Saturday, February 20, 2021

I'm lazy.

FIFTH QUESTION. In which government must there be censors? There must be censors in a republic where the principle of government is virtue. It is not only crimes that destroy virtue, but also negligence, mistakes, a certain slackness in the love of the homeland, dangerous examples, the seeds ofcorruption, that which does not run counter to the laws but eludes them, that which does not destroy them but weakens them: all these should be corrected by censors.

It is astonishing that an Areopagite was punished for killing a sparrow that had taken refuge in his breast while in flight from a hawk. It is surprising that the Areopagus sent to his death a child who had put out the eyes of a bird. Notice that the question is not that of condemning a crime but of judging mores in a republic founded on mores.

In monarchies there must be no censors; monarchies are founded on honor, and the nature of honor is to have the whole universe as a censor. Every man who commits a breach of honor is subject to the reproaches of even those without honor.

Virtue vs honor in Montesquieu. My references are sloppy.

Céline Spector, "Montesquieu: Critique of Republicanism?" Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 6:1, 38-53

The opposition between liberalism and civic humanism has been the object of fruitful scholarly debate, notably since the work of H.Baron, J.G.A. Pocock and Q. Skinner1 . The ambition of The Machiavellian Moment is clear: by putting to work these two distinct hermeneutical paradigms it seeks to transcend the hegemony of liberal historiography. The shortcomings of the liberal vocabulary of individualism which theorizes the possessive individual in its relation with other possessive individuals and which considers the question of justice under the guise of the protection of rights must be mitigated by the use of the language of civic humanism. Civic humanism or broadly conceived republicanism does not see the curtailing of power, the warrant of individual safety and of the right to rebel as its founding problems; but is concerned essentially with the corruption of virtue. In the writings of those authors belonging to what J.G.A. Pocock labelled the tradition of ‘civic humanism’, the corruption which threatens liberty appears when the citizen’s autonomy which is guaranteed by the ownership of arms and land is no longer secure. In these critical ‘Machiavellian moments’ of history civic virtue is not confident in its success against the forces that endanger its survival; be it fortuna in the Renaissance or finance, credit and commerce in the 18th century.

The Neo-Harringtonian continuation of the tradition of civic humanism in England, a tradition limited up to that point to the small Italian republics of the 13th and 14th century, focuses the republican fears around the new economic expansion and its instruments. Following the financial revolution, the introduction of innovative means of power, the reign of passion and imagination disintegrate the martial spirit of independence and patriotism to which the survival of the republic is identified. The mobility of ownership which dominates the new mercantile societies is detrimental to the expression of virtue and renders the ideal of the citizen/soldier defunct. In this line of thought the tradition of English republicanism is no longer associated to the restoration of the ancient republican model where the people as a body politic exercised power. Power is now subordinated to a new vision of constitutional monarchy which might invigorate civic virtue once more, a virtue without which the unceasing struggle between competing factions and interests is set to carry the state adrift towards corruption and decadence.

1.The expression ‘civic humanism’ was most certainly fashioned by H. Baron in 1928 in German as Bürgerhumanismus. A term which Baron developed in opposition to Burkhart’s notion of ‘Renaissance’ in (Baron, 1966).

"The expression ‘civic humanism’ was most certainly fashioned by H. Baron in 1928." A 20th century pedant's definition of humanism as something puritanical and brittle.

Intellectual history is not synonymous with history  

Naturalism undermines individualism, but not republicanism. It undermines philosophers' pretensions but not lawyers' trade.

For, though the word Humanität had come, in the eighteenth century, to mean little more than politeness and civility, it had, for Kant, a much deeper significance, which the circumstances of the moment served to emphasize: man’s proud and tragic consciousness of self-approved and self-imposed principles, contrasting with his utter subjection to illness, decay and all that implied in the word ‘mortality.’

…in a hospital tent at the clearing station I came across a man with a French flag wrapped around his waist; the medics discovered it when they cut his shirt away. He was a hard-looking, blondish chap with a mouthful of gold teeth and a face adorned by a cross-shaped knife scar—the croix de vache with which procurers sometimes mark business rivals. An interesting collection of obscene tattooing showed on the parts of him that the flag did not cover. Outwardly he was not a sentimental type.
"Where are you from?" I asked him.
"Belleville," he said. Belleville is a part of Paris not distinguished for its elegance.
"What did you do in civilian life?" I inquired.
That made him grin. "I lived on my income," he said.
"Why did you choose the Corps Franc?"
"Because I understood," he said.

Most arguments against mass surveillance don't respond fully substantively to claims that you shouldn't worry if you "have nothing to hide".  Defense of personal freedom isn't enough.  What's needed is an argument in defense of the need for citizens in a democratic state to be able to be all kinds of wrong, all kinds of confused, creepy, conflicted, desirous, weepy or hate-filled, so that they may be able to learn to understand and outgrow their childishness. The choice is between a community of adults with a minority of the inveterately childish and criminal or a community of children ruled by moralists and crime lords.

Republicanism is a practice, not a theory. It succeeds when people are willing to balance their competing desires; there's no rule as to when or how. 

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