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message 1: by Ryan (new)

Ryan | 1 comments Do people's politics shape their philosophical stance more than their philosophical stances shape their political stances? This question stems from having read a few philosophical essays on abortion a while back that felt like they could in no way be more than an attempt to justify the writers stance regarding abortion. I guess I'm wondering if philosophers can be guilty of the self-fulling prophecy game (if I may twist the term a bit).


message 2: by Matt (new)

Matt (Archas) | 5 comments It's an interesting question, and I suspect that for a lot of us it's a game of chicken-and-egg; one's philosophical stance should inform their political stance, which almost certainly in turn informs their philosophical stance...etc.

Instead of causality, I think I see it more as a matter of consistency: Is what you're saying politically consistent with your philosophical positions? Is what you're saying philosophically consistent with your stated political positions? Is what you're saying politically and philosophically consistent with your stated religious beliefs? Etc. Wherever and whenever possible, it seems to me, philosophical rigor and intellectual honesty requires us to test our own beliefs for inconsistencies. And wherever we find them, to ask the hard questions about where those inconsistencies come from. The Philosophers' Magazine actually has this fantastic online quiz for just such a pursuit...


message 3: by Bob (new)

Bob Myer | 2 comments Matt - Thanks for the link; a very interesting, short quiz. And I think it brings your point forward.

If our espoused philosophical/moral beliefs contradict our politics, then in order to maintain intellectual integrity, one of the two has to move. I would submit that, at least from my point of view, our political sides tend to be more malleable than our philosophical/moral beliefs - especially as we get older and more experienced.

And perhaps that is why, for younger folks, it is healthy to have a set of morals and ethics "enforced" either through family or community. Allowed to make up morals in a vacuum as they go along, most young people might well act in ways that we find horribly immoral; they lack the experience to make proper judgments about a slew of things. (And I do not take myself out of that equation. It is only time, guidance and experience which has moved me into the "older" group.)

How this relates to politics is that "wind-socking" morals result in "wind-socking" politics.

Than again, I could be wrong. Cheers.


message 4: by Tyler (last edited Jan 29, 2009 06:37PM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Do people's politics shape their philosophical stance more than their philosophical stances shape their political stances?

I think politics shapes philosophies.

The subject of politics, based as it is upon human emotions, is directly accessible to most people in a way that philosophy, with its need for critical thinking, is not. Far more people have in-depth political opinions than philosophical ones.

Starting with what feels good culturally, most people, if they think about the matter at all, try to force-fit some philosophy or other onto their existing beliefs. But few of them delve so far into it as to realize the importance of objectivity. They're looking more for rhetoric.

This applies to abortion. Starting with some feeling, usually revulsion, people who take a political stand sooner or later run into the problem of "personhood." This is a question only philosophy is equipped to handle. They may be able at that point to cite a philosophical defense of the fetus as a person, but I doubt they could defend that position within a philosophical framework, as a theologian might.

As to philosophers fulfilling their own prophecies, I suppose they could, if you mean they squeeze every phenomenon they encounter into a narrow philosophical construct. But this sort of disrespect for philosophy would mean that such people would have been much happier studying rhetoric or politics. I think few people ever actually attempt such a misuse of philosophy. To study philosophy, in my experience, is to develop an appreciation for the exact opposite style of thinking.




message 5: by Thomas (last edited Feb 02, 2009 04:32PM) (new)

Thomas | 3 comments I'd basically agree with Tyler's position, at least if I ignore the first line. It seems that both philosophical and political attitudes arise from life experiences and rarely undergo critical analysis. A colleague once told me that he didn't care about anything as long as the politicians didn't take his gun away. Now I wouldn't go so far as to say that he loved his gun like a woman, but it was clearly part of his identity. I'd say that examination of its objective value to him would have seemed irrelevant. Certainly, considering the costs and benefits of the 2nd Amendment would have been completely beside the point. Nor would he have bothered with a philosophical discussion about what justifies the right to bear arms. In my mind, this raises the question of whether it makes sense to say that someone has philosophical opinions, if those opinions were formed without any sort of philosophical discourse.

Nifty quiz, by the way. Thanks, Matt.


message 6: by Matt (new)

Matt | 1 comments This is a very interestig topic. It's probably people's politics that shape their philosophy, at least when they interelate - which they don't always do.

It seems, however, that our politics should depend upon our ontology. For, our conception of the individual, of the relation of the individual to society, etc. would seem to require particular political stances.


message 7: by Bob (new)

Bob Myer | 2 comments The more I consider this question, the more is appears to be a "chicken or egg" question. Which stems from which? Or are they, metaphorically speaking, two snakes devouring the tail of the other?

Perhaps looking at the coincidence of political and philosophical views might be more productive, so to speak. I think that Matt begins to approach this toward the end of his last post. Surely the concept of the individual with relation to society (or the State, as a separate and distinct term) is coupled with certain political outlooks. The relationship of society (or the State, again) to the individual (citizen or other) is also coupled with certain political outlooks.

It may be important to note that in our current culture, it appears that a political nameplate tends to denote certain philosophical viewpoints with regard to relationships between the State, society, and individuals.


message 8: by Pejman (new)

Pejman | 2 comments I think it was Marx who gave answer to this question. I think it is your economical base which determines your conscious and your conscious in turn determines the nature of your thought and the philosophical structure in which you believe. the good example is the Ancient Greek where just rich people were able to participate in philosophical discussion.


message 9: by Tyler (last edited Apr 19, 2009 02:43PM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments It's true that a person's place in life can shape his consciousness to an extent. But for Marx to imply that consciousness is "determined" by an irrevocable materialistic process of cause and effect is mistaken.

A middle-class lifestyle is conducive to certain attitudes, but that's not the same as causation. At best it could be argued that class is a necessary but not sufficient cause of certain conscious dispositions, including politics and philosophy.

While I see what Marx's point was, I don't think it entirely accounts for a person's political orientation and philosophical outlook.



message 10: by Coyle (new)

Coyle | 3 comments Interesting question! As someone who studies/teaches political philosophy, I think I lean towards the position that philosophy has to come first. Without some underlying philosophy, you couldn't have a politics.


message 11: by Davis (new)

Davis (davismattek) | 3 comments Coyle wrote: "Interesting question! As someone who studies/teaches political philosophy, I think I lean towards the position that philosophy has to come first. Without some underlying philosophy, you couldn't ha..."

I agree.


message 12: by Mohamed (new)

Mohamed Gohary (mohamedgohary) Coyle wrote: "Interesting question! As someone who studies/teaches political philosophy, I think I lean towards the position that philosophy has to come first. Without some underlying philosophy, you couldn't ha..."

I totally agree.



message 13: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Buckley (anthonydbuckley) | 11 comments Tyler wrote: "For Marx to imply that consciousness is "determined" by an irrevocable materialistic process of cause and effect is mistaken"

I am none too sure that Marx thought that a materialistic process "determines" thought by a process of cause and effect. I looked up a famous passage which speaks of people taking up ideas relevant to their social situation. It is hardly “determinism”.

