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dimanche, 19 mai 2019

Aristóteles y Patánjali: la Ética a Nicómaco y los YogaSutras

patanjali2.jpg

Aristóteles y Patánjali:
la Ética a Nicómaco y los YogaSutras

Enrique Bravo Sáinz
Verónica Pagazaurtundua Vitores

Ex: http://www.nodulo.org

Se parte del estudio de la Ética a Nicómaco de Aristóteles para acercarla a los YogaSutras de Patánjali, en un intento de conciliar ambas teorías. Oriente y Occidente ante el camino que conduce a la unión de lo humano y lo divino

A modo de justificación

Según el historiador J. N. Dasgupta (1963){1}, Patánjali, del que se sabe muy poco, fue el compilador o condensador de la filosofía esencial y las técnicas yóguicas que venían existiendo desde tiempos muy antiguos en los conocidos Upanishads{2} del llamado «mundo oriental». Este gramático que vivió en el siglo II a.c., dio origen a un tratado llamado YogaSutras o Aforismos, considerados la base más autorizada sobre la que se orientó la posterior filosofía mística oriental. Los YogaSutras comprenden ocho prácticas para llegar a la perfección del principio humano y unidad con el principio divino. Estos pasos serían:

1. Yama o moderación
2. Niyama o dominio de sí mismo
3. Asana o postura
4. Pranayama o control de la respiración
5. Pratyahara o control de los sentidos
6. Dharana o concentración
7. Diana o meditación
8. Samadhi o contemplación

Las primeras dos etapas son la preparación o requisitos preliminares esenciales que todo individuo ha de observar al emprender el sendero de la perfección. Muchos historiadores han convenido en llamarlas «virtudes». Las tres etapas siguientes atañen a la disciplina del cuerpo y de los sentidos. Las cinco son, pues, una preparación externa para que el ser humano logre ordenar su conducta. Las tres últimas etapas son internas y abarcan los aspectos del control de la mente. El fin último de las ocho es alcanzar la felicidad, que la filosofía yóguica la ha vinculado siempre al encuentro de lo divino, más certeramente, al despertar de lo divino en el hombre. La trascendencia de lo humano y el abrazo con la parte más excelsa en cada uno de nosotros. El reencuentro con lo esencial. El filósofo oriental A. Watts (1995){3} decía que «cada individuo es un disfraz de Dios jugando al escondite consigo mismo a través de la eternidad». Es conveniente aclarar que en el sistema de pensar oriental{4} que nos ocupa, el término Dios tiene muy poco que ver con la dimensión religiosa a la cual está ligada en el conocimiento occidental a partir del nacimiento de Cristo. Para la primera, es mucho más sencillo argumentar sobre lo que Dios no es que hablar de lo que es, mencionándolo como lo indescriptible, lo innombrable, lo esencial... Tan solo cuando una persona transciende lo que no es, consigue vislumbrar lo que es, y eso es Dios.

etiuca.jpgLos hábitos regulares que forman la base moral y ética de la filosofía yóguica se denominan Yamas, a saber: inofensividad, veracidad, honradez, templanza y generosidad, y Niyamas, que abarcan la limpieza, el contento, la austeridad, el estudio de uno mismo y la devoción a un ideal.

Cuando estábamos leyendo Ética a Nicómaco tuvimos la necesidad de dirigirnos a los YogaSutras, que hace tanto tiempo habíamos leído, con la intención de datar, primero, ambas obras y, segundo, comprobar su aparente parecido. Oriente y Occidente. Aristóteles y Patánjali.

Después de cotejar ampliamente los dos textos, entendemos que Aristóteles desarrollará en su Ética a Nicómaco una teoría de la perfección humana que ya venían recogiendo en los Upanishads, y más antiguamente en los Brahmanas{5} y en los Vedas{6}, todos aquellos seres que buscaron la felicidad. Los filósofos –espirituales, místicos, perennes,... simplemente aquellos que se interesaron por el alcance de lo divino– orientales y occidentales caminaron por senderos bien distintos, mas pretendiendo un idéntico despertar.

A modo de introducción. Reinventar la obra de Aristóteles

Cuando Aristóteles escribió su obra, lo hizo posiblemente condicionado por el momento histórico cultural que le tocó vivir. Pero la totalidad cultural se reconstruye permanentemente. Por ello, cuando imaginamos a Aristóteles en este ensayo, la referencia es más a la imagen actual de este filósofo que a lo que él haya podido ser o pensar en función de su tiempo. Nos parece un tanto ingenuo que me plantee cual pudo haber sido el auténtico pensamiento de este gran erudito. El estudio de la Ética a Nicómaco se inscribe en el paradigma cultural de un momento concreto. Hoy y solo ahora podemos hablar de Aristóteles, después de que tantos otros pensadores lo hayan hecho también en su ahora. Sin embargo, a nuestro modo de ver, un gran autor es, precisamente, alguien cuya obra se deja reinventar perpetuamente. Este es el caso que nos ocupa.

El Estagirita creó el texto en el siglo IV a. C. y al hacerlo no debió entrar en sus cálculos dirigirla a una gran mayoría de público, pues su enrevesado y árido estilo difiere del nivel intelectual medio que se supone en esta época. De ahí que el carácter del libro pueda ser considerado ocultista y de proyección privada, para un reducido núcleo de pensadores. De acuerdo a una opinión generalizada, la obra estuvo dedicada a su hijo Nicómaco. Sin embargo, J. L. Calvo Martínez (2001) apunta que este dato es impensable, «ya que tal cosa no era costumbre en la época y era inadecuada para un escrito esotérico»{7}. Y más adelante señala «que tanto el nombre de Ética como los adjetivos se deben a un tercero –al erudito que puso orden en la multitud de escritos de Aristóteles y los organizó en Tratados más o menos unitarios–. Este pudo ser Andronico de Rodas (s. II a. C.) o quizá alguien anterior.»{8}

La Ética a Nicómaco es una reflexión acerca de la consecución de la felicidad a través de la virtud humana. Todos los seres anhelan ser felices, es decir, desplegar y manifestar sus posibilidades inmanentes e innatas. Aristóteles escribe para explicarnos el camino que consideró el más adecuado. Investiguemos juntos este sendero ético.

El sendero hacia la Felicidad en Ética a Nicómaco

Libros I y II

Aristóteles invita a la realización de la virtud como la mejor manera de ser buenos. Estamos ante una ciencia práctica de la conducta humana, no un conocimiento únicamente teórico. La Política sería su nombre y el político quien conoce y se preocupa por los asuntos del alma. La Política es la ciencia que se encarga del Bien Supremo en el hombre, al que llama Felicidad. A ella se accede a través de una vida elevada y perfecta, la vida de la contemplación de la verdad, que es la que siguen los que saben, aquellos instalados en el «ser». La vida del honor la siguen los individuos que se instalan en el «hacer», la vida de la acción. Mientras que los que no saben, la mayoría, se quedan en la vida del placer mundano. Al final del Libro X vuelve a tratar el tema de la vida más elevada, quizás, en la mayor de las enseñanzas que Aristóteles nos transmite y de la que me ocuparé a lo largo del ensayo.

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¿En qué consiste la Felicidad para el ser humano?. Es momento de acudir al alma y comprender que sus actividades pueden ser realizadas en base a la máxima excelencia o virtud, las cuales conducen a esa anhelada Felicidad. A partir de aquí, la Ética se afana en el estudio de la Virtud y las virtudes. Nos movemos en terrenos anímicos. Se distinguen dos tipos de virtud o excelencia humana: la moral y la intelectual. La virtud moral es una expresión del carácter y la conducta. Sean buenos y domínense, sean virtuosos y no estarán a merced de sus instintos más bajos. La virtud moral es el punto medio entre dos extremos. Hábitos de acción que se ajustan al término medio y han de flexibilizarse debido a las diferencias entre la gente y otros factores. El medio es el equilibrio. Las virtudes intelectuales se refieren a la vida de la parte racional del alma (Libro VI), que son la función natural del ser humano. Las primeras, morales, se someten a las razones segundas. Ambas son medios destinados a la consecución de la Felicidad.

El estudio de las virtudes se asemeja al conocimiento de uno mismo. Comprobar cuales son nuestras tendencias, hacia qué extremos tendemos y alejarnos de ellos.

Libros III y IV

Estamos ante la responsabilidad moral. La elección humana es determinante. La virtud y el vicio son voluntarios porque dependen de nosotros. A partir de aquí, se acomete el estudio de las diferentes virtudes. Comienza analizando la Valentía y la Templanza para más tarde dedicarse a las virtudes sociales propias del tiempo que se trata en la obra. Aquí comprobamos que la de Aristóteles es una ética elitista. Su discurso condena a los no ciudadanos, los esclavos, la gente pobre, los trabajadores asalariados, las mujeres o los niños, mientras el camino de la Virtud estaba destinado a los varones adultos, acomodados y maduros, ciudadanos de la clase alta.

Libro V

En él se trata íntegramente el tema de la Justicia. Si injusto es aquel que quebranta la ley, el justo será el que la cumple y, por tanto, habrá una justicia general que nos aconseja ser virtuosos y abandonar los vicios. También estaría la justicia particular que consistiría en quedarse con la parte que a uno le corresponde, que es el término medio entre el exceso y el defecto. Aristóteles distingue, dentro de esta justicia particular, entre una pública (reparto de bienes y honores de la comunidad) y otra privada que regula los intercambios entre ciudadanos.

Evidentemente, el interés principal es el análisis de la justicia general, al que va dirigido el libro. La justicia es tomada como la virtud que relaciona armoniosamente a todas las demás, cuando las partes del alma se sitúan en su correcto sitio y cumplen con la misión deseable. El intelecto es quien gobierna. La persona justa, cuya vida está sometida a la razón más elevada, es una persona buena.

Otro tema es el de la Equidad y su relación con la justicia, convirtiéndose en el instrumento sustitutivo de la ley allá donde ésta no llega a los detalles y particularidades concretas. La justicia como cualidad moral que inclina a los seres humanos a practicar lo justo, la equidad se muestra superior a la justicia que corrige.

Libro VI

Desarrollo de las virtudes intelectuales. La virtud es el ejercicio de la parte más elevada del alma: la racional. Si la virtud depende de un acto voluntario, tiene que existir una cualidad en el alma que determine la bondad del fin y de los medios para llegar hasta él. Nos referimos a la Prudencia, que queda convertida en un criterio fundamental en el camino hacia la virtuosidad.

Hay tres elementos del alma que controlan la acción y la verdad: la Sensación, la Razón y el Deseo. Las sensaciones no conllevan al comportamiento excelso. El Deseo y la Razón se aúnan en la inteligencia práctica, como la actividad del alma que se dirige hacia la verdad fundada en un recto deseo. Se exige una educación de la parte del alma que contiene el Deseo. Todo ello es el hombre.

Otras virtudes intelectuales se añaden a la Razón en pos de la búsqueda de la verdad. La Ciencia, el Arte, la Sabiduría, la Intuición y la Prudencia. Cada una guarda una función distinta, si bien Aristóteles hace hincapié en distinguir a la Prudencia de las demás y la define como «excelencia en la deliberación, inteligencia en tanto que capacidad de comprender y consideración o juicio»{9}. De todas formas, es la Sabiduría, como no podía ser de otra forma, la virtud intelectual por excelencia.

Libro VII

Se trata la relación entre la Razón y la Pasión. La importancia de la primera en la virtud de la Continencia y de la segunda en la Incontinencia, vista como cualidad imperfecta. Continencia e Incontinencia, lo racional frente a lo pasional. Si el incontinente desconoce lo que es recto, su elección es moralmente recta y su falta de rectitud no es deliberada, por lo que no puede ser considerada como un vicio. La Incontinencia es incompatible con la Prudencia.

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Aparece la Intemperancia, como la falta de dominio sobre el placer. El Placer (Libro X) que todos buscamos, huyendo del sufrimiento. ¿Es bueno el placer?. El placer es actividad y existen tantas clases de placer como actividades, pero existe un Placer puro que es actividad y es fin, que es Felicidad. Virtud y Placer.

Libros VIII y IX

La Amistad. Se distinguen tres tipos de amistad: de utilidad, de placer y de virtud. Las dos primeras son más pasajeras y no se limitan a los individuos buenos. La más imperfecta es la utilitaria. Cuando amistad y virtud caminan de la mano, la actividad es buena. Pero esta última no abunda.

La amistad acompaña a toda relación social y crea el vínculo. Primero en torno a la Justicia, en las relaciones políticas y privadas. Después, la amistad del parentesco familiar y por último las relaciones entre amigos. Se considera al amigo como a un uno mismo semejante y es porque nos amamos a nosotros mismos por lo que podemos ser buenos en nuestro entorno próximo, identificándonos con el prójimo. Amistad y egoísmo. Amistad y benevolencia. Amistad y concordia.

