man,"

of

course,

back

as

Feuerbach's

dissertation, but in Feuerbach's later thinking


was not

this subject this "essence in


as

just the universality


mind an and

of

thought

he had

earlier asserted.

The later Feuerbach has in


made

historically

grounded

human community
their capacities
and who
"world,"

up
to

of

concrete, flesh

blood individuals
etc.),

who exercise all

(sensory, intellectual, emotional,


come

who create their own

know themselves

within the constitutive context provided

by

the direct

and

indirect interaction
single man

with others:
possesses

The

in isolation

in himself the is

essence of man neither as a moral

nor as a

thinking being. The


with man a
"I"

essence of man

contained

unity of man

unity,

however,

that rests on the reality of the

only in the community, in the distinction

between

and

"You."42

In this
tial

sense our

"essential human
and

nature,"

our

"species
as

being,"

just is this

essen
life."

"species-life,"

is

also

But Feuerbach
not

wants to go

identifiable simply farther than this in his


which,
when

"the

essence of

human

claim

that the human essence is

just

some set of attributes

vidual
"man."

beings,

in any number of indi merely designates those individuals as members of the abstract class
present we can

Even though
to

identify
no

essential

features
again,

of

the individual human

being, according
limitations
vidual,
of

Feuerbach

individual
of

is,

an adequate expression of

the human essence because the limitations the species itself taken in its
whole. as universal and

any

particular

individual

are not

the

living, historical reality

as a

transindi-

'transgenerational'

At this investigative level the


the
person as

relationships

be
and and

tween the species

existence,

whole and

part, the
"real"

one and

particular, between essence the many, etc., becomes as concrete

for Feuerbach, insofar as they ultimately find their they most fundamental and expression in the extremely significant yet more or less commonplace observation that what human beings can't accomplish individ
nonabstract as
will get

ually,

they

can accomplish collectively.

That

is,

whereas

individuals

always ac
within

tualize their human potentialities,


"imperfect,"

and exercise

their

human faculties,

the

limitations imposed by their own specific, diversified particularity, and are al the human race taken as an historical whole is freed from ways thus
this particularity,
and

is thus

unlimited and

in

"perfect."

effect

According
plete, perfect,
and

to Feuerbach then, the human essence as it


and unlimited manifestation of all

truly is

entails

the com
"powers"

distinctively
is in fact
p.

human

faculties,

and this unlimitedness and perfection

realized

in the

his-

42.

Principles of the

Philosophy

of the

Future,

paragraph

59,

244, in The

Fiery Brook: Se

lected Writings of Ludwig Feuerbach.

356

Interpretation

its past, present, and future actuality). This is so because the shortcomings of one individual in one facet of human life are always made up for by the relative lack of such deficiency on the part of other individuals; human be
torical species (in

ings

supplement and complement each other

in terms

of

the manifestation of all


all

essential

features

of

human existence,

and

thus collectively transcend

limita
fo

tions and restrictions on essential human nature, in the course of world

history.
than

So,

to view the species as a

whole

from this historical perspective,

rather

cusing only on the presently existing human population, or only on the isolated individual, is the only adequate way to fully understand what the human essence really is, in Feuerbach's estimation. At this level the distinction between the spe
cies and

the individual is thus preserved and even glorified, but always with the
the

recognition of

that he/she only

fact that the individual is only fulfilled as a human individual, fully appropriates and lives out his/her species being, and that in this
unlimitedness of

he/she only

participates

the species, through the

world-

constituting relationship to the human Other. In fact, Feuerbach's critique of Christian religious consciousness is in part directed at what he considers to be the

false identification
thought
of
sees
"man"

of

the species and the individual. In other words, Christian

the imperfections and

limitations

of

the individual as the

limitation individual

as

such,

and thus

only

views

the human community as an aggregate of

isolated, individual
finiteness
and

sinners,

who are sinners

just

by

virtue of

their

"imperfection":
idea
of

The total its

absence of the

the

species

in

Christianity

characteristic

doctrine

of the universal sinfulness of men.

is especially observable in For there lies at the foun be


an

dation

of this

doctrine the demand is based

that the

individual

shall not

individual,

de
a

mand which again perfect

on the presupposition that the

individual

by

himself is

being, is by himself the


the

adequate presentation or existence of the species.

Here

is entirely wanting the


to the
perfection of

objective perception, the

consciousness, that the thou


to constitute

belongs

/,

that

men are required

taken together are what man should and can


are not all sinners

be. All

men are sinners.

humanity, that only men Granted; but they


a great and essential

in the

same way; on the


man

contrary, there exists

difference between them. One

is inclined to falsehood, another is not; he would rather give up his life than break his word or tell a lie; the third has a propensity to in the fourth to while the whether favour toxication, of Nature, or licentiousness; fifth, by from the energy of his character, exhibits none of these vices. Thus, in the moral as
well as the physical and

intellectual elements,

men compensate

for

each

other, so that,

taken as a whole,

they

are as

they

should

be, they

present the perfect

man.43

As

was

indicated

at the

outset, Feuerbach
of

believed that his "new


"old"

philosoph

would provide a

liberation,
people
and

sorts, for

humankind, both because


human reality,

such a philos

ophy (both

would

help

to free themselves from their


of essential

misunderstandings and

religious

"speculative")

because it

would reestablish all subsequent

human

inquiry, including

the natural sciences,


good reason to

on a new and more adequate materialist


43.

basis. Although there is

The Essence of Christianity,

pp. 155-56.

Feuerbach'

"Philosophy

Man"

of
was not all

357
that

think that
after all

his "new

philosophy"

liberating for the

"human

spirit"

bly

(even assuming for the sake of argument that "a might be for people generally), I have tried to
"liberating"

philosophy"

conceiva show

how Feuer
the time

bach

at

least has

provided us with some

accurate,

insightful,
human

and at

novel analyses which seem

to

go

to the very core of

experience.

He

was

rarely consistent,
and

or

in the

presentation of

conceptually rigorous, in his philosophical investigations his conclusions. However, in his constant emphasis on
and

the dialectical

interplay between human commonality and self-individuation,


nature"

in his
and

relentless assertions

blood"

"real,"

that it is only within the context of the living, "flesh human community that "essential human can be said to be Feuerbach illuminated certain dimensions of meaningful human existence

that previously had been only partially understood, and


subsequent philosophical

he forced

a good

deal

of

inquiry

to

attend more

carefully to these foundational

characteristics of what we often refer

to nowadays as "the human

condition."

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


Allan D. Nelson

University

of Waterloo

Over the century since its first publication, countless readers have been im pressed, intrigued and charmed by John Stuart Mill's autobiographical account
of

his intellectual

development.1

Those

of us who are products of the affluent and

easygoing democratic society


render even more

which

his influence has helped to

sustain

and

austere and

permissive, tend to be particularly impressed by the apparently rigorous regimen imposed upon him by his father, in the latter's

effort to groom
of us who

him for the life


also

of a social reformer and philosopher. an era

And those

have

been formed in

come clined

the queen of the sciences to

psychology has tended to be (a development which Mill also assisted) are in


which
"crisis"

in

interpret Mill's touching account of what he terms the "mental development", in terms of subconscious forces somehow
that austere boyhood. That
the

in his

generated
warranted

tendency
his

of

interpretation
and

appears

to be

by by

fact that Mill's "the


crisis,"

"crisis"

account of

its immediate
refer

aftermath centers

feelings."

upon

Thus, interpreters commonly

to the event as Mill's

"mental forces

a phrase more congenial to connotations of

dark,

nonrational

at work.

However,

Mill's

account of this period concentrates upon several

intellectual
im

problems which concerned

him

at

that time in his life.


that

And,

toward the end of his

account of this

period, he tells

us

he has

"only
and

specified such of

my

new

pressions as appeared

to me, both at the time


progress

since, to

be

kind

of

turning

points, marking
stresses that this

definite

in my

thought"

mode of

(175). Mill, thus,


of

is

fundamentally
his

an account of

the

development
an

this thought

or understanding.

That does does

not preclude
"crisis"

the possibility that


since

chological explanation of compressed one which

is correct,

Mill's

not

explicitly

connect all of

essentially psy is a very the cited intellectual


account

problems to the crisis per se, or to each other.

Much is left to further interpreta variety


of

tion;

and

it is
the

not

surprising that there has


main

resulted a

differing

interpre Some

tations

of

precise character and cause of

his

crisis. and explanation.

There have been three


commentators,

lines

of

interpretation
who

following

Alexander

size overwork and consequent

knew Mill personally, empha Bain, physical exhaustion. Others, like A. W. Levi and

Clinton Machann, have cially


1
.

stressed subconscious psychological with

disturbances,

espe

pertaining to Mill's relationship

his father. And


the

still

others, like John

John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, in


and associates

volume 1 of

John M. Robson
erences to the

(Toronto:

University
as

Autobiography
will

will

be

rendered

Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, ed. Toronto Press, 1967-82). Specific page ref in parentheses in the text. Further references to the
of

Collected Works

be

rendered

simply

C.W., followed by

the volume and page numbers.

360

Interpretation

M. Robson, R. D.
other

Cumming
of

and

John

Durham, have
Mill
came

given greater emphasis

to

particular philosophic problems with which

to be

concerned at
narrow.2

that or

times; but the focus


mutually

these
of

interpretations tends to be too

These

are not

exclusive

lines

interpretation,
three; but the
tends to

and

virtually
when

all commentators

give some acknowledgement to all


when

psychological

dimension,
not

even

distract

focus, distort, entirely from, the philosophic problems which were at the root of Mill's despair. Consequently, the most patently questionable feature of the extant inter
not made

it is

the primary

it does

attention

pretations of

Mill's crisis,

as the

following

exposition will

implicitly

show, is

that
of

they fail to take sufficient notice of what Mill himself tells us in explanation his malady and its remedy. That failure no doubt owes much to modern psy
theories
which

chological

too readily incline the analyst to believe that

he knows

the motivations of the subject

better than the have

subject

himself does.
crisis with one or an
so

Although
other of

some commentators

connected

Mill's

the intellectual problems

with which

he

was

grappling, none,

far

as

know,
so.

attempts to explain

it

by
he

reference to a connected view of the successive


mentions.

intellectual

problems which

The

present paper will attempt

to

do

Through
will

such a connected view of

the

elements

included in Mill's

own ac

count, it

become

evident

that his

was

ing. Whatever

ambivalence

may have

afflicted

essentially a crisis of the understand Mill's feelings about his father,


may have beset him
on

and whatever physical or mental weariness of

the threshold

that crisis, is substantially irrelevant to

a proper

understanding

of the nature of

that crisis, its cause and its resolution. Mill's crisis was caused that the philosophy
or connected view of

father

was

seriously defective. The

by the realization things to which he had been led by his story of his resolution of that difficulty is a
of

struggle with a logically connected series story ical problems. His account of that struggle is a brief of

his

intellectual

or philosoph with

sketch of

his break

his

intellectual beginnings. And that

account makes

it

clear

that the break was

inti

mately connected with Mill's understanding (or misunderstanding) its relation to human choice and action.
Mill's
resolution of

of nature and

his basic

problem appears to

have been

worked out

in
as

stages, through

a series of successive

insights

or alterations of

understanding,

well as exposure

to new emotional stimuli. In the

initial

stages

concerned with the emotional overtones or reverberations.

he is primarily It is only in the later


Green, 1882), Review, 32 (1945),

2.

37-38; A. W.

See: Alexander Bain, John Stuart Mill: A Criticism (London: Longmans, Mill," Levi, "The Mental Crisis of John Stuart Psychoanalytic

86-101; Clinton Machann, "John Stuart Mill's 'Mental Crisis': Adlerian Interpretation," Journal of Individual Psychology, 29, No. I (May 1973), 76-87; John M. Robson, The Improvement of Man kind: The Social and Political Thought of John Stuart Mill (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968), ch. 2; R. D. Cumming, Human Nature and History (Chicago: of Chicago
1969), 11, 370-88; John
Thoughts,"

19th

visited,"

Press, University Durham, "The Influence of John Stuart Mill's Mental Crisis on His American Imago, 20 (1963), 369-84; Crane Brinton, English Political Thought in the Century (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), p. 89; J. Stanley Yake, "Mill's Mental Crisis Re The Mill News Letter, IX, No. I (Fall 1973), 2-12.

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


stages

361
we shall

that he addresses the strictly


shall also see of

see. ent

We

intellectual causes of his problem, as that it is only in the last stages that Mill arrives at
problem and the things to which

a coher

understanding
emerged

his

it relates,

albeit one

that

remains problematical.

It

will

be best to

examine these stages or steps

by

which

Mill

occurred.

from his depressed state, more or less in the order in which they The brevity and imprecision of Mill's later autobiographical account of

his thinking
sequence,

during this period leaves


general

some uncertainties as to some

details

of

the

but the

direction

of movement appears

fairly

clear.

I. THE PROBLEM: THE

"FAILURE"

OF THE

"FEELINGS"

In the

autumn of

1826,

at the

tender

age of

twenty years,

with a past record of

intellectual

and

journalistic

activities and a reputation as a social reformer which

belied his youth, Mill ceased to find pleasure in the work which had previously given meaning to his life. He reports that he was, at the time, "in a dull state of
nerves,
such as

everybody is occasionally liable to;


one of

unsusceptible

to enjoyment

or pleasurable

excitement;

those
. .

moods when what

is

pleasure at other

(137). The times, becomes insipid or indifferent been wholly or partly the product of obscure emotional

"mood"

itself may have

or physiological condi

tions; but the


quence of generated

"mood"

did

not constitute
followed.3

the

"crisis."

The
the

crisis was the conse and whatever

the thought

which

And,

"mood"

while

it may have helped to trigger the thoughts, there is no evidence to sug gest that the thought which ensued was in any way determined or distorted by the
"mood"

or any subrational elements underlying it. In his depressed state of mind, Mill put to himself the all your objects

following

question:

'Suppose that

in life
are

were

realized; that all the changes

in insti

tutions and opinions


effected at

which you

this very instant:

would

his dismay, "an irrepressible effect was devastating. "At this my heart sank within me: the whole foundation on which my life was constructed fell down. All my happiness was to have been

looking forward to, could be completely be a great joy and happiness to To self-consciousness instantly answered, The
this
you?'

'No!'"

found in the
for"

continual pursuit of

this end. The end had ceased to charm, and how

could there ever again be any interest in the means: I seemed to have nothing left to which he refers, of course, is his benevolent ob (139). The to live were his jective of promoting the happiness of his fellow men; and the
"end"

"means"

specific reformist objectives and activities.

Mill's initial

assessment of

the cause of his problem attributed it to a simple

"feelings"

failure
3.

of

the

or emotional attachments

to the primary objects of his

"In

all

many
the
was

others

so peculiar as I fancied it, and I doubt not that probability my case was by no means idiosyncrasies of my education had given to but the similar through a state; have passed

general phenomenon a special character, which made

it

seem the natural effect of causes that

it

hardly

possible

for time to

remove"

(145)-

362

Interpretation
Mill had been carefully reared by his father in and psychological doctrines which James Mill
association with
accordance with

aspirations.

the

philosophic

and others were

de

veloping in
taught that
and

Jeremy

Bentham.

"happiness is the test

of all rules

Young John had been persistently of conduct, and the end of (145)
life"

that "the pleasure of sympathy with human the good of others, and especially
were

beings,

and

the feelings which

made

mankind on a

happiness"

existence,
vigorous

the greatest and surest sources of


social reform

large scale, the object of (143). The boy's


these convictions and
now

dedication to
such

had been based

upon

fueled
no

by

"feelings"

for the happiness

of others.

But

he discovered he

longer really cared about the happiness of others. He had apparently not ceased to care for his own happiness; and he had not ceased to believe in "the

happiness
corollary.

principle"

and what we might term

"the benevolence
practical

principle"

as

its

But the

"feelings"

necessary to give
and not give

impetus to the benevo

lence

principle were no

longer there;

make me of

happy if I had it,

did

merely "to know that a feeling would (143). Thus, the collapse me the
feeling"

his benevolent

"feelings"

also

destroyed the

prospects

for his

own

happiness.

If Mill's continuing happiness was to be secured through the noble struggle for social reform for the benefit of his fellow men, what would become of his

happiness if that
his
own

task was

successfully ills

completed?

Mill had

come

to realize that

happiness

was contingent upon

the continued existence of conditions of

deprivation for deprived


of

others.

If

all social

were

completely eliminated, he

would

be

his "object

existence,"

of

the most necessary condition of


activities were now seen to
and as a means

his

own as a

happiness. His benevolent


means to

be paradoxical, both
of others.

his

own

happiness

to the

happiness

his

Although his strong sense of duty was sufficient to support the continuance of usual activities in pursuit of the public good, even during the periods of his
activities were carried on without enthusiasm or plea continue to promote the good of others through various
now realized

deepest dejection, those sure. He might dutifully


measures of social
pathize"

reform; but he

that

he

was unable

to

truly "sym
no

them. He felt no pleasure in working toward their pleasure in contemplating the happiness which they would
with

happiness,

from his

efforts.

He

concluded

that his "love

of

presumably derive and of excellence for mankind,


to

its

own

sake, had

worn of

itself

out"

(139). It

was

that the promotion to his own


and not

the

happiness

of others was

apparently not enough "the greatest and


for their

believe
means

surest"

happiness. One had to love

mankind and virtue

own

sake,

merely as the means to one's own pleasure. Mill's initial reaction to his new incapacity to take It
appeared to

pleasure

in the happiness
real

of

others was causes.

too overladen with a sense of moral guilt to shed

him that his

natural selfish concern with

any his

light

on

its

own

happiness

had taken

grasping character grossly inconsistent with his rearing presumably due to some defect in his own character for which he was responsible. He felt that his was not in "There any way a "respectable was nothing in it to attract (139). It was simply And,
distress."
sympathy"

on a narrowed and

"egotistical."

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


now

363
own

deprived

of

the greatest and surest means to his

happiness,

even

the

lesser
the

pleasures

general

lost their flavor. Thus, he came to take "no delight in virtue or good, but also just as little in anything else. The fountains of vanity
to

and ambition seemed

have dried up

within

me,

as

completely

as those of

be

nevolence"

(143). "Thus

neither selfish nor unselfish pleasures were pleasures to

me."

He had thoroughly lost the capacity to draw pleasure from the activities which should please; and he was depressingly preoccupied with the loss. Mill's
increased
pects

sense of guilt over

the loss

of

his love

of mankind could

by

his

subsequent recurrent preoccupation with

his

own

only have been dismal pros petty to him.

for happiness. The

whole problem appeared rather sordid and

It

"interesting"

was not even an

condition,

other

than in the most

narrow personal

way, because it revealed no useful general truths of any kind (139). It was only of interest to Mill, the selfish egotist. It was of no interest to Mill, the philoso
pher or scientist.

And it

was

merely

contemptible

to

Mill,

the moralist.

In
ized"4

view of

the rather conventional, and that is

of course

to say "Christian

character of

his father's
and

moral

beliefs

and

the

consequent

heavy

emphasis

upon

love

of

humanity
he
And in

benevolence in John's education, it is

perhaps not

surprising that

might reproach view of

his fellow

man.

himself for any perceived deficiency of love for the intense love of nobility which Mill had ac
extensive

quired, in large
cal and

measure

from the

historical texts

prescribed

by

study of classical Greek philosophi his father, it is little wonder that he would
opportunity to attain nobility on a James and John Mill's moral phi
ones.

be

so

devastated

by

the loss of his

greatest

grand scale.

But these derivative


upon

elements of

losophy

rested

abandonment of modifications

very different foundations than their original Christian theological doctrine must lead to some
"Christian"

The

significant

love and charity re in the meaning and implications of same tained within a different framework of thought. And the may be said of the classical conception of human nobility when divorced from the teleological con
ception of nature upon which

it

was

thought

provide a sufficient ground

originally based. Did the new framework of for the retention of that love of humanity and

of excellence or virtue

wholly consistent by his father, Jeremy


an older

Had young Mill's motivations been with the implications of the basic doctrines he had been taught Bentham and others? Or, had he (and they) been living off

for their

own sake?

legacy

of thoughts which were


some

inconsistent

with

that new doctrine?

He

must

have had

doubts

and uncertainties about

this as

he

put

his

sense of

guilt aside to seek the


ist"

cause of

his

affliction

by

reflecting

upon

the

"association-

psychological

doctrine

which provided

that new framework of thought.


me

study,"

"My
4.

course of

he

explains,

"had led

to believe that all

mental and

Christian moral principles heavily influenced That is, merely in the sense that the conventional even though neither adhered to James Mill's moral views, as they did those of his son, (41-53)The specific influences are derived were principles those which the religious doctrines from moral legacy of Christianity, in his essay on the "Utility of the on remarks later John's in reflected note 37, below. which he began writing in 1854: see
the
content of
Religion,"

364
moral

Interpretation
and

feelings

qualities,

whether of a good or a

bad kind,

were the results of

association; that
action or

we

love

one

thing,

and

hate another, take

pleasure

in

one sort of

contemplation,

and pain

in

another

sort, through the clinging of pleas


the effect of education or of experi

urable or painful
ence"

ideas

of

those

things, from

(141). Therefore,

what

the particular individual will tend to

desire

or

to

avoid, depends wholly upon the associations which are formed by his particular combination of life experiences, especially those which occurred during the ear lier and thus more formative period of his life. The wide diversity of such experi ences, owing to the
wide

diversity

of circumstances

different individuals, along with variations accounts for the observable diversities of aspiration belief in
and

surrounding the lives of in individual gifts or latent capacities,


and

aversion,

as well as of

disbelief.
that chance plays a very great role, perhaps the chief role,
"association"

This

would suggest

determining

vidual.5

stressed

the content of the beliefs, aspirations and aversions of each indi But, following his father's lead, Mill's theory rather the possibilities of transcending this element of chance, by deliberately these variable circumstances
"associations"

seizing
a

control over

way

as

to shape the

of all men

manipulating them in such according to plan. If one can de


and

liberately mold the experiences of the


culcate the preferred

individual

by controlling and reforming his


thereby in

surrounding environment, beliefs


"fundamental"

one can

direct the

associative process and

and values.

father's

psychological

Thus Mill approvingly tells us that his doctrine was "the formation of all human
universal

character

by

circumstances, through the

Principle

of

Association,

and

the consequent unlimited

dition

of mankind

by

education."

possibility of improving the moral and intellectual con He further observes that, of all his father's doc
or needs more

trines, "none
quired

was more

important than this,

to be insisted on

(109-10). And,

since much of one's

education, in the broadest sense, is

ac

informally

through the impact of existing social

institutions

and

practices,

a proper attention

to the education of mankind necessarily embraced a to be guided

heavy em
princi

phasis upon general social reform.

All
ple"

such reform efforts were of course

by

"the happiness
was

and
vate

its corollary, the benevolence


of others.

principle.

The basic strategy


greatest

to culti

the capacity of the

individual to derive his


"I had
always

happiness from serving

the

happiness

heard it

maintained

myself

convinced, that the


the

object of education should

by my father, and was be to form the strongest


things hurtful to
source of
it"

possible associations of

salutary class;

associations of pleasure with all things

beneficial to the (141). The


conflict,

great whole of

humanity
resolved,

and of pain with all

perennial problem of mine versus

thine, that fertile

human
of

was

thus to be

finally

not

by sacrificing

the

happiness

the

individual to society, nor the converse, but by artificially contriving to make them one. For the sake of what was promised to be his own greater and more as
sured
5.

happiness,

the

individual

must

learn to

care most
and

immediately
,

and in.

See: John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic Ratiocinative

Inductive, CW. vm, 840-41

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed tensely for the happiness
of others.

365
well-

And

when

the requirements for the


own

being

of others come

into direct
and

conflict with

his

must sacrifice

the

latter,

thereby
his

attain an even greater pleasure

immediate pleasures, he from con

templating the
This
was

own nobility in facilitating it. assuredly an ingenius and inspiring strategy, if it would work. And it did work, for a time, with young John, whose education had been meticulously directed by this strategy based upon this understanding of the nature and genesis good to others and
of

human

aspirations and aversions.

But

now the

strategy

seemed

to be

failing

in

its

most essential

feature. Why? What had

sundered the

"association"

between
associ

Mill's
ation

sense of pleasure or satisfaction and


was correct and

the happiness

of others?

If the

was a sound practical ap Mill's malady in its terms. What does it reveal? In the first place, the deterministic character of the "associa process described by that theory seemed to imply that the cause of any such
plication of

theory

the benevolence strategy

it,

then

it

ought to

be

possible to explain

tion"

failed

association

must

be traceable to the formative him


whose character was

external

circumstances

which are

beyond the

control of

being

thus formed. The

theory

provided no apparent support more might

for

moral self-castigation.

What

further
case

reflection upon

that

theory

reveal?

Was the

crucial

association plied?

in Mill's
the

improperly formed;

was

the doctrine

improperly
respect?

Or

was

doctrine itself defective in

some

important

ap Mill's

thoughts first turn to the possibility

of misapplication.

II. THE SEARCH FOR EXTERNAL CAUSES

In

keeping

with

the ostensibly
"feelings"

accidental and

therefore variable relationship

between the
and

specific

or aspirations and

aversions,

on

the one

hand,

the

various objects which compose

the order of nature or the things which


sought

constitute our

world, on the
of

other

hand, Mill first

to explain
artificial

his

condition

through an

investigation

the

requirements of a

durable

bond between
was

these two orders

which were with

believed to

possess no natural

links. He

thus

led to find fault father in their


"salutary"

the

means employed

by

application of

the

association

principally his doctrine to the formation of his

his

"teachers"

aspirations and aversions.

He tells

us

that,

looking

him that his teachers "had


of

forming

and

keeping

that time, it appeared to but superficially with the means up these salutary associations. They seemed to have

back

upon

his

education at

occupied themselves

trusted

altogether

to the old familiar


observes

instruments,

praise and

blame,

reward and are

He
not

that,

while

these traditional modes of


and

inculcation
effective.

durably they dependably wholly ineffective, begun early and explains that he "did not doubt that by these means,
neither are

He

applied un

remittingly, intense

associations of pain and

pleasure, especially of pain, might

be

created, and might produce

desires

and aversions capable of

lasting

undimin-

366

Interpretation
life"

ished to the in
some

end of

instances

or under some not

(141). That is to say, they may be effective and durable conditions, but will not be so under all condi durable in the
present case.

tions,

and were

clearly

What conditions, then,


moral

are requisite

to the success of the traditional methods of

teaching?
problem

Or,
be

what alternative methods promise greater success? solved?

What is the

to

Mill indicates that the


ward and

problem with the old methods of praise and


associations which

blame,

re

punishment, is that the

they induce
tie
. .

contain

"some

casual."

thing
with

artificial and

"The

pains and pleasures thus

forcibly

associated

things,

are not connected with

them

by

any

natural

."(141).

Lacking

such a natural

tie, they

tend to

be

vulnerable

to destruction

especially, if not
peculiar nature of

exclusively,
"analysis"

by

"analysis"

This vulnerability is due to the


reports that

on

the one hand and the nature of the aspirational and aversive associ

ations on the other


which what

hand. Mill

he

now

began to
now

understand or

something
of analysis

had previously puzzled and confused him. "I I had always before received with incredulity

saw,

thought I saw,

that the

habit

has
to

tendency
an

to wear away the feelings

."(141).

Critical

reason

is

now seen

have

and all associations

inherent tendency to undermine between the

all artificial or accidental or passions and

associations;
that

"feelings"

their objects

is,

all aspirations and aversions

are perceived

to be artificial or accidental, with

the exception of those


with our

which relate

to the pains and pleasures

directly connected

basic

bodily

functions.

"Analysis,"

is necessary necessary
erodes

and what

then, is particularly concerned with the distinction between what is merely accidental. It not only distinguishes between
associations, it
somehow strengthens

and accidental

the former

and

the latter. "The very excellence of analysis (I argued) is that it tends to

weaken and undermine whatever

is the

result of

prejudice; that it

enables us men

tally
does

to separate

ideas

which

not possess such a power of

have only casually clung together However, it dissolution over natural connections or associa
"the
real connexions

tions of

ideas,

those

which reflect

pendent on our will and


one

feelings;

natural

laws, by virtue
in
fact."

between things, not de of which, in many cases,

thing is inseparable from

another

which enables

us to perceive such

laws

of nature which

On the contrary, it is analysis "cause our ideas of


cohere more and more

things which are always

joined together in Nature, to


The
order of nature

closely in our Nature thus


The
able

thoughts."

compels.

imposes itself

on

the human mind.

natural associations are and

invariable,
are

unavoidable,

and necessary.

The

vari

avoidable

associations

artificial, accidental,

and

unnecessary.

"Analytic habits may thus even strengthen the associations between causes and effects, means and ends, but tend altogether to weaken those which are, to speak

familiarly,

a mere matter of

feeling.

They

are

therefore (I thought) favourable to


the root

prudence and
sions and of

clear-sightedness, but
the effects
of

a perpetual worm at

both

of

the

pas

the virtues; and, above all,

fearfully

undermine all

pleasures,

which are

association, that

desires, is, according to the theory I


and all

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed

367
entire

held,
the

all except

the purely physical and organic; the


no one

insufficiency of which
were

to make life

desirable,

had

a stronger conviction

than I had. These

laws

of

human

nature,"

he concludes,

"by

which,

as

it

seemed

to me, I had

been brought to my present state of distress."6 He blamed his teachers, then, for their failure to generate benevolent "feel in him of sufficient strength "to resist the dissolving of anlaysis,
ings"

influence"

while

they

cultivated

in him
the

an

"inveterate

habit"

of analysis.

