The Farce known as scepticism
José Porfirio Miranda
La Jornada Weekly Magazine, no. 201; April 18, 1993; pp 34-41
The author of this essay warns us against the dangers of this philosophical position.
Scepticism is in fashion, but this does not mean that scepticism is logically sustainable. The fact that something is in fashion does not mean that people who reason should be influenced by it. Comte was the man who introduced this type of sophisticated argument when, in order to recommend positivism, he said that humanity first goes through a theological stage, then a metaphysical one and finally a positive one. Even if that were true (and it is not), consequently it would show that a positive mentality comes after the metaphysical; not that it is better when “later chronologically”, nor is it synonymous with “being closer to the truth”. The geo-centrism of Tolomeus came five centuries after the helio-centrism of Aristarco of Samos but Tolomeus was the one that was wrong. Tinned vegetables are not better than fresh ones nor is a nylon T shirt better than one of cotton. When they present the following reasoning: that idea is from the last century they become demagogues. With this a date has been established; now let us see if the idea is true or false.
A philosophical argument such as Habermas’s is incredible when he says: “these substantial concepts of theory, truth and system, from at least the last 150 years, belong to the past” (1). This is not giving reasons but being demagogic. In this article we will not take into account this type of reasoning which is weak. And surely, Adomo is equally demagogic when he says: “The ideal of Husserl’s philosophy, which is the absolute certainty according to the model of private property, is impregnated by fear” (2). It is not worth replying to this waffling, so called psychoanalytic, clothed as leftism. In philosophy it is necessary to prove, not be flippant.
Firstly, we will show here that scepticism is contradictory. Then we will show that the sceptics themselves have realized this and they are inventing endless turnabouts to try and make the contradiction unnoticeable. Finally we will point out the roots of scepticism that are the most important. There the farce will be uncovered.
Scepticism is self-contradictory.
1.At this time the most useful definition of scepticism is the following: “Philosophy has no special access to reality”. They mean to say that only empiric sciences know reality and that philosophy’s only role is to record, to accept and to classify the results of these sciences, which is the same as saying that philosophy should disappear. As Wittgenstein says, “philosophical problems should completely disappear”. (3) And Habermas explicitly adheres to “the correct intuition that philosophy has lost its autonomy with science where it should be cooperating” (4). Rorty also states it referring to his own book: “The object of the book is to finish with the confidence that the reader has in mind […] in the knowledge […] and in philosophy as understood since Kant” (5).
And so, taking the thesis in the aforementioned school of thought: “Philosophy has no special access to reality”. Obviously this thesis is philosophical, not scientific; and so it seems has a special access to reality. Therefore the thesis is contradictory unto itself.
In effect, only someone who is knowledgeable about reality can say that someone else does not know about it. If a person were not to have access to reality what would his basis be for sustaining that the affirmations of so and so do not fit reality? But the thesis mentioned is not scientific but philosophical, because no disposition of physics or chemistry allows the renewing of experiments whose logical outcome would be the aforementioned thesis. If some physicist says it he would say it as a philosopher not as a physicist. And so, the thesis itself supposes that philosophy has access to reality: which is what the statement itself denies, and therefore is contradictory.
2.The second formulation of scepticism is this: “Only mathematics, logic and empiric disciplines are scientific”. By omission and exhaustive enumeration the only thing that this statement says is that philosophy is not a science and therefore its conjectures of knowledge should be discarded. I am not going to take on the protagonists of this second statement or the next because it would make this essay too long. But we will take the thesis just as we have quoted it. Obviously it is speculation as to what science is and what is not. In no way is it a mathematical, logical or empiric thesis; therefore in virtue of what it affirms, the thesis is antiscientific. Therefore its contents should be discarded. The result being that scepticism cannot be formulated without automatically dismissing itself.
3.Maybe the most popular formulation of scepticism is this: “Only the empirically proven is scientific”. Obviously the only thing this thesis wants is to challenge moral opinions and prove the existence of the spirit: but they do not realize that this also rejects mathematics as well as physics which today are completely mathematical disciplines. Nevertheless, we will take the thesis just as it sounds. Evidently this thesis itself cannot be shown empirically: it cannot be shown empirically as the empirical can only be shown scientifically. Therefore scepticism is anti-scientific, since scepticism is apparent in that thesis.
It is useless to argue that it is about a meta-scientific thesis. It is underhanded to invent a department of meta-science so as to be able to take from there propositions that are favourable without having to defend them scientifically. But I do not find it inconvenient that the thesis “That which cannot be shown empirically is antiscientific” were to be called meta-scientific. What happens is that, in virtue of what the thesis says, as well as being meta-scientific it is anti-scientific.
4.A fourth formulation of scepticism (learned this time) is the one that is quoted thus: “Only tautological propositions are true”. Tautology, as one knows, is to express in the predicate that which is already in the subject; for example affirm that humans are rational or that a triangle has three sides. What this fourth statement says is that we cannot acquire new knowledge, that we cannot know reality, since tautology is not knowledge of reality. Tautology sustains whatever the reality is. Let us reflect on this fourth thesis by itself. As any logician knows it should be translated or re-stated thus: “All true propositions are tautological”. But obviously this proposition is not tautological and they are presenting it as true. Therefore in fact it is stating not all true propositions are tautological and so it contradicts the content of the proposition that is being presented. In order to be tautological the thesis in question should be stated as follows: “All true propositions are true”. But it is obvious that is not what the sceptics mean to say; on the contrary, they have the intention of formulating a very strong thesis, not a general one; in the predicate they wish to express something that is not contained in the subject.
5.Another formulation of scepticism is: “There are no synthetic a priori opinions”. But that in itself is a synthetic a priori opinion (6), which makes one laugh a little. As you know synthetic is an opinion in which the predicate does not express anything that would not be already in the subject. The supporters of this fifth thesis only accept tautologies or synthetic a posteriori opinions (that is empiric). It is not very clear if with their thesis they wish to say that there are not or there should not be a priori synthetic opinions. If it is the former, the facts refute the thesis since the word “all” which has to appear in the formulation of all scientific laws does not correspond to any empiric data. We only see “some” cases; we do not see “all” cases; and there are scientific laws that are not tautological; they are consequently a priori synthetic opinions. Also I can invent at any time an a priori synthetic opinion, for example; “The earth moves in a spiral”. That there are examples, there are. The only thing that the sceptics can want to say is that it should not have them. But therefore it is about a precept (obviously not tautological) and no precept is a posteriori. Actually no precept wants to say what things are like, but how they should be. Consequently this fifth formulation of the sceptics is a priori synthetic opinion, taking into account that it says that they should not have them or that they have them.
6.The most well-known of the formulations made by scepticism is this: “There are no absolute truths”. I respond: that! That’s it? In other words, I reply: so the sixth statement is absolute truth or not. If the former then there are absolute truths; if the latter (that is to say, if the thesis is not true), then its content is false, and therefore there are absolute truths.
7.Number seven is Habermas’ formulation “there is no ultimate basis”, i.e., no proposition is fundamental to the end. And so, “fundamental until the end” means apodictic, absolutely true. Luckily Habermas says the thesis is the exact same as the one we considered in the sixth point.
8.The eighth statement: “Everything is true.” It is one of those strange propositions, such as “everything is non-existent”, that to mean anything has to be false. Such as the word non-existent only means something if it is contrasted with something existent, so untrue is a word that only has a meaning when contrasted with something true. It has never occurred to us to call something untrue if it were not contrasted with something true which we know about directly; at least from talking or thinking about its own reality. Therefore such as “Everything is untrue” requires that something true exists. Consequently the phrase is false and implicitly contradictory. Also it appears true and therefore everything is untrue.
9.Karl Popper states scepticism as: “A proposition that is not empirically falsifiable is antiscientific”. Popper finally understood that no universal proposition can be proven by empiric means (as the third formulation mentioned above supposed) because perceptible experiences refer to “some” or “many” cases and this does not justify the use of the word “all”. So Popper conforms with this criteria of science: it is more rational to sustain a proposition that has not been falsified by experience than one that has already been falsified by experience. Any way Popper believes he has found here what the sceptic desires: classify as antiscientific the moral opinions and show the existence of the soul, because neither one or the other can be proved or disproved by perceptible data. And so, Popper contradicts himself twice. Firstly, to consider a proposition falsified it is necessary to suppose there are universal laws that say “all” (this Popper omits), because if there is no consistency in nature, a proposition considered false today could be valid tomorrow (7). Secondly, the thesis “A proposition that is not empirically falsifiable is antiscientific” is it not itself empirically falsifiable (it is a priori theory about science), and therefore is antiscientific in virtue of the fact that it says it is true. Facing this Popper has no choice but to say: my thesis “rests in an irrational resolution” (8). But if his criterion of rationality is even irrational, it follows that it is untrue. Therefore the general position of Popper is the same as saying everything is untrue, which is the eighth formulation of scepticism which we have just shown to be contradictory.
10.The scepticism of Gadamer is a little less coarse. He says – and he is not wrong – that to ascertain that a conviction professed by another culture or another epoch is true or false would be better understood by us than by the human beings of that epoch or culture. But as Gadamer does not believe in truth, he proposes this thesis: “We can understand these convictions in a different way, but not a better one” (9). And so, it is obvious that here we have a contradiction: Gadamer presents his thesis as true; he does not want us to understand it “in a different way”, he wants us to believe it to be true.
11.Wittgenstein’s theory of linguistic games is very similar to Gadamer’s thesis: the only difference being that Wittgenstein refers to all the convictions or all the ways of thinking (he calls them linguistic games). He denies philosophy the capacity of judging whether they are true or false. He says that each game is a perfect, strict and hermetic unit, fortunately nobody can understand the linguistic game in question without accepting completely all of its rules. Consequently, the philosophical claim of judging them from outside is radically impossible. Before anything else it is convenient to note that calling this a game is a metaphoric way of saying it; it does not work as a definition, as it does not manage to distinguish between speech and other realities. Wittgenstein would say that a game is a set of rules, but with this one cannot even define the game. The Highway Code is also a set of rules but is not a game in any way or form and each computer in the Pentagon has a set of rules and nobody would be able to convince us that handling atomic bombs is a game. And still, after defining the game, which he is unable to do, Wittgenstein would have, so that we understand what he is referring to when he mentions speech, to distinguish speech from other games. To defend a thesis with vagueness is scientifically unacceptable. Metaphors do not prove anything.
But also, Wittgenstein contradicts himself twice. He argues against philosophy by saying that as each linguistic game is different, isolated and monadic, it is impossible to make universal statements; but Wittgenstein’s theory is universal: it says that all convictions are linguistic games: the contradiction is obvious. And secondly Wittgenstein’s theory obviously has to accept that philosophy is also a linguistic game. How can Wittgenstein criticize it using his own theory if it is impossible for a linguistic game to criticize another? (10)
- We will consider the twelfth and last statement of scepticism as the most trite: “All is relative”. It is clear that this thesis is not relative: so there is a contradiction: but here we should pause, firstly to denounce the total mental indiscipline that reigns amongst the sceptics and secondly to go into it at depth.
The thesis: “All is relative, an absolute moral obligation does not exist” sounds like a conclusion; as a conclusion after much study and knowledge of history and its different cultures and epochs. Now is the time someone asks them: what is syllogism? If it is about a conclusion then what is the logical process of deduction. The relativists say that he finds different moral convictions in history, i.e. obligations relevant to different cultures and epochs. Well, then the expression “absolute obligation” cannot be used in the conclusion because in the premise this term has not appeared. For example: if in the premise of a syllogism mammals have not been mentioned, to mention them in the conclusion is always a sophism. It is as if someone would say: “I have found ducks and consequently whales do not exist”. Firstly, the fact that absolute obligations are not found, it does not follow that they do not exist. Secondly as absolute moral obligations are not tangible (conduct is not the same as an obligation which is frequently disobeyed), it is very possible that you have found absolute obligations which you did not know how to recognize. Thirdly the fact that there have been two opposing obligations, the only thing that can be inferred is that the two of them cannot be absolute: it is therefore not legitimate to say that neither of them are absolute.
Let’s go in deeper. From where do those who deny that absolute obligation exists obtain the unmistakable and stupendous meaning of this concept. Certainly, nobody should speak of these subjects without understanding the difference between absolute imperative and conditional imperative; “If you do not wish to go to jail or be socially rejected behave this way or that” is a conditioned imperative. “If you do not wish eternal punishment, behave this way or that” is a conditioned imperative. On the other hand “I cannot torture anyone simply because I should not do it” is an absolute imperative. And do not believe that Kant’s definition of moral is exactly purist: when any one of us realizes that a certain action, for example to torture is detestable in itself, the idea of punishment or reward does not come into it. Here we face an absolute imperative. It is true that humans are not humane without being educated, but this means that education makes them aware of the existence of the imperative, that humans perceive on their own, which cannot be confused with the imperatives of society, because these, by definition can only be conditional. Society can only punish (even if it is only by rejection) or reward (even if it is only by praising). As Hume, himself, made evident (11), if society, towards an individual, would use the words “absolute obligation” or “action detestable in itself”, the individual would not understand anything if he did not have an awareness of the absolute imperative, an absolute prohibition. Let us repeat the question: from where do those, who deny the existence of absolute obligation, obtain the unmistakable content of this concept? It can only come from an absolute imperative which the relativist himself perceives or has perceived. Therefore the existence of an absolute obligation is a contradiction of possibility of the theory or thesis that denies it.
Conundrums and double dealing
However you wish to formulate it, scepticism is a theory of knowledge, an epistemology. Even the school of thought that says there are no absolute truths says that human knowledge is not able to arrive at true propositions. Even though those who say that only mathematics, logic and empiric disciplines are science, what they are saying is that metaphysics is not scientific knowledge. But as the theory of knowledge is neither mathematical nor logical nor empirical it is metaphysical. Therefore scepticism, even though it exists in a theory of knowledge, has to hide the fact that it establishes a theory of knowledge. This is why Wittgenstein wants his readers, after having read Tractatus Logicophilosophicus, make out as if Tractatus Logicophilosophicus did not exist: “They should throw the little ladder far away after having climbed it” (12). The sceptic needs his thesis to continue strongly because if not, scepticism would not exist. But at the same time he needs that the fact which he has confirmed does not exist, because this fact is enough to show that the thesis is contradictory. The solution is a big conundrum: go up a ladder as if it did not exist. Is there anyone who does not find these manoeuvres laughable?
We must appreciate the little ladder of Derrida: “At the beginning of this question, we do not already know. What it does not mean is that we do not know anything but that we are past absolute knowledge (and of the ethic, aesthetic or religious systems) and on the way to where they announce and decide the closing. Such a question legitimately would be understood to mean that it does not say anything; as if it does not belong yet to the system of what it wishes to say (13).
In other words; after saying all that he wished to say, Derrida makes us realize it as if he had not wanted to say anything.
All “weak thinking”, that has become the fashion in some places, is the same strategy: first they confirm (in a strong sense) total scepticism, and then, when someone wants to show that they contradict themselves, they say: “No, this argument would be valid if my philosophy were strong; but my philosophy does not stand up to it, therefore it is weak thinking”. Thus they obtain the same as Wittgenstein: upholding everything they want and rejecting, on principle and without arguing, whatever the opposing argument.
Let’s hear what Habermas says along the same lines: my philosophy “prefers a combination of strong statements and of weak pretensions when talking about the epistemological status of such statements. A combination that, as such, is hardly totalitarian. So much so, that no critic using all his reasoning can go against it” (14).
Foucault also maintains weak thinking: “It is true that I have never presented archaeology as a science, not even as the beginning of a foundation for a future science” (15). The idea is this: if I presented my sceptic thesis as scientific, it would be refutable; therefore, it is better if I present it as literature. Literature is not obliged to show what it alleges or to respond to those who show that it is wrong or contradictory. It is the same little ladder, only that, instead of making it disappear we say it is literature. They use epistemology, but they do not want it to be known that they are doing so.
Also the scepticism of Teodoro Adomo is presented as weak thinking, though with a different terminology: “For the intellectual proposing to do what was at one time called philosophy, there is nothing as inadequate as this argument, and one almost would like to say, in the proving, as wanting to be right” (16). Therefore he cannot refute it; he would reply that his philosophy is not one of those pretentious ones that aspire to be right. But yes, before we were guided by all the sceptical theses in the world. And certainly, they very evidently wish to convince us anyway that scepticism is right.
Rorty does the same as Foucault: “he gives his thinking the status of literature. It is enough to cite his admirer Rajchman: “Rorty adopts this definition of modernism in his account of philosophy since Kant; he contributes to undoing the distinctions between science and literature that Kant gives” (17).
An apparently very different conundrum is that of Heidegger: to those who show that scepticism is self-contradictory, Heidegger responds that this is useless because it is an ambush (überrümpeln: to take unawares) (18). It is very funny that this “solution” seems acceptable to Rorty: “It is a difficult position but not an impossible one. Wittgenstein and Heidegger defend themselves well enough”. (19). But the refutation of scepticism has no surprise attacks. Take your time: what’s more, if you like I will come back tomorrow: but have a reply for me, not merely an evasive one which is as artful as Wittgenstein’s little ladder.
The funniest conundrum that Rorty invents is of his own making: he says it is bad taste to show that the sceptic contradicts himself. The problem is that those who sustain that the human mind cannot know reality are affirming that their mind knows this reality called the human mind. They are stressing that their mind is aware of how things are; and consequently, they are contradicting themselves. Rorty comes out with this: “To think that Wittgenstein and Heidegger have opinions as to how things are is not to be wrong on how things are, exactly; it is only bad taste. This puts them in a position where they do not want to be; one that appears ridiculous to them” (20). And so, they are in this position even though we do not say it; and as to bad taste, philosophy has boasted that it is received in the salons of society, but it is its obligation to prove that scepticism is contradictory. Please forgive us but we are going to prove it.
