NEEDED: NEW PHILOSOPHERS FOR A NEW AGE
The dichotomy will be
between "intellectuals" and "managers," the former concerned
with words and ideas, the latter with people and work. To transcend this dichotomy
in a new synthesis will be the central philosophical and educational challenge
for the post-capitalist society.
-Peter Drucker, 1993, age 83
philosophical and moral doctrines cannot be endorsed by citizens generally,
and they also no longer can, if they ever could, serve as the professed basis
-John Rawls, 1993, age 72
Based on a lifetime of experience, celebrity author and consultant Peter Drucker sees society being transformed by the Information Age to a superior economic system in which workers are educated, involved, contributory, and rewarded as owners, in other words, democratic capitalism.
Based on a lifetime of study, celebrity author and philosophy professor John Rawls rejected any universal plan for social progress. Drucker proposed that progress will depend on how well the thinkers and doers collaborate on the analysis and the action plan. Rawls says it cannot be done, do not bother to try. This latter view is disappointing since Rawls, in 1971, had challenged the utilitarians with his concept of a society based on the rights and opportunities of each individual, including the least advantaged. Phrased in terms of political philosophy, the early Rawls advocated the greatest individual development of all in a harmonious whole, in other words, democratic capitalism.
Drucker's wisdom and experience was drawn from many sources; his knowledge was multidisciplinary, his experience multi-faceted, his area all parts of the world. Rawls' wisdom was based mainly on single-discipline scholarship practiced inside a university. Drucker oriented social progress to a superior economic system. Rawls, until he gave up, oriented it to a superior political arrangement.
I share Drucker's optimism, but the new synthesis by new philosophers must not only define the means to realize the new opportunities but must also neutralize the damage from anti-idealists like Rawls. What shall we call this new generation of philosophers? Noosphereans, Global Villagers, Digital Age philosophers, Information Age philosophers, Post-Post-Modernists, Neo-Idealists, Post-Capitalists? No matter what we call them, they will celebrate a new century and a new millennium, examining the convergence of religion, science, economics, governance, law, and philosophy.
The prophet of convergence, Teilhard de Chardin, was a Jesuit priest, scientist, (paleontologist), and philosopher of enormous optimism about humans and their potential. Decades before the advent of the microprocessor and Internet, Teilhard foresaw the world unified by new technology. Teilhard described the process: "Like the meridians as they approach the poles, science, philosophy and religion are bound to converge as they draw nearer to the whole." Teilhard coupled convergence of science, religion, and philosophy with the emergence of a vision of all people united by technology and spirit.
Emergence was no less than a Divine Milieu, a perfect world, the Omega, or heaven on earth. It represented the fulfillment of human yearnings since antiquity, now enhanced with a new pragmatism. Teilhard described emergence:
To those who can use their eyes,
nothing, not even at the summit of our being, can escape this flux any longer
because it is only definable in increases of consciousness. The very act by
which the fine edge of our
minds penetrates the absolute is a phenomenon, as it were, of emergence.
What Teilhard foresaw is coming to pass in individual freedom for full development in a harmonious whole that is both the means and the end in this newly practical philosophy. In a world rapidly becoming unified through computers and telecommunications, the forces for freedom and a better life are transcending the traditional power structures. The political abstraction of the sovereignty of the people is becoming a reality; the organization of human affairs is becoming more democratized.
As more and more of the world's citizens are touched by the unification phenomenon, Teilhard felt that they would then realize that they are not just "an erratic object in a disjointed world." On the contrary, Teilhard exclaimed:
I doubt whether there is a more decisive moment for a thinking being than when the scales fall from his eyes and he discovers that he is not an isolated unit lost in the cosmic solitudes, and realizes that a universal will to live converges and is hominized in him.
Teilhard's works were not published until after his death in 1955. The Catholic Church was not comfortable with his integration of evolution and creation, although Teilhard said that the integration would lead to a perfect secular world that would be at the same time the realization of the divine plan. Teilhard placed humanity in this context:
Man is not the centre of the Universe as once we thought in our simplicity, but something much more wonderful, the arrow pointing the way to the final unification of the world in terms of life. Man alone constitutes the last-born, the freshest, the most complicated, the most subtle of all the successive layers of life.
Teilhard's vision was similar to that of Condorcet who summarized the work of the Enlightenment at the end of the eighteenth century (Chapter 3). They were both French, both scientists, both shared an optimism about the potential of each person and of society in general. Condorcet penned much of his optimism while in a French prison getting ready to die during the Reign of Terror; Teilhard wrote much of his vision while banished from his beloved Paris to China because of his controversial views. Personal hardship could not suppress the joy of these two French philosophers in their sense of unity and the possibilities for the human species.
Condorcet's vision was partly realized
through the improvement of millions of lives during the Industrial Revolution.
Teilhard's vision has a better chance at fulfillment, for the Information Age
Revolution will exceed the economic growth and productivity of the Industrial
Revolution, and, beyond that, is itself a force for global unification.
Both the Industrial Revolution and the Information Age Revolution added multiples of productivity that give to all the opportunity to live better. The benefits of the Industrial Revolution, however, were limited because the traditional power structures continued to dominate in their essentially feudal mode. Financial gains were made from the productivity of capital investment while foregoing the greater gains possible through investing in human capital. The command-and-control structure of government needed to fight wars was applied to commerce. The predatory nature of world imperialism among the Western powers was copied in the exploitation of workers. Capitalism was strong enough to improve lives, but it was an imperfect process that sustained the historical concentration of wealth and never approached the potential available from involving the people and sharing the improvement. Teilhard understood this condition:
Life held sway over none but slaves and children. It was a time, too, when the workers and the disinherited accepted without reflection the lot which kept them in servitude to the remainder of society.
The Information Age revolution is based on cognitive power, not manual labor, and requires the full involvement of people. Investment in human capital is no longer a choice; it is a necessity. A company cannot compete without educated, independent-thinking, involved people. Peter Drucker provided the context for this transformation from ultra-capitalism to democratic capitalism:
We are trying to straddle the fence, to maintain the traditional mind-set, in which capital is the key resource and the financier is the boss, while bribing knowledge workers to be content to remain employees by giving them bonuses and stock options. Bribing the knowledge workers on whom these industries depend will simply not work. The key knowledge workers in these businesses will surely continue to expect to share financially in the fruits of their labor. But the financial fruits are likely to take much longer to ripen, if they ripen at all. And then, probably within ten years or so, running a business with (short-term) "shareholder value" as its first, if not its only, goal and justification will have become counterproductive. Increasingly, performance in these new knowledge based industries will come to depend on running the institution so as to attract, hold, and motivate knowledge workers. When this can no longer be done by satisfying knowledge workers' greed, as we are now trying to do, it will have to be done by satisfying their values, and by giving them social recognition and social power. It will have to be done by turning them from subordinates into fellow executives, and from employees, however well paid, into partners.
This is extraordinary! Democratic capitalism will no longer be a choice, it will be mandated by competitive forces. Economic logic will prevail because commerce can no longer succeed by investing in physical capital only; capital must be invested to involve the people.
Teilhard was similarly excited about human potential, but whereas Marxism pursued the goal through collectivism, Teilhard emphasized personal responsibility:
For whatever extraordinary solidarity we have with each other in our development ..., each of us forms, nonetheless, a natural unit charged with his own responsibilities ... It is we who save ourselves or lose ourselves.
This individual development within a harmonious whole, with emphasis on personal responsibility, is the foundation of human affairs beginning in the individual person, reaching to the family, to the company, to the country, to the world.
The traditional power structure has impeded the spread of democratic capitalism during the past two centuries. Democratic capitalism grew by demonstrating its economic and social logic, but it has been a stunted progress with three steps forward, two back. Now, with the Information-Age revolution, democratic capitalism is both an economic necessity and an influence toward unifying people. Teilhard knew that social progress needed such a focus:
Man will continue to work and to
research so long as he is prompted by a passionate interest. Now this interest
is entirely dependent on the conviction, strictly undemonstrable to science,
that the universe has a direction and that it could, indeed, if we are faithful,
it should, result in some sort of irreversible perfection. Hence comes belief
As soon as we try to put our dreams into practice, we realize that the problem remains indeterminate or even insoluble unless, with some partially super-rational intuition, we admit the convergent properties of the world we belong to. Hence, belief in unity.
The world can be sufficiently unified by economic common purpose to improve all lives and eliminate violence while simultaneously retaining all of its wonderful cultural diversity. The momentum will be self-perpetuating as more and more people are educated and lives continue to improve. Information-Age technology makes it possible to reach every nation, every tribe, with educational materials, including the best practices for good health and the most productive techniques of agriculture. An extraordinary delivery system is now coming into place. An enormous library of knowledge, audio and visual, is available that needs only translation. The costs of this program are large but infinitesimally small when compared to continued misery, illiteracy, bad health, over-population, environmental damage, and war.
The Information Age transformation is presenting fresh opportunities for society. The vision was captured in mid-century by Teilhard, and restated at the end of the century by Peter Drucker. Although human history has demonstrated both extraordinary progress and inexplicable failure these visionaries now see new opportunities through a collaboration between the "thinkers" and the "managers." The optimism of the late-eighteenth-century Enlightenment to find the way to human progress through a scientific truth-searching process has survived two centuries of disappointment to be restated by new optimists in Enlightenment II, an improved opportunity through the Information Age transformation.
Twentieth Century: Celebrity philosophers abandon the search for a comprehensive secular doctrine.
Many philosophers in the late twentieth century were depressed by the events of the twentieth century, both the record violence and the failures of top-down reform ideologies, fascism, communism and socialism. Many proclaimed that God is dead, idealism is abandoned, social progress is a pejorative term, traditional values are illusions, the only thing alive are nihilism, relativism and for many, despair.
Isaiah Berlin (1904-1998) was a Fellow of All Souls, Oxford; a Fellow of New College, Professor of Social and Political Theory, and founding president of Wolfson College. An exponent of the history of ideas, he won the Erasmus, Lippincott, and Agnelli Prizes; as a defender of civil liberties he received the Jerusalem Prize. In 1957, British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan recommended Berlin for knighthood for "talking." Although Berlin never wrote a book he was a worldwide intellectual celebrity for his lectures and essays. He was also one of the leading intellectual quitters who proclaimed the Enlightenment to have been wrong, that there is no all-encompassing natural order and that the search for it is a waste of time.
Utopias have their value, nothing so wonderfully expands the imaginative horizons of human potential, but as guides to conduct they can prove literally fatal ... If one really believed that a single solution is possible, then surely no cost would be too high to obtain it; to make mankind just and happy and creative and harmonious forever, what could be too high a price for that? To make such an omelet, there is surely no limit to the number of eggs that should be broken, that was the fate of Lenin or Trotsky, of Mao and for all I know, of Pol Pot.
Berlin was following the consistent error of social commentators who begin with a top-down political arrangement, "the notion of the perfect state as the proper goal of our endeavors." In this he was right, for they do not work, and they do end up with a combination of state coercion, violence, and many broken eggs.
John Rawls became a Harvard professor
of philosophy in the 1960s. In 1971, he published A Theory of Justice, material
that Rawls had used for years in his courses. This book made Rawls one of America's
leading philosophers, a response that took the author by surprise. Two hundred
thousand copies of the book were sold in the United States, and it was translated
into 23 languages. Some five thousand books and articles have been written that
deal with Rawls' theories in whole or in part.
