• Mongrel
    3k
    The DNC featured a little shouting match during Leon Panetta's speech. It was "No more war" vs "USA." Obviously since both have three syllables, it all started to blend and it was hard to hear what Panetta was trying to say.

    This conflict turns out to be an inheritance from our medieval and pre-medieval forebears. Augustine's view of the state is that it's a burden we carry due to our propensity for sin. He's saying that the real goal of all political action is to create police to protect us from one another. Otherwise, Augustine saw the state as an endless source of crap in the form of corruption, frustration, disenfranchisement, uprisings, revolutions, invasions (which implies war). In City of God, Augustine explains that if everybody was a true Christian, there would be no states (and so no need for war.)

    Aquinas partook of Aristotle's view: people are by nature political beings. The state is not a shit show we create to curb our sinfulness. Its the path by which we express our greatest potential. It follows from that that protection of the state is an obligation people should take up with pride.

    I believe I grasp both views of the state. What do you think?
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    If we're to take the Straussian interpretation seriously, it it that ancient Greek philosophy emerged from politics - those skilled and involved in politics found they had extra time on their hands to start wondering about apolitical stuff.

    I'm with Augustine on this one. I don't particularly like Aristotle's, nor Aquinas', devotion to immanence. I prefer Augustine and Plato and their ideal Forms. Aristotle and Aquinas both deeply believed in a world filled with telos, and it was easy to feel at home in an environment teeming with purpose. The world is ripe for the taking, according to Aquinas and Aristotle.

    It's clear to me that we have governments to maintain stability and control over the land: a government is an entity that has monopolized violence. It's a necessary evil, because anarchism is quite unrealistic.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    Anthropological studies of violent death seem to favor St. Augustine. In social groupings prior to the development of governments with actual power, the death rate from violent deaths appeared to be quite high. (This is based on an examination of skulls stored in museums, or described in the literature of the field. What percentage of the skulls showed the wounds of a violent death (like blunt force injury, etc.) The statistics of violent death are much lower where centralized states existed. (A state doesn't need to be huge, just an effective manager of the population.)

    People do seem to be more prone to resorting to violence to settle grudges where no governments exist. States provide the means of achieving justice without bashing in the brains of your enemies. States also provide police of some sort to stop angry people from bashing in a lot of brains.

    Do it yourself justice is a "social sin" that the state strives to suppress.

    But then, one could say that the creation of the state in the first place occurs because man is inherently political. This doesn't contradict Augustine. One of the objects of politics, seems like, is to control id-driven "sinful" individual behavior. Keep a lid on things, so that we can all go about our civic business more conveniently.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    Let's hear it also for the ancient Greek dramatists. How shall we ever end cycles of revenge fuelled by beliefs in angry vengeful gods?

    Ah: impartial justice. But this can only be achieved in the polis, with talk and competitive games and Plato's well-trained Guardians to intervene when there's mayhem.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    It's clear to me that we have governments to maintain stability and control over the land: a government is an entity that has monopolized violence. It's a necessary evil, because anarchism is quite unrealistic.darthbarracuda

    A necessary evil. This is along the lines of Augustine's view (and perhaps Chomsky's). What I like about the Augustinian view is not it's conclusion, but the attitude toward the state that it outlines: a willingness to sacrifice the state for sake of doing the right thing. That attitude provides some freedom to the imagination.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    People do seem to be more prone to resorting to violence to settle grudges where no governments exist. States provide the means of achieving justice without bashing in the brains of your enemies. States also provide police of some sort to stop angry people from bashing in a lot of brains.Bitter Crank
    Chris Stringer says there is evidence in our collective genes of prehistoric warfare. I'm glad I don't live in world where violent death is always nearby, but aren't there quite a few people in the world today who do live that way?

    But then, one could say that the creation of the state in the first place occurs because man is inherently political. This doesn't contradict Augustine. One of the objects of politics, seems like, is to control id-driven "sinful" individual behavior. Keep a lid on things, so that we can all go about our civic business more conveniently. — Bitter Crank
    Is the state's real job to squash us or to help us realize our ambitions? Both?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Let's hear it also for the ancient Greek dramatists. How shall we ever end cycles of revenge fuelled by beliefs in angry vengeful gods?mcdoodle

    Cycles of revenge aren't fueled by religion. They're driven by the bloody mindedness that follows the funeral of the murdered, right? Does the state help with this? Does it make it worse? Does it have any effect at all?
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    Chris Stringer says there is evidence in our collective genes of prehistoric warfare. I'm glad I don't live in world where violent death is always nearby, but aren't there quite a few people in the world today who do live that way?Mongrel

    As a matter of fact, there are quite a few people who live that way. Some observers have noted that

    a. where distrust of the central city/state authority is high...
    b. where DIY justice is fairly common...
    c. where there is some sort of on-your-sleave "honor" system...