They

were aware

that

it is the

"feelings"

which provide

the wellspring of action and of the plea

sures

associated with

loftier

aspirations.

clearly the
concerned
course.7

antagonism

between the

"feelings"

But they had failed to perceive and critical reason. James Mill

was confident

that the

feelings

could take care of


of

to

avoid

the

intrusion

the

"feelings"

themselves; and he was more into the field of rational dis


"feelings"

Having

failed to
also

appreciate the threat to the

posed of a

by "analy

sis,"

John's teachers

failed to

perceive the

and

intensive

cultivation of

the appropriate

"feelings"

deliberate, direct necessity in him. Instead they had


and

sought

to appeal to
was

his

self-interest through cool


means

calculation, persuading him that

benevolence
viction

the best

to his

own

to serve as
reformer

a sufficient motive and

expecting that con basis of satisfaction. In like manner, he


about general social reform through
of

happiness,

and

his

friends had

sought to

bring

"the

enlightenment of

the selfish

feelings"

their

through any direct appeals to "unselfish

benevolence

fellow citizens, and love

rather of

than

justice"

(U3-I4)What
ever

degree

of cultivation of

his

"feelings"

which sense.

had taken place,

was

merely incidental, nourished by his reading


tues in
ther.8

accidental

in the fullest

His salutary feelings

were

of

tales of valor and exemplifications of the other vir

books, some of which were self-chosen and others prescribed by his fa However, it was not specifically for this purpose that his father prescribed
now

them. And even


6. (143) Mill's
7.

that

John

saw

his

teachers'

methods as

remiss, he did not

emphasis.

"It

was not

that

he

was

himself cold-hearted Offended

or

trary
cal

quality; he thought that

feeling could

take care of

insensible; I believe it was itself; that there was sure


with

rather

from the

con

to be enough of it if
philosophi

actions were

properly

cared about.

by

the

frequency

which, in ethical and

controversy,

feeling
a

is

made

the ultimate reason and justification of conduct,


effect of which on

instead

of

being

it

self called on

for
are

justification,
as
which

while, in practice, actions, the


required

human happiness is

mischievous, tains a
praise
credit

defended

being
he

by feeling,

and

the character of a person of

feeling

ob

for desert,
or of
of

thought only
most

to

feeling,

the discussion

things"

any but the (113).

due to actions, he had a real impatience of attributing sparing reference to it either in the estimation of persons or in

8. "The
that
and

same

inspiring

they had

experienced

by

some modern

effect which so many of the benefactors of mankind have left on record from Plutarch's Lives, was produced on me by Plato's pictures of Socrates, biographies, above all by Condorcet's Life ofTurgot a book well calculated to

rouse the

best
the

sort of enthusiasm, since

it

contains one of

the

wisest and noblest of

lives, delineated
the to them as others

by

one of

wisest and noblest of men.

The heroic
affected carried

virtue of these glorious representatives of

opinions with which

sympathized,
when

deeply
to

me, and I

perpetually

recurred

do to

favourite poet,

needing to be

thought"

(1

15).

But they

were unable

rekindle

up into the more elevated regions of feeling and his enthusiasm during the period immediately prior

to his reading of Marmontel.

368
yet

Interpretation
a well-formed notion of
employed. problem

have

the alternative

methods

which

they

should

rather

have

of

be solved, then, merely by a greater timely concentration emotionally appealing stories glorifying benevolence and the virtues, or some Could the

cultivating the emotional appeal of the salutary objects? There is certainly good reason to doubt it on the basis of what we have been told. and so long as is inherently antagonistic to such Insofar as
other such method of
"analysis"

"feelings"

the habit

"analysis"

of

continues, the hard

won effects of all

that assiduous culti

vation remain

in

constant

danger

and

their dissolution cannot

likely be postponed
"analysis"

for long. But in


we need
erodes

order

to make a proper assessment of the viability of this solution

to attain a more precise understanding of how and why


"feelings."

the

III. THE PERILS OF

"ANALYSIS"

According
things

to Mill's account,
causes and

"analysis"

explores means and ends

the

connections

between

between

effects,

with particular concern

to determine their strength or necessity.

And, by

"necessity"

he

understood at

this

clear

time, pre-eminently, compulsive or in his account of "the happiness


nowhere suggests

mechanical necessity.

This is

implicitly
crisis.

principle"

during

the period of

his

Mill

that either his desire for his own happiness or his


as

belief

in "the happiness
weakened

principle"

the

first

principle of since

by

his habit

"analysis."

of natural or

And,

morality his system

were of

in any way

classification,

which

distinguishes between
connections,

necessary

connections and artificial or ac

cidental

appears

to be an exhaustive one, the survival of these con them as natural or necessary. Let us see what this

nections would appear entail

to

mark

may Whether the desire for happiness is


"feelings"

in

each of

the two cases.

regarded as a connection

between Mill's

or passions and

the

"idea"

of

happiness,
there is

or

is

construed to

his
as

"feeling"

(or

set of

"feelings") per

se,9

no

doubt that Mill

regarded

be simply it

given, compulsively,
fact.10
"Analysis,"

by nature.
then,

sire

among human beings

would seem would

The apparently universal incidence of that de to be sufficiently convincing evidence of

the

have

no power

to

diminish
.

that

desire; it

This is

a point of

ambiguity in Mill

'

indirect treatment of the

subject

here The desire for hap

piness which

Mill had

at

this time was clearly a desire for a plentitude of pleasures and absence of

pain, going beyond merely those connected with "the physical and

count, the latter


that nature
one would
"feelings."

alone are

natural,

and yet are

insufficient to

make

has

have to

be satisfied by Mill's fullsome desire as an artificially bloated reflection But in that case, its successful resistence of the eroding effects of
given us an appetite which cannot

And since, in Mill's ac life worthwhile, it would appear her own provenance. Alternatively,
of the natural remains
"analysis"

organic."

regard

unexplained.

io.

A few

years

later, in 1833, Mill remarked, in


right philosophies, "No

a criticism of

the unfairness of

Bentham's blan

ket

repudiation of all natural

proof

indeed

can

be

given that we ought to abide

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


could

369
a greater awareness or under

presumably only strengthen it, standing of its compulsive necessity.


But how
crease

by

creating

can a greater awareness of

the compulsive necessity

somehow

in

the strength of that connection?

Was the

"connection"

not

completely

compulsive

in the first

place?

Does its

compulsive

dimension

provide some

kind

"necessary"

of

guidance to

its

noncompulsive

dimension? A

problem

lies buried
which can

here
come

a problem which points

to another possible kind of

"necessity"

into play only to the extent that compulsive necessity does not prevail. That is the kind of necessity entailed in moral imperativeness, a kind of necessity which authoritatively directs but does not compel. While Mill's account implic

itly

acknowledges

this

tween the two. This was apparently

distinction, it does not explore it or the relationship be because, at the time, Mill's thoughts were so

completely inclined to

carried

along

by

the mechanistic view of nature and man that he was

minimize

the problem of moral

justification,

too easily

drawing his

moral principles

from his is

mechanistic premises.

moral principle

a prescribed standard

by

reference

to which deliberate

choices are

cal compulsion.

properly made; and that would seem to be the antithesis of mechani But Mill, like Bentham before him, saw no great problem in

supposing that the latter somehow provides the former. As Bentham says at the outset of his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, "Nature

has

placed mankind under

the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and to


point out what we ought

pleasure.

It is for them

alone

to

do,

as well as

to

de

termine

what we shall

do."11

But

nature's power

to

compel

in this

regard

is far from

absolute.

And it

re

mains obscure
which

how

one can

logically

derive
to

a principle of

deliberative choice,
attribute

Mill's "happiness

principle"

appears

be, from

a mere rule of

of

tendency
To the

of mechanical

force

unless one

is willing to
ostensibly

uniformity intelligent

and purposeful
ple."

design to the

mechanism which

provides

the "princi

extent

that human actions are

"determined"

by

compulsive

necessity

over which we can exercise no


ples"

of

deliberative

choice.

deliberative control, there is no place for "princi And where there is a place for such principles, they
possibility
and a on

are needed

because there is

probability

of action

in

contrary

principle,"

direction. Mill's "happiness


what men should

the other

hand,

attempts

to deduce

do from
to do

what

they

cannot

help doing

and

therefore what

they

can

be

counted upon

more or

less.
"modern"

Mill had

of course

in the

repudiation of

been too thoroughly schooled, as a philosopher, of capable is the notion that nature providing authoritative

by these [natural]
that we ought to
natural

laws [alleged
"

regulate our conduct

by writers criticized by Bentham]; but neither can any proof be given, by utility. All that can be said is, that the pursuit of happiness is
Bentham's
Philosophy,"

to us.

"Remarks

on

CW.

1 1

Jeremy Bentham, Introduction


1948), 1
the
.

to the Principles of

x, 6. Morals
,

and

Legislation (New York:

Hafner,
ple

Bentham's

emphasis.

For

discussion

of

the problem of

inferring the moral princi


Unwin,
1977), 35.

from

psychological

generalization, see:

Henry Sidgwick,

The Methods of Ethics (7th ed.; New

York: Dover, 1966), 42;

and

James Steintrager, Bentham (London: Allen &

370

Interpretation
other on

directives,
explicitly

than compulsively, to be willing to base his moral

imperatives
its
various
a

the argument from nature. That argument, in all of

forms,

presupposes

that nature is good

or

that what
man.

is

natural

is,

at

least in

qualified

sense,

authoritative or

imperative for

And that is precisely

what

Mill, along with so many other modern philosophers, vigorously and consis tently denies in his explicit treatments of this subject in his later writings. He was
well acquainted with

the older tradition which taught that nature provides the au


of ends

thoritative

ethical

directives in the form

(zeXog) to which man


inspiration in his
And in the
and

is inclined

to be drawn more than pushed,

by

the proper combination of nature and nurture.


moral

But though, as previously noted, Mill drew from those ancient texts, he was thoroughly
telelogical
ral
view of

understanding
their

modern

utter rejection of

nature,

including

human

nature.

absence of a natu action

telos,

the only sense in which nature could supply

directives for human

is the
Mill's lem
of

mechanical or compulsive sense.

But that

entails a as we

as a standard of guidance

for voluntary actions,


were not

fundamental ambiguity have seen. It appears that

"analysis"

powers of

up to the task of

at the time.

His

mechanistic perspective
principle

sorting out this prob led him away from the examination
to an eventual preoccupation with
of

fully

the necessity of the happiness

what

he

perceived as the
nature of

"fatalistic"

implications
process

his

mechanistic understand

ing

of

the

the associative

"fatal,"

that

moral

principle,

benevolence,

and therefore

his

prospects

secondary for happiness as well. his

is,

to his

What exactly did ary


moral
"anlaysis"

"analysis"

so

devastatingly
was

reveal

to Mill about

second

principle, benevolence? What

the logic of

its destruction? Mill's

ural or

apparently revealed, in the first place, that benevolence was not a nat necessary objective, not an end in itself, and not an intrinsic good for its It
revealed

practitioner.
not

pulsion

naturally connected to love his neighbor There is


or no natural

by disclosing that the inclination to benevolence is directly with one's "feelings"; man has no natural com
this
or virtue as

he loves himself
one's

or

his

physical plea

sures.

desire to dedicate
others;
and

life to the

promotion of the

happiness
pleasure

well-being
or

of

there could be
association

no natural or

necessary
and

in

doing

having

done

so.

The

between benevolence
"analysis"

Mill's

had been completely dissolved by because it was it was not even based upon a natural inclination to compassion wholly artificial; for one's fellow creatures. As James Mill explained it at about this time, the
sympathetic pleasures and pains which we

"feelings"

form

of

feeling
Our human

for

ourselves.

"We

never

own."12

natural

inclinations
just
a

are all

nominally feel for others are really a feel any pains and pleasures but our selfish. An based upon such a
"analysis"

view of other.

nature was

bound
few

to undermine

benevolence in

one

way

or an

John

observed

years

later

James Mill, Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind, 2nd ed.; ed. by John Stuart illustrative and critical notes by John Stuart Mill, Alexander Bain, Andrew Findlater and George Grote (2 vols.; London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1869 reprinted in New York
12.

Mill,

with

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


Upon those
who need

371

to be strengthened and upheld


or

such a moralist as
as

Socrates,

Plato,

or

by a really inspired moralist (speaking humanly and not theologically)


Bentham's, if they be
read and

Christ;

the effect of such writings as Mr.

believed

and

their spirit

imbibed,

must either

be hopeless

despondency and gloom,


which

or a reckless are there

giving themselves up to a life of that miserable self-seeking, taught to regard as inherent in their original and unalterable

they

nature.13

John's

analysis

led him to

understand

that he had been pursuing benevolence


and as

(and the
own

other

virtues) both

as an end

in itself

the primary

means

to

his

happiness. And it further

revealed that

his

pursuit of

benevolence for its

own sake

had been

generated and sustained

by

two different kinds of "associa


"feelings"

tion":

direct

connections

between his

emotions or

and

benevolence,

generated

for example, stirring tales of noble by purely and indirect of the intellect, in the form of the ratio actions; connections, by way nal conviction of the intrinsic goodness of benevolence. He concluded that there
emotional stimulation was

too little of the

former, in his

own case.

His

zeal

for the

good of

mankind,

his "strongest

sentiment,"

life, than zeal lence, or sympathy


my kind
ethical

was, he tells us, "as yet little else, at for speculative opinions. It had not its root in
with

that period of my
genuine

benevo
place

mankind; though these qualities held their due


a

in

standard"

(113). He thus distinguishes between

true love of man

and a mere

analysis;
endured
clear.

although

coldly calculated sort of decency. Both apparently succumbed to he seems to imply that his true love for mankind would have
more

if it had been
not

intense. The basis


see

of

that expectation is the intellectual

not made

But it is

difficult to
upon

the vulnerability

of

conviction

to

an analysis quires us

based

Mill's

mechanistic presuppositions.

Moral necessity

re

psychology insists that only that is good for us which we happen to love; and the only things which we love necessarily are our own pleasures and avoidance of pain, and,
more

to love the

good

because it is

good.

But Mill's

mechanistic

specifically, those

which are connected

to

our

basic

physical and organic own sake could

functioning. Therefore, the love


no

of mankind and virtue

for their

That,

longer be justified nor, consequently, psychologically of course, did not preclude the possibility of another morally justifiable
sustained.
"feelings"

indirect link between the

and an end rooted

benevolence,
in the

a calculated association of
emotions.

benevolence
presence of

as means

to

directly

Mill

stresses

the
not

this further

association

in his

own case and

indicates that he had

Augustus M. Kelly, 1967), 11, 217. Hereinafter cited as Analysis. The first edition was pub 1829. Young John was proof-reading the successive chapters for his father as they were the period of his crisis. In an editorial note in the 1869 edition, John observes that completed

by

lished in

during

expression"

his father's "mode


tion that "the
never

of

on this point

fails to

guard against
self"

the erroneous possible

implica

pleasure or pain

is consciously

referred

to

in

all

cases, thus

implying

that we are

truly

able

to

sympathize with others

for

their sake and not our own.

John's

rather equivocal

implica denies that his father intended that making his point neither confirms nor interpretation because it had been his possible that alert to was John that previously tion. I believe
way
of

"erroneous"

own, as
13.

well as

his father's.
on

"Remarks

Bentham's

Philosophy,"

C.W.,

x, 16. Mill's

emphasis.

372
ceased

Interpretation
to believe that benevolence was the best
retention of the
means

to his

personal

happiness.
now

But despite his

belief in the he

causal connection

between benevo
that

lence

and

his

own

happiness,
of

which

could not

help desiring,

linkage

of desire and pleasure with his connecting his benevolent activities. That appears paradoxical. One would expect that the moti proved

incapable

"feelings"

vational association would

be mediated, if

not

ception

of

the

causal

association.

Thus, believing

completely governed, by the per that benevolence is "the

surest"

greatest and

means

to one's own happiness (which remains the

primary
to

desire)

ought to generate a

desire for benevolence it


serves.

more or

less

proportionate

the desire for the end

which

Why, then, does it fail


answer emerges

to do so?
piecemeal
of

Mill does
and

not

directly

tell us. The

only gradually,

by

implication. It is that there is desired happiness,


and

a peculiar

relationship between the end,

one's own

the means of attaining

it;

and

that peculiarity
"Analysis,"

is

due, in turn,

to the peculiar character of happiness as the end.

by

laying

bare those peculiarities, fatally destroys the efficaciousness In his later discussion of the "anti-self-consciousness happiness
of pleasant

of

the means.

theory"

which

he de The
to

vised as a partial solution

to the problem, Mill tells us he had come to the conclu

sion that

could

be

attained

only

"by

not

making it the direct

end."

"enjoyments
make

life"

cannot
thing"

life "a

bear up under critical scrutiny. only "when they are taken en

They

are sufficient

passant"

and not made

"the

object"

principal

of one's strategic calculations and choices.

As

soon as one

makes them

the primary focus of attention and effort

"they

are

immediately

felt

to be

insufficient"

instruments
to be

of one's

happiness. "Ask

yourself whether you are

happy,

so"

and you cease must

(147).
as

But why
tion

happiness diminish

the consequence of the conscious effort

to take notice of it and to assess its sufficiency? It

is due to the fact that

one ques

logically

on the pleasures
swer

and the successive answers have a chilling effect previously forthcoming. One cannot give a fully thoughtful an to the self-put query, "Am I without addressing the logically prior
happy?" happiness?"

leads to another;

question, "What is

And, insofar

"happiness"

as

is

construed as

something
ment of

may be acquired or attained in varying quantities, the assess sufficiency leads to the further questions, "How much happiness is
which

minimally necessary to much is maximally

justify

the troubles which one's life embraces; and how

possible?"

"How

can one acquire more of

it?"

"Which

activi

ties and pursuits are more and which

less

productive of

happiness?"

"How

or

happiness?" why does any particular activity or pursuit produce or contribute to The scrutiny of one's current happiness and its sufficiency thus leads to the scru

tiny

of one's current activities and

pursuits,

as well as alternatives which might

provide a

sufficiency
not

not yet attained. much

And

one

is led to

ask of each current activ


me?"

ity
it

and

pursuit,

only "How

happiness does it

bring

but also, "Can


all?"

and will

me?"

thus

and perhaps, "How much happiness should it bring me bring and, finally, "Why should I expect it to bring me any happiness at It becomes, at least implicitly if not explicitly, a search for some necessary

it

more?"

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


connection

373

this search,
one's

between the activity or pursuit and the happiness of the actor. And if well conducted, can, in Mill's view, only result in putting much of happiness "to flight

attained

by

fatal

questioning"

and

"forestalling

in

imagination"

one's

future happiness (147).


"happiness"

But why must the questioning of the loftier activities destroy the latter's
"analysis"

and prior

its relationship to
to

each of

capacity

bring

pleasure?

It is be
upon

cause

reveals to us

that those pleasures

were

necessarily based
of

illusions. Mill
each of which

implicitly
has its

distinguishes between four different types desires


and pleasures:

activity, organic;
of

associated

(a)

physical and

(b)

moral or

ethical;

(c) intellectual;
loftier

and

(d)

aesthetic.

The latter three

these

constitute

the realm of the

aspirations and pleasures.


of

As

we

have seen,

Mill
one

makes a

sharp distinction between the standing


that of

the physical pleasures, on these loftier activities, on

hand,

and

mental pleasures associated with

the other

hand, regarding
and

the former as natural and necessary, and the latter as

artificial and accidental or optional. upon a

The

mental pleasures are

apparently based

calculation;

the indispensable core of that calculation is the belief that

the activity is
"Analysis"

intrinsically

now

The

pleasure

valuable or necessarily good for its practitioner. discloses that that belief is, in every case, an illusion. derived from benevolent activity is apparently based upon the il

lusion that
goodness

moral goodness

inheres in

such

activity, that its

perceived

intrinsic

is

real and not

from the

philosophic

merely an artificial concoction. The pleasure derived dedication to the pursuit of truth is apparently based upon And the
pleasure

the illusion that such truth or understanding is real and good as it seems, that it is

necessary to
ture's

our well-being.

derived from

poetic

tributes to na that our

beauty

is based
it is
a

upon

the illusion that nature's

beauty

is

real and

enjoyment of
"Analysis"

possess

necessary destroys these underlying illusions by revealing that nature does not any certifiable dimension of goodness which provides support (necessity)
"loftier"

consequence of our attunement

to that good.

for these

possible activities.

Nature does

not prescribe ends

for man; it

is merely indifferent, if not hostile. merely compels. Where it fails to compel, it It appears, then, that it is not the case that benevolence is perceived to be good because it happens to

it is
ness and

perceived

to be

bring us pleasure, but rather, it brings us pleasure because intrinsically good. And when the belief in its intrinsic good
provide pleasure

is eroded, its capacity to


destroyed.

to its practitioner is undermined

"happiness"

Mill thus defines


value which an

in terms

of pleasure and

insists that the only


capacity.

activity
can

can

have derives from its pleasure-producing


pleasure are

And,

since

the activity and the

apparently

not one and the same

reasonably be valued only as a means to pleasure, and not thing, the activity as an end in itself. And, if its pleasure-producing capacity is dependent upon a belief in its intrinsic value, then that capacity is also dependent upon a lack of
thoughtfulness,
or

the avoidance of what Mill terms

"self-scrutiny."

That is why

he

concludes

that happiness

is

attainable

only

by

putting it

out of mind and

374

Interpretation
own

pursuing other things for their own happiness.


Those only
are

sake,

not

consciously

as a means

to one's

happy (I thought)
happiness;
on the

who

have their
of

minds

fixed

on some object other

than their own

happiness

others,

on the

improvement

of

mankind,

even on some art

or pursuit, followed

not as a

means, but

as

itself an ideal

end.

Aiming
illu

thus at something else,

they find happiness by


and

the way (145-46).


upon

If Mill's
sions.

analysis

is correct, then life is


reduction of

happiness do indeed depend


Mill
makes

But the

case

not so self-evident as

it

appear.

Mill's Benthamic

"happiness"

(the term

employed

to

identify the

human existence) to more or less compulsive plea and all of the loftier ac sures, and the resulting disjunction between tivities which appeared to Mill to be necessary for a full and meaningful life, is
authoritative end or object of
"happiness"

of course a
man
ity.14

highly

debatable

view.

Earlier thinkers

such as

Aristotle defined hu

life

and

happiness in terms

of

While there
and

were perceived

activity itself, and especially virtuous activ to be some tensions between life (or happi

ness)

the critical understanding of human


conflict.

life,

the two were not perceived to

be in fatal

Virtuous activity,

including

the pursuit of intellectual virtue

through critical analysis, was seen to tion of a natural need. But


of

be the

pursuit of a natural

end, the

satisfac

despite Mill's

acknowledgement of the

insufficiency

the physical pleasures to provide a full and satisfying life, his contrary concep tion of the order of nature prevented him from perceiving his unsatisfied loftier

desires

as necessary or authoritative. If compulsive necessity is the primary consideration underlying the difference in the standings accorded by Mill to the physical and the mental pleasures, as ap pears to

be the case, then Mill may be guilty

of

absolutizing

what

is only

a rela
activ

tive difference. While it is apparent that the physical pleasures result from

ity

which

is

more mechanical or compulsive

than the activity

which produces

the

mental

pleasures, the
one

difference is

one of

degree,

even

though of

significant

degree. On the initial


or

hand,

the loftier activities also appear to derive at least their

rudimentary

motivation

from

some rather compulsive

inclinations

or

attractions not acknowledged

by

Mill:

a natural attraction and


"idle"

sympathy for

our

fellow human beings; a natural, seemingly tion to the beautiful. These three, however,
upon

curiosity;
appear to

and a natural attrac

be

more

heavily dependent
case with

further for the

cultivation to attain their

full potential, than is the

the
re

physical pleasures. quired

On the

other

hand,

some cultivation and calculation

is

most successful attainment of

the physical pleasures as

well.

If one

allows oneself

to speak of evident purposes in nature

(as,

gists continue to

do,

although

usually

disguisedly

as

least, modern biolo "functions"), then even in


at

the case of the "physical and

organic"

a greater or

lesser

amount of calculation

may be required, due to two considerations.


sures are
14.

distinct from the

purpose served.
11
76b

plea First, Eating, for example, is apparently for

the associated physical

E.g.: Nicomachean Ethics

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


the purpose of
the

375

gustatory

pleasure which

preserving life and supporting healthy growth, not primarily for it provides as inducement to satisfy the need. Pain
the physical level provide thoughtless thoughtful motives based
since
upon

and pleasure on

(compulsive)
of

motivation

in lieu
ends.

of more

the

understanding

the proper

But,

secondly,

human intelligence
comes to

enables man to transcend such

natural

mechanisms, in the direction


the physical

of excess or

deficiency, his

well-being,

even on

level,

depend

upon a

thoughtful understanding of
of pleasures per se.

his

nature and

needs,

rather than

the endless seeking

And

ex

perience

teaches

us that

the endless pursuit

of such pleasures without

due

regard

for the

served, results eventually in the defeat of that purpose, of healthy diminished growth, capacity for the pleasures so highly esteemed. Mill's reported loss of zeal for his altruistic endeavors, then, appears to reflect
purpose and a a

growing

awareness that

his

preference

for benevolence

was perhaps

little

more or

than a mere
eccentricity.
"radical,"

arbitrary conventionality, if not a merely It seems that Mill, the energetic social
come

personal

idiosyncracy

reformer and self-styled objectives were no

had

to at

least

suspect

that his benevolent


or

more underwritten

by

objective

necessity

the natural order

those political teous

institutions

and social practices which were the

things, than targets of his righ


of

indignation. His
he had
of

new

understanding

of

the implications of some of the prin

ciples which moral

long

accepted provided poor sustenance and activities.

for his former level

necessity

his benevolent inclination


that there is the

It

would appear

a contradiction

between the happiness principle,


pleasure and

as an expression of

natural selfish principle or

desire for

the avoidance of the subordination

pain,

and

the

benevolence

of one's own natural

desires

and pleasures

strategy in favor

which requires

of the pleasures of others.

That contradiction, however, is fatal only to those who are analytically aware of it, for that awareness prevents the fulfillment of the promise of even greater per
sonal

happiness

"sacrifice."

as

the consequence of the

nominal

But those

who re

the paradox would presumably escape its unfortunate conse blissful in their ignorance. Benevolence and the other lofty aspirations quences, could still bring happiness to those whose belief in their intrinsic goodness had
main unaware of not

been destroyed

"analysis."

by

And that

meant

that

it

was still possible

for the

reformer

others

for promoting the happiness of them from the fatal paradox revealed by other things, shielding by, among
to devise possibly
successful strategies

"analysis."

apparently too late for Mill himself to benefit from any such strategies. had already been destroyed. "And there seemed no power in na ture sufficient to begin the formation of my character anew, and create in a mind

It

was

His

"character"

now
of

irretrievably
desire"

analytic,

fresh

associations of pleasure with

any

of

the objects

human

(143). If

such a reformation were

to be effected at all, it would


of analysis precluded

apparently have to be
possibility that
and
a
satisfaction.

nature's

doing,

since

Mill's habit

the

merely artificial association could The apparent hopelessness of his

provide effective motivation


own situation provided

him

376
with

Interpretation
motivation

little

to devise the strategies which


continued

might save

the happiness of

others.

However, Mill
"true

to

busy

himself

with reform of

activities, without
which pro

enthusiasm and without vided a

flair. He later found two lines


of

Coleridge15

description"

his

state of mind at

this time.

Work

without

hope draws

nectar

in

sieve,

And hope

without an object cannot

live (145).

IV. NEW HOPE

Mill

reports

that at this point the first "small ray of


"accidentally"

light"

broke in

upon

his

gloom when

he

was as a

Jean Francois Marmontel previously "sought

young

reading boy, in the latter's Memoires. While he had

moving tale of the noble actions of

relief"

by

morials of past nobleness and

reading his favorite books, which contained "me from which he had "always hitherto
greatness"

drawn
tel'

animation,"

strength and charm

they

no

longer

produced

the desired effect.

They

had lost their capacity to

him (139). But the

account of

young Marmon

s noble actions succeeded where

they had failed.


its feelings
grew
came over

vivid conception of the scene and


moment

me, and I

was moved

to

tears. From this


all

my burthen

lighter. The

oppression of the thought that

feeling

was

dead

within

me, was gone. I was no longer hopeless. I was not a stock


some of the material out of which all worth of charac

or a stone. and all

I had still, it seemed,

ter, capacity for happiness, are made. Relieved from my ever present sense of irremediable wretchedness, I gradually found that the ordinary incidents of life could again give me some pleasure (145).
.

This
was

was not

the end of his troubles or the


of a

final

resolution of

his

"crisis."

It

only the
as

beginning

solution,

at

best. He had "several

relapses"

into de

pression, "some
erable"

of which

lasted many

months,"

but he "never

again was as mis

he had been.
of a

What lessons
perience?

less

personal nature

did he draw from this encouraging


of the
"material"

ex

He does

not say.

And

yet

it

raises some salient questions.

Something
ca

had apparently
pable of

"analysis"

survived

after

all, some

being

activated and attracted

by

nobility. and

necessary Was it something

natural?

Is

that why it was not

destroyed

ing

active

again,

even

by anlaysis, why it was also capable of becom in the wake of "analysis"? Or had he merely exaggerated
"analysis"

and "the feelings"? It was relationship between only later that he was led to explore these further implications. In the first flush of his renewed hope he was preoccupied with efforts, first, to devise a protective or misconstrued

the

strategy to prevent to discover the most


ings."