More subtle than this feint of good manners is the stratification of language invented by Russell: he says that no proposition should speak about itself, but that a first language must speak about objects, a second language (meta-language) would speak about the first, a third language (meta-meta-language) would speak about the second and so on successively. Prepared by this standard – (as it is about standards) then can scepticism with hand in the air reject all attacks that show that it is contradictory, given that, when he says “there are no absolute truths” and the person opposing argues that this proposition is an absolute truth or not (Ef. supra 1,6), he can gallantly refuse to answer, because of the fact that a proposition is prohibited to speak of itself. And so, before showing that this loophole of Russell’s is contradictory in itself, it is worth making two observations, the second more detailed than the first.
Above all: Now Russell can put forward all the prohibitions that he wants; as a matter of fact the thesis of scepticism does not obey him. The sceptic is saying “all other propositions are doubtful except this one”, therefore, his proposition is speaking about itself. The thesis “There are no absolute truths” is presented as a truth, and consequently is implicitly speaking of itself. In fact, everything that is said seriously is presented as true; on the contrary it would not form part of the conjunction of locutions worthy of consideration. It would be based on dialogue and intercommunication between persons; it would be like the babbling of a madman to whom nobody listens. Consequently, showing that scepticism is self-contradictory maintains all its astringency.
The second observation is historical. The phrase of a liar is considered as a paradox: “What I am now saying is false”. Russell’s prohibition of self-referral seems the only possible solution, besides it was like a feint in football: simulating going in one direction but going in another. In reality he is going towards defending scepticism in the way we have just shown. To resolve the paradox of Eubulides is worthless. It is worthless for two reasons. First: because there is no such paradox. It is not paradoxical that someone proposes a contradictory proposition; any Tom, Dick or Harry can do this in whatever language or meta-language. It would be paradoxical that someone would show it to be a contradictory proposition. Yes this would be a crushing blow to human rationality. After saying his famous phrase, Eubulides compensatively comments this: If my phrase is true, by saying so it is false, because that which confirms is that it is false; if my phrase is false, it is a lie saying it is false and therefore it is true. But all this commentary is not about verifying the phrase to be false, but showing that the phrase is contradictory, which we already know. The only thing that has happened is that someone has said a contradictory statement, something perfectly feasible at any time, and therefore not very paradoxical. The second reason that the prohibition of self-referral is worthless is that said prohibition becomes as unnecessary as it is insufficient. Unnecessary because anyone can formulate a self-referring sentence without it being contradictory; for example “this sentence has five words”. Insufficient because it is possible to commit something contradictory obeying the prohibition of self-reference; for example in objective language “this table is made from the chestnut tree and it is not made from the chestnut tree”. And in meta-language “The previous sentence has seventeen words and it does not have seventeen words”. To avoid contradictions the only thing to do is be careful. All Russell’s stratagem goes in another direction, as we have said.
Finally we will show that in itself the prohibition of self-reference is contradictory. The said prohibition has to be formulated thus: “No prohibition can speak about itself”. But “no” implicates “neither this”. Therefore, the sentence is speaking about itself.
If you would prefer a positive formulation, it would be: “All propositions must speak about objects or of another proposition”. But “all” implicates “this as well”. The sentence is speaking of itself.
It is the norm that it infringes on itself at the same time as it is being formulated. Besides it is worthless either for the problem of Eubulides or to prevent scepticism from being contradictory.
Let us recapitulate. All the jumping about that dissimulate the self-contradiction of scepticism is perspicuously self-delusionary. And it should be doubly noted that, if scepticism makes an effort to hide its own contradiction, then it is realizing the obligation of the principle (no) contradiction and so realizes that not all is relative, despite the fact that the thesis “All is relative” is essential for scepticism. Obviously there is always someone who denies as well as being obliged to not contradict themselves. But what he is saying to us is that half a minute later he can sustain the contrary to what he is saying to us right now. With this declaration he himself is breaking off the dialogue, makes communication impossible, and no reasoning person needs to heed him.
The Roots of Scepticism.
Scepticism is a pseudo problem. Who, given that the mind knows the reality, figures that reality stays “outside” the mind; but as the mind is nothing special, as it is not a barrel or a place, the expressions “outside the mind” or “ inside the mind” are completely bereft of significance (they are similar to the expression “yellow syllogism”) and the whole problem is voluntary masochism. Neither can reality be defined as being outside of one’s head, as the encephalitic mass and the pituitary gland are in the head and indubitably they are real.
The Kantian, unrecognizable in itself, is the prototype of the afore-mentioned masochism. By definition, this thing in itself has no characteristics, so that, if we could attribute one to it, the thing would be known. So the pseudo-concept of this thing would be elaborated by denials. This is making all determinations abstract from the real. It is pure abstraction, and the sceptics postulate the existence of this as a mere product of thought, only with the outcome of torturing oneself.
Underlying this is a false concept of reality, or should I say, an absence of the concept of reality. He who defines real as distinct from the “I” or independent of the “I” does he suppose the “I” to be real or unreal? If the former, the definition is false because the “I” is not distinct or independent of the “I” and yet it is real. If the latter the definition pretends to define the real in terms of the unreal, in the function of unreal, which is absurd. It just needs a little thought to understand that, if we define real in the function of nothingness, by defining it none of its characteristics would have the property of being real but only of the characteristics of nothingness. And we would be defending the real as if it were nothingness; as something negative when evidently if there is something positive then it is real. If we add negation (by saying “distinct from…”) everything is still negative and precisely lacks something that characterizes it as real; we continue with nothingness.
The presumed definition “the real is tangible” owes itself to a mere distraction by its supporters, as they know perfectly well that in hallucinations there are tangible data and to such data there is no reality at all; that is to say, they themselves distinguish between the tangible and the real. Evidently, then, they do not wish to say what they are actually saying. As for the rest, we all know that when the sun comes up it does not come up as it is stationary. When we see that this table is not moving, this immobility is not real taking into account that the table with the rest of the planet is moving at 30 kms per second. The physicists also know something that is tremendously important: the surface of the table, despite the evidence of visible and tangible data, simply does not exist. There is no continuity of matter that our senses can testify to. In reality there are ten thousand times more emptiness than fullness (ten thousand is the ratio between the size of an atom and a nucleus). The surface merely appears to be there due to the manner that our organs of sight and touch are made. If something in this world is touchable it is the surface; but if there is something that is not real, it is the surface. To define the real as something touchable is a superlative non definition.
Be very aware that those who define by saying that the subject is real, as if they do not understand what the subject is, they always end up backing off by saying that the real is palpable. Therefore they are in the unsustainable non definition mentioned. But here we need to pause, because materialism is the true motive and root of scepticism. It is enough to see the incessant attacks of Adomo, Habermas and Derrida (and even Apel, who apparently is not a sceptic) against the philosophy of self-awareness. This is the essence; enough to prove as do all the works of Heidegger versus Descartes, Kant and Hegel. And in Rorty it is flagrant: even though he insists in denying that science (including physics) were possible, even though his scepticism is general. At the end of the day it ends up asserting this with certitude:
“More concretely, we can confirm all that follows: All speech, thought, theory, poems, compositions and philosophy are completely foreseen in terms that are purely naturalist. Some explanation of the kinds of atoms and vacuity applied to the micro-procedures that occur in individual human beings will permit the precision of all sound or inscription that would be produced. There are no ghosts” (21).
Where does that leave us? Have not we been told that the human mind, as well as being scientific, is incapable of knowing reality? How can they tell us so assuredly now that reality consists of atoms and vacuums?
This is the general position: scepticism doubts everything, except the theory that says all is matter. Scepticism’s postures were a farce: the only thing they care about is materialism.
So, when they say that all things are made of matter we naturally ask ourselves “what is matter”? They reply: that of which things are made. Ah, that really enlightens us.
It is as if someone were to say that all things are made of Blictri and it would be added: but do not ask me what Blictri is. Is it not time that humanity sent all these pseudo-theoretical caprices away.
Certainly, it would only be picturesque to cite pieces of matter each, smaller than the last, scraping the bottom of the barrel. We should ask ourselves what then is matter regardless of the size. First they said atoms, then nuclei, then subatomic particles and so on. But that is not the question! The materialist philosopher would have to define matter independently of size. If he asks the physicists for help, they will find a statement by Taylor and Wheeler speaking for them all: “The best thinking of today does not pretend that particles are not made up of time and space” (22). That is to say: the latest elements of matter are of/in space; that is in the vacuum, in the nothingness. The philosophical thesis that says that reality is matter, if deferred to the physicists it simply comes back to the aforementioned attempt to define which confounds the real with nothingness. And likewise to the masochism that postulates as real a thing with one that is nothing. The only outcome being the torturing of oneself saying that we cannot know it.
Defining matter by parts is entirely wrong, as many concepts have parts as well; for example in the concept of humankind (“rational animal”) “animal” is the first part. Thus being materialism wants to precisely put the matter opposite the concept. Besides, what Max Planck discovered was that the quantum has no parts and materialists no doubt catalogue quanta as matter. Certainly, when they say “it has parts” they are only thinking of the surface. Luckily the thesis “real is matter, and matter has parts” reiterates the ingenuity of believing that surfaces are real. If they are thinking in a line, lines are still less real than the surfaces; it fits.
It does not work either if one defines matter as if it has dimension. For example the concept of animal has a larger dimension that the concept of a quadruped; and it is well known among logicians that, the more comprehension a concept has, the less dimension it has. They would say that all this is clear, and that materialism refers to the literal sense of the word dimension. But what we ask ourselves exactly is: what is this literal sense? And here they are left speechless. The same thing happens if we ask exactly what is the literal sense of “have parts”. In fact, when they say dimension they are thinking of the surface; but we already have shown that surfaces do not exist; they just appear to exist owing to the peculiar physiology of our sight and touch organs. If matter is reduced to dimension and the dimension to surface which only appears to be, then to say all is matter is the same as saying that all just apparently exists. Materialism would have become an idealism of the worst kind, and even so it would not be able to avoid the “I”, that is to say the soul. Since being there is to appear before someone, but if there is no one to whom it can appear then being there does not exist.
Now it is time to face the fact that the word matter comes from the Latin word materies which means wood or stick. Also in Greek the word hyle means wood. To say that tangible objects are made of wood is a carpenter’s metaphor: it would only stop being it if someone were to say another meaning of the word matter. But we have already seen that nobody has been able to. When the Greeks saw that chairs were made from wood as well as houses, statues, etc., it occurred to them that all tangible objects could maybe made from a wood that was not exactly wood;, from wood without the characteristics of wood. Naturally they started a mental process of pure denial. The result was a pseudo-concept lacking all content; exactly like the thing itself of Kant. For twenty five centuries this has been the definition of matter; not something not such- like nor so much nor some dimension of the real; a masochism totally unjustified.
It is a kind of superstitious sentiment that makes some people say: anyway there should be something behind all this. I will not argue it at this time, but I will confirm that this something is matter which would not only be free and anti-scientific but also it would be to emit sounds that have no sense owing to the fact that the word matter has not been defined. It is as if they were to say that what is behind it is Blictiri.
It seems indispensible here to warn that the fact that the techniques “are successful” and “work” in no way shows that the physicists know what things are made of. Also the technique of the animals (think of the aeronautics of the birds and the sonar of the bats) are very successful, and certainly the animals do not know what things are made of. Also the techniques of prehistoric man (think of the rudder, of navigation or the discrete use of fire) had and still have enormous success; and prehistoric man in no way knew what these things were made of. The carpenter and the smithy have had continual technical success during millennia and they have had it working with surfaces and believing in the existence of the surfaces and yet the surfaces do not exist. If logic still deserves respect, this last fact is enough to show that with wrong ideas one can have all the technical success in the world.
Let us add: and even without ideas as to how things are. As it is exclusively about manipulation, what reaction is there to our stratagem. Technical appearances are enough; the face phenomenon shows us is enough, it is enough in the way it responds to our relationship (manual) with it. Reality itself is a problem that techniques have completely without care. So unfortunately or fortunately, physics and chemistry of the 20th century have become a mere technique; a refined and grandiose craft. Their concepts are purely manipulative. For example, they define energy as the capacity to do work (work, for instance, is to transport a body to a higher plane); which in itself is energy. What ironic characteristics would you have to make it capable of doing work, it is a question of metaphysics; what is important is that it does the work. The other key concept, that of mass is defined as: mass is the resistance the body uses to withstand when a certain force is applied. It is not important to them what it is; for them the reaction is important (that is to say resistance) to my strength. The custom of leaving many terms undefined is generalized as well in these sciences and they justify this by saying it “works”. Evidently this is knowledge by manipulation. Bridgman’s process is the most loyal description of these sciences: no term is acceptable while its meaning does not have an action or workings that humans can do.
Today’s physics does not know what things are made of. If from physics and its “success”, materialism hopes for confirmation of its thesis that everything is made of matter, it would leave them hemmed in.
Let us continue. With the only purpose in mind of not heeding the “I”, i.e. the soul, the aforementioned materialism and masochism postulate “out” (!)to an entity which lacks content and therefore is nothingness. Overlooking that the real character of something is not tangible data and that, therefore, the concept of real (i.e. existing, being) could only originate in introspection, self-awareness, that is to say, to know one’s soul. The only possible meaning of the word “real” is the being itself. Therefore, it becomes contradictory when one denies the reality of the soul.
Maybe it is convenient to remember as Carnap shows that the real character of things is not tangible data. Let us suppose that, without knowing one from the other, two geographers did an exhaustive study of the same mountain in Africa. And we will assume that, apart from their capacities as geographers, one of them has an idealistic philosophy and the other a realist philosophy. The two descriptive reports would coincide in all empirically provable details, but at the same time the first geographer would be convinced that the mountain does not really exist, whereas the second sustains that the mountain is a real entity. On this point by empiric means it is impossible for them to agree, since, in all the empirics they coincide. The character of things is not perceptible data for the senses.
For Carnap, as well as the rest of the materialist philosophers, did not ask himself how it happened; therefore, the mental concept of what is real it is not of empiric origin. We have already said that: through introspection, that is, in the same way that the soul contains its own reality. Thus the existence of the spirit is rationally shown, but materialism feels that, if they accept this, that God is not far away. It is impressive that, when reason had proved the truth of Christianity, the materialists had to deny reason by declaring themselves sceptics.
Of course, apart from the roots mentioned, scepticism can have others but for a personal and customary idiosyncrasy. An example perhaps is the pedantry of certain professors who, by showing themselves to be sceptical, put themselves “above” the greatest intellectuals of humanity, Aristotle and Hegel, whose demonstrations in themselves are irrefutable; it is already known that mediocrity always forms an armoured shell; a mechanism of self-defence against all excessive meddling. Another example would be the perpetual adolescence of those who do not have another way of “being interesting” than that of being irreducibly difficult to convince. But all this is frivolity and anecdotal. What deserves philosophical attention (political philosophy, historical philosophy) is the post modern turn of affairs that liberalism has today: its false pluralism allows everything, except what it is showing. It wishes to abolish in the world the splendid process of rationality known as philosophy that consists in distinguishing by proving between true convictions and false ones. Today it is permitted to look for the truth with the condition that nobody finds it.
(1) Jürgen Habermas. El Discurso Filosófico de la Modernidad. Traducción Manuel Jiménez Redondo. Buenos Aires. Taurus, 1989, p. 253, n. 74.
(2) Theodor Adorno. Zur Metakritik der Erkenninistheorie. Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1972, p. 221.
(3) Ludwig Wittgenstein. Philosophische Untersuchungen; num. 133, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1975.
(4) Jürgen Habermas. Pensamiento Postmetafísico. Traducción Manuel Jiménez Redondo. México, Taurus, 1990, p. 26.
(5) Richard Rorty. La Filosofía y el Espejo de la Naturaleza. Traducción Jesús Fernández Zulaica. Madrid, Cátedra, 1983, p. 16.
(6) Cf. Vittorio Hosle, Die Krisis der Gegenwart und die Verantwortung der Philosophie, München, Beck, 1990, p. 75 y ss
(7) Cf. Christoff Jermann; citado por Hösle en Ibid, p.78, n. 55.
(8) Apud Frannz Stark (ed): Revolution oder Reform?; München, Kösel, 1976,p. 39. In general, Popper maintains that the decision in favor of rationalism is an irrational resolution.
(9) Ilans-Georg Gadamer. Wahrheit und Methode. Tübingen, Mohr, 1960, p. 280.
(10) Cf. Hösle, op. cit., p. 84.
(11) David Hume. Tratado de la Naturaleza Humana, libro 3, parte 3a, sección 1 (cualquier edición).
(12) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logicophilosophicus 6,54. Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1977.
(13) Jacques Derrida. La Voz y el Fenómeno. Traducción Francisco Peñal-Ver. Valencia, Pre-textos, 1985, p. 166. Las cursivas son de Derrida.
(14) Jügen Habermas, op. cit., p. 254, n. 74
(15) Michel Foucault. La Arqueología del Saber. Traducción Aurelio Garzón. México, Siglo XXI, 1987, p. 364; es decir, al final del libro, después de haber espetado cuanto escepticismo quiso.
(16) Theodor Adorno. Mínima Moralia, núm. 44. Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1976.
(17) John Rajchman y Cornel West (eds). Postanalytic Philosophy. Nueva York, Columbia U.P., 1985, p. XV.
(18) Martin Heidegger. Sein und Zeit. Tübingen, Gadamer aprueba esa “respuesta” en op. cit. supra en nota (9). p. 327.
(19) Richard Rorty, op. cit., p. 335.
(20) Ibid; p. 336
(21) Ibid; p. 349.
(22) E.F. Taylor y J.A. Wheeler. Spacetime Physics. San Francisco. Freeman. 1996, p. 193.
Indigenous Rights versus Human Rights
Jose Porfirio Miranda
La Jornada Semanal – magazine – #210, June 20, 1993; p. 36 – 44
The idea of equality for all human beings is a typical product of Western culture, to which civilized relativism is opposed by ideologies such as that of native peoples.
We will begin by stating three or four burning and irritating facts of our Mexican reality, in order to first do away with the danger of abstraction which always stymies the philosopher.
Article #5 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which prohibits torture, is frequently violated in our country if not habitually. All international organizations who have investigated here report this as true. And our government agencies, as they are judge and interested party, cannot claim that they are to be believed when they deny these impartial international accusations.