    ...there is much more violence. In the US there is much more violence in the southeast, and in ghettos--both places where a, b, and c apply. (and it isn't just blacks, of course. The American Mafia was founded by Sicilians who had little love for the State, and carried out DIY justice, vendettas, and all that Godfather / Sopranos business.)

    In New England, there is a "Puritan" tradition of the collective project of building the City On The Hill, more 'public humility', and stronger social taboos against acting outside the lines of authority to settle disputes. All this "state-friendly" tends to prevail across the northern tier of states.

    The south was culturally shaped more by privileged Cavaliers (spoiled rich brats from England) and the New England culturally shaped by privileged, and dour, Puritans.

    I don't think the Puritans thought of the state as a "necessary evil". God and the State, I suspect, had common aims in their minds.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    I think you've summarized the outlines of the two views admirably well. I side with Augustine, which is also the view of Hobbes and quite a number of early modern political philosophers.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Anthropological studies of violent death seem to favor St. Augustine. In social groupings prior to the development of governments with actual power, the death rate from violent deaths appeared to be quite high. (This is based on an examination of skulls stored in museums, or described in the literature of the field. What percentage of the skulls showed the wounds of a violent death (like blunt force injury, etc.) The statistics of violent death are much lower where centralized states existed. (A state doesn't need to be huge, just an effective manager of the population.)Bitter Crank

    I'd be curious to know if you have any books to recommend on this topic.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    In the US there is much more violence in the southeast, and in ghettos--both places where a, b, and c apply.Bitter Crank
    Folklore says it's heavy drinking during hot summers that results in a high incidence of violence in places like Louisiana. But the most violent state is Alaska, so... so much for that theory.

    I imagine Alaska's rate of violent crime might be related to what you described: in places where there's less of an infrastructure to handle justice, people do it themselves.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    So you also agree that the state is something we construct to counter our own nature.

    Does that mean we have a conflicted nature?
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    Cycles of revenge aren't fueled by religion. They're driven by the bloody mindedness that follows the funeral of the murdered, right? Does the state help with this? Does it make it worse? Does it have any effect at all?Mongrel

    Well, I was thinking of those vengeful Greek deities as role-models for the undivine. I think they did egg Medea and Orestes on, for instance.

    I don't think there is justice, and therefore there is no end to revenge-cycles, without a State. So we shouldn't kill all the lawyers after all :)
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    I'd be curious to know if you have any books to recommend on this topic.Thorongil

    Two books have influenced my thinking on the topic:

    The Better Angels of our Nature by Steven Pinker
    The Anatomy of Crime by Adrian Raine

    Pinker's book focused on the issues of violence among stone age hunter-gatherers, DIY justice, honor societies, the benefits of government, etc. I found most of this stuff in the first part of the book; it was a very thick book, and the print was not comfortable for me to read, so I didn't get too far into the book.

    Raine's book is useful for thinking about the origins of psychopathies, and brain function and criminality. Just for example, a very large share of men in prison had head injuries as children--not necessarily repeated concussion of the sort that occurs in sports (though that creates problems too). They may have gotten hit by a baseball bat, had a fall, been in a car accident, etc. it isn't that head injuries lead straight to prison, but that they create problems for the individual which, if not dealt with (like through rehabilitation) may result in criminal behavior.

    I'd buy these second hand or get them at the library. They were useful, but once you get the main idea...
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    "No more war" vs "USA."

    'No more war' is a cry for moral justice
    'USA' is nationalistic declaration

    He's saying that the real goal of all political action is to create police to protect us from one another. Otherwise, Augustine saw the state as an endless source of crap in the form of corruption, frustration, disenfranchisement, uprisings, revolutions, invasions (which implies war). In City of God, Augustine explains that if everybody was a true Christian, there would be no states (and so no need for war.)

    There are a variety of forces exerted against the state, from within and from without. I think hostile forces from without are one of the main reason why states where initially formed. States act as a safe haven for their citizens. The State also makes possible the exchange of goods, which is where, I think corruption, stealing, and other transgression originate. The State makes laws that regulate the exchange of goods, and which ought to be fair & just, if the purpose of the state beyond protection, is to insure that each citizens has the ability to live & grow in accordance with their own particular desires.

    Aquinas partook of Aristotle's view: people are by nature political beings. The state is not a shit show we create to curb our sinfulness. Its the path by which we express our greatest potential. It follows from that that protection of the state is an obligation people should take up with pride.

    Therefor I am more closely aligned to Aristotle, I think that he felt that man is a social animal only in the sense that man can't exist alone in nature. The social character, the State is negatively determined, as I outline above.

    Its the path by which we express our greatest potential. It follows from that that protection of the state is an obligation people should take up with pride.

    If the State's aim is towards the Highest Good for its citizens, then it ought to coincide with man's highest goal. If one of man's highest goals is "No more war" then that goal can be part of the nationalistic goal of a strong, just, State united under common laws..."USA".