Twenty-two years later, Rawls wrote Political Liberalism in which he shared Berlin's explicit rejection of the Enlightenment's view that a process of scientific reasoning could discover the best order for human governance:
Whether there is or ever was such an Enlightenment project (finding a philosophical secular doctrine, one founded on reason and yet comprehensive), we need not consider it; for in any case political liberalism, as I think of it, and justice, as fairness as a form thereof, has no such ambitions.
The conclusion of Berlin and Rawls that it is impossible to organize human affairs rationally is a reaction to the failure of communism, fascism, and socialism. Their intellectual fatigue resulted from the collective failure to perfect society by an elite design; it did not work; ergo, it cannot be done. The alternative, that it did not work because the structure was wrong and untrained leaders made huge mistakes, was apparently not considered. Many intellectuals have a profound ignorance of people, of their potential, and of what organization is appropriate to encourage them to reach their potential. Philosophers like Berlin and Rawls approached the problem from the wrong end, and so predictably, it did not work.
Berlin, Rawls, and many others thus recommended that the search for a common ideology be terminated and replaced with pluralism, defined by Berlin as "the conception that there are many different ends that men may seek and still be fully rational ... our values are ours, and theirs are theirs."
Berlin, Rawls and others who reject a common ideology that can unite and elevate, think in terms of a political order. Politicians are interested in politics, philosophy professors are interested in philosophy. Philosophers need an epiphany to see that the answer lies in the economic, not the political, system, and that cultural reform will emulate democratic capitalism. It is this superior economic system that is the solution to the mystery of human progress. New politicians, motivated and instructed by new philosophers, can then lead the way.
The intellectual default of the left at the time of Marx and Mill was caused by the same factors that are now causing the default of those like Berlin and Rawls, who abandon the search for social progress because of insufficient understanding of democratic capitalism and its potential. Paradoxically, this failure lies in the epistemological process of the philosophers. Many who have dedicated their life to philosophy start, however, by rejecting knowledge as the power for social benefit with reasons that are inherently anti-intellectual. The humanists do not understand that the bridge to science is first to copy the truth-searching process. The humanists also tend not to be multi-disciplinary in their scholarship, and they habitually communicate and debate only with those who share their scholarly background. While many liberal-arts professors are suspicious of the sciences, almost all of them are contemptuous of capitalism. If, as proposed, democratic capitalism is the "single solution," it does not get scrutiny, both because "single solutions" in general are rejected and because any form of capitalism as "a single solution" would be regarded as not worth consideration.
Despite Berlin's rejection of utopian visions, he came close to defining common purpose, for he described the universal goals that transcend all cultures:
All men sought the satisfaction of basic physical and biological needs, such as food, shelter, security, and also peace, happiness, justice, the
harmonious development of their natural faculties, truth, and somewhat more vaguely, virtue, and moral perfection.
Berlin also understood that the urge to eliminate impediments to reach these goals was inherent in the human spirit:
The conviction that once the last obstacles, ignorance and irrationality, alienation and exploitation, and their individual and social roots, have been eliminated, true human history, that is universal harmonious cooperation, will at last begin in a secular form of what is evidently a permanent need of mankind.
Berlin described specific human needs and the human urge to attain them. While rejecting utopia, Berlin summarized a structure capable through democratic capitalism of attaining utopia:
It would follow that the creation of a social structure that would, at the least, avoid morally intolerable alternatives, and at the most promote active solidarity in the pursuit of common objectives, may be the best that human beings can be expected to achieve, if too many varieties of positive action are not to be repressed, too many equally valid human goals are not to be frustrated.
The early Berlin thus had described the human need for a common ideology as well as its specific goals. The goals were all products of an economic system that would have to be honest and fair not to offend many cultural values. Berlin had stepped up to the door marked "democratic capitalism." He failed to knock and enter because he had neither understanding or interest in economics.
Berlin described his epiphany that "shocked his earlier faith" when he discovered that the Machiavellian view of "a ruling class of brave, resourceful, intelligent, gifted men" who knew how to seize opportunities and use them, was incompatible with "Christian virtues of humility, acceptance of suffering, unworldliness, and the hope for salvation in an after life." Berlin was correct; these two are incompatible, but why did he treat them as the only alternatives? Berlin concluded from this limited examination "that not all the supreme values pursued by mankind now and in the past were necessarily compatible with one another."
Berlin concluded that the universal human aspirations for food, clothing, shelter, security, happiness, morality, and justice for all, could not be attained by either the Machiavellian philosophy or Christian secular passivity. They could be attained, however, through a system that couples brave, resourceful, intelligent people with Christian and other religions' virtues of honesty and compassion.
Before he declared defeat and walked off the field, in Rawls' earlier work he validated the concept of social idealism when he proposed a comprehensive doctrine for a just society based on two principles:
First: Each person is to have an
equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible
with a similar scheme of liberties for others.
Second: Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are reasonably expected to be to everyone's advantage, and attached to positions and offices open to all.
Rawls, like Berlin, came close to identifying democratic capitalism as the common ideology for social justice. His first principle was basically a restatement of the social ideal "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" according to the American Declaration of Independence.
Rawls' second principle is both Christian and Marxist. It proposed that inequalities of wealth and authority are just only when they are part of a structure that provides benefits to the most disadvantaged. Rawls was proposing that the structure provide for a meritocracy of talent and virtue that also elevates the least advantaged. However, instead of greedy and individualistic meritocracy, Rawls described individual development of all in a harmonious whole, the fundamental governance principle of democratic capitalism.
Rawls' second principle calls attention to how well the weakest link can be motivated and trained. A structure to encourage the greatest self-development of the least advantaged through education, training, and motivation would lead to a comprehensive plan for the greatest development of all.
Ultra-capitalism, with CEO's annual compensation in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, could not pass Rawls' second principle. Such compensation could not be rationalized as necessary for the benefit of the least advantaged, and in fact it damages the harmonious environment in which the least advantaged could prosper.
Rawls' second principle is not merely abstract theory. If it were a guiding principle of American political life, we would recognize the large overdue obligation to millions of youths who have not been given the minimum benefits of education, training, and motivation. Many end up on minor drug charges as part of the growing prison population.
Why Rawls abandoned the search for a common ideology is not clear. Perhaps with his orientation to political solutions, he was discouraged by how thoroughly special interests contaminated the democratic political process. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century there has been an erosion of any common ideology as relativism became pervasive in many parts of the culture. Moral relativism rejects any universal moral values, epistemological relativity rejects integrity of knowledge, metaphysical relativism even rejects objective reality. Instead of using relativism as part of the epistemological structure, some treated it as a final answer.
Engineers will remind us that everything has a tolerance, there are no absolutes. Social progress, however, requires only improvement, not perfection, in applying the few rules based on individual freedom and reciprocity among people. This universality is demonstrated by the similarity among the few rules that are derived from three different points of view: The natural order based on inherent human characteristics, a rational order designed and tested by human reason, and the plan for secular perfection common to most religions.
The search for a "comprehensive
philosophical doctrine," as Berlin and Rawls called it, has gone through
four phases and at the turn of the century was entering a fifth. The first phase
in Western civilization until the Middle Ages was theological domination. The
pendulum then swung too far to confidence in human reason exclusively. This
was followed by recognition by some that truth-searching is an imperfect process
best pursued with contributions from all sources-reason, experience, tradition,
and faith. The post-modern phase was to reject the mission, believing that there
is no way to reach the illusory secular goal. The fifth phase, emerging in the
new century, is a convergence of the sciences, humanities, economics, business,
law, philosophy, and religion. Drawing on a full range of knowledge properly
organized, new philosophers can define how the growth, productivity, and unifying
influence of the Information Age in a more democratic world can improve all
lives and stop the violence.
The architecture of knowledge of these new philosophers will have to be both broad and deep. Broad in that all disciplines must be represented in order to find a holistic plan for human betterment. Deep because the failure of the best thinkers throughout history demonstrates how elusive the solutions are. More thinkers, more cooperation and more interactions are needed to identify why society is functioning at a fraction of potential and what steps are necessary to attain full potential.
For over four thousand years, force has dominated reason in the relations among nations.
Hammurabi (2113-2081 B.C.) was at first a successful warrior, who brought order out of the incessant local warfare in lower Mesopotamia. He then drew up 285 laws and inscribed them in a public place for participation by all. When order had replaced violence and society was based on justice under law, Hammurabi then addressed the general welfare by investing in infrastructure, both human and physical. He dug canals, stored grain for famines, lent money at no interest to stimulate commerce, and prevented exploitation of the weak by the strong. Broad wealth distribution and better education improved the standard of living and stimulated momentum in all branches of knowledge:
No one looking at the site of ancient Babylon would suspect that the hot and dreary wastes along the Euphrates were once the rich and powerful capital of a civilization that almost created astronomy, added richly to the progress of medicine, established the science of language, prepared the first great code of law, taught the Greeks the rudiments of mathematics, physics, and philosophy, gave the Jews the mythology which they gave to the world, and passed on to the Arabs part of that scientific and architectural lore with which they aroused the dormant soul of medieval Europe.
This exemplary society lasted only a short time. Eight years after Hammurabi's death, Babylon was invaded and pillaged by the Kassites, a tribe of mountaineers from the northeast border. These invaders, probably European immigrants, conquered and ruled in ethnic and political chaos for centuries. Society had advanced quickly, but it was brought back to barbarism even more quickly. For the four thousand years since, benevolent governments, and the rule of law have been destroyed or displaced by predatory forces and the rule of force.
The only way that predatory actions can be contained is cooperative force by other nations. For some such as xenophobic American politicians, however, this implies an intrusion into "sovereignty" and is rejected. In other words, containing violence is still unresolved early in the twenty-first century.
500 BC: Confucius presented a template for the proper organization of human affairs.
Confucius, (552-479 B.C.) a humanist searching for ways to benefit the general welfare, provided the world with a template for the organization of secular life. The elements of the template were few, simple, and democratic. They included the worth of each individual, self-development in a harmonious whole, broad educational opportunities, civic order in the state, moral discipline in the individual and family, equality of opportunity, broad wealth distribution, meritocracy in the selection of leaders, and an end to violence.
Confucius grew up in the state of Lu, part of modern Shantung. He came from a noble family, but his father died when Confucius was three, so he grew up in poverty. "I was of humble station when young, that is why I am skilled in menial things." He worked first as a tax collector and started a lifetime of study of why people are poor and oppressed. Later he began a government career as Master of Crime (Police Commissioner), Assistant Superintendent of Public Works, and Chief Magistrate. A renowned public servant and idolized by the people, he nevertheless grew tired of public service, left office, and spent thirteen years travelling China with his students.
As a scholar, Confucius had learned of cultures that changed from a tribal society, in which the influence of spiritual beings was almost total, to a secular society in which human ingenuity was challenged to build a better life. Confucius adopted and passed on the view that human destiny is dependent on one's own good works and thoughtful action.
As a boy and a man, Confucius studied the old master, Lao-Tze, who long before had written a book in two parts, the Tao and Te. Confucius had learned that Tao, the way of the universe, and Te, the way of life, are one. Human life in its essentially two-some rhythm of yin and yang is part of the rhythm of the world. In that cosmic Tao, all the laws of nature form together the substance of reality. Like Aristotle, later, Confucius began by studying the nature of things, animate and inanimate.
Confucius' early humanist code was directed to individual self-development but he also integrated recognition of a supreme being, "It wasn't until I was fifty that I understood Tien Ming, the decree of Heaven, one of the things a gentleman stands in awe of." Modern religion and humanism have engaged in a lengthy cold war, each perceiving in the other threats to its theology. Confucius ignored whether the supreme being were a creator, the ultimate truth, or society's goal; he focused instead on the common means that illuminated "the way" to temporal happiness. Beyond that, Confucius cautioned his students: "Do not ask about the spirits when you do not even understand life."
