Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Questioning, of the Jewish Question

This literature was by no means easy to grasp upon first glance. I was reading over it, and my initial reaction was that it was anti-semitism preaching at its pinnacle. However after further prodding of the work i started to interpret it very differently. Marx was not alienating the Jewish people, (well he was actually) but he was using their history as an example in civil society. The jewish people have always been comprised of contradictory requests in the endeavors of their practice. Bauer pointed out that Jewish people wanted emancipation both religiously and politically, however they were emancipating themselves from everyone else, so where do we stand to emancipate ourselves from them and their practice? He looked at it as the jews wanting to have their cake and eat it to. He would clearly have been a man to think that these contradictions are what led to almost every major conflict/war in human history. However, in our postmodern society, this thinking is highly frowned upon and regarded as terribly unenlightened. Our chapter of modern civil society would look more to Marx's idealism in regards to religion as opposed to those of Bauer's.
Marx takes it beyond the scapegoating of the jewish people, and takes it to the question of religion and religious obligation in the state. He claims that the only way for a society to function at 100% efficiency is to be entirely devoid of religious affiliation, but not to outlaw it altogether, albeit families can follow the tenants of their respective religious disciplines in absolute privacy of the state. This allows for a secular society that can have religious following within it, but removed from guiding it behind closed doors. He uses north america as an example of this working at high efficiency where the culture of the society is entirely politically emancipated and religious practice is allowed in free expression, with regards to secularity from the state and office. So is it to say that society would be better off without religion entirely? or does the U.S. government have the end all be all solution to this question? In my belief as someone being raised religiously i do understand that religious strife causes much political tension across the globe, especially in the hotbed of turmoil that has been the middle east for ages now. However, i have been raised to believe in being righteous, and doing good things, and spreading the good word. Most religions are based around the concept of being a good person, and being a proud member of the community and country in which you belong to. So yes there is the pledging yourself to a god or higher power, but their is the utmost respect for civil law and legislation within civilized society. So maybe it should not come down to who is right about God, and whose God is the right one, but how we can live harmoniously together with our religions coinciding with one another. He goes as far as to say that in civil society we reduce every man we encounter to their means and nothing more, therefore we have grounds in which to judge them entirely upon our initial meeting of them. He continues this with a note that we too reduce ourselves to our means to know our place within the social construction of society and communicate effectively with these other civilized beings. Our status as command beings within the political community serves spiritually to our civil society as heaven does to earth. "Men living within civil society exist as an imaginary member of an imaginary sovereignty. We are removed from individual life and reality and given an unreal universality."(p.36) So do i agree with Marx? no, i feel that he is an idealist who seeks an impossible utopia through pragmatic ideals, but do i understand his reasoning behind his work and where his intentions are coming from? yes i do. Our society is so dependent on fiscal association and class affiliation that we are losing sight of our humanity by the day, and whether an answer to this issue will ever come about is beyond me, as i am merely a student attempting to interpret this very cryptic, critical way of putting the world we ve come to know. The "Jewish Question" and the question of religious emancipation from the entire world has yet to be answered in a clear and coherent fashion, maybe one day religion will evolve and adapt along with the society now that seems to be almost fashioning it as an archaic and dated idea.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Jewish Problem

Bruno Bauer introduces a commonly disputed topic in history – the Jewish Problem. The words “liberty, human rights, and emancipation” are often thrown around regarding the Jewish struggle(187). As I’m sure many of us have learned about numerous conflicts in history class pertaining to Jews these words were thrown around. In order to reach a completely unbiased conclusion on this matter I agree with Bauer in saying, we should refrain from using them in our research.

            The problem greatly deals with the criticism of Jews. They are subject to a lot of criticism. Are they deserving of it? Many would say, as we learned in high school world history, that they deserved to follow their religion without persecution or ridicule. This problem has become such a sensitive subject that and minute criticism of the Jewish man results in an “outcry”(187). Are some of these criticisms not legitimate? It is absolutely true that some of these criticisms have been brought upon themselves. In some aspects they may have excluded themselves from society rather than society out casting them. “The will of history is evolution new forms and progress change.(190)” It is quite evident that the Jewish man is opposed to anything that brings him from what he is. We can give them honor for suffering oppression that they brought upon themselves.  But this honor, and opposition against the system has excluded them. The problem Bruno provides for us is that thos who suffered from oppression did so because of their lack of ability to develop within history. Those who migrated to the Americas, or France did not keep their pure identity. Thus, they were successful in their flee from oppression.