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. - - - Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95. - - -

Once the new social formation was established, the antediluvian colossi disappeared and with them also the resurrected Romanism - - - Entirely absorbed in the production of wealth and in peaceful competitive struggle, it no longer remembered that the ghosts of the Roman period had watched over its cradle. - - -

Similarly - - - a century earlier, Cromwell and the English people had borrowed from the Old Testament the speech, emotions, and illusions for their bourgeois revolution. When the real goal had been achieved and the bourgeois transformation of English society had been accomplished, Locke supplanted Habakkuk.


This is an account of ideas borrowed, created and used to address immediate social and political concerns. It is not, however, determinism", but rather the opposite.



message 14: by Rhonda (last edited Jul 22, 2009 08:14AM) (new)

Rhonda (rhondak) | 47 comments I think that Marx would have said that historical events aid in determining one's political philosophy, but of course they depend on the way in which one reacts to that history. Clearly the rise of the bourgeosie depended greatly on both the French revolution and the rise of the industrial age. Liberal ideologies from the period could not have demanded the liberty and social equalities had not these events taken place and indeed there were multiple revolutions of the 1840's Europe caused by the expanding notions of such ideas. Perhaps an argument can be made for the Hegelian notion of history as inevitability in Marx, but a man's will certainly has a great deal to do with such. I believe that Marx thought that all of this was inevitably about to yield an upheaval of European society in general and usher in a new kind of democratic equality among peoples. You can understand why, when it did not, the issue made him bitter.
Concerning the mention of Nazi intellectualism above, it is important to remember that none of that could have been realized without the thuggish Brown Shirts. Indeed there are records of businessmen disregarding the Nazis as noisy hate-mongers, anything but a threat until they began seizing real power.



message 15: by Coyle (new)

Coyle | 3 comments The Nazi question is interesting, I tend to like Peter Viereck's take on it: Metapolitics From Wagner and the German Romantics to Hitler. Fascism is the idea that man is basically good and ought to be allowed to do as he pleases mixed with German romantic nationalism (especially from Nietzsche and Wagner).


message 16: by Matt (new)

Matt (Archas) | 5 comments I'll take Patrice's suggestion, and watch the DVD. However, re: the question of Nazism and philosophy:

1. The Anatomy of Fascism Robert Paxton has done more in this short--and quick-reading--book to understand fascism than any other author I've ever read. One of his most significant points, I think, is that we misunderstand fascism as a movement if we only look at "fascist intellectuals." First, because fascism as a movement was largely anti-intellectual, and so intellectuals were very quickly marginalized within the movements; Second, because what fascists said--especially early on--was very different than what they did, on the way to and then (especially) once in power; and Third, because unlike liberalism, conservativism, or communism, fascist leaders have continuously rejected the very idea of a "fascist ideology." To quote the famous speech by Mussolini, "They ask us what is our program. Our program is simple. We want to govern Italy." Paxton writes, "Fascism does not rest explicitly upon an elaborated philosophical system, but rather upon popular feelings about master races, their unjust lot, and their rightful predominance over inferior peoples. It has not been given intellectual underpinnings by any system builder, like Marx, or by any major critical intelligence, like Mill, Burke, or Tocqueville" (16).

2. Some influential fascists, to be sure, have cited Nietzsche as an influence. However (and Paxton makes a similar point), so have influential Marxists and other leftists (e.g. Sorel, Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari...), as well as liberals (I would even throw Rand in here), conservatives, etc. And so even if one could find inspiration for fascism in Nietzsche's writings (and one would have to look past a general disdain throughout his writings for both nationalism and anti-semitism!), one still could not rightly call Nietzsche's thought a cause of fascism--the political applications of Nietzsche, I think we'd have to admit, are incredibly underdetermined...

3. Finally--and again, Paxton gives a plenty-good account of this--fascism as a movement sprang up worldwide in the 20th century; simply studying the German and Italian situations will not help us to understand the roots of fascism. What they will help us understand is how fascism succeeded in becoming something more than a marginal phenomenon. And this, as it turns out, has little or nothing to do with philosophy, but much more to do with the relative stability and success of the existing state apparatus, as well as the size and level of entrenchment of the middle class.

All of this--to come back to the question of Marxism that's being raised here--is to say: despite what some philosophers would have us believe, ideas do not act directly on history. "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please..."


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

"The love of power and the love of liberty are in internal antagonism ". (from the Basic Writings of John Stuart Mill) I think the love of power trumps politics or philosophy. Circumstances of the individual (or country) will determine if politics or philosophy comes first.

" There are many truths of which full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home." ( John Stuart Mill) I think Schopehauer said it better. Only events of the idividual life have a moral significance. Not a direct quote.

"Morality is not nature but custom". (quote from Nietzche). I recently read "Iron Kingdom, The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947" by Christopher Clark 2006. The status of the military in the Prussian (and later German) state was quite exeptional. Berlin was a much newer and smaller city than the established cities of Paris and London. For many years, Berlin was less powerful than Vienna. The late formation of a united Germany (the same can be said for Italy) probably had a lot to do with the rise of fascism. There was a public psychology (if I can use that term) that Italy and Germany were as good or better than the other great European powers and would follow anyone who would demonstate that they were. I actually think the Italian situation was more complex. The book "Prisoner of the Vatican" by David Kertzeer (2004) gives some insight of how difficult it was to unify Italy and have a unified Italian population.

I think Nietzche's writings were used to help justify the Nazi's political position. "Every reader recreates what he reads. Each reader, translator, or recreator, renders his text into a form determined largely by his own cultural context." Northrop Frye on Religion"

Marx was a man of his times. He would be surprised to read John Kenneth Galbraith's " The Affluent Society" of 1958. " With the transition of the very poor from the majority to a comparative minority, they ceased to be automatically an object of interest to the politicians." As Northorp Frye stated: " Capitalism only survived the last half century by abandoning the more nihilistic aspects of laissez-faire and make equally extensive reforms in a socialist and welfare state direction'.
In the book " Better Living, In Pursuit of Happiness from Plato to Prozac" by Mark Kingswell, there is a difinition of Liberalism which you may find interesting. " Liberalism, in its various form, tries to avoid moral disagreement, which it regards as insoluble, in order to deal with the more pressing political question of simple co-existence. It strives for social survival at the price of putting to one side the question of what is really good. Conservative moralists and radical reformers are generally not satisfied with this political approach."

In Canada, medicare came in the 1960's when the Liberals had a minority government supported by the NDP (a democratic socialist party). The country got it's financial house in order in the 1990s with a Liberal government with a Minister of Finance who could easily be mistaken for a Conservative. at the time,there was a possibility of the Conservatives uniting into one party again which the Liberals wanted to avoid happening. The Conservatives eventually united and they formed a new government (minority) in 2006. It has moved more towards the centre after they gained power.