In the Book of Great Learning, Confucius's students passed on his blueprint for temporal society, basing world order and state order on the family unit and on the individual's effort to find knowledge through a rigorous thought-process based on integrity:
The ancients who wished to manifest their clear character to the world would first bring order to their states. Those who wished to bring order to their states would first regulate their families. Those who wished to regulate their families would first cultivate their personal lives. Those who wished to cultivate their personal lives would first rectify their minds. Those who wished to rectify their minds would first make their wills sincere. Those who wished to make their wills sincere would first extend their knowledge. The extension of knowledge consists in the investigation of things. When things are investigated, knowledge is extended; when knowledge is extended, the will becomes sincere; when the will is sincere, the mind is rectified; when the mind is rectified, the personal life is cultivated; when the personal life is cultivated, the family will be regulated; when the family is regulated, the state will be in order; and when the state is in order there will be peace through the world. From the Son of Heaven down to the common people, all must regard cultivation of the personal life as the root or foundation.
During a lifetime of teaching and learning, Confucius had outlined this common philosophy of meritocratic governance based on individual development within a harmonious whole. However, Confucius specifically addressed the two greatest impediments to social progress: Concentration of wealth and violence among nations. Confucius proposed broad wealth distribution as fundamental to social harmony.
The centralization of wealth is the way to scatter the people, and letting it be scattered among them is the way to collect the people.
They produce wealth, disliking that it should be thrown away on the ground, but not wishing to keep it for their own gratification. Disliking idleness, they labor but not alone with a view for their advantage. In this way, selfish schemes are repressed and find no way to arise, robbers, filchers and rebellious traitors do not exist.
Confucius also knew that a world of law not violence began with trained and virtuous leaders. He was realistic that it would be a long process.
When the great principle prevails, when the world becomes a republic, they elect men of talents, virtue, and ability; they talk of sincere agreement and cultivate universal peace. After a state has been ruled for a hundred years by good men, it is possible to get the better of cruelty and do away with the killing.
Chinese philosophers had no confusion about war. Mencius (371-289 B.C.), one of Confucius' interpreters denounced war as a crime against humanity. "There are men who say `I am skillful at marshalling troops, I am skillful at completing a battle. They are great criminals, there never has been a good war.' Mencius, the prophet of universal love, marveled that a thief who steals a pig is condemned and punished, while an emperor who invades and appropriates a kingdom, enslaving the citizens, is called a hero and made a model to posterity.
The Chinese philosophers over two
millennia ago put war into proper context as a scandal and embarrassment to
the human race. It kills, maims, and does severe economic damage. One of the
greatest dangers to realizing the benefits of global democratic capitalism is
war. War is a failure of leadership, mistakes made by a few poorly trained men.
War will be eliminated, according to Confucius only after "men of talents,
virtue, and ability talk of sincere agreement and cultivate universal peace."
350 BC: Aristotle defined the process where the study of the nature of things would indicate their full potential and the circumstances required to attain it.
Young Aristotle (384-322 BC) came to Athens in 367 BC to study with Plato, then in his sixties, for the next twenty years. Aristotle was a model for the Enlightenment process as he used systematic truth-searching, which he called logic, to understand the nature of things, which he called physics, and to understand the principles of social association, which he called ethics.
Aristotle's lifetime of scientific investigations came naturally to him as his father was a doctor. Aristotle searched in every growing process for its essence, purpose, end, or telos, believing that an understanding of the growth potential was prerequisite to identifying the circumstances necessary for its attainment. With the right circumstances the process would result in the perfect plant from the best nutrition, the animal reaching potential excellence in its body and limited associative skills, and the human reaching potential excellence in mind, body, and extensive associative skills.
Aristotle defined the terms and integrated logic, physics, and ethics in the process that could find the best organization of human affairs, the necessary circumstances, for each and all to reach full potential. This was the challenge that Aristotle accepted, this was the challenge repeated by the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, and is the contemporary challenge for Enlightenment II. It is a three-part responsibility: First for humans to use their reason to define their full potential individually and collectively, secondly, for humans to use their reason to define the requisite circumstances, and finally for the thinkers and managers to cooperate in reforming the circumstances to the ideal. The ultimate good for the human species is still pending the success of this process.
Aristotle had the multi-disciplinary knowledge to define the state structure that could allow the humans to reach potential. His examinations included the study of 158 constitutions in his effort to find the best. The quality of Aristotle's truth-searching was, however, compromised by the realities of violence among nations and states and slavery as the mode of production. For example, Aristotle's pupil Alexander the Great was considered "great" for his ability to invade and subjugate whole nations killing, raping and pillaging in the process. Although Aristotle freed his slaves in his will, he defended slavery as a proper institution to be supported by the state.
Aristotle returned to Athens in 335 BC and set up his Lyceum dedicated to the examination of nature near Plato's Academy. Aristotle specifically rejected all three of Plato's waves of reform: Women with equal rights for leadership; dissolution of the family unit in favor of the state; and, the power concentration of the centralized government by guardians directed by philosopher elites. Aristotle believed that the emancipation of women was too radical to work. He believed in the family and did not believe that the state could properly raise children. In designing the excellent state structure Aristotle rejected the oligarchy of the rich and the democracy of the poor believing that government controlled by extremes would be unable to serve the general welfare. Aristotle instead, favored a state managed by the middle class who, either through ability or good fortune, had been given the most conducive circumstances for their development, and were most likely to extend the opportunities from those circumstances to others. Aristotle's structure prevented the concentrated power from the political right or left that would leave the state in the control of the "special interests."
Aristotle described the process and the state structure for the human species to reach potential but his society could not provide the circumstances. Slavery, concentrated wealth, and violence among nations were all so institutionalized in Aristotle's society that humans were able to reach only a fraction of potential. Socrates in Plato's Republic had rejected, in theory, the "might is right" government but in practice the predatory society had the momentum of history and economic motivation on its side.
Aristotle in Politics described the association of people in a state structure that would provide the circumstances allowing each to reach full potential. In Ethics Aristotle described how the individual could seek excellence both in personal talents and in social cooperation. In this goal of individual development in a harmonious whole, Aristotle proposed four elements including courage, temperance, justice, and practical reason. In each case Aristotle emphasized that it was practical intelligence, wisdom, "street smarts," that was crucial to moderating the extremes of each of these attributes. Courage was a virtue, unless rash or foolish; temperance was a virtue in the enjoyment of pleasures unless in excess, justice was the obligation to give each their due but that elusive goal was met only by wisdom in defining the means.
Aristotle likened the pursuit of excellence to learning how to play the flute. In both cases it takes training and practice with the first effort very inexpert. This seems obvious except in society's pursuit of excellence, where is the training and practice in contributing to the harmonious whole?
1250 AD: Thomas Aquinas attempted to combine knowledge from faith and reason.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) undertook the task of integrating knowledge from many cultures drawing on Jewish and Muslim philosophers as well as Christian. The common denominators of these philosophers were prodigious work covering the multi-disciplinary spectrum of science, humanities, medicine, philosophy and religion with profound study of Aristotle referred to as "The Philosopher." Included in this assimilation were the works of Muslim philosopher Avicenna (980-1037 AD), Muslim philosopher Averroes (1126-1198 AD), and Jewish philosopher Maimonides (1135-1204 AD).
Avicenna, who lived in what is now Iran and Iraq, wrote over 100 books including medical texts that were used in Europe for another 500 years. Averroes was also a renowned physician who wrote a medical text in Latin. Like his father and grandfather before him Averroes was also the Chief Justice of Cordoba, Spain. He was known as the "Commentator" for his knowledge of Aristotle, as he had been commissioned by the Emir to write a clear exposition of Aristotle's works.
Maimonides, named Moses, was born nine years after Averroes in Cordoba, also the son of a scholar, physician and judge. Maimonides and his family left Spain after the invading Berbers demanded that all convert to Islam. Maimonides later became a famous rabbi and a scholar in biblical and rabbinical literature, medicine, mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. Like Aquinas a century later, he attempted to reconcile Greek philosophy with religious dogma and provoked a battle among Jews between strict orthodoxy and philosophy similar to battles among the Christians and Muslims. Violence and book burning in this struggle was common.
These philosophers of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries were pioneering the bridging of their faiths and reason. Harmonizing the beliefs of Aristotle with the revealed truths of their religions was challenging as most religions believed that the world was created and the soul immortal, while Aristotle believed the opposite. It is not surprising that the works of all of these thinkers, including Aquinas, were attacked, but they were eventually accepted by that part of religious communities concerned with the temporal human condition who recognized that there was little contradiction between the advice of religion about secular conduct and the Aristotelian process. The necessity in all cases was to determine the nature of things, animals, and humans; to determine the limits of the growing process, and then to identify the circumstances that wold allow growth to full potential. The circumstances included, for example, religious visions of brotherly and sisterly love and unity of purpose.
Aquinas made a major contribution by packaging the illuminations from so many brilliant people from so many different cultures. It was a good start in bridging faith and reason, a task still as important and still not complete. Aquinas' Summa helped free the minds to be applied to improving the human condition but it was still too early to propose individual autonomy and economic freedom for all. 1600 years after Aristotle, Aquinas repeated the defense of slavery as a proper institution deserving support from the establishment, accepted violence among nations, but added death for heresy to Aristotle's barbaric practices.
Early Seventeenth Century: French and English philosophers pursue human betterment through the power of knowledge.
Rene Descartes (1596-1650) French mathematician and philosopher, and Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English statesman and philosopher, shared the mission of applying the power of knowledge to improving the human condition. Descartes and Bacon felt that the material then presented by the educational system was confused, and the process by which it was attained was badly flawed. Having restated their belief in the ideal of social progress both men recommended ways to improve the process.
Rene Descartes was the son of a prosperous lawyer, educated by the Jesuits, studied and traveled in many parts of Europe. In 1628 he moved to Holland where he spent most of his life but died in Sweden where he hade gone to be tutor to the Queen.
Descartes was part of the freeing of the mind from theological domination at the same time that his work was inhibited by the authority of the church. Many were revolting against the Aristotelian-Scholastic confused curriculum of truths arrived at by reason and ecclesiastical authority. The assimilation done several centuries earlier by Aquinas had been used primarily for the education of clerics and was being attacked by the skeptics, particularly followers of Phyros the Greek Skeptic, a contemporary of Aristotle.
Recognition that there was no certain truth as the process was relative and subjective was as old as philosophy but now the church used the skeptics to support their authority on the argument that if truth could not be reliably ascertained by reason then it had to be provided by faith.
Descartes tried to improve on both Plato and Aristotle with extensive efforts in both metaphysics, including proofs of the existence of God, and physics with investigations into an amazing variety of things, including crop failures, refraction in optics, and the effect of altitude on atmospheric pressure. Descartes' contemporary, English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, felt that Descartes should have stuck to physics as his metaphysics were confused by the separation of mind and body.
Descartes undertook to build an architecture for finding truth and accumulating knowledge believing that great benefits would accrue to society from humans becoming "the masters and professors of nature." Nevertheless he straddled science and religion by affirming the reason "does not prevent us from believing matters that have been divinely revealed as being more certain than our surest knowledge."
Galileo (1564-1642) also affirmed fidelity to the authority of the church but his material on the validity of the Copernican theory was so thorough and convincing that he was condemned in 1628 and spent the rest of his life in house arrest. When Descartes became aware of this he hid a major work from publication until after his death.