"analysis"

from

destroying

his

"feelings,"

new

and, second,
or

effective methods of

stimulating

cultivating "the feel

15.

Samuel Taylor (London:

vols.

Coleridge, "Work Without Pickering, 1828), 11, 81.

Hope,"

in The Poetical Works

ofS.

T. Coleridge,

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


The
protective

311
the
"anti-self-consciousness"

strategy

which

he hit

upon was
of

theory already
values.

mentioned.

This

new

"theory

life"

entailed a stubborn act of

blind faith in the intrinsic It


was a

value of more or

deliberate

attempt

less conventionally acquired aims and to insulate the aspirations and aver
"salutary"

sions

from

contact with

"analysis"

so as

to prevent exposure

of

the illusions

which animated

them. This was to

ing

to cultivate the

capacity

and

be accomplished, not by suppressing or fail habit of "analysis,"16 but rather by redirecting


With
all

their focus

of attention or employment.

thought of
your

your own

happiness
your

severely repressed, he explains,


scrutiny, your
self-

you must

"let

self-consciousness,
on

interrogation,

themselves"

exhaust

the substituted objec

tives; and he assures us that "if otherwise hale happiness with the air you breathe
preoccupy
one's critical

fortunately

circumstanced you will

in

faculties

with

(147). That is to say that one must the practical problems involved in the at
the scrutiny of the
moral

tainment of the

"ideal
of

ends"

and not with

standing

or

imperativeness In light
of

the

ends per se.

Mill's

own

diagnosis

of

the problem,

and considered

by

itself (that
"anti-self-

is,

without

supplementary

assistance

from

other

strategies), Mill's

consciousness"

cumvent

strategy provides a rather tenuous solution. It attempts to cir any thoughtful association between the powerful natural desire for happiness and the activities of the individual; it seeks to restrain the critical un

derstanding
already fettered
or

within prescribed

boundaries. But
"inveterate,"

where not

the analytical

habit

of mind

exists and
within

has become

it is

likely

to allow itself to be

by

some

boundaries imposed arbitrarily by itself at an earlier point in time other source. The strategy therefore enjoyed some prospective
unenlightened

success

among the relatively


elite

many, but

much poorer prospects

among the
to
require

group

of

highly enlightened reformers themselves.


end,
which

It

would seem

the

highly

analytical reformers

to deceive themselves as to their true


a

in itself, despite the fact that their critical understanding tells them that its intrinsic value, if any, is unevident or undemonstrable. And if they are to deceive themselves about this, how can they (or we) be certain that they are not further deceiving
end, to
regard a substitute

is really only

means,

as an end

themselves about their own


masked

motives?

May

not a

desire for

power over others


might not a

be

by

the

professed

desire to improve their lot? And

satisfying

sense of their own power as

fessedly
tensibly
of such

questionable

readily contribute to their own happiness as a con dedication to the well-being of those others, given the os
"associations"?

accidental character of all such

And,

even

in the

absence

dark motives,
end

might not such unreflective or

factors

up

also

deceiving
they
are

themselves about
serve?

self-deceiving liberal bene the condition and state of happi

ness of those whom


of

dedicated to

And, finally,
not

even

supposing

all

these
16.

possible pitfalls

successfully negotiated, is it
recreant

likely

that the

deter-

He

assures us

that

he "never turned

to intellectual culture, or ceased to consider the

power and practice of analysis as an essential condition


ment"

both

of

individual

and of social

improve

(147).

378

Interpretation

sophisticates must strive to maintain minedly brave front which these critical and irrepressible would, at least periodically, be broken down by that give way to bouts of despondency and despair? It is not surprising, then, dejection. of periods recurrent of his termination Mill does not yet report the final
"analysis,"

The Marmontel incident, along


teachers'

with

his

analysis of

the

shortcomings of

his

methods,
effectiveness of

suggested a

supplementary strategy between the

which would and

increase the
culti

the

anti-self-consciousness strategy:

the early

intense

vation of an artificial association

sense of pleasure and

the salutary

objects,

such as

the happiness of others,

by

specifically
to be

emotional stimulants.

His

experience

had taught him that "the


the active capacities,

passive susceptibilities needed

to

be

cul

tivated as

well as

and required

nourished and enriched

guided."

as well as

There

would

be

no neglect of

"intellectual culture"; "the "an


essential condition

analysis"

power and practice of of

was still regarded as


improvement."

both

individual

and of social

But its enervating


it."

consequences were

to

be

corrected

"by joining other kinds of cultivation with


feelings,"

Consequently, "the

cultivation of

the

ethical and philosophical creed.

he tells us, "became one of the cardinal points in my And my thoughts and inclinations turned in an

increasing degree towards


object"

whatever seemed capable of

being instrumental to that

(147).

This
gram.

new strategy required a shift in the focus of emphasis in the reform pro Mill tells us that he now "ceased to attach almost exclusive importance to

the ordering of outward circumstances, and the


speculation and

training

of

the human

being

for

for action";

the prime
ual"

necessities of

(147). This

added

and "for the first time, gave its proper place, among human well-being, to the internal culture of the individ dimension of "internal was to be accomplished
culture" arts."

through the calculated employment of the "imaginative

The artists,

au

thors,
of

poets and composers were now seen to

be

as

indispensable to
manipulate

progress as

the philosophers and reformers.

They

would

skillfully

the emotions

the young so as to inculcate in them an intense love of mankind and virtue and
and other forms of baseness. If begun early would become "so intense properly conducted, these inveterate as to be practically indissoluble, before the habitual exercise of the
"associations"

distaste for selfishness, cruelty

enough and and

power of analysis

had

commenced"

(141).
would
"salutary"

The

apparent

hope

was

that this intense cultivation of the emotions


with

produce artificial

direct

"associations"

the

activities so

strong that those


not

links

would constitute a

kind

of

"second

nature"

(although Mill does

on Mill's analysis, could not be wholly employ that term). Such immune to dissolution by analysis, so long as they partake in no way of "first na ture"; but they would presumably have a relatively high degree of resistance to analytical

"associations,"

destruction. To dissolve

such

strong

emotional attachments to

virtue,

would require a more sustained analytical onslaught than all

but

likely to

subject

their motives and aspirations to. Those few could


of

very few were be expected to

suffer periodic

bouts

depression due to their

analytical

thoughts

straying into

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


the prohibited area; but
expected a

379

strongly inculcated

sense of

duty, like Mill's,


while

might

be

to carry them through these dark

intervals,

they

restored them

selves with massive

doses

of artistic stimulation.

It appeared, then, that the problem caused by nature's lack of positive support for the loftier activities necessary to individual happiness was perhaps manage
able

by

human

artifice after all

at

least it

might

be,

so

long

as nature was
artifice.

only

passively indifferent in the

matter and not

actively hostile to the

FRESH CAUSE FOR DESPAIR

Mill's
soon

search

for

effective emotional stimulants


new grief.

brought him to

As he explored,

first,

among the imaginative arts the uses of music, he began

to

perceive evidence of nature's opposition

to his artificial solution to the prob

lem

of

which

could

human happiness. Music was the only one of the imaginative arts in he had previously taken "great But he now concluded that it be of only limited utility for the purpose of cultivating the feelings. It is, he
pleasure."

concluded, superlative in
those
which

"exciting
kind

enthusiasm; in winding up to a high


which are

pitch

feelings

of an elevated

this excitement gives a glow and a

already in the character, but to fervour, which though transitory at its


times"

utmost

height, is

precious

for sustaining them


cultivation of

at other
was

(147). But its

util

ity

"character"

as a method of
use was

primary

doubtful;
or

and even
with

its

secondary
miliarity,

limited,

because the

pleasure which

it

provides

"fades

fa

and requires either

to be revived

by intermittence,

fed

by

continual

novelty"

pleasant combinations of

(149). And Mill morosely reflected upon the limited number of possible which constitute the the "five tones and two
semitones"

octave,

and was

the consequent limits to such novelty.

This

but the

beginning

of a

train of reflections which

provided

the de

or contrast. In pressing bases for his later formulation of the law of his father's second edition of in an editorial note in the Analysis, he re 1869, marks that his father, in "endeavouring to express the most fundamental fact of

"doubles"

consciousness

the necessity of change, or transition from one state to


conscious"

another

in

order to our

being
all

does
all

not quite

convey the important point that


must

"all consciousness,
passed

sensation,

knowledge

be

of

doubles the
us."

state

He explains to, are equally recognized by know things only by contrast. "Any single thing is unknowa ble by us; its relative opposite is a part of its very "Opening the eyes a present light, a past to the light, for the first time, we know a contrast,

from

and

the state passed

that this

means we

existence

privation

but for the

one we should not when

have known the

other."17

There is

no

way

of

ascertaining precisely
as the

Mill formulated the implications


of

point

in these

universal

terms. But
pleasures
17.

broader

possible

the transitoriness

of music's

formed in his mind, he began to fear that, "if the


I2n.

reformers of

society

Analysis, II,

Mill's

emphasis.

380

Interpretation in their objects,


and

and government could succeed were

every

person

in the

commu

no nity would cease to be (149). and longer kept up by struggle privation, Those who have never known the unhappiness which comes from deprivation
and a state of physical
will

free

in

comfort, the

pleasures of

life, being

pleasures"

be

unable

to appreciate their present bountiful condition and therefore

derive

satisfaction or contentment or significant

from it. What hope


condition of

could

there be of any permanent


of

improvement in the

mankind, as the result

the im

plementation of

the preferred social reforms, to exhibit

if the

recipients of and

this

largesse
self

could

be

expected

increasing ingratitude,

egotism,

grasping

ishness

as their

external circumstances were

improved? And
would

what grounds real

there

fore its

remained

for

believing

that the reform effort

bring

happiness to

trived
of

of an artificially con increased and assured in and happiness for all interests society harmony its members must have begun to appear to be a piece of naivete based upon a ostensible of

beneficiaries? The belief in the possibility

faulty

reading of the nature of the human psyche. Mill now recalled an earlier perception of another
which

manifestation of

the law of

contrasts,

had

occurred when
success.

pleasure relative

to worldly

assessing his own lack of desire and Personal success, he believed, had come too
was

he

quickly

and

easily to him. He had not had to experience the pain of protracted

struggle,

a period of

deprivation,

of unsatisfied

vanity at too early an tion, and felt myself of some importance, before the desire of distinction and of importance had grown into a passion: and little as it was which I had attained, yet
some gratification of

hunger. "I had had (as I reflected) age: I had obtained some distinc

having
me

been

attained too

early, like

all pleasures enjoyed

too soon, it had made

blase

and

indifferent to the

pursuit"

(143). And

now

he

concluded that

"the

flaw in my life, must be a flaw in life (149). This law of contrasts also illuminated the significance previously noticed, Mill, like his teachers, had
and more

itself"

of another curious

fact,

about man's natural responsiveness to pain and pleasure.

observed

that the

"associations"

painful

were stronger

durable than the

pleasureful ones.

Or,

as

James Mill

expressed

"pleasurable

sensations"

are not so

"pungent"

as of moral

the painful

ones.18

it, the Therefore,

of the traditional methods of were more effective

inculcation

scruple, blame

and punishment

tools than

praise and reward.

Deprivation

and struggle could

be

expected to

form

a character more

firmly committed to the righteous path than


free
gift of all of

could

be

produced

through rewards or the

the good things in


upon

life. One

would also

have to

expect

aversions,

which are

based
of

pain, to bet

ter endure, while positive aspirations


sociated pleasures or perhaps

Mill does

not attempt

fading previously as due to satiety and boredom. to account for this greater responsiveness to pain, but
with

falter

the

their

Bentham does. "Want


invented."

and pain are

natural; satisfaction

and pleasure artifi

cial,

and

Pleasure is

"something super-added to the satisfaction of our

18.

Analysis,

II, 203.

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


wants

381
are visited upon us

by

farther

reach of artifice.

Pains

by

given

specific

causes; but the

pleasures attendant upon the satisfaction of our

desires

are always

dependent

upon a strategic calculation and choice

among

alternative

possible means of satisfaction or alleviation.

One

might

of the world,

including

our own given

nature, acting

upon

say that pain is the case us, insofar as pain is


pleasure entails

inflicted

upon us or

unwillingly
words,
pain

experienced and

fled from. And

the individual acting upon the world, insofar as pleasure is actively pursued and
embraced.

In

other

is

more

and nature
ple"

is

pure compulsion.

It

would seem

completely compulsive than is pleasure; to follow that "the pleasure princi

as a

directive principle, is

best,

gives us a pain-avoidance principle.

uations; we are not

really given by nature after all. We are merely driven from directed to anything in particular.
not

Nature,

at

painful sit

This

attribution of greater naturalness of

to

pain

than to

pleasure appears and violence as

to be a

corollary

the

modern emphasis upon

the

fear

of

death

the most

powerful natural

passion,

as so

forcefully
of upon

expounded

by

Thomas Hobbes. And


modern

the importance
reflection of

attached
modern

to this

feature

human behavior in

thought is a

the

insistence

identifying
rather

"nature"

with origins rather

than ends,

with

least

common

denominators

than highest attainments; as it


"efficient"

is

also a reflection of

or mechanical

tendency compulsion. Thus,


elementary
taken to
are

the

to associate nature with only

causes

the pleasures
"primitive"

and

especially the pains con


which

nected with our most


most

or which

wants, those

function

mechanically,

be those

define

our most essential nature

and which provide

the grounds for understanding our other pains and pleasures

as well.

On the Benthamic
which are natural

view of

the matter, one

can still

distinguish between
organic,"

pains

are

imposed

toring his
latter But the

by son. According
be
of

in every respect, the "physical the artifice of other men, as in a


to Mill's account, the

and

and pains which

penal system or
"associations"

by

father tu

generated

by

the

would

vulnerable

to

"analysis,"

while

those of the

former

would not.

durability

Mill's

sense of

duty

and

its

motivational effectiveness

dur

ing his

depressed

periods would appear

to be a testament to the

durability of even
"duty"

the artificial associations forged in pain, since Mill's later account of

identifies
the

pain as

its enforcing

sanction.20

Similarily,
wants,

the pleasures derived from

satisfaction of our more natural physical

as

Mill stresses,

generate as connected

sociations which are


with our

very durable,

while

the pleasures not

directly

organic"

"physical
are more

and

machine, the
and vulnerable

pleasures of social engineering,

for

example,

fragile

in

all of

their

apparent

loftiness.

The
totle

greater compulsiveness of pain

was,

of

course,

no new

discovery. Aris

long

ago pointed out of

that it is characteristic of the lower or elementary plea

sures
19.
calism

(except those

smell) that

they

are

inextricably
Elie

connected with

the

allevi-

(Boston:

Bentham, Natural Religion, ch. i; Beacon, 1955), 492-93Utilitarianism, C.W., x, 228.

quoted

by

HaleVy, The Growth

of Philosophic Radi

20.

382

Interpretation
(as in the
case of

ation of prior pain

hunger). He

argued that

it is

one of

the marks

of

superiority of the loftier pleasures that they do And it was seen to be a mark of a properly cultivated
motivated

not share

that characteristic.

noble soul or character

that

it is

by

the natural

attraction of

nobility

and

virtue; while persons of the lower

base character, "whose desires


chastised
was

are of

fixed

on pleasure of

kind,

must

be

by pain, like highly attracted to

beast

burden."21

The young

and virtuous

Mill,

who

nobility

and and

virtue, was attached to a philosophy geared


was

to the motivations of the


analytical account of

base;

he

therefore unable to give a supportive


and aspirations.

his

own noble

inclinations

Mill's

previous reformist expectations

had

preciation of convinced

the

apparent

loftiness

of

his

own motives.

him that his

accomplishments were

colored by his ap His father had effectively due to the advantageousness of his no and not

doubt been

circumstances, especially to the quality


merits of

of

his teachers,

to any special

his

own.

ural gifts as quite

Consequently, young John was inclined to regard his own nat ordinary. Therefore, if he could be so successfully educated to
virtue, why could not
all?

love

of mankind and

But now,
more

as

he began to grasp
and concluded

the further implications of the Benthamic that his reform objectives


pursuit were
were perhaps of

teaching
real

clearly,

unattainable,

and

that his efforts in their


must

therefore incapable

bringing

happiness to others, he
If the

have

realized that

his

continued pursuit of own

those activities, out of a sense of

duty
be

and as

the means to his

happiness,

was an anachronism.

pursuit of

nevolence was

merely the

means of

alleviating the pains of a conscience

which

retained some emotional residue of unmasked

illusions,

then Mill's happiness


others

depended
on

more on the continuance of conditions of

deprivation for

than

dog chasing its own tail. And yet, somehow, "the destiny of mankind in general was ever in [his] And he concluded that, "unless I could see my way to some better
their elimination.
seemed to
position of a
thoughts."

He

be in the

hope than this for human happiness in general, my dejection (149)Now it


appeared

"

must continue

tion between the

that, due to the refractoriness of human nature, the contradic happiness principle and the benevolence principle is fatal, not

only to those few who are analytically aware of it, but also to the many, who are fated to become aware of it through practical experience. It is, of course, logic

ally

coherent and

easy to say that the

pain of

human

conflict cannot

be

eliminated pleasures

unless each of us curbs our selfish clamor with

for

more or

less immediate is the

little

or no regard

for the deprivation human

and pains of others.

But if the
of

more

compelling reality to
selfish which

which

nature responds

pain

frustrated interests

desire,
has

rather

than the anticipated pleasure of a

harmony

of

not yet even

been manifest,

or

the current pleasure

of a sense of noble

sacrifice, then the benevolence principle is


than a viable social policy.

a mere pious wish or prayer rather

The Biblical
21.

version of

the

benevolence principle,

the admonition to love

Nicomachean Ethics,

u8oa

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


one's neighbor as

383
support

oneself,

was of course given

very strong

by arguments
Mill

from

nature and

divine will,

including
who

the promise of rewards and punishments


an after-life

of unprecedented magnitude and


abjures.

duration in
has

supports which

But, for

the reformer

abandoned such supports,

it is

one

thing

to

imagine

a world of perfect

beauty and harmony emerging from one's reformist

than that of nature, a world in which the Biblical injunction is assuredly fulfilled. It is yet another, less inspiring, prospect to antic ipate a never ending struggle in the soul of every man, which is bound to corrupt,
efforts a world more perfect

in

one

degree

or

another, every

social

plan, every

political

institution, every pub


measures, to
avoid

lic policy; how


port can

and which requires some constant resort to punitive

a complete relapse

into

a condition of

barbarism
be

and savagery.

In the latter case,


of significant

the reformer go on, unless he

can perceive some

kind

sup

in

nature

for the

effort which must

expended own

for the

sake of

relatively
must

modest

gains, if any,

over

the

course of

his

lifetime? And

where nature's

support

does

not

take the form

of compulsions which assure

success, it

take

the

form

of attractive natural

ends, the

approximation of
pleasures,22

which,

by

the

individ

ual, produces its


which are unable

own real and superior

not

merely

artificial ones
organic"

to compete

sures which are admitted


a

to be

successfully rooted in nature. How


own sake

with

the "physical and


could one

plea

hope to

generate

love
the

of mankind and virtue

for their

by

the emotional manipulations

imaginative arts, when the greater pungency of pain promises the recurrent destruction of the inclinations to self-restraint thereby generated? Pain is not a
of

promising
sake,
as

method of

creating

wholly

artificial

love

of

lofty things for their own


and

Mill

recognized.
rescue

Can the reformers, then, repeatedly

themselves

their

fellow

men

apathy generated by the development of critical reason, and the grasping selfishness imposed by nature by seeking out artificial to stimulants jack artificial "associ admittedly up admittedly
wilderness of skepticism and
"salutary"
ations"

from the

or aspirations and aversions?


"salutary"

What is

"appropriate"

an

stimulant?

What is

Is there any reason to expect that all would respond as Mill did to the reading of Marmontel's tale? Might not some be more moved by the tales of the Marquis de Sade? What grounds are there for preferring Mill's in
a

association?

clinations to those of

de Sade's in

admirers?

What

grounds are

there for
prevail?

an expecta

tion that Mill's

preferences can

such matters must

necessarily
spared

Or,

to take
ac

first things first, cording to


22. as

the reformers

deliberately
Or
are

contrive

to reshape themselves
this

a prior calculated model?

they, too,

necessity

by beof

There

was no

basis, in the Benthamic


is
as good as

calculus, for promising qualitatively superior pleasures


and accessible pleasures adverse

the

reward

for the If

sacrifice of more

immediate

to the

happiness

poetry in the quality of the pleasure which it provides, as Bentham maintained, then it follows that the choice is reduced in every case to considerations of rela tive quantity and certainty of attainment. Thus, Bentham identifies seven dimensions of measurement
other people.
pushpin

and comparison, all of which

duration; (3)

certainty

or

uncertainty;

extent or number of persons

and certainty: (i) intensity; (2) (5) fecundity; (6) purity; and (7) benefitted. The Principles of Morals and Legislation, ch. iv. upon various aspects of

focus

quantity

(4) propinquity

or

remoteness;

384

Interpretation
of

ing

deprived

the capacity

for it,

by

nature,

conceived as an

irresistible

compul

sive machine?

Mill's despair his highest

over

the

apparent manifestation of nature's active opposition

to

reformist

hopes

and expectations was compounded

by

his

increasing
deliberate

awareness of another and even more reform efforts of

fundamental

natural obstacle to

any kind. He tells us that, "during the later returns of my dejec tion, the doctrine of what is called Philosophical Necessity weighed on my exis (175). A central implication of that doctrine, as Mill then tence like an
incubus"

understood
ence"

it, "was
proved

the

which

plagued

operative force in the depressing and paralysing influ him (177). Consequently, he says, "I felt as if I was slave of antecedent

scientifically my
our

to be the helpless

circumstances;

as

if

character and that of all others

had been formed for


power."23

us

by

agencies

beyond
could

He wholly out of our own "disbelieve the doctrine of the formation of character by
control,
and was could not.

wished that

he

circumstances"

but he

Thus, by following
had

out

the logical implications of the mechanistic

conception of nature which

tressing
and

conclusions which

he had imbibed from his father, he was led to dis escaped his father's notice and which completely
He
saw

undercut

his reformist,

moralistic endeavors.

himself in the
"Fatalism"

paradoxical

burdensome

position of

believing

the

doctrine

of

to

be true but

cial.

to be false but morally benefi morally destructive, and the doctrine of That is, of course, an ambiguous perspective on the problem, since the no

"freewill"

tions of the morally

destructive
of

and the as

terms, if the doctrine

"fatalism,"

morally beneficial are contradictions in described, is strictly true. But Mill was

apparently aware of the ambiguity and was struggling to resolve it. Confronted by the realization that his moral preconceptions were inconsistent
with

his basic

conception of nature and

causality, Mill

was reluctant

to sacrifice

his morality to his metaphysics. But he could not readily bring himself to aban don the latter. His eventual resolution of the dilemma appeared to be both simple
and

ingenious, for it

seemed to allow of

him to

save of

both,

through a mere "correc


us

tion"

in his understanding
on the
word

the

implications
as a

the latter. He tells

that

he

"pondered painfully
ceived, that the
applied to
cation of

subject, till

Necessity,

gradually I saw light through it. I per name for the doctrine of Cause and Effect
association"

human actions, carried with it a misleading irresistible compulsion. It seemed to imply that
unknown author of the

the impli

our actions are

the inev-

23.

The

following
"Damn,

limerick

might well

have had the young Mill in

mind:

There It

was a

young

man who

said,

grieves me to

think that I am
move

Predestined to
In Not Not

a circumscribed

groove.
tram."

even a

bus, but

even the manipulation of other people's grooves can provide a sense of accomplishment when

you come self

to

believe that it is merely the inevitable

consequence of the

inescapable

rut you are your

in.

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


itable
"character,"

385
"character,"

consequence of our shaped

and

that our

in turn, is irre
not appear to
of one's

sistibly

by

external circumstances.
of one

The

process thus
control or

did

admit of

any possibility fate. But he explains that he


is formed

exercising deliberate desires


to
can

direction

now

saw, to the contrary, that "though

our character

by circumstances,
There
seemed

our own a place now

do

much

to shape those circum


after all. view was an

stances."

to be

for morality
"see"

and

responsibility

What

was

it that

enabled of

Mill
the

that his prior

fatalistic

erroneous sophical us

interpretation

Necessity"? The

answer

necessary implications of the doctrine of "Philo is provided in his Logic,2* to which he directs
his
solution to the problem.

for the fuller

account of this phase of

There

we

learn that Mill simply applied Hume's caveat concerning our knowledge of His application of Hume's argument leads to the conclusion that, since
"causes."

we are

incapable

of

any direct
we

"causes,"

observation of

or

"secret

powers

capa

ble

"Causality"

of

compelling,
more

cannot assert their existence. construct

is

therefore

nothing

than a
mere

hypothetical

based

upon

the much more

limited
It is

sequen

observation

merely

our

"invariable, certain, and imagination which "retains, the feeling


of peculiar

unconditional of some more

intimate

con

nexion, of some
ent over

tie,

or mysterious constraint exercised

by

the anteced

the

consequent."25

While Hume's
sion which

caveat allows

for the possibility, it does


critique

not require

the

conclu

Mill draws from it. Hume's


one

equally

restricts us

from thinking

that we

know that

billiard ball

which strikes another possesses a power which we are not required over continue

compels

it does; but second ball possesses any deliberate own movement. We are rather inclined to
the latter to
move as

to believe that the

"control"

the direction or speed of

its

to

believe that the if

movement

of as

the second ball is indeed compelled the only way of making sense of

by

the

force

or power exerted
even

by

the

first,

what we

observe,

we are

concede suppose control.

Hume's
that

skeptical point.

But Mill

concludes

that

it is

willing to "grand to

error"

we are

thus

irresistibly

compelled

by

forces

over which we

have

no

What

"control"

sort of

Mill
ter."

explains that what and one

do we have, then? And how do we exercise it? one will do in any circumstance depends upon his
a certain

"character";

has, "to

extent, a power to alter his

own charac

Its being, in the ultimate resort, formed for him, is not inconsistent with its being, in part, formed by him as one of the intermediate agents. His character is formed by his circumstances (including among these his particular organization); but his own
pages 837-42. imagination which, "considered as applying to the human will, our voli conflicts with our consciousness, and revolts our feelings. We are certain that, in the case of we are not compelled, as by a magic know that We constraint. mysterious this is not there tions,

24. 25.

Book VI,

ch.

11, especially

It is this

product of our

We feel, that if we wished to prove that we have the power of re be observed, a new anteced sisting the motive, we could do so, (that wish being, it needs scarcely is of more importance) paralysing to our de and (what our to be would pride, and it humiliating ent;)
spell, to obey any
particular motive.
otherwise."

sire

for

excellence,

if

we

thought

Logic, C.W.,

vm, 837-38. Mill's

emphasis.

386

Interpretation
mould

desire to

it in

a particular way,
influential.26

is

one of those circumstances, and

by

no

means one of

the least

But

one's

"character."

desires, in turn, are seen to be dictated by, or reflections of, one's How, then, does one manage to break out of the vicious circle? We

may easily imagine the potential beneficiaries of the reform activity being re formed through the interventions of the reformers. But is there any possibility
that the
reformers can

break

out of their own original mold and reform us

them

selves on a

loftier

plane?

Mill tells

that we
and

can

reform ourselves

by first

forming
acter.27

the desire to

change our

shape,

then proceeding to

will and create

the external conditions necessary to

bring

about

the desired change

in

our char

But do

we

have? Or,

are our

have any deliberative control of what desires we can or will loftier desires wholly determined by external circumstances
are

generating artificial "associations"? Mill states that such desires for self-reform
perience"

ultimately

generated

by

"ex
the

including

education, "experience
had,"

of

the

painful consequences of

character we

aroused."

accidentally negative impact


rations.

and "strong feelings of admiration previously But he has not retracted his earlier account
which

or
of

aspiration,
the wholly
aspi
or

the

"analysis"

of experience

has

on all of the a

loftier

What does

all of

this add up to, then? Do


and will

we

have

degree

of

freedom

autonomy in
our

what we

desire

for ourselves;

or are we

merely

more com

plicated parts of a more complicated machine than was

first

presupposed?

Does

rationality force of circumstances acting inexorable


upon mechanical

provide us with a significant upon our

degree

of potential or

freedom from the


or

"feelings"

desires;

does it merely
to act

produce a more complex process of predetermined response

in

accordance with

"laws"? It is

apparent that we are not compelled

every inclination or aspiration which may aroused; but is that due to an autonomy-generating

by

chance

rational

be momentarily capacity to judge the


"feelings,"

propriety and control the merely due to the greater


we

impelling

effects of

those

desires

or

or

is it

compulsive

force

of

countervailing desires

over which

have

no

deliberate

control?

If Mill

means to
will

imply that we

are,

after

all,

more

than merely complicated machines, it


explain ence

the source of the rational

be necessary for him to identify and principle(s) or standard of judgement by refer


"choice"

to which the propriety and relative priority of each of the possible desires is
such principle our other must

judged; for without


termined"

ultimately be

guided or

"de

by
"feelings"

something

than reason

as shaped

by

the cumulative

presumably by impact of accidental


of mechanical

the passions or
external circum
which are in-

stances, in accordance with the same


26. 27.

body

"laws"

Logic, 840. Mill's emphasis. "We cannot, indeed, directly will


to have

to be different from what

we are.