Article #20, which says “Nobody can be obliged to belong to an association”, is definitely violated to the detriment of Mexican workers, as they are either obliged to belong to a CTM or CROC union or if they form their own union they will not be able to officially register it if it is not part of CTM or CROC. (Government controlled unions).
Article #23, which allows all individuals to form their own unions, is systematically violated, as if it is not registered, it has no legal strength. The authorities, just by refusing to register it (which they do at their discretion), make a union formed by the workers ineffective.
Article #19, which allows freedom of speech and the diffusion of one’s own opinions, is violated without exception in Mexico when it is an opinion different from that of the President of the Republic. Any journalist, that has tried to, can testify to it. The editorial chief will say that not talking about the President is taken as understood.
Article #26, which gives the right to parents to choose the type of education they wish their children to have, is radically violated to the detriment of 80% of poor Mexican parents, i.e. in detriment to those who are unable to pay for private education. This violation has been well known for years.
The right to strike is violated at the discretion of the authorities just by declaring it illegal or by not letting it proceed.
That is enough of undeniable facts. We could mention many more. Even though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been around for nearly 50 years, Mexico and many other Third World countries still do not obey it. Some of these violations mentioned are necessary to Mexico’s political system. It seems to me that by simply recognizing that the prescience of Human Rights comes from the Western world is objective. Before this declaration in 1948 there were historic precedents: the British Bill of Rights (1689), the US Declaration of Independence (1776), the famous French Declaration (August 26, 1789), without mentioning authors such as Victoria, Suarez, Grotius, Lacke and Rousseau (1). Human Rights are a Western invention. Those that say that all civilizations are equally valuable, in the first place are lacking in a historical perspective and in the second they base it on an entirely a priori reasoning, that of the natural human being: that is that all humans are naturally good and that all cultures created by humans have to be good. We shall talk about that in the third part.
Propounders of anti-westernization do not know the damage it can cause to the world. This ideology, which calls itself “civilized relativism” is said to be based on the premise that all humans of all races are equal; but Western civilization was the first to proclaim that all men of all races are equal!
The rest of the world does not know that all human beings are equal; if we know it today it is because we acquired this conviction from Western civilization. It is puerile to argue against it citing the conduct of some or many western individuals. It is already known that in all civilizations conduct is always going to be pulled back by criterions. Criterions and imperatives are what push history forward. All human groups come from nature, i.e. originally animal and uncivilized; history has progressively pulled humans away from this way of being. We should not be surprised that when a group of humans have criterions and imperatives that are truly civilizing (i.e. morals) these are slowly accepted and put into practice completely.
To have an overall vision, allow me to formulate this list: Human Rights are a Western invention; democracy is a Western invention (in Athens four fifths of the
population were slaves); equality of men and women is a Western invention; that it is false that there should be masters and slaves is a Western invention; that the good or bad character of one’s actions is objective and does not depend on any decision of authority is a Western invention; that nobody is guilty until proven so in front of a judge is a Western invention; that judicial power should be separated from governmental power is a Western invention; infinite dignity for all is a Western invention; that rights of the State (i.e. we do not quarrel with the established law and we do not depend on the discretional decision of the government) is a Western invention; freedom of the press is a Western invention; liberty to choose one’s profession is a Western invention as is who we associate with, which meetings we attend, who we marry, our conscience, where we live.
So, for their own good and even though their spokesperson does not like it, indigenous rights tend to persuade people that their native culture is so good or better than Western culture; that it is enough by itself and does not need ‘imported’ and ‘euro’ things.
No ideology could have been created that causes more problems for the indigenous people than indigenous rights. Through its own intrinsic gravity it is an ideology that defends the status quo and the reigning injustices, which impedes the prevalence of extreme pressure in favor of Human Rights. And be warned that in our country indigenous rights are not only preached to the indigenous people; it is present in our literature, in the press, in background articles and even in the education given to the general population. It shows us the almost total abandoning of universal history in the schools. All absolute regimes have always been very nationalistic: nationalism protects them from international ‘grafting’, from the world’s advances in Human Rights. Anti-westernization wants to create a world where you cannot fight for justice because this fight would be the equivalent of accepting typically Western principles, that one must have justice whom so ever is affected (fiat iusticia etiamsi ruat mundus).
This resistance is bound to fail. I maintain that our epoch is stupendous. To appreciate our advances let us first consider what Hegel observed less than two centuries ago about the idea that all humans are destined to be free.
Whole continents e.g. Africa and Asia never had this idea and even today they do not have it. The Greeks and the Romans, Plato and Aristotle and even the Stoics did not
have it; on the contrary they only knew that human beings were really free depending on birth (as an Athenian, Spartan, etc.) or by strength of character or education or philosophy ( the sage is free even if he is a slave and in chains). This idea came to light through Christianity according to which the individual as such has infinite value because he is the object and the goal of God’s love (2)……
Actually, apart from our Latin America (which obviously Hegel thought had it ), they have come around to the certitude that all humans deserve total respect; the Philippines, most of Africa, as well as India, which is a third of Asia, have movements pro Human Rights. The direction, as we have said, is slow but it is there. What is important for history is the certainty of criteria. We are talking about true morality, and the people do not care about the relativity of the intellectuals or the immoral criteria of capitalism, but capitalism is about the search for their own profit, a clearly incompatible attitude with the respect of Human Rights of one’s neighbor.
In reality, the idea of Human Rights has two more historical roots; on one side, the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics; on the other, Christianity. What happens here is that they are of a very diverse nature.
The Greek contribution can be summed up as follows; the quality of good or bad moral action does not depend on what the law of each country or government says but is something objective, something able to be shown rationally. This contribution is identified with the actual essence of philosophy; thus this says that truth can be known and demonstrated. It is obvious, for example, when one maintains that torture is objectively bad and abominable; this implicitly affirms that humans have the right not to be tortured and that this right exists in spite of all governments and all positive legislation. The full explanation (erroneously called iusnaturalism) only came about in the last 500 years of Western history, though it is possible to find it in Saint Thomas (13th century). The 18th century brought it to its height. It can be said that the Greek contribution is reliable.
The Christian contribution can be summed up in this way; all humans regardless of race, sex or circumstances have infinite dignity. This contribution not only gives Human Rights an essential universality that is lacking in the Greek contribution as observed by Hegel. It also gives it content, that is to say from the total dignity of the
people logically comes all Human Rights. From the moment that it is recognized that everyone has infinite dignity all history is destined to change. No other civilization knew this.
Anyway, both contributions definitely influenced the Declaration of Rights of the English, American, French and finally the universal one in 1948. To ignore universal history in literature, speeches, newspapers and education is to create an Orwellian world based on omissions and silence so that deeds, people, ideas and rights disappear from one’s mind; as if they did not exist, had never existed. This is what Stalin tried to do. This is the best way to keep a political system in power. The intellectuals are given the task to fabricate a tractable history.
Indigenous rights were not invented by the Indigenous peoples. This came from the intellectuals. Civilized relativism is logical and indisputably linked to liberalism, which has become relativism in general. Liberalism supposedly does not need absolute truths because that would take away freedom; but as Western tradition is based on absolute truths, liberalism has no option but to claim itself relativist as far as civilizations are concerned. This is how indigenous rights were born, which becomes a form of racism in reverse, a racism consistent solely in negation: I reject that which is European only because it did not invent my race. It is difficult to imagine an attitude more irrational and lacking in objectivity. (In fact, liberals trick us. They defend something Western but they do not want us to know it is Western: democracy, freedom of the press, women’s rights. And they defend it as an absolute, but at the same time they pretend that it is not absolute or Western. Also the criteria with which they uphold certain appreciable features of indigenous cultures are Western, as well as the indisputable inheritance of the same).
Fortunately the relativism of the intellectuals does not affect the people of the world, or the international organizations of the UN either, both of whom are representatives of the whole world population. On the contrary, the great news of the epoch in which we live is the certainty that all people (with the exception still of the Far East) take it for granted that Human Rights must be respected. In this sense, which is fundamental for human history, our epoch is stupendous, and I do not see how they can
leave out of this formidable context in the talks or meetings which endeavor to analyze recent happenings (e.g. the fall of the Soviet system).
Against this magnificent change in history two reactionary barriers are raised. One, ideological: relativism, indigenism, nationalism, etc. The other, pseudo-legal: sovereignty and judicial positivism. On the latter we must pause in a very special way, in this respect great philosophy has contributed an incalculable transcendence, all we need is for the people to find out about it.
The principal error consists of believing that law and authority have a validity independent of morality. As far as morality is concerned, or should I say the jurists in question show a very different side (act of concealment) to that of law and authority, or they plainly declare it subjective, that is, they deny that objectively valid obligations exist unless noted by the country’s law or by governmental disposition. With this they are saying that human beings do not have any more rights than those that are recognized by of their country’s laws or those of the government. So the word rights can only be translated in terms of obligation (of others); i.e. the only significance of, for example, “human beings have a right to live” is “Institutions and everyone else have the obligation to respect the life of each person.” Sovereignty is a part of it: here only the law of the country and the government rules. The reader understands why I speak about a barrier raised against the present worldwide wave of Human Rights. Evidently, it is useless to respond that governments and legislators can accept these Western demands and make them laws in their own countries, when, this way, it would be up to local authorities to decide which of the rights an individual would have and which they would not. The main point of Western tradition and of the Universal Declaration is that just by being human they have the rights, independently of whether some legislator or government recognizes them or not.
The philosophy that really respects Humankind has to deny all differences between law and morality. It has to maintain that a law if not moral is not a law, that an authority is not an authority if its contents do not coincide with what is moral. From here follows that laws and government have no validity or are not binding when they are against the world’s progress in Human Rights.
Let us proceed methodically and strictly. First let us refute the two superficial differences that have a tendency to appear between law and morality and then we will get to the bottom of the matter.
The first difference we should be aware of is that morality for the inner being and law for the outer being is false on both sides. Thus, morality prohibits homicide, and when someone does away with another person, morality demands restitution, accepting responsibility is definitely not enough. Homicide and restitution are exterior acts, if they are there.
For his part, concerning penal law the inner being of the accused is a decisive factor: if the murderer is mad there is no crime; but madness or non-madness is internal. Another example; today all penal codes distinguish between fraudulent damages and culpable damages, that is between injury caused with intent to hurt and an injury caused by negligence or carelessness. The crime is completely different as is the punishment; but malicious intent or negligence are inner realities. One more example: in a crime such as fraud, it is decisive to prove that the victim was effectively taken in by the con man’s ruse or by his own imprudence and stupidity; as far as the accused is concerned the judge must decide if there was criminal intent. No exterior data has unanimous significance, surely the same deed can be called deceit for certain individuals and in certain circumstances and for others it is not; so it is not the exterior deed which orients the judge in these cases but precisely the interior; though this can come accompanied by certain exterior deeds and at times other ones that are completely different. The penal judge Jimenez Huerta recognizes: “Fraud cannot be measured objectively, as to project forcibly onto the intelligence of the victim would only be effective depending on the peculiar psychological subjectivity of the person being deceived. (3)
Not only penal law. For civil and commercial law the intention of the agent is also decisive. For example, a will is invalid if the testator had not intended to bequeath. That is, all civil codes invalidate a contract when one of the parties suffers from an “error on the determining motive of the will”. And the invalid error can also be about the nature of the contract: for example, if someone signs a contract of bargain and sale believing that it was a rental. But the error, the mistaken ‘belief’ are interior deeds by excellence. I do not know how someone at some time could maintain that legal and juridical systems
do not attend to the inner being. One last example: when the judge has to decide with which of the divorced parents the children must live, the most important thing for him is the inner personality: the lawyer of the father has to show the unstable psyche of the mother or her defective interior. The exterior facts only are used as indications, symptoms or probationary means. What counts is what is inside.
One should not overlook the fact that the thesis we are criticizing is a negative universal proposition; according to logic one singular affirmative case is enough to show that it is false and the case is closed.
Equally false, and also on both sides (being as it is that one thing refutes it), is the second difference; that which maintains that the law is essentially co-active while morality is not. We can start by fending off a more direct argument: in the final analysis the co-action of laws is reduced to this – it is morally licit to use physical force to make people comply.
In effect, even in those countries where more regulations are in force there is more delinquency that is stronger, more astute or more frequent than government recourses and repeatedly goes unpunished. It is enough to mention the nightly muggings or pick-pocketing at all hours: the most elementary realism tells us that they go unpunished. Sociologists tell us as well that the majority of crimes go unpunished. So, in what really consists the co-activity of the laws that prohibit reporting punishment. Of course not physically, the problem is precisely that the government and its agencies do not do anything physically against these delinquents: physically they do not punish them. Consequently, co-activity is reduced to this: the government would be morally licit to use force if it could. The co-activity of the judicial system consists in that the law says that this and that action deserves punishment. But morality agrees with this, and the result is that there is no difference between morality and the law in as much as it respects co-activity.
There is a particularly notorious case: the right for legitimate defense. Be aware that this right, the legal, belongs to the law; the treaty makers themselves whom we are criticizing recognize that it does not belong just to the moral sphere. Many legal bodies explain this right, and in other countries tribunals and their jurisprudence make it evident; luckily everywhere they have the power of the law. Well then, the attacked has this right
even though the attacker leaves him with no possibility of defense. In this case we have a legal right without a real coactivity of any sort. If the theorist at this moment denies this right to the attacked because he is being attacked efficiently, what is being said is that power, far from being inherent to the law, overrules the law. And if the theorist, on the other hand, recognizes that in this particular case the legal right of the defendant exists, then it is assumed that the law is not effectively coactive and therefore is no different from morality. The right of legitimate defense consists exclusively in that the ones attacked are morally within their rights to use force if they can.
The arguments that we have put forward refute the first part of the thesis that states that the law is different from the morality in that law is coactive and morality is not. But we will still add two cases where consequently the law lacks coactivity. Note that in the codes that are absent there are laws that, because of the negligence of the legislator, go without punishment. But positive theory would tell me lightly that these pronouncements are not laws and that is that. The two cases I am now going to put forward have nothing to do with this: they are about crimes that, by their own logic of things, should consequently go unpunished.
The transgression of not reporting the delinquent has to go unpunished in the end, because assuming the opposite would mean starting a process with no end. In the first link of the chain the code brings a penalty (e.g. that of Mexico City, article 400, 1a), but if the transgression is of not reporting a transgression of not reporting? This would eventually go unpunished. If not, then you would have to punish the transgression of not reporting a transgression of not reporting a transgression of not reporting, etc. There would be no option other than to leave it unpunished. Consequently it is erroneous to say that the law always punishes the guilty party.
The other case is this: the law cannot effectively punish the supreme governing power that commits a crime and so resist the punishment that the law enforces. The law would have to create an alternate authority to implement a greater power than that conceded by the government. Consequently this instance would be another case of resisting punishment by the law; and so on and so forth.
If they respond frivolously that these perceptions are not to do with the law but morality, the thesis that we are impugning has lost the game. So it means that legal order
has to contain moral concepts, is unavoidable and consequently it is erroneous that law is separate from morality.
Now we will show that the second part is false where it states that overall it denies that moral principles are punishable. They are and so much so, that it compels us to go into the subject more deeply, that is: the legal order is consequently based on moral order and is only valid if it has a moral significance.
Anyone who thinks about it a little knows that liars are punished by a collective contempt of all that they say; that individual cruelty is punished with isolation, if possible total isolation, and collective horror becomes a form of boycott. The swindler or con artist is excluded from all business dealings; that those who are guilty of promoting only their own interests are excluded from managerial positions by common assent, etc.
The sceptics and superficial critics would state that these punishments are not sufficiently effective. First, I respond that neither is that of the law. Second, I respond that the thesis that perceptive morals do not have a corresponding punishment is a negative universal proposition and the existence of any punishment associated with a moral ruling is enough to be able to refute it. It is not necessary to show that all moral precepts have a corresponding punishment, nor that such a punishment is effective. And thirdly, I respond, and this is the most important, that those who consider this carefully will be convinced that in reality social order is maintained much more by unforeseen punishment by the law than by the foreseen.
That which appertains to more underdeveloped societies than ours, we will cite the anthropologist Ino Rossi:
Radcliffe-Brown shows that in many primitive societies there are neither tribunals nor judges nor a central political authority formally organized, and yet, the people possess a feeling regarding what a crime and a notion are; of what public or private wrong-doings are. When there is no political authority to apply organized punishment (law), there exist private groups and organizations that apply constituted punishments. Even more so, there exists a series of non-organized mechanisms such as ostracism, setting fire to the house, blood feuds, accusations of witchcraft and spell making, and ritual punishment that, without being imposed by the official authorities, are effective means of social control (4).
For what is done to developed societies, Laura Nader and Harry Todd Jr. summarize the investigations of Macauley and Sutherland. The unavoidability of the law as a means of forming and maintaining good business relationships; in transactions with other businessmen they prefer not to use contracts, or even use the law in the case of criminal activity (5).
The reason is very obvious: the loss of prestige in the business community, the severing of all dealings with the transgressor, the refusal of credit and supplies, are for a businessman sanctions infinitely more ruinous than those specified by the law. From the 16th to the 18th centuries in Europe when capitalism first started, bill of exchange and promissory notes were simply a question of honour, a symbol of the prestige of the issuer, and of the disaster it would be if he were to lose that prestige. But even today, without the trust in an oral commitment, national capitalist systems would be paralyzed. Relationships between capitalists cannot be dependant on legal and judiciary systems; a judicial procedure is long and there are appeals, and by the time it ends my business is bankrupt or I have lost completely the opportunity of a daring operation that I have in mind; I need security, or to put it another way, the given word.
Dispensing with the world of small businesses, in our small cities and the barrios of the large cities, non legal sanctions can make ones life impossible for anybody: being sent to Coventry (given the cold shoulder), by “pure coincidence” the letters were lost in the mail, the plumber is always “busy”, the milkman passed me by, the shopkeeper forgot my goods, at school my children are insulted and so it goes on.