Libro X

El Placer y la Felicidad son tratados con enorme brillantez. Se concilian virtud y placer en la acción que lleva a la Felicidad. El placer acompaña a la acción virtuosa y se identifica con la Felicidad última. El placer supremo va unido a la actividad que ejerce la virtud más elevada, la de los sabios que encuentran el más puro placer en la Contemplación. Esta es la actividad de la parte más elevada del alma. El placer del sabio. Por esto, la vida del intelecto es la más feliz y, por ende, la más placentera, porque la filosofía encierra placeres maravillosos por su pureza y permanencia y es razonable que el transcurso del tiempo sea más placentero para los que saben. La vida del sabio basada en la cercanía a lo divino. Aristóteles, como en toda su Metafísica, defiende la existencia del ser divino. Dios, en su calidad de ser perfecto. La Felicidad de lo divino, de la que desean participar todos los seres. La virtud moral se queda en lo humano y nada sabe de lo divino.

Otras consideraciones que dan fin al libro, abordan la necesidad de practicar la Ética. Si ella es expuesta para un reducido número de gentes maduras, se insta a crear un sistema educativo para los más jóvenes. El Estado se encargaría de su educación. Pero no es tarea fácil, por lo que la autoridad paterna tiene que asumir esta labor.

A partir de aquí, la filosofía que trata de los asuntos humanos debe incluir la Política. Así, el final de la Ética abre la puerta al inicio de la Política.

Hemos creído necesario recoger en este trabajo personal un breve repaso por los contenidos que Aristóteles expone en Ética a Nicómaco, de manera que el lector tenga la oportunidad de situarse y hacer sus propias conjeturas al respecto.

La reflexión que sigue a la profundización
El arte de la Contemplación, Dios y la Felicidad

Patánjali fundamentó un sendero basado en ocho prácticas, mientras Aristóteles abarcó un genial despliegue de virtudes y de perfección en la naturaleza humana. La supremacía de la razón en el estagirita y el control de los sentidos y la mente en el indio. El dominio de uno mismo del oriental y el equilibrio medio del occidental. Dharana o concentración, Dhyana o meditación y Samadhi o contemplación equivalen a la misma Contemplación de la cual habla Aristóteles. Dos senderos para un mismo final. Occidente y Oriente. Muchos aspectos de todas estas corrientes, escuelas y filosofías son, en realidad, perennes o universales, es decir, trascienden épocas y culturas y apuntan al corazón y al alma de todos los seres humanos sensibles a este conocimiento. El alma moderna y el alma antigua. Ahora es cuando podemos reinventar la filosofía de los más grandes pensadores que han existido.

Pero aquí no pueden terminar los planteamientos. Muy al contrario se vislumbra una reflexión mucho mayor que emana de la enseñanza que Aristóteles deja patente en su Libro X y la amplía. A partir de sus palabras:

«Pues bien, ya sea esto el intelecto o cualquier otra cosa que, en verdad, parece por naturaleza gobernar y conducir y tener conocimiento cierto acerca de las cosas buenas y divinas -porque sea ello mismo también divino o la parte más divina de las que hay en nosotros-, la actividad de esto conforme a la virtud propia sería la felicidad perfecta. Y ya se ha dicho que ella es apta para la contemplación... En efecto, ésta es la actividad suprema (pues el intelecto lo es entre lo que hay en nosotros y, entre los objetos del conocimiento, lo son aquellos con los que tiene relación el intelecto)... Y una vida de esta clase sería superior a la medida humana, pues no vivirá de esta manera en tanto que es un hombre, sino en tanto que hay en él un algo divino; y en la misma medida en que ello es superior a lo compuesto, en esa medida su actividad es superior a la correspondiente al resto de la virtud. Y, claro, si el intelecto es cosa divina en comparación con el hombre, la vida conforme a éste será divina comparada con la vida humana...»{10}

Abundando en la visión de Aristóteles, proponemos que la contemplación a la que se refiere, es un estado de conciencia, el único que nos permite acceder a las dimensiones de lo divino. De manera que el ser humano puede experimentar una graduación en sus niveles de conciencia, de acuerdo a la pureza de la actividad que ejecute. El estado contemplativo se correspondería con el más alto dominio consciente en el individuo, aquél que le conduciría a la sabiduría de Dios. Aristóteles asigna al hombre sabio la posibilidad de instalarse en esta virtud suprema de la Contemplación y le señala como el tipo de ser humano más perfecto, capaz de desarrollar la actividad que da acceso a la Felicidad última.

Ya nadie duda de la presencia de algo divino, que poco tiene que ver con intereses religiosos. Pero hay una pregunta que ha rondado nuestras cabezas durante toda la lectura de Ética a Nicómaco: ¿dónde ubica Aristóteles esa realidad última o Dios?. Para él, como para la mayor parte de la filosofía occidental contemporánea al autor, no se encuentra en ninguna parte de este mundo. El Dios de Aristóteles es, a nuestro modo de ver y coincidimos plenamente con las palabras del pensador K. Wilber (1998){11}, esencialmente ultramundano y no se halla en esta Tierra. Curiosamente el autor se pasa todo el libro, y toda su vida, en el estudio intramundano para después resultar ser uno de los ascendentistas arquetípicos de Occidente. Un Dios que no está inmanente en ningún dominio manifiesto. El Dios de Aristóteles es un Dios de perfección pura, que no se ensucia las manos con el mundo de lo relativo, quizás porque ello supondría comprometer su plenitud y delatar una ausencia de totalidad. El Estagirita sitúa a Dios en el mundo finito únicamente como aspiración final, como anhelo imposible. El propio Aristóteles, según el filósofo Salvador Pániker (1989){12} «en sus primeros diálogos (hoy perdidos), parece haberse inclinado hacia el pesimismo órfico-pitagórico», que anunciaba la imposibilidad para el hombre de participar de la naturaleza de lo que es verdaderamente excelente, por lo que hubiese sido mejor para él no haber nacido. Planteamientos que, como observamos en su Ética a Nicómaco, fue ligeramente variando gracias a un exquisito proyecto del intelecto y su actividad; pero esta idea no llega a ser entendida plenamente, pues se aprecia (véase el texto que reproduzco anteriormente) como el autor compara lo divino con el intelecto y éste formaría parte de nosotros, como lo más perfecto y sublime que tenemos. Pese a lo cual, Dios parece seguir allí y nosotros aquí, sin opción a salvar el abismo. Lo Absoluto y lo relativo.

patanjali.jpgPatánjali también nos habla del Dios último y enfoca la vida del hombre virtuoso y bueno en función de la consecución de una unión con lo divino. Cuando I. K. Taimni (1979){13} cita el primer Sutra de la parte referida a la práctica, justo antes de indicar el óctuple sendero que conduce a lo divino, indica que la entrega a Dios (se considere como se considere a este Dios), junto con la austeridad bien entendida y el estudio de sí mismo (que vienen a coincidir con los pilares de la pauta de conducta aristotélica), son los elementos que constituyen la vida yóguica que conduce a la perfección. Sin embargo, se da el matiz de que la filosofía yóguica oriental, jamás ha permitido que Dios se escape de este mundo de acá abajo y es en él en donde lo habremos de encontrar y abrazar, muy lejos de otras dimensiones no humanas. Es una tendencia generalizada en el pensamiento oriental tratar lo divino de la mano de lo humano. La lucha de contrarios Absoluto-relativo queda solucionada, ni siquiera hay lugar a ella.

Tal y como Aristóteles lo plantea, la imagen del cuerpo como un instrumento del alma es una idea nacida en una época y una cultura determinadas, una tradición y un lenguaje. Hoy consideramos superado este dualismo. Tan noble es el cuerpo como el alma. Porque son lo mismo. Es el reconocimiento implícito de que Dios no sólo es infinito sino también finito. Los filósofos occidentales han necesitado muchos siglos para desembarazarse de la idea rígida de la perfección humana (que es la idea tradicional de Dios) y recuperar el origen «sucio» de lo divino, reconciliando lo supra y lo infra, el espíritu con la materia, lo necesario con lo contingente, lo infinito y lo finito. La mayoría de teólogos todavía no se han enterado de este proceso. Nada exclusivamente finito me merece mucho respeto y ahí me declaro más oriental que occidental.

Pero ahora se nos plantea otra importante reflexión. Si somos coherentes y serios con nuestros planteamientos, igualmente hemos de cuestionar las etapas preliminares del óctuplo sendero en la teoría de Patánjali y nos preguntamos si es necesaria la virtud para caminar hacia lo divino. Encontramos escrito en los Upanishads:

«El Alma es lo Eterno. Está hecha de conciencia y mente: está hecha de vida y visión. Está hecha de tierra y aguas. Está hecha de aire y espacio. Está hecha de luz y oscuridad. Está hecha de deseo y paz. Está hecha de ira y amor. Está hecha de virtud y vicio. Está hecha de todo lo que está cerca. Está hecha de todo lo que está lejos. Esta hecha de todo.»{14}

¿No se encuentra Dios en el virtuoso así como en el pecador? ¿En el fango así como en las estrellas? De nuevo lo finito y lo infinito. Lo místico y lo sensual. Arriba y abajo. ¿Y lo divino? ¿Aristóteles y Patánjali? ¿Qué hacer?

En todo esto consiste el filosofar. Sucede que cada cual explora la realidad como mejor sabe y puede. De un lado, los místicos de Oriente, de otro el pragmatismo occidental. Cada observador construye su mundo. Dice Salvador Pániker (2000){15} que uno opta por el Dios-cómplice, o la complicidad divina, porque nos hace sentir en el mundo como en nuestra casa. Cada cual inventa al Dios-cómplice en su soledad. Y no podemos olvidar que la verdad construida por cada uno comporta el respeto a la verdad elaborada por el prójimo. Oriente y Occidente. El mismo fin y diferentes maneras de andar.

Consecuentemente, la Felicidad última de la que tratan Patánjali y Aristóteles, que es Dios, se nos ocurre que podríamos no buscarla fuera de nosotros mismos porque, quizás, ya la tengamos dentro. La hemos tenido siempre a nuestro lado, la entendamos como la entendamos, seamos como seamos. Ella está ahí, esperando paciente que la reconozcamos, que nos convirtamos en ella. Microcosmos y macrocosmos. El disfraz de Dios jugando consigo mismo a través de la eternidad.

Que cada individuo maquine su propia filosofía.

Notas

{1} J. N. Dasgupta, History of Mankind. Cultural and Scientific Development, Unesco, 1963.

{2} Breves textos de naturaleza filosófica, cronológicamente situados más allá del 600 a. de C. Los principales Upanishads son catorce. Los más antiguos escritos en prosa y relativamente largos. Algo posteriores, hacia el 500 a. de C. y más breves aparecen en verso. El lenguaje es clasificado como sánscrito.

{3} A. Watts, El futuro del éxtasis, Ed. Kairós, Barcelona 1995, pág. 170.

{4} Permítaseme generalizar lo «oriental» y lo «occidental» a lo largo de todo el texto, a sabiendas de que cada individuo es un sistema diferente de pensamiento.

{5} Liturgias en prosa de estilo seco, abstrusas y tortuosas con una cronología que se remonta al primer cuarto del primer milenio antes de Cristo.

{6} La escrituras más antiguas de la India, de origen desconocido. El texto védico fue transmitido oralmente durante decenas de generaciones, de ahí el cuidado que se puso en su correcta pronunciación.

{7} J. L. Calvo Martínez, Ética a Nicómaco, Ed. Alianza, Madrid 2001, pág. 8.

{8} Ibíd., pág. 9.

{9} J. L. Calvo Martínez, Ética a Nicómaco, Ed. Alianza, Madrid 2001, pág. 193.

{10} J. L. Calvo Martínez, Ética a Nicómaco, Ed. Alianza, Madrid 2001, págs. 302 y 303.

{11} K. Wilber, El ojo del espíritu, Ed. Kairós, Barcelona 1998.

{12} Salvador Pániker, Aproximación al origen, Ed. Kairós, Barcelona 1989.

{13} I. K. Taimni, La ciencia de la yoga. Comentarios a los YogaSutras de Patánjali, Ed. Rio Negro, Federación Teosófica Interamericana, 1979. Libro Segundo, pág. 129.

{14} Trad. de J. Mascaro, Himalayas of the Soul, Translations from the Sanskrit of the Principal Upanishads, Londres y Nueva York 1938, pág. 89.

{15} Salvador Pániker, Cuaderno Amarillo, Ed. Areté, Barcelona 2000.

mercredi, 17 janvier 2018

Stoic Spiritual Hygiene with Regard to Normies

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Stoic Spiritual Hygiene with Regard to Normies

Ancient philosophy, as Pierre Hadot has argued, was not merely a set of ideas but meant to include something far more practical: the leading of a good life in the pursuit of truth. In the case of Stoicism, as with Cynicism, the notion of leading a philosophical way of life is particularly explicit and central.[1] [2]

The philosopher is interested in living a life according to purpose and principle, as opposed to the frivolous or the popular. This necessarily can make him seem a bit of a kill-joy and can make interacting with what we call “normies” problematic. This is not a new problem. Here is Epictetus’ advice on avoiding gossip, chit-chat about the ball-game, and other small talk:

Lay down from this moment a certain character and pattern of behavior for yourself, which you are to preserve both when you’re alone and when you’re with others.