But

neither

did those

who

were supposed

directly will that we should be what we are. Their will had no direct power except over their own actions. They made us what they did make us, by willing, not the end, but the requisite means; and we, when our habits are not too inveterate, can by similarity
our

formed

characters,

willing the

requisite

different."

means,

make ourselves

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


voked

387
that case

in

explanation of the movements of the

billiard balls. And in


said

there

is

no meaningful sense

in

which we can

be be

to be in

real control of our

destiny.

In Mill's He

"fatalistic"

view,

man appears

to

a strange and

ill-fated

machine.

possesses unexplained and unprecedented potential

for the development


himself
work

of

intellectual

and moral capacities not perceived

to be the gift of nature. The most


perceive

complex and

astounding

of those capacities

is the ability to

as

an aspirational machine without a given

purpose, and without a proper

to

do. And his


oped critical soned

most pathetic

feature is

the perfect antagonism


moral

between this devel


rea

self-awareness and

his developed

capacity to demand
self-

tive purpose.

justifications for his actions, by reference to some necessary Thus, it appears that when the machine attains full is destroyed
and

or authorita

awareness,

its

motive power

it

can no

longer

sustain

itself.

VI. A NEW VIEW OF NATURE AND THE

"FEELINGS"

Mill's continuing
took a fruitful turn
potent medicine

to see his way to a better prospect for mankind finally he discovered that the poetry of Wordsworth provided a for his ailment. Wordsworth's poems, with their descriptions of
efforts
when

"rural
of

beauty"

that
feelings"

is,

the

beauty

of nature

"seemed to be the very

culture

the

for

Wordsworth's

poems

he had been searching (151). provided the most beautiful depictions


which

It

was

not

that

of nature.

"Scott

does this
more

still

better than Wordsworth,

and a

very

second-rate

landscape does it

poet."

effectually than

any

The

special value of mere outward

Wordsworth's poems, Mill


states of

explains, is "that

they

expressed, not

beauty, but

feeling.
"feel

beauty."

and of thought coloured

by feeling,

under

the excitement of

That is to

say that Wordsworth focuses on the link between nature's


ings."

beauty

and the

And he

made

that connection appear so natural, so necessary, that Mill


earlier conception of a

was

led to

revise

his

disjunction between

nature and

the

loftier

"feelings."

Mill had
enough

now

discovered

sources of pleasure which and which

he

regarded as substantial

to

make

life desirable,

did

not require

deprivation

and struggle
of po

as a condition of their enjoyment or attainment.

The Wordsworthian type


a source of
shared

etry

appeared to enable the reader

"to draw from


which could

inward joy,
all

of sym

pathetic and which

imaginative pleasure,

be

in

by

human beings; be
made richer

had

no connexion with struggle or

imperfection, but

would

mankin

by every improvement in the physical or social condition of From Wordsworth he learned "what would be the perennial sources
ness,
when all the greater evils of

(151).

of

happi

life have been

The

quiet contempla

tion of the beauties of nature, along with the unfailing exercise of virtue, would
provide that

happiness for

all.

Those

who possessed a poetical nature could attain

that happiness in direct

communion with

nature,

on

walking tours in the fields

388
and

Interpretation

mountains,

for example, be

as

Mill himself did.

Those
stifled

who

possessed
of proper

"unpoetical
cultivation,

natures,"

or whose poetical natures


would assisted

had been

by

lack

by artful

interpreters
arts.

of nature such as

Wordsworth

and other practitioners of

the imaginative

But how

can

these

pleasures escape

destruction

by

"analysis"? And how


to be more or
"feelings"

can

they be independent
natural other

of

the law of contrasts?

They

are now seen

less
and

pleasures, derived from


of nature.
"necessary"

natural connections require

between the

"cultivation"

facets

Though they The

and are

therefore not

wholly
natural when

in the

compulsive

sense,

they

are nevertheless perceived as


attuned

"feelings"

they
to

occur.

are seen not

to be

to certain dimen

sions of nature

which we

do

have

access

through our other cognitive

facul

ties. Mill tells us, in the

Draft"

"Early
and

of

his autobiography,
in
all

My

faculties became

more attuned

to the beautiful and elevated,


and more capable of

kinds,

and

especially in human (189). with it


. . .

feeling

character,

vibrating in

unison

And

we

find him, in

late

stage of

the

resolution of

friend Roebuck's lack


feelings,"

of receptiveness was

to this

newfound appreciation of

his problem, regretting his "the him that the imaginative in us, is not (157).
.

in these terms: "It

in

vain

urged on

emotion which an

idea,

when

vividly conceived,

excites
.

an

illusion

but

fact,

as real as

The
set

emotional

any inspiration

of

the other qualities of objects


which one receives

is

now seen
of

to

be

yet another

facet

of

from observing a colorful sun the order of nature. Our experience of


eyes, is
not

the beauties

nature,

whether viewed

directly or through the poet's


product of

properly to
nervous

be

regarded as an accidental and


perception of a

system; it is the

sible

to the other cognitive

arbitrary quality or dimension of nature faculties. These perceptions through "the


the perceptions supplied

the

individual
not acces

feelings"

do

not compete or conflict with

by

our other

faculties

or ca

pacities;

they

supplement

them. Mill tried unsuccessfully to convince Roebuck

that an emotional product of this sort, "far

from

implying anything erroneous


is
its

and

delusive in

our mental apprehension of

the object,

quite consistent with the


physi

most accurate cal and


other

knowledge

and most perfect practical recognition of all


relations."

intellectual laws

and

There

is, then, nothing


disrespectful

to be found in the

facets

of nature which requires us

to be

of our emotional re
which requires us

sponses per se and

there is nothing in the emotional responses

to ignore the other

facts

of nature.

lighted
of as

by the

setting sun,

feeling beauty of a cloud is no hindrance to my knowing that the cloud is vapour


of

"The intensest

the

water, subject to all the laws of vapours in a state of suspension; and I am just

likely

to allow

for,

and act

on, these
of

physical

laws

whenever

there is

occasion

to do so, as if I
and

had been incapable

perceiving any distinction between


aesthetics and

beauty

ugliness."

Thus, Mill

appears to

be giving both this

his

moral principles

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


an epistemological status equivalent

389
seems

to that of his science. It


moral

necessarily to

be implied that the


a natural

beauty
it is

of the

virtues, the

sentiments,
which

and excellence

is

beauty;

and

our perception of

their

to love them
order or

for their

own sake.

It

now appears

properly leads us beauty that, underlying the seeming dis

disharmony of nature,
character and

there is actual
was

harmony after all. And,


power

contrary to any
of

Mill's

earlier expressed

fear that there

"no

in

nature"

capable of re

forming his

generating "fresh
and

associations of pleasure with

the objects of

human

desire,"

that power existed in nature after all (143). The

contributions of

Marmontel

Wordsworth lie in their facilitation


and perhaps others.

of nature's

exercise of

that power over

Mill,

This

new perspective on

the relationship between the emotions


reassess

and

the order

of nature of course
"associations"

led Mill to
"analysis."

and
"analysis,"

relationship between the aspirational He concluded that it is not properly conducted


the
analysis,"

which pos only "precocious and premature and thereby undercut the aspira sesses the tendency to "wear away the tions by destroying our confidence in their necessity and therefore their propri rather
feelings"

but

ety.

It

now appeared

that

"analysis"

endangers and

mental

habit is cultivated,

the analysing spirit

happiness only "when no other remains without its natural had been destructive
view of of

correctives."

complements and

Mill's
was

"analysis"

earlier
upon an

his aspirations, then, because it


ral

based

incomplete

the natu

order, mistakenly

construed

to be a complete account. to the world

By

the

character of our emotional responses

in

which we

misconstruing live, he was


the

led to

an

incomplete
the

and

therefore distorted understanding of our perceptive ca nature, one


of
which

pacities and of

multifaceted order of which

implicitly denied
significance.

reality his more

of

that facet or dimension


"mature,"
"corrected"

is

the

utmost

human

But
the

analysis, based upon a

new appreciation of

natural character of our emotional

responses to the salutary objects of aspiration,

provides support

for those

aspirations which give

meaning to

our existence and


made

therefore allow us to derive happiness from them. Wordsworth


sures which

the plea

Mill derived from the Mill


concluded

beauty

of nature seem
which

perfectly

natural and

necessary;

and

that "the delight


was

these poems gave me,


most

proved that with culture of confirmed

this sort, there

nothing to dread from the


not

habit

analysis"

of

(153).

It seems, then, that the law tionship between the loftier


objects

of contrasts
and

"feelings"

apply to the vibratory rela the inspirational dimension of nature. The


to
attract us

does

evidently

possess

the

power

directly;

our responsive

capacities

do

not require us

to be impelled

by

the

repulsiveness of

the

painful

things

which

lie below
are

or elsewhere.
good

They

possess

that

power of attraction

be

cause,

first, they

truly

second,

we possess a natural

for us, truly necessary to our well-being; and, their capacity to become tuned in to their goodness,
this sensitivity in a higher degree than others; and

necessity.

Some individuals

possess

390

Interpretation
"poets,"

those most sensitive souls, the

make an

invaluable
this

contribution

to the

happiness
able

of the others.

It is

not

entirely
while

clear whether

disparity

is

attribut
ulti

to nature or to nurture; but Mill's remarks give the


a matter of natural gift.

impression that it is

mately

And

the sensitive souls, who so acutely ex

perience

the necessity

of

the loftier aspirations,

"analysis,"

those who possess

duller

sensibilities

have nothing to fear from cannot afford to be very analyti best


of

cal about course

their happiness. The anti-self-consciousness strategy remains the


who

"for those

have but

a moderate

degree

for enjoyment, that is, for the great majority of Mill's confidence in the viability of his project
to have been completely restored at this trasts has no significant application,
point. even

mankind"

sensibility (147).

and of

capacity

of

benevolent

reform appears

That

suggests

that the law of con


at

to the relatively
can

insensitive many,

be sufficiently sensitized to a long run. It implies that the many satisfying resonance with virtue and brotherly love to eliminate any backsliding into selfishness and the resulting pains of conflict and deprivation. But their probable sensitivity, and therefore their firsthand knowledge of the necessity of
the

least in the

lofty things,
danger
of

appears

to be severely limited and uncertain. Hence the continu


and

ing

"analysis"

the continuing need for a


response
"feelings"

kind

of

poetry

which tells

them what
own

they

should

feel in

to the beautiful and noble things. Their

firsthand knowledge false


"poets."

or spontaneous

therefore

would seem

to pro

vide no sufficient protection and

from the

possible stings of skeptical philosophers

Mill
stress own.

was now more

fully

convinced than ever of

the

need

for the

reformer

to

the cultivation of the

internal
be

resources of

the reformees, as well as his

The

motivational response mechanism must must

be fine tuned; the


require

"feelings,"

like the understanding, be


able

cultivated.

They

deliberate directional
therefore

assistance as well as stimulation and

intensification. The
that he

reformer must

to make the requisite

discriminations between
it
would appear

the vicious ones.


"feelings,"

And,

while

own

consulting

are

he be reasonably certain indeed salutary or "necessary"? He


can

how

salutary does this by consulting his that the vibrations which he is

the

vibrations and

vibrations are always

in tune

with nature

cal analysis must somehow confirm

cannot merely assume that his because merely they are his own. Criti their naturalness; and it must do so by locat

ing

them in a coherent account

of

the order and necessities of nature.

Does this Or is it

not mean possible certain could

that it must provide a rational principle of

deliberative

choice?

is un how clearly Mill perceived these lingering problems at this time; but he not have been wholly unaware of them. However, he was able now to pro

that nature provides a more mechanical solution to the problem? It

no fatal pitfalls remained to undermine his new hopeful understanding of the human condition. He felt himself "at once better and for having come under the influence of Wordsworth's poems.

ceed, cheerfully confident that


and more
happier"

And from that


depression"

point

he

"gradually

and never experienced

but completely it again (153).

emerged"

from his "habitual

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed

391

VII. NATURE AS A PROGRESSIVE MACHINE?

It

was about

this

time, Mill tells us, that he


a

ceased to participate

in the Debat
needed

ing Society
more public.

he had helped to form

few

years earlier.

He felt that he

time to

clarify his thoughts in private, and less pressure to exhibit them in "fabric" He found the of his "old and taught opinions giving way in many
anew"

fresh places"; and so he was "incessantly occupied in weaving it vent it from falling to pieces. He was not content to be a casual

to pre
eclectic or a

dilletante; he
phy.

strove to maintain a

consistent, coherent,

comprehensive philoso

And

when an alteration of one of

his

old opinions generated confusion and

inconsistency in that connected view of things,


consistency The next in
and coherence were

he

confronted

the

difficulties

until

significant change

apparently restored (163-64). in his "old and taught

opinions"

was

triggered

by

Thomas Macaulay's
ment,"28

highly

critical review of

829."

that his mentors


also

This controversy would had fundamentally misconstructed the

James Mill's essay on "Govern eventually lead John to conclude


science of politics and account of

the

science of

psychology

upon which

it

was

based. Mill's

his

re

action

to Macaulay's

critique suggests criticism of

that he was

caulay's
about of

fundamental

James Mill's

method of

initially inquiry
comments on
of

unpersuaded and

by

Ma

reasoning
conclu

politics,

although

he

saw merit

in Macaulay's

the narrowness

his father's

premises and the

resulting defectiveness
good of

his derivative
It
was

sions

pointment over the


which persuaded neous

concerning the means of securing dogmatic character him that "there


was

government.30

his father's

response

really something
was"

more

disap Macaulay fundamentally erro


to than a year would

his

in my father's

conception of philosophical supposed

Method,

as applicable to poli

tics, than I had hitherto


pass

there

(167). But

more

before he

was able

to formulate a clear

notion of

the specific character of the

methodological

flaw.
subsequent

It

was

during his

inquiry
him.

into the logic

of

induction that the


criticized

expla

"flashed"

nation

suddenly

upon

method of political science as

science modelled on

Euclid's
both

Macaulay inappropriately deductive and a priori: a political geometry. Macaulay insisted that it should rather
on

had

James Mill's

be

empirical and

inductive:

modelled

the

science of chemistry.

John

con

cluded that

they i.e.,

were

wrong:

the appropriate model for the science of poli


of natural such as

tics

was provided

by

"the deductive branches

philoso

"dynamics"

mechanics or mathematical physics.

It

could not

be

empirical

28.
29.

James Mill, Essays (London: Innes, n.d. 1825). Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Mill's Essay on Government: Utilitarian Logic

Politics,"

and

Edinburgh Review, XLIX (March 1829), 159-8930. "Identity of interest between the governing
practical sense which can

body

and

the community at

be

attached

to

it,

the only

thing

on which good government

large, is not, in any depends; nei

ther

can this

identity

of

interest be

election"

secured

by

the mere

conditions of

(165).

392
and

Interpretation
could not

inductive because it

be "a

science of specific

experience"; the
are not

"laws,"

the underlying causes,

which explain political

behavior

unique;

they
The

are not

character

and of specifically political or social. They are the "laws of formation which explain all forms and varieties of human behavior.

mind"

be essentially derivative, deductive. But model since it is not "a science of cau geometry does not provide the appropriate As he explains in his Logic, "geometry affords no room for what so sation at
science of politics must therefore
all."

the constantly occurs in mechanics and its applications, another. forces: of causes which counteract or modify one
.

case
.

of conflicting But in political


and

events one

is constantly
more

confronted with such

conflicting

forces;
far

it

requires

something

than simple armchair

deductions,

made at a

remove

from the

concrete political contexts where quate explanations of

those variable

forces clash, to

arrive at ade

the results

which ensue.

John

now concluded that the narrowness of


more

his father's

premises was

due to

It was, here, he misconstruction of his concluded, that the chemical analogy more appropriately applied. The narrow ness of his father's premises was associated with a static quality in his conception
fundamental
science of psychology.

of

the

mental process.

He

did,

of

course,
out of

allow

for the he

accidental emergence of natural predisposition

new and

higher

aspirations

growing

the rudimentary

"primitive"

to

seek

the

pleasures and avoid pain:

explains

that,

as

the conse

quence of a

long

indirect

association we

between

a means and

the pleasure derived

from the

end which

it serves,

eventually

come

to make a direct association


means

between the
self.32

means and the

pleasure, thus converting the

into

an end such

in it

But his

reductionist explanation

pounds,"

which are not seen which

denied any properties to to be present in the simple, primitive His theory


of

"com

elements of
atomistic

they

are of

ostensibly

composed.

the mind, like the


was

explanation

the physical world, upon which

it

granted no real

integrity

to the proliferation of complex

apparently modelled, ideas and lofty motives,

no

further

enrichment of

the basic fabric of life through transformation and


meant

irre

ducible development. And that


iness"

that he was unable to account

for the "loft

of

the ostensibly

lofty

aspirations.33

James apparently
such

saw

nothing

problematical about

the

authoritativeness of

accidentally

generated and

tenuously

maintained ends.

He

was quite

impa

tient with Sir James Mackintosh when the latter suggested that his
31. 32.

reductionist

Logic, 887-88.

Analysis, 11, ch. xxii. See the exposition of this element in John Mill's philosophy, Happiness," R. Berger, "Mill's Concept of Interpretation, 7 (Sept. 1978), 95-117.
33. all

by

Fred

E.g., "It is interesting here


other

that we enjoy, more

than

from any

to observe by what a potent call we are summoned to Virtue. Of is derived from those acts of other men, on which we bestow the name Virtue, cause. Our own virtue is the principal cause why other men reciprocate the acts

of virtue

toward us. With the idea of our own acts of virtue, there are naturally associated the ideas of all the immense advantages we derive from the virtuous acts of our Fellow-creatures. When this asso

ciation

tive

of virtue

is formed in due strength, which it is the becomes paramount in the human

main

business

of a good education

to effect, the mo

breast,"

Analysis, 11,

292-93.

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


account of

393
of

the virtues was

deflationary

and

destructive

them:

"Gratitude
before,"

re

mains

in the

remains resentment, generosity remains generosity feels them, after analysis, the same as he in to James firm John Mill's However, contrary assurances, young had, in fact, found it impossible to maintain his enthusiasn for his noble goals after anal ysis had made clear to him their dubious foundations in self-regarding utilitarian
mind of

gratitude, resentment

him

who

sisted.34

ism.

While John

shared

Mackintosh's

concern over the


as

ignoble

motives which

lie

behind apparently noble objectives John found a way, through the

described

and explained preserve

by
and

his father, less


selfish

"chemical"

analogy, to

the psychological

theory

of

the

lowly

"higher"

origins and accidental genesis of our


with a character and

aspirations,

while

providing them
"primitive"

standing

not reducible

to

those origins in the

selfish

desire to

secure pleasure and avoid pain.

In chemistry, "the junction


properties are
selves";35

of certain elements generates a compound whose sum of

very different from the

the properties of the elements them

some of

the properties of the elements

disappear,
origins.

while new proper

ties, istence
mental

unique and

to the compound, appear. The new entity thus comes to have an ex

integrity

of

its own, irreducible to its


that

If there

were such a

"chemistry,"

true nobility and human

excellence or virtues not reducible

to their

lowly

primitive origins

is,

nobility,

virtue and products.

morality

as more

could be commonly understood Mill concluded, was indeed the case.

seen

among its

That,
to

the younger

It is

now clear

why it is

neither

necessary

nor preferable

rely

upon argu

ments of

the "enlightened

self-interest"

variety in the

effort

to induce

benevolent

and virtuous

persuasiveness; but

behavior. Not only are such arguments often of uncertain effect or they also fail to establish morality on the proper level of no
shortly to deliberate
conclude

bility. Mill
with

was

that

truly

virtuous

behavior

was

inconsistent
to

any

such

calculation of pleasurable or painful consequence


synthesized as an end

oneself. self

Only

when

the well-being of others has been

in it

in the

psychic constitution of and

the individual can his right acts become "im

pulsive,"

spontaneous,

therefore

truly

virtuous.

Pleasure
on

and

pain,

and

ap

parently but their


this
it.36

also

the

law

of

contrasts,

continue

to motivate,

this

lofty moral plane;

operation

takes a different form. The

pleasure and pain experienced on


action"

level,
A

he tells us, "precedes the


is
a

moment of

rather than

positive act of virtue

pleasureful,
quoted at

spontaneous

succeeding inclination to somean editorial note

James Mill, "Fragment on the 1869 edition of his father's Analysis, ii,
34.

Mackintosh,"

length

by John

Mill in
of

in

320m

He

accused

Mackintosh

exhibiting "a total inca

subjects."

pacity
35. 36.

of

thinking upon Logic, 371-72


"Remarks
on a crime, as

these
and

854.
Philosophy,"

Bentham's
the

(1833), C.W.,

x, 12. Unlike the man who avoids


"interests,"

truly commiting man "recoils from the very thought of commiting the act; the idea of placing himself in such a situa tion is so painful, that he cannot dwell upon it long enough to have even the physical power of
result of a calculation of

the balance of his

the

virtuous

perpetrating the

crime.

His

conduct

is determined

by

pain; but

by

a pain which precedes the

act,

not

394

Interpretation

thing
a

perceived as

intrinsically

good.

And the
what

avoidance of vicious acts perceived as

involves

spontaneous,

painful

shrinking from

is

bad. This

reversal of

order allows

Mill to
while

retain pleasure and pain-avoidance as

the motivators of our

lofty
sure

actions,

principle"

is

retained

displacing them as the ends of those actions. Thus, "the plea in sublimated form; and the attraction or pull of the
into the
be
push of

lofty

objectives
of

is

converted or at

the transformed pleasure principle.

The law

contrasts,

least those
seen

manifestations of

it

which

Mill had thus

far perceived,
continued

could now also

to

have

a sublime mode of operation. such

Pain

operates within

the properly

cultivated
without

imagination in
the

way

as

to assure a

inclination to virtue,

necessity

of a periodic

falling into ac
pleasure

tual vice or deprivation in order to re-awaken the capacity to

derive

from

virtue and affluence.

And the

reformer can appeal

directly

to the com
of

pounded people.

lofty
new

sentiments rather than to

the "enlightened

self-interest"

the

Mill's his

"chemical"

perspective on

"the laws

mind"

of of

of course vindicated

recent emphasis upon

the internal

development

the

individual, but it

also

restored confidence

tions of want and

in the viability of the program to eliminate all external condi deprivation. Insofar as the appropriate internal development is
external reforms would

successfully attained, the


objective,
supplanted since

be

enabled

to accomplish their

the unimaginative application of the law of contrasts would be


application.

by

its imaginative

And those

external reforms would still


and

be necessary, to free people's minds from the lower daily cares itate their concentration upon the process of raising their
sponsiveness to the

thereby facil
to a due re

"feelings"

to be an

loftier things. But, while external conditions would continue important factor in the formula for human happiness, the task of external

social reform would of the program of should

presumably have a termination point dictated by the success internal reform. A nation of noble and virtuous human beings

have

no

insurmountable

difficulty

in gradually working

out

the optimum

social arrangements and

ing circumstances
rogression,
and

might require.

periodically making whatever minor adjustments chang The ostensible irreducibility of the new aspira-

tional compounds seems to


perhaps

hint
even

at

their

the

irreversibility or the impossibility of ret inevitability of continued progress an


seemingly
converts accident

assumed ascent

from the lower to the higher.


"mental
chemistry"

This

conception of

into

ne-

by one
ally
and

which

is

expected

to follow it. Not only may this be so, but unless it be so, the man is not re the act, cannot arise, unless there is

virtuous.

The fear This

of pain consequent upon

deliberation;
lost."

the

man as well as

'the

woman who

deliberates,'

is in imminent danger

of

Mill's
tion

being

This is

emphasis. an end

seems to presuppose

that each specific and concrete virtuous action or absten

is

erate the within

in itself unrelated to any other possible ends; and that is why it is unnecessary to delib relationship between ends and means or between competing ends. But this is possible only the framework of an extremely rigid and simplistic set of moral rules. This is ob

specificity and concreteness of Mill's example. Had he identified a specific such as murder or theft, it would have been more apparent that some deliberation is neces sary in order to distinguish between justified and unjustified killing or taking of property, and to determine and compare the relative benefits and costs of one course of action or another.
"crime,"
others'

scured

by

the lack of

difficulty

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


cessity, artifice

395
"chemical"

into

nature.

As the

consequence of such

transforma

tions, the individual apparently acquires a kind of second nature which supplies what original nature failed to provide for man's happiness. Does it no longer
matter,

then,

whether our

"loftier"

vibrations correspond to

anything in

nature

in

the strict sense, or are

merely the
as

products of subsequent accident or artifice?

Once they have been


"nature"

"chemically"

synthesized, they become


to our

a part of our cur

rent

and
start. of

may be

necessary

from the

However, before
argument,

we allow ourselves

well-being as if they had been there to be completely swept along


which

by this
Mill

line

we need

to remind ourselves that, unlike the irreducible

transformations of the physical analogue, the mental transformations of


speaks are maintained and

transmitted only

by

continued
or

belief, teachers,
are appar

and cultural

traditions,

none of which are

immutable

infallible. We

ently

not

to accept as morally

imperative

all such compounded aspirational and


would

aversive associations as

for Mill's dedicated band


selected

have accidently occurred, else there of reformers. But if some such

be

no need
are

"associations"

to be

for

encouragement and

inculcation,

while others are

to be eliminated,

according to which the selections are to be made? What is the basis for the judgements as to what is higher and what is lower, what
what provides principle

the

is

noble and what

is base,

what

is

virtuous and what

is

vicious?

Mill's

new

theory

of mental

chemistry aversions; but it could character, if any.


sive"

could account not account

for the for their

emergence of new aspirations and


moral

imperativeness in terms
of

or

"progres

Mill's

explanation of our responsiveness

to

nature

of sympathetic

"vibrations,"

as well as and

his

account of the

"chemistry"

the loftier aspirations to the

aversions,

evince

Mill's continuing in
such a

penchant

for

mechanistic solutions even

problem of ethical evaluation and choice. problem can managed

be

solved new

However, fashion, it is clear

if

we assume

that the

that Mill has not yet

fully
in his Since

it. The

foundations for Mill's

moral system are not yet complete. at this point

He

was

himself

aware of

this incompleteness. He tells us,


new

account of

his

transition from the old to the

philosophy, that his "new posi


definite."

tion

in

respect

to his old

political

creed,

the

methodological and psychological

became perfectly foundations of that creed had


now

undergone

significant modification, a reassessment of the creed elements of

itself

was required.

Many

the

old creed were

retained; but
which

they

were now cast

in

a new and

richer philosophical context

in

they

were perceived

to be altered in their

significance,
the
yet

as smaller and more contingent segments of

the whole truth about that


whole

political things.

Some

of

the other important


no

segments of

truth had

to be

discovered, but Mill had

doubt they

were

there waiting to be dis

covered.

He

was not

long

in
the

finding

at

least the
of

rudiments of new system.

the missing dimension


was

needed

to

complete

foundations

his

It

distilled from the


"now streaming
and
oth-

various elements of continental


in"

European

thought which were

upon

him

from Coleridge, Carlyle,

Goethe,

the

Saint-Simonians,

396
ers.

Interpretation
sources was

What he chiefly imbibed from these


questions,
a

the historical perspective on


history."

philosophical and political convinced

"philosophy

of

He

now

became
of

that

"any

general

theory
and

or

philosophy

of politics supposes a previous

theory

of

human progress,

that this is the same

thing
or

with a

philosophy

history"

(169). That is to say that

it

"suppose"

must

be based

upon a philoso

phy of history if it is to approximate the truth with any degree of success. This historical perspective is necessitated by the fact that "the human mind has a cer
tain order of possible progress,

in

which some

things must precede others, an or


can

der

which governments and public


extent."

instructors

modify to some, but "natural


order"

not

to an

unlimited

Mill

refers

to this order of

possible progress as a

and acknowl

edges a special sential which

debt to the Saint-Simonians for his


central

conception of some of

its

es

features (171). Its

focus is

on

the development of the human mind,


"organic"

is

"critical"

seen

to

proceed

through alternating

and convictions and positive

periods.
"creeds,"

The

organic periods are characterized

by

firm

which and

direct

people's actions

in

ways more or

less

suitable

to their current needs


each such creed

circumstances,

facilitating

some

degree began

of progress.

But

is

"outgrown,"

eventually
such as

giving rise
creed,

to a critical period of rejection and negation,


with

that of his own period,


of

which

the Reformation. In the wake of

the

destruction

the

old

a new creed

round of

further

progress.

He

expected

this

pattern of

eventually arises, generating a new intermittent progress to be


qualities of

topped off with a final


with

synthesis which will

"unite the best

the critical

the best

periods."

qualities of

the organic

It

would

be

characterized

by

liberty of thought, unbounded freedom of individual action in all modes not hurtful to others; but also, convictions as to what is right and wrong, useful and perni cious, deeply engraven on the feelings by early education and general unanimity of sentiment, and so firmly grounded in reason and in the true exigencies of life, that they
unchecked

shall not,

like

all

former

and present

creeds, religious, ethical,

and

political,

require

to

be periodically thrown

off and replaced

by

others

(173).