These actions refute the thesis that morals cannot have effective sanctions, but the main thing is this: collective disapproval with which one sanctions the moral transgression is the principal support of social order. Simply, there would not be the strength or sufficient police if on one bright morning the whole population decided to disobey the law. As Napoleon said, bayonets are good for many things except for sitting on: no government would stay in business if it were to depend only on the use of force. Let us state this using the words of Hegel: “Often the imagination thinks that the State maintains its unity through force, but what holds it together is a fundamental sense of order that is communal” (6).
We are coming to the crucial point; those that deny the objective validity of morality do not have the right to use the word law or the word authority. The statements of its codes and its decrees are sensitive data, but it is not so that such statements should be law, nor that they should be obligatory. They are conditional imperatives, that is to say useful information; if you do this or that you will go to jail. But this signifies that other behaviour is convenient but not that it is obligated. The institutional order that such statements are made of stipulate force, this is definitely empirically verifiable: they could imprison me, they can take away my salary and my house; yet an army of vandals could take over the country by violence and could do that with equal physical force. I would be forced to act as this gang of villains wish, but being forced is not the same as being obliged. To be opposed to the global advance of morality (Human Rights), those in control evidently do not wish to say they are doing it in the name of brute force but in the name of respectability, of something worthy, something obligated. If the resistance versus the infiltration of Western imperative morals were merely “I am the one who has the rifles” they would neither argue nor give reasons. They resist in the name of the law but then the word law cannot signify force.
The law has to mean a moral obligation. Otherwise it is interpreted as force. Only then can they oppose in the name of the law the moral demands put forward by Human Rights or declare them subjective.
Obviously, they cannot do it in the name of the State as the State consists of laws: that whosoever wields the power is so and so means that it was in conformity with the law that placed that person in that position. If law has no moral signification, the pseudo-state that they have is held up by force, and the corresponding government is a gang of delinquents and not an authority. Only if it presupposes that it is morally obligated to obey the laws can they be called laws and obligations; the character of law derives from this moral principle.
This has always been true, not only today. Implicit or reflexive, lawmen and governors have always taken into account that, as we have stated, the State does not owe its existence thanks to force but to moral principles. For this reason, when they say law they need to understand that this is not force but obligation, duty; the same applies when using the word authority. And there is no way to confer a significance on the word law if it
prescinds from the moral imperative because it is proven by empiric data. If anything, somewhere there is a small book with certain types of statements which indicates that certain behavior deserves certain punishments or imprisonment. But from this empiric data in no way is the idea of the law, obligation or duty contained. The legal positivism, by denying that absolute imperatives exist independently from the law, becomes incapable of giving any significance to the word law.
It must be well understood that neither the majority vote nor the republican order can make the law or governmental decrees mean obligation. Nobody gives what they do not possess. If we decide to use force as an example, it is possible that the majority would be able to constrain the minority and individuals made to follow certain behavior between constriction and obligation. However, there is a big difference as we have shown. If it becomes obligatory to respect the decision of the majority (if it is not imposing something immoral), it is because it presupposes the moral principle that backing it brings worse things that all responsible people are obliged to make sure that they do not happen; from this initial move comes the obligation, not the majority vote itself. By itself this does not generate obligation either in the minority or anyone. The majority have been wrong many times. Hitler was elected by the majority. If the majority chooses someone as governor it does not mean that the decrees of this governor have an obligatory character. The same exists for the State, whatever the form of government; it is only justified if the State has respect for Human Rights. Further more, no State can complain with authority about interference – when the global current demands more and more for adherence to Human Rights.
We have been amply occupied with legality of government because it is allied strongly and officially (the armed forces) to indigenism and civilized relativism in the desire to contain Human Rights. It is time to return straight to these ideologies and bring to light the supposition, unfortunately very generalized, but deeply false, from which they come: for example assuming that human beings are naturally good, that all cultures produced by human beings have to be good.
Between the beautiful and the good there is a wide gap, but maybe it is worth beginning by showing, as a merely inadequate comparison, that a similar relativism of the
ethic sphere has become epidemic also in the aesthetic sphere. It is an absolutely confusing when intellectuals propose it pedantically. Afraid that they will call me “stubborn”. I have to find everything beautiful (even the most obviously foolish things). In an exceptional moment of honesty Teodoro Adorno said:
He who finds everything beautiful is immediately in danger of finding nothing beautiful (…) unlimited benevolence becomes a confirmation of all the evil that exists (…) The concept of life, abstractly, to which he recurs in these cases, cannot be separated from the oppressor, from the godless, from that that is actually lethal and destructive. (7)
This feigned pluralism concedes that everything is pluralism, finds that everything is an expression of the vital and therefore it seems beautiful. For the same reason everything that is “natural” has to be good. Thereupon, this biology does not know how to define the concept of life, which is the height of ignorance when it extols everything for being life; but we will get back to that soon. Firstly we shall attend to Adomo’s argument: the hyena and the serpent are also life, cruelty and destructive aggression also belong to life, the torturer and the assassin also manifest life, by these actions they are alive. The quotation from Adomo takes us to the ethical. The romanticism of “vitality” that all is justified if it is alive, is therefore justifying destructive deeds in life, and therefore setting examples of a mental indiscipline that is truly calamitous.
Nietzsche reached the ultimate consequences, but relativists should also if they were logical:
Now-a-days when suffering inevitably appears first on the list of arguments against existence, as the worst sign of interrogation of this, it is good to remember the times in which it was determined in the opposite way. Then it was not possible to avoid making people suffer and was seen as a first class attraction that seduces one to live (…) (8).
To speak about what is fair or unfair in itself is something that lacks sense; in themselves, to offend, violate, dispossess, annihilate are not naturally unfair. From the moment in which life acts essentially, that is to say, in its basic functions, offending, violating, dispossessing, annihilating, one cannot think, absolutely, in this way (9).
Western tradition, that of Human Rights, “speaks solely about just and unjust”. Nietzsche rejects that in the name of life. Our civilized relativists as well: they cannot
accept the superiority of the West because all cultures appear to them to be manifestations of life. Thus they favour and validate all the evil that exists. But there is a difference: Nietzsche embraces the destructive and the annihilation to science and conscience, while the complete ‘opening’ of our relativists is really a void. It is the attitude of the bimbo: it is ‘open’ to everything because there is nothing to say.
If we take their incessant falling back on life seriously, the result would be they do not know what they are talking about. But let us do it, as great philosophy does have something to say about it. Life can only be defined as self-determination, i.e. free will, and here we have that a genuine moral act is only a complete self-determination. He who waits for the difference between just and unjust adds to the natural impulses that the hetero determines. Therefore these impulses are not from the “I” itself but are placed there without permission. By empiric data it is impossible to define life; this is recognized by the biologists Baker and Alleen in the name of all society: “There is not a defined line between what is life and non-life” (10).
The spirit of empiric definition of life uses nutrition, growth and reproduction as characteristics of life; and as they try to understand empirically, nutrition and growth became nearly the same: taken locally from external material to the thing or body they are studying. Never the less this growth and nutrition can also be observed in crystals, which are not life, and also in a flame or fire, which also is not alive; fortunately these characteristics do not serve as definition. Reproduction has problems on both sides: on one side the ox would not be alive, nor the worker bees either, nor the eunuchs, nor the humans during puberty: on the other hand, fire not only feeds on external elements and grows, but also creates other similar fires and in this sense produces.
So far so good, if the empiric data does not allow the formation of the concept of life, the origin of this concept must have been introspection. But for introspection we understand it means self determination of the spirit in truly free actions, which means morality; this is the content and significance of the word life. Other things we call alive are only so in the derived, deficient and metaphorical sense. As Hegel says, “his own self awareness is what humans make as objective for itself” (11).
The end result is that those in the name of life wish to undervalue and make relative the absolute imperative of what is moral. If they use a little mental precision, they
would find that life, in its only known sense, depends precisely on interpreting it as an absolute imperative morality.
But finally, the belief that humans are naturally good does not consequently mean we can use the word life; we must focus on it and itself. To my mind the obvious observation that it is a typically a priori belief should be enough: it is not necessary to examine real actions because it is already known beforehand that by nature humans are good. Nevertheless, Rousseau, the original perpetrator of this idea, when he condescended to examine the facts found something very different:
“I have seen imprudent nannies who incite anger in children, they excite them to hit, they let them hit and laugh at their feeble blows, without realizing that there were other intentions of the furious child here, to fight to the death. And that those who wish to hit when young will want to kill when they are older “(12).
And in this same book we find this emphatic phrase: “All savages are cruel”.
The only possible definition of ‘natural’ is: that which has not been modified by education, society or culture. Any observer that does not idealize knows that in themselves or should I say, according to their natural tendencies, children are total egoists, creatures capable of all sorts of cruelty permitted by their strength, which fortunately is not great. Hobbes describes the savage as a “robust child”. And Freud found that a child is “a universal polymorphous criminal”. And Nietzsche as we have seen, knows exactly what is natural: “offend, violate, dispossess and annihilate”. The jungle is what is natural, the devouring of one another.
Culture is what makes humans good, not nature. But from there it means that not all cultures have the same values. It is absurd to give to those whose criteria and imperatives demand respect for the infinite dignity of all humans to those whose religion has as its centre human sacrifice. In all cultures, it is clear, there is a minimum of morality, here Levi Strauss is right; on the contrary we would not be talking about humankind but about beasts; what makes humans human is imperative morality. But it is not unusual that in some groups there are more residual ingredients of the original beast in their criteria and institutions than in others. And it is irrational to deny a priori the possibility that one culture has managed to eliminate more than others the instinctive mercilessness from its criteria and institutions. Behaviour is always left behind. It is only
to be expected; the promissory, the important thing about the course of history are the institutional imperatives and criteria.
The conclusion is that the natural human does not exist. If it is natural it is animal, not human. It is not just about what theologians say, to wit, that actually humans have never been in a natural state. It means that the expression ‘natural human’ is intrinsically contradictory and that, when Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau talk about a state of nature, before the making of society and the State, they are completely ignorant as to what is human. Humans are differentiated from animals by their self awareness, that is to say, because they understand their condition; but it could not be acquired if society (through the mother, for example) would not intervene in making them responsible, “without a “you” an “I” is impossible” (13).
Hegel says: “a child on its own is a spirit, it is not a realized spirit, it is not real as a spirit. It only has the capacity, the potential of being spiritual, to become real as a spirit” (14). And the atheist anthropologist Leslie White says as follows: “It is the symbol which transforms a homo sapiens child into a human being” (15). Dumb mutes, that grow without symbols, are not human beings” (15). “A baby becomes human when it begins to use symbols “(16). The testimony of anthropology of our century is authentic. It lacks the understanding that the use of symbols is thus a consequence of acquiring awareness of oneself. Understand the dividing line: that apple exists but it does not know it exists, this dog exists but it does not know it exists, what distinguishes the human is the self awareness (having an I), which is the same as the spirit; and it certainly does not mean an entity that exists and then realizes that it exists but one exists because one knows; as Aristotle says, “the mind is actually nothing before it thinks” (17).
Anthropologists and paleontologists of the 20th century have not found any physical data to distinguish between the human and the animal. The verticality of the trunk is found in another 188 animal species (18). The opposable thumb is found in various marsupials. Various human babies have been born with a tail. A well-known family from Loreto, Zacatecas has children with hair on their faces and over all their bodies as we saw on Mexican television at the end of 1986. Although the largest cerebral volume of the brain of a gorilla to date (685 cm3) and the smallest of a human (850cm3) it is a small difference, and surely just quantitative. All physical theories fail before the
fact that there are humans with 2000 cm3 or more; if 165 units were enough to differentiate between species then humans would not be one species but seven. And finally teeth are not useful as a distinction either: fossils studied by Oakley in South Africa are certainly not human because there is no evidence of fire or primitive tools or instruments. The canine tooth not only is less prominent than the other teeth than in humans but is exactly the same as the others; there is a larger degree of evolution in this ape than in human teeth.
It is the self awareness which distinguishes humans; for this reason a human being is not human unless society modifies it by inciting self awareness; therefore a human being is not a natural being. When commonly justifying or praising something it is said to be ‘natural’, in reality this is the worst that could be said about something: they are saying that it is inhuman, which is the opposite of human.
Self awareness is brought about by the moral imperative directed towards the child by society and that indicates the responsibility of overcoming instinct by taking into account that others are people, to be respected. I exist because I have been made responsible. I am human because I should be. I should respect the Human Rights of others. And I am therefore more human the more I respect them. The resistance of today’s ideologists to Human Rights is a resistance against the humanization of Mexicans.
(1) Encyclopaedia Britannica, Historical Development. 1986, Vol. 20, article “Human Rights”, pp. 714-716.
(2) G.W.F. Hegel, Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, A; Hamburg, Meiner. núm. 482, 1969.
(3) Mariano Jiménez Huerta, Derecho penal mexicano, 4 vols., México, Porrúa, 1968. IV, p.140.
(4) Ino Rossi et al. (eds.), Anthropology Full Circle, New York, Holt Rinehart Winston, 1977, p. 348.
(5) Laura Nader & Harry Todd Jr., The Disputing Process (Law in Ten Societies), New York, 1978, p.17.
(6) Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, Frankfurt, Ullstein, núm. 268 z, 1972.
(7) Mínima Moralia, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, núm. 48. 1976.
(8) Genealogía de la moral, (Trad. Andrés Sánchez Pascual), México, Alianza Editorial, 1989, p. 77.
(9) Ibid., p. 86.
(10) J.J.W. Baker y G.E. Allen, Biología e investigación científica (Trad. George y Figueroa), México, FEI, 1970, p. 3. (Biology and Scientific Investigation)
(11) Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion, 2 vols., Hamburg, Meiner, 1974, II, I, 94. nota 1.
(12) Emilio, “libro segundo”, nota, énfasis añadido.
(13) Hegel, Jenaer Schriften, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1974, p. 378.
(14) Op. cit., III, 204.
(15) La Ciencia de la Cultura (Trad. Gerardo Steenks). Buenos Aires, Paidós, 1964, p. 41.
(16) Ibid., p. 52.
(17) De ánima, III, IV, 429b, 32.
(18) J.R. Napier, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1986, Vol. 23 article “Mammals”, p. 245, col.
How to Deal With Modernity?
Obviously to answer this question we first have to define modernity. It is a definite historical fact; we are not interested in the vague sense where everything new is called modern. The historical fact consists of a series of life altering radical changes which occurred, in the West from the 16th century until now and that now extend to the entire world. Aside from Max Weber, hardly anybody in sociology has done anything but analyze this historical fact. Fortunately the bibliography is large; nevertheless the series of changes can be reduced to six headings: technology, education, administration (and laws), politics, society and the intellectuals (1). But before defining them it is indispensable to be aware of three possible preconceived ideas that would make it impossible to have an objective appreciation of modernity.
The first, unfortunately, is very prevalent; it is the supposition that all that is new is good and therefore better than the old. This method of reasoning is not only irrational but anti-rational; it means we are not using reason when looking at things for what they are; that it is enough just to know the date of production, institution or ideology to decide if it is good or bad: if it is more recent then it is automatically better than the previous one.
The second method of reasoning is to suppose that Humankind by nature is good and that civilization corrupts it. As with the first idea, where we decide without examining it that we must embrace modernity, with the second we are against modernity without analyzing it – supposing that Humankind is naturally good and does not need to change. This is not the time to demonstrate that this popular belief is entirely false (2), it is enough to cite Nietzsche in brief about the conduct of human beings: to offend, to be violent, to despoil, to annihilate (3). This statement is indisputable as Nietzsche is the most avid advocate there ever was on what is natural. The human being, as Hobbes warned us, is a predator of its fellow being. Only Nazis can say that this is good.
The third prejudice consists in supposing that modernity is indivisible, a system in which no part can exist without the other. Having to see it as a block impedes all analytic and objective appreciation. Fortunately, systemic sociology has shown precisely that, between the parts (subsystems) of modernity there are interrelations and influences. The function that each subsystem plays with respect to the others could be fulfilled in another way; (4) each subsystem treats the other parts and the whole as something that must be manipulated, and not as something fatalistically determined in order to determine how it should be. Luhman says this very well: “No complex system can afford the luxury that everything depends on everything” (5). The integration of the whole is actually negative: it consists in “ avoiding that the operation of one subsystem leads another subsystem to unsolvable problems” (6). Nothing obliges us then to pronounce in favor or against modernity, warts and all. We can appreciate it with insight.
1) Technology. Today ecological damage has made this part of modernity the most controversial, but there are certain undeniable facts that should be stated before any discussion. For example, agricultural productivity. Since the beginning of agriculture, 10,000 years ago and through the 15thcentury, ten families produced enough food for themselves and one more family. By the middle of the last century 50 families produced enough for themselves and 50 more families. These facts allowed Marx to declare: the future of humanity is assured. Half of humanity can dedicate themselves to thinking, cultivating the arts and sciences, and inventing. This process did not stop here. Twenty years ago five families produced food for a hundred families in the more developed countries and today three families produce for a hundred. This abundance of food accounts for the spectacular demographic growth we have today. A second example is industrial productivity: the cost of producing cotton cloth has gone down a hundred times. This has permitted the general use of underclothing. It is not necessary to emphasize the advantages of this advance. A third example of modern technology is the use of electricity and refrigerators in homes, along with running water, toilets and showers. Also consider the inventions of Pasteur and Fleming: I am not exaggerating when I say that vaccinations and penicillin have saved hundreds of millions of lives. Enough of undeniable facts.
In modern technology there are two indefensible positions: the myth of progress and naturalism. It is not my idea here to show the middle road. The myth of progress says all inventions are good. Logically, as it is a universal affirmative proposal, it is enough to make exceptions of the refined techniques of brainwashing and torture by Don Mitrione. Concretely, what was happening was that the followers of this myth were looking only at the immediate effect and outcome of these inventions whereas today the secondary effects, which were not then contemplated, e.g. the erosion and destruction of the earth around us, have undermined this myth. In the future, humanity will have to minutely examine each new invention if we do not wish to destroy our planet and with it human life. But to conclude from this that modern technology has produced negative results is far from the truth. We are not going to idealize the earth. It is the means to an end for human beings. This traditional metaphysical thesis is still true. Technology, we say, has allowed the survival and betterment of millions of people, who under normal conditions would not have done so. There are people who say that it is not good that so many people are alive today, but one should ask these people, themselves, if they would have preferred not to have existed? It is cheap literature, not those who now exist, that answer yes.