Descartes proceeded to outline a structure for truth-searching accompanied by moral maxims to live by. His Discourse on Method includes "accepting nothing as true which I did not clearly recognize to be so," "to divide up each of the difficulties that I examined into as many parts as possible," "to carry on my reflections in due order," meaning to conquer the simple, then to move on to the more difficult, a building-block technique, and "to make examinations so complete and reviews so general that I should be certain of having omitted nothing."
Although Descartes is still criticized as the father of rationalism, that is, the belief in reason as the exclusive source of knowledge, he started his search for truth on values dependent on experience, tradition, as well as reason:
Before commencing to rebuild the
house which we inhabit, to pull it down and provide materials and an architect,
unless we have also provided ourselves with some other house where we can be
comfortably lodged during the time of rebuilding, so in order that I should
not remain irresolute in my actions while reason obliged me to be so in my judgments,
and that I might not omit to carry on my life as happily as I could, I formed
for myself a code of morals for the time being, which did not consist of more
than three or four maxims, which maxims I should like to enumerate to you.
Among Descartes' maxims was "to obey the laws and customs of my country, adhering constantly to the religion in which by God's grace I had been instructed since my childhood."
Descartes is famous for, "I think, therefore, I am," however, his dedication was more truth-searching than skeptical.
I did not wish to imitate the skeptics who doubted only for the sake of doubting, and intended to remain always irresolute. On the contrary, my whole purpose was to achieve greater certainty and to reject the loose earth and sand in favor of rock and clay.
Descartes combined in his career the work of a mathematician, philosopher, and teacher. Francis Bacon, an Englishman, was a philosopher, lawyer and politician. He worked for years on the Great Instauration, his statement on how to renew and restore the method for accumulating knowledge. In 1620, Bacon published Novum Organum, featuring his new experimental method of confirming truth.
Bacon, the humanist and author, pursued a busy career and became a member of Parliament in 1584. Between 1607-1618, he held successively higher positions up to Lord Chancellor, but he was then disgraced and exiled from the court by his political enemies who claimed a conflict of interest in his acceptance of gifts.
Bacon faulted education both for the process and the content arguing that its mission was not the improvement of society through intelligent leadership or informed citizenry. His Novum Organon was a direct attack on the educational tradition as Aristotle's Organon was a standard text. The curriculum initiated by Aquinas was directed to clerical education and Bacon thought that it mixed religion and reason to the confusion of both. As a result it was increasingly irrelevant for the rapidly growing population of young men in training for politics and commerce.
While the attack was against the Aristotelian curriculum, as interpreted in seventeenth century scholasticism, the movement was in fact a return to Aristotle's investigation of things to find the essence, the growth potential, the favorable circumstances and the impediments. Bacon agreed with the inductive approach of learning from experience, testing the resulting generalizations, and then moving onto higher levels of generalizations. Bacon accommodated relativity and subjectivity in truth seeking, in the way he built the process that would have to be dynamic, collaborative, and cumulative. Dynamic because it was a reiterative process that was constantly modified by new or improved knowledge; collaborative because it required representatives from all scholarly disciplines and diverse cultures, and cumulative because it was a building block process where each verified block provided a new level to add new knowledge.
Bacon attacked superficiality in the thought process:
The primary notions of things which the mind readily and passively imbibes, stores up and accumulates, are false, confused, and over-hastily abstracted from the facts ... whence it follows that the entire fabric of human reason which we employ in the inquisition of nature, is badly put together and built up, like some magnificent structure without any foundation.
Let him correct by seasonable patience and due delay the depraved and deep-rooted habits of his mind; and when all this is done and he has begun to be his own master, let him use his own judgment.
Bacon presented two books of Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and The Kingdom of Man. The first book contained over 100 aphorisms, many of them still relevant for contemporary philosophers. Bacon insisted, for example, that the end must be clear before defining the means.
It is not possible to run the course right when the goal itself has not been rightly placed.
Bacon warned against excessive abstract theory; and was the intellectual ancestor to David Hume in anchoring reason to what works in practice:
Roads to human power and to human knowledge lie close together, and are nearly the same, nevertheless, on account of the pernicious and inveterate habit of dwelling on abstractions, it is safer to begin and raise the sciences from those foundations which have relation to practice and let the active part itself be as the seal which prints and determines the contemplative counterpart.
For Bacon, the final step in the process was experimental verification, "a course of experiment orderly conducted and well built up."
Bacon's repeated theme was that the ability of the human species to maximize opportunities was dependent on the quality of the knowledge. Bacon emphasized the axiom that errors of knowledge will lead to mistakes in operation. The process fails again when mistakes in operation lead to new theory instead of a search for the original error. When the original theory was superficial and poorly thought out, and feedback from the inevitable mistakes in operation is then analyzed in a similarly superficial process, this faulty process then leads to additional faulty theory.
Bacon reasoned from nature to find appropriate rules for human action:
Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known, the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed, and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.
Between Descartes and Bacon, an architecture for the development, organization, and validation of knowledge, well started by Aristotle, was refined. Like truth itself, the architecture had to be constantly analyzed and refined. The process worked well in the sciences but had only partial success in the governance of human affairs, where reason had to battle traditional domination by predatory forces.
After Descartes and Bacon, Western intellectual development followed two imprecise paths, one in the Greek tradition, where rational contemplation of the ultimate truth of things is "the highest attainment," the other in the Roman tradition, where the practical aspects of human existence are "a larger and more significant whole in relation to whole ends. Our philosophic apprehensions should be viewed as subordinate though still very valuable means." This difference could also be summarized, with a large error-tolerance, as the difference between the continental rationalists, such as Descartes, and the English empiricists, such as Bacon, Hobbes and Locke.
Eighteenth Century: The Enlightenment uses the systematic thought process of Aristotle, Descartes and Bacon to define the means for the best organization for human affairs.
The meritocracy of Confucius did not exist in Western culture. In Aristotle's society the mode of production was slave-based, in Aquinas' it was serfdom. Until the eighteenth century Western society was static with little opportunity for either freedom or mobility for the majority. Many people were persecuted or killed for religious beliefs, many were imprisoned for writing what they believed to be true.
All of this changed during the life of Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire (1694-1778) and his protegee Condorcet. Voltaire energized the intellectual movement in Europe toward freedoms to think and to act. Condorcet summarized the just society defined by the Enlightenment, in his Tenth Stage (see Chapter 3).
The son of an affluent family, Voltaire studied with sons of the nobility at the Jesuit College in Paris. Soon after, Voltaire began his attacks in plays, prose, and poems and was under constant surveillance and threat. Francois Marie Arouet was not known as Voltaire until his first time in the Bastille in 1718. After another episode, instead of the Bastille, Voltaire was banished to England in 1726. During his three years in England, Voltaire refined his social philosophy and broadened his knowledge with study of John Locke's empiricism and inalienable rights of all, and Newton's extraordinary contributions to science. The relative freedom from the English Constitutional Monarchy impressed Voltaire as did the growing affluence from the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. In England at that time, commerce was respected, not demeaned, by a growing middle class and even some of the nobility.
Voltaire returned to the continent with a broadened understanding of potential social progress from the integration of scientific advances, individual freedom, economic freedom, and political freedom. In combination these seemed to be the circumstances that gave promise for humans to reach their potential. The progress that Voltaire viewed in England was relative to France as wealth in England was still concentrated and the workers crowed into the cities in poor living conditions little better than most serfs. Voltaire later added to his English experience with several years living at the court of Frederick William II, King of Prussia with whom Voltaire had a difficult relationship for over forty years.
Voltaire and others of the Enlightenment in their wide-ranging curiosity discovered the Chinese culture and Confucius. Voltaire developed a great respect for the philosophy and structure of China and wrote extensively about their society, calling China: "The finest, the most ancient, the most extensive, the most populous and well-regulated kingdom on earth." Although much of the knowledge of the Chinese came from the Jesuits, the Enlightenment presented the Confucian ethic as a moral code for secular society developed from reason and experience uncoupled from religious dogma.
Most of the French Enlightenment, conditioned by their antagonism for the oppressive church-state structure, were either deists or atheists. Others, like German Immanuel Kant, saw commonality in the morality developed for the secular existence from reason and that derived from religion. Kant felt reason and religion were complimentary, not competitive.
The Enlightenment's most ambitious task was the Encyclopedie, an enormous effort to capture and codify all knowledge. While many contributed, the two that worked the longest and the hardest under constant harassment were Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Jean Le Rone d'Alembert (1717-1783). Diderot came from a middle class family and studied at the Jesuit College in Paris. He gave up early thoughts of being a priest and chose a life of the thinker and writer. D'Alembert was abandoned as an infant, raised by a step-mother, and studied at the University of Paris. He also dedicated his life to the intellectual pursuits usually living in poverty. He was a scientist doing important work in mathematics and calculus whose "d'Alembert Principle" was a well-known theorem helpful in mechanical calculations. Most of the Enlightenment, including Voltaire were scientists or involved in scientific investigations. They followed the Aristotelian tradition of studying the nature of things, a discipline that they then carried over into the analysis of society. From an understanding of the nature and potential of any growing process they could then identify the circumstances necessary to reach full potential.
While the Enlightenment made advances
in science and knowledge, and identified errors made by earlier thinkers, they
honored those from whose intellectual momentum they derived the courage and
information to attempt the Encyclopedie. D'Alembert, for example, observed:
"At the head of these illustrious personages should be placed the immortal
Chancellor of England, Francis Bacon whose works, so justly esteemed deserve
our study even more than our praise."
D'Alembert and Diderot were in regular communication with Voltaire and well schooled in Newton's scientific advances beyond those of Descartes who they felt had been hampered by religious persecution or at least critical attention. D'Alembert nevertheless described the movement toward freedom stimulated by Descartes who:
Dared to show to alert mines how to free themselves from the yoke of Scholasticism, opinion, authority, in a word, from prejudice and barbarism, and by this revolt, of which we today gather the fruits he rendered to philosophy a service perhaps more difficult than all those that it owes to his renowned successors.
Claude Adrien Helvetius (1715-1771) was one of twenty children of a physician to the king and queen. It was this connection that later kept Helvetius out of prison. Helvetius studied with the Jesuits and, inspired by Voltaire who he met shortly after college, dedicated his life to study and writing. Helvetius spent many years at his home with family writing De l'Espirit (On Intelligence). The Enlightenment were well versed in economics and included material on the Phisiocrats and laissez-faire theory in the Encyclopedie. Helvetius was part of the Enlightenment but was also a wealthy man who wrote with special authority on the persistent impediment of concentrated wealth:
The almost universal unhappiness
of men and nations arises from the imperfections of their laws, and the too
unequal partition of their riches. There are in most kingdoms only two classes
of citizens, one of which wants necessaries, while the other riots in superfluities.
If the corruption of the people in power is never more manifest than in the ages of the greatest luxury, it is because in those ages the riches of a nation are collected into the smallest number of hands.
In 2001, in the United States, as the damage from speculating with borrowed money is becoming more apparent, the feeding frenzy in executive compensation worsens, and the concentration of wealth breaks new records, Helvetius' words have a threatening echo.
The constant battle and occasional imprisonment over the material in the Encyclopedie exhausted and eventually caused Diderot and d'Alembert to withdraw but not before the first volume of the Encyclopedie was published in 1765.
Shortly before his death, the last of the eighteenth-century French Enlightenment philosophers, the Marquis de Condorcet, summarized the French architecture of the rational ordering in human affairs. Condorcet saw the accumulation of knowledge, both scientific and social, as a step-process in which matters requiring profound thought by genius are captured and made simple for many.
