sophilos

Momentaufnahmen in Film, Literatur und Philosophie

Is Berkeley justified in denying the existence of a material world?

Introduction

Berkeley develops his immaterialist view in direct opposition to materialists. We must, however, explicate what Berkeley means by this: Materialism here means any view affirming the existence of material things.[1] Material things on this account are mind-independent things, which exist without being perceived. Berkeley’s position is one, in which all things are held to be mind-dependent:

[…] what are […] objects but the things we perceive by sense, and what do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations; and is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these [objects] or any combination of them should exist unperceived? (PHK4)

Indeed the famous dictum ‘esse is percipi’ (PHK3) is an accurate representation of the view that Berkeley expounds. In this essay we will examine several arguments that Berkeley levels against the existence of a mind-independent world and two of the most obvious replies to his idealism. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

Does Berkeley credibly refute the distinction of mind-independent and mind-dependent qualities?

Introduction

Berkeley’s critique of materialism presents commonly accepted notions of matter with serious trouble – this essay will analyse how Berkeley’s immaterialism levels a charge against the distinction of mind-independent and mind-dependent qualities of matter, also referred to as primary and secondary qualities (cf. Locke). First we will explicate the underlying assumptions of the distinction of qualities into mind-independent and mind-dependent. Following this we will consider Berkeley’s responses to these assumptions. It will be shown that to ignore what Berkeley has to say about sensory qualities is to leave undoubted basic premises of philosophy. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

What is simple subjectivism? Explain and evaluate the two most prominent arguments against it.

Introduction

Simple subjectivism may be succinctly defined as the view that moral judgements are true relative to the individual which utters them. Therefore to say of certain behaviour that it is ‘wrong’ is to express one’s belief and not a prescription. This essay will develop the meta-ethical theory of subjectivism and critically evaluate how persuasive the argument for it is, by developing two of the main objections to it, namely the possibility-of-disagreement and the infallibility objection.

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“The [nation-state] project of establishing single, unidimensional boundaries for human societies was a deeply flawed project” (Cerny, 2010: 44). To what extent is Cerny right to claim that the nation-state project has always been beset by structural contradictions?

Abstract

The nation-State as such is an unattainable goal: However favourable the circumstances may be it remains flawed. Not only the problematic natures of the ‘nation’ and the ‘state’ have contributed to this: This essay will argue that the main antagonism, which renders the nation-State project precarious, lies within its relationship to Capitalism. By noting the conceptual differences that make their co-existence troublesome, this essay will attempt to show how this antagonism can manifest itself. In the course of this analysis we will try to uncover how this antagonism has, in its displacement, caused Fascism and specifically National-Socialism and how it emerges in contemporary politics.  Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

‘Perfectly unequal and perfectly just’. Is this an adequate view of Plato’s Republic?

Abstract

Plato’s Kallipolis is a place of strict divisions, so as to fulfil Plato’s dictum of justice. But is it incompatible with equality? This essay will argue that even though Plato developed his thoughts in direct opposition to the system of democratic equality present during his life-time, his Republic does not preclude equality. Indeed, Plato’s Kallipolis is a city of equality within distinctive parts. These distinctive parts all take equal share in what is the nature of the just city and are of equal importance to its constitution – only man’s nature which makes inequality necessary renders Justice possible and yet all members of the city are endowed with equal opportunities according to their aptitude. Consequently above view should be corrected to read ‘perfectly equal and perfectly just’.

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Democracy and Difference

Democracy as the regime of consensus is incompatible with diversity and difference – the institutionalisation of so called liberal institutions within the framework of what is in its essence said to be democracy, however, has altered the democratic regime itself. Liberal democracy, more specifically, its pluralistic regime is concerned with the organisation of dissent, that is the framing of irresolvable differences within the private realm and the acting out of differences on a ‘theatrical stage’, as Schmitt would have it. Liberal democracy is then ever so much in need of difference, which must be staged, enacted and presented so that matters of irresolvable differences may remain within the private.

The organisation of dissent then acquires a wittgensteinian twist, by participating in public discourse, one effectively engages in a specific ‘language game’ and accordingly one is presumed to have acknowledged both its validity as well as the ‘rules of the game’. This then is the fundamental presupposition of liberal democracy, what Mouffe refers to as ‘principles of liberty and equality’ is in lacanese the ‘master-signifier’ giving form to the discourses, positing latent conventions, which one must adhere to. Such conventions do not deny the multiplicity of identities, identity qua sum total of the discourses a specific subjectivity is involved in[1], rather it must be comprehended as the underlying prerequisite rendering possible the organisation of dissent.

As such what is dangerous for contemporary ‘post-ideological’ liberal democracy is not the prevalence of dissent in private matters, religion, beliefs, etiquette and so on, but the very void left in political discourse as ideology dissipated within the liberal institutions themselves – ‘post-politics’ fails, where the age of ideology and politics was successful: in relegating dissent into the private sphere and staging differences in an environment, in which they could be ‘reasonably’ resolved.