You can't talk about politics and philosophy without talking about psychology, socialology, economics and other fields.





message 18: by Coyle (new)

Coyle | 3 comments Glen said "I think the love of power trumps politics or philosophy. Circumstances of the individual (or country) will determine if politics or philosophy comes first."

True enough. I like how Hobbes said it: "I put for the general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death."
But, aren't your statement and Hobbes' philosophical statements? And doesn't that imply that philosophy has to come first?

"You can't talk about politics and philosophy without talking about psychology, socialology, economics and other fields."
Well, you can, but you probably shouldn't :)
Actually, I would make the same argument about these other fields that I would about politics: politics is just your individual philosophy applied to the community. And in the same way, economics is just your individual philosophy applied to wealth, and the same with the other fields. (With the possible exception of certain aspects of psychology that deal with the hard science of the chemistry of the brain, not so much with the softer side of that field.)


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

John Kenneth Galbraith said the same thing about economics when the field became more quantitative in it's approach. Of course he was a political animal. Philosophy has a narrower scope than in the past as well. I wonder how many modern philosophers have a good grasp of mathematics.

Ambition and personal motivation are inherent in our nature. Our philosophy, (religion) or politics may change quite often as we grow older (if not wiser)because of our own personal experiences.

Too many philosophers are not in the position to understand the real difficulties having an ethical life when they have significant power. I really enjoyed Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations" which I read last year. How much more difficult it would be to be ethical when you are Caesar.

When it comes to money, sex, or use of drugs and alcohol many philosophers and politicians seem to lose their perspective. I guess that can be said for human kind.

Thanks for the well written response.






message 20: by Dean (new)

Dean Kakridas (stoic) | 2 comments Coyle wrote: "Interesting question! As someone who studies/teaches political philosophy, I think I lean towards the position that philosophy has to come first. Without some underlying philosophy, you couldn't ha..."

Agreed! In ancient times, people had a comprehensive philosophy of life from an early age so they had enough conviction and confidence by puberty to be able to hit the ground running in public office. However, today, many 'politicians' barely know how to live well themselves and flow powerlessly in and out with the tide of special interest.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

What ancient society are we talking about? Building pyramids to honour the rulers of Egypt. A philosophy that slavery is natural and child labour is acceptable. Women are the property of men. Adults can have sexual relationship with boys and girls with no damage or abuse of power.

What percentage of men were literate in ancient times? For most people it was a philosophy of finding enough to eat and protect yourself from attack.

The ancient Greeks thought they were superior to everyone else. Alexander the Great didn't seem to be able to convince many Greeks differently. The Nazi's idea of a superior race was not new!

There weren't many civilizations where you had the opportunity to run for public office. And if there were, you had to have family position and wealth. The politicians generally were from the elite of the world.

Somewhere I read that one New York Times newspaper had more written information than was available to a 16th or 17th century man. Where were the majority ancient people to obtain a comprehensive philosophy of life?

I believe there were great minds in ancient times and philosophers with great ideas. But it was a very small circle of men that had access to this information.

Politicians have a more difficult road in modern times. All their warts are exposed through the media. Ancient leaders did not have this problem. They may not look so good if they had to live in a fish bowl. It is very difficult to compare politicians of different eras.

I don't think any modern leader could marry his sister to maintain leadership of a civilization. You could not be like the popes who appointed many of the family members to important positions. Live with concumbines and stress the value of abstaining from sex. The accumulation of land by all the churches was a given right.

I know you were talking about ancient history but I don't think things are worse today. Do you think the public officers? of the Romanovs had a great philosophy? Mostly about gaining personal power and power for Russia. They talked about serf reform but generally did nothing about it.

"Watch what people do not what they say." I think we would be very disappointed if we knew how the ancient philosophers actually lived.

Marcus Aurelius had power and was a philosopher of sorts. Living your life according to your philosophy is a very difficult undertaking if you have a reasonable set of ethics.




message 22: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda (rhondak) | 47 comments As you so cogently point out, it is one thing to develop a philosophy which encompasses all things in one's life, but quite another to actually follow and interpret according to that systematic exposition. On the other hand, I think that ancient man had a much better idea what narrow confines of knowledge were best for him and was considerably more astute, albeit sans sophistication, in paying attention to that which affected him, including the perhaps shady character of local politicians.
For example, it is one thing to suggest that the world is round when you are traversing the globe or speculating on the heavens, but when you are plowing a field, you tend to know that it is flat. Philosophy, whatever its true source, has always been easiest after dinner.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

Basically we usually get the politicians we deserve. Many people are not interested in politics allowing the news media and special interest groups to have a greater role in determining who has political power. As the population becomes larger, the potential for abuse becomes higher. Many ordinary people are alienated by the political process and do not feel responsible for political outcomes. Unfortunately, it is their responsibility and they have no one but themselves to blame if they are not happy with their politicians.

I don't think the average man in ancient times thought too much about his place in the universe. (He would think the world is flat and probably would think you were crazy if you said otherwise). The number of people involved in the political world would be quite small and a significant number of them would be warriors. The average person would have little say in the political process. The political standards of the 1800's were terrible compared to the 1900's. I think politicians were probably much worse in ancient times as there were fewer restraints. I believe power does tend to corrupt.

Regardless of the era, power over people and resources is a politician's aim.


message 24: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 3 comments On a slightly different note, the recession brought a philosophical dilemma to my mind. In response to the crisis, a variety of bank bailouts, auto bailouts, and the like were floated. To me, these seemed to pose the classic choice between utility and justice. (Assuming that the bailouts would be effective, which is dubious.) Every journalist and expert seemed to be squarely in the utilitarian camp, with only a handful of right-wing commoners calling in their displeasure with the schemes. It was interesting, if a little disturbing.


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

I think the bailout of the big banks is anything but utilitarian. The biggest cash cows in the world were given a break when the average guy,to a great degree, is on his own.

The banks in Canada were given a pat on the back because they were more conservative which had more to do with government regulations which discouraged the banks' incentive to use other G8 lending practices. Our banks recently got some breaks to enable them to continue to loan money to companies and individuals who keep the economy going. The margin between borrowing and saving rates in many instances, however, just doubled. Poor banks!

I believe in a mixed economy which is more necessary in smaller countries. The public wanted federal and provincial spending to keep the economy afloat. Where does the public think the money is coming from and how will it be paid back? In our province, they just introduced a measure to harmonize provincial consumption taxes with federal consumption taxes which will bring in more revenue and enable businesses to operate more efficiently. The public is mad as hell as the the average person is paying the lions share of the increased consumption taxes. They do not believe that business will pass any savings because of efficiency to the consumer. Like usual, the public want their cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, governments can only use blunt instruments when participating in the economy.

You mentioned justice. I read a lot of history and I have read little history where the little guy is given a fair shake. A good example were the serfs in Russia. (I wonder how Russia would have turned out, if they introduced the reforms they had been talking about for decades before WWI.) The working class in North America was given a pretty poor deal until after WWII. The democracies were worried about revolution if the hard times of the 30's returned. They made sure the average person got a better share of the pie. I still don't think there is much justice or fairness in the world. It's still about power and politics.