In that
mark not

disparities in understanding and morality which now the distinction between the few and the many will be drastically reduced, if
golden

age, the

great

ments and
makeup.

entirely eliminated. And new political, economic and other social arrange institutions will reflect those more fundamental changes in the human
"progress"

This

order of

to be more or
37.

was not only conceived less inevitable in the long In


run.37

as

desirable; it was
with

also seen

keeping

his

"Humean"

The likelihood
on

his later essay


at all events precepts of

the

of any backsliding or retrogression was seen to be remote, as Mill stresses in "Utility of Religion": "Are not moral truths strong enough in their own evidence

to retain the belief of mankind when once

they have

acquired

it? I

grant

that some of the

Christ

as exhibited

in the Gospels

height than had


gained.

ever

been

attained

Mankind have
be lost

entered

before into the possession


short of a return

cannot now

by anything

amounts to, has been it. It has become the property of humanity, and to primeval barbarism. The 'new commandment to
of

carry some kinds of moral But this benefit, whatever it


.

goodness to a greater

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


modification of of

397
Mill's
abbreviated account

the conception

of casual

"necessity,"

man effort

deliberative hu operating within an overarching framework of compulsive necessity in predetermined directions. The "active receive their direction from
allows
an element of
capacities"

the process

of psychic

development

for

nature

through the "passive

susceptibilities,"

on an

acters,

formed through

the combined workings of

ascending scale. Men's "the laws of human

char

nature"

and particular circumstances or environmental cific

influences, dispose

them to

spe

aspirations, aversions,
of

and

actions, associated
to modify their

with particular understand

ings
tions

themselves

and of

the world in which


efforts

they live. These

acquired

disposi

lead them to deliberate

own characters

through the
altered cir

modification or reform of

their social
with

institutions

and practices. of

The

cumstances, in conjunction

the

unchanging laws

changing (or

ing) human
the next

develop

nature, gradually
step.

reform

the characters and prepare the ground for

developmental
people,

And

so on.

The primary
educator of

role of political rather than

institutions is

now seen to

be that

of a shaper and
interests."

merely the guardian of their "material


a variable wise reformer

And,
place each

since the process of

human development has

timetable from

to place, people to people, the

decides

what

is

needed

in

case,

"mainly by

the consideration, what great

improvement in life
that"

and cul

ture stands next in order for the people concerned, as the condition of their fur ther progress, and what

institutions

are most

likely to promote
Europe

(177). What

is

appropriate to

the

more advanced people of

would not serve as well although

for

the less advanced people in other parts of the world.

And,

Mill had

now

drastically modified the foundations of his political philosophy,


litical
creed as to the requirements of

his "practical

po

his

own

time and

country"

remained unal
and

tered. "I

was as much as ever a radical and

democrat for Europe,

especially

England."

Nature,

or

guard of more

history, it seen to work its progressive scheme through sensitive, responsive individuals, possessed of
authors and philosophers possess

a small van

"poetic"

natures.

These poets, artists,


transcend the
current

the

natural

capacity to
can ex

level

of conventional

ture's loftier possibilities,


ercise

with

the next

morality higher stage


are not

by
of

their resonance with na

history. But they

that capacity opinion,

or public

fruitfully by the current

only if they

unduly constrained, through law

religious,

ethical and political

beliefs. And it by
oth

love

one

another'; the

recognition

that the greatest are those who serve, not who are served

ers; the

reverence

for the

weak and

humble,

which

is the foundation
that of 'he that

of

chivalry,

they

and not the

strong

being

pointed out as

having

the first place

in God's

regard and the

first

claim on

their

fellow
to be

men; the lesson

of

the parable of the Good


of

Samaritan;

is

without sin

let him throw the

first
the

stone'

; the precept

doing

as we would

be done by; Jesus


of

and such other noble moralities as are

found
with

mixed with some poetical exaggerations and some maxims of which

it is difficult to

ascertain

precise

object, in the
and

authentic sayings of

Nazareth;

these are

the intellect
once

feelings

of

every

good man or woman to

be in

no

surely in sufficient harmony danger of being let go, after


the
species."

having
x,

been

acknowledged as

the creed of the best and

foremost

portion of

CW.

416-17.

398

Interpretation
to follow that these poetic trailblazers cannot be expected or re to the relatively

would appear

quired

to

prove

insensitive

natures

that the

new

way is the right


of political

way
not a

before

reform.

The latter's

resonance most

to the new way must be a product,


and

precondition,

of reform.

The

delicate

difficult problem

and social reform

then,

would appear

to be the problem of the

balancing

two prime

desiderata

which are somewhat antagonistic:

broadening,

as much as possi

ble,

of the

base

of political participation and

the social authority of the many, to

provide

the widest possible opportunity for the use and

thereby

the

further devel
behav

opment of

the

moral and

intellectual

capacities of

the people; and the preserva

tion of the

liberty

of

the sensitive souls to violate

conventional

belief

and

ior,

to enable them to benefit all,

by leading

the way to a

loftier,

more civilized

existence.

Although this delicate


maintain

and unstable

"theory about the prospects for success in the long run. As Mill conceives it, there is ap parently a basic harmony between the requirements of human development and the consequences of power politics, since his high hopes were accompanied by a
short

in the

run, the

balance may be very difficult to attain and gives cause to be optimistic of


progress"

newly

acquired conviction

that "government

is

always either

in the hands,
and
it"

or

passing into the hands, of whatever is the strongest power in society, what this power is, does not depend on institutions, but institutions on
And he
appears

that

(169).

to

have had

no

doubts that in the

long

run

it is the in

people as a

whole, the many,

who will constitute the strongest power

society.

There

is,

then,

at

least in the
needs of

long

run,

a perfect

harmony

between the

needs of philoso

phy, the

society,

and what

is

needed

for the

perfection of

human

nature. solved

It appears, then, that the

problem of moral choice or moral principle

is

by

nature

itself,

understood

in historical

and compulsive

terms. The natural order

preordains

that the

moral sentiments will

develop in accordance with the necessi


in fa
moral

ties and logic of that predetermined order. Nature provides a more or less auto
matic guarantee vor of

that the

long run outcome of moral debate will be resolved


in
contention.

the higher of the moral conceptions or principles


with

The

truth, along

the rest

of

the

truth,

must

marketplace of

ideas. And the

unfree marketplaces are

triumph, in the long run, in a free destined for the scrap

heap

of

harmonious

history. Nature, viewed as gradually unfolding over time, is revealed as and beneficent after all. Or so it would seem. And yet Mill never Nature's
precise character
and

clearly draws this conclusion. shrouded in ambiguity.

role

remain

VIII. CONCLUSION

Mill's

"crisis"

was precipitated

by

growing human

awareness of the problem of


activities
with his strictly He apparently believed

reconciling his

political

and

moral objectives

and

mechanistic conception of nature and

the

mind.

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


that

399

he had successfully solved that problem, through the series of alterations in his philosophy we have observed, and most especially through the modified view
"causality,"

of

the

new conception of

"mental

chemistry,"

and the adoption of a

history."

"philosophy
Critical
as we

of

But

some evident problems remain. of

reason

demands the justifitation


And if Mill's

the ends

which we of

pursue, insofar

have

"Humean"

a choice.

treatment

the

problem of

"ne

cessity"

is anything
really
which our

more

than a mere semantic screen or epistemological nicety,


possess a significant and

and

if

we

do, therefore,
intelligence

degree

of potential auton

omy, in

understanding is

capable of

freeing

us

from

complete enslavement

to internal and external compulsions, then it is to no pur

pose unless pable of

there are discoverable principles to direct our choices, principles ca

satisfying the demands of critical reason. But the rational grounds, or justifying principles, for the moral imperatives which Mill recommends to us re
main obscured

in his

modified

but

still mechanistic view of not suffice

the

world.

His

earlier

utilitarian pleasure principle

obviously does
moral

to

justify the higher ends,


ends.

even

if it

were capable of

does it
is

appear

that his

new

capable of

supplying
years

imparting "philosophy of such justificatory

imperatives to the lower


or what

Nor

history,"

he tells it

us of

it here,
to

principles

unless

contains more

than merely an

account of what

has happened

and what

is

perceived as repudiated

likely

happen. Some
advanced

later, in 1851, Mill himself explicitly


that the
possession of a

the notion,

by Comte,
it tends to
"an

"natural

history"

of

society, "as it

become,"

is,

and as or

obviates

the need for "general principles of Tele


Ends."38

ology"

accurate

definition
and

or philosophical estimation of

He in

sists and

that "a

writer on

Morals

Politics

requires

those principles at every step";

he

complains

that Comte fails to establish such principles but neverthess respecting


right and

gives

decisions

freely
try

wrong, every one

of which

necessarily in

volves some

teleological principle; but

having

assumed no general particular

teleological stan

dard he

by

which

to

all subordinate

ends, the
vice

teleological notions to which

appeals

in

each

instance pro hac

are, like those

of common

men, a
with

mere com

pound

gestions of

in varying proportions, of the old moral his own idiosyncracies of feeling.


not appear

and social

traditions,

the

sug

But it does
tional
count

that Mill's

"chemical"

account of

the

compounded

aspira-

associations

is

capable of

merely tends to be. pellingly produces what is and what That is to say that these accounts of a mechanical
grounds

provides a more

providing those principles either, since that ac detailed view of the ostensible process that comthe the

process cannot provide

for justification

or authoritative

direction

of

human choices,

unless

processes and products which

design. But there is


account of

no

they describe are viewed as parts of a purposeful evidence here of any such belief on Mill's part; and his
views on

his

and

his father's

religion,

in

an earlier chapter
compulsive

(11)

of the
which

Autobiography,
38.

tends to

suggest

the

contrary.

But

necessity

In the

1851 edition of

his Logic, Book vi,

ch.

xii,

C.W., vm,

95on.

400
exists even

Interpretation

only

by chance

would seem
means.

to be incapable
absence of a

of

generating

moral

necessity,

by

"chemical"

In the

showing

of adequate rational

grounds

lower,

we are

for his ends, for his judgements concerning what is higher and what is left to wonder if they are not as arbitrary, conventional, and idio
he found Comte's to be. We
are not

syncratic as

gestion, a few years

later,

that the chief


of

sufficiently reassured by his sug role of "ethical is that of


writing"

"feelings"

strengthening the and that it is "by


are also of the

"those in

whom

the feelings of virtue are weak";


or

a sort of sympathetic

contagion,

inspiration,

that a noble

mind assimilates other minds

to

itself."39

Unless the demands

of critical reason

satisfied,
of

we are

in

no position to vouch

for the nobleness,


are

not to speak

wisdom,
of

the mind to which our

"feelings"

being

assimilated.

Mill's

philosophy
who are

history
for us,

can provide no assurance

that the self-appointed


what

"poets"

to lead us to the promised


and

land,

will

necessarily love
and not

is truly

good our

for them
emotions

no guarantee that

is vibrating in
newfound

unison with nature's

every higher itself

poet capable of

manipulating

her lower

potentiali

ties.

Mill's

historical
part,

perspective

provides

justification for that distorted

kind

of skepticism on our

since that perspective tends to the view that all

beliefs
that

and aspirations are shaped and therefore

limited

and

by

the his

torical settings in which

they
or,

are generated.

What assurance, then, do

we

have

Mill's

"feelings"

and conceptions of

the appropriate human objectives or


"associative"

"associations"

salutary cess itself


nature one of

indeed, his
pattern

conceptions of the

pro

and

the

natural

of

historical
and

development
and

of

human

somehow escape

these

limitations

distortions

truly

represent

the later stages


much of

of such

development? What
of

are we to make of

the fact that

Mill drew

his

moral

inspiration from the

ancient

Greek
of

philosophers and

especially from the example was found in the distant past,


near or

Socrates? (49) His "model

ideal

excellence"

and not as something which could emerge only in a distant future. It was, in important part, through his reading of Plato and Xenophon that his love of nobility was cultivated, a love which was to lead him

to realize, along with

Aristotle,
and

that "to aim at utility everywhere


spirits."40

is utterly

unbe

coming to impulse
torical to that

high-minded

liberal

But Mill

repudiated the teleologi

cal conception of nature which provided

the ultimate

justification for

the noble

celebrated

by
is

those ancient writers; and it is


capable of

not at all clear

that his

his

"teleology"41

imparting

a comparable moral

imperativeness
them in

legacy

from

our ancient past.

If Mill has

sufficient solutions to these

problems, he does

not present

his

account of
39.

his
on

"crisis"

and

"the only
16.

actual revolution which

has

ever taken

"Remarks

Bentham's

Philosophy,"

40. 41.

Aristotle, Politics, Some years later, in


is also, but
evident

I338b.
a

Barker's translation. footnote in the 1856 edition from final


of

of

his Logic, Mill tells

us

that "The

word at

Teleology
to Mill

inconveniently and improperly,

employed

by some
,

writers as a name

for the

tempt to explain phenomena of the universe

causes"

CW.

vm, 949n. The inconvenience

is

enough; but his assessment

the propriety.is presumptuous and misleading.

John Stuart Mill: The Reformer Reformed


place

401
that
crisis was resolved. a

in my

thinking"

modes

of

(199), by
for

which

Whether

or not

he

solves

these problems elsewhere, in his later writings, is

fur

ther question which must

be

reserved

another occasion.

In the meantime, (and trend)


more

one must wonder what

Mill

would make of and moral

the current state


after

of public

than one

taste, moral hundred years of reform led


would

"resonance"

"convictions,"

by

radical

liberal

"poetry."

I do

not

doubt that he
"poets"?
or

be greatly disappointed by it. Would he blame the the public? or the liberal politicians who have largely followed
or nature

his teaching?
table realities?
arts"

itself,

as

he

so often

did

when confronted with unpala

tive
"crisis,"

and

Would his reflections, upon the rather sorry state of the "imagina the internal development of the people, propel him into another
"revolution"

he merely because more perfect, stubbornly keep hopefully distant, expected future? If the limited and apparantly declining success thus far achieved by radical liberal political, educational and artistic reforms is due to the
necessitating
gaze

a second and

in his thought? Or
upon a more

would

his

fixed

faultiness,
those

the oversimplifications, of the psychology and cosmology upon which their associated expectations are to recede into the
would

reforms and

based,
order

then that anticipated

golden age will continue

future,

while current problems mount.

It is

uncertain

how far it

have had to
of

recede

in

to precipitate another

"crisis"

in the "mental

development"

John Stuart Mill.

The Philosophical Review


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Theory of Geometry
Moral

Michael Friedman
Richard Miller

of

Learning

Why

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Appropriation

and

Understanding

in the

History

of

Political Philosophy: On Quentin Skinner's Method


Michael P. Zuckert
Department of Political

Science, Carleton College

History
through a
i960: v;

of political

philosophy has generally been

practiced as a "present-

minded"

activity, aiming to
of

fructify

thought

and action

in

our political present

(Wolin, grasp Gunnell, 1979: 13-14). A most insistent current of thought within the field presently, however, denies the validity of the enterprise as thus pursued.
writings of

the

the great political thinkers of the past

The loose
though to

movement sometimes called

"the

new

history of political
for

thought"

(al

be

called

here "Cambridge
(As

historiographism"

reasons

to be

given and

anon) insists
the "political
view puts our own

on a strict

distinction between the


part.

"history"

part of our proponents of

activity

philosophy"

one of

the

leading
52;

this point of

it, if

we wish

to engage in

political

philosophy, "we

must

learn to do

thinking for
of political

ourselves"

[Skinner,
a

1968:
of

History

thought

remains

form

cf. Dunn, 1972: 158-59].) history, and must be pursued press

accordingly
cal

entirely in its

own terms.

The Cambridge historiographists

the need to sever entirely our study of the

history

of thought from

our own politi

life

or action

(Pocock,

1981a: 13).

What

our political

political

life

which provided on a

the

context

for the thought in

life loses, however, the question gains, for the

very snug fit between political thought and its own political life. These scholars find historical political thought almost or entirely alien from the present, but almost or entirely at home in its own historiographists insist
historians'

present.

History,
thinkers

or even

historiography holds
more or

the primary allegiance of the group of


we can claim

with whom we are concerned

here. "The transformation

to

be

living

through is nothing

less than the

emergence of a

truly

autono

mous

method, one

which offers a means of

phenomena"

thought strictly as historical tention to the major role historiographical

treating the phenomena of political (Pocock, 1971: it). Both in calling at


reflections

play in the thought

of

those

seeking bridge I

to

am

identifying bring about this transformation, suggestion of one of the leading historiographists the following
and

in

them with

Cam
him

self, J. G. A.
movement can

Pocock, who pointed out that most of the men associated with this John Dunn, Quentin Skinner, Pocock himself, Peter Laslett, Dun
Wallace "emerge

Forbes, John

from

Cambridge"

(Pocock

1981a:

7).

While they share a great deal with positions we might call historicist, they differ from the latter on one principle that plays a prominent part in most mature histor icist discussion of the understanding of past thought: in Pocock's words, the
historiographists'

"position is Rankean in the


happened,'"

sense

that

they

aim

to depict

politi

cal

theory 'as it actually

a goal which most mature

historicists

de-

404
clare

Interpretation
of attainment

impossible
1975:

(Pocock,

mer,

235-74,

482-91).

They

are

method

"to discover

what a theorist was

188; Pocock, 1981a: 7; cf. Gada interested in adumbrating an historical eigentlich rather than in a theory
1962:
doing"

of

historical

being

as such

(Pocock,

1981:

10; but

cf.

Skinner,

1968: 50-53).

They

take their point of departure from the

observation

that methodological

reflection

is especially necessary for studies in history of political philosophy for the texts with which the historian is concerned always require some sort of expla
nation or

interpretation, but
the

the historian is constantly tempted,

by

the nature of

the material, to interpret it in an

incorrect,

that

is,

an

unhistorical, manner.

Pocock

speaks of

tendency

of

the historian to take his cues

from the thinker


thought he that

he studies, but to misapply them to his own activity: "the studies had all, in varying degrees, a tendency to become
to organize their thought towards higher states of
"plainly"

men whose

philosophers

is,

coherence."

rational

The histo
thought
the

rian's proper task

is to determine "on
of

what

levels

of abstraction

did take
thinker

place,"

but instead

that he often or usually attempts to


states of rational as

"assist"

in his

movement

"towards higher

coherence."

The his

torian ends up not so


reconstruction

much

doing history
and

engaging "in

kind

of philosophical

he
of

seeks

to understand past political thought


abstraction"

by

generality he finishes, however, the question remains whether he has reconstructed his sub ject's thought, or constructed something of his own. In either case, this proce dure makes for serious problems of verification (Pocock, 1962: 188). According
to

ever

higher levels

(Pocock,

1962: 186-87).

raising it to When

Pocock,
the philosophic explanation of how the ideas in a system are related to one another is

generically different from


nation of what

and

the author

meant

only contingently coincident with, the historical expla to say, let alone of why he wanted to say it or chose to

say it in that way; the two


questions

are arrived at

by

different

procedures and answer

different

(Pocock, 197 1:

9).

Pocock in his later work,


attempt

and

Quentin Skinner in The

a series of

theoretical articles

to specify more completely the theoretical basis and methodological im the

plications of

historiographist
might

position. and

single most

important

such piece
Ideas,"

is Skinner's influential 1969 essay


ographism. which

"Meaning

Understanding
as

in the

History

of

be taken

the manifesto of

Cambridge histori
interpretive

Not only does it develop the theoretical and the argument, but it also presents a trenchant polemic
practice of other students of

methodological sides of
against the

history

of political philosophy.

Leo Strauss, Ernst

Cassirer, F.

R.

Leavis, Edward S. Corwin, Arthur O.


of

Lovejoy,

and a myriad of other

interpreters

the thought

of

the past in

one

genre or another come under attack

in Skinner's

"Meaning

Understanding."

and
compelled
ideas"

He finds the
to "demand

practice of
...

those preceding him so defective that he feels

(Skinner,

1968:

wholly different approach to studying the history of 30). The issue between Skinner and the others does not focus,
a

On Quentin Skinner's Method

405
aspiration

however, simply
Strauss
puts

on

the

historiographist
for

for the

historically

eigentlich,

as, for example, the


also

polemic against strives

Leo Strauss indicates

with perfect clarity.

explicitly

what the philosophers

actually thought,

or as

he

it, for "understanding them as they understood (Strauss, 1959: contra 1979: 73). 67-68; Gunnell, Nonetheless, Skinner finds Strauss and others
themselves"

following a philosophically confused and empirically inadequate way of interpreting the texts of the past.
guilty
of

Skinner locates his

own

approach
of

between two
He tries to

extreme views which,

he

thinks, have dominated


call

history

ideas heretofore. The

one approach we might

textism, the

other social contextism.

show of

that each, especially


which

the

first, calls "mythologies";


rors,

tends to fall into certain characteristic errors


even when with

interpretation,

he
er

they

guard

themselves against these typical

they

are so

beset

fundamental

philosophical confusion as to

be

untena

ble

as methods of

study in the

history of ideas.
what

His

however, is
tique of
clusive.

the philosophic analysis he provides

important contribution, of the basis and method of "un


most

derstanding"

historical texts. In

follows I

shall

first

question

Skinner's
quite

cri

his

predecessors with propose

the

goal of

showing that it

is,

at

best,

incon

I then

to raise some doubts about Skinner's philosophical

argument

itself.

I. THE MYTHOLOGY OF

MYTHOLOGIES-

SKINNER'S CRITIQUE OF THE HISTORIANS

Skinner's two forms


stand the proper

failed interpretation both fail because they misunder relationship between text and context. Textism "insists on the
of as

autonomy
of

of

the text itself

the sole necessary


context
.

key
.

to its own

meani

while

social contextism

"insists that it is the

which

determines the meaning

It overly reduces the text to its context (Skinner, 1969: 3). any given While there is something aesthetically pleasing to Skinner's typology, we won der whether he has accurately portrayed the vast majority of his predecessors by them into such a neat schema (cf. Tarvoc, 1982: 698). How many of
text."

fitting

Skinner's textists, have


tated
even called

except perhaps some of much

the more extreme of the "new

critics"

for,

less

practiced a

methodology

of

interpretation "dic

by

the

claim

that the text itself

should

form the

self-sufficient object of

in

quiry and his claim

understanding"?

(Skinner,

1969: 4).

Skinner himself leads


"textists"

us

to doubt

when

he identifies among the


the
relevant

errors of
context

the

their

frequently
target
1968:

mistaken views of

intellectual

in

which

to interpret their au

thors, as, for


25-26).
without

example, when Hobbes

is identified

by some

as the unspoken on

for Locke's Second Treatise,


But
one cannot

or the unspoken

influence

it (Skinner,

employ

a mistaken version of

the intellectual context

being

concerned with

context,

and therefore without

having

ceased

to

treat the text

as autonomous and altogether self-sufficient.

406

Interpretation

Which of the historians of political philosophy has endorsed Skinner's text ism? Consider, for example, Strauss's Machiavelli book. In order to help under stand the texts with which he is concerned, the Prince and Discourses, Strauss
employs a wide

variety of extra-textual, contextual materials lian writings, Livy's history, other historians such as Polybius
philosophers,
other writings on politics of

other and

Machiavel
other with

Tacitus,

political

contemporaneous

Machiavelli,
events

some of which

include

the

"mirror

princes"

literature,

political church

in Italian

history,

theological and

institutional developments in the


not atypical of

(Strauss,
the field.

1958: passim).

And this book is

the normal practice in

The

middle ground

between two patently

one-sided

views, is

always

desirable

territory
on

to hold but Skinner has constructed a straw antinomy here. This is not to

say that there is no genuine disagreement between Skinner and those he criticizes the relation between text and context, but he drastically overstates the degree
and misstates

the character of the difference


whole

when

he

paints

his

opponents as pro

ponents of

"the text, the

text,

and

nothing but the


position

text."

Skinner

misstates the character of

the

he opposes; he

also presents a

highly
he
terials

questionable account of

the forces that impel his opponents to the textism

attributes
with

to them. He says the


or whose
past"

"expectations,"

textists, like "models and


6-7). The

all

historians,

approach or

their ma

preconceptions,"

"unconsciously
derive

paradigms"

applied

familiarity
1968:

to the historian disguises their inapplica


chief

bility

to the

(Skinner,

offending

paradigms

from the very justification which the textists use for their study of past thought. Since they study the historical texts for the sake of finding the "timeless
and

element"

"dateless

wisdom"

in them,

and

in

order

to demonstrate their

"continuing
. . .

relevance,"

the historians commit themselves to the text as such: "to suggest

that a knowledge of the social context is a necessary condition for an understand ing of the classic texts is equivalent to denying that they do contain any elements
of

timeless and perennial


what

interest,

and

is thus

equivalent to

removing the

whole

point of

studying (Skinner, 1967: 4-5). they But Skinner's conclusion follows neither in practice, as in theory
or
or

said"

we

have already seen,


"timeless
ele

nor

logic. To

argue or to suspect that a work contains

ments,"

truths about politics


context

must

ignore the

expression or

imply in any way that one should or in attempting to understand that work. All thought finds is communicated in some context; an appreciation of the context
not

does

may be
says
relation

requisite to

understanding
is

the thought expressed,

but that fact


"relevant."

of

itself

nothing

whatever about whether

the thought is true or

To have
that

to a particular context

not

necessarily to be bound exclusively to "timeless


elements"

context.

Skinner
the

seems a

to assume that the search for the

commits

historian to

kind

of present-minded

desire to find his

own

familiar

thoughts

in the text (cf. Skinner, exactly the


opposite

8-9). But the historian may turn to the past with expectation or hope, to find thought different from that of the
1968:

On Quentin Skinner's Method


present, as many of the

407
of political attempt

leading

historians

philosophy

including
1979:
com

Voegelin, Arendt,
40-57).
mits one
not

and

Wolin

quite

explicitly

to do (cf.

Gunnell,
in fact

The

commitment to the search

for the "timeless

elements"

only to the possibility that some given thought expressed in the past is disqualified from being true merely by virtue of having been produced in
time or place. One is

some other

surely

not committed

to the

actual

truth of any

historical philosophy; far less to the


ent opinions.

view that past philosophies agree with pres

Nietzsche argued, such a commitment, far from nec essarily producing historical distortions may be requisite for the grasp of the his torically eigentlich. Every thought is thought about something; every thinker
as

Moreover,

tries to

bring

his

readers via

his

words

to the understanding

of

the

matter of

his

thought.

A text is like

a man who stands on a

city,

perhaps shrouded

in

cloud and

hill pointing the way to a distant difficult to discern. If the travelers for whom

he

ple

look along the line of sight for themselves, for exam if they look only at the man and not to what he points towards, they will never see the city. And if they believe the man is blind and thus does not know
points

the way

refuse

to

the city is, they will be inclined not to look with the care and attention that be needed for them to see the city (cf. Strauss, 1959: 66-68; Zuckert, 1977: may 65-66).
where

Skinner illustrates the


digms"

consequences of

historians'

preconceptions or

"para

in his Baconian
of

catalogue of

the

"mythologies"

the historians promulgate


with

on

the basis

their commitment to the text alone. Armed


truths"

the desire

or ex

pectation to

find "timeless

in the

classic

works, says

Skinner,

the textist

fall readily into the first and "most Mythology of Doctrines. If, Skin ner seems to have them reason, the philosophers present "timeless about politics then they ought to have doctrines on all the recognized topics of politics;
persistent"

truths"

if the

philosophers

do

not

have teachings had

on

these topics then the interpreter ei


remarks"

ther "converts some scattered or quite incidental

into

"doctrine,"

or

blames the thinkers for


proper to their

not

having
which

such a
with

doctrine,
doctrines

or more

extremely, the
to be

interpreter "supplies the

classic

theorists

which are agreed

subject, but

they have unaccountably failed to discuss


leads historians into the
eigentlich; one
1967:
error of

(Skinner,
The

1967:

7, 13,
of

13).
often

Mythology
a

Doctrines

finding

in

their thinker

doctrine that is instructive

not

historically

form

of this

danger is "sheer

anachronism"

(Skinner,
which

particularly blatant 7). Skinner's exam

ples are always

and

his discussion
"remarks"

of anachronism

Marsilius

of

Padua

makes some

lead

some

is especially so. interpreters to de


of

bate "whether Marsilius


powers,"

should

be

said

to have had a

'doctrine'

the separation
of political

of

doctrine familiar to the historian from his knowledge later date (Skinner,
1968:

reflection at a much

find the

attribution of a

doctrine

of

8). Skinner is probably correct to separation of powers (in anything like the
a real anachronism.

form in
that is

which

not

in the Federalist, for example) thrust of Skinner's point: the really it


appears

But

408
And

Interpretation
even those experts who

have denied that Marsilius

should

be

credited with

this

doctrine have based

their conclusions on
could

impropriety
(Skinner,
The issue is
not,
an

of

supposing that he

his text, and not at all by pointing to the have meant to contribute to a debate whose have been lost
of

terms were unavailable to


1967: not

him,

and whose point would

on

him

8 [emphasis

supplied]: cf. parallel

discussion

Coke,

9).

then the

empirical

issue

whether

Marsilius had

such a

doctrine

or

or whether

his

thought

is

consistent with such a

doctrine
could

issue to be

settled a priori.

But how first

can we

know he

not, but rather is not have had such a


or
can

doctrine? Because "the historical


historiographical
suggestion
. . .

origins of

the doctrine itself

be traced to

[a]

canvassed

two centuries after

Marsilius'

death (Skinner, 1967: 8). But this really begs the question, for if Marsilius did have a genuine doctrine of separation of powers, then Skinner must be mistaken in his belief
of whether about the

doctrine's
or

origins.

Surely

the question
and

is the

empirical one

Marsilius did
answered
means

did

not

have the doctrine,


Marsilius'

the only way that ques

tion can

be

is through reading

text.

Skinner
makes

to say,

further,

that knowledge of the

intellectual

context

nearly dead certainty that Marsilius had no such doctrine, whatever impression stray comments may leave with a contemporary historian: Marsilius's context presents strong evidence that his predecessors and contemporaries were

it

not

thinking

about

the separation of powers or the concerns that led more modern

authors to

largely incremental,
steps

discuss it. Even granting for the sake of argument that thought is that a thinker takes his point of departure from the intellec he
the

tual currents that swirl about

from

where

picked

we cannot make vance what

jump

only some few it up to a position reachable from where he started, Skinner wishes to make. For we do not know in ad
and moves

him

the "state of the

art"

thoughts

might

be in

reach

from

what other

thoughts.