Remain silent for the most part, or say only what is essential, and in few words. Very infrequently, however, when the occasion demands, do speak, but not about any of the usual topics, not about gladiators, not about horse-races, not about athletes, not about food and drink, the subjects of everyday talk; but above all, don’t talk abut people, either to praise or criticize them, or to compare them. If you’re able to so, then, through the manner of your own conversation bring that of your companions round to what is fit and proper. But if you happen to find yourself alone among strangers, keep silent. (Handbook, 33)

stoique.jpg“Show, don’t tell,” besides being good writing advice, is then an important Stoic principle concerning philosophy. One will always be tempted to make a philosophical and political point in order to show off or best another in argument, which of course defeats the whole purpose. Epictetus reiterates the point:

Never call yourself a philosopher, and don’t talk among laymen for the most part about philosophical principles, but act in accordance with those principles. At a banquet, for example, don’t talk about how one ought to eat, but eat as one ought. . . . And accordingly, if any talk should arise among laymen about some philosophical principle, keep silent for the most part, for there is great danger that you’ll simply vomit up what you haven’t properly digested. (Handbook, 46)

Epictetus is quite explicit that adoption of the Stoic way of life means a radical change, perhaps analogous to religious conversion. The change is so radical that one must be careful who one associates with. Obviously, one’s own spiritual practice will be all the greater insofar as one associates with like-minded people. Conversely, this also means one may have to abandon boorish old friends:

This is a point to which you should attend before all others, that you should never become so intimately associated with any of your former friends and acquaintances that you sink down to the same level as them; for otherwise, you’ll destroy yourself. But if this thought worms its way into your mind, that “I’ll seem churlish to him, and he won’t be as friendly to me as before,” remember that nothing is gained without cost, and that it is impossible for someone to remain the same as he was if he is no longer acting the same way. Choose, then, which you prefer: to be held in the same affection as before by your former friends by remaining as you used to be, or else become better than you were and no longer meet with the same affect . . . if you’re caught between two paths, you’ll incur a double penalty, since you’ll neither make progress as you ought nor acquire the things that you used to enjoy. (Discourses, 4.2.1-5).

Epictetus_Enchiridion_1683_page1.jpgThe message is clear: the low spiritual and intellectual condition of “normies” is highly contagious, one must exercise the utmost caution. No doubt this bad condition has been severely aggravated and magnified by television and pop culture.

By these metrics, I observe that the modern university experience is something of an anti-education: the stupidities of youth are exaggerated and made fashionable, rather than curtailed. The soul grows obese with pleasure and pride, rather than being moderated and cultivated. (I note in passing that Plato would no doubt be surprised, to not say worse, to learn that “academia” would grant degrees to 40 percent of the population.)

The Stoic will manage his social relations with moderation. He will economically support himself, honor his parents, and find a wife and raise of family of his own. Nonetheless, to the extent possible within the web of relations implied by his social role, he will live a philosophical life, and raise his peers by his example. In this, I should think, a shared spiritual practice with the wife and other immediate family is a great aid, to not say fundamental: by prayer, meditation, readings, song, and other rituals in common, one can lift up souls away from the sensuous and the frivolous, and towards principle.

References

Epictetus, Discourses, Fragments, Handbook, trans. Robin Hard (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[1] [3] Epictetus scolds those who adopt the name Stoic but prefer to talk about philosophical principles than live them:

What difference does it make, in fact, whether you expound these teachings or those of another school? Sit down and give a technical account of the teachings of Epicurus, and perhaps you’ll give a better account than Epicurus himself! Why call yourself a Stoic, then; why mislead the crowd; why act the part of a Jew when you’re Greek? Don’t you know why it is that a person is called a Jew, Syrian, or Egyptian? And when we see someone hesitating between two creeds, we’re accustomed to say, “He is no Jew, but is merely acting the part.” But when he assumes the frame of mind of one who has been baptized and has made his choice, then he really is a Jew, and is called by that name. And so we too are baptized in name alone, while in fact being someone quite different, since we’re not in sympathy with our own doctrines, and are far from making any practical application of the principles we express, even though we take pride in knowing them. (Discourses, 2.9.19-22)

Epictetus repeatedly contrasts Middle-Eastern “Jews, Syrians, and Egyptians” with “Romans,” as culturally and perhaps ethnically others.

 

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2018/01/stoic-spiritual-hygiene-with-regard-to-normies/

URLs in this post:

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vendredi, 01 juillet 2016

Le christianisme a dérobé le «logos» philosophique grec

delphes_tholos_sanctuaire_athena_pronaia_1281.jpg

Le christianisme a dérobé le «logos» philosophique grec

Ecrivain et enseignant

Ex: http://www.slate.fr

index.jpgRecension:

Les enfants d'Héraclite. Une brève histoire politique de la philosophie des Européens, par Gérard Mairet

Acheter ce livre

Ne s’agissant pas d’une étude nouvelle sur la philosophie d’Héraclite, il convient d’attirer l’attention du lecteur sur le titre et sous-titre complets de l’ouvrage. C’est toute la philosophie politique, appliquée à la question de l’Europe, qui y est en jeu, centrée sur une grande affaire qui regarde, justement, les Européennes et les Européens. En effet, Gérard Mairet, philosophe et professeur émérite des universités, s’attaque à la notion d’Europe chrétienne et de racines chrétiennes de l’Europe (on présuppose même toujours qu’il y en a!).

C’est l’illusion complaisante d’une «philosophie chrétienne» (de la soumission de la raison et de la nature à la foi) qui a permis la fabrication de cette légende des «racines» chrétiennes de l’Europe. Le fait de faire remonter «ce qu’on appelle Europe» aux doctrines de l’Église, c’est faire comme si les conciles avaient fondé l’Europe –d’où les racines!

La question, il est vrai, concerne non le christianisme, à l’évidence un des éléments constitutifs de la culture européenne, mais ce qu’on entend par Europe. Car, insiste Mairet, l’Europe a son origine dans le Logos et non dans la religion, mais on veut l’oublier. Cette idéologie des racines de l’Europe a son fondement dans un vol, celle du Logos philosophique (grec) par le christianisme, vol qui aboutit à de nombreux drames contemporains, et à l’injonction qui nous est encore faite par beaucoup: on ne badine pas avec les dieux!

Vaste larcin

 - Le temps grec: de Héraclite, conçu comme un héros de la pensée humaine, Mairet dit qu’il fut le premier philosophe et surtout qu’il le fut parce qu’il a posé le Logos: le discours à l’écoute de la raison des choses, le discours qui pose l’unité des opposés. Avec Héraclite, le raisonnement (logos) s’émancipe du divin et des poètes. C’est la raison qui ordonne la pensée du monde, non les récits héroïques, non les allégories poétiques. C’est là une attitude théorique radicale. D’autant plus que ce Logos est associé à la démocratie. Il passe de la nature à l’homme, c’est-à-dire à la polis. Passer à l’homme veut dire se mettre à l’écoute de l’homme dans la cité. Le Logos passe au citoyen et à la démocratie:

«En effet, si elle est bien le pouvoir du peuple, la force du grand nombre, c’est parce que la démocratie est le régime politique où la multitude prend la parole. D’où la meilleure et la plus simple définition de la démocratie; elle est le régime où la parole politique appartient au peuple, le peuple y prend la parole.»Délibérer, cela suppose une technique de l’argumentation, une capacité démonstrative visant à faire valoir la justesse de son opinion, et à refuser les dogmes.

Le corpus philosophique des Grecs est relégué sous la catégorie de doxa (opinion païenne)

photo-rabbin-daniel-farhi-héraclite.jpg- Le temps chrétien: donc le Moyen Âge, et la subtile déstructuration du Logos Grec au profit de Dieu, du Christ et de l’empereur, donc l’invention du théologicopolitique. Dès lors que le logos-raison (répétons-le: inventé par les Grecs et notamment Héraclite) passe au logos-foi, la philosophie change de figure, ou plutôt elle est disqualifiée en faveur de la «théologie du Logos». Ainsi les chrétiens ont-ils opéré un vaste larcin sur le dos d’Héraclite et de quelques autres. Désormais, le logos-foi ne tolère pas le logos-raison. Ce n’est que lorsque les philosophes s’emploieront à faire resurgir le logos-raison du fonds théologique du logos-foi, que la philosophie renaîtra au détriment de la théologie.

Voici le larcin chrétien (vers 150 de notre ère):

«Au commencement était le Verbe, et le Verbe était tourné vers Dieu, et le Verbe était Dieu.»

(Évangiles)

On sait que le mot «parole» ou le mot «Verbe» traduisent logos; dans l’original grec, logos et theos (dieu) sont sans majuscule. Grâce aux majuscules, l’énoncé «le Verbe était Dieu» induit l’idée que le texte dit autre chose que «la parole était dieu». Originairement, c’est l’auteur de l’évangile (ou plutôt de son prologue), Jean, qui opère l’identification du Logos à Jésus en faisant de celui-ci le Christ. La révolution en question consiste en effet à faire passer le logos, de la philosophie à ce qui sera quelques décennies plus tard une «religion».

Coup de génie

C’est la révolution par la fin: Jésus achève la philosophie car il l’accomplit en atteignant le but que celle-ci s’était donné (la Vérité), d’Héraclite au logos spermatikos des stoïciens. Du coup, Jésus-Christ-Logos l’achève en y mettant aussi un terme définitif. Si vous dites que le Logos est le Messie (Christos), vous sortez de la philosophie pour entrer dans la mystique et le religieux.

Tel est le tour de force –surtout le coup de génie– de Justin qui, probablement, ne pouvait pas savoir la portée de ce qu’il venait de faire! Il sous-entend que la vérité ne pouvant être qu’une, ce n’est pas dans la philosophie des Grecs qu’on la trouve. Justin se sent fondé à reléguer le corpus philosophique des Grecs sous la catégorie de doxa (opinion païenne). Lui qui cherchait la vérité, dès lors qu’il la trouve, ne peut faire autrement que d’en décréter l’avènement définitif et absolu. Définitif et absolu, c’est bien de cela qu’il s’agit car, contrairement au logos philosophique du paganisme, le logos philosophique des chrétiens n’émane pas des hommes ni des meilleurs d’entre eux, mais de Dieu même. Il y a un logos humain qui s’efface devant le Logos divin. Le montage du larcin chrétien est défini par Justin qui ouvre l’ère d’une police de la pensée. La philosophie chrétienne opère la mutation de la philosophie tout court en théologie et se met en situation de faire de celle-là la servante de celle-ci.

- L’époque moderne: elle est rendue possible par la transmission arabe de la science grecque (entre 650 et 750, les Arabes recueillent le legs scientifique et philosophique de l’Antiquité grecque qui leur est transmis notamment par les écoles d’Alexandrie, et d’Antioche). Ce retour du logos philosophique allait produire le retrait du logos chrétien. Un retrait qui ne s’est pas fait dans la bonne humeur mais dans le rapport de force, dans et par la guerre (jusqu’aux Saints-Barthélémy(s)). L’Europe se substitue à la chrétienté. On enterre le Moyen Âge. On découvre d’autres mondes (entrent en scène les Indiens et le cortège colonial)... Défilent alors La Boétie, Machiavel, Spinoza, Descartes (heureusement défendu contre les mauvais lecteurs), Hegel...

Pensée de l’altérité

Mairet poursuit alors en se demandant si nous n’avons pas gardé de la religion une forme de pensée de l’altérité dommageable. On le voit à notre rapport aux Indiens: leur extermination ou, dans le meilleur des cas, leur totale marginalisation vient de ce que les nations indiennes possèdent, par définition et par nature, l’identité américaine que sont venus chercher les Européens.

Ce qui revient exactement au raisonnement tenu sur les Indiens par les chrétiens. La preuve? Le raisonnement déployé par les chrétiens à l’égard des Indiens, et réutilisé récemment par le pape Benoît XVI: ceux qui n’adhèrent pas à la foi sont simplement en puissance d’y adhérer sans le savoir encore. À l’évidence (de la papauté), les Indiens n’ont pas été massacrés par les occidentaux, mais finalement heureusement convertis d’autant plus qu’ils attendaient le christianisme sans le savoir! Si l’âme est naturellement chrétienne, qui peut échapper au Christ?

Ne peut-on renverser le propos, en forme de reprise laïque: si les Indiens sont reconnus comme étant les Américains, alors les immigrants n’ont pas d’identité. En d’autres termes, ou bien ce sont les Indiens qui sont les Américains, ou bien les Européens ont l’espoir de devenir des Américains. Ceux-ci en quittant l’Europe cessent d’être européens et veulent être américains. C’est d’ailleurs ce que nous racontent les westerns: le western raconte l’introduction de la loi et de l’ordre dans l’étendue sauvage, par l’extermination des Indiens et de la canaille (essentiellement bandits, tueurs à gage et grands propriétaires terriens faisant régner leur loi privée) pour laisser place au fermier, cet individu moral entrepreneur, et bientôt à l’ingénieur (télégraphe, chemin de fer, etc.).