It sure isn't the rich that are getting the shaft. They just move their money or themselves to somewhere else. I don't see utility and justice as being opposites. Many people will not treat the weak fairly without some government regulation. We also know what happens when a country becomes too extreme and believes "power is always right".

I think the USA has a somewhat different problem from Canada. They are introducing a more public type of medicare system in hard economic times which is difficult to do even in good economic times. It definitely is more utilitarian and will be front end loaded because of all those people who currently have limited coverage. In the long run, however, it makes the country more competitive to attract industry as companies' health care costs are greatly reduced. The medicare issue was fought in Canada in the 1960's. There was significant resistance at the time, but now, the average Canadian would not want to go back to a completely privatized system,particularly the insurance side of the issue.






message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Utility (Great Happiness Principle) holds that the actions are right in proportion to promotion of happiness. I'm pretty traditional as I think of it as "the greatest good for the greatest number of people."
You might enjoy " The Basic Writings of John Stuart Mill" which has three subjects. Liberty, The Subjection of Women and Utilitarianism.

He was also a great promoter of women's suffrage. I can relate quite well to him even though he lived in the 1800's. I really like some of his statements. " The love of power and the love of liberty are in eternal antagonism".

Capitalism is probably the best system to create wealth which theoretically should improve everyone's situation. But the excesses of greed have to controlled by something (government) or more and more wealth is in fewer hands. Democracy would fit my idea of utilitarianism more than capitalism.

The book "Post Capitalist Society" by Peter Drucker (1993) is also an interesting read. " The pension fund managers are the only true capitalist in the U.S.. Wage earners are the main beneficiaries of the earnings of capital and of capital gains. We have no social, political, or economic theory that fits what has already become reality."

One of the reasons it can be so confusing is his belief that " the more productive an economy, the greater equality of income". I believe that is true too with some qualifications. Drucker also states "we need to turn from a social policy of taxation back to an economic policy of taxation."

The Canadian goods and services tax turned the Canadian economy around in the 1990's . It was an economic policy on taxation. The government was very unpopular for this action even though it was probably the right thing to do. The harmonization of federal and provincial taxes is also good for business and will reduce the civil service at the same time. If it improves the economic situation, we can afford to improve social policies. (But will they?)

PS . Any way you look at it, public health insurance is much cheaper and more efficient than private health insurance. The delivery of that health care, on the other hand, can take many forms. It is not a black and white issue. When it becomes political,it is difficult to have a balanced approach in dealing with the issue. Maybe my degree in health administration, gives me a Canadian bias along with western Europe.







message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Don't we all! It's very difficult to measure the quality of health care. Life expectancy? Infant mortality? A lot of other social policies like housing and welfare also impact on health care, making it next to impossible to compare health care systems. Of course politicians can do it easily!

I don't think Canadians claim they have the best health care system (who can?), but everyone has equal access to the system. We collectively do the best we can. It may not be the best health care system (and there still is a great deal of private enterprise in the system) in the world but it sure beats our old private medicare system. I'm old enough to be able to compare the two.

In the last Canadian hero contest, the first provincial premier who introduced medicare to his province (before the federal government) beat out our best Prime Ministers, scientists like Banting, who isolated insulin, and even Canadian hockey players. The great majority of Canadians do not want to privatize our public health system, they just want the politicians to continue to improve on it. It took a big hit when we had to get the books balanced in the 1990's but no one got left out. It was easier to handle when everyone was in the same boat. The critical cases were treated in the usual manner.

Canadians and Americans are much alike particularly to Europeans. In surveys, our health care system, is the most common answer (by Canadians) to the question of what makes Canadians different from Americans. Most Canadians are wise to stay out of any conversation with Americans about health care. I'm not quite so bright.

Canadian politician's are very careful when it comes to health care policies. We have a larger land mass than U.S. with just over 30 million people. Logistical costs with air ambulances and economy of scale of hospitals in smaller communities is a significant problem in Canada.

If you are paying more for health insurance, there is less money to pay for health services. If more people are in one plan, the risk for the insurer is less. No one wants "cheap" health care, they want more of the money spent on health care services and less on administrative costs such as insurance.

Unfortunately none of us can completely separate ideology or personal experiences when assessing such an important issue. It is the same question we started with. Do we want a good service for everyone or the best service for some and another level of service for the rest? That's the way it was in 19th century England.




message 28: by Tyler (last edited Sep 06, 2009 07:22AM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments In the United States, the idea of the public good has gradually become equated with socialism, and that is a great evil to our media, and thence our public. I don't think we'll get health care for all citizens because the suspicion, here in the U.S., that somebody, somewhere out there, is getting something for nothing, drives the American public (with the help of the media) insane with anger.

The broader issue is that capitalism has somehow become not only our economic system, but the arbiter of our national morality as well. Money has pervaded the system to the point that a level playing field even within the free enterprise system is also out of the question -- a thumb presses down on the scales in all economic activity, as Adam Smith might say.

The banks in the U.S. were bailed out on the basis of their control over the political process -- no other reason. If they had collapsed, America's mid-level banks would have stepped in immediately to take their places, but that unseen thumb changed the outcome. The government, far from being an agent for the public good, seems to be a transfer agent to get money from the lower and middle classes and transfer it to the ruling class.

So back to health care -- I modify my original statement. It's barely possible we might get something crudely approaching universal health care, but the price will be no cost controls of any kind, no enforceable regulations and no government input. The government's only role would be to transfer to private insurance companies however much money they demand. This actually was the price for the skimpy prescription drug coverage in our Medicare system for the elderly, enacted four years ago. No checks. No control. But even our most powerful pharmaceutical companies might not be able to get their prehensile hands down this honeyhole: The frenzy in the media against anything "free" has taken on a life of its own. Therein lies a peculiarly American drama.

The overarching phenomenon in politics here is the disappearance of the notion of "public good" from American society. If this seems like an extreme statement, ask any American you meet today what they think the public good entails, then sit back and enjoy. Like democracy for Afghanistan, it's an endlessly malleable concept. Again, what underlies this phenomenon is the acceptance that morality has become the preserve of the economic system.

Utilitarianism and egalitarianism, whatever their virtues and vices, are increasingly inefficacious concepts in a society governed essentially by private interests. The increasing gradient of our socioeconomic scale bears this out.

I'm delighted by Rhonda's remark that "philosophy, whatever its true source, has always been easiest after dinner." In our case, though, we can scarcely get pragmatism a hearing in our national debates, and surely we're still out to lunch on serious considerations of utilitarianism, libertarianism, anarchism, externalities, or any alternative to the status quo. The implications for the future in a country that has no cognitive rudder of any kind are staggering.