            I feel almost uncomfortable talking about this topic because we are all brought up based upon the US Constitution, which grants freedom of religion, voice, etc. Indirectly, most of us choose not to voice and small for of question or ridicule of other’s religion. But Bruno’s argument on his first page is absolutely true. It seems that Jews can target criticisms of Christians without a “human rights” issue being raised while if the opposite happens all hell breaks loose. Right now I want to comment saying that what I am saying is in no way shape or form anti-Semitic, but just rereading my text it is absolutely neutral. For the first time I can confront this subject with which I always feel I am walking on eggshells. The reality of the “Jewish Problem is that both religions have been affected by the other, yet neither could over come the other(197). Christianity was created as a trail of Judaism, while Jewish critiques of Christianity would not have been made possible had it not been for Christian Scholarship. Thus the only way to liberate Jews from oppression is for there to be a free world; one which there is no longer prejudice; that prejudice for which the Jews themselves are responsible.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Discourse on the Origin on Inequality

Rousseau, a major critic of civilization shows that a major problem in modern man is inequality. The main concern of said inequality is civil, political, and social inequality clearly existent in society today. What does this inequality root from? Has inequality always existed? Rousseau answers this complex question by using conclusions about the past. He explains that through studying ourselves as human beings we become farther away from how we were as original human beings. But, we must have some notion or concept of the past to know the present. By this philosophy, Rousseau can make theories about the past; specifically the change in natural man, and the possible of inequality in natural man.
A major advancement in Rousseau’s Discourse on the origin of Inequality is the understanding of man in his natural state. Man was guided by one thing…impulses. He lived for, and just enough time (similar to animals) for self-preservation; specifically, food, sex, and rest. Because of these basic needs, man had one tool, his necessary robust senses. He had everything he needed to survive. Rousseau states, “In instinct alone, man had everything he needed in order to live in the state of nature; in a cultivated reason, he has only what he needs to live in society” (34). Without these, he would not be fit enough to advance in life and reproduce. According to Rousseau, natural man does not have reason (37). Reason is something we learned or acquired. Thus, the knowledge of man is through perception and experiences. Natural man was significantly stronger than modern man because of the sheer lack of reliance on technology associated with modern man. Original man was prepared for any task because all he needed were his own forces, not tools (20). Natural man according to Rousseau was harmless. He, unlike the competitive civil man, is “gentle.” Rousseau writes, “When placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the fatal enlightenment of civil man….he is restrained by natural pity from needlessly harming anyone himself, even if he has been harmed” (50).
In respect with the existence of inequality, it has not always existed. Descartes essentially blames inequality on the existence of society. Man in his natural state, was completely different from the modern man in many aspects. Modern man according to Descartes is flawed. We have gone through “revolutions” as became farther from natural freedoms of man. As men developed, and changed from natural original man, he began to depend on many more things; namely, other people. The change first started in mans acquisition of pride. When one man is stronger than another in any aspect, he develops pride. This is all a result of unequal association. Eventually mankind became settled. A direct result of this, are laws of justice. Without these laws, clearly man free from any higher power, and is the judge of himself. Thus, in this state man is more free. Eventually, the establishment of the artificial institution of family came (47). Family is like a small society. Unlike original man, modern man in this society is now dependent on other people, and tools and different technology. Thus, original man was more free in a sense that he did not rely on anything but the tools that he was born with. He did not concern himself with anything besides self preservation which he spent all of his time doing. The ultimate move toward perfection of an individual seems to be great. Although according to Rousseau, is it “the decay of the species” (50).
Man was clearly free in his natural state. On the contrary, modern man has far less freedoms, one constraint is law. According to Rousseau, with the rid of law and the state, man would return to a state of natural freedom. The ultimate and direct cause of inequality, which is the predominant problem with society, is society itself. Rousseau uses an example with a blacksmith and a farmer both, who do an equal amount of work, one rendered far better off than the other (53) Thus, Rousseau concludes that, “it is natural inequality imperceptibly manifests itself together with inequality occasioned by the socialization process” (53). Therefore all problems such as thefts, poverty, violence, is a result of socialization in the eyes of Rousseau. And the major flaw of modernity; inequality, is legitimized and secured, with the establishment of property and its laws associated as a direct result (71). The existence of inequality was nonexistent in original natural man.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Society: The Origin of Inequality