Que reste-t-il de l'Europe si elle n'est pas capable de se défaire des raisonnements qui conduisent indéfiniment à la guerre?Alors que reste-t-il de l’Europe si elle n’est pas capable de se défaire des raisonnements qui conduisent indéfiniment à la guerre?

Mairet écrit :

«Les multiples transfigurations et translations du logos n’ont heureusement pas toujours pris la tournure sinistre du génocide.»

Elles ont cependant toujours accompagné les soubresauts de l’histoire, à commencer par l’histoire de l’Europe et, par extension, celle de la planète. Si l’antienne rebattue des «racines chrétiennes de l’Europe» est à inscrire au registre mièvre de l’apologétique, il n’en reste pas moins que la pensée et les traditions chrétiennes sont évidemment constitutives de la culture européenne, comme le sont le judaïsme et l’islam, qui ne peuvent en être séparés. Or, ces piliers constitutifs de ce que nous sommes, nous autres Européens, ne seraient ni reconnaissables, ni compréhensibles en leur état sans l’élément intellectuel qui les pense, la philosophie.

jeudi, 21 janvier 2016

Aristote: Le maître de ceux qui savent

Aristote: Le maître de ceux qui savent

France Culture - Une Vie, Une Oeuvre

du 23 novembre 1995 par Catherine Paoleti
http://www.franceculture.fr

mercredi, 04 juillet 2012

Introduction to Aristotle’s Politics

Introduction to Aristotle’s Politics
Part 1: The Aim & Elements of Politics

Posted By Greg Johnson

Part 1 of 2

Author’s Note:

The following introduction to Aristotle’s Politics focuses on the issues of freedom and popular government. It is a reworking of a more “academic” text penned in 2001.

250px-Aristotle_Altemps_Inv8575.jpg

1. The Necessity of Politics

Aristotle is famous for holding that man is by nature a political animal. But what does this mean? Aristotle explains that,

even when human beings are not in need of each other’s help, they have no less desire to live together, though it is also true that the common advantage draws them into union insofar as noble living is something they each partake of. So this above all is the end, whether for everyone in common or for each singly (Politics 3.6, 1278b19–22).[1]

Here Aristotle contrasts two different needs of the human soul that give rise to different forms of community, one pre-political and the other political.

The first need is material. On this account, men form communities to secure the necessities of life. Because few are capable of fulfilling all their needs alone, material self-interest forces them to co-operate, each developing his particular talents and trading his products with others. The classical example of such a community is the “city of pigs” in the second book of Plato’s Republic.

The second need is spiritual. Even in the absence of material need, human beings will form communities because only through community can man satisfy his spiritual need to live nobly, i.e., to achieve eudaimonia, happiness or well-being, which Aristotle defines as a life of unimpeded virtuous activity.

Aristotle holds that the forms of association which arise from material needs are pre-political. These include the family, the master-slave relationship, the village, the market, and alliances for mutual defense. With the exception of the master-slave relationship, the pre-political realm could be organized on purely libertarian, capitalist principles. Individual rights and private property could allow individuals to associate and disassociate freely by means of persuasion and trade, according to their own determination of their interests.

But in Politics 3.9, Aristotle denies that the realm of material needs, whether organized on libertarian or non-libertarian lines, could ever fully satisfy man’s spiritual need for happiness: “It is not the case . . . that people come together for the sake of life alone, but rather for the sake of living well” (1280a31), and “the political community must be set down as existing for the sake of noble deeds and not merely for living together” (1281a2). Aristotle’s clearest repudiation of any minimalistic form of liberalism is the following passage:

Nor do people come together for the sake of an alliance to prevent themselves from being wronged by anyone, nor again for purposes of mutual exchange and mutual utility. Otherwise the Etruscans and Carthaginians and all those who have treaties with each other would be citizens of one city. . . . [But they are not] concerned about what each other’s character should be, not even with the aim of preventing anyone subject to the agreements from becoming unjust or acquiring a single depraved habit. They are concerned only that they should not do any wrong to each other. But all those who are concerned about a good state of law concentrate their attention on political virtue and vice, from which it is manifest that the city truly and not verbally so called must make virtue its care. (1280a34–b7)

Aristotle does not disdain mutual exchange and mutual protection. But he thinks that the state must do more. It must concern itself with the character of the citizen; it must encourage virtue and discourage vice.

But why does Aristotle think that the pursuit of virtue is political at all, much less the defining characteristic of the political? Why does he reject the liberal principle that whether and how men pursue virtue is an ineluctably private choice? The ultimate anthropological foundation of Aristotelian political science is man’s neoteny. Many animals can fend for themselves as soon as they are born. But man is born radically immature and incapable of living on his own. We need many years of care and education. Nature does not give us the ability to survive, much less flourish. But she gives us the ability to acquire the ability. Skills are acquired abilities to live. Virtue is the acquired ability to live well. The best way to acquire virtue is not through trial and error, but through education, which allows us to benefit from the trials and avoid the errors of others. Fortune permitting, if we act virtuously, we will live well.

Liberals often claim that freedom of choice is a necessary condition of virtue. We can receive no moral credit for a virtue which is not freely chosen but is instead forced upon us. Aristotle, however, holds that force is a necessary condition of virtue. Aristotle may have defined man as the rational animal, but unlike the Sophists of his day he did not think that rational persuasion is sufficient to instill virtue:

. . . if reasoned words were sufficient by themselves to make us decent, they would, to follow a remark of Theognis, justly carry off many and great rewards, and the thing to do would be to provide them. But, as it is, words seem to have the strength to incite and urge on those of the young who are generous and to get a well-bred character and one truly in love with the noble to be possessed by virtue; but they appear incapable of inciting the many toward becoming gentlemen. For the many naturally obey the rule of fear, not of shame, and shun what is base not because it is ugly but because it is punished. Living by passion as they do, they pursue their own pleasures and whatever will bring these pleasures about . . . ; but of the noble and truly pleasant they do not even have the notion, since they have never tasted it. How could reasoned words reform such people? For it is not possible, or nor easy, to replace by reason what has long since become fixed in the character. (Nicomachean Ethics, 10.9, 1179b4–18)

The defect of reason can, however, be corrected by force: “Reason and teaching by no means prevail in everyone’s case; instead, there is need that the hearer’s soul, like earth about to nourish the seed, be worked over in its habits beforehand so as to enjoy and hate in a noble way. . . . Passion, as a general rule, does not seem to yield to reason but to force” (Nicomachean Ethics, 10.9, 1179b23–25). The behavioral substratum of virtue is habit, and habits can be inculcated by force. Aristotle describes law as “reasoned speech that proceeds from prudence and intellect” but yet “has force behind it” (Nicomachean Ethics, 10.9, 1180a18). Therefore, the compulsion of the appropriate laws is a great aid in acquiring virtue.

At this point, however, one might object that Aristotle has established only a case for parental, not political, force in moral education. Aristotle admits that only in Sparta and a few other cities is there public education in morals, while “In most cities these matters are neglected, and each lives as he wishes, giving sacred law, in Cyclops’ fashion, to his wife and children” (Nicomachean Ethics, 10.9, 1180a24–27). Aristotle grants that an education adapted to an individual is better than an education given to a group (Nicomachean Ethics, 10.9, 1180b7). But this is an argument against the collective reception of education, not the collective provision. He then argues that such an education is best left to experts, not parents. Just as parents have professional doctors care for their childrens’ bodies, they should have professional educators care for their souls (Nicomachean Ethics, 10.9, 1180b14–23). But this does not establish that the professionals should be employees of the state.

Two additional arguments for public education are found in Politics 8.1:

[1] Since the whole city has one end, it is manifest that everyone must also have one and the same education and that taking care of this education must be a common matter. It must not be private in the way that it is now, when everyone takes care of their own children privately and teaches them whatever private learning they think best. Of common things, the training must be common. [2] At the same time, no citizen should even think he belongs to himself but instead that each belongs to the city, for each is part of the city. The care of each part, however, naturally looks to the care of the whole, and to this extent praise might be due to the Spartans, for they devote the most serious attention to their children and do so in common. (Politics, 8.1 [5.1], 1337a21–32)

The second argument is both weak and question-begging. Although it may be useful for citizens to “think” that they belong to the city, not themselves, Aristotle offers no reason to think that this is true. Furthermore, the citizens would not think so unless they received precisely the collective education that needs to be established. The first argument, however, is quite strong. If the single, overriding aim of political life is the happiness of the citizens, and if this aim is best attained by public education, then no regime can be legitimate if it fails to provide public education.[2]

Another argument for public moral education can be constructed from the overall argument of the Politics. Since public education is more widely distributed than private education, other things being equal, the populace will become more virtuous on the whole. As we shall see, it is widespread virtue that makes popular government possible. Popular government is, moreover, one of the bulwarks of popular liberty. Compulsory public education in virtue, therefore, is a bulwark of liberty.

2. Politics and Freedom

Aristotle’s emphasis on compulsory moral education puts him in the “positive” libertarian camp. For Aristotle, a free man is not merely any man who lives in a free society. A free man possesses certain traits of character which allow him to govern himself responsibly and attain happiness. These traits are, however, the product of a long process of compulsory tutelage. But such compulsion can be justified only by the production of a free and happy individual, and its scope is therefore limited by this goal. Since Aristotle ultimately accepted the Socratic principle that all men desire happiness, education merely compels us to do what we really want. It frees us from our own ignorance, folly, and irrationality and frees us for our own self-actualization. This may be the rationale for Aristotle’s claim that, “the law’s laying down of what is decent is not oppressive” (Nicomachean Ethics, 10.9, 1180a24). Since Aristotle thinks that freedom from the internal compulsion of the passions is more important than freedom from the external compulsion of force, and that force can quell the passions and establish virtue’s empire over them, Aristotle as much as Rousseau believes that we can be forced to be free.

But throughout the Politics, Aristotle shows that he is concerned to protect “negative” liberty as well. In Politics 2.2–5, Aristotle ingeniously defends private families, private property, and private enterprise from Plato’s communistic proposals in the Republic, thereby preserving the freedom of large spheres of human activity.

Aristotle’s concern with privacy is evident in his criticism of a proposal of Hippodamus of Miletus which would encourage spies and informers (2.8, 1268b22).

Aristotle is concerned to create a regime in which the rich do not enslave the poor and the poor do not plunder the rich (3.10, 1281a13–27).

Second Amendment enthusiasts will be gratified at Aristotle’s emphasis on the importance of a wide distribution of arms in maintaining the freedom of the populace (2.8, 1268a16-24; 3.17, 1288a12–14; 4.3 [6.3], 1289b27–40; 4.13 [6.13], 1297a12–27; 7.11 [4.11], 1330b17–20).

War and empire are great enemies of liberty, so isolationists and peace lovers will be gratified by Aristotle’s critique of warlike regimes and praise of peace. The good life requires peace and leisure. War is not an end in itself, but merely a means to ensure peace (7.14 [4.14], 1334a2–10; 2.9, 1271a41–b9).

The best regime is not oriented outward, toward dominating other peoples, but inward, towards the happiness of its own. The best regime is an earthly analogue of the Prime Mover. It is self-sufficient and turned inward upon itself (7.3 [4.3], 1325a14–31). Granted, Aristotle may not think that negative liberty is the whole of the good life, but it is an important component which needs to be safeguarded.[3]

3. The Elements of Politics and the Mixed Regime

Since the aim of political association is the good life, the best political regime is the one that best delivers the good life. Delivering the good life can be broken down into two components: production and distribution. There are two basic kinds of goods: the goods of the body and the goods of the soul.[4] Both sorts of goods can be produced and distributed privately and publicly, but Aristotle treats the production and distribution of bodily goods as primarily private whereas he treats the production and distribution of spiritual goods as primarily public. The primary goods of the soul are moral and intellectual virtue, which are best produced by public education, and honor, the public recognition of virtue, talent, and service rendered to the city.[5] The principle of distributive justice is defined as proportionate equality: equally worthy people should be equally happy and unequally worthy people should be unequally happy, commensurate with their unequal worth (Nicomachean Ethics, 5.6–7). The best regime, in short, combines happiness and justice.

But how is the best regime to be organized? Aristotle builds his account from at least three sets of elements.

First, in Politics 3.6–7, Aristotle observes that sovereignty can rest either with men or with laws. If with men, then it can rest in one man, few men, or many men. (Aristotle treats it as self-evident that it cannot rest in all men.) The rulers can exercise political power for two different ends: for the common good and for special interests. One pursues the common good by promoting the happiness of all according to justice. Special interests can be broken down into individual or factional interests. A ruler can be blamed for pursuing such goods only if he does so without regard to justice, i.e., without a just concern for the happiness of all. When a single man rules for the common good, we have kingship. When he rules for his own good, we have tyranny. When the few rule for the common good, we have aristocracy. When they rule for their factional interest, we have oligarchy. When the many rule for the common good, we have polity. When they rule for their factional interest, we have democracy. These six regimes can exist in pure forms, or they can be mixed together.