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

The New Democratic Party of Canada is a democratic socialist party which was established in the prairies in the 1930's as the CCF. It has never won a federal election in it's history but has won ( provincially), three in B.C. a few in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and even one in Ontario. It recently established it's first government in Nova Scotia and elected it's first federal MP in Quebec. Over the years it has become a true national party. Of course, we still have the two traditional parties in the Conservatives and Liberals. We also have a Quebec party that wants to take Quebec out of Canada. Their federal counterpart was even large enough in one election to be the official opposition in the federal house. In my opinion. this diversity at the political level forces all politicians to be more pragmatic about ideology.

Democratic socialism are not bad words in Canada. (What's wrong with Sweden or Norway?) The Liberals have been in power federally more than any other party. They have a party on the right and left of them which usually means they can maintain the centre as long as they are pragmatic. They are not more morally fit for power, they are just in the best political situation.

I wouldn't be too pessimistic about USA. Major changes in political dynamics usually occur when the public demands are ignored too long. English Canadians ignored Quebec's quiet revolution in the 60's and were surprised when Quebec finally elected a provincial separatist party. We have had two referendums in Quebec and barely won the last one.
We either accommodate Quebec's needs within our constitution/culture or she will probably go her own way. We will lose a lot. Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world and Quebec City is one of the most unique cities in North America.

You usually find a rudder when times get tough enough.Many thought our confederation in 1867 would never work but we're still here. We even made it more complicated by adding Newfoundland in 1949. Because of our size we are used to the federal government being involved in economic affairs. We are also used to a great deal of foreign investment. We have always had to be very interdependent with other countries because of our higher reliance on trade to maintain our standard of living.

Since WWII, the U.S. dominated the economic world. As the world economy grows, U.S.will probably become more interdependent than was necessary in the past. That is a psychological (as well as philosophical) shift that will take some time to adjust to. Your country's ideology is important, however, it's your people, your location, and the size of your country that make you powerful. The status quo will change regardless of what the politicians want.


message 30: by thewanderingjew (new)

thewanderingjew | 11 comments I got this off the internet. The authorship is murky, at best. Keep in mind that the rich and poor pay payroll taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes etc. The rich, in addition, also pay income taxes so they are not unfairly burdening others.
http://www.snopes.com/business/taxes/...
How The Tax System Works:
Over lunch two friends were discussing the government's recent round of tax cuts: - "I'm opposed to those tax cuts," the retired college instructor declared, "because they benefit the rich. The rich get much more money back than ordinary taxpayers like you and me and that's not fair." "But the rich pay more in the first place," the businessman argued, "so it stands to reason that they'd get more money back." He could tell that his friend was unimpressed by this meager argument. Even college instructors are a prisoner of the myth that the "rich" somehow get a free ride in America.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand.

Suppose that every day ten men go to a restaurant for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If it was paid the way we pay our taxes, the first four men would pay nothing; the fifth would pay $1; the sixth would pay $3; the seventh $7; the eighth $12; the ninth $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement until the owner threw them a curve.

0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 3 + 7 + 12 + 18 + 59 = 100 cost of dinner

"Since you're all such good customers, he said, I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." Now dinner for the 10 only costs $80.

The first four are unaffected; they still eat for free. Can you figure out how to divvy up the $20 savings among the remaining six so that everyone gets his fair share? The men realize that $20 divided by 6 is $3.33, but if they subtract that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being paid to eat their meal.

The restaurant owner proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay under the same assumptions: Now the fifth man also paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, and the ninth paid $12 leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of $59. Outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out the $20," complained the sixth man, pointing to the tenth, "and he got 7!"

0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 2 + 5 + 9 + 12 + 52 = 80 reduced cost of dinner

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!"

0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + (-1) + (-1) + (-2) + (-3) + (-6) + (-7)= (-20) savings on dinner

"That's true," shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor."

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night he didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They were $52 short!

And that, boys, girls, and college instructors, is how America's tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table any more.




message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

No simple answer if there is one.But it sure will not be the international rich set that want the best deal. In the book, The World is Flat, one CEO of an American company said it could lose every Amercian employee and would still be O.K..

I sure don't have an answer but no one else does either. Caving in to threats from the rich and powerful though isn't the answer. When the middle class becomes large, the country usually becomes rich. If there is no middle class, the country is usually poor. Karl Marx was wrong! I, do ,however, think Galbraith and Drucker at least describe the economic dilemma.

The very rich are mobile and threaten to move their money. They will or they won't and we can't stop them. The large international companies outsource much of the work from North America. That's capitalism which only works for the benefit of an individual (not country) For the country to create jobs some degree of regulation is necessary. The degree of regulation is the question! I don't think our large banks paying little income tax because of legal tax loop holes gives us much faith.

We have a situation where autoworkers in this country were making more than professors because of the power of their unions rather than there productivity. They were making poorer quality cars than Toyota or Honda employees who ( were still well paid )were paid not as much. We bail who out?

As you are probably aware most jobs are created by small business. However, many are in the service industry, where jobs have traditionally been low paying. Drucker basically said we were going to end up with knowledge workers (technologist etc.) and service jobs with most manufacturing jobs being lost to the poorer countries. We are losing manufacturing jobs to outsourcing, particularly to China. Somehow service industry jobs will have to become better paid. How is the question.

I know many people are becoming self employed. Profit sharing of employees in small companies is also happening. These employees are not relying on the owner for their pay cheques.

I guess the only plausible answer is that we have to do it ourselves. Pension fund managers are a major force in the capital markets. ( It is an obvious problem that the lack of appropriate government regulations has allowed companies to run deficits in the employee's pension plans. ) Hopefully the days of a few individuals controlling government or major industries is coming to an end.

Great wealth accumulation by individuals does not equate to more good paying jobs. The few highly financially successful people I know may be generous to a degree, but were often ruthless, at least, while they were starting their career.

Higher productivity, a reasonable level of government regulation,and appropriate incentives (tax rates, etc.) to attract industries are three major components to creating jobs. I've had two retired bankers that have said that coming recovery may be one with fewer jobs created. I hope they are wrong.




message 32: by thewanderingjew (new)

thewanderingjew | 11 comments Glen wrote: "Who ever wrote this little narration would get along with my brother who donates to one of the most conservative think tanks in Canada. He also sent this narration to many of his friends. He is not..."