In Part two of Rousseau's Discourse on the origin of inequality, Rousseau gives evidence that inequality was started once societies were formed. He begins by giving the example of a man claiming land as his own, when in fact it does not belong to him. From this, he goes further back to find out when this idea of property came into being (44).
Eventually Rousseau gets to the point in history when man starts forming society. Men started settling together and forming nations, united by characteristic features rather than regulations and laws (49). Within these settlements, public esteem became a value. When this happened, "the one who sang or danced the best, the handsomest, the strongest, the most adroit or the most eloquent" were the ones who were held up high in public esteem (49). This is where jealousy and competition can be rooted to. According to Rousseau, "this was the first step toward inequality and toward vice." (49).
This desire to be highly regarded by others became a danger to happiness and innocence. Many philosophers state that it was in man's nature to be cruel, but Rousseau argues the opposite. He says that once men began to value one another, each man wanted to be the best, and terrible things such as jealousy and revenge came into being. It is because of this that men became "bloodthirsty and cruel." (50). He also says that there is nothing as gentle as a man in his primitive state, when he lived for self preservation. When men lived with only self preservation, they did not interfere with or harm others. At this point he praises the words once said by Locke, "where there is no property, there is no injury."(50). Rousseau uses Locke's statement to strengthen his argument against those that say men are naturally cruel, and that civilization is needed in order to soften him.
All of these factors, mainly the creation of society, together form the basis for inequality among humans. The desire to be highly regarded by others causes jealousy which then leads to violence. If society had not been formed, there would not be any competition among men, and therefore there would be no cruelty because without society, everyone is equal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back to Basics: Understanding Man in his Natural State

Is it possible for the modern man to ever truly know the human being as it was in its primitive state? This is precisely the question that Jean-Jacques Rousseau explores in his "Discourse on the Origin of Inequality".

In order to learn of the "specifics" of a subject, one must first have a thorough understanding of the "subject" in its most basic concepts. Here, we can see that this "specific" is the question of inequality, as it relates to the subject of the human being. And thus, it is the human being that we must fully understand before delving into anything relating directly to mankind's inequalities.

Much like Rene Descartes had begun from the "ground" and worked his way up in order to make his points, Rousseau also philosophizes in a similar way, as be wants to start at the very beginning of mankind. He sought to understand man, not in his current state, but instead, in his most primitive state - before reason, knowledge, science, and civilization fueled man's decline, as he believed it to have done.

Rousseau believes that the most we apply our knowledge and reason to understand the primitive, natural man, the further we travel from the truths we are seeking to find. We cannot use the modern, civilized tools (reason) that has been instilled in us over the ages to explore primitive man; to try and use modern ways of thinking to understand concepts from man's natural, uncivilized days of existence would be like trying to fix a metal nail into a wall by using a hammer made of soft clay - utterly useless, and the mere notion of it concludes a great falsity.

At this point, Descartes had come to mind once more, as he distinguished between objects and perceptions, realizing that we cannot use one (perception), to understand the other (object) because of their complete lack of relativity. Similar to this, Rousseau claims that we cannot thoroughly examine and understand man in his natural state through the use of our modern reasoning and science. We must instead examine solely the natural laws; those laws that "speak directly by the voice of nature" (13). Abiding only to the natural laws by which primal man existed, Rousseau identified what we thought to be the two most simple operations of the human soul" (14): primarily, well-being and our self-preservation, and secondly, our natural repugnance toward seeing other being, especially humans, suffer. With only these two aspects of the natural, primal human soul, Rousseau believes we had little to no inner conflict. Reason was the element, that once introduced, smothered the true, harmonious, natural laws of man.

A great irony in regards to Rousseau's claim that the use of reason is that which hinders us from understanding mankind's natural state, is that he uses exactly this kind of modern and civilized reasoning throughout his entire essay. It makes me wonder if the use of reason was, indeed, a primal, natural aspect of the human being; if it was never learned, but ingrained in us from the very beginning. Maybe Rousseau is using his reasoning in such an overt way that he does not even realize the naturalness of himself using it, even when trying to focus on subjects he claims that reason can't understand. How can one philosophize about subjects that they claim cannot be understood by reason, when philosophizing is, in itself, using reason to make conclusions - it is a complete paradox.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Inequalities of Man and Animal