Condorcet saw the process expedited by commercial progress and education. As the standard of living improved, more people would become educated. Condorcet emphasized the necessity of including women in this process, to form a broader base of world citizens with sufficient education to absorb the contributions of their predecessors. From this broader base, the probabilities would be improved that new genius, whether man or woman, would extend knowledge to a new level. This is the way it has worked in science, but to the shame of the intellectual community, it is not the way it has worked to define the rational organization in human affairs.
Condorcet described this ratcheting process:
The truths whose discovery has cost
the most effort, which at first could be grasped only by men capable of profound
thought, are soon carried further and proved by methods that are no longer beyond
the reach of ordinary intelligence. If the methods that lead to new combinations
are exhausted, if their application to problems not yet solved requires labors
that exceed the time or the capacity of scholars, soon more general methods,
simpler means, come to open a new avenue for genius.
We shall point out how more universal education in each country, by giving more people the elementary knowledge that can inspire them with a taste for more advanced study and give them the capacity for making progress of it, can add to such hopes; how these hopes increase even more, if a more general prosperity permits a greater number of individuals to pursue studies, since at present, in the most enlightened countries, hardly a fiftieth part of those to whom nature has given talent receive the education necessary to make use of their talents.
The broad based educational opportunities
for both men and women envisaged by Condorcet has come to pass in the mature
economies. The building block process in identifying, verifying, codifying and
promulgating knowledge applicable to improving the human condition is yet to
be done. It is the mission of new philosophers in Enlightenment II. They have
the benefit of Information Age technology to fulfill the mission on a worldwide
Voltaire, and in effect the Enlightenment, were honored for their impact on French society when Voltaire returned to a hero's welcome in Paris shortly before his death in 1778. The ability of the Enlightenment to move from abstract theory to action was demonstrated when Voltaire's passion for toleration was reflected in an edict on toleration by Louis XVI in 1787. Other reforms of the state were proceeding based on the advice of Condorcet's friend Turgot, the King's financial minister. Unfortunately, King Louis XVI vacillated between reform and the Queen's and nobles' defense of privilege once too often, and the revolution became bloody and ugly.
Eighteenth Century: Adam Smith proposes economic freedom as the key to eliminating worldwide material scarcity.
In 1776, the American Declaration of Independence proclaimed the mission of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." In the same year, Adam Smith described the means to this end: Economic freedom through private property; competition; involved, well paid workers; and the technology of the Industrial Revolution. This combination would drive costs and prices lower opening up new markets whose additional volume would add more wage-earners, more purchases, and even lower prices. Smith felt that this self-perpetuating growth depended on surplus being distributed to the wage-earner for purchases, rather than to the wealthy whose purchase of luxuries and portfolio investments had little economic benefit. Smith also specified control of the "prodigals and projectors" to prevent them from deflecting capital to speculation, thereby making money high-cost, scarce, volatile, and impatient, all inversions of the money needed to make Smith's vision work.
Adam Smith was very much a part of the Enlightenment. Drawing on his background in moral philosophy, the study of the phisiocrats and their laissez-faire theories in France, and an understanding of the productivity potential of the Industrial Revolution he proposed in Wealth of Nations in 1776 that there was an economic system capable of eliminating material scarcity. For the first time in human history there was an alternative to nations and people battling over finite resources.
The human duality of individual appetites and ambitions in combination with the instinct for social cooperation could be found by following Aristotle's study of the nature of things. With Smith's proposed economic system the circumstances changed radically. Instead of predatory appetites trampling on social cohesion there was a system that worked best through cooperation. In theory, the economic motivation for violence among nations and people was over. In theory, the productivity and growth potential of this new economic system would distribute wealth broadly. The two major impediments to improving the human condition were eliminated. Nations no longer had to use force against other nations to improve the circumstances of their people, through free trade they could improve the circumstances cooperatively. No longer did the few have to concentrate wealth by impoverishing the many. All would gain from the cooperative growth of the new system.
Following the Industrial Revolution, the progression of knowledge among an increasing number of educated women and men became possible when democratic opportunities made a free and comfortable life available for many instead of the few. Until the eighteenth century, the motivation for gathering knowledge about governing human affairs had been constricted by the realities of poverty and social immobility. Many were destined to an existence closer to the animal than to the noble, as the rational order was impeded by predatory forces. This changed gradually as more freedom was forced into the process.
In the Western world, economic freedom began to demonstrate its power to improve lives. The intellectual community had available an epistemological process initiated by Aristotle assimilated by Aquinas, refined by the architecture of Descartes and Bacon, plus the ratchet effect of accelerating knowledge described by Condorcet. The intellectual community had the benefit of Condorcet's summary of the Enlightenment's agenda for a just and prosperous society, Smith's summary of the economic system that could eliminate material scarcity, and the American Declaration of Independence that proclaimed the right of all to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," for all.
The "thinkers" now had an architecture of knowledge that defined the ideal of eliminating material scarcity and violence along with specific definition of how to couple democracy and capitalism as the means to that end, and finally considerable verifications that these means, competently applied, could reach that ideal.
Nineteenth Century: Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill propose how Smith's economic system can reach full potential by involving and motivating the workers.
Like Smith before them, Marx and Mill followed the Aristotelian process by studying the nature of workers and recognizing that the growing industrial process could reach full potential only by changing the circumstances, the work culture, the nature of things.
By the mid-nineteenth century, capitalism had demonstrated its ability to improve lives but was functioning at only a fraction of its potential. In 1848, Karl Marx identified the reason: Capitalism had enormous productive capacity to eliminate material scarcity worldwide but capitalism's distribution of surplus was so concentrated that most people did not have the money to buy what capitalism could produce.
Marx pointed out that in an economic decline, this flaw of capitalism accelerated the downward cycle, as lost jobs and wage cuts further reduced demand. Marx believed that worker ownership was the solution because workers would be motivated to maximize surplus that would then be distributed broadly. Marx felt that this superior economic system would supersede capitalism.
John Stuart Mill, in the same year, in the same city, London, also proposed worker ownership as the method of balancing capitalism's demand with supply. Mill, however, had a better understanding of management of change than Marx, and grafted his refinements onto the existing system of private property and competition. By combining management skills with more productive workers in a new work culture, Mill reached the same end but avoided Marx's structural mistakes that later caused such tragic results.
John Stuart Mill was superbly educated in many disciplines. As a teenager, he discussed economics with David Ricardo, and social theories with Jeremy Bentham, who were both friends of his father. Mill was also a man of experience, having worked for the East India Company and served in Parliament.
Marx, building on the idealism of his German predecessors, Kant and Hegel, added his theory of dialectical materialism, and concluded that social progress would depend on a superior economic system that would distribute wealth broadly and lead to a classless, non-alienated society. Marx spent years, most of it holed up by himself in the library of the British Museum, integrating his economic theories with his social theories. Marx had little practical experience; he worked for a living only occasionally as a writer or journalist.
Mill had been trained like a scientist in rigorous truth-searching protocols. He understood the management of change, and from this perspective he proposed profit-sharing and worker ownership as a democratic extrapolation of capitalism that could solve the problem of the maldistribution of wealth. Marx, however, was an angry radical with only vague ideas about how to reach his ideal. Knowing little about the management of change, he proposed solutions that would tear down the whole structure, political, economic, and religious.
The intellectual left, proved as a group, to be closer to Marx's profile than Mill's; they too suffered from limited experience and inadequate knowledge of finance and economics. They were neither equipped nor trained to present an agenda for reform that had much chance for success. The intellectual left had ignored the Aristotelian process, the architecture of Descartes and Bacon, the economics of Smith, and Condorcet's summary of the Enlightenment, and instead they followed Marx's shallow, emotional, unworkable solutions. Their enormous process failure led the world into a wrong turn with tragic results throughout the twentieth century when governments would kill 160 million people, mostly innocent civilians.
Both Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill made success of the economic democratic system conditional on promotion of the general welfare by a supportive government and the subordination of the financial system to the building and selling of things. Although this superior economic system was defined with great specificity, it was not sufficiently examined and debated by academia, or offered for examination to students who would later lead companies and countries. As Marx observed, the intellectual right supports the existing economic system and tends to sustain it beyond its economic logic. During this time the intellectual right did defend the status quo while the intellectual left sought radical alternatives. The right answer, democratic capitalism, was left to the trial-and-error efforts of managers with a democratic vision.
Marx and Mill had different ways to put in place the circumstances conductive for each individual to reach their full development in a harmonious whole. The work culture is now described variously as empowerment, decentralization, based on investing in human capital. It is the work culture based on the dual nature of people providing opportunity for individual development in a harmonious whole. It is the work culture necessary in the Information Age in order to release the cognitive, not manual, power of the people.
These educated, independent-thinking, involved people are, at the same time, the profile of the ideal citizenry needed to make democracy workable. Is it possible that commerce, thus transformed, can become the source of values, an example of morality in action to be emulated by the other elements of the culture? Why not? Marx was right about many things, and this watershed event is no more than confirmation of his theory: "The writers of history have so far paid little attention to
the development of material production, which is the basis of all social life, and therefore of all real history."
The Information Revolution is based on the most elementary truth about the organization of human affairs: The opportunity for the fullest development of the individual within a harmonious whole. The ideal of society reaching its full potential as the sum of individual development is right out of the Communist Manifesto: "In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all."
Twentieth Century: Ludwig Von Mises described why capitalism was failing to reach full potential: The greedy few were able to dominate the uninformed many.
Ludwig Von Mises was one of the Austrian economists and a mentor to Friedrich Hayek. Later in America, Von Mises became known as a conservative economist because of his support of economic freedom. In 1912, however, Mises wrote of how government policies dominated by financial capitalism caused economic damage and damaged social cohesion. Mises described the deliberate deflation in Great Britain after the Napoleonic wars which restored the asset value of the wealthy to pre-war levels by putting people out of work, cutting wages, and raising prices.
Calamitous economic hardship resulted from this deflation; they stirred social unrest and begot the rise of an inflationist movement as well as the anti-capitalist agitation from which after a while Engels and Marx drew their inspiration.
This same brutal practice was copied in the United States after the Civil War with the same results. After World War I Great Britain followed this policy again. John Maynard Keynes pointed out that not stabilizing the monetary position at the inflated level of 1920 gave Great Britain a decade of unemployment.
These are examples of how wealth is persistently concentrated through government privilege and, in turn, is an example of why instead of economic freedom reaching full potential, social tensions are provoked.
The same philosophy of protecting the asset value of the wealthy by victimizing the people is used every time the economy is damaged by either war or the excesses of ultra-capitalism. Mises, the economist honored by conservatives, provides these examples of why government fiscal and monetary policy must be designed by representatives of the people, not representatives of finance capitalism.
Mises thought in Aristotelian terms and in the tradition of the Enlightenment made these observations about the process failure in the rational search for truth:
The main objective of praxeology and economics is to substitute consistent correct ideologies for the contradictory tenets of popular eclecticism. There is no other means of preventing social disintegration and of safeguarding the steady improvement of human conditions than those provided by reason. Men must try to think through all the problems involved up to the point beyond which a human mind cannot proceed farther. They must never acquiesce in any solutions conveyed by older generations, they must always question anew every theory and every theorem, they must never relax in their endeavors to brush away fallacies and to find the best possible cognition. They must fight error by unmasking spurious doctrines and by expounding truth.
Mises analyzed humans free to make their choices in one of his books appropriately titled Human Action. He fulfilled the Enlightenment vision by applying his multi-discipline wisdom to the combination of economic freedom, the search for the rational order, and a warning about the damage from dogma whether from the left or the right of the political spectrum.
Friedrich Hayek warns that the movement away from individual freedom toward state control is the Road to Serfdom.