I hope I am misinterpreting your reply because I found your response unnecessarily condescending. At first it surprised me, but then I realized it was typical of most liberal's responses. When they are faced with arguments they do not agree with they attack and insult the opposing position and person presenting it, rather than attempt to understand another point of view and engage in a dialogue.
You paint with a broad brush. Liberals tend to criticize conservative media while giving a pass to their own left-wing extremist hate-mongers like Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and even Carville whose fast talking makes my head spin and whose insults against the last administration went unnoticed or were gleefully acknowledged yet they rail today, against anything said that might be perceived to be in opposition to the current administration. They do nothing but ridicule the opposition instead of bringing up subjects that are of real concern and attempting to find solutions and they do it in a hateful way, but, in your world, perhaps only your brother and I would agree on that. In my world, liberals and conservatives actually engage in discussion without intimidation.
Why do you choose to concentrate on the negative? All rich people do not hide their money, (actually, I have quite a few liberal friends who are guilty of that, taking advantage themselves of the "programs" they help create to aid the poor or of the gray areas in the tax code hoping they will go undiscovered), all rich people were not slave holders nor do they have Swiss accounts. Some actually plod along, working hard, contributing to society without abusing it. You prefer to concentrate on those who abuse the system, although they are in the minority, because it serves your purpose. It is very sad. The pot calls the kettle black, so to speak and the divide grows wider. Each group wants to inflict their views and policies on the other without regard for the effect it will have.
Many liberals only want to serve their own needs under the guise of serving the public one. Since most of the people do not contribute getting something for nothing from those who do sounds like a good idea to them. Who wouldn't want the easy way out? However, if all people took that easy way out, where would our country be today?



message 33: by thewanderingjew (new)

thewanderingjew | 11 comments Glen wrote: "No simple answer if there is one.But it sure will not be the international rich set that want the best deal. In the book, The World is Flat, one CEO of an American company said it could lose every ..."

In the USA, just about 30% of the "rich" people pay 100% of the income tax. Don't you think that some of that money helps support the poor and middle class in one way or another, including providing health care in emergency rooms, building roads, schools, research and development and a myriad other things? Do you think these people who are paying the lion's share of the taxes sat around complaining that they weren't getting their fair share of someone else's hard earned money? I don't think so. Those that didn't inherit their wealth, actually worked for it, took risks for it. They weren't the "outliers" in the equation, they were the people who buckled down and worked hard and put money back into their businesses to grow it, or spent years studying in school to accomplish their goals and follow their professions. They didn't work 9-5, they didn't watch the clock, they did what they had to in order to succeed. They didn't blame others for their shortcomings. They assumed responsibility for them and reversed them whenever possible.
The bank failure was due largely to sub-prime mortgages and for that you must assign blame to the politicians who took their eyes off the ball, in the interest of their constituents, without regard to the consequences. Yes, Wall Street greed was a factor, but no different than the greed of the actors, entertainers, politicians etc., and many of the practices that brought about our current recession, were encouraged by the government, sometimes more forcibly than others. The rules were set up to encourage the greed and the ensuing debacle.
It seems very disingenuous to demonize those that have been bulwarks of our society, even supporting those that cannot or will not support themselves, in addition to funding museums, hospitals and other necessary aspects of a viable community. When some refer to the right wing or the rich they make overly broad generalizations as if they are the "madmen" who are abusing the system, when in fact, many of them are holding it up. A successful society needs to embrace multiple views, in harmony, but today the divisiveness overrules all with each one thinking they have the one right way. The left does not have the one right way, nor does the right. Compromise is necessary. It is the reason our government has worked so well, in the past.
In addition, there is a vast difference between the super-rich and the rich and yet no distinction is drawn by many who complain. There seems to be no objection to the fact that athletes and entertainers and even politicians, from the contacts they make and the speaking engagements and books they write, become enormously wealthy. They also shelter their money offshore but where is the brouhaha? Why are there double standards, one for the right and one for the left? We should not ask others to do as we say but not as we do.
If you think the trickle down theory doesn't work, then tell me how you will defy gravity and make it trickle up. Societies that have pursued socialist policies have done so at their own peril and most have declined or are in deep debt.
What is your solution to this societal problem? You may not like Capitalism but it has proven to be the best system. I do not think Socialism is the answer. Do you have a compromise?





message 34: by Tyler (last edited Sep 28, 2009 08:59AM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments The story about tax cuts brings up a couple of philosophical points. One is the question of how taxation fits into political philosophy. Another is how the story employs language - the philosophy of language.

The way language is used is interesting. I noticed immediately after reading it how quite unable I was to do anything but agree. But why was that? Let’s look closer. The example and the wording are written at about an eighth-grade level at most. This means that none of us is the target of the message. The message is an old one, first appearing in 1982 to support tax cuts in the United States. The argument at that time, I remember, was fairly sophisticated in print, but this version apparently circulated in support of the 2001-03 tax cuts and is much simpler. By then, most fairly educated people had already taken sides on the issue, and the totally uneducated don’t often care about it. Most people who were unsure about tax policy fall in the middle of the educational spectrum, where they read and write little but know enough to be interested. This is where most of the undecided voters lay, and the story is aimed at them.

The parable employs language persuasively. Its line of reasoning funnels one’s thoughts down a single track to an inevitable conclusion. The use of a concrete example in this case inhibits the ability to reason about the broader questions of tax policy, keeping attention nailed to the point. The clever use of fear adds a subtle kick toward the end.

Glen mentioned that the story preaches to the converted, and it does. The language of the story is persuasive, yet it’s also propaganda. Those who already support wealth-based tax cuts find their views and feelings validated by a seemingly inexorable line of reasoning. The simplicity of the writing and the example, which would annoy fairly educated people, serves to flatter people for whom reading comprehension is a challenge, and whose knowledge of the subject is limited.

As propaganda, too, it peremptorily shuts down communication by drowning us in a cascade of words and a long-winded example. After all, the verbose example could be summed up simply in a single sentence: The rich pay most of the taxes, so don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. So with reference to the use of language, this annoying little tale is actually intelligent, targeted propaganda and effective persuasive writing for its intended readership.

In light of this, I’m surprised that a university professor thought the story was suited to a college-level discussion of tax policy. I’m amused that The National Review saw fit to print it, and I’m curious about its appearance in major American newspapers. One would think a brilliant ray of light had suddenly broken through the storm clouds of human idiocy to lead us over the rainbow to the end of history. The language and placement of the parable tells a lot about the state of public discourse in the United States.

As to the politics of the story, philosophy can help us tease out the broader issues and this is, after all, a philosophy forum. Looked at this way, one question might be whether it’s fair to use taxes to redistribute wealth. But the problem is that all taxes redistribute wealth in one way or other. If that’s the problem, why not just get rid of taxes to be consistent?

As to the example, I’d ask this: Why was the restaurant bill $100 in the first place? How do we know the actual cost was that much? After all, part of the cost of government goes to underwrite the liabilities of the wealthy. On the flip side of the ledger, why didn’t the absence of the tenth diner reduce the bill any? Or what if the actual cost of the food was much more than $100? Consider: The United States went from a $1.5 trillion surplus before the 2001 tax cuts to a $1.8 trillion deficit afterwards: where does the added debt appear in the "bill"? And when has anyone in the United States “killed” the rich rather than the poor? What is that part of the story meant to imply? How much of wealth is due to the legal code? Why can’t that same legal code be used for any other purpose than fostering wealth among the wealthy?