It cannot be denied that to make serious estimates about demographic growth should not be deferred, but we must realize that the only argument for us to preserve the Earth is to facilitate the survival of future generations. The basis of our argument is life for humankind; so we cannot see as negative that, thanks to modern technology, so many people are alive who would not have been in the ordinary way.
It was necessary to fell many trees to have land to cultivate, but those who use this reasoning against modernity forget that today the regions where this is happening are regions where modernity has not arrived: The Amazons, Africa and Asia. The Canadians, Germans and the Scandinavians plant three trees for every one they fell. This is modern technology. This is the crux of the matter: to save the planet, we need more technology, not less. All the ecological concern is insufficient; we need more technology, not less. We must also remember that if humans do not intervene, it is a myth that nature by definition has an ecological balance. Elephants uproot thousands of hectares of forests in Africa. From studying fossils we know that thousands of species became extinct before the arrival of the human race. More technology is needed, but not a technology taken in by the myth that all inventions are good.
We must be discerning not only about future inventions, but also those that are already being used. For example if the Chinese had the same number of cars for every 100 inhabitants as they do in the USA it would add another 300 million vehicles to those already circulating on the planet; the atmosphere could not absorb that. Also, if the whole of the world population produced the same amount of garbage per person as the USA, we would drown in garbage. Humanity has no option but to simplify its lifestyle as was recommended (in theory) by Fourier in the last century and in practice by the Mennonites since the 16th century. Many of the frivolities that abound today in the First World are completely unnecessary; they are pseudo-necessities created by the publicity of businesses for their own gain. To eliminate them we need neither to live like monks nor be austere. On the contrary, we need to learn to enjoy life. The vacuum in our lives created by this publicity is constant and makes us incapable of really enjoying life.
2) Education. This point about modernity is more important than the previous one; if we treat it briefly it is because there is nothing controversial here. It is about something that had never existed before in any civilization: modernity introduced education for everybody. Before and all over the world, education and culture was the privilege of 1% of the population.
It must be pointed out that modernity does not include technical and productive education when it is against the idea of education for the masses. It is not about training, nor acquiring abilities (mental or manual) as in Japan. It is about thinking for oneself, reflecting adequately with order and opinions, appreciating art, acquiring learning and knowledge (such as history and philosophy) all of which do not have any pragmatic use. Western education has this end, nothing more. It means you are someone.
The dissemination of this type of education for all the world naturally comes up against difficulties which the spreading of technology does not. Not only is it necessary to have an enormous number of teachers but that it is their calling. Vocation and a love of learning and reading is impossible to create in one or two generations. All this is inherited by modernity from mediaeval times, the Renaissance and the intense intellectual thinking of the 18th century. In passing we must add that some of this happened in Mexico during the colonial period. First they destroyed the good in the educational system and then came the obligatory mediocrity of the last 60 years.
Also difficulties have appeared in recent decades: the commercialization of knowledge, that salaries depend on your academic diplomas. This second point (Education) is influenced by the fifth point (Capitalism) and threatens to ruin higher education in the short run. Nonetheless, this degenerative process is not necessarily irreversible.
3) Administration and Law. Sociological analysis of modernity gives this point the upmost importance: a government department of unparalleled efficiency was created. If it is discovered that certain things are necessary for the public good, they are done regardless of whom it affects. We would not have the hospitals, the police, the reservoirs, the schools or the highways that we have today if it had been necessary to obtain the consent and the voluntary monetary contribution of each and every one of us. Without the modern central government (started by the absolute monarchies) and without the settling of disputes authoritatively by the judges, it would have been impossible to have the social peace that the word “civilization” implies and that was necessary for production and education to reach higher levels than they had previously. It is a fact that all the countries in the world are copying the governmental and legal apparatuses of the West.
However, it is not a rosy outlook. It is enough to mention bureaucracy, the myth of individual rights, and the possibility (recently created) that governments through the use of computers can control and spy on the population down to the last detail. This tendency of certain rulers to believe that “mandatory” does not mean he who rules but ‘he who cannot be told what to do’. Similarly “loaning” means ‘he to whom we loan’, and tenant ‘ he who rents’, etc. Those who rule and those who are ruled have become etymologically synonymous. The myth of rights consists in believing that a positive law is to be obeyed despite its content, i.e. independently of whether it is moral or immoral. But it is one thing to punish someone who violates the law and another to say that the law is obligatory. Confining is not the same as obliging. If philosophy returns to its principles in the coming years, I believe that the myth of rights will disappear. On the other hand, bureaucracy is showing no signs of disappearing, and it can take away a great part of the efficaciousness of any government apparatus.
4) Politics. The political invention of modernity consists of democracy and human rights. The Greeks invented the word “democracy” but the reality is that it is recent and typically Western; so recent that women did not receive the right to vote until the twentieth century. In Athens four fifths of the population were slaves; they did not believe that all humans had infinite dignity, which is the only logical basis possible both for democracy and human rights.
According to T.H. Marshall, the sociological study of modernity has divided human rights into three chapters, which surely have come into being and become officially recognized in the following order. First, civil rights, then electoral, and finally labor rights, though these are not the actual words used by Marshall (7). Civil rights protect individuals against governmental intrusions in their lives, their freedom and their property. These are the most well-known and most mentioned of human rights in the English Declaration (1689), the American (1776) and the Universal (1948); e.g. the freedom of conscience, of movement and of a place of residence, of meetings, profession, marriage, etc. Electoral rights (according to democracy) allow the individual to participate in forming opinions and a collective decision; this includes the right to vote and be voted for. Apart from protection against work related accidents, labor rights guarantee minimum salaries, unemployment pay, health coverage and pensions. Remember that gaining the right to vote and be voted for was a long, slow process all through the 19th century, and that labor rights (in reality also called the welfare state) were gained in the twentieth century. Also remember that in Mexico the second chapter has not come, nor the third, as we still do not have a democracy and that the minimum salary and pensions are a farce while unemployment benefits have not been even nominally introduced here.
- Giddons disputes with Marshall, denying that these three chapters or groups of rights have been an evolutionary process that developed on its own internal dynamics. Giddons reminds us that the second as well as the third chapters were obtained by very hard struggles and bloody clashes (8). Also it is untrue what Marshall seems to uphold that the process has been caused by the internal dynamics of capitalism; the capitalists opposed with all their might the official recognition of many of these rights. But Giddons’ argument seems superficial to me. From the beginning the true internal motor of all this process was not capitalism but the conviction of infinite dignity for the people. This conviction is the only possible basis of the thesis of equality of humankind; equality is not empirical in any way; and on the other hand those that say that we are equal as far as intelligence is concerned do not know what they are talking about. To say that the intelligentsia and the idiot are equal in intelligence is frankly a paradox; aside from that we need the insane, those lacking in intelligence, to be respected in their infinite dignity. The conviction of infinite dignity originates in that cauldron of mediaeval thought. Hegel writes: “The Scriptures say that God created man in his image, this is the concept of man” (9). This is what Westerners thought during the Middle Ages for a thousand years, and they have institutionalized this during modern times; we should not be surprised that they took so long to see the consequences of such a unique and anti-natural conviction in human history. It is not an historian’s exaggeration to state that the people of mediaeval times came to this conviction through meditating about the passion of Christ: as Christ died for everyone, so everyone has infinite dignity.
5) Society. Modern Society is called capitalism and basically is incompatible with the second and fourth points (Politics and Education). In the introduction we noticed that modernity is in no way indivisible. Capitalism is characterized by three elements: the search of one’s own gain as the only motive for one’s actions; privatization of production, and the stratification of society and of salaries, and therefore of people’s lives. The motive of one’s own gain is obviously incompatible with the respect of human rights of one’s neighbor.
The stratification of society on different levels is based on a slightly modified form of slavery; the original conviction said some should be masters and others slaves; today it means some should be rich and others poor and to make sure it stays this way, each job receives a different salary. As always there will be ‘lowly work’ (metal workers, turners, farm workers, carpenters, etc.), and there will always be management (managers, engineers, etc.), it is sufficient to say each will receive different salaries which will ensure that there will always be rich and poor in our society. In a strict economic analysis it is impossible to demonstrate that one type of job or another is more important to the overall work (10). If the workers of today have accepted that they will receive a lower standard of living than the company owners, it is because they have no choice as well as the fact they are convinced (a throw back to the days of slavery) that certain jobs should receive a lower salary. But this conviction, we repeat, is scientifically unjustifiable; it obeys an inertia of centuries: it was the slaves who did the humble jobs; those that do them today have simply inherited the habit of living at a lower level and as second class citizens. Also the atavistic conviction that women’s work (pregnancy, child rearing, housework, cooking, washing, etc.) is not as worthy as that of man. Even women persist in this error as well as Marx; following Smith, Marx says that domestic work is unproductive.
As to the privatization of production remember that, if modernity says that democracy is morally obliged, it is because of this: if there is no democracy, some would make all the decisions and thus they would treat the rest as objects, not subjects, which would refute the idea that everyone has infinite dignity. So, privatization means that economically some would make the decisions affecting the rest and would be treating them like objects not subjects. For this reason we say that capitalism is logically incompatible with the fourth point of modernity. The clearest symptom of this irreconcilability is the silence of the liberal thinkers on the rational ‘why’ of democracy; they have decided to defend democracy without giving reasons, just because that is the way it is. This ‘why’ not only is against the dictates of politics but also against economic privatization.
6) The Intellectuals. To the intellectuals, modernity brings confidence in reason, the assurance that there are truths (both ontological and moral) that can be proven equally or with better astringency than the thesis of natural science. For two reasons it seems to me this has an immense future. First, we need the confidence in reason to keep the rights as something that do not depend on the positive laws of any country; that is something that can be objectively demonstrated. And second, because if humanity in the future does not want to depend on the use of force and powerful imposition to reconcile differences, the only way would be to have a growing belief in rational demonstrations.
But you must really believe, knowing that reason can show reality in a definite way; do not half believe as Habermas proposes, (which surely refers to a consensus – a consensus not based on truth and therefore provisional and fallible); that if I accept it, I will have no moral or absolute obligations and can therefore deny it when it is convenient.
It cannot be rational to have a consensus that presupposes that truth does not exist. Habermas says: “ These strong concepts of theory, of truth and of the system, at least during the last 150 years, belong to the past” (11).
It is self-deceiving to say that rationality means that the method is rational whatever the reality is; we can only call a method rational for its ability to show us the reality, the truth. If reality is unknown, if truth does not exist, we lack all criteria to distinguish between rational and irrational methods.
Also, if we ask why should there be consensus in all this? Habermas is logically incapable of responding, and therefore his insistence in a consensus is an arbitrary whim. In effect, if we ask why have a general referendum, the only possible answer is: because we are all subjects and if we proceed without consulting them they become objects. So, this objective truth (that all are subjects) cannot be put to vote, nor depend on a consensus taking into account that the necessity of a consensus depends precisely on that. In order to defend the consensual theory of truth there is a need of a non-consensual truth, and for that reason is false.
It is a passing and quantitatively insignificant phenomenon that scepticism of some intellectuals has today become the fashion, where they declare that modernity is finished or near its end. We will analyze this interpretation in parts. Technology will be indispensable for us to fight contamination, and universities are thinking of abolishing everything except technical careers. The plan for education for everyone has a long way to go. State and judicial apparatuses are still deemed necessary. Human Rights is on a roll which, if we do not look at its history, we could say was just beginning. Capitalism, unfortunately, gives no sign of ending. Urban concentration is not an easily reversible process. The mass media is at its height. Then it can only mean the intellectuals themselves predict the end of modernity. But all of this is a strange prophecy: it is only to be found among a small group of intellectuals. Of course, this group is the most noticed because editors, always the salespersons, only publish the shocking and new; but this in no way represents the majority of the intellectuals of today, much less the majority of the population. For this group the belief in reason and the knowledge of absolute truths is finished, and what has happened to them in their private lives they apply to society in general and say that modernity has become sceptical. It is ‘wishful thinking’ so they do not feel alone.
Let us put forth an outstanding example of this mirage. Habermas says: “ In Western industrial societies religious conscience is disappearing” (12). Precisely at the moment in which new religious movements are multiplying as never before in Western history, this group of thinkers say that religious mentality is disappearing. Not only do the people still believe in the absolute truths like the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, the objectivity of fundamental moral judgment, the creation of the world by God; but that this same structure of historical phenomenon known as modernity gives these truths a central role. A more impartial witness than Karl Poper, I could not find, just remember that Poper gives the word individualism a strange (though plausible) significance.
Individualism, united with altruism, has become the basis of Western civilization. It is the central doctrine of Christianity (“love thy neighbor”, says the scriptures, not “ love thy tribe”); and it is the nucleus of all ethical doctrines that have sprouted from our civilization and has stimulated it. It is also, for example, Kant’s central practical doctrine (“ Always recognize that human individuals are the end, and do not use them as the means for your own ends”). There has been no other thinking that has been as powerful in the moral development of humanity (13).
In the face of recent field studies the sociological dogma of secularization seems to be evaporating for sociology itself. Luhman says about secularization: “It has become an ambiguous word, used wrongly, a widespread concept” (14) And Talcott Parsons had already said in 1978:
In my opinion protestant ethics is far from dead. It continues to shape our way in important sectors of life, the same today as in the past. We continue to value systematic and rational work in our ‘vocations’, and we are driven, at some level, by a religious base. In my opinion, the instrumental apparatus of modern society cannot function without a generous component of this type of values (15).
From a quantitative and sociological point of view it is not true to say that the intellectual element of modernity is coming to an end: the group of sceptical intellectuals is less than 0.1% of the population. And from a qualitative point of view, being strictly logical, we must say that a philosophy still holds as long as it is not disproved. So, this is precisely what the intellectuals in question do not do: they do not go into the actual logic of the argument: on the contrary, they only say that confidence in reason is out of fashion; thus it is only out of fashion for them and only in self-justification they, among themselves, say it is out of fashion. Notice how, with pseudo-sociology, they exempt Habermas from analyzing the reasons of philosophy: “The interpretations of a superceded stage, whatever the information concerning the content, stays categorically devalued with the following. It is not this or that reason that is not convincing; it is the type of reason that is no longer convincing (16). It is the preponderance of the sceptic who does not heed reason because he has already decided that reason has nothing to do with it”. This heavy blow is too irrational and arbitrary to last, and is why I said it is a passing phenomenon. I will also tell you why it is notorious that any statement by the sceptics contradicts itself (17). It becomes too uncomfortable and even embarrassing to back a thesis which is contradicted on all sides; implicitly or explicitly it is saying to these thinkers: Gentlemen, what can your interviewer do more than demonstrate that your position is contradictory? What hope have human beings to understand us if this demonstration is not argument enough?
How to deal with modernity? I reply: insist on congruency. Congruency on the inside in all its various forms, and congruency on the outside, towards the Third World. We are not at the end of an epoch. On the contrary: modernity will go on whether we like it or not. It is only important that the best becomes known and extends, eliminating the elements that logically are not compatible with it.
As to congruency on the inside, maybe it is not convenient to persist after what was said in my fifth point (Capitalism). We will only mention a point that concerns point number three (the legal system), where the incongruity should have been obvious a long time ago: this is the famous contractual liberty that is central to the codes of civil rights. With his always vehement cynicism, Luhmann praises to the skies one of the best results (reduction of complexity) of modernity: “With this, the contract stays, in spite of being a figure of law, it is not obliged by the existence of internal justice” (18). It is enough that the judicial system condones the contract as well as sanctions those who violate it, the fact that both sides signed it; they are not interested in justice. Ignoring the moral aspect evidently reduces much of the complexity of the world and its actions. The most flagrant case is labor contracts where the worker ‘accepts’ a low standard of living for himself, his wife and children. But Luhmann has not seen that by disregarding justice, there is incongruity: the principles themselves of contract rights establish that a contract is invalid if any of the clauses are made under duress or fraud; what greater duress than the prospect of dying of hunger if you do not accept? A gun to your head is no worse than that. And what greater fraud than the conviction, derived from slavery, that certain types of work deserve an inferior way of living and having second-class citizenship?
Looking outwards: modernity has a strict moral obligation to help the development of the Third World, if it is to be valid. But to be able to do this, it is necessary to throw away useless concepts of justice that in theory have been used and that could never have been a base for human rights. Few things have as much importance for the future than this.
In the first place, Aristotle’s concept of justice is the most disillusioning there ever was, and could not be anything else. It is a perplexing way out: fairness is being neither a coward nor rash, nor wastrel nor stingy, nor hypocritical nor braggart, nor impotent nor lascivious, nor teetotal nor drunk, etc. Pure manipulations that never yield positive justice, “take the middle path” or so say those that have nothing pertinent to say. It was impossible that a thinker, for whom slavery is not objectionable, to say that this is justice, a thinker who still does not know that all men have infinite dignity.
Second, the concept of justice of the Roman jurists, “to each his own”, is evasive; it is a completely empty concept, it does not say anything, it leaves us completely in the dark as to what is his “own”. And there is something worse: evidently that concept gives us an objectiveness, because it has been honestly acquired; the present distribution of wealth is to be protected, that each keeps his “own”. It supposes that justice has nothing to say against what exists, what is already owned (however it was acquired), that in society there are some rich and others poor, let us say not even against a society where some are masters and others slaves; then the master can maintain that the slave is “his”.
Third, the mediaeval concept of a “fair” salary brings with it the conservative Roman malady of the status quo, because it means that a fair salary is one that is sufficient for the worker and his family to satisfy the specific needs of the social class to which he belongs. To be fair is to conserve the hierarchy and stratification of society as it is. Remember those that are determined to rely on that which exists, show signs of the same perplexity and lack of a positive content that we see in the doctrine of Aristotle. Mediaeval philosophers were unable to conceive this concept of justice that was ripening in mediaeval religion.