At best,

we

have
our

thought, intellectual context, but surely we would be committing the very sin Skinner warns against were we to impose that structure on the thinkers of the past as
no

our preconception of

the structure of the

doubt inherited from

though their thought must

follow the track


of

of our

thought.

Skinner finds
ging:

all

forms

"if

all the writers are

Doctrines strongly question-beg Mythology claimed to have meant to articulate the doctrine with
the
of

which

they

that the
vague

hints?"

are being credited, why is it that they so signally failed to do so, so historian is left reconstructing their implied intentions from guesses and Skinner of course knows the answer to his question: "the authors

did

not

(or

even could

not) have

meant after all

to enunciate

doctrine"

such a

(Skinner, 1978: 10; cf. 16), answer (Skinner, 1978: 10).


But it is

which, Skinner

assures

us, is "the only

plaus

experience, after all, that writers do not always (do they ever?) say explicitly everything they think or intend (cf. Tarcov, 1982: 694). Reasons of time, space, or focus of attention rank high some
of

a matter of common

the other plausible answers that might

be

given to

surely Skinner's

among

question.

We

On Quentin Skinner's Method


need

409

not, but

we might also add

the

interesting

answer

Skinner

suggests

later in may
al

his

essay:

he

refers us
adopt

to "the various

oblique strategies which a writer

ways

decide to

in

order

to set out and at the same time

disguise

what

he

means"

(Skinner, 1978: 32). He illustrates his point with the cases of Hobbes and Bayle, both of whom "had particular cause to recognize that religious heterodoxy
very dangerous communicate it only by
was a
commitment,"

and means of

thus,

we would

presume, to

wish

to

"vague

hints,"

or perhaps even

less (cf. Skin

ner, 1978: 21-22).

No

author gives

every step
the

of

thinking along
leave different

with

author

his thinking, and every act of reading requires in order to fill in the unsaid. Different authors
most

amounts
unsaid.

unsaid, the

interesting
seems

ones,

we would

suspect,
of

leaving

the most

This phenomenon, it
and

to me,

justifies

degree

attention

to the text

itself,

especially to the

structure and order of

the text:

if

the interpreter can account for the movement of the

text; for the way one thing follows another, that provides some guarantee he is in the groove set by the writer, that he is at least sighting along the line of vision along which his author is
pointing.

When interpreters try to apply the thought of a past thinker to a problem that thinker did not explicitly address, this may, as Skinner says, represent "a means
to fix one's
own prejudices on

to the

most charismatic

names,

under

the guise of this

innocuous historical
sort

speculation"

(Skinner,

1978: 13-14)-

But

an abuse of

does

not

imply

that there is no legitimate function to the kind of interpretive


condemns.

speculation

Skinner

Even if

a given thinker could

have had
at a

no opin
when

ion

on a certain

topic

say,

nuclear war

because he lived
mean

time

the

phenomenon

in

question was

unknown, that does not to

necessarily that his


that phenome

doctrine
non.

or position

has

no answers
in"

give when quizzed about

When interpreters "fill how the

in this way, they

are not so much

attempting to

say

what

their thinker thought or intended in the


see
world

narrow

sense, but rather


philosopher

they

are

trying

to

looks

when viewed as our

the

in

question

did. This
trine. If

represents one

way to test
our

understanding

of

the

principles of a

doc

we can construct an analysis of phenomena

the thinker did not explicitly


our understand

address we

test and

further

grasp

and

ability to use, and thus

ing

of

the thought. It is also a

way to test the doctrine


philosopher

how

able

is it to deal
much

with problems other

than those the

explicitly addressed, how

light does it

shed on aspects of experience 1982:

to

which
in'

it

was not a

explicitly

applied?

(Cf. Tarcov, variety


torical

694.)

That

is,

readers

"fill

in

variety

of ways and

for

of good reasons, some

having

to do with practice,

some with

the philo

sophical enterprise of
enterprise

and some with the his assessing the truth of the doctrine, meant. When sensi eigentlich thinker the what of discovering

bly done,
"fill

it is

an

eminently
claims

sensible

thing

to do.

Skinner
out"

misunderstands

the motives which impel interpreters to


"set"

"fill

in"

or
each

when

he

they do

so

because they

are

to "expect that

410

Interpretation
. . .

classic writer

will

be found
the

to enunciate some

doctrine

on each of

the topics

subject"

regarded as constitutive of

(Skinner,

1968: 7).

He finds

similar mo

tives behind his second

Mythology

of

Coherence.
the historical investigation has been conceived

If the basic

paradigm

for the

conduct of

as the elaboration of each classic writer's

doctrines

on each of the themes most charac

teristic of the subject, it will become

dangerously easy for the

historian to

conceive

it

his task to supply or find in appear to lack (Skinner, 1968:


as
"danger"

each of

these texts the coherence which

they may

16).

It is

to seek to supply this coherence "because the


can

history

written ac

cording to this methodology


about

scarcely

contain

any genuinely historical


past"

reports

thoughts that

were

actually thought in the is


actual

(Skinner,
his

1968: 22).

But

the whole of Skinner's conclusion here rests on

unstated assumption

that all

"appearance

incoherence"

of real

incoherence.
always so?

Obviously,

some apparent

incoherence is the
ourselves against

thing, but is it

Especially

ought we

to guard the past.

the too ready attribution of

incoherence to

a writer of

The unfamiliarity of his thought may make it seem incoherent, but an effort at thinking it through may bring the historian to see its essential coherence. We
may be especially
ers. prone

to see

incoherence

at

first in

the thought of great think

They
it

are above all

the ones most


most

likely

to think of the world in a way that


great thinkers think and

shifts

out of

focus for
If the

readers, precisely because the


and

about the world more

deeply,

in

ways

that

dissolve familiar relationships

forge

new ones.

world were

easy to understand, then philosophy


that it

would not

be the difficult
thest in
ever

and

ongoing

enterprise

is;

then those
a

who

have

gone

fur

thinking
struck

could express
apparent of

their thought in such

way that no reader would

be

by

incoherence;

then we could have an

indefeasible have to

and

objective

methodology

interpretation. Then

we might not even

think

in

order

to understand the philosophers.

But

perhaps

the great thinkers

are more given

to

incoherence

than most men

precisely because they push hardest at the boundaries of thought. Perhaps their incoherences are even indications of incoherence in the order of things, or at least in the line of thought of the thinker in question. But can we not aspire to a understanding of incoherence, that is, to an understanding, so far as possible, of just what produced the incoherence in question? Is there another way to achieve this than by pressing every apparent incoherence and attempting to make it yield up either a hidden coherence or the structure of its incoherence?
coherent

And

can we do this without engaging in the activities Skinner condemns? Not every apparent incoherence or contradiction is necessarily a real contra diction. Indeed Skinner recognizes this fact in the part of his essay where he speaks of and Bayle's strategies of their heterodox theologi concealing cal views. Bayle's Dictionary "contains most of the doctrines appropriate to a
Hobbes'

Calvinist theology of the most rigorous and Yet it contains a unforgiving good deal else, and Skinner sides with those who "dismiss this overt message by
kind."

On Quentin Skinner's Method


appealing to the butcf. 19-22).
presence of a

411
irony"

desperate,
governed

systematic

(Skinner,

1978:

33;

The interpretive

"procedure"

by the Mythology of Coherence "gives


attained or even

the thoughts of various classic writers a coherence and an air generally of a


closed

system,

which

they may

never

have

been

attain"

meant

to

(Skinner,

1978:

achieved such a

Of course, he is correct; they may not have intended or level of coherence, but then they may have done so. What is one
17).
of

to do in the

face

this uncertainty over what was achieved in a given text? We

have here

general approach

particularly difficult form of the hermeneutic circle, but Skinner's is not a good way through this difficulty. We can discern here a underlying
positivist attitude:

strong trace

of an

he

wants a method guaranteed

in

advance and

for

all occasions.

But

ture, and we cannot know our end do so only guarantees we will not get far from
Skinner does
about

interpretation, like life, is a bit of an adven point before we set off. The demand that we
where we start.

make one

very

valuable suggestion:

in the light do

of

uncertainty
to orient

the degree

of coherence and

unity

an author achieved we

well

ourselves ests of count what

by

the author's own statement of intention. We ought not "in the inter
a message of

extracting
was

higher

coherence

from

an author's

work, to dis

the statements of intention which the author himself may have made about
doing"

he

(Skinner,

1978: 18).

Nor, I

would

add,

ought we

to dismiss

the value of statements


not

in fact

so

(cf

e.g.

Skinner's
So it

practice

apparently incoherent that they are Spirit Montesquieu, of the Laws: Preface). Unfortunately precept. his is not as good as

by

authors of works

comes about that much current practice one of the more

in the

history

of

ideas

deliberately

en

dorses

fantastic doctrines be
the

of

the scholastics themselves: the belief that


politics of

one must

"resolve

antinomies."

The aim, for example, in studying the


restricted

Machiavelli

need not therefore


nature of

tempt to indicate the the

to anything developments and divergences from the Prince to

so straightforward as an at

later Discourses. It

can

be

and

has been

insisted instead that the

appropriate

task must be to

construct

for Machiavelli

a scheme of

for the doctrines

of

the Prince to be

capable of

being

beliefs sufficiently generalized aufgehoben into the Discourses


1978: 20).

with all the apparent contradictions resolved

(Skinner,

But in asserting that Machiavelli's books relate as a historical development, Skinner disregards Machiavelli's own indications of his intentions and of his un 217of the relationship between the two works (cf. Baron, 1961:

derstanding 57). Judging


tence
wrote
when

from internal
Machiavelli

cross-references, the Discourses was

wrote

the

Prince,

and the

Prince

when

already in exis Machiavelli


puzzled as

the Discourses. Machiavelli explicitly leaves the

reader

to

which

book
as

was written

first: his intention

must

be that the

reader

is to take the

books

contemporaneous.

Moreover,

as

Leo Strauss

pointed

out, Machiavelli

indicates in the
knows,"

prefaces

to both books that

they both

contain

"everything he
view, the

that

is,

the same content,

if presented from different

points of

412

Interpretation
indicated

points of view

by

the different addresses of the two


as

books (Strauss,

1958: ch. 1).


parent

imply
other

are many ap disagreements between Machiavelli's two books, yet in itself that does not either historical development or ultimate disagreement. stands

While it is true,

Hans Baron emphasizes, that there

One

in

no

less danger

of

losing

the

"historically

eigentlich,"

as well as

things, if one resolves at the outset to stop analysis and interpretation with apparent incoherences and apparent contradictions. Skinner and the other Cam
on

bridge historiographists dwell only


The

the danger of overreading.


the Myth of Coherence] becomes not a his
which no one ever

history thus written


of

[under the

aegis of

tory

ideas

at

all, but of abstractions: a


at a

history of thoughts

actually

succeeded

in thinking,
1968: 18).

level

of coherence which no one ever

actually

attained

(Skinner,
Skinner's

claim

is

literally

untrue,

of

course, for the


"attained"

historian, if
and

no one

else,

"succeeded in If the

thinking"

these thoughts and

this "level of

coherence."

achievement not

historian, why
Skinner
and appeal to some

is actual, then it is obviously possible, for the thinker in the first place?
considerations,"

if possible for the

the others support their election of the Scylla of underreading

by

"empirical

"commonplaces"

some
of common experience
beliefs,"

about

think
often

ing. First, we know as a matter "adopt incompatible ideals and Of course, the "most
people we ences of
people"

that

people"

"many
so

and

even, he says, do

"consciously."

obvious question arises whether commonplace observations about stand as our most reliable guides when

dealing

with the

kinds

of

typically study in the history of thought. We have, I think, experi "other fewer to be sure who seem remarkably thoughtful
people"

and

able, to
of

high

degree,

to be consistent in their "ideals and

beliefs"

to say

nothing

their thoughts (cf.


an earlier article

Tarcov,

1982:

693).
a

Echoing

by

John

Dunn, Skinner brings forward


"effortful
activity,"

"second

consideration":

to think at all

is surely

to engage

in

an

and not

just to

manipulate

effortlessly
that we

some sort of

kaleidoscope
in
an

of neutral

images.

...

It is surely empirically
meanings,
and

commonplace that we engage

intolerable
limits

wrestle with words and their

characteristically

spill over the

of our

intelligence

and get

confused,

that our attempts to synthesize our views

may in

consequence reveal conceptual

disor

der

as much as coherent

doctrines (Skinner,
activity,

1968:

30;

cf.

Dunn,

1972: 160-61).

Thinking
seems

methodology designed to insulate the interpreter from that hard work, for it en courages the historian not to engage in that "intolerable but rather to rest easy with whatever pops out at him. We must, moreover, be as careful not to extrapolate from our abilities and achievements to those of others as we are not to
to be
wrestle,"

is indeed

an effortful

and

the

historiographists'

extrapolate

from

our

historical
things

moment to the past.


with

ample,

who can achieve

not even

imagine to be

humanly

There are gymnasts, for ex bodies which, had I not seen, I would possible from my own experience. Aren't the
their

On Quentin Skinner's Method


thinkers of the past whom we

-413

study

perhaps

among the

gymnasts of the mind?

Ought

we

to close ourselves to their possible achievements on the

basis
as

of a per

ception of our own

failings? That

seems

concedes, the historian can achieve the level

Skinner especially foolish, when, of coherence that Skinner denies to Skinner's


strictures

the philosopher. Beneath the apparent modesty of

lies

an odd

arrogance, and

dare

we

historical

situation allows

progressivism. For what else but his superior say it the historian to succeed as a thinker so much better

than the thinkers of the past?

II. THE ICE OVER THERE IS VERY THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS

THIN-

Theory rather than history undergirds the efforts of the Cambridge historiogra
phists, for no strictly gible,
much empirical conception of

historical

studies can make

intelli

less support, the most characteristic and puzzling claims Skinner makes. As we have seen, for example, he castigates scholars who try to decide whether Marsilius possessed a doctrine of separation of powers on the basis of
Marsilius'

texts rather than


meant"

could

have

to put

"by pointing to the impropriety of supposing that he forward such a doctrine (Skinner, 1967: 8). Indeed,
discover
what

Skinner
possible

elevates

the attempt to to

"it

might chief

in

principle

have been
of

for

communicate"

someone

into the

task of

history

ideas
of

(Skinner,
from

1968:

49).

The

historically

eigentlich emerges

from knowledge
rather

what are almost a priori possibilities of what could examination of what was said with a view

have been said,

than

to understanding what was

thought.

The theory which drives Skinner toward this odd conception of the nature of study in history of ideas derives from an amalgam of recent developments within
Anglo-American
analytic

philosophy,

which

he

and

the other Cambridge

histor

iographists apply to the


sophic analysis was suit of

problem of

the interpretation of past thought. "Philo

the agency

which

began to liberate the historian for the


a

pur

his

method,"

own

Pocock tells us,


of

development

which

record"

"gratifying founding of
11).

to

for "much

the previous confusion

it is especially originated in a con

the function of the historian and the

philosopher"

(Pocock,
but

1971:
not

Historians
enterprise.

require philosophic analysis about

their enterprise,

in

their

That

analysis

derives from
of

and expands upon

J. L. Austin's

language. In using language one not only quality do things. Austin uses as one of the also can say things, but in saying things, clearest examples of such linguistic performances the exchange of vows in a
thesis
about

the

performative

one is not describing wedding ceremony. In such utterances, Austin argues, that I am doing it: it is state or to to be in so said "what I should be doing uttering (emphasis added) (Austin, 1975: 6). Austin, and Skinner after him, of to do
it"

somethi

ten use the formula: "in saying something we are

doing
1975: 12).

to describe

the

performative character of speech acts

(Austin,

414

Interpretation
"illocution"

Austin introduces the term


in saying something

to capture the "performance of an act


something"

as opposed to performance of an act

(Austin,

1975: 99-100). of the

An example,

one

of saying that figures in several of Skinner's

discussions
thin,"

issue, may help

to clarify the point: to say "the ice over there


at

is

may, under certain circumstances very is, "to say something with the force of a
mere

least, be

to issue a warning, that


1964: 444).

warning"

(Strawson,

The

grasp

of

the words, syntax, and so on of the sentence, that


not secure and

is,

of

the mean

ing of the
terms"

statement, does

understanding

of what

has been

said.

Thus,
illocu-

Skinner concludes,

"meaning"

"understanding"

are not

"strictly

correlative

(Skinner,
of

1968: 45).

To

understand a statement one must


well as

grasp the

tionary force
merely
calls on

the statement as

its

meaning.

But the

illocutionary
said,"

force

of a statement

depends
was and

on a wide

variety

of contextual on

circumstances,
was

and not

"what

said."

Focusing
in Skinner
of

merely
the

"what

what

Austin

lucution, ing, for it cannot supply knowledge


the

appears as

the

text,

cannot

illocutionary
us

supply force.

understand

Skinner's
or more

principles of

interpretation turn Skinner's

from the text itself to the context,

accurately, to the kind of interaction between text and context in which

illocutionary
of

force is

graspable.

special

theory

of

interpretation arises,
"uptake"

however, from his


the

answer to the question of what makes possible the

or

grasp illocutionary in brief, that "any intention

force

of a statement

(Skinner,

1970: 118).

capable of

tor]

as

the intention intended


a

by

being correctly understood by [the speaker] to be understood by


must

He argues, A [the audi

must al

ways

be

socially

conventional

intention

fall,

that

is,

within a given and

established range of acts which can

the

intention"

(Skinner,

1970:
and

be conventionally grasped as being cases of 133). The conventions determine what can be
what

said,

and

thus set bounds

limits to

any
at

given utterance could

possibly

have been intended to


Now it
should

say.

be

clear

that

we stand

here

the very

center of

the

understand

ing

from

which

Skinner's

critique of

his fellow historians

emerged and

by

which

Skinner is led to the kind have be


an

of a prioristic of

history

we

have already

noticed.

If

we

adequate

knowledge

the conventions prevailing at a given time and place

we are

in

a position

to know in advance, so to speak, what can or cannot possibly


and place.

said

in that time

Thus

we arrive at

Skinner's
the

explicit mandates

for

"appropriate methodology for the history of The role of convention in securing understanding

ideas."

of

illocutionary force
and

of

utterances over

forms the
of

subject of a

debate between Skinner

P. F. Strawson say

the meaning
do"

Austin's doctrine.
off

Thinking of the

performative role of

ing

"I

in

a marriage

ceremony, Austin himself


the performance (e. g.
agrees that

affirmed

the essential role of

convention

in

bringing

Austin,

1975:

14, 105;

Straw-

son,
tion

1964: 441).
...

Strawson

"illocutionary

force is

a matter of conven

in

cases,"

a great number of
not as

but

claims also that

"there

which

it is

conforming to

an accepted convention of

are many cases in any kind (other than

those linguistic conventions which

help

fix the meaning

of

the utterance) that an

On Quentin Skinner's Method

-415

illocutionary
"the ice
will over

act

is

performed"

(Strawson,
There
of a

1964: 443).

He in

gives

the example of this


statement

there is very

thin."

are circumstances

which

have the

illocutionary

force

warning, but "without its


. . .
convention"

being

the case that

there

is any

statable convention at all

such that the speaker's act can

be

said

to be

an act done as conforming to that (Strawson, 1964: 444). Skinner asserts, to the contrary, that "any intention capable of being correctly understood by A as the intention intended by S to be understood by A must al ways
ment
. . .

(Skinner, 1970: 133). Skinner's argu socially conventional in favor of that claim is remarkably thin however. "Even when the locution
a

be

intention"

and

the

circumstances

...

are a

both

appropriate

...

for the

act performed as

to

be

assessable as one of

warning,

further

question still

remains,

to

whether

there exists any mutually recognizable convention such that to speak in the way S
speaks

being
sary,

in warning A will be taken by A as a

acceptable as a

form

of

warning, and so

capable of

warning"

(Skinner,

1970:

131).

Strawson

did,

that sometimes

it is indeed the

case such

We may concede, as a convention is neces


not al

nonetheless we must concur with

Strawson 's judgment that this does


show

ways seem

to be the

case.

Skinner tries to

the essentiality of some estab

lished

social convention or other

situation not
will get

carry

out

his intention to
react or

the point,

buy

raising the question, why might S in this warn A in this way. He may believe that A differently from what he (S) intends (for example,

by

get alarmed or understand chasm

annoyed),

it

as a warning.

A may miss the point of the utterance, that is, not In a breathtaking leap of logic Skinner soars over the
it"

from this latter possibility to the conclusion that "some element of con is necessary for one to get the point of an vention and mutual understanding of
utterance.

Skinner talks

as

of a statement

being

seen

is an instance if every instance of "getting the to fit into some linguistic convention or other, and
missed as

point"

every

case of

the

point

being

due to the

absence of a

mutually

under

stood convention.

The

example at

hand is
nor

a powerful counter-example
provides

to Skinner's

position

however. Neither he
volved

Strawson

any

analysis of what

actually is in
to be taken,

in allowing the

sentence

"the ice

over there

is very be

thin,"

in

the

appropriate circumstances, as a warning. convention

Skinner
will

suggests

it

can serve as a

in that way, and signals distress. SOS that learn that people learn this convention in the way they But the cases are really quite different, which can readily be seen if we consider over there is the conditions which must be met for A to get the point of "the ice warning because there exists a
that it
used
thin"

very

as a warning.

possibly about to go on the ice. If A were immobile

First, A must be a skater or someone otherwise the ice, or concerned with someone on or about to
and

on or

go on

he

and

S both knew he
a matter of

would never go onto

the

ice,

the

statement

in

question could not a

only be

information (or

perhaps

something else), but something about ice weight. He must also

must also understand warning addressed to A. A that thin ice is ice which is less likely to hold a person's

understand

that

falling

through the

ice

could

be

a danger-

416
ous or at

Interpretation
least extremely
unpleasant experience. water

Were he

altogether

ignorant

of

the feel

and effects of

icy

he

might not understand

the statement as a warn

ing, for

warning requires awareness of something dangerous or otherwise to be avoided, and he might again just consider it a point of information, or perhaps
a
even an requires

invitation for

a swim.

To

get

the point of the statement as a warning then

that the auditor be in a certain situation, possess certain

information
he

or

understandings about

ice, icy
two

water, human bodies and so on, and that that

or she

be

able to

"put two

together,"

and

is, be

able

to draw the
over

inference from
The
auditor

"the ice

over

there is very

thin"

to "it is dangerous to go

there."

need not

know any conventions about issuing warnings to skaters, unless the var ious pieces of information required are considered to be such conventions. They

certainly are not the sort of conventions (if it makes sense to call them that at all) that Skinner has in mind, for they are not conventions about warning. On the ba
sis of

reasoning

of

this sort Skinner erects his entire doctrine and


establishes

methodology

of of

interpretation, for he believes it


acts,"

"the

essential

conventionality

speech utterance via

and

thus the necessity and possibility of understanding any given


and

the linguistic conventions surrounding it


1970: 132-33).

securing its illocution simply

ary force (Skinner,

According

to the

historiographists, philosophy
in
philosophy:

tells them that "there

are no perennial problems

there are only individual answers to in

dividual questions, with as many different answers as there are questions, and as The opposite view, or at least the oppo many different questions as
questioners."

site possibility, animated those earlier

historians

who of

tended to "confound the


are no

function

of

the historian and the

philosopher."

If,

course, there

"peren

nial problems

in

philosophy,"

then

it follows there is

the point of studying the


classic authors
questions"

history of ideas in the by focusing on their attempted


1968: 50).

"simply no hope of seeking attempt to learn directly from the


answers

to

supposedly timeless

(Skinner,

Even if Skinner is

does

not succeed

problems."

perennial

correct about the role of convention in securing uptake, he in establishing his major claim, to the effect that "there are no Skinners theory about convention, however, can only es

tablish at best that the communication of a thought occurs within a particular set
of circumstances which are relevant
authors'

to the possibilities

of audience uptake of

the

that the

intentions in making the statement, but he has not thereby established thought involved could not the particular situation in which
"transcend"

it

was made.

Indeed, if

ment remains within

the possibility of speaking about the truth of any state Skinner's frame, then there is no reason to discount the pos

sibility
mits

of

"timeless

truths"

that the conventions are less


with

being expressed by past thinkers. Skinner himself ad binding than he sometimes suggests when he
issue
of

deals

the

"very
is

intractable"

innovation in the

realm of
which

thought:

If S's

speech act or at

also an act of social and

linguistic innovation
act must

nevertheless

intends

least hopes

will

be understood, the

necessarily,

and

for that

rea

son, take the form


which

of an extension or criticism of some

existing

attitude or project

is already convention-governed

and understood

(Skinner,

1970: 135).

On Quentin Skinner's Method


The conventions, then, do
govern what

411
may be thought,
what nor a

not govern what

do they

even

expressed
rejected.
woodian

way things, they may be ignored or In sum, Skinner's more strictly historicist conclusions of a Collingsort cannot be made to follow from his Austinian linguistic convention
to a given audience.

may be

said.

They

govern,

at

most, in
other

thought may be

But, among

alist arguments.

(See

appended

Although I

suggested earlier that

essay on Pocock.) Skinner drastically

overstated the case when

he

characterized

the approach of the textists in terms of a commitment to the text

alone as

solely

adequate

tion Skinner and the others wish to effect tion away from the text. It would rather
or

for understanding past thought, nonetheless the redirec is substantial and indeed lies in a direc

be

more accurate

to say that the


on

textists,

the best

of

them

in any case, focus


not on

not on

the text as such but

the matter of

which sisted

the text speaks

the

matter as

it is

or might appear to

the unas

eye, but

on

the matter as the author of the text is

trying
look

to get or
whither

help them
the guide
guide as a

to see. To return to our earlier metaphor, the textists

points,

attempt

to follow

his line

of

vision;

they

neither

look

at

the

self-sufficient

activity,

nor

to the landscape quite

independently of his
as mere points

pointing for their

activity. own

Those

who use philosophic

texts

guiding or of departure

free associating, act like those who look to the landscape without any particular guidance from the guide. The historio graphists, more to avoid the ahistorical defects of the latter approach, would look

thinking,

or

for their

own

to the guide, but


since

not

to the

matter.

They fear they would see not what he sees, but


what comes

rather, everybody has his own (historical) vantage point, view from where they stand. Stated like this, the
sounds much

to

historiographists'

position of

like

an orthodox

historicism, in, for


an

example, the form


respect

Nietz

schean perspectivism.

In fact it differs in
our

important
of

that is worth re

peating here. For Nietzsche,

knowledge

the guide too is infected

by

the

perspectivality of all our knowledge; the historically eigentlich appears as a boot less aspiration. If there are no perennial problems, if every act of thought "is

inescapably
in
to
a

the

embodiment of a particular

intention,

on a particular

occasion,
situation

addressed to the solution of a particular problem, and thus specific to

its

way that

it

can

only be

transcend,"

naive

to

try

to
thought"

then the same must

apply
In
a

our efforts

to

understand

those "acts of

(Skinner,

1967: 50).

word: if past thinkers could not, in principle, think themselves out of their situa tions, then present historians cannot, in principle, think themselves into those sit uations. The historiographists are caught in an untenable middle ground between

historicism

and nonhistoricism.

and equally in If Skinner is correct, there must be as many equally valid histories of thought as there are "particular occasions and particular valid
problems."

Can Skinner

and

Pocock,

even armed with their

method, achieve the

by

historically eigentlich any better than Wolin or Cassirer? The history constructed Wolin, for example, presents "[his] individual answers to [his] individual
questions."

And the

same

for Skinner. But Skinner


He

treats

his

predecessors alto

gether

differently

from

what one might expect.

reasons with

them, just

as

418

Interpretation
those whom
act of

they

reasoned with

they

studied.

He

subscribes

to the

Mythology

of

Doctrines
subscribes

in the very
to the

attributing to them the Doctrine of Doctrines.

He

Mythology of Coherence
for their
practice of speaks to them
as

in the very
and

act of

reason or account study.

seeking

coherence

supplying a coherent in the thinkers they

Above all, Skinner

to other authors he addresses to speak of

in in
to

a whole series of articles

though

it

makes sense

"the

matter,"

this case, the best way to

approach

the

history

of

ideas,

and not senseless

blame them for

not

having

done it the way he

concludes

is best. He
truth,"

acts as

though he and the others are all addressing a common question, to


might

which

there

be better

or worse

answers, and,

perhaps even a

"timeless

and not

at all as though

these are only "individual questions, with as many


questioners"

different

ques

tions as there are

(Skinner,

1968: 50).

Nor,

as we shall

see, does he
not

apply to them any

of

the methodological tenets

he blames

them

for

applying

to the thinkers of the past.

My point is
these men
change with

not so much to urge

this is more or

Skinner to apply his standards consistently to less what Gunnell did in his recent book and ex
to
point out

Pocock
under

but

rather

that the moment

Skinner takes

seri

ously
gets

an

issue

discussion,

the moment he thinks about "the

matter"

he for

entirely everything he

parades out when

he is

not

being

serious.