The political left has never learned enough about economics and finance to understand how the political right was concentrating wealth with government privileges. Instead of following the Aristotelian process of studying the growth potential of the system, defined by Smith and refined by Marx and Mill, the political left indulged their Platonian instinct for central control by an elite. Using growing democratic power they attacked concentration of wealth by taxing and redistributing it. During the twentieth century this process of collectivism in the United States raised all taxes as a percentage of the GDP from 3% to over 30%.
In 1946 Hayek wrote Road to Serfdom describing how the movement then underway in Europe and the United States would lead from socialism to fascism. Hayek's book shocked and angered most of the intellectual community but his theory has been validated in practice since by the loss of freedoms in all forms of collectivism and consequently, the failure of all systems of central control.
Both the collectivism on the left and the concentration of wealth by the right derive from government privilege. Both prevent the economic system of Smith, Marx and Mill from reaching full potential. They are not only impediments to full potential but they polarize and gridlock the process preventing real reform. It is this impasse that needs the probing analysis of Enlightenment II resulting in a citizens' agenda for reform.
Conservatives' high opinion of the works of Mises and Hayek in most cases fail to focus on their monetary views. Capitalism's need for low-cost, ample, non-volatile, patient capital could be fulfilled, in the opinion of Mises and Hayek, by free banking monitored and punished by all the usual forces of competition. If one cannot have free banking, however, then government policies have to provide the kind of capital that promotes economic growth and prevents privileges for speculation. The present fiscal and monetary system in the United States however, is the worst of both worlds that privatizes the profits and nationalizes the losses. This would not fit the Austrians' definition of free markets.
Conservatives are pleased with Hayek's espousal of laissez-faire, but they tend to overlook his litany of government responsibilities that go beyond laissez-faire. Hayek's role for government includes virtually every liberal mission, though he emphasized that it is the means to the end that needs debate, not the end itself. Hayek also characterized conservatism as "paternalistic, nationalistic, power-adoring, a defender of established privilege and closer to socialism than true liberalism."
Hayek had a clear view of why elitists fail at governance when they use their energy to seek alternative social orders in political solutions rather than trying to improve their understanding and use of the underlying principles of the economic system. From Hayek's study of these principles, he became an exponent of
spontaneous order and a critic of collectivism which would not work well and lead to tyranny. Subsequent events validated his thesis.
Hayek understood that the extraordinary improvement in lives had been accomplished by economic freedom, but he also understood that a higher standard of living generated new demands to sustain and broaden the progress:
Wherever the barriers to the free
exercise of human ingenuity were removed, man became rapidly able to satisfy
ever widening ranges of desire; and while the rising standard soon led to the
discovery of very dark spots in society, spots which men were no longer to tolerate,
there was probably no class that did not substantially benefit from the general
At this moment, when the greater part of mankind has only just awakened to the possibility of abolishing starvation, filth and disease; when it has just been touched by an expanding wave of modern technology after centuries or millennia of relative stability; even a small decline in our rate of advance might be fatal to us.
It is this phenomena that places special urgency on an Enlightenment II. Violence among nations and concentration of wealth, the twin impediments to the superior economic system reaching full potential, no longer have any economic logic and should be terminal. However the momentum of history, including the ugly features is great. Hayek points out, however, that in our smaller world of instant communication most people develop an impatience for the good things in life. When, instead, their living standards decline as they have at the end of the twentieth century, in Indonesia and Russia, two of the world's most populous nations, the people will not stand for it for very long. If true reform does not position democratic capitalism to eliminate material scarcity, elevate spirits and unify people then new waves of violence will be provoked.
A contradictory view of the twenty-first century: Either humans use reason to shape circumstances in order to reach full potential or more folly and violence.
At the beginning of the twentieth century there was great optimism that violence among nations would be displaced by the rule of law. There was similar optimism that growing democracy was diffusing political power and would inevitably result in a diffusion of economic power. The intellectual community however failed in the process of identifying the means to these ends. The people did not use the growing democratic power to eliminate the impediments because they were not informed. As a result the twentieth century, measured in terms of people killed by governments, was the worst failure in human history. This failure did not result in many in the intellectual community recognizing their process failure, instead many abandoned the search for the best organization for human affairs.
French intellectual Jean-Francois Revel is the author of over twenty books and a former editor and director of L'Express. Revel reminds us that while totalitarian governments are founded on systematic mendacity, democracy depends on citizens' free choices based on the free flow of truth. Revel explains the central paradox of the twentieth century, the bending and warping of the truth in democratic countries because of ideological or intellectual laziness. Revel also explains why economic freedom will lead to political freedoms whereas political freedoms do not always lead to economic freedom. Revel points out that without improving food, clothing, shelter, health and education, political freedoms can be a cruel illusion.
Revel discriminates between authoritarian states and totalitarian states. Authoritarian states may not have all political freedoms but can choose an economic life that is largely autonomous and encourage freedom in philosophy and the arts. A totalitarian government "by definition is a cast-iron monopoly of politics, the economy, and the culture for the benefit of a self-appointed oligarchy."
Revel recognized the world movement to free markets at the end of the twentieth century but reminded us of a similar optimism for a better world at the end of the nineteenth century that failed to foresee that the twentieth-century would be corrupted by totalitarian governments. Likewise, at the end of the twentieth century, many intellectuals were ignoring the reasons for the implosion of central planning, underestimating the unifying effect of the Information Revolution, and still treating unexamined capitalism as the enemy. This myopia may predestine the twenty-first century to more folly and violence, unless new philosophers can present a rational plan for citizens' consideration.
Revel in his various books has provided an important concept to be integrated into the process of moving from tyranny to economic freedom. He emphasized that in the difficult management of change priorities have to be arranged properly. This should be obvious but in a politicized, superficial environment, United States politicians seek political benefit by criticizing other countries' "human rights" violations without placing them within the context of a long, broad process. China is an example of such criticism where an ongoing movement from tyranny and a low standard of living to economic freedom, and a higher standard of living was criticized for human rights abuses. The first priority is sufficient food, clothing, shelter, education, good health and hope. Fortunately, it is economic freedom that best produces these fundamental needs. Revel cautions us to understand the process including the inevitable transition to political freedom by the educated, independent-thinking people required for economic freedom to work.
Revel also addressed the intellectual process failure that is threatening the world movement to freedom. He faults his fellow intellectuals for allowing their personal psychological urges to dominate their intellectualism and render them incapable for the function upon which society depends.
Everything thus boils down to the
erroneous way in which the elusive problem of the "function of the intellectual
in civil society" is usually posed. How can the intellectual be the rudder
of society if he proves himself incapable of playing this role in his own thinking?
How can he be a teacher of honesty, rigor, and courage for the whole of society
when he is dishonest, inexact, and cowardly in the very exercise of intelligence?
Still, I venture to hope that we have finally reached the end of an era during which so many intellectuals strove above all to place mankind under their ideological domination, and that we are entering a new epoch in which they will at last settle down to their true vocation, which is to place knowledge at the service of human beings, and not simply in the scientific and technical domains. This transition from the old era, when sterilization of knowledge was regarded as the norm, to a new age is not simply one possible choice among others: it is a necessity. Our civilization is condemned to abide by its underlying principles, or else it will regress toward a primitive stage where there will no longer be a contradiction between knowledge and behavior, knowledge in the meantime having disappeared.
Revel and others have examined the intellectual community's failure to fulfill its truth-searching role in society, first by promoting a terribly flawed agenda, collectivism in all of its forms, and subsequently by denying that any agenda was possible. Revel emphasized that this failure contaminated the whole educational process and led to an impasse at the end of the twentieth century. The hope for a world united by economic common purpose can be realized only when the educational process presents to the best young minds an ideal, the means to attain it, and the empirical evidence that it works.
Karol Wojtyla had been a student of philosophy in his homeland, Poland, when he became a priest. He understood that faith must constantly challenge reason to continue the confusing task of finding truths, applicable to secular progress: "Reason needs to be reinforced by faith in order to discover horizons it cannot reach on its own." In 1998, Pope John Paul II marked his twentieth anniversary as pope with his celebration of these interdependent forces in Fides et Ratio, Faith and Reason.
John Paul II respected cultural diversity, sensing that philosophy emanating from these many sources would find common ground:
Philosophy is directly concerned with asking the question of life's meaning and sketching an answer to it. Philosophy emerges, then, as one of the noblest of human tasks. According to its Greek etymology, the term philosophy means "love of wisdom." It is an innate property of human reason to ask why things are as they are, even though the answers which gradually emerge are set within a horizon which reveals how the different human cultures are complementary. Philosophy's powerful influence on the formation and development of the cultures of the West should not obscure the influence it has also had upon the ways of understanding existence found in the East. Every people has its own native and seminal wisdom which, as a true cultural treasure, tends to find voice and develop in forms which are genuinely philosophical.
John Paul II summarized the philosophical damage done by excessive rationalization, to the secular religious appeal of Marxism, to the abandonment of the philosophical quest by the nihilists:
Some representatives of idealism sought in various ways to transform faith and its contents, into dialectical structures which could be grasped by reason. Opposed to this kind of thinking were various forms of atheistic humanism, expressed in philosophical terms, which regarded faith as alienating and damaging to the development of a full rationality. They did not hesitate to present themselves as new religions serving as a basis for projects which, on the political and social plane, gave rise to totalitarian systems which have been disastrous for humanity.
As a result of the crisis of rationalism, what has appeared finally is nihilism. As a philosophy of nothingness, it has a certain attraction for people of our time. Its adherents claim that the search is an end in itself, without any hope or possibility of ever attaining the goal of truth. In the nihilist interpretation, life is no more than an occasion for sensations and experiences in which the ephemeral has pride of place. Nihilism is at the root of the widespread mentality which claims that a definitive commitment should no longer be made, because everything is fleeting and provisional.
Pluralism in its celebration of the richness, meaning, and pride in various cultures should be as much an enemy of nihilism as democratic capitalism which celebrates how all cultures can unite in economic common purpose.
Pluralism, or multiculturalism, is based on minority groups participating fully in the economic-political system while maintaining cultural identity. In this emphasis, pluralism is consistent with the democratic capitalistic fundamental of all having the opportunity for full development in a harmonious whole. Pluralism is an emphatic restatement of the democratic promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is vital, however, to recognize that pluralism restates the end but it is democratic capitalism that provides the means.
Descartes spent his life defining a process to lead to truth. He lived in an age, however, of intellectual tyranny when people were not free to follow their reason or collaborate with others in the use of reason. At the beginning of the new century and millennium in most parts of the world there are no restrictions to the free use of reason. Paradoxically, some intellectuals have converted their social and political beliefs into a quasi-religion where any argument with the authority of their beliefs is not met with curiosity and debate but rather with reflex emotion, threats, and insults. Ignored in this new form of intellectual tyranny is Mises' advice:
The problems involved are purely intellectual and must be dealt with as such. It is disastrous to shift them to the moral sphere and to dispose of supporters of opposite ideologies by calling them villains. It is vain to insist that what we are aiming at is good and what our adversaries want is bad. The question to be solved is precisely what is to be considered as good and what as bad. The rigid dogmatism peculiar to religious groups and to Marxism results only in irreconcilable conflict. It condemns beforehand all dissenters as evildoers, it calls into question their good faith, it asks them to surrender unconditionally. No social cooperation is possible where such an attitude prevails.
The means and the end will be clear when new philosophers rebuild the rigorous truth-searching disciplines that this most vital subject, the future of the human species, demands. Superficial thinking and dogma are contradictions to this intellectual quest. It is instructive to recognize that some of the more optimistic recent philosophical offerings in this century have come from those trained first in scientific truth-searching disciplines, Teilhard de Chardin, a renowned paleontologist, Edward O. Wilson, a Nobel-Prize-winning biologist.