[1] Identity on this account is to be understood as the temporal suturing of identifications or nodal points into a diachronic subjectivity

 

Democracy and Inequality

Democracy, as a regime of government qua representative democracy, was only possible with the destruction of feudal relations of production. The abstract monadic subject, preluded by the monadic substance qua private individual in protestant thought, is the consequence of the social relation we have to call capitalism. This atomic subject, solitary, even in community, is the ultimate precondition for citizenship – no longer bound by the particular life-world it is born into, particular struggle mediated in the universal notion of the ‘citizen’.

Formal freedom replacing formal necessities dependent on birth, status, class and so on. Formal freedom in contrast to economic inequality is characteristic of capitalism – formal freedom understood as the right to freely sell one’s labour. It is, however, a misconception to speak of formal freedom, as remaining on the level of form – Hegel knew this all too well: Form is content. As such Marcuse’s dictum ‘freedom precedes liberation’ remains valid – only after having realised one’s equality can one go on to struggle for emancipation proper. Emancipation proper, meaning not to be a member of a community of slaves, but of a community proper as Rancière is keen on emphasising. Egaliberte, equality of all individuals as speaking beings, manifests itself here first, as Zizek notes, as symbolic fiction – yet something peculiar happens: fiction becomes fact and egaliberte acquires symbolic efficacy in the continuous demanding of social actors to achieve a more level playing field (e.g. why are women paid less?).

Formal freedom, devised by liberal thinkers to promote the reign of property over work – is then undermined, given a subversive twist – taken out of context to serve the emancipation of those not yet emancipated.

Russell’s Theory of Definite Descriptions

The aim of this essay is to outline Russell’s Theory of Definite Descriptions. In short, Russell’s seeks to explain the significance of phrases of the form: ‘the’ followed by a noun phrase. Such phrases are: the current President of the United States; the author of Waverley and many others. To understand the significance of those phrases, which we will be dealing with one must first understand what they are not. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

Power

The exercise of power always-already presupposes a faction in power, giving commands, and a faction without power, obeying. Power then is clearly a property not of a specific person or group but of the social relation that exists between and encompasses both parties, it is effectively instrument of a social relation to reproduce itself. But how are we to conceptualise this specific type of relation, or even more pressing an issue: is there any social relation in which power is not involved? Can there be talk of discourse without domination?

It is Foucault who tackled this problem head on – concluding that power is socially diffuse and can be observed in its workings in any and all social relations; more radically even he asserted that there could be no subjectivity without it. On this view then subjectivity only arises as consequence of social relations and as social relations are necessarily permeated with the exercise of power, subjectivity could not arise without it.

Power then can never acquire true legitimacy – as its concrete forms determine the formal boundaries of subjectivity legitimacy becomes but a remainder of an ideological apology for the workings of power. One can here return to Althusser in that ‘common-sense’, the form engulfing the content of the subjects mind is ideology constructing reality – it is the dominant faction that has more control over how power manifests itself, which determines the coordinates of discourse and its ideology proper. Hegemony, the homogenisation of universal values, the coming into being of ‘false consciousness’, (note that Bourdieu was right in saying that classes nevertheless experience different life-worlds) is thus a necessary result of discourse, the exercise of power, itself.

Why should the state limit the operation of free markets?

Regulation of the market is necessary to guarantee the formal freedom of its agents. But is the market itself not always-already a regulative body, that is the market is only an order established by agreement upon the laws that govern it. It is a fundamental fallacy to regard as natural that which is intrinsically customary – the market is a construct insofar as that it involves property relations that are the upshot of the commodification of natural resources and the creation of human capital. To accept the notion that the economy is a natural consequence of human being is thus to denigrate its status as a political process and thereby asserting the specific mode of production universal validity. This process of depolitization is the reason for asking why we should regulate the market. Thus the proper question to be examined is whether the state should regulate the allocation of resources by different means than those of the neoliberal ‘free’ market.

The free market in its drive to commodify all resources has partly lost its reason d’être: many property disputes in the west are now conflicts of intellectual property, but does intellectual property in its main characteristic qua non-degrading resource not overturn the logic of scarcity? How then can the market efficiently allocate this resource, the main assumption being that it, the free market, guarantees the efficient allocation of scarce resources? Hence to ensure the most efficient functioning of society the state should limit those sectors of the market that do not correspond with its basic principles. Of course, this normative statement is only valid insofar as efficiency is the aim of our project.

It must be said then that the market, while able to efficiently allocate its self-created commodities, can never actualise a society of active political participation and freedom – even the most heavily regulated market only allows for formal equality. This is due to firstly, the state being very much involved in the proliferation of the property relations that give rise to capitalism and secondly, the very nature of hierarchical distinctions introduced by the market system. Therefore, to achieve a society which abides by the principle of freedom the market must forego and with it its main proponent: the state.

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