Fourth, Rawl’s perception of justice is the worst of the lot (19). To connect justice with the search for one’s own interest is to suppress the moral character of justice. It says the same as Hobbes. Rawls wants us to imagine that we put ourselves in the “original situation” with a “veil of ignorance” before our eyes so that, without knowing what role we will play in society, we gauge impartially what level of wealth and prosperity corresponds to each one of us. Having very much in mind, if we do not judge with objectivity, that it could be to our detriment if life puts us in a role that we had not judged we deserve. The motive behind being impartial is the search of our own benefits, to avoid being hurt. The “intelligent” egoism (even worse) becomes the supreme norm.
Obviously, Rawls’ image is bogged down by logic itself. If egoism was intended, then in real life I have no need to keep the word given in the “original position”. My entire strategy can include in its calculations the fact that everyone else had agreed to impartiality, and therefore take advantage of their naivety. Originally I also promised and they can therefore be exploited unresistingly as they are unaware of my original plan.
As well there are contradictions in the actual fact that Rawls published his book. His system is built on the presupposition that the true cause of humankind is the search for his own benefit; without that it lacks sense. But if Rawl’s own cause is for its own benefit, why warn us by telling us, it would be to his advantage that we do not know; he would gain more if he left us ignorant. His book is a vicious circle. And if all is a manoeuvre to defraud us, then let him stay away from picking up and reading the book.
But, we repeat, independently of his contradictions the intolerable thing about this intention of Rawl’s is that it is an injustice without morals. The future of humanity depends on our recognizing this: morals begin precisely where the searching for our own benefit ends. In this consists the categorical imperative in contrast to the conditional.
The Third World, appealing to the First, must make the true concept of justice prevail: respect towards the infinite dignity of all. This is simply to insist on congruity, for it is this concept, and not any of the four we have mentioned, on which the declaration of human rights is based. There must not be a separation between the concept of justice and demonstration that it is obligatory to have justice. Actions determine the content of the concept. So, in this case, the only possible demonstration is to comprehend the categorical imperative that directs us with reference to all people and translated means that everyone has infinite dignity. This is the content of the concept of justice. I say they should not be separated because it would not serve a purpose having the concept of justice if it did not show that it is obligatory to be just.
The inhabitants of the Third World are also people and therefore have infinite dignity. But the very omission of helping them sins against the concept of justice. The poor and underdeveloped did not ask to come into the world, they do not deserve their suffering, and it follows that it is an injustice that they suffer. It is immoral for people to see this and not feel, no more, no less. People from the First World should tell themselves: they deserve exactly the same respect as I do.
It is very important to be aware that only in this concept can the ecologists base their call to save the planet. To call upon instinct to conserve and to have one’s own gain does not work. If it meant that, I am let off the hook, the catastrophe will not touch me, what does it matter what happens to the next generations? The only solid argument is a consistent justice respecting the dignity of future persons. If this argument is not possible, there is no reason for the present generation to look after the earth. Now, the Third World argues thus: there is the same injustice in discriminating those who are far away in space as in discriminating those far away in time. They are both people. If there is no reason to look out for the underdeveloped countries there is also no reason to look after the planet.
We must denounce the injustices that I have just mentioned, and not a supposed exploitation of the Third World by the First, which probably does not exist and only serves to provoke a collective self-compassion that only pleases oneself. Instead of being an objective analysis it is a sick demagogue that forgets how frequently is the case that we blame others for one’s own faults. The only thing gained is that the undeveloped world is no longer undeserving.
Let me cite in brief Johannes Berger’s objective analysis:
Developed countries on the whole trade with each other, having only a small volume of trade with underdeveloped countries, while the latter have very little trade among themselves the bulk of their trade is with the developed countries. This allows us to conclude that the developed countries can live perfectly well without trading with the underdeveloped countries but the latter cannot live without trading with the developed countries (20).
This possibility that the developed countries could be self-sufficient is corroborated by world statistics on food: together Europe, Canada, USA and Australia have 30% of the world’s population and produce 60% of the world’s food (21). Having food one can do without the rest of the world. On the other hand the Third World is not self-sufficient in food.
It would be evasive and a lack of objectivity to suggest that the volumes of trade put together by Berger is a mirage caused by price differences and that exploitation in effect brings down prices of Third World products and elevates prices of First World products. It was not Jimmy Carter and Europe that fixed oil prices in 1973; it was the Arabs, and it has had lasting effects: before 1973 a barrel of crude cost 2 dollars and today costs 17. And if all the tropical countries, instead of producing food for its people, produced coffee, there would naturally be over production and the price falls; but it is not the First World that fixes it. And the same could be said of bananas and sugar. As for the rest, the facts are precisely the opposite to what this demagogy supposes: American furniture is cheaper than the Mexican, American milk is cheaper than the Mexican, American rabies vaccines are three times cheaper than the Mexican, American telephone service costs half of the Mexican, American paper is cheaper than the Mexican, the same can be said of photography equipment, cutlery, china, clothes, small electrical appliances, meat, chicken, eggs, wheat, maize, sorghum, etc. How can someone, with these facts, sustain that the First World inflates its own prices and takes down ours? Also, how can you value surgical technology that the First World exported, the use of penicillin, the invention of electricity, science, the music of Bach, ideas, books, the formation of intellectuals?
No! Denouncing these injustices, of which some are doubtful, how can we do something positive for our countries, without warding off the true concept of justice and insisting on congruity with modernity.
(1) The point called science could be reduced partly to the technical, partly to the educational and partly to the intellectual. Those that cannot be reduced are these two points: urbanization and the mass media. We omit these to be brief and because the philosophical side would not make our general line of argument any different. But I recognize that this omission is a sociological deficiency in what we do here. Nobody is perfect.
(2) See my book Hegel tiene razón (Hegel was right). UAM-Iztapalapa, México 1989, chap. VI.
(3) Friedrich Nietzche, Genealogía de la moral, trad. A. Sánchez Pascual, Alianza, México 1989, p. 86
(4) Niklas Luhmann, Soziale Systeme, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1991
(5) Niklas Luhmann, Funktion der Religion, Surkamp, Frankfurt, 1992, p. 184
(6) Ibid, p.242
(7) T.H. Marshall, Citizenship and Social Class, UP, Cambridge, 1950
(8) A. Giddons, Profiles and Critique in Social Theory, London, 1982
(9) G. W. F. Hegel, Vorlosungen über die Philosophie der Religion, 2 vols., Meiner, Hamburg, 1974, Vol. II, p.127.
(10) L. J. Zimmerman, Geschichte der Theoretischen Volkswirtschaftslehre, Bund, Colonia, 1954, p. 135-140.
(11) Junger Habermas, El discurso filosófico de la modernidad, trad. M. Jiménez Redondo, Taurus, Buenos Aires, 1989, p. 253, n.7.
(12) Junger Habermas, Zur Rekonstruktion der Historischen Materialismus, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1976, p. 52.
(13) Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, 2 vols. Routledge, London, 1974, vol. I, p.202.
(14) Niklas Luhmann, Funktion der Religion, op cit, p. 225, see investigations cited in the notes for p. 225-226.
(15) Talcott Parsons, Action Theory and the Human Condition, New York, 1978, p.320
(16) Teoría de la acción comunicativa, 2 vols. Translation by M. Jiménez Redondo, Taurus, Madrid, 1987, vol. I, p. 101, Habermas in italics.
(17) Article by Jose Porfirio Miranda in the Jornada Semanal, 18th April 1993 called La Farsa llamada escepticismo (The Farce called Scepticism).
(18) Niklas Luhmann, Rechtssoziologie, Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen, 1987, p. 327
(19) Rawls, A Theory of Justice, UP, Harvard, 9th edition, 1978.
(20) Apud Johannes Berger (editor), Die Moderne-Kontinuitaten und Zäsuren, Schwartz, Göttingen, 1986, p. 84 and subsequent pages.
(21) H. Glubrecht apud Gadmer y Vogler (editors), Sozialanthropologie, Thieme, Stuttgart, 1972, p.56.
Well-being and Social Sciences
José Porfirio Miranda
“La Jornada Semanal”, No. 257; May 15, 1994 pp; 32
The dreadful thing that has been dangled before us during the whole century is the scientific banning of moral justice, that is to say the banning of expressions such as “it ought to be done”, “it is just” or “it is unjust”. It has been useless to point out to them that by saying that something ought not to be done they are contradicting themselves. To them all is permitted, even contradiction, and they have entrenched themselves in denouncing the naturalist fallacy, i.e., in the strict logical observation that the ‘ought” cannot be inferred from the “is”; and so moral judgment itself does not have a basis, taking into account that the premises of all evidence must give proof (containing “is”) and that which has no basis is anti-scientific.
It is strange: they insist that we follow a process excluding all others, but this process they themselves call a fallacy. These strategies are more than well known: they consist, as Taylor rightly says, in “fixing the rules of discourse in the interest of only one position declaring incoherently the concurrent approaches” (1). It has been of no help that MacIntyre has stated:
“Calling an argument fallacious is always to describe it and evaluate it. It becomes very paradoxical when it is impossible to deduce evaluative conclusions from factual premises that have been presented as a logical truth when it is precisely in the logic where this coincidence of description becomes most obvious” (2).
I say these counterarguments are worthless because even authors as opposed as Habermas and Hösle (and we can cite many more) are still proving to be irretrievably affected by the denouncing of the naturalist fallacy. Habermas says:
“Made clear since Hume, as a matter of principle, the dualism between being and ought to be, between deeds and values, means that it is not possible to deduce from declarative or stated verdicts, prescriptive decisions or judgments of value” (3).
Mind you all of Habermas’ system, including the consensual theory, appears to be on balance motivated by such a denouncement. Well it is an attempt then (frustrated, in my opinion) to justify moral justice without taking into account the reality, the facts.
On the other hand, even though he rejects the Habermas system, he declares:
… even those who do not agree with Hume’s skepticism […] should still recognize that his two theories, the first that it is impossible to base categories on the empiric and the other that it is impossible to deduce from sentences with ‘is’, sentences with ‘ought’. These are two durable intellectual achievements that assure his place among the great philosophers (4).
Let us not cite others; all authors definitively seem to be impacted by this famous denouncement. I think it is now time to take the bull by the horns and reply with strict, logical rigour to it. Firstly it is worth mentioning only five extremely important points that, even though they are intimately related to what we are talking about, never seem to have been taken into account at all.
For example, when they say that a basis for moral justice cannot be established, what do they mean by establish a basis?. They would not mean to refer, I suppose, to the deduction of a singular proposition from a universal one; which by being universal is already included. This process is a mere tautology, it does not widen one’s knowledge, and it only explains what has already been said. That a proposition has been established can only mean that I am obliged to accept it. Morality is in the actual idea to be able to distinguish between the established and the non-established. It is not possible, based on this example, to exclude morality.
This brings us to the second point: logic itself. Husserl has already made us see this it is not that we cannot commit contradictions, but that we should not. The psychological possibility that two opposite rights co-exist in the same mind is not unusual to find in normal people and even in famous authors. Husserl stated:
“Erdmann interprets the impossibility of denying the laws of thinking as an impracticality of this denial. But […] it is impossible as an ideal, in an ideal sense. This ideal impossibility is not in any way opposed to the real possibility of negative judgment (5).
Respecting the principle of contradiction is, as few are, a moral obligation, given that, we realize on calm reflection, even by itself it does not oblige, not only when dealing with others. Logic is a very severe moral discipline. It does not compromise our whims; it can even go against our own advantage. In what are they thinking, therefore, those that fence with logic in order to exclude morality?”.
Thus we find ourselves at the third point: the search for truth. The denunciators of the naturalist fallacy say that it is impossible to know if moral judgments are true or false. Have they ever reflected what their own demands as to the truth mean?. This analysis from Durkheim is a little long but very pertinent:
“… logical life supposes that mankind knows, at least somewhat, that a truth exists that is different from its tangible appearance. What is more, how did they arrive at this conclusion? […] there is nothing in the immediate experience that would be able to suggest this; in fact completely the opposite. Neither child nor animal have the slightest idea about it. History shows on the other hand that it has taken centuries to blossom and establish itself. In our western world it was the Greek thinkers who, for the first time, arrived at the idea about ones own clear conscience and the consequences that it implies […] But if in our time it is expressed in philosophical formulae, it was necessary that it should be already present as a dark sentiment (6)”.
Hegel had already discovered this religious origin of the initiative to distinguish between true and false:
Religion is the conscience of what is the truth, in its most pure and indivisible determination. Everything else that seems to be true is valid for me when in accordance with its beginning in religion (7).
But the most interesting thing is that Nietzsche, clairvoyant through hatred, discovered the same:
“… we, the actual men of knowledge, the atheists and anti-metaphysicists, we also take our fire from the bonfire lit by the millennium faith, by that Christian faith which was also Plato’s, the belief that God is truth and that truth is divine (8)”.
Obviously, by repudiating morals and religion, Nietzsche has to repudiate the actual idea of distinguishing between true and false: “It is no more than a moral prejudice to say that truth is worth more than appearances” (9). This last text sharpens our debate: to prefer that truth is a moral decision. Moral prejudice, according to Nietzsche. It seems evident to me that we cannot justify our insistence of truth, if it is not because of a moral imperative that all mankind feels. So, it is a contradiction to reject the moral in the name of truth.
Our fourth point is: the scientific. We mentioned that certain authors reject moral judgments because, they say, they are not scientific. It seems to me that it underlines the ingenuousness of what being scientific means. In the first place we notice that the concept of science is and has to be a priori; it cannot be obtained by generalising what the disciplines known as sciences do. From there it follows, as we shall see next, that it can only be justified in moral terms.
On the one hand, all scientific theories that have been published are a priori. For example, according to the Vienna Circle, the laws that science uses should logically be deduced from direct observation of the facts; but all these laws are actually a product of a mental exercise with no logical base; no finite number of observations allows for a definite “all” or “always”, which are indispensable words when formulating a law. Nobody can observe an “always”, we only observe “a few times”. But let us not say laws. Neither can the supposedly observed theories (basic) be justified by observation alone. As Boltzmann says, “there is not one statement that is pure experience” (10). Whoever says tiger about a certain individual animal, says far more than what he is seeing. This word signifies a kind of being whose behaviour, physiology and anatomy are ruled by certain laws which are distinct from those referring to other species. Without this content of the laws the word tiger has no meaning. The Viennese theory of science, which says that it should be based on pure experience and logic, becomes a priori, but real science does not proceed in this manner.
From there Popper’s theory emerged: empirical observations cannot justify a universal law but it can refute it (prove it false); the scientific character of a law or theory is that it can be refutable; it is scientific to abandon laws that have been refuted by facts and keep those that have not been refuted (for as long as they are not refuted).
In passing we must note that this lucubration is logically unsustainable. It cannot be said that a fact has been proven false (refuted) if the affirmation that is contradicted is not verified at the same time. Popper himself occasionally wrote: “finding that an affirmation is false is the same as finding that its negation is true” (11). If no proposition is verifiable, then no theory can be proved false. Besides, this declaration of falsity requires the universal laws that Popper rejects be true; for, if there is no evidence in nature, i.e., if nature is not ruled by universal laws, a theory that is false today could be true tomorrow. What is more, for a universal proposition to be false it has to be collated with a basic and observed proposition. But we have already seen, and Popper has emphasised, that no basic theory is justified by observation alone because much more is said than what this contains. Even worse: Popper himself recognises that one or even various basic odd theories are not enough to invalidate a theory. But also it is necessary to have an empirical hypothesis which contradicts the theory and which is corroborated by experience (12). But hypothesis is a universal proposition, so that all the elements that Popper had rejected, are necessary for the Popperian declaration of invalidity; the subtleties and juggling that Popper introduces to try and distinguish between corroboration and verification are only a symptom of perplexity.
Let’s leave this. What interests us here is that, as has already been shown by the historians of Science (Kuhn, Toulmin, Feyeraben and Lakatos), what is known as science does not work as Popper says it should. Lakatos balances this:
Popper’s criterion ignores the well-known tenacity of scientific theories. Scientists are thick skinned. They do not abandon a theory simply because the facts contradict it. Normally they invent some rescuing hypothesis to explain what they later call a simple anomaly or, if they cannot explain the anomaly, they ignore it and concentrate their attention on other problems (13).
There have always been empirical observations that contradict the theories in vogue since the moment they are conceived not just afterwards; scientists qualify them as of little value and dedicate themselves to more interesting things; for example to extract the consequences that come from the theory in all sorts of fields. The actual conduct of scientists is not what the theories of science prescribe. On the Lakatos’ theory we do not have to prove it, as he himself recognises: “After all, it should be admitted (pace Popper) that all the laws put forward up to now by philosophers of a prioristic science have been proven to be wrong according to the verdict of the best scientists” (14), “The majority of scientists tend to know about science a little more than fish about hydrodynamics” (15).
Given that real science is not as they say, the theories of science are a priori. On the other hand, the concept of science the scientist has, is also a priori. Observing his own actions, a physicist can tell us what he does; but when he also says this is scientific, he makes it evidently in the name of a preconceived idea as to what scientific is, which could be very true but is a priori. He cannot generalize from everything he does, because at times he tells jokes, at times he talks of the war in Bosnia, etc. He would have to select only that which is pertinent; to generalize only from that. But in order to select he needs a concept that guides him; therefore he already has the concept of science; it is a priori.
A non-scientist who attempts to obtain by generalisation the concept of science will come up against the same difficulty but firstly he has to identify who, amongst all men, are scientists. Dianetics and Christian Science and astrology and some talkativeness claim to be sciences; in order to deny them this title, the general public needs to have an a priori concept of what is scientific. University degrees are not enough as there are many charlatans with university degrees. And as if this difficulty was not enough, after identifying the scientists he would have to select from their actions, for not all them are scientific. Not even all that appear in the treatises could serve as a base for generalisation as here there are also metaphors, ironies, anecdotes, personal allusions, clauses, stories of fortuitous discoveries, as well as mythological arguments (Copernicus, Kepler, Newton himself). If the generaliser asks the scientists themselves, which of their actions are scientific, they might tell, but would base it on the concept of a priori, as we have shown; the generalize would simply have to accept by weight of authority as true the concept of a priori that the physicist transmits to him.