These scientists were also multi-discipline philosophers who used rigorous truth-searching protocols required by science to gain knowledge relative to improving the human condition. Many humanists on liberal arts faculties battle with scientists rejecting science as too mechanistic, too deterministic, to be useful in the broad area of human affairs. Many with this attitude betray a flawed epistemological process. Their single discipline scholarship disabled them from finding the multi-disciplinary solutions required in complex human affairs and their methods did not force them into a fuller examination.
Roger Kimball, an author and editor also examines the anti-Enlightenment attitude:
It is a curious irony that self-creators from Nietzsche through Derrida and Richard Rorty are reluctant children of the Enlightenment. In his essay `What is Enlightenment? Immanuel Kant observed that the Enlightenment's motto was sapere aude, `Dare to know!' For the deconstructionist, the liberal ironist, and other paragons of disillusionment, that motto has been revised to read "Dare to believe that there is nothing to know." The Enlightenment sought to emancipate man by liberating reason and battling against superstition. It has turned out, however, that when reason is liberated entirely from tradition, which means also when it is liberated entirely from any acknowledgment of what transcends it, reason grows rancorous and hubristic: it becomes, in short, something irrational.
To the extent that Enlightenment rationalism turns against the tradition that gave rise to it, it degenerates into a force destructive of culture and the manifold directives that culture has bequeathed to us. Like so many other promises of emancipation, it has contained the seeds of new forms of bondage. Philosophy has been an important casualty of this development. It is no accident that so much modern philosophy has been committed to bringing us the gospel of the end of philosophy. Once it abandons its vocation as the love of wisdom, philosophy inevitably becomes the grave-digger of its highest ambitions, interring itself with tools originally forged to perpetuate its service to truth.
Others have translated sapere aude with more of a challenge: Have courage to use your own reasons.
Edward O. Wilson, Harvard professor and winner of both Nobel and Pulitzer prizes for science and literature, explained that the title of his book, Consilience, means the unification of knowledge and he selected this rare word as more precise than "coherence." Wilson proposed a vision similar to Teilhard's of the social progress possible through the unification of knowledge. He identified single-discipline scholarship in academia and the under-prepared media as serious impediments to the unification of knowledge requisite to organizing human affairs rationally:
The root cause of the problem: ... the overspecialization of the educated elite. Public intellectuals, and trailing close behind them the media professionals, have been trained almost without exception in the social sciences and humanities. They consider human nature to be their province and have difficulty conceiving the relevance of the natural sciences to social behavior and policy. Natural scientists, whose expertise is diced into narrow compartments with little connection to human affairs, are indeed ill prepared to engage the same subjects. What does a biochemist know of legal theory and the China trade? It is not enough to repeat the old nostrum that all scholars, natural and social scientists and humanists alike, are animated by a common creative spirit. They are indeed creative siblings, but they lack a common language. There is only one way to unite the great branches of learning and end the culture wars. It is to view the boundary between the scientific and literary cultures not as a territorial line but as a broad and mostly unexplored terrain awaiting cooperative entry from both sides. The misunderstandings arise from ignorance of the terrain, not from a fundamental difference in mentality.
Wilson could have added economics, finance, law, and principles of governance to the disciplines not integrated with liberal arts in the search for truth about the human condition.
Many intellectual leaders have rejected the challenge of the Enlightenment and abandoned the search for a unifying force. Others attack any value system; everything to them is relative. The pluralism that means, "Make up your own value system, one is as good as another" is a negative influence. The pluralism that insists on "full participation in the dominant economic-political system by all groups and cultures" is a positive influence.
Edward Wilson describes the confusion.
All movements tend to extremes,
which is approximately where we are today. The exuberant self-realization that
ran from romanticism to modernism has given rise now to philosophical post-modernism
(often called post-structuralism, especially in its more political and sociological
expressions). Post-modernism is the ultimate polar antithesis of the Enlightenment.
The difference between the two extremes can be expressed roughly as follows:
Enlightenment thinkers believe we can know everything, and radical post-modernists
believe we can know nothing.
The philosophical modernists, a rebel crew milling beneath the black flag of anarchy, challenge the very foundations of science and traditional philosophy. Reality, they propose, is a state constructed by the mind, not perceived by it. In the most extravagant version of this constructionism, there is no "real" reality, no objective truths external to mental activity, only prevailing versions disseminated by ruling social groups. Nor can ethics be firmly grounded, given that each society creates its own codes for the benefit of the same oppressive forces. If these premises are correct, it follows that one culture is as good as any other in the expression of truth and morality, each in its own special way. Political multiculturalism is justified; each ethnic group and sexual preference in the community has equal validity. And, more than mere tolerance, it deserves communal support and mandated representation in educational agendas, not because it has general importance to the society but because it exists. That is, again, if the premises are correct. And they must be correct, say their promoters, because to suggest otherwise is bigotry, which is a cardinal sin.
Wilson attacked on all fronts and angered the defenders of a rights-based society so much that they poured water over Wilson's head after he finished speaking, chanting "He's all wet." Tom Wolfe described the attack on Wilson as "one of the most remarkable displays of wounded Marxist chauvinism in American academic history.
A whole generation of sensitive people has been weaned on a combination of multiculturalism, pluralism, relativism and nihilism. A rights-based society was an extrapolation of the vital civil rights movement. Antagonism to the establishment was an extrapolation from opposition to the Vietnam War. Relativism and nihilism are products of the obscene wars of the twentieth century. All of these can be productive social pressures unless they are so pervasive that they displace the unifying influence of a common ideology.
Edward Wilson examined deconstruction:
Post-modernism is expressed more explicitly still in deconstruction, a technique of literary criticism. Each author's meaning is unique to himself, goes the underlying premise; nothing of his true intention or anything else connected to objective reality can be reliably assigned to it. His text is therefore open to fresh analysis and commentary issuing from the equally solipsistic world in the head of the reviewer. But then the reviewer is in turn subject to deconstruction, as well as the review of the reviewer, and so on in infinite regress. That is what Jacques Derrida, the creator of deconstruction, meant when he stated the formula II n'y a pas de hors-texte (There is nothing outside the text). At least, that is what I think he meant, after reading him, his defenders, and his critics with some care. If the radical post-modernist premise is correct, we can never be sure that this is what he meant. Conversely, if that is what he meant, it is not certain we are obliged to consider his arguments further. This puzzle, which I am inclined to set aside as the "Derrida paradox," is similar to the "Cretan paradox" (a Cretan says "all Cretans are liars"). It awaits solution, though one need not feel any great sense of urgency in the matter.
This put-down may be appropriate but intellectuals' support of a new social ideal and their contributions to identifying the means to the end is an urgent matter. Democratic capitalism needs the understanding and support of these brilliant people, both optimists and pessimists who are truly sensitive to the human condition. Deconstruction is the latest iteration of the skeptic philosophy and should be part of the continuous process of truth seeking.
Greek philosophers both before and after, challenged Plato's and Aristotle's one important agreement that ultimate truth was attainable. Protagoras (481-411 BC) had proclaimed that all truth, beauty and goodness are relative and subjective; Phyrro (360-300 BC) agreed. David Hume repeated this skepticism in the eighteenth century. Skepticism, then and now, is a vital part of the challenge and debate nature of truth-seeking.
All skeptics are correct, there are no absolutes, perfection is not attainable, each individual sees, hears, feels, and smells things with imperfect senses and reasons with a culturally conditional mind. But what does this have to do with finding the best way to improve the human condition, a relative goal. What works well can be clear, and reason is a powerful tool, when done in collaboration by a sufficiently culturally diverse group representing the full range of scholarly disciplines. This antidote to subjectivity combined with the goal of relative progress in a continuous process is the mission of truth-seekers throughout history and is now the mission of Enlightenment II.
Friedrich Turner, Professor of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas predicts a synthesis of religion, art, and science, providing a third option in the culture war between the left and the right:
Huge changes have recently occurred that offer good prospects for peace and steady economic development. World communism has collapsed, and with it the economic and political appeal of socialism. The age of information economics has begun. The computer is multiplying the power of the brain as the steam engine and internal combustion engine multiplied the power of the body. Reproductive technology, together with increased human longevity, have made it possible for societies to survive without consigning one whole sex to the work of reproduction and nurture, and thus the talents of women have become available for other tasks. Chaos theory, ecological thinking, and an enlarged and deepened conception of evolution have revolutionized the sciences by making plausible a nonlinear creative potential to counteract the modernist conception of the universe as deterministic and decaying. Much of the erstwhile Third World has transformed itself into bustling capitalistic democracies. Together, these forces spell the end of an old world-view, that of modernism and postscript postmodernism, and the beginning of a new. But these changes are still in their infancy, or even in utero, and they are tragically vulnerable to the forces that oppose them. A new era has begun, but it faces the baleful resentment of those who cling to the late-modernist and postmodernist era that gave it birth.
Turner proposes an emerging "radical center" with a new view of value that can transcend the zero-sum view of both the left and the right. According to Turner, the intellectual left believes as follows:
This natural value can be extracted from nature only by painful labor, that it is distributed among human beings either through coercive control by a ruling class/race/gender or through liberating struggle against that control.
Turner believes that the intellectual conservative right shares this "shrinking pie" view but with a different emphasis: "Natural value is a diminishing stock pile that is distributed by the invisible hand of the market, a just process that cannot be disrupted without economic damage."
This zero-sum world described by Turner is contrary to Adam Smith's dynamic for wealth creation. Turner understands this, and he describes the radical center realizing both self-perpetuating growth and elevated spirits:
Value is continually created by the natural universe, that it is not a shrinking pie, and that human beings can share in and accelerate the growth of value through work which may be delightful, if disciplined.
Turner senses the transformation towards democratic capitalism:
As our technology enables more perfect and multidimensional forms of communication, as machines take over the drudgery, the labor basis of value is being replaced by an information basis of value; and this in turn will be replaced, perhaps, by an emergent kind of value which is hard to define but as a kind of embodied grace.
With "embodied grace," Turner is close to describing democratic capitalism that maximizes surplus and eliminates material scarcity by elevating spirits.
Because of the lack of academic visibility of democratic capitalism, professors such as Turner, have been left looking elsewhere for the moral system:
Unlike the tendency of laissez-faire capitalism, the regime of evolutionary hope would not reductively boil down all higher motivations to intelligent materialistic selfishness, but would recognize the equal reality of nobler impulses.
Even optimistic academicians share this bleak view of generic capitalism that ignores the democratic capitalism that maximized surplus by elevating spirits described in 1848 by John Stuart Mill:
Yet it (the material benefit) is nothing compared to the moral revolution in society that would accompany it; a new sense of security and independence in the labouring class; and the conversion of each human being's daily occupation into a school of the social sympathies and the practical intelligence.
Since many humanists have either abandoned or attack a secular ideal, a new social coalition needs assistance from religious thinkers. The values in the best coupling of democracy and capitalism are common with those of religion, both sustaining a belief in secular progress. Turner places religion in this powerful perspective:
Syncretism: The incorporation within higher and deeper religious ideas of the tenets, theologies, and observances of all the religious traditions, together with the new revelations that continuously pour forth from the sciences. Religion would be at the leading edge of science. Traditional religious concepts and metaphors would be recognized as culture-bound, partial, but valid formulations of the evolutionary direction we should take and have in general been taking, and as the missing component of social hope.