Second, Aristotle treats social classes as elemental political distinctions. In Politics 3.8 he refines his definitions of oligarchy and democracy, claiming that oligarchy is actually the rule by the rich, whether they are few or many, and democracy is rule by the poor, whether they are few or many. Similarly, in Politics 4.11 (6.1) Aristotle also defines polity as rule by the middle class. In Politics 4.4 (6.4), Aristotle argues that the social classes are irreducible political distinctions. One can be a rich, poor, or middle class juror, legislator, or office-holder. One can be a rich, poor, or middle class farmer or merchant. But one cannot be both rich and poor at the same time (1291b2–13). Class distinctions cannot be eliminated; therefore, they have to be recognized and respected, their disadvantages meliorated and their advantages harnessed for the common good.

Third, in Politics 4.14 (6.14), Aristotle divides the activities of rulership into three different functions: legislative, judicial, and executive.[6]

Because rulership can be functionally divided, it is possible to create a mixed regime by assigning different functions to different parts of the populace. One could, for instance, mix monarchy and elite rule by assigning supreme executive office to a single man and the legislative and judicial functions to the few. Or one could divide the legislative function into different houses, assigning one to the few and another to the many. Aristotle suggests giving the few the power to legislate and the many the power to veto legislation. He suggests that officers be elected by the many, but nominated from the few. The few should make expenditures, but the many should audit them (2.12, 1274a15–21; 3.11, 1281b21–33; 4.14 [6.14], 1298b26–40).

In Politics 3.10, Aristotle argues that some sort of mixed regime is preferable, since no pure regime is satisfactory: “A difficulty arises as to what should be the controlling part of the city, for it is really either the multitude or the rich or the decent or the best one of all or a tyrant? But all of them appear unsatisfactory” (1281a11–13). Democracy is bad because the poor unjustly plunder the substance of the rich; oligarchy is bad because the rich oppress and exploit the poor; tyranny is bad because the tyrant does injustice to everyone (1281a13–28). Kingship and aristocracy are unsatisfactory because they leave the many without honors and are schools for snobbery and high-handedness (1281a28–33; 4.11 [6.11], 1295b13ff). A pure polity might be unsatisfactory because it lacks a trained leadership caste and is therefore liable to make poor decisions (3.11, 1281b21–33).

4. Checks and Balances, Political Rule, and the Rule of Law

Aristotle’s mixed regime is the origin of the idea of the separation of powers and “checks and balances.” It goes hand in hand with a very modern political realism. Aristotle claims that, “all regimes that look to the common advantage turn out, according to what is simply just, to be correct ones, while those that look only to the advantage of their rulers are mistaken and are all deviations from the correct regime. For they are despotic, but the city is a community of the free” (3.6, 1279a17–21).

It is odd, then, that in Politics 4.8–9 (6.8–9) Aristotle describes the best regime as a mixture of two defective regimes, oligarchy and democracy–not of two correct regimes, aristocracy and polity. But perhaps Aristotle entertained the possibility of composing a regime that tends to the common good out of classes which pursue their own factional interests.

Perhaps Aristotle thought that the “intention” to pursue the common good can repose not in the minds of individual men, but in the institutional logic of the regime itself. This would be an enormous advantage, for it would bring about the common good without having to rely entirely upon men of virtue and good will, who are in far shorter supply than men who pursue their own individual and factional advantages.

Related to the mixed regime with its checks and balances is the notion of “political rule.” Political rule consists of ruling and being ruled in turn:

. . . there is a sort of rule exercised over those who are similar in birth and free. This rule we call political rule, and the ruler must learn it by being ruled, just as one learns to be a cavalry commander by serving under a cavalry commander . . . Hence is was nobly said that one cannot rule well without having been ruled. And while virtue in these two cases is different, the good citizen must learn and be able both to be ruled and to rule. This is in fact the virtue of the citizen, to know rule over the free from both sides. (3.4, 1277b7–15; cf. 1.13, 1259b31–34 and 2.2, 1261a32–b3)

Aristotle makes it clear that political rule can exist only where the populace consists of men who are free, i.e., sufficiently virtuous that they can rule themselves. They must also be economically middle-class, well-armed, and warlike. They must, in short, be the sort of men who can participate responsibly in government, who want to participate, and who cannot safely be excluded. A populace that is slavish, vice-ridden, poor, and unarmed can easily be disenfranchised and exploited. If power were entirely in the hands of a free populace, the regime would be a pure polity, and political rule would exist entirely between equals. If, however, a free populace were to take part in a mixed regime, then political rule would exist between different parts of the regime. The many and the few would divide power and functions between them. Not only would members of each class take turns performing the different functions allotted to them, the classes themselves would rule over others in one respect and be ruled in another. In these circumstances, then, checks and balances are merely one form of political rule.

In Politics 3.16, Aristotle connects political rule to the rule of law:

What is just is that people exercise rule no more than they are subject to it and that therefore they rule by turns. But this is already law, for the arrangement is law. Therefore, it is preferable that law rule rather than any one of the citizens. And even if, to pursue the same argument, it were better that there be some persons exercising rule, their appointment should be as guardians and servants of the laws. For though there must be some offices, that there should be this one person exercising rule is, they say, not just, at least when all are similar. (1287a15–22)

Aristotle’s point is simple. If two men govern by turns, then sovereignty does not ultimately repose in either of them, but in the rule that they govern by turns. The same can be said of checks and balances. If the few spend money and the many audit the accounts, then neither group is sovereign, the laws are. If sovereignty reposes in laws, not men, the common good is safe. As Aristotle points out, “anyone who bids the laws to rule seems to bid god and intellect alone to rule, but anyone who bids a human being to rule adds on also the wild beast. For desire is such a beast and spiritedness perverts rulers even when they are the best of men. Hence law is intellect without appetite” (1287a23–31). The greatest enemy of the common good is private interest. The laws, however, have no private interests. Thus if our laws are conducive to the common good, we need not depend entirely on the virtue and public-spiritedness of men.

Aristotle would, however, hasten to add that no regime can do without these characteristics entirely, for the laws cannot apply themselves. They must be applied by men, and their application will seldom be better than the men who apply them. Furthermore, even though a regime may function without entirely virtuous citizens, no legitimate regime can be indifferent to the virtue of the citizens, for the whole purpose of political association is to instill the virtues necessary for happiness.

Notes

1. All quotes from Aristotle are from The Politics of Aristotle, trans. and ed. Peter L. Phillips Simpson (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997). Simpson’s edition has two unique features. First, The Politics is introduced by a translation of Nicomachean Ethics 10.9. Second, Simpson moves books 7 and 8 of The Politics, positioning them between the traditional books 3 and 4. I retain the traditional ordering, indicating Simpson’s renumbering parenthetically. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from The Politics. Quotes from the Nicomachean Ethics will be indicated as such.

2. A useful commentary on these and other Aristotelian arguments for public education is Randall R. Curren, Aristotle on the Necessity of Public Education (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000).

3. For a fuller discussion of the value Aristotle puts on liberty, see Roderick T. Long, “Aristotle’s Conception of Freedom,” The Review of Metaphysics 49, no. 4 (June 1996), pp. 787–802.

4. One could add a third category of instrumental goods, but these goods are instrumental to the intrinsic goods of the body, the soul, or both, and thus could be classified under those headings.

5. As for the highest good of the soul, which is attained by philosophy, Aristotle’s flight from Athens near the end of his life shows that he recognized that different political orders can be more or less open to free thought, but I suspect that he was realist enough (and Platonist enough) to recognize that even the best cities are unlikely to positively cultivate true freedom to philosophize. I would wager that Aristotle would be both surprised at the freedom of thought in the United States and receptive to Tocquevillian complaints about the American tendency toward conformism that makes such freedom unthreatening to the reigning climate of opinion. A cynic might argue that if Americans actually made use of their freedom of thought, it would be quickly taken away.

6. On the complexities of the executive role in the Politics, see Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., Taming the Prince: The Ambivalence of Modern Executive Power (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), chs. 2–3.

Introduction to Aristotle’s Politics
Part 2: In Defense of Popular Government

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Part 2 of 2

5. The Good Man and the Good Citizen

Having now surveyed Aristotle’s thoughts on the elements and proper aim of politics, we can now examine his arguments for popular government. When I use the phrase “popular government,” it should be borne in mind that Aristotle does not advocate a pure polity, but a mixed regime with a popular element.

Aristotle’s first case for bringing the many into government can be discerned in Politics 3.4. Aristotle’s question is whether the virtues of the good man and the good citizen are the same. They are not the same, insofar as the virtue of the good citizen is defined relative to the regime, and there are many different regimes, while the virtue of the good man is defined relative to human nature, which is one. One can therefore be a good citizen but not a good man, and a good man but not a good citizen. History is replete with examples of regimes which punish men for their virtues and reward them for their vices. Aristotle does, however, allow that the good man and the good citizen can be one in a regime in which the virtues required of a good citizen do not differ from the virtues of a good man.

The chief virtue of a good man is prudence. But prudence is not required of a citizen insofar as he is ruled. Only obedience is required. Prudence is, however, required of a citizen insofar as he rules. Since the best regime best encourages happiness by best cultivating virtue, a regime which allows the many to govern along with the few is better than a regime which excludes them. By including the many in ruling, a popular regime encourages the widest cultivation of prudence and gives the greatest opportunity for its exercise. The best way to bring the many into the regime is what Aristotle calls political rule: ruling and being ruled in turn, as prescribed by law.

Political rule not only teaches the virtue of prudence to the many, it teaches the virtue of being ruled to the few, who must give way in turn to the many. Since the few aspire to rule but not be ruled, Aristotle argues that they cannot rule without first having been ruled: “the ruler must learn [political rule] by being ruled, just as one learns to be a cavalry commander by serving under a cavalry commander . . . Hence is was nobly said that one cannot rule well without having been ruled. And while virtue in these two cases is different, the good citizen must learn and be able both to be ruled and to rule. This is, in fact, the virtue of a citizen, to know rule over the free from both sides. Indeed, the good man too possesses both” (3.4, 1277b7–16).

Aristotle names justice as a virtue which is learned both in ruling and being ruled. Those born to wealth and power are liable to arrogance and the love of command. By subjecting them to the rule of others, including their social inferiors, they learn to respect their freedom and justly appraise their worth.

6. Potlucks, Chimeras, Juries

Aristotle’s next case for bringing the many into the regime is found in Politics 3.11.[1] Aristotle seeks to rebut the aristocratic argument against popular participation, namely that the best political decisions are wise ones, but wisdom is found only among the few, not the many. Popular participation, therefore, would inevitably dilute the quality of the political decision-makers, increasing the number of foolish decisions. Aristotle accepts the premise that the wise should rule, but he argues that there are circumstances in which the few and the many together are wiser than the few on their own. The aristocratic principle, therefore, demands the participation of the many:

. . . the many, each of whom is not a serious man, nevertheless could, when they have come together, be better than those few best–not, indeed, individually but as a whole, just as meals furnished collectively are better than meals furnished at one person’s expense. For each of them, though many, could have a part of virtue and prudence, and just as they could, when joined together in a multitude, become one human being with many feet, hands, and senses, so also could they become one in character and thought. That is why the many are better judges of the works of music and the poets, for one of them judges one part and another another and all of them the whole. (1281a42–b10)

At first glance, this argument seems preposterous. History and everyday life are filled with examples of wise individuals opposing foolish collectives. But Aristotle does not claim that the many are always wiser than the few, simply that they can be under certain conditions (1281b15).

The analogy of the potluck supper is instructive (cf. 3.15, 1286a28–30).[2] A potluck supper can be better than one provided by a single person if it offers a greater number and variety of dishes and diffuses costs and labor. But potluck suppers are not always superior–that is the “luck” in it. Potlucks are often imbalanced. On one occasion, there may be too many desserts and no salads. On another, three people may bring chicken and no one brings beef or pork. The best potluck, therefore, is a centrally orchestrated one which mobilizes the resources of many different contributors but ensures a balanced and wholesome meal.

Likewise, the best way to include the many in political decision-making is to orchestrate their participation, giving them a delimited role that maximizes their virtues and minimizes their vices. This cannot be accomplished in a purely popular regime, particularly a lawless one, but it can be accomplished in a mixed regime in which the participation of the populace is circumscribed by law and checked by the interests of other elements of the population.

Aristotle’s second analogy–which likens the intellectual and moral unity of the many to a man with many feet, hands, and sense organs, i.e., a freak of nature–does not exactly assuage doubters. But his point is valid. While even the best of men may lack a particular virtue, it is unlikely that it will be entirely absent from a large throng. Therefore, the many are potentially as virtuous or even more virtuous than the few if their scattered virtues can be gathered together and put to work. But history records many examples of groups acting less morally than any member on his own. Thus the potential moral superiority of the many is unlikely to emerge in a lawless democracy. But it could emerge in a lawful mixed regime, which actively encourages and employs the virtues of the many while checking their vices. This process can be illustrated by adapting an analogy that Aristotle offers to illustrate another point: A painting of a man can be more beautiful than any real man, for the painter can pick out the best features of individual men and combine them into a beautiful whole (3.11, 1281b10–11).