Secondly, then, we have the big question: if what is scientific is not based nor can be based on the true behaviour of science, how can the methodological precepts that it gives justify that idea?. Evidently they are justified in thinking that this method is the only one compatible with intellectual integrity. For example, when Popper states that a theory should be abandoned as soon as experience contradicts it; it is because he thinks that it would be an intellectual dishonesty not to do so. An a prioristic idea in science (and all are a prioristic) has no other way of being justified. Popper recognises that: “We have to learn to decide that intellectual integrity is fundamental in all we want to do (16). And Lakatos says referring to his own method: “The sophisticated methodology of disproving a theory gives us new criteria of intellectual integrity” (17).
Honesty is a substantial part of being scientific; we are only debating which methods are the best on which to found this honesty. Now then, can there be something more intensely moral than the obligation of intellectual honesty?. And so, what are they thinking, those who wish to banish morality in the name of science.
Our fifth point is the introduction to the direct answer we will give versus the denial of the naturalist fallacy. The theme is the concept of reality, of what exists, of being. The denouncers say that from a real act, an obligation cannot be inferred. Have they at any time asked themselves what is real and what is the origin of this idea?. Traditional philosophy, and even the most exigent empiricists such as Hume, Carnap and Popper, have already shown that the origin is not empiric, that the senses do not perceive the being, the real as such. Saint Thomas says this very well: “Although there is a being in perceptible things, nevertheless the being as such, the formality of being, are not apprehended by the senses, […] but only perceive the perceptible accidents” (18). Plato had said: “Conceive the being […] is possible, so it seems, by reasoning, impossible by sensation” (19). Similarly Aristotle, distinguishing between the tangible and the intelligible, says: “the intelligible are like the one and the being” (20). Kant also noted it: “the essence of a real object besides myself […] perception is never a given, but only can be added to thought” (21). And Hegel bitingly: “the being cannot see, hear, etc.” (22). Reasoning is very obvious: if we only could perceive colours, sounds, temperatures, etc., the idea of being would never have occurred to us, the idea that something is real; I am not denying now that the object is real, I am only saying that the senses do not know this, they do not get into the metaphysical.
Hume makes the same observation: “although every impression or idea that we remember is considered to exist, the idea of existence does not come from any particular impression” (23). And Carnap proposes a very clear proof: let us suppose that two geographers, each on his own, did an exhaustive study of a mountain in Africa; and let us suppose that, apart from their capacity as geographers, one is a realist philosopher and the other an idealist philosopher; the final reports they give would coincide in the verifiable empirical details but at the same time one of the geographers would be convinced that the mountain really exists and the other that it appears to exist. On this point they could not be in accordance through empiric data precisely because they coincide in everything empiric. The reality as such is not datum of the senses. This indisputable epistemological discovery; in which the most intelligent of humanity’s philosophers are in agreement, is the parting of the ways; there everything is decided.
The most immediate outcome of this is that the idea of real begins in introspection, taking into account that impressions cannot contain this datum. Of course, introspection is a metaphorical expression; what we mean to say is self-conscientiousness. Primordially “real” means spirit, that is what we understand by introspection. The spiritual is founded on being aware, on the act of realization itself; of knowing ourselves or things or whatever. It is not something that first exists and then we realize it exists, but that its existence is precisely this realization, this perception of knowledge itself (24). As Aristotle stated, “being is being able to perceive or think” (25) “the mind is nothing without thought” (26), “it does not actually exist before thought” (27). Or as Hegel said: “If we take away thought, the soul does not exist” (28), “I exist spiritually only as far as I know myself” (29), “that which we call the soul, what we call the I, is the concept itself in its free existence” (30).
Materialism’s error has been to say depreciatively: all these are just ideas. By saying this it shows they already understood: spirituality is the concept itself, thinking as such, the experience of living, life itself is the inner part of everything that perceivably happens and to be aware of it (including moral obligation). The mistake is to believe that these things are less real than rocks. A couple whose loving relationship does not become just a sexual one (in the majority of cases it does not) knows perfectly well that their marvelous mutual understanding and interaction of living are just ideas; but for this couple all that is more real than the floor and walls. And the real character of this life can only be denied by those who would have obtained the real concept from sensorial impressions: but we have already seen that these do not include this datum; the origin, the actual significance of “real” is the spiritual perceived in the self-consciousness. When we call other matter real, we make them metaphorical, derived and foreshortened. We should not be surprised: it is obvious that for the I there is nothing more real than the I; from here are derived other names for what is real (31).
Thus is explained the fact, tremendously obvious, that in 25 centuries nobody has been able to define matter in a way that distinguishes it from anything, in truth it can only be defined as “that which is not spiritual” but this definition is convenient also to nothingness. Today’s natural philosophers say: “The best thinking of today does not claim that the particles are not made up of time and space” (32): that is to say that matter is space. But space is the vacuum of nothingness. For his part, Aristotle’s definition says: “Neither something, nor such thing, nor a certain thing, not any determination of the real”. These are just negations. By dint of which the only thing gained is nothing. Where there is no positive content, what there is is nothing. On the other hand, those who define matter as something that occupies a place in space, in the first place forget that we are asking what it is, not where it is; secondly they forget that a specific area of space the size of a basketball also occupies a place in space; luckily this definition is not able to distinguish between matter and space; but space is nothingness.
It is useless for them to continue attempting to define matter: as the significance of real is the spiritual, any definition of matter would have to be identified as nothingness. In this love of nothingness, in this being captivated by the nothingness is where western materialism and oriental religion coincide. Nirvana has already understood that reality consists of the acts of the spirit; it wishes to suppress this in order to annihilate reality and arrive at nothingness. Materialism is more radical: it finds itself in nothingness since the beginning.
And now, we will reply directly to the denouncers of the naturalist fallacy. The denouncement says: from a real existence one cannot infer an obligation. I reply: except if it is about a real existence of an obligation. In this case we shall infer from the obligation, and so there is no illegitimate logical step; but from an obligation that is a reality.
For the ordinary mortal the imperative thou shalt not kill is one of the most real things that exist. What an odd concept of reality possesses the person who claims it is not an obligation not to kill. The prejudice is flagrant: I am never really obliged. They imagine that only what can be touched by hand is a real entity. Nothing is easier than denouncing that an obligation exists: all you have to do is fix a narrow, convenient significance of ‘existence’, and soon you will find that no obligation appears to exist. A description that says “cruel” (which you should not do) has as much right to be called a basic proposition as one who talks about the size of a torturer’s scalpel. Who do the pseudo-scientists think they are, when they dogmatise which things are real and which are not?. How do they know?. In noticeable ways this datum is not there.
Emphatically be warned that the debate is about neither the conduct (which can differ from obligation) nor about compulsion or constriction, in which is included the perspective of reward or punishment. Immorality exists, and also reward and punishment, but actually this has nothing to do with the Imperative. Maybe what is happening is that some people can only conceive of a God as a remunerator. But this is confusing the conditioned with the categorical. Moral imperative does not say: if you want this, do that. God simply says: thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not deceive, thou shalt not hurt. And this is not Kantian purism: when I perceive “thou shalt not hurt”. I am in no way thinking of reward or punishment. If some people figure that this imperative is not God, it is because they believe that the Word of God signifies that of a respected bearded man.
Leaving that out of the question I repeat: it is not about either conduct or constriction. It is about obligation as such. I do not believe that the sceptic denies there are ethic requirements; what they are denying is that they are obliged. The only thing that the basis of morality has to show is that they are obliged. Also, the actual fact that the sceptic distinguishes between ethic requirements and that these oblige shows that he has the content of the idea of obligation. What is the origin of this content?. It can be no other than the fact that he perceives or at sometime perceived that he had been obliged. And so the obligation exists since he perceived it.
To explain, influenced by society, the origin of the idea of obligation is, or should I say confuses again the categorical with the conditioned, or to go back to the problem, so from where did those other men, those that influence me, obtain the content of the idea of obligation?. Above all there is the following: when they would have said to me the word obligation I would have understood absolutely nothing if my self-consciousness had not already had this idea. Hume backs this up:
“… had not men a natural sentiment of approbation and blame, it cou’d never be excited by politicians; nor wou’d the words laudable and praise-worthy, blameable and odious be any more intelligible, than if they were a language perfectly known to us, as we have already observed” (33).
Now we come to the most specific of the social sciences. Firstly, the biblically well known parting of the ways takes away the basis of the methodological prohibition of studying what the social actors think and feel inside. Such a method is the equivalent of prohibiting the study of reality and to force the study of appearances lacking in entity.
Be very aware that the trumpeted universal and inter-subjective proof of the empiric is clearly a perspicuous self-delusion. Only a few theses of proof are empiric for other people; but “universal” signifies that everyone could come and see; the theses of proof of other people, presumed empiricists, imagine them on introspection; they are a supposition. If you were to think about it, imagine how everyone would react confronted by certain data and what phrase would they use to describe this data if they were honest. It concerns a theoretic supposition on physiological laws of mankind’s senses and on a moral supposition of the intellectual honesty of mankind. As the positivist Hempel acknowledges, “The term verifiable indicates, of course, or to be more correct, the conceivability, the logical possibility of conclusive evidence for the outcome given” (34). The conceiving, to which Hempel alludes, is evidently an introspective act. They discarded the introspective in the name of verification, and what we have here is that it is introspective.
The efforts that behaviourists or Carnapians go to in order to eliminate moral or introspective terms “translating” them in terms of empirical ways, are also a fiasco. Scriven says it very well:
… although there are large numbers of examples of people giving alms to the church or to institutes for cancer research is it not enough to say fundamentally that someone is generous […] It is perfectly possible that the character of this person makes completely irrelevant the evidence that serves as a base if for example this person is pious or is afraid to get cancer (35).
The significance of “generous” can only be known introspectively; the behaviour may be due to other causes. And on the other hand, as Brodeck shows, the behaviourists have “to chose between a nearly infinite variety of those symptoms that can confidently be used in order to define the outcome in question” (36). Not only can the symptom that is chosen be due to other causes; but what is more, the behaviourist would not be able to justify why he chose it.
And what is worse: even to attempt to justify he would have to recourse introspectively to the significance that the word “generous” has for example. If helping a blind person cross the road is a plausible candidate as a “translation”, while the shaking of a fist or the harsh blowing of a horn would not be, it is because the behaviourist is quoting what we introspectively understand as generous. First we must understand what “generous” means, and then we look for some empiric data to see if it in any way corresponds with what we understand. Luckily even the attempt to eliminate the intellectual is based on the intellectual.
All objects of study are lost to social sciences if they do not revert to the intellectual. That a given abstract unit is the currency of a country is founded on the fact that the inhabitants are convinced that it is of value; where the law is unable to continue to convince (as in Germany in 1923), such a unit is no longer a currency. That a man is a colonel is because the soldiers believe that this man is in command; where authority is unable to sustain this belief (as in Russia in 1917), this man is no longer in command despite the visible badges. No institution or practice is identifiable as an object of study if it omits the intellectual; empiric details which maybe accompany them are neither univocal nor unique nor sufficient; they could not “translate it” let alone substitute it; such a translation would omit precisely what is, for the actors, real. In social science that which does not exist from the perspective of the participants does not exist at all.
But let us take the last step, the decisive one: in order to identify the object being studied, social sciences not only need the introspective in general, they specifically need the moral.
Everything revolves around the criteria by which we call something or someone rational. From what we saw in the first four cases it is clear that those who attempt to juggle the moral character of the adjective “rational” translating it as “founded on” or “logical” or “true” or “scientific” do not reach their objective. Specifically for the social sciences Weber put forward a castrated rationality: rational is putting the methods that serve a certain purpose, whatever that purpose is. Just as choosing between the ends is a moral judgment, it leaves out the content of this strange rationality of Weber’s which puts up a wall in front of the obvious fact that, if the end is irrational, directing us towards this end by whatever means is irrational too. Evidently, Weber did not realize that he committed an huge valid judgment calling this rational. I do not understand how he could not see that in this capricious plan it is possible to conceive very different types of rationality; and if he prefers one, he flagrantly commits moral judgment; his supposed neutrality does not exist. Actually it is strange that his rationality coincides with that of the businessmen.
It is fundamental to understand this: the social scientist cannot identify anyone’s social training without implicating that it lasts a certain amount of time and that it works. But by saying that it works, it is necessary to say that it works well to some degree. For example, a conglomeration of men where mutual insecurity and danger reigns could not say that it is working. There has to be some degree of “order”; but to judge that there is order in an evaluation admits that there are degrees. I do not see how it can be said that a group functions if there does not reign some degree of morality among the integrants. If reason could not find some agreement in it, something rational; in a social setting it could not be agreed that it works. But it could be seen as an object to study; t would be taken as “noise”. How can we overlook all the confusion of unconnected facts that exist around us to which we have to deny importance if we wish to have an object to study.
Well then, trying to overlook the judgment of validity, some social scientists chose minimalism; they are happy with the fact that this group survives; this seems to them deprived of judgment of worth, when all is said and done animals also survive. But evidently they presume that it is good that a group of humans survive, that it is good that this group of humans survive; though, surely, there will always be a racist who denies it. If sociology does not thus value human survival and this definite survival, his attention would not be focused on the social education in question. He would dismiss it as “noise”, and would not have identified it as a point of study. But as well: do you think that it is not moral justice to consider it good that humans survive like animals?.
It is so, and is surely false. The social sciences depend, in order to identify its object of study, on its capacity to identify mankind, the rational being. Anthills and herds of animals are not objects to be studied by social science. Social groups are, but precisely because of the fact that it means mankind.
In order to identify mankind, science has to find some entity that deserves the name rational. In another article (37), I mention the failure of all intents to distinguish between mankind and primates by physical data. We will add here that it underlines a similar misunderstanding that we have just shown in the “translations” of the behaviourists and the Carnapians. They do not want to own that first one distinguishes between mankind and animals in other ways (by rationality) and then look for physical data in mankind that hopefully would not be found in an animal. They frankly become ridiculous in their anxiety to find such traces: such as Blumenbach who cited the earlobe as the decisive factor, or Morgan and Engels who cited the opposing thumb. Of course primates with earlobes and marsupials with opposing thumbs have already been found; but even if they had not been found, it is obvious that, just by proposing these characteristics it is asking to fail, first they needed to identify mankind by his rationality. And if on the least expected day they find a gorilla with 750 cubic cm of encephalitic mass (up until now they have only found one with 685), the physicalists would not know what to do. More exactly, they would know very well what to do: verify if this entity merits the qualification rational or no. That in reality is what they have always been doing, and all these physicalisms have been infantile manoeuvres to hide it.
But Weber’s rationality, putting adequate methods towards an end, is no use either for showing the difference. The spider’s web, the beehive, the bird’s nest (the texture of which is not found in natural surroundings) as well as the short stick, which is not its natural size, that has been cut from a larger one, that is used by the anteater to dig into an anthill, all are perfect methods to an end. The first two are indeed instruments much more refined than any used by primitive man. So we can throw out as well the intentions of paleontologists and anthropologists (and Marx) to fix the human stage of evolution with the use of instruments. Being human undoubtedly starts many millenniums later taking into account that the appearance of Neanderthals could have been that of a simple roving animal. Rationality includes a moral attitude towards others, but the rationality of Weber does not permit the distinction between sociology and zoology. We do not know when mankind started, but surely it was not too long ago. Since mankind is not proven physically, then that which is not rational does not belong in the history of Mankind. As a social scientist I cannot include a fact in my research if I cannot show that in some way this fact is rational; but then I am forced to justify my concept of rationality. And the most serious thing is that rationality is a gradual concept. If I call a depraved person, who does not respect the lives of others, rational, in some way I am lying which is anti-scientific; but I cannot take refuge in minimalism (Weber’s rationality) because then I cannot distinguish between mankind and animals. Maintaining that history does not have a goal towards which I must fight in order to arrive, implies maintaining that humanity as is, is rational, which in part is a lie; but in science we are not allowed to lie. While there is no justice, the word rationality can really not be justified. By calling something in social science rational has to be proven and that what we have today is not sufficiently rational and that consequently we are forced to fight for justice.
The only possible justification for moral judgment is to show the real existence of the imperative (cfr. supra), but this imperative does not allow a definition of justice in any way, but it gives it a precise significance: everybody has infinite dignity. It is the end not the means, subject but not object. And so, the word rationality is only justified when everyone is respected for their infinite dignity.
All quotes are freely translated from the Spanish except that of David Hume (33).
(1) Charles Taylor, Die Motive einer Verfahrensethik, pp. 101-135, apud Wolfgang Kuhlmann, ed., Moralität und Sittlichkeit; Frankfurt, 1986, p. 109.
(2) Alasdair MacIntyre, Against the Self Images of the Age, London, 1971, p.258.
(3) Jürgen Habermas, Legitimationsprobleme in Spätkapitalismus, Frankfurt, 1977, p. 140.
(4) Vittorio Hösle, Die Krisis der Gegenwart und die Verantwortung der Philosophie, Munich, 1990, p.29.
(5) Edmund Husserl, Investigaciones lógicas, 2 vols., translated by Manuel Gracía Morente and José Gaos, Madrid, 1985, I, p. 129s.
(6) Emile Durkheim, Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse, París, 1968, pp. 622s.
(7) G. W. F. Hegel, Die Vernunft in der Geschichte, Hamburgo, 1980, p. 125.
(8) Friedrich Nietzsche, genealogía de la moral, Hamburgo, 1980, p. 125.
(9) Id., jenseits von Gut und Böse, núm. 34, translated by Heidegger in his Nietzsche, II, p. 119.
(10) Cited by Paul Feyerabend apud Feigl and Maxwell, eds. gen., Minesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, IV, 1969, p. 113.
(11) Karl Popper, Objective Knowledge, Oxford, 1973, p. 13.
(12) Ibid., The Logico of Scientific Discovery; New York, 1968, p. 86s.