When he is
the previ

actually thinking about something, Skinner of course behaves just ous historians did, and as the philosophers did before them.

as

III. THE WATER UNDER THERE IS VERY

COLD-

INTERPRETIVE PRACTICES

Even if Skinner's

method were

theoretically better
be
met

grounded than

it is, it

sets

logical
never

requirements

that can

never

in he

practice.
seeks.

draw the kind

of a priori conclusions

all, Skinner could For instance, should he find


of

First

conventionally (normally?) people in the 13th century who spoke of the difference between the legislative and the executive meant that in an Aristotelian rather than a Montesquieuan sense, it nonetheless does not follow that Marsilius
out that
might

not, in principle, have

meant

it in the latter say anything

sense.

Even if

we accept

the
not

highly
given

dubious

notion that no one can

which a convention

does

warrant,

we can never

be

certain we possess all the conventions available at a

time for any given source or sources. If


spoken

Marsilius Skinner

can

be

fairly
be

shown

to

have

in

Montesquieuan way, the

most

would

able

to infer

was that

there

was an otherwise unknown convention

(or, for Pocock "para

digm") Secondly, the logic of Skinner's position leads him to emphasize the priority of authorial intention, yet his method at the same time closes him off from under
allowing that.

standing texts in the way their


one

authors understood said to

them.

Skinner insists,

on

the

hand,

that "no agent can

eventually be

have

meant or

done something

On Quentin Skinner's Method


which

-419

he

could never
done"

be brought to

accept as a correct

description

of what

he had

meant or

(Skinner,

1969: 28):

This

special

authority

of an agent over

his intentions

excludes the

an acceptable account of an agent's

behavior

could ever survive the

possibility that demonstration that

it

was

itself dependent

on the use of criteria of

description

and classification not avail

able

to the agent himself. For if a given statement or other action has been performed

by

an agent at will, and

has

meaning for him, it follows that any


could at

plausible account of

what

the agent meant must necessarily fall under, and make use of, the range of de

scriptions which the agent and

himself

least in

principle

have

applied to

describe

classify what he was doing. Otherwise the resulting account, however compelling, cannot be an account of his statement or action (Skinner, 1969: 28-29).

Skinner defends this thesis in

about authorial

a series of essays addressed to various

intention courageously and lucidly interpretive theses which, in one way


15-16;

or another challenge

it (cf. Skinner,

1971:

Skinner,

1972:

394-408;
the his
with

Skinner,

1975-76: 213-15).
other

On the

hand, however,
and

true to their methodological

directives,

toriographists hold back from


which

looking
thus

through the texts to "the


withhold

matter"

the text is concerned,

they

themselves from the


in"

crucial
out"

interpretive activities,
through"

such as

and so on which are part of

and seeking coherence, "filling the interpreter's task of "thinking

"filling
a

through"

text.
also

"Thinking
provides the

not

only

provides

the only access to "the

matter,"

but it

only

access

to the text as an

historical entity, for if Skinner is


that the
conventionalism at puts

correct

in

general

that to reach the

historically

eigentlich one must orient oneself

by

authorial of

intention,

then one must

recognize

the core

Cambridge historiographism

stands as a

bar to that, for it

the reader or in

terpreter in an altogether different

frame

of mind

toward the text in question than

the

author of

the text could have had. The authors of the texts understood their
of

efforts not

prevailing linguistic conventions, nor in terms of ab but in terms of the matter. or stracting from prevailing At the same time, Skinner's theory about the nature of texts and their relation

in terms

"traditions"

"paradigms,"

to context leads in

practice

to difficulties

in the

handling of both text and context.

Skinner's Foundations of Modern Political Thought contain much useful and even some interesting information, but more than anything it reminds of a Cecil B DeMille
.

movie

a cast of

thousands, but nothing very


or

much of

interest to say

about

the thinkers. Were


makes them?
work

Machiavelli,

any

of

the other thinkers, so


matter of

flabby

as

Skinner

Led

by

his

method

Skinner's

naturally

substitutes erudition

away from the for engagement.


the texts

the thought,

Skinner
cerned.
thin"

also

largely

misses

the

character of

with which

he is

con

He takes the
as the model

simple expressive sentence

"the ice

over

there

is very
of

for the

communication act which one studies

in

history

political philosophy. units of

He looks

at

texts

in terms

of

basic

or primitive nuggets or

meaning

the sentence. He

context of an utterance, without

understanding by the recognizing that the first and foremost context is


attempts

to generate

420

Interpretation

the other sentences of the text, as structured and organized


thor

by the
or

author.

The

au

is

not

communicating to

us

merely
to

string

of

sentences;

rather

he

communi
mat

cates a thought or
ter"

thoughts,

which present a

way

of

grasping

seeing "the

at

hand,
as
power

and presents or points

reasons which recommend

this way of

grasping
not

true. The author cannot communicate that grasp to transfer his thoughts directly. He
appear one after another and
can

directly for he has


speak

the

only

in

sentences

which

necessarily relationship The meaning is in the whole, in the complex thought the author may lead the reader to think by thinking through what is presented, and not in any colligation of primitive nuggets of meaning. The grasp of the matter as the
with each other. author

in

some structured

in

question grasped

the matter,

which

is the

ultimate

task not only of

philosophical chronous sented

but

of

historical

studies of

the Rankean sort also, is

itself

a syn

thing, but must be built up from the necessarily diachronously pre text. The transformation of the text from a diachronous to a synchronous
be
a shorthand

entity
the

might well

way to describe the necessary

and proper

task

of

interpreter,

task Cambridge historiographists fail to perform.


attention

Cambridge historiographism focuses the interpreter's

away from the

text, away from its structure and holistic or organized character, and towards the context. More than once in his various writings, Skinner gives the following il
lustration
tion.
which reveals

the way in

which

he brings text

and context

into interac

Suppose

an

historian

comes across the

following

statement

in

Renaissance

moral

tract: "a prince must learn how not to tended reference of the statement are
native

be

virtuous."

Suppose that the


. . .

sense and the

in

truths about the statement

both perfectly clear. Now suppose two alter itself: either that such cynical advice was frequently

offered

in Renaissance

moral

such cynical advice as a precept

tracts; or that scarcely anyone had ever publicly offered before. It is obvious that any commentator wishing to

understand the statement must

find out which of these alternatives is nearer the truth. If is the first alternative, the intended force of the utterance itself in the mind of the agent who uttered it can only have been to endorse or emphasize an accepted
the answer
moral attitude.

But if the
of

answer

is the second, the intended force


or

of the utterance

be

comes more

repudiating an established moral commonplace. Now it happens in fact that something like each of these historical claims has been ad
rejecting
of vanced

like that

in turn

by

historians

ideas

about the statement to this effect

in Machiavelli's

Prince. Now it is
also that the

obvious not on

decision

merely that only one of these claims can be correct, but which one is correct will very greatly affect any understand have been
that

ing

of what

Machiavelli
to

can

intending

to achieve

(Skinner,
made

1969: 46-47).

Now, according
the statement

Skinner,
and

"decision"

could not

be

itself

its

meaning."

position, for it
nugget-like

makes clear

his

view

revealing that the interpretive task is to


statement

This

claim

is

most

"from studying of Skinner's


"decode"

these

"statements."

entities,
as

But this

by Machiavelli does
within a

not ex

ist

by

itself

though it were an autonomous text. It exists

larger text

On Quentin Skinner's Method


which serves

421
and point.

to

locate its meaning

many

other

things to say about virtue in the

Machiavelli, for example, has Prince, including the famous de


general

scription of

how his treatment of his themes differs in Individual


other statements

from the treatments


the context

of all previous writers. of a structure of

find their

place within

many in

individual statements,

and their

meaning therefore

does

not

lie

open to a wide context


of a

they
of

are grasped

array of possible illocutionary understandings when (cf. Tarcov, 1982: 697). Especially important is a fo

cus on

text, for the structure contains the author's articulation the interrelation between his statements, that is, the way in which they serve
the structure

as contexts

for

each other.

But the Cambridge historiographists


the works

are

remarkably

indifferent to the

structure of

they

study.

(In his

more recent theoretical

work, Skinner seems to be

discovering

the import of structure, however. He text


a

indicates his belief that for


plays context

some class of

for example, Shakespeare's


of structure

understanding may

arrive more

from

grasp

than of external

[Skinner, Moreover, Skinner's statements of the alternative meanings of Machiavelli's statement is false, or at least misleading. If others said the same as Machiavelli,
1975-76]).
only"

he "can
tude,"

have intended "to

endorse or emphasize an accepted moral atti

Skinner. No, Machiavelli can have intended several other things as well, including getting his readers to see why such a statement was true, or how it related to other opinions people hold. That is, just because one agrees with oth
says ers

in

statement, that does


point of

not make

ment.

The

the

statement can

agreeing with others the point of the state only be seen by attending to Machiavelli's
through,"

text.

working with the text as a text, instead of "thinking attempt to establish meaning by setting in historiographists "look

Instead

of

the
con

around,"

text. That

approach

leads them to hypostacize has


at

context:

"an

appeal

to the context
the

is deceptive:

one never

least in the

context"

case of complex

texts

(LaCapra,

1980: 254).

The historiographist 's historical

research shows

that very

well, for we have Pocock's book The Machiavellian Moment and Skinner's The Foundation of Modern Thought, covering much of the same material, but read ing it off rather different constructs of the context. Not merely do they present

different

constructs of
more

the context

and

thus of the

authors

they

are consider

ing
quite

but

importantly they
little
regard

present their view of

the context, generated the authors under

freely

and with

for the

sense of context of

correct that one needs to study (cf. Tarcov, 1982: 708). For example, it is surely consider how Machiavelli's works are written into his context (what illocution
have),'

but one needs to follow Machiavelli's own ary force he intended them to Skinner and Pocock are notable for the de indications about his context. Both gree to which they impose external contextual materials on their authors. Mach

iavelli, for example,


he intends to

speaks a great

deal

of

his

context as

he

understands

it

and as

address

it. The historiographists ignore Machiavelli's

own

presen-

422

Interpretation
and

tations, however,

impose what, in the

case of

Pocock, is

highly

structured,

highly
of

artificial context which seems

to relate far less to Machiavelli and his con

temporaries than to Pocock's previous

historical research,
1971:

or certain

idees fixes

his (cf. Pocock,

1975:

3-83;

Pocock,
in the
the

233-72;

Pocock,

1957).

Political philosophy

or political

thought in

relation

to political life or political

action stands as a central

theme
of

work of

the Cambridge
origin and

historiographists,

but the

peculiar

interpretation

work

into its

the peculiar detach

ment of

the

work

untenable.

By

from any other possible context upon which they insist is refuting the Cambridge historiographers we cannot guarantee that
political about

history
will

of political

not

philosophy will prove useful to our degenerate into a mere colligation of claims

life,

nor

that it

text and context

mainly of interest to scholars, and not of much interest even to them. But we can hope to have contributed to the survival of the possibility of the understanding for these are not opposed but intimately related activi and appropriation
ties
of political philosophy.

APPENDIX: POCOCK'S WORK

Convention

stands at the center of

Pocock's

work

also, but he

never manages

to

mount

as sophisticated a philosophical explication of


"paradigms."

his

position.

For Pocock, the

relevant con

ventions are

Political

"paradigms"

societies contain one or more


aspects.
cannot

by

which

they discuss their political (and other) these paradigms determine what can or
thinkers may
mix

Like Skinner's linguistic conventions,

be

said at

any

given time or
"migrate"

place, but
one con

together these paradigms or the paradigms


produce or allow

text to another, and thus


weight on authorial

innovation

and

may difference. Pocock

from

puts

far less

intention than Skinner does, for his paradigms carry more of the weight of thinking than do Skinner's conventions. They seem to be more highly structured than Skinner's conventions, or perhaps, organized at a higher level of complexity. Skin
ner's conventions seem to paradigms seem much more

apply at the level of individual statements, like what we would recognize as

whereas
or

Pocock's

"theories"

structured,

complex, and stable sets of opinions

(Pocock,

1971: 3-41).

Pocock's

notion

of not

paradigm

remains

hopelessly

vague,

however;

one

wonders

whether paradigm

is

given time political

(and therefore obscuring) way of saying that at any is characterized society by sets of more or less prevailing, more or less
a

just

fancy

authoritative, opinions on many or most matters of importance. As restated, that is no

doubt correct, but how far does this

observation take us towards the new


"transformation"

the historiographists? Pocock attempts to ground his

of

the

methodology of study of his

tory

of political

philosophy
"a

with the claim

that all political


language,"

the exploration and sophistication of political


previous article series of abstractions

that

thinking "is now redefined as is, what he had called in his


from
tradition"

from experience,

or

(Pocock,
"paradigms"

1971:

15;

Pocock,

1962: 190).

Let

us not pause to explore

lows from what, for Pocock just


or of the character of

gives us no reason

in any detail what actually fol to believe his account of

thinking is

true.

On Quentin Skinner's Method

423

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Austin, John L. (1975), How to do Things with Words. Baron, Hans (1961), "Machiavelli: The Republican Citizen
Prince,'"

and the

Author

of

'The

The English Historical Review


the

76

(1 961),

217-53.
and

Buell, Richard (1973), "Review of Dunn, John (1972), "The Identity of

Pocock,"

Society, Series IV,


1972), 158-73-

ed.

in Philosophy, Politics and Peter Laslett, W. C. Runciman, and Quentin Skinner (Oxford,
'Revisionist'

History History of

Theory

12

(1973),

251-64.

Ideas,"

Methods for Studying the Femia, Joseph (1981), "An Historicist Critique of History and Theory 20 (1981), 1 13-34. History of Gadamer, Hans-Georg (1975), Truth and Method (New York, 1975). Gunnell, John G. (1979), Political Theory: Tradition and Interpretation (Cambridge, Mass., 1978). (198 1), "Method, Methodology, and the Search for Traditions in the History of Political Theory: A Reply to Pocock's Annals of Scholarship (1981), pp.
Idea,"

Salute,"

26-55-

His LaCapra, Dominick (1980), "Rethinking Intellectual History and Reading pp. 245-76. and (1980), 3 Theory tory Leslie, Margaret (1970), "In Defense of Anachronism, Political Studies 4 (1970), pp.
"

Texts,"

433-47-

Mew, Peter (1971), "Conventions


352-56.

on

Thin

Ice,"

Philosophical

Quarterly

21

(1971),

Parek, Bhiku,
er's

and

Methodology,"

R. N. Beiki, "The History of Political Ideas: A Critique Journal of History of Ideas 34 (1973), 163-84.

of

Q. Skinn

Pocock, J. G. A. (1957), The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law. in Phi (1962), "The History of Political Thought: A Methodological losophy, Politics, and Society, Series II, ed. Peter Laslett and W. G. Runciman (New York, 1962), pp. 183-202. (1971), Politics, Language and Time (London, 1971). (1975), The Machiavellian Moment (Princeton, N.J., 1975). Annals of Scholarship (Summer (1981a), "Political Theory, History and
Enquiry,"

"

Myth,"

1981),

3-25.
Methods,"

(1981b), "Intentions, Traditions


1981),
37-62.

and

Annals of Scholarship (Summer Political

Schochet, Gordon (1974),


261-76.

"Quentin Skinner's

Method,"

Theory

(i974)>

His Skinner, Quentin (1969), "Meaning and Understanding in the History of tory and Theory 8 (1969), 3 The Philosophical (1970), "Conventions and the Understanding of Speech 118-58. Quarterly 20 (1970), ppThe Philosophical Quar (1971), "On Performing and Explaining Speech 1 terly 2 (1971), New Literary His (1972), "Motives, Intentions and the Interpretation of 393-408. tory 3 (1972), Politi (1974), "Some Problems in the Analysis of Political Thought and cal Theory 2 (1974), 277-303.
-53Acts,"

Ideas,"

Acts,"

-21.

Texts,"

Action,"

424

Interpretation
History,"

New Literary History 7 (!975)> "Hermeneutics and the Role of (1975-76), 209-32. (1978), The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (Cambridge, 1978). Strauss, Leo (1959), What is Political Philosophy? (Glencoe, 111., 1959). (1958), Thoughts on Machiavelli (Glencoe, 111., 1958). Philosophical Re Strawson, P. F. (1964), "Intention and Convention in Speech view 73 (1964), 439-60. Ethics Tarcov, Nathan (1982), "Quentin Skinner's Method and Machiavelli's 92 (1982), 692-709. Tarlton, Charles D. (1973), "Historicity, Meaning, and Revisionism in the Study of Political History and Theory 12 (1973), 307-28. Sheldon Wolin, (i960), Politics and Vision (Boston, i960). Michael The Independent Zuckert, (1977), "Of Wary Physicians and Weary Journal of Philosophy 2 (1977), 55-66.
Acts,"

Prince,"

Thought,"

Readers,"

Book Reviews
Locke's Education for Liberty. Chicago J. E.

By

Nathan Tarcov. (Chicago:

University

of

Press,

1984. viii + 272 pp.:

$22.00.)

Parsons, Jr.

myths about avoid

Nathan Tarcov 's outstanding book on Locke's Education punctures a few Locke and coins a new word, (or the tendency to
"algedonism,"

pain)

which ought

to pass into

our

Lockean literature

as a

key

term.

First,

Locke's Education is
their children,

not

merely

addressed to parents anxious to

do the best
regime

but

constitutes a

way

of

perpetuating the Lockean

by by
a

habituating children to
certain stratum of reputation

the civil virtues

which

liberty presupposes

at

least for

the population. These

virtues cluster around

the concern for

in the

grown

child,

which of

is indispensable for the habitual law-abid


opinion"

ingness that Locke terms "the law for Locke is its


most one of

in the Essay. A
human life
and

good reputation

the

most

lasting

pleasures of

disgrace

one of

lasting
first

pains. a great

Incidentally, Bacon,
custom or

method of years:

authority for Locke, defines education as early habituation: "Certainly custom is most perfect when it
this we call
education which

beginneth in young
custom"

(Essays,

xxxix, "Of Custom

and

Education";
of
"
.

is, in effect, but an early cf. Tarcov, pp. 6, 89).


pedagogy:

Bacon

adds a point not philosophic

fully

explicable

in terms

Locke's broad
some minds

"[Scil. the
suffered

aptitude]"

is

present

in

that have not

themselves to

fix, but have kept themselves open


rare"

and prepared

to

receive

continual

amendment,

which

main apparent problem of

(ibid.). And this constitutes the is exceeding how does it account or even make Locke's Education:
the gentry like Locke himself?
punctures

allowance

for

a philosophical member of

The Tarcov

second myth

that Tarcov s book

almost ex cathedra,
makes

infallibility

of

Laslett's

edition of

is the gratuitously assumed, the Two Treatises. As

than Man
greater

needed'

abundantly clear: "Locke writes that the "desire of having more led to the invention of money, which in turn motivated men to
of

degrees

industry.

Laslett

'Man'

alters

in the

phrase

'desire

of

hav

ing

more

than Man
which

needed'

to

'Men', following

the

first

edition rather

than the

Locke corrected, and he also makes other alterations, without textual authority, in a way that diminishes the connection between this desire and (pp. 177, 253, note 187). What is more, Laslett's inven the invention of later ones,
money"

tive chronology at Treatises 1,

sees.

168-9
the text

and notes
without

to secs- x36 and 150

is

faulty,
exile

and

in the first instance

alters

warrant; Tarcov concludes

that Laslett "seems to think that Locke lived in the seventh century and that the

in Egypt took

place

in

b.c."

706

Yet Tarcov himself is

not without

his

(pp. 229-30, note 324). own inconsistencies and

omissions: cf.

426
p.

Interpretation
note 71 with p.

217

263, for example,


p.

and

his index fails to


adverted

record several ref

erences

to

Laslett, including

253,

note

187

to in this review.

Also

there are some omissions in the


and

bibliography,

viz.

the articles of Michael

Zuckert

notably Robert Horwitz's "John Locke and the Preservation of Liberty: A (The Political Science Reviewer, Vol. Perennial Problem of Civic
Education"

VI, fall 1976,


conclusions princes

pp.

325-53), which, though


of

differing

in means,

comes

to similar
of

to those

in the

republic of

Tarcov. Nevertheless, Tarcov is clearly one Locke scholarship, to use a metaphor warranted
of

the
the

Machiavelli scholarship Mansfield, Jr.

Tarcov 's Ph.D. dissertation adviser,

by Harvey

C.

The

structure of

Locke's Education for Liberty,


of

after an

introduction that
power,

stresses the
and the

distinctions between Lockean

parental power and political

separating strong desire for domination, includes


a section

importance

children's
a

liberty from their equally discussion of Filmer, Hobbes and Locke


on

desire for

respectively,

by

section

commentary

Some Thoughts

Concerning
(p.

Education The
210)
also or

and a conclusion.
education"

central

commentary dwells on what Tarcov calls "moral education proper. Later I will elucidate the problem of the
education

feasibility
1. 1

of

Lockean

nowadays,

about which

Tarcov is
of

more sanguine than

will

discuss the dilemma


on

of education

worthy

the name, to be found in Kant's

Reflections

Education.

Tarcov's

body

and

commentary has three main divisions: (1) the training of the courage, (2) the rechanneling of basic human passions through habitua
central

tion to virtues that enable

liberty,

such as

careful and methodical cultivation of never tires of and

the

civility and industriousness, and (3) the mind. With regard to the latter, Tarcov
such
self-

the correct

emphasizing the priority of moral habituation to learning as motive for learning, viz. the cultivation of natural curiosity, Expressed
as

esteem and emulation. principle of

differently, learning
game

must proceed upon

the

Tom

Sawyerism,

Robert Horwitz has

suggested.

Let the

child re

learning not as a duty but as a privileged hardly be able to restrain him from this good
gard

for adults,

and you will

"sport."

As
out

regards moral

education, punishment should never be


the tutor (p. 123) only with the

administered with concealed con

giving reasons,

and

parents'

sent should punish

the child, so

he develops

no aversion to

his

parents.

Reward

should

be

presented as a natural consequence of


of

behavior
and

and as an

inducement
a sentiment

toward "a more or less natural temper


of
"

benignity

compassion,

humanity,

nature,"

or a good

once custom

has bidden fair to


that so

overcome

the

'Roots

of almost all

the Injustice and

Contention,
be
so

disturb Humane Life

(pp.

168-9)'"

self-love.

More

could

said about

the methods of Lockean

education proper and of grafted on of

learning, but

the stock of

habituation

long as we remember that they are (proceeding from initial severity to relaxation
and

restraints), justifiable self-esteem


pp.

civility

or good

breeding,

we cannot go

far wrong (see

95, 97, 101-4, 111-12, 169, 193-8).

Book Reviews

421

Accordingly, our author presents a portrait of Locke's "liberal version of the family as the home of pleasant study and educative play, a home founded on lib
erty, civility, and love rather than patriarchal
eralism
tyranny"

(p.

209).

On Lockean lib

Tarcov regrettably fails to connect two of his most valuable and hard-won insights: (1) Lockean tends to include Hobbesian rationality (p. 247, note 82), and (2) Locke, by implication, had a less partisan, more objective
general
view of

in

the ancients than did his predecessors,


p.

such as

Bacon
on

and

especially

Hobbes (cf.
quite

259,

note 75).

Let Locke

speak

for himself

this subject in a

verted

surprising passage from Of the Conduct of the Understanding, sec. 24 (ad to in the last note): "Some will not admit an opinion not authorised by men
who were

of

old,
of
. .

then all giants in

knowledge.

Nothing

is to be

put

into the trea

sury it.
.

truth or

knowledge,
with

Others,
as

with a

and

being

taken

which has not the stamp of Greece, or Rome, upon like extravagancy contemn all that the ancients have left us, the modern inventions and discoveries, lay by all that went

before,

if

whatever

is

called old must

have the

decay

of

time upon

it,

and

truth, too, were liable to mould and rottenness. Men, I think, have been much the same for natural endowments at all times. [For] truth is always the same;
.
.

time alters

it not,

nor

is it the better
occasion,

or

worse, for

being of ancient or modern tra


ancients and the

dition.
moderns

There is

no

on

this account, to oppose the

to one another, or to

be

squeamish on either side

(emphasis

added)."

My

point

here is that Locke's inclusion


reason,

of

substantive conception of

which

Hobbesian rationality is based upon a occurs because Locke takes an evenwhom reason tended

handed

view of passion.

the ancients, unlike

Hobbes, for
the

to be just a

further
I

come at

length to the
mentioned

question of

feasibility

of

Lockean

education

for the
pre

present

day,

by

Robert Horwitz in the

article above cited.

Locke

the availability and the affordability of a tutor to supervise, in part, the formation of one's children's character. Locke's Education treats only of the ed
supposes ucation of

gentlemen, and
we

gentlemen presuppose our

gentry, or aristocracy, or
at

both. Nowadays
without a

have in
or

large industrial cities,

least,

"gentrification"

gentry proper,
plutocracy

aristocracy, although

it may be

argued

that we pos
of

sess a graded

of sorts

(see the Social Register). If the tone

life is

imitated from the very rich and filters down in society, a certain note of supercili ousness and incivility is struck, which tends to treat those of inferior economic
status

in

patronizing

way.

In

other

words, we are

ruled

by

establishments per

meated

by

the snob and the snub. In this perspective, the late Nelson Rockefel
fellah"

ler's famous greeting, "Hello,


nobody."

may

well

mean, in effect, "get

lost,

you

And Nelson Rockefeller


wealth.

could not

have become

vice president except

for his incalculable

For him, truly,

politics was a

hobby,

the same way

of lesser means. raising goldfish or woodworking is for those our to return to problem, some who benefit from "gentrifi On the other hand, are younger couples who both work, are childless and intend to remain
cation"

that way to

maximize

the

pleasures

that accrue

from

joint

annual

income

of

428

Interpretation
and upwards.

$50,000

These

couples

not contract a

costly

cocaine

habit,

simply do not want children, and if they do they can have many other outlets for spending
such as

income in tutor,

our consumer-oriented

economy,
an

BMWs
or

or

trips to Bali.

The

where and when as

he

or she

exists, is

instructor
so

trainer,

not a character

former,

Locke

and

Rousseau insist the tutor be. In

many

people's education

nowadays, the place

of

the Lockean tutor or parent is taken

by

the mindless

mor-

alism of television, especially in families where both spouses work outside the home. More and more in our society we have children who like Topsy, "just
growed"

with

the benefit of public schooling, such as it is.


was more perceptive

Perhaps Kant

than Locke

in that he

was more philosoph


modern

ical in his Education: he certainly better foresaw the later turns in education, for Kant omits all reference to a tutor and
his Reflections
on

twists

and

seems

to assume in

Education that

schools and universities will serve

in

place of

tutorial-parental supervision. And Kant poses a dilemma as old as Plato's Repub

lic

and yet

in his terms far


question

more

insoluble, being

not even amenable

to solution

in is

speech. of

That

is:

who educates

the educators, especially if the education

the present and previous generation is seriously defective? Kant's solution

to proceed toward a doctrine of indefeasible historical progress, however slow


and

seemingly

retrograde.

ress of

humanity inhumanity of the


return

is less

and

Yet today the notion of such an implied moral prog less acceptable as we proceed to suffer the brutalizing

To

to our

very scientific development which gave Kant such assurance. dilemma: Kant states in the Introduction to his Reflections, "Man

only becomes man through education. He is solely that which education makes of him. It is necessary to note well that man is only educated by men and by men
who

have equally been


in
some men

educated.

It is because

of

lack

of

discipline

and

instruc
a

tion

that makes of these bad educators for their pupils. If only

be

ing

of a superior nature were

to take charge of our education, one would then see


added)."

what could

be

made

of man (emphasis

Philonenko,
such a master self an animal

the French translator of Kant's

Reflections, footnotes
in
master,

this passage

to the effect that according to

Kant,
for

man

is

an animal

need of a master.

But

is

not available

man since such a

being human,

is him

For Kant, as Philonenko suggests, man is an animal in need of a true educator, but a true educator, being human, is nowhere to be found, because he himself is in need of education. In other words, the
need of a master.

in

deadly

circle of

indiscipline
states

and

ignorance

cannot

be broken

that is our di

lemma. As Philonenko
right on

it: "The

problem of education

is thus insoluble

by

the human level. It would

tion for the problem to receive a

be necessary that a god took charge of educa perfect solution. The difficulty indicated is not a

difficulty
tion of

susceptible of
a

degree; it is

being overcome it does not concern, in effect, a ques difficulty of principle. Every human educator is a defective
defectively"

educator, because he has himself been educated


I'

(Kant, Reflections
p.

sur

education, trans,

and notes

by A.

Philonenko [Paris: J. Vrin, 1966],

73,

note 12).

Book Reviews

429

Nevertheless, despite
education ment speakers wax

is possible, but

Kantian argument, I hold that something like true to be assumed as likely. When we hear commence eloquent over "the dynamics of or "the educa
the
not
education"

tional
not or

process"

we should either conclude

that

they

think

they know

what

they do
serve

that

they

are wolves

in

sheep's clothing.

Perhaps this

reminder

may

to measure more than


our educational sor

anything else the distance between Locke's Education and practices a fact which, by implication, does not escape Profes

Tarcov.

The Modern Self in Rousseau's Confession: A Reply to St. Augustine. Ann Hartle. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984. xiii +
pp.:

By
186

$19.95.)

Charles E. Butterworth

University

of Maryland

Ann Hartle's thoughtful


seeks to

analysis
must

of

Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions

demonstrate that it
art"

be

read

less

as an such a

philosophical work of

(p.

12).