Aristotle illustrates the potential superiority of collective judgment with another questionable assertion, that “the many are better judges of the works of music and the poets, for one of them judges one part and another another and all of them the whole.” Again, this seems preposterous. Good taste, like wisdom, is not widely distributed and is cultivated by the few, not the many. Far more people buy “rap” recordings than classical ones. But Aristotle is not claiming that the many are better judges in all cases. Aristotle is likely referring to Greek dramatic competitions. These competitions were juried by the audience, not a small number of connoisseurs.

A jury trial or competition is a genuine collective decision-making process in which each juror is morally enjoined to pay close attention the matter at hand and to render an objective judgment.[3] Although each juror has his own partial impression, when jurors deliberate they can add their partial impressions together to arrive at a more complete and adequate account. To the extent that a jury decision must approach unanimity, the jurors will be motivated to examine the issue from all sides and persuade one another to move toward a rationally motivated consensus. A jury decision can, therefore, be more rational, well-informed, and objective than an individual one.[4] The market, by contrast, is not a collective decision-making process. It does not require a consumer to compare his preferences to those of others, to persuade others of their validity or defend them from criticism, or to arrive at any sort of consensus. Instead, the market merely registers the collective effects of individual decisions.[5]

7. Freedom and Stability

Another argument for popular government in Politics 3.11 (1281b21–33) is that it is more stable. Aristotle grants the Aristocratic principle that it is not safe for the populace to share in “the greatest offices” because, “on account of their injustice and unwisdom, they would do wrong in some things and go wrong in others.” But then he goes on to argue that it would not be safe to exclude the many from rule altogether, since a city “that has many in it who lack honor and are poor must of necessity be full of enemies,” which would be a source of instability. Instability is, however, inconsistent with the proper aim of politics, for the good life requires peace. The solution is a mixed regime which ensures peace and stability by allowing the many to participate in government, but not to occupy the highest offices. In Politics 2.9, Aristotle praises the Spartan Ephorate for holding the regime together, “since, as the populace share in the greatest office, it keeps them quiet. . . . For if any regime is going to survive, all the parts of the city must want it both to exist and to remain as it is” (1270b17–22; cf. Aristotle’s discussion of the Carthaginians in 2.9, 1272b29–32; see also 4.13 [6.13], 1297b6).

In Politics 2.12, Aristotle offers another reason for including the populace in government. Solon gave the populace, “the power that was most necessary (electing to office and auditing the accounts), since without it they would have been enslaved and hostile” (1274a4–6). Here Aristotle makes it clear that he values liberty, and he values popular government because it protects the liberty of the many.

8. Expert Knowledge

In Politics 3.11 Aristotle rebuts the argument that the many should not be involved in politics because they are amateurs, and decisions in politics, as in medicine and other fields, should be left to experts. In response to this, Aristotle repeats his argument that the many, taken together, may be better judges than a few experts. He then adds that there are some arts in which the products can be appreciated by people who do not possess the art: “Appreciating a house, for example, does not just belong to the builder; the one who uses it, namely the household manager, will pass an even better judgment on it. Likewise, the pilot judges the rudder better than the carpenter and the dinner guest judges the feast better than the chef” (1282a19–22). If the art of statesmanship is like these, then the best judge of the quality of a statesman is not the few political experts, but the many political laymen who are ruled by him. The judgment of the populace should not, therefore, be disdained.

9. Resistance to Corruption

In Politics 3.15 Aristotle argues that popular regimes are more resistant to corruption. Even in a regime in which law ultimately rules, there are particular circumstances which the laws do not anticipate. Where the law cannot decide, men must do so. But this creates an opportunity for corruption. Aristotle argues that such decisions are better made by large bodies deliberating in public: “What is many is more incorruptible: the multitude, like a greater quantity of water, is harder to ruin than a few. A single person’s judgment must necessarily be corrupted when he is overcome by anger or some other such passion, but getting everyone in the other case to become angry and go wrong at the same time takes a lot of doing. Let the multitude in question, however, be the free who are acting in no way against law, except where law is necessarily deficient” (1286a33–38). Aristotle’s argument that the many may collectively possess fewer vices than the few is merely a mirror image of his earlier collective virtue argument. Here, as elsewhere, Aristotle defends popular government only under delimited circumstances. The populace must be free, not slavish, and they must decide only when the laws cannot.

10. Delegation and Diffusion of Power

Politics 3.16 is devoted to arguments against total kingship. One of these arguments can be turned into a case for popular government. Aristotle claims that total kingship is unsustainable: “It is not easy for one person to oversee many things, so there will need to be many officials appointed in subordination to him. Consequently, what is the difference between having them there right from the start and having one man in this way appoint them? . . . if a man who is serious is justly ruler because he is better, then two good men are better than one” (1287b8–12, cf. 1287b25–29).

Since total kingship is unworkable, kings must necessarily appoint superior men as “peers” to help them. But if total kingship must create an aristocracy, then why not have aristocracy from the start?

This argument could, however, be pushed further to make a case for popular government. An aristocracy cannot effectively rule the people without the active participation of some and the passive acquiescence of the rest. As we have seen above, Aristotle argues that the best way to bring this about is popular government. But if aristocracy must eventually bring the populace into the regime, then why not include them from the very beginning?

11. When Regimes Fail

In Politics 4.2 (6.2), Aristotle returns to his list of pure regime types. The three just regimes are kingship, aristocracy, and polity; the three unjust ones are tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy. Aristotle proceeds to rank the three just regimes in terms of the kinds of virtues they require. Thus Aristotle identifies kingship and aristocracy as the best regimes because they are both founded on “fully equipped virtue” (1289a31). Of the two, kingship is the very best, for it depends upon a virtue so superlative that it is possessed by only one man. Aristocracy is less exalted because it presupposes somewhat more broadly distributed and therefore less exalted virtue. Polity depends upon even more widespread and modest virtue. Furthermore, the populace, unlike kings and aristocrats, lacks the full complement of material equipment necessary to fully exercise such virtues as magnificence.

By this ranking, polity is not the best regime, but the least of the good ones. But Aristotle then offers a new, politically realistic standard for ranking the just regimes which reverses their order. Kingship may be the best regime from a morally idealistic perspective, but when it degenerates it turns into tyranny, which is the worst regime. Aristocracy may be the second best regime from a morally idealistic perspective, but when it degenerates it turns into oligarchy, which is the second worst regime. Polity may be the third choice of the moral idealist, but when it degenerates, it merely becomes democracy, which is the best of a bad lot.

Since degeneration is inevitable, the political realist ranks regimes not only in terms of their best performances, but also in terms of their worst. By this standard, polity is the best of the good regimes and kingship the worst. Kingship is best under ideal conditions, polity under real conditions. Kingship is a sleek Jaguar, polity a dowdy Volvo. On the road, the Jaguar is clearly better. But when they go in the ditch, the Volvo shows itself to be the better car overall.

12. The Middle Class Regime

Aristotle displays the same political realism in his praise of the middle class regime in Politics 4.11 (6.11): “If we judge neither by a virtue that is beyond the reach of private individuals, nor by an education requiring a nature and equipment dependent on chance, nor again a regime that is as one would pray for, but by a way of life that most can share in common together and by a regime that most cities can participate in . . . ,” then a large, politically enfranchised middle class has much to recommend it: “In the case of political community . . . the one that is based on those in the middle is best, and . . . cities capable of being well governed are those sorts where the middle is large . . .” (1295b35–36).

Since the middle class is the wealthier stratum of the common people, Aristotle’s arguments for middle class government are ipso facto arguments for popular government. Aristotle makes it clear from the beginning, however, that he is not talking about a purely popular regime, but a mixed one compounded out of a middle class populace and those elements of aristocracy which are not out of the reach of most cities (1295a30–34).

Aristotle’s first argument for the middle regime seems a sophistry: “If it was nobly said in the Ethics that the happy way of life is unimpeded life in accordance with virtue and that virtue is a mean, then necessarily the middle way of life, the life of a mean that everyone can attain, must be best. The same definitions must hold also for the virtue and vice of city and regime, since the regime is a certain way of life of a city” (1295a35–40).

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle makes it clear that the fact that virtue can be understood as a mean between two vices, one of excess and the other of defect, does not imply either that virtue is merely an arithmetic mean (Nicomachean Ethics, 2.2, 1106a26–b8), or that virtue is to be regarded as mediocrity, not as superlative (Nicomachean Ethics, 2.2, 1107a9–27). Here, however, Aristotle describes the mean not as a superlative, but as a mediocrity “that everyone can attain.” This conclusion follows only if we presuppose that the morally idealistic doctrine of the Ethics has been modified into a moral realism analogous to the political realism of Politics 4.2.

Aristotle then claims that in a regime the mean lies in the middle class: “In all cities there are in fact three parts: those who are exceedingly well-off, those who are exceedingly needy, and the third who are in the middle of these two. So, since it is agreed that the mean and middle is best, then it is manifest that a middling possession also of the goods of fortune must be best of all” (1295b1–3). Aristotle is, however, equivocating. He begins by defining the middle class as an arithmetic mean between the rich and the poor. He concludes that the middle class is a moral mean. But he does not establish that the arithmetic mean corresponds with the moral.

Aristotle does, however, go on to offer reasons for thinking that the social mean corresponds to the moral mean. But the middle class is not necessarily more virtuous because its members have been properly educated, but because their social position and class interests lead them to act as if they had been.

First, Aristotle argues that “the middle most easily obeys reason.” Those who are “excessively beautiful or strong or well-born or wealthy” find it hard to follow reason, because they tend to be “insolent and rather wicked in great things.” By contrast, those who are poor and “extremely wretched and weak, and have an exceeding lack of honor” tend to become “villains and too much involved in petty wickedness.” The middle class is, however, too humble to breed insolence and too well-off to breed villainy. Since most injustices arise from insolence and villainy, a regime with a strong middle class will be more likely to be just.

Second, Aristotle argues that the middle class is best suited to ruling and being ruled in turn. Those who enjoy, “an excess of good fortune (strength, wealth, friends, and other things of the sort)” love to rule and dislike being ruled. Both of these attitudes are harmful to the city, yet they naturally arise among the wealthy. From an early age, the wealthy are instilled with a “love of ruing and desire to rule, both of which are harmful to cities” (1295b12), and, “because of the luxury they live in, being ruled is not something they get used to, even at school” (1295b13–17). By contrast, poverty breeds vice, servility, and small-mindedness. Thus the poor are easy to push around, and if they do gain power they are incapable of exercising it virtuously. Therefore, without a middle class, “a city of slaves and masters arises, not a city of the free, and the first are full of envy while the second are full of contempt.” Such a city must be “at the furthest remove from friendship and political community” (1295b21–24). The presence of a strong middle class, however, binds the city into a whole, limiting the tendency of the rich to tyranny and the poor to slavishness, creating a “city of the free.”

Third, Aristotle argues that middle class citizens enjoy the safest and most stable lives, imbuing the regime as a whole with these characteristics. Those in the middle are, among all the citizens, the most likely to survive in times of upheaval, when the poor starve and the rich become targets. They are sufficiently content with their lot not to envy the possessions of the rich. Yet they are not so wealthy that the poor envy them. They neither plot against the rich nor are plotted against by the poor.

Fourth, a large middle class stabilizes a regime, particularly if the middle is “stronger than both extremes or, otherwise, than either one of them. For the middle will tip the balance when added to either side and prevent the emergence of an excess at the opposite extremes” (1295b36–40). Without a large and powerful middle class, “either ultimate rule of the populace arises or unmixed oligarchy does, or, because of excess on both sides, tyranny” (1296a3; cf. 6.12, 1297a6ff).

Fifth is the related point that regimes with large middle classes are relatively free of faction and therefore more concerned with the common good. This is because a large middle class makes it harder to separate everyone out into two groups (1296a7–10).

Finally, Aristotle claims that one sign of the superiority of middle class regimes is that the best legislators come from the middle class. As examples, he cites Solon, Lycurgus, and Charondas (1296a18–21).

Conclusion: Aristotle’s Polity and Our Own

If the proper aim of government is to promote the happiness of the citizen, Aristotle marshals an impressive array of arguments for giving the people, specifically the middle class, a role in government. These arguments can be grouped under five headings: virtue, rational decision-making, freedom, stability, and resistance to corruption.

Popular government both presupposes and encourages widespread virtue among the citizens, and virtue is a necessary condition of happiness. Middle class citizens are particularly likely to follow practical reason and act justly, for they are corrupted neither by wealth nor by poverty. Popular participation can improve political decision-making by mobilizing scattered information and experience, and more informed decisions are more likely to promote happiness. In particular, popular government channels the experiences of those who are actually governed back into the decision-making process.

Popular participation preserves the freedom of the people, who would otherwise be exploited if they had no say in government. By preserving the freedom of the people, popular participation unifies the regime, promoting peace and stability which in turn are conducive to the pursuit of happiness. This is particularly the case with middle class regimes, for the middle class prevents excessive and destabilizing separation and between the extremes of wealth and poverty.