    If the State is not protecting its citizenry, not treating them fairly, not enabling its citizenry to meet or exceed their needs then its citizenry will rebel against the state, trying to make it change so that they can reach their goals.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    I don't think there is justice, and therefore there is no end to revenge-cycles, without a State. So we shouldn't kill all the lawyers after all :)mcdoodle

    Interesting. On the one hand, it seems that revenge comes from a desire for justice. The state's justice... is it a stand-in for divine justice?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    There's a bunch of food for thought there... I need to percolate on it.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    So you also agree that the state is something we construct to counter our own nature.Mongrel

    Yes.

    Does that mean we have a conflicted nature?Mongrel

    What do you mean?
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Interesting, thanks. Perhaps a more useful book for me to look for would be one on early human societies.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    In the Manifesto Marx said, "The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie."

    That's a state that most likely neither Augustine nor Aristotle (and Aquinas) contemplated, but it's the state we have to deal with today. Big trade deals (NAFTA, TPP, TTIP) are negotiated in consultation with and for the benefit of the puissant bourgeoisie -- major stock holders in corporations, commodity producers, major retailers, etc. Gun boat diplomacy is conducted on behalf of the class that wants the resources the natives are reluctant to give up.

    The modern state is likely to play the complicated role of protector-oppressor--protecting its citizens from some harms (foreign and domestic, collective and personal) but also subjecting its citizens to other harms by both commission and omission. A state might simultaneously provide public health clinics and devise methods of preventing some citizens (the usual suspects) from voting.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    Interesting. On the one hand, it seems that revenge comes from a desire for justice. The state's justice... is it a stand-in for divine justice?Mongrel

    Well, I realise as you raise this question that I'm strongly influenced by having studied Aristotle just lately, with a side-order of Plato. Aristotle tries to found social justice on something like the virtue of justice, but he's more interested in the institutions of justice than Plato. For Ari there's redistributive justice - of the goods of living - and rectificatory justice - the righting of wrongs - and in both of them a question of the right proportion comes into play. Institutional justice isn't a 'stand-in' for the divine, since for Ari the divine is to be concerned with altogether loftier matters. It seems to me his view is improved by a dose of Epicurus, that social justice aids in bringing harmony. Certainly Ari's is an immanent, polis-based justice. At the heart of it is a famous and brilliant passage on 'equity' (V 10 of the Nicomachean Ethics) which I gather modern lawyers still use as a basis for consideration of complex cases, which says that there will always be a justice beyond mere rules.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    "No more war" vs "USA."

    'No more war' is a cry for moral justice
    'USA' is nationalistic declaration
    Cavacava
    Right. The "No more war" chanting was coming from Sanders supporters and it was directed at Leon Panetta. My guess is that we'd probably get a slightly different answer from each chanter if we asked them what it means. But the answer coming from the rest of the Democratic Party: "USA" makes it sound like pacifism vs the practical need for defense.

    Pacifism is not and never has been a practical viewpoint. There's a moral dimension to it, but where it appears, there's likely to be deep misgivings about anything good ever coming out of war. I say that Augustine's view (which is similar to Chomsky's in some ways) is conducive to pacifism because it's saying that government is implicitly a condemnation. That hints at the possibility that we could get by without it if we were just moral enough.

    If the State's aim is towards the Highest Good for its citizens, then it ought to coincide with man's highest goal. If one of man's highest goals is "No more war" then that goal can be part of the nationalistic goal of a strong, just, State united under common laws..."USA".

    If the State is not protecting its citizenry, not treating them fairly, not enabling its citizenry to meet or exceed their needs then its citizenry will rebel against the state, trying to make it change so that they can reach their goals.
    Cavacava
    You're sounding a lot like Marcus Aurelius on the role of the state. That implies that you live in the modern day Rome.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Does that mean we have a conflicted nature?
    — Mongrel

    What do you mean?
    Thorongil

    Whatever we do must come out of our nature, right? If it's in our nature to curb our own nature.... we have a conflicted nature.... right?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Certainly Ari's is an immanent, polis-based justice. At the heart of it is a famous and brilliant passage on 'equity' (V 10 of the Nicomachean Ethics) which I gather modern lawyers still use as a basis for consideration of complex cases, which says that there will always be a justice beyond mere rules.mcdoodle

    Cool. Thanks!
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    It's in our nature to pursue our own interests, and the state provides a means of doing so, a better and more reliable means than the state of nature.
  • Excelsior
    1
    It’s typically held that Augustine based his philosophy and theology on the teaching of Plato. Aquinas, by contrast, is said to have based his teachings on the thought of Aristotle. (More on Aquinas vs. Augustine here).

    I think that definitely influences their positions on this topic.
  • Mariner
    366
    None of them would approve of the current super-surveillance-police-extortionist state.
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