In pursuing

autobiography than as "a goal, Hartle explicitly re


view, that

fuses to
sume

approach this work


more aware

from

a psychological point of
of what

is,

to pre

that she is

than Rousseau

he

was

trying

to

do
of

with

the

Confessions. Her

argument

is

grounded rather on

detailed knowledge

the Con

fessions,
sights

clear

into the

She

views

understanding of Rousseau's other writings, and provocative in his predecessors, especially St. Augustine and Plutarch. Rousseau's Confessions as a response to St. Augustine's Confessions
work of

and an attempt to contrast

his

own

life

with

St. Augustine's

as

Plutarch

con

trasted those

of

illustrious Greeks

and

Romans in his Parallel Lives. Rousseau's

goal,
ative

argues

Hartle, is
and

to depict the

soul of modern man as molded

by

the

cre

imagination

thus as independent of divine intervention. Intelligent and

captivating as this interpretation is, I think it places too much emphasis on the Confessions and succeeds only by isolating that work from the Dialogues and, above all, from the Reveries.
Hartle She
considers

the

unquestioned premise

for

modern man's

thinking
his
to

about

himself to be
wishes

reliance on an

irreducible inner

self which captures

essence.

to question that premise, to look into

its

origins and

determine
idea
of of

what

it

stands self

in

opposition

to.

Contending

that Rousseau develops the

the inner the inner thus

in the Confessions to define

man's

nature,

she explores

the idea

self and the character of

the Confessions in a series of overlapping and

frequently
of reasons

repetitive analyses.

The first

of

her five

chapters advances a se

ries

among

them

being

for understanding the Confessions as a philosophical work, chief Rousseau's explicit insistence that it offers the only true por For Hartle, then, the Confessions is
neither apologetic nor

trait of human

nature.

430

Interpretation
for human nature, and Rousseau's depiction of himself the only genuine instance of it. She explains factual discrepan
a quest

justificatory, but
presents us with cies

in the

narrative as willful errors

designed to

alert

the the

discerning
details

reader and

interprets Rousseau's
complete as

explicit admissions that not all


work

are accurate or

indications that the


than a

is fictitious

and

therefore to be read as

something

other

formal
written

parallels

life history. Above all, she draws attention to a series of between Rousseau's Confessions and the book of the same title
notes

by

St. Augustine, then

that the two

works are nonetheless quite

op

posite

in

content. second chapter

In the
can relate
explores

Hartle

observes

that because the author dies before

he

life, any autobiography is necessarily incomplete and how Rousseau sought to overcome this limitation in the Confessions.
the whole of his
to

She

also

investigates Rousseau's Letter divine


providence

M. de Voltaire in
of an

order

to show that

he

rejects personal

in favor

impersonal

natural providence.

Though little

she stops short of an explicit probable

pronouncement, her argument points to


seems

Rousseau's
more

denial
of

of

belief in God. Death for Rousseau

to be

than the death

passion, a state similar to that of reverie


without

a state

in

expecting anything from the future. In Chapter Three, Hartle investigates how Rousseau seeks to transcend time or at least to be steadfast in the face of its changes. Here, too, the importance of rev
which one can recollect

the past

erie comes others and

to the fore: Whereas thus so


anxious about

most men are so concerned with

the opinion of

the future that

they

never

enjoy the present, he worrying about or He reveals his


as unperturbed

delights in it insofar

as

it

allows

him to

recall past

joys

without

anticipating the future. Rousseau thus assumes a


soul as

God-like

stance:

God

would see

it,

perceives

things as does

God,

and

is

by

the events of the world as


vol.

God (see Rousseau, CEuvres Completes, Pleiade ed.,


chapter

showing that Rousseau's denial of ulti mate union with God obliges him to insist upon grasping the self as a whole, something he achieves via the creative imagination. She nonetheless notes the
to
careful restrictions not

i, pp. 5, 388, and 999). Hartle devotes her fourth

Rousseau

places on

the

imagination's

creativeness:

He

will

let it

reach

the point of madness, although he sometimes seems to come very


show

close.

In the final chapter, Hartle tries to

how Rousseau's denial

of

divine

providence and

insistence
His

on creative

imagination

bring

him to his

concept of

away from the world and towards solitude al lows him to discern the uniquely human characteristic, the sentiment of exis tence, and thus to view man's nature as subsumed in the feeling of self. Conse
modern man's self. movement

quently, Hartle concludes

by insisting
on

on

the

private and asocial character of

Rousseau's

portrait of

man,

his denial

of

the

immortality
state of

of

the soul, on his


on

tacit recognition that there

is

no

way back to the

nature, and

the fact

that man's present truncated existence must always be in conflict with


nature.

his

true

Book Reviews
Ann Hartle's
own, but
we

43 1 Rousseau's teaching differ little from my the Confessions in the same manner. She denies its auto
given

conclusions about

do

not read

biographical
omissions,

character

because,
to avoid

its factual discrepancies


to understand

and problematic
un

she wishes

trying

Rousseau better than he but the

derstood himself. And I


and views

agree with

that concern. But she then

overcompensates most as

it

as a clever piece of

fiction designed to hide from


such as

all

siduous reader

its

ultimate

secrets,

Rousseau's teaching

about provi

dence. Hartle consequently pays no attention to the surface of the Confessions and dwells instead on randomly culled phrases which point to other works with
out

I
that

revealing anything about this one. understand the Confessions to be a

special all

instance

of what

it

pretends

to

be,

is,

an

autobiography, but
and

one

having
and

the limitations or special features


of

noted

by

Rousseau

therefore needing to be interpreted in terms


contains

these fea

tures and

limitations. It
A

hints

background information
his
the Confessions

about

ideas

developed in

other works as well as an explanation of


proper of

uniqueness as a man of must

natural sentiments.

interpretation
the work,

of

pay

attention

to its parts, to the surface

and

to the way arguments are presented


can

therein. Rather than wonder about

how the Confessions

be

complete as a

self-portrait, though incomplete

as a chronicle of

Rousseau's

life,

emphasize

his identification
sions and of about save

of

the Reveries as both an appendix and a sequel to the Confes


an attempt
op.

the Dialogues as
character

to enlighten the coming generation

his true

(see

(Euvres,

cit., pp. 998-1000). Hartle's desire to

Rousseau from the


often stated
even

appearance of

folly, surely

commendable, leads her to

dismiss his
faced if

fear that his


as

contemporaries were

Unreasonable,

far-fetched

it seems, this
the

claim

plotting against him. of Rousseau's must be

we are

to

arrive at a proper appreciation of

the whole of his teaching. the

Perhaps because I Dialogues


as

place such emphasis on works

Confessions,

Reveries,

and

the

autobiographical

in

which

Rousseau

attempts

to tell us

himself, I find it necessary to reject Hartle's assertion and it is something that his self-portrait is really a portrait of modern man (see p. indeed only that 126). For me, Rousseau is never modern man. He alone among the men of his
about

generation, and
ties posed
existence.

on this

he

stakes

by

modernity

and

to think or feel

his claim, has been able to fathom the difficul his way back to a happier mode of
interpretation notwithstanding, I find Hartle's
and quite well written.
possible

This difference in

emphasis and

book

most

instructive. It is extremely thoughtful


argued so own

Only be

cause she
so

has

precisely my On the whole, her translations


bodies,"

clearly divergent

and so

carefully is it

for

me

to formulate

opinions.

are quite

good, though
them"

somewhat stilted.

In

only two instances do I think that


ring to "the
("
. .

she

has

erred: on page 42

the French
rather

"y,"

refer
"there"

sinful

should

be

rendered as
. .

"in

than as

contract more corruption

there

.");

and on page 150 she should

have

432

Interpretation
"aussi" "thus" "therefore"

translated the initial

as

or phrase
things"

rather

than as

"also"

("Also,
of

here below looks


at

.").

In addition, if the
on

"the

mind

looks forward to things, it


meant as a

things, and it looks back nam St. Augustine's "animo


. . .

on p.

81 is

translation

meminit,"

et expectat et attendit et

I find it

ex

traordinarily free. Finally, there


as changes with respect to the
and

are

far too many

repetitions of quotations as well

way those
and

same passages are quoted and 115).

(see

pp.

19

39; 23

and

139; 61

and

82;

33-34, 95, 103,

Philosophy of Common Life. By Donald W. Livingston. University of Chicago Press, 1984. xiv + 371 pp.: cloth, $30.00.)
Hume's
Nicholas Capaldi
Queens College

(Chicago:

Livingston's
scholarship.

work reflects and

heralds
of

a significant

development in Hume
which views

It is in

part a

distillation

the

current

revolution,

Hume from
ical

as a positive

epistemologist who a

thinker, not just a negative one, and as more than just an followed Locke and presaged positivism. Hume is viewed

fresh perspective, and his work is treated as a coherent whole. What Livingston contributes to this revolution is an examination of Hume's philosoph
and

historical writings,
'mutual'

which

be

on the

narrative

and, if anything, to human thought. Unlike

is mutually illuminating. The emphasis should on the fundamental significance of historical


even recent good

work, that traces the

con

tinuity between
Livingston losopher

the epistemology and Hume's social and political positions,

reveals

torical perspective. The result


and

how the epistemology is itself better understood from is a picture of Hume as a serious

an

his
phi

"historicist"

the originator of a secular philosophical conservatism.

The title

of

Livingston's volume, "Hume's

Philosophy

of

Common
over

Life,"

in

dicates the

central role of common

life (a judicious improvement

'common

sense'

and an expression
of past cultural

actually used by Hume). Common life is the sum total practices that have emerged unplanned and unintended into a
of which we

framework in terms
cisions. opher

both interpret the

world and make practical

de

As such,

common

life

contains

implicit norms,
pointing life.

and the

job

of

the philos
philoso

is to

explicate such

theoretical

and practical norms. of

In addition,

phers

have the therapeutic function


violates

out when

thought, including

philosophy,

the

framework
true

of common

According

to

Livingston,
(p. 3)
on

ity
life

life"

of common

which

philosophy for Hume "presupposes the author thereby gains a kind of transcendental status.
comes about when we attempt to

False philosophy,

the other

hand,

try

to make common
phi-

an object of critical reflection.

The

do

so

is

an attempt to turn

Book Reviews

433

losophy itself into an autonomous discipline with an authority all its own. When fully developed, such an autonomy principle results in total skepticism. In ad dition, there is a curious lack of integrity in false philosophy since it is itself
only intelligible when it presupposes the why, as Livingston stresses, the reader
rhetoric of

correctness of common
must

life. This is
style not and

pay

attention

to the

Hume's

writings as

Hume

exposes such a

lack

of
all

integrity,

just to

the ostensible argument. Put into contemporary


presupposes

jargon,

theoretical activity

the pretheoretical, but

we cannot

theorize about the pretheoretical,


chief paradigm of

only knowledge.

explicate

it. So history,
applies

not natural

science, becomes the

Livingston
argues

this

insight to

various

issues in Hume's

epistemology.

He

that Hume's brand of empiricism is historical as opposed to phenomenal


which attempt

ism,

pragmatism, and logical positivism,

to explain concepts

in

terms of future experiences. In Hume's system to say that an idea


a past

is derived from
specif

impression is to say something


or a senator

about

the

conventions of

language,

ically that
a

some concepts are past-entailing.

For example, to say that

someone

is

husband
to

is to

refer

to

social events explicate

that took place in the past. the historical conventions of


seri

Again,
making
ous

explain a causal

judgment is to

causal

judgments. This
no

application of

Livingston's thesis deserves

attention,

but,

doubt,

the

neanderthal analytic reader will greet

it

with

in

vincible

ignorance.
"historicist"

Given the
preciate

framework in Hume,

we can

better

understand and
'Cartesian'

ap

Hume's

critique of atemporal social philosophies

(dubbed

by
the

Livingston), specifically Hume's rejection of natural rights, social contract. In addition, given the historical and secular
work

natural

law,

and

conservative

frame

in Hume,

we can see more

clearly Hume's

rejection of

false

conceptions of

the

narrative

order,

such as providential

views,

whether sacred

(for example,

(for example, Turgot). The extended application to Kant, Priestley) Condorcet, Hegel, Marx, and liberalism is just as obvious. Finally, Hume's analysis of the Puritan Revolution in his History of England is but another ex
or secular
ample of a critique of a misguided atemporal

theory.
most

The

conclusion

to Livingston's treatment is

instructive. Burke

was

led

by
of

the pressure of events to reject the French Revolution, but Hume's rejection false revolution (ideological instead of conservative) is the articulation of a the autonomy
principle.

philosophical critique of

Because it is

rooted

in

deep

theoretical outlook, Hume's view


sentiment or a pose. political condition

is

much more a

theory

of conservatism of

than a

Hume

was also

the first to

warn of

the rise

"metaphysical

parties"

animated

less

by

interest than

by

false

philosophies.

Such

is

endemic

to the

rhetoric and practice of modern political

life.

One may
work.

quibble

commentator on

there, but Livingston has done a superb job. No Hume's social and political philosophy can dare to ignore this here
and

434

Interpretation
of

Selected Letters

Edmund Burke. Edited


and

and with an

Introduction

by Harvey
1984.

C. Mansfield, Jr. (Chicago 497


pp.:

London:

University

of

Chicago

Press,

$27.50.)

Francis Canavan
Fordham

University

This volume, handsomely bound and printed in clear, easily legible type, fine introduction to Edmund Burke's correspondence. All of the exam Burke's ples of writing contained in it are taken from the ten-volume Correspon
makes a

dence of Edmund Burke published from cago and Cambridge University Presses
Thomas W. Copeland. That
correspondence.

1958

to 1978
the

by

the

University
of
edition of

of

Chi

under

general

editorship

the

late

set will remain

the definitive

Burke's It

The

present

volume, therefore, is

not one that

the

research scholar will use.

is meant, rather, for the


thought to
want

general reader who

is interested

enough

in Burke in

and

his

to read a good sample of his letters. It serves that purpose


not

well.

Professor Mansfield has

followed the

chronological

order

which and

Burke's letters

are

printed

in the ten-volume Correspondence. Instead,


arranged

wisely for his purpose, he has

his

selected

letters

under several themes.

They
tions

are private and public

life; literary friends


and

and philosophical

concerns; tol

eration and
with on

religion; reform and revolution; counterrevolution; and Burke's rela

America, India,
when

Ireland. In addition, there


and

are

two selections of
years

letters
1766-

the theme of Burke and party politics. The first is from the

1780,

he

was

both the theoretician


period

the manager of the

Rocking

ham Whigs. The

other

is from the
and

broke

with

Charles James Fox

between 1789 and 1797, in which he the Whigs over the French Revolution and be

lone Cassandra trying to awaken the politicians to the gravity of the revo lutionary threat. All of the selections are on the whole good ones and give the
came a reader a

taste

of

Burke's thought
prefaced

on

the major themes of his life.


sketch of

Mansfield has

the volume with an introduction and a brief

Burke's life. The Introduction, subtitled "Burke's Theory of Political manages to deal concisely with that subject in 27 pages. How successfully it does
so

Practice,"

is

a matter of opinion. of

This

reviewer would want

to discuss at length Mans to practice

field's interpretation
nature and role of

Burke

on

the

relation of

theory

in politics, the

prudence, the relationship between

actual and presumptive vir

tue, and the meaning of prescription, natural law, and prejudice. Manfield's belief that "Burke does not consider that democracy is
regime"

a possible
on

seems questionable

in

view of

Burke's

own statement

in Reflections

"There may be situations in which the purely democratick form will become necessary. There may be some (very few, and very par ticularly circumstanced) where it would be clearly
the Revolution in France:
desirable."

One

might also question

Mansfield's

opinion that

in Burke's thought the

au-

Book Reviews

435
the claims of the

thority
vine

of

the past

and

future "substitute for divine law to


shame."

ensure

that present governments govern with a sense of

Burke's

appeals

to di

law

were

too explicit

and

too frequent to admit of that interpretation.

Similarly,

one might argue with

Mansfield

when

he

says

that "Burke does

not

say in the manner of Thomism that we have natural inclinations in our souls that are fulfilled in politics; the soul is not a theme of Whether or not Burke says
his."

anything in the

manner of

Thomism, it
he his

seems a

bit

extreme to assert that

the

soul

is

not a

theme of his. It is true that

seldom talks about the

soul, but it is hard to

see what else virtue.

he

means

by

constant references to

nature,

feeling,

reason,

and

fun

These may be only the nits that scholars love to pick and which are half the of academic life. They do not, in any case, seriously detract from the value of this well-edited selection of Burke's letters.

American Conservatism

and

the American Founding.


1984. xiv +

(Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press,


Dennis Teti

By Harry V. Jaffa. 278 pp.: $19.95.)

Research Director, Republican Conference, U.S. House of Representatives

Professor Jaffa's Judaism lies

near

the heart

of

his impassioned

yet meticu

lously
on

reasoned commitment principles of

to American conservatism, a

conservatism

based
the

the

Kendall: "Harry,
slaves,"

what

equality have you

and

liberty. Consider this


got against slavery?

exchange with
wouldn't

Willmoore
one of

You

be

said

Kendall. "Did

you ever

hear

Moses?"

of

Jaffa replied, "We Jews America's


moral
appeal

governm

tried it once,

and now we settle

for

constitutional which

commitment to equality is the fundamental principle to


with confidence

Jews may Western

in

order

to

protect

their faith and way of

life.
civiliza

Jaffa's

project

is to

explicate and

defend those twin

pillars of

tion, have

reason and revelation.


much more

However their

respective origins might

differ, they

in

common

than either does with radical modernity, which at

tempts to

undermine and replace and

them both. Yet

by

pointing to the tensions in

thought between antiquity

modernity, reason and revelation, philosophy and


polemical style, are easily misun righteous indignation than take the

the city, Jaffa's works, with their dialectical or

derstood
pains

by

those who would

rather express

to

consider

his

central

intention. Jaffa describes his intention


is
consummated each

movingly:

I believe the
saved

enterprise of western civilization

time a

soul

is

from

the

dark

night of

fanatical

obscurantism.

It is

consummated whenever one

soul

is

released

from the

pessimism

that truth

is

unobtainable, or not worth the trouble

to

obtain.

It is

consummated whenever a single soul

is disabused

of the proposition

that the

subjective

intensity

of one's convictions matters more

than their objective va

lidity.

Eternity is indeed

indithe theme of philosophy; but it becomes such when the

436

Interpretation
becomes
aware of

vidual soul

its

power to

the immortal ground of its

mortal existence.

know, and when it discovers in this power This, above all else, is what is meant by
of the

saving

western civilization, and

reversing the decline

West.

Jaffa's first book

explored

the

confrontation

between Aristotelian

and

Thomis

tic ethics, and he seems to have absorbed the ancient philosopher's moral-politi
cal

framework. As
eyes.

result, he

views

American politics,

so

to speak, through

Aristotle's

According
a

to the Nicomachean
"median"

Ethics,

virtues such as

justice,

moderation, and courage are each a

being rare,
tues

is itself

kind

of extreme.

between two extremes; yet virtue, Virtue needs to be defended extremely, because
of our

if necessary. This
"values"

claim shocks

some,

perhaps

habit

of

or our own

"value
values,

judgments."

Doesn't freedom

imply

we should

calling vir be left to in


re

follow

whatever

they may be? Jaffa's


say,

enterprise consists

storing the objective ground for the profound difference between good and evil,
"Values,"

virtue and vice.

he

might

belong

in the Sears

catalogue.

Among
been

the multitude of topics

discussed in the

essays reprinted

here, Jaffa
the

thinks the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan and a Republican Senate may have
a watershed election
of

kind

of electoral revolution
years.

that

will change

face

American

politics

for many

There have been only three

or

four

such elections and

before 1980: Jefferson's, possibly Jackson's, certainly Lincoln's, Franklin Roosevelt's. Samuel Lubell and Kevin Phillips have noted the phe
elections, but Jaffa has uniquely
seen

nomenon of realignment amount

that such elections

to a peaceful revolution in the way Americans understand their regime.


watershed election

In every
ples of

the victorious party appealed to the

founding

princi

democracy
wrote

to oust an entrenched, antidemocratic elite. The 1980 Repub

licans, Jaffa
ach

shortly afterward, apparently succeeded in taking democracy back to the people, wresting control from a Democratic Party that had no stom for continuing the fight
against

totalitarianism abroad, and moral

indecency,
as

economic

redistributionism,

and uncontrolled ratified

bureaucracy

here

at

home. If this

revolution was ratified

interpretation is correct, it would be in 1936. The


paradigmatic

in the 1984 elections, just

FDR's drama
whose
-

U.S.

election was

i860; the

paradigmatic political stateman.

the Civil
second

War;

and

Lincoln is the

paradigmatic

American

Jaffa,

book

was a

confrontation, in the form


throughout the
and

of an analysis of

the Lincoln

Douglas debates,
understood

argues

work under review political

that Lincoln always

issues generally, in the light Constitution, of the Declaration of Independence's teaching that all men are created equal. For Jaffa's Lincoln, the Constitution itself is insufficient as a guide to the deeper is
the

American

politics, such as chattel slavery. Trying to interpret the Constitution with rigorous reading of the Declaration can lead to monstrosities like the Su preme Court's Dred Scott decision, according to which blacks "had no that white men were bound to respect. Lincoln claimed that decision resulted from a conspiracy among the Chief Justice (Taney), the President (Buchanan), a
sues of
out a

rights"

Book Reviews

437

former President (Pierce), and the recognized national Democratic Party leader (Stephen A. Douglas). Yet Lincoln never supported breaking the law, disobey

ing
he

the

individual decision

as

between the

slave

Scott

and

his

"owner."

Instead

Republican majority in Congress committed to reversing the prin ciple of inequality the Dred Scott decision embodied by passing new laws confirming equality and setting slavery "on the course of ultimate
proposed a

extinction

Lincoln's

"moderation"

disgusted

abolitionists quite as much as


wanted

his

"extremism"

infuriated slavery
sent prefer

apologists.

Lincoln

democracy by

enlightened con

majority
to say,

rule

bounded

by

a proper

understanding

of natural

(or

as we now

"human") rights. Lincoln's greatness is revealed in his capacity to explicate the paradoxical principle of enlightened consent. He regarded it as the only way liberal democ
racy
could

be

made moral and


a

free,

and

his

genius

lay
in

democracy
mulation.

notwithstanding bloody Lincoln is the archetype of the


to

Civil War
great

accordance with

in reforming American that for


political ca

statesman, possessing

pacity
ceum

either

destroy
of 1838

or rebuild an entire regime.

One

need

Address

to see that before Lincoln

was 30

only study his Ly years old he was well

aware of

his extraordinary powers. Jaffa's democratic theme is gradually transformed into the
Three
of

general theme of

political greatness.

the four
a

dedicatory
defense

quotations on great statesman

ship are from Calvin Coolidge, been largely unappreciated. The

President

whose greatness

Jaffa believes has


consists
or

noblest

of

democracy

in

show

ing

the type of

character who

that democratic regimes foster: "The man


nation through

the char
,

acter of
.

the man
. .

bore the

that crisis [the Civil

War]

seems

he writes. Jaffa is making the highest thing in the American to me two complementary observations here. (1) Every kind of regime must generate

regime,"

defenders; democracy
mocracy
other regime.

seems

to have that ability to the greatest extent.


a

(2) De

seems capable of

producing

higher

or nobler character

type than any

The theme
central

of

human

greatness

is itself transformed into the book's

profound

issue: the
of

age-old

tension between politics and philosophy.


who

Expounding
Strauss

the thought

his teacher, Leo Strauss,


designed to
them

learned it from Aristotle's teacher fellow


students of

Plato, Jaffa
in
of

engages

Professor Walter Berns

and other

a relentless confrontation

elevate

the

dignity

and cognitive status


"Straussian"

the

political.

His

quarrel with

ponents of

the

contemplative

is that contrary to life, politics is not mere


or

some or

pro

"history"

becoming,

as

"eternity"

distinguished from the


good"

being

of which

the philosophers speak. "The

(Jaffa's title for his central chapter) holds for both ways of primacy of the life. While different kinds of regimes may understand the good differently, phi

losophy
and

cannot

help

but be

political:

it

must articulate

the rank order of regimes

defend

the one or ones of

highest rank, that


"pure"

is,

those most open to the good.

This the
reluctant

so-called

Straussian defenders
the fate of

to

do,

even when

philosophy are, to say no more, the philosophic life itself is at stake in the
of

438

Interpretation
impose
a universal

global struggle against those who would

homogeneous

state.

The truths

of politics

may

or

human
self an

dignity
illusion.

are no more

may illusions than the life

not

be

"self-evident,"

but nobility, virtue,


or of

and

of

philosophy

piety is it

Jaffa's defense
ture may
of

of

American

democracy

rests on

its foundation in
which

nature.

Na

be

understood as

the eternal cosmic order, a part of


of the

is the

order

human

nature.

The glory

American

Founding

Fathers

was their extraor

dinary

act of of

standing
terms of

establishing an entire political system on the basis of a true under human nature, described in the Declaration and in other writings in

natural

rights.

They

provided

world)
ral

with a permanent moral and

Americans (and ultimately the whole political standard. Natural right implies natu

law

as a consequence: men cannot nature as well.

have

a right

by

nature without

taking

their

duties from

Certainly

before

1776 no regime ever claimed to

be it

founded in
embodies,

nature.

Jaffa

contends

that because of the

princ

"dignity

of

the

political

philosophy,

which comes

to sight

in the distinction between

the natural and the conventional, is compelled to defend both American democ

racy and the integrity of moral virtue. The scope of Jaffa's intention is breathtaking: to ism. Nihilism
als, politics,
or

rescue

the West from nihil


mor

the opinion that there is no fixed or unchanging ground of thought

is the

end product of

the historicism

at

the core

of mo

dernity. Historicism may be described as an opinion that the mind is transformed understand our forbears better by the history of human experience such that
"we"

or

differently

than

they

understood

themselves

that

is,

"we"

cannot understand

them as

they understood themselves. Politically, historicism means that

the form of regimes is determined

by

his

torical necessity. Historicism often assumes a progressive character, according to


which

the most recent regimes in the "process

history"

of

must

be

superior

to

their predecessors; for example, Marxist Russia must represent


republican
mines

an advance over

America. Historicist philosophy,

whether progressive or

not, under

the possibility of

fundamental
historical

criticism of process

the character of regimes from


problem

any

standpoint outside the

itself. The inescapable


"our"

is

that it is

impossible to demonstrate the superiority


to self-consciousness, without

of

epoch,
"our"

when

histori

cism rose

knowing

whether

epoch

is the

final epoch; or, to put it differently, it cannot be known whether the philosophy of historicism is not itself only one phase of the historical process, to be tran

future nonhistoricist age. Historicism is logically and rationally it ends in the abyss of nothingness. self-defeating; Professor Jaffa has probed the American political tradition to its deepest roots
scended

by

some

and

demonstrated the high


"our"

status of that tradition.

Conservatism is the defense

of

tradition qua

tradition. Jaffa has shown what is unique and truthful in

"our"

tradition and has given Americans the profoundest rationale for the

legitimacy of
Western

equality and liberty constituting the democratic way of life The twentieth century has lived from its first days in the
.

shadow of

Book Reviews
decline. That it
on

439 first limned

shadow was

by Nietzsche,

who seems

finally to
the

blame

his

ancient

teacher,

who was also

Plato's teacher, Socrates,


heavens."

philosopher

"who first brought philosophy down from the Nevertheless, the cause for the West's decline is also the cause for the West's hope: historicism, having dissolved the fixed The
order of

nature, found that it had dissolved itself.

posthistoricist world seems to

have two

choices

left to it:

either

to live in

the nihilist abyss, or to restore moral and political order, approximately as the
classics understood

it,

reconstituted

by
rate

what,

following Strauss,
achievement of
modern

"philosophy
brought the

of

the

future."

At any
of

it is the

I may term a Jaffa to have In

political

insight

the classics to bear on

American democ

racy he has helped

and ennobled save

democracy by
the

articulating its highest


Proverbs say is "the
contribution

possibilities.

doing

so

life

of philosophic contemplation and of pious adherence


which

to that "fear of the

Lord"

wisd

beginning

of

Jaffa's

work amounts

to a substantial

to the

endeavor of

reversing

the decline of the West.

William F.
provides an

Buckley wrote a gracious forward to this book,

and

Charles Kesler

of

introduction carefully elaborating the Independence for Jaffa's teaching.

significance of

the Declaration

social research
an international quarterly OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES
VOLUME 52, NUMBER 2 SUMMER 1985
A
publication of the GRADUATE FACULTY

NEW SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH

Sheldon Wolin

Myth in

Post-Modern Politics Absence of Myth

and

the

Contemporary
I
"^

Neil Harris
Who Owns Our Myths? Heroism and Copyright in Age of Mass Culture
an

jf A

David E. Apter
The New Mytho-Logics and the Specter of Superfluous Man

Michel Perrin
The Myth in the Face
of

Change

Francesco Pellizzi Specificity and Generality of Myth


Gianni Vattimo
Myth
and

the

Destiny

of

Secularization

Hide Ishiguro
Myth
and

False Dichotomies

Umberto Eco
At the Roots
of

the Modern Concept

of

Symbol

Melvyn Hill
Symbolic Authority
in

the Post-Modern World

Bruno Zevi
The Seven Myths
of

Architecture

Paul Z. Rotterdam
Myth
and

Art

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G. E.

Articles

Lessing

Ernst

and

Falk, Dialogues for Freemasons

translated

by

Chaninah Maschler Commerce in Anglo-American Thought:


of

Ronald

Hamowy

Progress

and

the Social

Philosophy
a

Adam Fergusson

David

Levy

S. T. Coleridge Replies to Adam Smith's "Pernicious Opinion":

Study
and

in Hermetic Social

Engineering

Will

Morrisey

Shakespeare

his Roman Plays

Reviews
Steve Balch
W Warren Wagar Main Currents of Marxism
Arnold Toynbee Marvin
and

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