Popular governments are also more resistant to corruption. It is harder to use bribery or trickery to corrupt decisions made by many people deliberating together in public than by one person or a few deciding in private. This means that popular regimes are more likely to promote the common good instead of allowing the state to become a tool for the pursuit of one special interest at the expense of another. Furthermore, if a popular regime does become corrupt, it is most likely to become a democracy, which is the least unjust of the bad regimes and the easiest to reform.

All these are good arguments for giving the people a role in government. But not just any people. And not just any role.

First, Aristotle presupposes a small city-state. He did not think that any regime could pursue the common good if it became too large. This is particularly true of a popular regime, for the larger the populace, the less room any particular citizen has for meaningful participation.

Second, he presupposes a populace which is racially and culturally homogeneous. A more diverse population is subject to faction and strife. It will either break up into distinct communities or it will have to be held together by violence and governed by an elite. A more diverse population also erodes a society’s moral consensus, making moral education even more difficult.

Third, political participation will be limited to middle-class and wealthy property-owning males, specifically men who derive their income from the ownership of productive land, not merchants and craftsmen.

Fourth, Aristotle circumscribes the role of the populace by assigning it specific legal roles, such as the election of officers and the auditing of accounts–roles which are checked and balanced by the legal roles of the aristocratic element, such as occupying leadership positions.

If Aristotle is right about the conditions of popular government, then he would probably take a dim view of its prospects in America.

First and foremost, Aristotle would deplore America’s lack of concern with moral education. Aristotle’s disagreement would go beyond the obvious fact that the American founders did not make moral education the central concern of the state. America has neglected to cultivate even the minimal moral virtues required to maintain a liberal regime, virtues such as independence, personal responsibility, and basic civility.

Second, Aristotle would predict that multiculturalism and non-white immigration will destroy the cultural preconditions of popular government.

Third, Aristotle would reject America’s ever-widening franchise–particularly the extension of the vote to women, non-property owners, and cultural aliens–as a sure prescription for lowering the quality of public decision-making in the voting booth and jury room.

Fourth, Aristotle would be alarmed by the continuing erosion of the American working and middle classes by competition from foreign workers both inside and outside America’s borders. He would deplore America’s transformation from an agrarian to an industrial-mercantile civilization and support autarky rather than free trade and economic globalization.

Fifth, Aristotle would be alarmed by ongoing attempts to disarm the populace.

Sixth, he would condemn America’s imperialistic and warlike policies toward other nations.

Finally, Aristotle would likely observe that since genuine popular government is difficult with hundreds of thousands of citizens it will be impossible with hundreds of millions.

In short, if Aristotle were alive today, he would find himself to the right of Patrick J. Buchanan, decrying America’s decline from a republic to an empire. Aristotle challenges us to show whether and how liberty and popular government are compatible with feminism, multiculturalism, and globalized capitalism.

To conclude, however, on a more positive note: Although Aristotle gives reasons to think that the future of popular government in America is unpromising, he also gives reasons for optimism about the long-term prospects of popular government in general, for his defense of popular government is based on a realistic assessment of human nature, not only in its striving for perfection, but also in its propensity for failure.

Notes

1. For useful discussions of the arguments of Politics 3.11, see Mary P. Nichols, Citizens and Statesmen: A Study of Aristotle’s Politics (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 1992), 66–71, and Peter L. Phillips Simpson, A Philosophical Commentary on the Politics of Aristotle (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 166-71.

2. On the potluck supper analogy, see Arlene W. Saxonhouse, Fear of Diversity: The Birth of Political Science in Ancient Greek Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 222–24.

3. I wish to thank M. L. C. for suggesting the model of a jury trial.

4 . For a beautiful description of the deliberative process of a jury, see John C. Calhoun, A Disquisition on Government, in Union and Liberty: The Political Philosophy of John C. Calhoun, ed. Ross M. Lence (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1992), 49–50.

5. Friedrich A. Hayek’s classic essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” in his Individualism and Economic Order (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), argues that the market is superior to central planning because it better mobilizes widely scattered information. The market is, of course, larger than any possible jury and thus will always command more information. However, if one were to compare a market and a jury of the same size, the jury would clearly be a more rational decision-making process, for the market registers decisions based on perspectives which are in principle entirely solipsistic, whereas the jury requires a genuine dialogue which challenges all participants to transcend their partial and subjective perspectives and work toward a rational consensus which is more objective than any individual decision because it more adequately accounts for the phenomena in question than could any individual decision. It is this crucial disanalogy that seems to vitiate attempts to justify the market in terms of Gadamerian, Popperian, or Habermasian models and communicative rationality. For the best statement of this sort of approach, see G. B. Madison, The Political Economy of Civil Society and Human Rights (New York: Routledge, 1998), esp. chs. 3–5.

 


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lundi, 28 février 2011

Plato & Indo-European Tripartition

Edouard RIX

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

Translated by Greg Johnson

plato.jpgIn 1938, Georges Dumézil discovered, the existence of a veritable Indo-European “ideology,” a specific mental structure manifesting a common conception of the world. He writes:

According to this conception, which can be reconstructed through the comparison of documents from the majority of ancient Indo-European societies, any organization, from the cosmos to any human group, requires for its existence three hierarchical types of action, that I propose to call the three fundamental functions: (1) mastery of the sacred and knowledge and the form of temporal power founded upon it, (2) physical force and warlike valor, and (3) fruitfulness and abundance with their conditions and consequences.[1]

On the social plane, one finds this tripartition in the whole Indo-European realm, from India to Ireland, the three functions corresponding schematically to the priest-kings, the warriors, and finally to the producers, peasants, and craftsmen. In traditional India, the Brahmins correspond to the first function, the Kshatriyas to the second, and the Vaishyas to the third. According to Julius Caesar, in the extreme west of the Indo-European realm, Celtic society was composed of Druids, of Equites or Knights, and Plebs, the people.

In ancient Greece, however, there had been a tendency quite early on to eliminate any trace of the trifunctional ideology. According to Dumézil, “Greece is not helpful to our case. Mr. Bernard Sergent made a critical assessment of the expressions of the trifunctional structure, isolated most of the time in the process of fossilization, that one might recognize there: it is next to nothing compared with the wealth offered by India and Italy.”[2] However, an attentive reader of the works of Plato can find proof there of the survival of functional tripartition in traditional Greece.

The Platonic Ideal City

In the Republic, Plato discusses the ideal city, affirming that “the classes that exist in the City are the very same ones that exist in the soul of each individual.”[3] According to Plato’s analysis of human nature, the human soul has three parts: reason, located in the head, which enables us to think; feeling, located in the heart, that enables us to love; and desire, located in the belly, that drives us to sustain ourselves and reproduce. Each part of the soul has its own specific virtue or excellence: wisdom, courage, and temperance. Justice is the proper relationship of the three parts. According to Plato, the constitution of the city is merely the constitution of the soul writ large.

Concretely, the philosopher distinguishes three functions within the city. First, “those who watch over the City as a whole, enemies outside as well as friends within,”[4] the guardians, who correspond to the head, seat of intelligence and reason, the Logos. Then, the “auxiliaries and assistants of the decisions of the rulers,”[5] who correspond to the heart, seat of courage, Thymos. Finally the producers, craftsmen and peasants, who correspond to the belly, seat of the appetites. “You who belong to the City,” Plato explains, “are all brothers, but the god, in creating those among you able to govern, mixed gold in their material; this is why they are the most valuable. He mixed silver into those who are able to be auxiliaries, and as for the rest, the farmers and craftsmen, he mixed in iron and bronze.”[6]

Plato emphasizes that, “A city seems to be just precisely when each of the three natural groups present in it performs its own task.”[7] Indeed, just as an individual must subject his stomach to his heart, and his heart to his reason, the crafts must be subjected to the art of the warriors, who themselves must be subjected to the magistrates, i.e., to politics—this last being inseparable from philosophy, for the magistrates must become philosophers.

Plato also distinguishes three kinds of political regimes, each of which is related to the one of the functions of the city and by extension with one of the parts or faculties of the human soul. Regimes ruled by reason include monarchy, government by one man, and aristocracy, or government by the best. “Timocracy” is Plato’s term for government by warriors, which is ordered by the noble passions of the heart. Regimes ruled by the lowest passions of the human soul and material appetites include oligarchy, or rule by the rich; democracy, or rule by the majority; and tyranny, the rule of one man who follows appetite, not reason.

Without a doubt, this Platonic ideal city resting on three strictly hierarchical classes, reproduces the traditional Indo-European tri-functional organization of society. Indeed, in Greece which completely seems to have forgotten tripartition, Plato entrusts the political life of the city to philosopher-kings, the guardians, assisted by a military caste, the auxiliaries, who reign over the lower classes, the producers.

Plato is convinced that only the guardians, i.e., the sages, have the capacity to use reason equitably for the community good, whereas ordinary men cannot rise above their personal passions and interests. On the other hand, the members of the ruling caste must lead an entirely communal life, without private property or family, as well as many elements of egoistic temptation, division, and, ultimately, corruption. “Among them, no good will be private property, except the basic necessities,” decrees the philosopher, who recommends, moreover, “that they live communally, as on a military expedition,” and who among the inhabitants of the city “they are the only ones who have no right to have money or gold, or even to touch them; they are the only ones forbidden to enter private homes, wear ornaments, or drink from silver and gold containers.”[8]

“Because,” he adds, “as soon as they privately own land, a dwelling, and money, they will become administrators of their goods, cultivators instead of being the guardians of the city, and instead of being the defenders of the other citizens, they will become their tyrants and enemies, hated and hating in turn, and they will pass their lives conspiring against the others and will become the objects of conspiracy, and they will often be more afraid of their interior enemies than those outside, bringing themselves and the whole city to ruin.”[9] Moreover, their children will be removed at birth in order to receive a collective military education.

This “Platonic communism,” a virile and ascetic communism that has nothing to do with the Messianic nightmares of Marx and Trotsky, is not unrelated to the national communitarianism of Sparta.  As Montesquieu put it with some justice, “Plato’s politics is nothing more than an idealized version of Sparta’s.”

Notes

1. G. Dumézil, L’oubli de l’homme et l’honneur des dieux et autres essais. Vingt-cinq esquisses de mythologies (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), p. 94.

2. Ibid, p.13.

3. Platon, La République (Paris: Flammarion, 2008), p. 262.

4. Ibid, p. 199.

5. Ibid, p. 200.

6. Ibid, p. 201.

7. Ibid, p. 245.

8. Ibid, p. 205.

9. Ibid, pp. 205–206.

Source: Réfléchir & Agir, Winter 2009, no. 31.

vendredi, 27 février 2009

Platon y la revolucion europea

plato-3a.jpg

Platón y la revolución europea

Adriano Romualdi

Como ya se ha indicado el totalitarismo platónico evoca, aunque sólo sea por analogías formales, el totalitarismo europeo contemporáneo. Tanto en uno como en otro estamos ante la pretensión del Estado de guiar la vida del individuo, tanto en uno como en otro una idea se sitúa en el centro de la vida con la pretensión de sellar todas sus manifestaciones. Es cierto que Platón habría podido suscribir el eslogan mussoliniano «Todo dentro el Estado nada fuera del Estado, nada contra el Estado». Y es también cierto que habría podido escribir de su puño y letra una declaración como la aparecida en Pravda el 21 de agosto de 1946: «El deber de la literatura es ayudar adecuadamente al Estado a educar a su juventud, responder a sus necesidades, educar a la nueva generación a ser valerosa, a creer en su causa, a mostrarse intrépida ante los obstáculos y preparada para superar todas las barreras…».

El totalitarismo platónico no nace solamente de la concepción del Estado como un macro-hombre, como unidad orgánica, sino también de la conciencia de la descomposición social, de la crisis de la ciudad griega que exigía soluciones drásticas, medidas urgentes y coercitivas. Nace de la conciencia de que la antigua clase dirigente estaba muerta y la nueva no estaba todavía preparada. Visto desde esta perspectiva, el totalitarismo platónico presenta relevantes coincidencias históricas con el totalitarismo moderno, surgido para sustituir las elites políticas derribadas por las revoluciones liberales. Ambos totalitarismos, nacidos de una meditación pesimista sobre el momento presente, acusan un optimismo fundamental. Creer que un Estado, una civilización, puedan ser salvados mediante el dominio de una sola idea es, ante todo, una manifestación de esperanza. Sólo se está dispuesto a reconocer una autoridad política ilimitada a aquel principio del cual se acepta, fielmente, su ilimitada bondad. En este sentido, el totalitarismo de Platón, la idea del Estado-organismo, se nos presenta cono un mito, como mitos son las concepciones de los Estados fascista, nacionalsocialista y bolchevique. Considerado en su líneas generales, el mito del Estado platónico puede relacionarse con las más diversas tendencias del totalitarismo moderno, sean éstas de derecha o de izquierda: «En la República se puede encontrar la autorización a predicar la revolución social, la caída del capitalismo y el poder del dinero; pero igualmente puede encontrarse una justificación de la coexistencia de dos sistemas diferentes de educación, uno para los pocos y otro para los muchos, y una justificación de la clase dirigente hereditaria»[1].