(13) Imre Lakatos, La metodología de los programas de investigación científica, translation by Juan Carlos Zapatero, Madrid, 1989, p. 12s.
(14) Ibid., p. 177.
(15) Ibid., p. 84, note 212.
(16) Karl Popper, the Open Society and its Enemies, 2 vols., London, 1974, II, p. 59.
(17) Op. cit., p.53.
(18) I Sent 19,5,1 ad sextum.
(19) Teeteto 186 D. see also Fedón 65 C and Fedro 247 C.
(20) Metafisica XII 107Ob 7.
(21) Kritik der reinen Vernunft, A367.
(22) Geschichte der Philosophie, 3 vols., Frankfurt, 1975, I, p. 517.
(23) Treatises, III, III, i.
(24) The classical definition of truth, “real knowledge is that which agrees with reality”, has two repairable errors; first, it implicitly supposes that knowledge is not reality; second, it defines the most well-known (knowledge) by it (reality) that we can only know through what we are attempting to define. If we realize that knowledge is the most real thing there is, we correct both mistakes. Instead of being in accordance we affirm the identity of knowledge and of reality. Those who object to solipsism would be supposing that what is real is “outside” of the mind; but this has no meaning, as the mind is not a spatial entity. (With this note I underline what I said in my book I Appeal to Reason about the classical theory).
(25) Eth Nic., IX, IX, 9.
(26) De anima, 429 b 32.
(27) Ibid., 429a 24.
(28) Op. cit. (in note 22), II, p. 48.
(29) Ibid., I, p. 51.
(30) Asthetik, 2 vols., Stuttgart, 1971, I, p. 175.
(31) As Kant showed us, the self-consciousness is the essence of all perception and its possibilities. The intersubjectivity, which is in the origin of subjectivity, does not stop the fact that this really exists.
As the “inter” is not a local place, as it is not spatial, the intersubjectivity, Habermas and Apel overlook the specific ontologic character of the entity called spirit, whether intersubjective or not. For the “intersubjective: to have some significance it needs first that “subjective” has it. It is true, the sprit is a bi-polar entity (or multi-polar), but it is self-productive, as it only exists where the point is seen.
(32) E. F. Taylor y J. A. Wheeler, Space time Physics, San francisco, 1966, p. 193.
(33) David Hume, Treatises, III, i.
(34) Carl Hempel, Aspects of Scientific Explanation, New York, 1965, p. 104, note 3.
(35) Michael Scriven, in Minnesota Studies (note 10), II, p. 191.
(36) May Brodbeck (ed.), Readings in the Philosophy of Social Sciences, New York, 1968, p. 285.
(37) “Indigenism Rights versus Human Rights”, in La Jornada Semanal, 20 June 1993, p. 44.
The aestatification of Mexican Intellectuals
José Porfirio Miranda
(weekly magazine), No. 285; November 27, 1994; pp 38-41
The inferiority complex that Samuel Ramos correctly diagnosed in many Mexicans is a curable disease. I am not saying the cure is easy but that it is possible.
The inferiority complex does not consist, as it is sometimes thought, in believing that they are of less worthy than they actually are, but thinking that others are of more value than they are. It is not a complex of believing in being inferior but who is inferior. The remedy is in recognizing the defect, in recognizing that it is a reaction of resentment when someone, even unintentionally, shows that they are more endowed. Those who simply realize how ridiculous and ignoble this rancor towards the more endowed is, is cured. To be man enough to look at oneself with objectivity, acknowledging that one has this vile defect, and not to lessen it by saying that all human beings are imperfect.
Now then, to substitute this diagnosis of unfounded rancor for the diagnosis of solitude (the substitution is deliberated and explained in The Labyrinth of Solitude), and more so if this solitude is lauded, liberates the Mexican from a manly shooting of himself and to make incurable a defect that he really has and that is not a light one. Above all when in the end it means, according to Paz, that it is about a universal trait that all human beings have; this avoids acknowledging that we are defective in a special way. By flattering oneself you avoid that others correct you.
Octavio Paz has really hurt Mexico, not only because of this, but because of what the title of this article implies. Samuel Ramos’ analysis, precisely because of its cruelty, has taken us towards the clairvoyance of ourselves. If thirty years ago, through the in depth articles and the educational system, Ramos’ analysis had been divulged as objective, today we would probably be a healthy people. The beautiful literature of Paz has impeded this cure.
We have just used a decisive word for our subject: objective. Science and Philosophy have the obligation of being objective; literature does not. Literature in some cases can be objective, but it is not specifically obliged to be so. When Paz transcribed the Mexican question from science (Ramos’ social psychology) to literature, the analysis becomes arbitrary. It can infringe any rule of objective method, stay in the hands of the first idea that comes to mind as long as
it is beautiful. A poet does not have to prove that his assertions are true. It is enough that they are beautiful, suggestive, new.
Take notice you who think the Pachucos and Chicanos of Los Angeles as characterizing the Mexican and therefore infer that Mexicans suffer solitude. Any social scientist knows that the immigrant, precisely because he is cut off from his people and home and because he is in an environment unknown to himself, suffers solitude in some way. But that is because he is an immigrant not because he is Mexican. To take the example of the Pachuco is to ponder on the solitude of the Mexicans in general, is one of the most arbitrary reasonings that I have ever read. But this criticism of Octavio Paz would be unjust; he is not using either science or philosophy; he is using literature. To speak of the Pachucos gives him the opportunity of using the expression “exhibiting their own ulcers”, which is a very beautiful phrase. However we are looking at poetry, not objectivity.
In general the Mexican is one of the most content and even gregarious beings that exist. They do not like to be alone. They are always in groups, gossiping. Whether a quality or a defect, it is true that a Mexican cannot even make a decision by himself. Opinions are formed while talking, listening to what the rest say and maybe adding something which needs a general concensus; if he did not, the Mexican would not be happy. Where did Octavio Paz come up with solitude being the defining characteric of the Mexican?
Looking at this reflection from the first chapter of Labyrinth… “In the valley of Mexico man feels suspended between heaven and earth oscillating between power and adverse forces, petrified eyes and devouring mouths”. I suppose by being suspended between heaven and earth they feel solitude. But if this suspension refers to the great height above sea level, Bolivians and Tibetans would be in a worse condition, and Octavio Paz would not be musing about solitude being a distinctive trait of the Mexican. On the other hand, however high the city the inhabitants of Mexico City have their feet on the ground and in no way are suspended between heaven and earth, nor do they think they are. It is a fallacy that they think they are suspended. And finally, however high they live, if they are 20 millions one thing is sure, they are not alone. They are well accompanied. Never the less I repeat these criticisms would be valid if we were talking about objectivity, if the thesis had to be shown as true. This is not the point with Octavio Paz. The expression “suspended between heaven and earth” was too beautiful to leave in the inkstand. Hurrah for aesthetic criteria.
We could never come to know the logic of the following passage: “The feeling of solitude, on the other hand, is not an illusion – as inferiority sometimes is but an expression of a real fact:
we really are different; in effect alone”. I suppose, according to Paz, from the fact that we are different it follows that we are alone. But in reality it in no way follows. The contrary could be said: precisely, because of our distinctiveness, we complement each other. Here Octavio Paz is looking for drama where there is none. But maybe he is saying that we are distinct from the rest of the world. It could be in a sense; but we Mexicans are many, and so solitude is the result. It would be truer if he were referring to all men and he means that everyone is different from the next. It is at the most, trivial and, as I said, it does not infer solitude.
Paz seems to come at last to the first plausible reference in the last chapter, when he refers to the atheism of solitude. And so, in any case it would be all about a solitude that is very curable. The existence of God surely proves it, but the principle thing is that at this time Paz forgets that the Labyrinth … was trying to diagnose the Mexican people: by supposing that the Mexican people are atheists; the subjectivity and arbitrariness of literature take to infirm extremes its independence in respect of the scientific objectivity and of reality. In reality the Mexicans are a very religious people; it could be said that in the last decades its religiousness has increased instead of decreasing as Paz would like.
Who knows to which country, to which planet, Paz is referring to in this passage: “But after this general collapse of Reason and Faith in God and Utopia there would appear new or old intellectual systems capable of taking care of our anxieties and calming our uncertainties. Facing us is nothing, in the end we are alone”. If he refers to Mexico, he wishes to say that for the Mexican people God has disappeared, it is such a patent lack of objectivity that it is not necessary to comment on. And if it refers to the countries of the Western World, today all sociologists know that disenchanted secularism is a pattern that is contradicted by investigation and research. The plurality of Christian denominations have had a reinforcing effect on Christian and fundamental convictions in which the diverse denominations coincide. The making of more authentic and self-sustaining convictions in individuals is to not depend on the differences that exist between the institutions and churches. It is enough to go to the best sociologist of our epoch, Talcott Parsons: The System of Modern Societies or even Action Theory and Human Condition.
Up to now it has not been my intention to criticize Paz as a literary man. It would be ignoring the difference between science and literature; he goes for drama, for tragedy, for the aesthetic, not for the truth. His style is different.
My intention has been to illustrate with the upper most example of the accelerated process of aestatification of the Mexican intellectual (which the public reads). A process which one should
be alarmed about because it tends to erode the intelligence, the human capacity of recognizing reality and truth. As it is not obligatory to be controlled by reality but only to produce beautiful things, literature permits the authors to speak about something they know nothing about, freely stating any theme without having studied it. When all is said and done nobody forces the poet to show that his conception is true. He can utter from the heart without giving explanations. If this criteria, (or lack of criteria), predominates in the intellect of a country, there comes a time in which the question of true or false not only becomes too much but gets in the way. Relativism is needed so that each and every one of us can uphold whatever they like, and those that ask if it is true or false are considered wet blankets.
In an information table of an aesthetic world only this would be read: “It is permitted to look for truth with the condition that nobody finds it.” That surely is supreme intolerance. And they believe themselves to be pluralists. If in brackets they add: “and if they do find it, that they keep it to themselves”. Evidently they are suppressing freedom of expression in the most selective and repressive way imaginable. They are prohibited from speaking about demonstrative science and philosophy.
And it is not that I am against literature. I consider myself nearly an expert on Dickens, Trollope, Scott, Thackeray, Collins and Balzac. What I am against is that everything becomes literature.
Be very aware that since its beginnings literature has always contained a little or a lot to entertain. Homer, Pindar, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, etc., wrote to entertain their audience; there is always some form of spectacle. On the contrary, I have nothing against entertainment. What seems wrong to me is that everything becomes entertainment. What seems dangerous to me is that we do not know how to distinguish between when we are being entertained and when we are thinking seriously.
And the danger has become very real. To ask “always for something new” is to discard the criteria “of truth”. To always demand something new is the action of someone wishing to do away with boredom and looks for entertainment. On the other hand, when it is discovered that “two and two make four” is true, demanding something new is to confuse the serious with the flippant. What is true stays true even if discovered in the last century. Whosoever believes it possible to side step it by saying that it is a century old pretends we are at the circus or at a fashion show or watching tele. What they want is that there is a “variety show” in other words a spectacle, an entertainment.
The second example that I am going to put forward is not a Mexican literary figure. Precisely because of that it is a very good example of this aestatification and entertaining which we are going through and as I said in need of relativism.
About a vision of the world the most important thing that one has to ask is: true or false, human or non-human, independently of whether it is the vision of the victors or the conquered or whoever. Leon Portilla does not ask this just because. He does not want us to lose anything that comes from our ancestors. In his book, being human is everything, seemly even human sacrifice. This indifference is typically aesthetic. The same as the French Dadaists who, to stop being bored, were given to admiring African idols for being something ’new’ and ‘different. In the same way the Aztec vision of the world became entertaining for the aesthetic public to whom it was of no importance whether it was true or false nor whether it made man more human or less human. Leon Portilla’s book became an object of Mexican curios among ‘’variety theatre”. One inserts something odd into this relativism which is incorrectly named pluralism and in that it is only important that the next ‘number’ should be something new. As long as it says something that has not been said before, its success at the box office is secure. Leon Portilla wanted to make it a Mexicanism but what he did do was put us into show business before Western World.
And there is another aspect that we should not overlook. He who shows and exalts a vision of the world precisely because it is one of the conquered is not appealing to reason but to their fondness for it. An affection that we all feel spontaneously towards the conquered: we tend to identify ourselves with them. This resorting to the emotional instead of to the rational is clearly an aesthetic procedure. As well, I should add that Leon Portilla’s book, without realizing it, has intensified the resentment and rancour that Samuel Ramos had diagnosed as a grave defect of Mexicans. Vision of the conquered nearly sounds like a vision of the resentful.
So, Paz and Leon Portilla being the authors most read in Mexico and at the same time being so dissimilar and of diverse types, the fact that they both coincide at heart both aestetically and entertainingly seems to me to illustrate sufficiently the intellectual degeneration that the heading of this article implies. This flux of words has made the ordinary Mexican reader look only for affirmations that are strong, to the point, suggestive, an ostentation of talent and character. And it does not cross their minds to ask how it is proven that these affirmations are true nor if they are true or not.
I call this process degenerative because to be moved by emotions and not reason is going back to animality. Thus I come to my central argument. No taking into account seems to me as
important at this time than that being put across to the world as this: rationality is not natural to us. We come from animals; the natural is what we inherit from them. Everything in the world would change for the good if we would dare to fix our eyes on this being the truth. I repeat rationality is not ours by nature. By nature we are not rational. With difficulty we have acquired rationality over the past 25 centuries.
In the wild, man (hominoid maybe) adopted beliefs because they ‘felt’ them because of fear, because it was useful to them, because they liked it, etc., not because of a decisive reason that they were truths. The idea of only adopting them when they proved to be true and throw them away when proven false is a tremendous initiative put forward by Plato and Aristotle and is in no way natural. It is strictly cultural, civilizing. Fortunately this initiative has really prospered. It gained great heights during the Enlightenment especially with Kant (corrected by Hegel) and Hegel. If now we return to the attitude that it is not important whether things are true or false and only whether they are suggestive or varied; we would be going back to barbarism, virtually to animality.
Of course rationality did not start at zero with Plato and Aristotle. It starts when the interpellation of the Imperative Moral, making us responsible for our conduct and therefore we realize we exist, and so we acquire an I. An animal exists but does not know it exists, does not realize it exists, that is it does not have an I. Self awareness is what distinguishes man from the animal. But the Imperative Moral does not come from nature either. That is God not nature. Happily the Rousseau thesis on the kindness of natural man is a mere philosophical echo of a myth; the myth of the golden primitive age. By nature man not only is not good; by nature he is not a man. Natural man is a contradictory expression.
Against said initiative of great philosophy the aesthetics fence against the word liberty. According to them the obligation to rely on truth and also the existence itself of absolute truth would be against the liberty of each person professing any conception or belief they wanted to. They want everything to be optional as in art; that it be a question of likes. But, in the first place, a very poor conception of liberty would be had if the liberty impeded recognizing the truth.
In the second place, undoubtedly they wish to define liberty as something merely negative, such as absence or lack of things (ties, for example); that is as a nonentity. Rousseau falls into this trap when he said man was by nature free. Ah of course: it is easy for natural man to come endowed of something consisting of nothing. This anyone has. But if liberty is a missing element, you would have to sustain that even stones are free. In reality liberty is something
very positive; it is acquired slowly and laboriously; babies are not free. Man is not born free, he makes himself free. In reality it is the Moral Imperative which frees us, that is to say self-determination. When the surroundings determine a natural impulse that the I did not put there, that is it was put there without my consent, evidently it is not self-determination by the I and thus is not free. It is the Imperative that makes us overcome the natural impulses and thus makes us free. All well and good, and it is good, and this is the point; we make ourselves free by commanding our conduct excluding all else. It is a concept (the true one) that excludes all others (false). This is the only liberty that exists; if the aesthetics do not want it who knows what they want; they have not been able to define it. Therefore the merely negative concept contains absolutely nothing, it is a pseudo concept, an empty concept.
In the third place, the aforesaid initiative of the authentic philosophy in no way proposes that the true beliefs are imposed at any time by a governmental, religious or other petition. It proposes that reason itself is imposed on them; that it is self-determined. But self-determination is the definition of freedom. Naturally, for this you must not digress from the proposal that truth does not exist. Such a proposal is a pure and simple negativity against verification and against reasoning. If you read the treatise of Kant and Hegel with the aesthetic and antiquated prejudice of those who examine different concepts to see which they ‘like’; if they are not read as proofs of verification that, once verified, therefore become obligatory; and they become literary works (surely mediocre) and it impedes that philosophy talks. Thus self-determination of reasoning cannot be had.
And point four, Why defend liberty? There are people who prefer authority. In what do we base our preference for liberty? The only base possible is truth; everyone has infinite dignity. If this truth is not absolute, it is useless. The defence of liberty is created, and therefore has to be built on absolute truth. So how can someone reject absolute truth in the name of liberty?
I would like to finish by warning my Liberation Theology colleagues of the liberation (unless we come back to this theme another time) against the influence of the intellectual current of thought that has been denounced in this article. The sacrosanct “Preferential option for the poor” is already affected by this influence. It is to such an extent, that it could be presented as a third example of preliminary examination, besides Paz and Leon Portillo, of the aestatification of the intellectuals. As what option?
According to the Gospel and proven philosophy, the fight for the poor is an obligation, not an option. Since when has doing justice been an option? How is it possible that it occurs to someone to present the responsibility of justice as a preference?
This focus on aesthetification can be thrown out with Liberation Theology. It can also make it non-theological as the real theology is essentially verifiable and basically, as Hegel says, identifies with philosophy. If the fight for the poor is optional for Christianity, then with the same right the rich can have a preferential option and completely devalues the Gospels. Being that the genuine theological mission is to validate the Gospels; to avoid condemnation from the Vatican, the Liberation Theologians presented their case as a mere option within the church; by doing so they did not upset the people who opted for the contrary opinion; and their option, as it threatens nobody, would not find too much resistance or prohibitions. But logically they are thus sustaining that within Christianity you can opt for the rich. This is a betrayal of the Gospels.