In other words, philosophy doesn’t allow us to look just at the narrow issue at hand. Its purpose is to explore the wider context in which particular issues like tax policy are decided.



message 35: by thewanderingjew (new)

thewanderingjew | 11 comments Glen wrote: "I am not a Liberal. I usually vote Conservative in this country. Of course our Conservatives are generally,in many areas, left of the democrats in the USA. I thought the narration was condescendin..."

Tyler wrote: "The story about tax cuts brings up a couple of philosophical points. One is the question of how taxation fits into political philosophy. Another is how the story employs language - the philosophy..."

Let's say that I accept your philosophy because your comments are well founded. Why must the premise of your argument be based on propaganda or a vast right wing conspiracy if it is presented by the conservative side of the fence? Perhaps there is a vast left wing conspiracy out there. Perhaps what were are getting from the media is liberal propaganda. What do you think? Is there a bias in our news culture?
Do you think there should be a flat tax so everyone has some responsibility? Do you think individuals should adopt a family to support if they have the wherewithal? Do you have thoughts on how to include everyone in the process to make it more fair?
You question the growth of CEO salaries but not the salaries of lobbyists, former politicians, authors, athletes or entertainers who generally make even more and live phenomenal lifestyles, way out of the mainstream, often setting very poor examples for the viewers. Which group deserves to be paid more? Why is a scientist or a doctor paid less? Why is there resentment only toward certain groups that are highly paid? Why don't we value research and development in our medical industry? We want the best care but we don't want to pay for it we want someone else to pay. Why have we changed our attitude toward the value of life? Is it possible for humanity to consider others humanely or is the individual always going to be motivated by self need? Should the majority always rule?
These are philosophical questions that I can't answer but I wish I knew the philosophy behind those attitudes. Do you?
I suspect we spend more on health care in this country because we treat anyone and everyone who walks into our hospitals; we do the drug research and develop most of the vaccines and medical technology that enhances and prolongs life. We don't eliminate those that bring down the averages from our pool of patients. We have poor, single mothers who don't seek care. We still deliver their babies and they may not be as viable. We treat drug addicts, terminal patients and what have you, in the same way we treat patients that have a greater chance of survival and recovery. In countries that have universal or socialized or national health care, many patients are not treated as aggressively or in as timely a fashion.
For instance, if you think a mistake has been made in your diagnosis, you can't just get another opinion in a timely fashion. You have to appeal the diagnosis and then get in line again. Some patients die waiting. The cost of their care is therefore eliminated. I don't mean that tongue in cheek. I mean it seriously. If you send someone home with a pill for pain and allow them to die sooner without aggressive treatment which might add extra time to their lives, then you contain cost.





message 36: by Tyler (last edited Sep 30, 2009 08:04AM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Hi twj --

thewanderingjew wrote: Let's say that I accept your philosophy because your comments are well founded. Why must the premise of your argument be based on propaganda or a vast right wing conspiracy...

I don’t believe in conspiracies. I’m using the word “propaganda” in a narrow sense, not the way it’s ordinarily thrown around. I don’t mean any value judgment by using the word. Marketing is a form of propaganda, but a marketing campaign isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Is there a bias in our news culture?

Yes. News is biased towards power.

Do you think there should be a flat tax so everyone has some responsibility? [...:] Do you have thoughts on how to include everyone in the process to make it more fair?

To make taxation more fair? Taxes are going to redistribute wealth no matter what. Philosophy identifies at least two general approaches to this: utilitarianism and egalitarianism. There are many others. But if I were to think about taxation philosophically, my first question would be what the goal of taxation ought to be.

Why is there resentment only toward certain groups that are highly paid? Why don't we value research and development in our medical industry? We want the best care but we don't want to pay for it we want someone else to pay. Why have we changed our attitude toward the value of life? Is it possible for humanity to consider others humanely or is the individual always going to be motivated by self need? Should the majority always rule? These are philosophical questions that I can't answer but I wish I knew the philosophy behind those attitudes. Do you?

Yes. In logic, questions like this constitute the fallacy of interrogation. This error presupposes an answer to a question that hasn’t been asked, which is why the reasoning is fallacious. Another form of this fallacy is to ask for an explanation of something that is false or not yet established. If you put what follows next in the form of the question “Why is it that ...” –

I suspect we spend more on health care in this country because we treat anyone and everyone who walks into our hospitals; we do the drug research and develop most of the vaccines and medical technology that enhances and prolongs life. We don't eliminate those that bring down the averages from our pool of patients. We have poor, single mothers who don't seek care. We still deliver their babies and they may not be as viable. We treat drug addicts, terminal patients and what have you, in the same way we treat patients that have a greater chance of survival and recovery.

... then this would be another example of the same fallacious reasoning


In countries that have universal or socialized or national health care, many patients are not treated as aggressively or in as timely a fashion. For instance, if you think a mistake has been made in your diagnosis, you can't just get another opinion in a timely fashion. You have to appeal the diagnosis and then get in line again. Some patients die waiting. The cost of their care is therefore eliminated. I don't mean that tongue in cheek. I mean it seriously. If you send someone home with a pill for pain and allow them to die sooner without aggressive treatment which might add extra time to their lives, then you contain costs.

These remarks are assertions, and without evidence they possess no truth value one way or the other.

If I saw this post on a political forum and the author were posting his or her own thoughts, I would conclude that the person’s thinking was fragmented, and that he was clearly afraid and angry. The Internet and the media in general reinforce this state of mind; the effect of public discussion is often to amplify emotions, and it can get addictive. The news media serves to maintain the public in this state more or less permanently, so they’ll be easy prey for any demagogue. As evidence that this is the case, I’d ask people who listen to or participate in America’s political discourse if it ever really eases anyone’s mind about anything.

Because your post is within a philosophy group I don't think that description fits you. Any particular problem can be dissected here in ways that use critical thinking. Political philosophy is an evaluative branch of inquiry that, if successful, will hold the institution of government to moral law. But I think the philosophical tool best suited to evaluating these comments is probably logic. I hope that approaching the subjects you raise in this way will make everyone better able to see through the rhetoric that short-circuits public discussions


message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

Tyler

Another informative message. I usually avoid discussing health care as I am too close to it. Unfortunately the public often believes the propaganda they get from the media. There are positives and negatives in any health care system.


message 38: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 8 comments Tyler wrote: "It's true that a person's place in life can shape his consciousness to an extent. But for Marx to imply that consciousness is "determined" by an irrevocable materialistic process of cause and effe..."

Very late, and I apologize. So, without liberalism, you could not have liberals? Hmmm.


message 39: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Hi Lisa

So, without liberalism, you could not have liberals? Hmmm.

Yes, this is how I understand Marx, and of course I may be misinterpreting him. For if society conditions an individual with this degree of cause and effect, the paradox you point out is compelling. Where, indeed, would liberalism come from in the first place?


message 40: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Tyler wrote: "Hi Lisa

So, without liberalism, you could not have liberals? Hmmm.

Yes, this is how I understand Marx, and of course I may be misinterpreting him. For if society conditions an individual with..."