Sin embargo, observando con más atención, el sentido del totalitarismo platónico nos obliga a hacer distinciones: no se trata de la tiranía de una clase o de una facción sino del gobierno de los mejores, los cuales, encarnado los valores heroicos y sacrales, pueden razonablemente pretender representar la totalidad de los valores del espíritu. Esta cualificación más precisa nos permite, sin embargo, rechazar toda posible vinculación entre bolchevismo y platonismo. En efecto, este último no es un Estado-totalidad sino una parte del todo, la más ínfima y plebeya, que pretende situarse como absoluto social y espiritual. La dictadura del proletariado constituye la inversión perfecta del ideal platónico. Más complejo resulta el discurso para el fascismo y el nacionalsocialismo que, si bien han ignorado la suprema exigencia de situar nuevamente en la cima del Estado valores trascendentes, también es cierto que han luchado por la creación de una elite heroica capaz de situar la política por encima de la economía e imponer una nueva jerarquía de los rangos. En cierto sentido representan un intento de remontar el ciclo de la decadencia de las formas políticas tal y como se halla delineado en la República.

Las relaciones entre platonismo y nacionalsocialismo merecen un consideración a parte. Es conocida la influencia ejercida por el platonismo sobre la cultura alemana de la primera mitad del siglo XX. El circulo que dirige el poeta-profeta Stefan George difunde una imagen heroica de Platón que no deja de influir en las corrientes políticas de extrema derecha. Así, izada la roja bandera de la esvástica sobre el mástil de la Cancillería, se eleva un coro de voces proclamando a Platón «precursor», «defensor del derecho de los mejores», «nórdico», «Gründer», «Hüter des Lebens» o incluso «Führer»[2]. Para la reconstrucción de la imagen de Platón en el III Reich resulta de interés el libro de Hans Günther, el máximo teórico nacionalsocialista de la idea «nórdica», dedicado a Platon als Hüter des Lebens. Platons Zucht und Erziehunggedanken und deren Bedeutung fur die Gegenwart («Platón como custodio de la vida. La concepción educativa y selectiva platónica y sus significado para nuestro tiempo»). En él se puede leer: «No debemos dejarnos seducir por aquellos que definen la eugenesia como una ciencia “animal”. Fue Platón quien proporcionó al término griego “idea” su actual significado filosófico y quien con su doctrina se ha impuesto como fundador del idealismo… y ha sido precisamente el propio Platón quien, en tanto que idealista, el primero en definir el ideal de la selección»[3].

Para Günther, Platón es el salvador de la sangre elegida, el asertor de la vida como totalidad de alma y cuerpo. Para Platón, como para todos los arios primitivos, «no existía nada espiritual que no concerniese también al cuerpo ni nada físico que no concerniese igualmente al alma. Esta constituye precisamente la manera característica de pensar del nórdico»[4]. En la concepción aria de la vida, interpretada por Platón, la nobleza de ánimo y la belleza comienzan a existir «cuando las tenemos ante los ojos, personificadas. Esta sana concepción genera el concepto helénico de la kalokagathía, de la bondad-belleza, y la kalokagathía no se considera como un modelo de perfección individual sino como algo mucho más vasto: una teoría de la cría de una humanidad superior. Sólo por medio de una selección, de la educación de una estirpe elegida, puede lograrse que la belleza y la bondad aparezcan un día personificadas ante nosotros»[5].

Resulta evidente que la interpretación nacionalsocialista de Platón es propagandística y unilateral. Pero, igualmente, algunas afirmaciones fundamentales son irrebatibles. Muy difícilmente se hubiese escandalizado Platón ante la quema de los libros «corruptores» o ante las leyes para la protección de la sangre. Evidentes influjos platónicos se encuentran además en la doctrina interna de las S.S., dedicadas a someter a una paciente selección física y espiritual a los futuros jefes, educados en los Ordensburgen, los «Castillos de la Orden» surgidos por doquier en Alemania. La Ordnungstaatgedanke, la concepción del Estado como Orden viril que se identifica con la voluntad política, se nos muestra como una revivificación de las ideas de la República.

Concluyendo, se puede afirmar que se encuentra una herencia platónica incontestable en los movimientos fascistas europeos. La identificación del Estado con una minoría heroica que lo rige, el ardiente sentimiento comunitario, la educación espartana de la juventud, la difusión de ideas-fuerza por medio del mito, la movilización permanente de todas las virtudes cívicas y guerreras, la concepción de la vida pública como un espectáculo noble y bello en el que todos participan: todo esto es fascista, nacionalsocialista y platónico a la vez. La evidencia habla por sí sola.

Hoy, consumida en una sola e inmensa pira la esperanza de volver a dar una elite a la Europa invertebrada, la enseñanza política de Platón parece lejana y casi perdida para siempre. Los valores económicos, que él colocó no en la cúspide sino en la base de la sociedad, se exaltan como soberanos. Burguesía y proletariado, Occidente y Oriente, capitalismo y comunismo proclaman al unísono la llegada de un Estado cuya única meta es el bienestar de los más. Aquello que Platón habría denominado como la parte apetitiva del Estado ha aplastado a la parte heroica y cognoscitiva. La civilización de las masas pesa como la opaca mole de las inmensas ciudades de cemento. Pero este mundo de las masas lleva en su seno los gérmenes de su propia descomposición. Por un lado, se asiste a una creciente especialización de las funciones, por otro, al nacimiento de una estructura cada vez más parecida a un mecanismo perfecto[6]. Entretanto, las masas, insertas en este gran mecanismo, vegetan en la comodidad en un estado de creciente abulia política. Surge así la posibilidad del dominio de una elite especializada sobre una masa satisfecha e indiferente. Escribe Nietzsche en la Voluntad de Poder: «Un día los obreros vivirán como hoy los burgueses pero sobre ello vivirá la casta superior; ésta será más pobre y más simple pero poseerá el poder». Es una afirmación profética que proyecta en el futuro la visión de una elite platónica interiormente forjada por un moderno doricismo, habitando con sobria pobreza en el centro inmóvil donde accionan las ruedas del brillante mecanismo de la civilización occidental[7].

Llegados a este punto, cuando estamos a punto de concluir estas notas introductorias, concédasenos el finalizar a la manera platónica introduciendo un mito. Un mito que no hemos inventado nosotros sino que se encuentra en las páginas de una novela de Daniel Halévy, Histoire de quatre ans. 1997-2001. Estamos en 1997: Europa se pudre en el bienestar y el libertinaje. La corrupción crece por lo que «heridos los centros de energía aria», la marea de los pueblos de color amenaza a los europeos decadentes. Pero he aquí que, un poco por todos lados, grupos de individuos se aíslan, dándose una estructura ascético-militar, una disciplina severa. En sus cenobios se recompone la antigua ley de la vida, vuelve a florecer el espíritu de obediencia y sacrificio. Alcanzando el poder, el grupo de monjes-laicos pone fin al desorden y a la corrupción democrática dividiendo la sociedad en las tres castas de asociados, novicios y sometidos. El esfuerzo del nuevo orden salva Europa, y la Federación Europea, fundada el 16 de abril de 2001, se prepara para marchar contra los bárbaros de Oriente. Hasta aquí el mito, un mito didascálico que no habría desagradado a Platón. Pero, en el mito y más allá del mito, el ideal político de Platón se mantiene como un elemento permanente de toda verdadera batalla por el orden. El perno de su sistema político está constituido por la exigencia de hacer coincidir la jerarquía espiritual con la jerarquía política, de asegurar al espíritu la dirección del Estado.

No sin motivo Kurt Hildebrandt ha podido titular su libro Platón, la lucha del espíritu por la potencia. Esta exigencia, formulada con tanta claridad por el más grande pensador de la Hélade y de Occidente, permanece en todo tiempo, al igual que las historias de Tucídides ktéma es aéi, una conquista para la eternidad. Nadie como Platón ha sufrido por la ineptitud de la inteligencia, incapaz de dar un orden a la vida. Ha contemplado hasta en los abismos más insondables la tragedia de la escisión entre espíritu y vida, entre espíritu y poder político. Y nos ha mostrado la vía real que conduce más allá de esta trágica escisión: no la vana tentativa idealista de adecuar la política a esquemas abstractos, sino un esfuerzo heroico y disciplinado para infundir sangre y energía a la pura inteligencia, para confiar los valores del espíritu a una especie de hombre fuerte, templada, victoriosa. En la oscuridad contemporánea la doctrina de platón arde como un fuego lejano que orienta nuestro camino. Hacia ella deberá saber mirar una nueva clase política resuelta a fundar el verdadero Estado, a dar a cada uno lo suyo, a imponer contra la tiranía de la masa y del dinero la nueva jerarquía.

Notas

[1] Thomas A. Sinclair, Il pensiero politico classico, Bari, 1961, p. 223.
[2] Sobre la imagen de Platón en la Alemania de este periodo véanse: J. Bannes, Hitlers Kampf und Platons Staat, Berlín y Leipzig 1933 y Die Philosophie des heroischen Vorbildes; C. Bering, Der Staat der Königlichen Weisen, 1932; K. Gabler, Platon der Führer, 1932; H. Kutter, Platon und die europäische Entscheidung; F. J. Brecht, Platon und der George-Kreis, Leipzig 1929.
[3] Platon als Hüter des Lebens, Munich 1928, p. 66.
[4] Op. cit., p. 39.
[5] Op. cit., p. 46.
[6] Véase
J. Evola, Cavalcare la tigre, Milán 1961: «En el lugar de las unidades tradicionales – de los cuerpos particulares, de los órdenes de las castas y de las clases funcionales, de las corporaciones – conjunto de miembros a los que el individuo se sentía ligado en función de un principio supraindividual que informaba su entera vida, proporcionándole un significado y una orientación específicos, hoy se poseen asociaciones determinadas únicamente por el interés material de los individuos, que sólo se unen sobre una base: sindicatos, organizaciones de categoría, partidos. El estado informe de los pueblos, en la actualidad convertidos en meras masas, hace que todo posible orden posea un carácter necesariamente centralista y coercitivo».
[7] Una perspectiva similar se delinea en
Der Arbeiter de Ernst Jünger: «Al igual que produce placer ver a las tribus libres del desierto que, vestidas de harapos, poseen como única riqueza sus caballos y sus valiosas armas, también resultaría placentero ver el grandioso y valioso instrumental de la “civilización” servido y dirigido por un personal que vive en una pobreza monacal y militar. Es éste un espectáculo que produce alegría viril y que hace su aparición allí donde al hombre se le imponen exigencias superiores para alcanzar grandes fines. Fenómenos cono la Orden de los Caballeros Teutónicos, el ejército prusiano, y la Compañía de Jesús constituyen ejemplos a tal efecto…». Citado en J. Evola, L’operaio nel pensiero di Ernst Jünger, Roma 1960, pp. 75.


Adriano Romualdi

jeudi, 25 septembre 2008

Citation de Jean Brun

Pythagore.jpgNous pourrions dire qu'un des drames essentiels de notre époque se trouve dans ce "règne de la quantité" qui ne nous donne plus du nombre qu'une conception résiduelle. Nous affirmons volontiers que "comprendre c'est mesurer", nous nous rendons maître et possesseurs de la nature", nous développons une puissance technique de plus en plus considérable mais, si nous savons bien de quoi la science et la technique nous libèrent, nous oublions de nous demander en vue de quoi elles nous rendent libres. Nos mesures sont de plus en plus privées de Mesure et nous vivons chaque jour davantage sous le joug de violences techniques qui, pour douces et insidieuses qu'elles soient, n'en sont pas moins des plus dangereuses. En outre, notre conception résiduelle de la quantité s'exerce dans un nouveau domaine : celui de la statistique. Celle-ci nous amène à confondre la moyenne et la norme, ce qui se fait et ce qui devrait se faire, la quantité et la qualité; c'est ainsi que nous pensons volontiers qu'un bon livre est celui qui se vend à des centaines de milliers d'exemplaires, que la vente d'un disque dépassant le million d'exemplaires nous indique que nous sommes en présence d'une oeuvre de qualité. Le culte du record et de la performance envahit tous les domaines et se détache sur un fond de gratuité tel que l'homme d'aujourd'hui, à qui l'on propose de tous cotés des explications de plus en plus nombreuses empruntées à la science, à l'histoire ou à la politique, se reconnaît bien volontiers dans les héros de l'absurde qui montent en haut de pentes de plus en plus escarpées, des rochers de plus en plus lourds sans savoir en vue de quel but a lieu un tel déploiements de forces. Le "désenchantement des sociétés techniciennes" dont parle Max Weber, vient de ce que l'homme des pays surdéveloppés possède aujourd'hui une infinité de moyens qu'il est impuissant à mettre au service d'une fin digne de ses efforts et capable de leur donner un sens.

Il est donc toujours temps de nous souvenir que Pythagore conseillait à ses disciples de se demander chaque soir: " Quelle faute ai-je commise ? Quel bien ai-je fait ? Quel devoir ai-je oublilé ? " Le règne de la quantité et celui de la puissance ne devraient pas nous faire croire que nous sommes désormais dispensés de nous poser quotidiennement ces trois questions.

Jean Brun, Les présocratiques