Turner's optimism is a contrast to most Post-Modern philosophers who rejected a rational order, objectivity, moral values, idealism, and social progress. Other optimists, such as Edward Wilson defend the Enlightenment:
I believe that the Enlightenment thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries got it mostly right the first time. The assumptions they made of a lawful material world, the intrinsic unity of knowledge, and the potential of indefinite human progress are the ones we still take most readily to our hearts.
The fall of Babylon to the invaders was a pattern repeated during the following four thousand years. Societies wold become more civilized, affluent, and comfortable and less civilized tribes or nations would invade for their economic benefit, raping and killing in the process. Later nations used force for economic exploitation of weaker nations. Such economic imperialism was extended worldwide by the Western nations during the last four centuries but was ended after World War II. New philosophers have the opportunity to seek the optimum arrangement for human affairs in the twenty-first century free of this impediment of imperialism where nations subjugated other nations.
Although national imperialism is terminal for lack of economic logic, new philosophers will still have to grapple with the reality that law in the relations among nations has not yet displaced force. This residual circumstance from centuries of imperialism will be eradicated by economic common purpose, rising affluence, better education, and a willingness of strong nations to collaborate in the use of force to discipline those nations still trying to use force for their purposes.
Many argue that violence and the domination by the human animal over the rational human is inherent in the species. I believe strongly that bloody human history is due to the failure of the reasoning process to be reflected in action through the democratic will of the people. During the twentieth century enormous progress was made in the standard of living of many, and the growth of democratic freedoms reflecting human urges and human reason. In contrast, one hundred and sixty million innocents killed by governments reflected not inherent evil but rather errors demonstrable in the reasoning process that led to tragic mistakes in action.
Confucius presented an arrangement for human progress. A secular code of morality, personal responsibility, and meritocoracy in the selection and training of leaders. Confucius specifically identified violence among nations and concentration of wealth as the impediments to human progress that could be purged in time by talented and virtuous leaders. China deliberately abandoned imperialism in Asia in the sixteenth century for internal development but subsequently was unable to avoid force among nations. The Confucian society was dominated by Western nations and Japan for the next four centuries.
Aristotle added a great deal to the process of truth seeking beginning with the investigation of the nature of things, proceeding through the identification of full potential, circumstances needed, and the impediments to be eliminated, in order for the growing process to reach full potential. Aristotle's society was dominated, however, by slavery and violence among states, consequently the rational organization of human affairs developed by his process had little chance for implementation.
Aquinas packaged Aristotle and a composite of religious teachings from Christianity, Islam and Hebrew. Aquinas' culture, however, was more barbaric than Aristotle's. Besides a continuation of forms of slavery, and violence among nations, books and people were burned for heresy.
Descartes and Bacon added significantly to the architecture for finding truth including Bacon's dynamic, collaborative, and cumulative process that harnessed knowledge for human betterment. While the epistomological process was improved by the efforts of philosophers the European continent was in a state of confusion between faith and reason. Instead of cooperating in the use of a common, secular, moral code, religion was assuming the authority to place the world at the center of the universe and killing people that disagreed.
The eighteenth century Enlightenment assimilated the wisdom of many, including for the first time the Chinese, and outlined the organization of society based on reason and experience. It included the elimination of war among nations and broad wealth distribution. Besides an improved definition of the means to the goal of social progress, the Enlightenment demonstrated the power of ideas by toppling the political tyranny of the church-state combination, and the intellectual tyranny of limiting freedom to think and write. The new freedoms provoked by the French Enlightenment were opposed by the defenders of the status quo and the transition turned into the ugly violence of the French Revolution.
During the eighteenth century the momentum toward intellectual, political and economic freedom was irresistible. In Scotland Adam Smith drew on this momentum, his knowledge of moral philosophy, and the technology of the Industrial Revolution to declare that material scarcity was no longer a necessary part of human existence. The implications were enormous. No longer was there an economic logic to violence among nations, no longer was there an economic logic to the concentration of wealth. For the first time in human history there was a practical way to neutralize the twin impediments to humans reaching full potential.
By the middle of the nineteenth century both Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill concluded that Smith's system for eliminating material scarcity had been experimentally verified. They agreed however that the capacity to produce was not properly matched with the capacity to consume. Consequently wealth was still concentrated and the potential for improving all lives and social cohesion was not being realized. Both recommended worker ownership as the refinement of capitalism that would maximize the surplus and distribute it so that it sustained economic growth. In Mill's proposal, workers would accumulate ownership by purchase and profit sharing in stock. As this included a financial sacrifice the motivation of ownership was assured. Marx did not understand management of change and proposed tearing down all of the infrastructure in order to introduce the new system.
The work of Smith, Marx and Mill contains the educational material crucial for new philosophers. An understanding of the way to maximize wealth and its distribution is fundamental to anyone who aspires to make a contribution to social progress. Responsibility for the new opportunities means that new philosophers have to do their homework in economics and finance in order to have a functional understanding of the means.
An important part of this education is an understanding of how and why Marx and his followers made such egregious mistakes. This study aids in understanding the correct dynamics of Smith's proposal. It is also necessary to understand how Marx's vision of individual development and the decline of the warrior state retrogressed into tyrannical governments that caused the tragic events of the twentieth century.
By the middle of the nineteenth everything was in place for humans to make dramatic progress toward comfort, freedom, elevated spirits and unity. The wisdom of the earlier philosophers had defined the intellectual process and outlined the rational order. It was the responsibility of the philosophers of that time to integrate the contributions of Smith, Marx, and Mill that specified the means that made the ideal a practical possibility for the first time. Its implementation would require modification of political structures and change in the culture as the means to the common goal of human progress was adopted. Enlightenment II new philosophers must understand how the opportunity at that time was lost because the next century and a half were dominated by concentrated wealth and violence among nations that could have been eliminated by the proper reforms through the democratic will of educated citizens and trained leaders.
At the end of the twentieth century, despite the end of imperialism, the advent of the Information Age, and the evidence that economic freedom improved lives, the world was still, incredibly, dominated by the twin impediments of violence among nations and concentrated wealth. The world's presumptive leader, the United States was gridlocked intellectually and politically by the left and the right. New philosophers have a greater responsibility to identify the correct reforms and purge these impediments because they no longer have any economic logic. Their roots are now more shallow and they can be more easily pulled and discarded.
The political gridlock in the United States was anticipated by Aristotle when he warned that the state should not be in the control of the rich, concentrating and protecting wealth, or the poor trying to take it away. According to Aristotle, only the middle class could design and support the system that produced and distributed wealth in such abundance that all needs were filled.
Twentieth century philosophers and economists Mises and Hayek are helpful to new philosophers as they described the pathologies of both the conservatives and the collectivists that are gridlocking the system. Mises described techniques used by the financial oligarchy to concentrate wealth. New philosophers need to understand these intrusions on economic freedom in order to design protections against continued exploitation. Hayek described the collectivists hurting wealth creation and individual freedom with their governments of the elite trying to redistribute wealth.
Although Hayek is usually described as a conservative economist he was, in fact, a true liberal whose belief in the power of freedoms was coupled with specificity in the means for governance according to liberal principles.
Late twentieth century philosophers do damage because they oppose the concept of the Enlightenment at a time that when the mission of human betterment is practical and the impediments to social progress can be eliminated. New philosophers should understand that these philosophers who abandon idealism because of the failures of the twentieth century are repeating the error of many intellectuals in mid-nineteenth century when they chose Marx's radical structural change instead of Mill's evolutionary refinements. The error then, and now, is reformers using new democratic power to redistribute wealth instead of influencing government to reform capitalism through fiscal and monetary policies. New philosophers need to understand that this persistent error is caused simply because the reformers do not understand the government policies necessary to refine capitalism in ways that maximize the creation and distribution of wealth. There is an enormous political power available to counteract the lobbying of finance capitalism, and collectivism, the reformers just need the agenda to energize this power.
New philosophers need to engage the postmodern deconstructionists in Enlightenment II as the latest generation of skeptics who assure validity in the challenge and response truth-seeking process. Bacon called this the dynamic part of the process where, for example, the hypothesis that social progress depends on movement to a superior economic system requires challenge, debate and many iterations analyzing experience presented to validate the hypothesis. Similarly, the hypothesis that democratic capitalism is this superior economic system that can eliminate material scarcity, elevate spirits and unify people requires extensive analysis of experience presented as experimental verification.
The common denominator among the post WWII visionaries and optimists such as Teilhard, Drucker, Wilson and Turner is the call for synthesis, or a bridging of disciplines. New philosophers will realize that as knowledge has become deeper it has become narrower. The extraordinary range of disciplines by earlier thinkers, such as Aristotle, Descartes, Voltaire, Condorcet, Smith, and Jefferson is rarely replicated now. All the more reason that the process has to be collaborative as Bacon described it. With knowledge more fragmented and specialized it is vital for Enlightenment II to have representation from all disciplines making the process a simultaneous teaching and learning experience. As truth seeking is relative and subjective, as the skeptics point out, collaboration is required to neutralize individual cultural conditioning.
Enlightenment II will labor in a
time where the circumstances are propitious for humans to move from functioning
at a fraction of potential towards full potential. Slavery that dominated the
societies of Aristotle and Aquinas is gone in most forms; imperialism that dominated
until a half-century ago is over; concentrated wealth no longer has any economic
logic. As nations improve the comfort and education of their people through
economic common purpose they will substitute law for force in their relations.
As democratic capitalism is better understood then the protectors of privilege
will come to understand that more wealth can be produced for all in collaboration
instead of exploitation both domestically and internationally.
Finally, Enlightenment II will find that the technology of the Information Age can be the catalyst to codify the building blocks of knowledge for the best organization of human affairs. Universities around the world can cooperate and compete in a process that will present each succeeding generation with a new plateau from which to launch their improvements. Universities will compete in the sense that part of the truth seeking process will be the resolution of differences among universities or groups of universities. This is the cumulative process, the building block approach described by Bacon, and later Condorcet, that has been applied to great benefit in science but not applied to the rational organization of human affairs.
The world's most powerful nation, the United States, will benefit from Enlightenment II because an understanding of democratic capitalism will break the political and intellectual gridlock between the left and the right. Economic freedom, the capacity to maximize wealth, and the emphasis on personal responsibility are politically and intellectually attractive to the right while the opportunities for all, meritocracy, and broad distribution of wealth are attractive to the left. After finance capitalism recognizes that long-term accumulation of wealth is best accomplished through democratic capitalism, only the speculators will support ultra-capitalism. When the collectivists realize that their mission is best accomplished by democratic capitalism, only those motivated by power will support collectivism.
As democratic capitalism eliminates the impediment of concentrated wealth in the United States, the resulting social cohesion will encourage the United States to abandon unilateral force, the cop-of-the-world posture, and become the world's moral and economic leader in a cooperative fashion. This leadership will result in steady progress in feeding, sheltering, clothing, educating and providing good health to the one-third of the world lacking all of these fundamental needs. At that time, to paraphrase Confucius: When the great principle prevails, material and cultural scarcity will be eliminated and the world will become a republic. Women and men of talent and virtue will be elected, make sincere agreements, cultivate universal peace, and end the violence.
The challenge for new philosophers
in Enlightenment II is to validate the goal and specify the means. New philosophers
can identify the kinetic opportunities to redirect the collectivists' energies
to the workable way to improve lives; and redirect the creative energies of
finance capitalists, shorn of special privileges, to support of world economic
growth. In this assimilation and repackaging of existing forces the new philosophers
will engage in "the rational investigation of the truths of being,
knowledge or conduct," leading to "a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs." In other words the new philosophers will be true philosophers.