Tyler and Lisa...I looked for the original post that Lisa was referencing but couldn't find it. So, if these comments are off the mark, forgive my misunderstanding of the context.

It seems to me to be a "non-point" to say that without liberalism there would be no liberals. It's a tautology, isn't it? In fact, it seems so obviously tautological that I wonder why the point was made. What am I missing?


message 41: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Hi Robert --

It's post 9, in response to post 8.

The question is Marx's general view that society shapes personality. He seem to imply that individuals have little or no say in how their personalities develop. But if that's the case, where did the social forces and ideas to which we're subject come from?


message 42: by Rob the Obscure (last edited Jan 21, 2011 09:25AM) (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Tyler wrote: "Hi Robert --

It's post 9, in response to post 8.

The question is Marx's general view that society shapes personality. He seem to imply that individuals have little or no say in how their pers..."



Thanks Tyler. I understand better now the context. I still the issue of "without liberalism, no liberals" is tautological.

However, on the more general point: Marx did, in fact, imply that everything goes back to economical status and class. I think there is a pretty good scholarly consensus now that he overstated that. It's similar to Freud and sexuality.

To say that class determines philosophical position is, IMO, reductionistic at best. Clearly there is an influence, but I would see it as more dialectical than cause and effect.


message 43: by Kari (new)

Kari | 3 comments deleted user wrote: "I think the bailout of the big banks is anything but utilitarian. The biggest cash cows in the world were given a break when the average guy,to a great degree, is on his own.

The banks in Canada w..."

Very interresting to follow this debate, and I agree with you.I live in Norway, which is probably one of the best countries when it comes to healtcare. I am a lucky gal. Keep on writing, I truly enjoy this.


message 44: by Traveller (last edited Nov 12, 2012 07:48AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 12 comments Hmm. I haven't had a chance to read every post in this thread in detail, but, I ask myself; can one even divorce politics from philosophy? Instead of being chicken and egg and snake devouring tail, are they perhaps not hand-in-hand? Depending on what you mean by "politics"?

If you are talking about political science, then: the discipline is commonly divided into three distinct sub-disciplines; political philosophy, comparative politics and international relations.

If you mean by "politics" the way we "choose government officials and make decisions about public policy", then, to me, it seems obvious that it would be informed by our philosophy; by our paradigm of the world.

But I might just be being pedantic here. Apologies.


message 45: by Athens (new)

Athens | 3 comments Hi Traveller - I have recently been thinking through a similar question a bit:

We live in a time, and have lived in this situation for generations, wherein culture/ethnicity and political interest interlock, but is that necessary?

I shall not approach that question here, as it is different from yours, but will suggest that the methods for approaching the questions could be "leveraged" as the engineers say.

Pardon me if this is unprepared formally, but I want to take a shot at this discussion with you....

From a viewable perspective, politics and philosophy do seem interlinked in the sense that if you start with a philosophical position, sometimes politics have to fall into place. Followers of Nozick will tend strongly to be conservative/libertarian and followers or Rawls will tend strongly to be Marxist/leftist.

On the other side of the coin, people who start from a pragmatic choice of right or left based on personal benefit will then ~subsequently~ seek out philosophers to support their positions. If I benefit from the welfare state, I will align my thinking thusly, and then seek out Rawls and his peers. If I benefit from my own property, I will seek out Nozick and his peers.

Even just writing the two paragraphs above, I begin to see your point - can philosophy on one hand and the self-interest definition of politics (if I may) ever be separated, either in theory or in practice?

On the face of it, the separation in ~practice~ seems nearly impossible. Imagine the cognitive dissonance of adhering fully to Nozick in your mind, but then voting a straight "Marxist" ticket in order to force redistribution of wealth into your own pocket. Doubtful. (Or imagine the opposite case, it the same in mirror image.)

But then in ~theory~ I think it is possible in some cases to have philosophical discussion separated fully from the realm of human self-interest. This would probably have to exclude what I will loosely call the philosophy of economics. So, for example, the controversy in the Orthodox church of whether God is above and outside being or contained within the concept of being will not be influenced directly by politics at the level of who is paying for my hamburger. (The politics of who prevails and wins the theoretical discussion is an interesting and rather recursive point :) ).

Very nice to meet you and thanks for the thoughtful postings.

Paul


message 46: by Traveller (last edited Nov 13, 2012 01:03AM) (new)

Traveller (moontravlr) | 12 comments Hi Paul! Nice to meet you as well, and thank you for replying to my musing. I do see your point as well.

I was working from the viewpoint that people would prefer not to have cognitive dissonance regarding what they believed in general, and how they thought over political matters, and then also re how they voted, although I do need to clarify that for me how a person votes might not necessarily agree 100% with his/her full political feelings/thoughts/inclinations due to various reasons.

One such reason might stem from the fact that the issues covered in the political spectrum by party politics, might not be covered by there not being enough political parties running to represent the spectrum of combinations and possibilities, and people often have to decide which policies they can live with and which are totally unacceptable, on a scale of importance.

For instance, you might be quite strongly opposed to the death penalty, but the party that supports your economic ideals (i.e. stands for implementing economic policies that you support) may endorse the death penalty. You would then have to sit down and decide which one is the most important to you, and choose accordingly.

In this sense, I imagine that there will always be a large potential for cognitive dissonance in how people actually vote and which political party they support.

That is the practical physical arena where we vote and conduct our actual real-life physical affairs and need to deal with the physical actual political system we find ourselves in.

However, most of us are also political beings in an ideological sense. If we are thoughtful persons, we would have thought over what our ideal political system would look like, if we were omnipotent, and could have introduced such a system without the actual constraints that we do face in the practical world.

In this sense it is that I had meant that our philosophy and our politics go hand in hand. Most people are, like you suggested, reasonably passive about the fact that there may be dissonance between what they believe should be happening and what is actually happening; but there are others who would feel so strongly about a disparity between what is happening in the real world and what the believe should be happening, that they will start revolutionary activities of various sorts; be it violent or peaceful.

Yes, i do see the point about that people will seek out formal thinkers (philosophers) who endorse that philosophy that makes them feel most comfortable, and that could serve, if you like, as 'apologists' you could say, of that person's lifestyle and life choices.

I do think therefore, that whether we mean someone's personal philosophy, or whether we mean those formal philosophical arguments as put forward by academic and professional philosophers that the person in question supports, that there will be some congruence between what the person believes and how he/she lives.

So, I would imagine there might be some give and take both ways. A person might start off living in a certain way that might be dissonant with what he actually believes, but after a while, I do believe that with most people, the incongruity would start grating on them, and they would either take steps to change how they live to fit in more closely with that they believe, or, they would change to support a formal philosophic argument or "excuse" that fits on more closely with how they live and what they themselves believe.

As you mention, the fly in the drinkwater would always be basic self-interest, and I accede that it would differ from individual to individual how much that person listens to his instinctual nature and how much he or she pays attention to their own ideology.


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