Rousseau’s task in Part 1 is to answer the question: “what is the origin of inequality among men, and is it authorized by the natural law?” He compares and contrasts man and beast. He explains the differences in the laws we live by, focusing on natural law. He defines the two different types of inequalities, natural and moral, and he illustrates the principle of pity to prove that man is not naturally evil. To him, the subject of the discourse is to explain why at certain moments right takes the place of violence, or the strong serve the weak (16-17). In order to do so, Rousseau ignores historical facts, is not speaking for a specific audience or time, but man in general.
He begins by defining natural inequality and moral inequality (16). Natural inequality is determined by nature and includes age, health, and the quality of mind. Moral inequality is determined by men; it includes wealth and power. A major difference between the two is that moral inequality is privileges enjoyed at the expense of others. Rousseau establishes the types of inequalities in order to distinguish between the two later as having different origins.
Next, Rousseau explains the main differences between men and animals. The first is the way they make decisions. Animals choose or reject by instinct; men decide by an act of freedom (25). The example he uses to illustrate this difference is that an animal will not go against its nature even if it could save its own life, while men live to excess and kill themselves in the process. Rousseau explains that for men, the freedom of choice can be more powerful than their instincts: “The will speaks when nature is silent” (25). The second difference is the idea of self-perfection. Animals do not change over time and do not acquire or lose any knowledge during their lives. Men, on the other hand, have to deal with growing old and losing the perfection that had been developed.
Finally, Rousseau attempts to disprove Hobbes’ theory that man is naturally evil because he does not know goodness. Rousseau does so by utilizing the principle of pity. Pity is the disposition given to man to curb his desires of selfishness. It is universal, useful, precedes reflection and is natural (36). Even animals show pity. Rousseau illustrates that pity is the reason for benevolence, friendship and commiseration (37). “Nature, in giving men tears, bears witness that she gave the human race the softest hearts” (37).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rousseau's Preface to Discourse on the Origin of Inequality

Rousseau sees the question of the origin of inequality as both an interesting but delicate one. He states that in order to start our journey we must first take a look at the origins of man and how nature intended him to be because according to Rousseau the modern man is unrecognizable compared to the natural man thanks to society. Society forces knowledge and errors and experiences onto people which change them. Rousseau admits that finding the origins of man and his natural state is near impossible but states that ever since his origins, he has been progressing and “continually moving away from his primitive state”(11.) The more man progresses and the more knowledge he acquires, the further he gets from the most important and basic knowledge of all.
When man was first created, they were equal by nature as are any other animals in nature. Ever since that point; however man has undergone changes. These changes did not all come at once or “in the same manner to all individuals” (11.) These changes are what sparked the first inequalities in humans. Some experienced changes for the better and some for the worse, all at different paces and in different forms. Rousseau then goes on to modestly explain how he does not believe he deserves much credit for this discovery as he came upon it using simple reasoning and guesses. He also explains how these finding hardly answer the question he poses about inequality but rather are steps in the direction of truth.
Some rhetorical questions that Rousseau poses are “What would be necessary to achieve knowledge of natural man?” and “What are the means to carry out these experiments in the midst of society?”(12.) He admits that the task of answering these questions is not possible due to the ignorance of the nature of man and the countless contrasting views of writers and philosophers. One question that he does attempt to answer however concerns natural rights and laws. He goes on to dissect these two ideas and concludes that natural rights are an individualistic concept and vary depending on the person. Everyone has their own concept and definition of rights and their purpose and limitations. He also points out that natural law can only be considered law when it is obeyed by all and that man is both aware of it and submissive.
Rousseau concludes his preface by analyzing the nature of humans in general, disregarding inequalities and society. He concludes that all men are sentient beings, as are all animals of nature. This being true, we are obliged to show compassion for both animals and each other. Upon taking a close look at the nature of man, it is clear that human establishment is built upon a sturdy and lasting foundation of self-dependence and respect. Rousseau closes his final statement by insightfully pointing out that man should be thankful of “him”, presumably God, for their unshakable foundation and happiness.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Soul and the Body

In the “Passions of the Soul,” Descartes shows us the difference between the soul and the body. Everything created have both internal and external functions that form what we perceive it to be. The soul has an internal motion, whereas the body has an external motion. Descartes says men have a soul and a body, and together they form the perception we have of ourselves. Each function of the body or the soul has a cause--- a passion/ action that allows it to perform another function. Passion and action have the same meaning. Both terms have different names because they represent two different subjects, the soul and the body. Passion is used when referring to the soul, and action refers to the body.

Passions in the soul is a consequent of an action in the body. The reason we differentiate the body from the soul is so that we know what functions correspond to each one. Descartes believes that what one can perceive is attributed by the body while what one cannot perceive, reflects the soul. One cannot define the body without knowing what the soul is; like the idea of not being able to know what finite things are unless you know what infinite things are. A person thinks with the soul and its movement corresponds to the actions of the body. Therefore, a person cannot not move with the help of the soul or cannot think with the body; two oxymoron in Descartes point of view. Many people confuse this idea because they believe that the body no longer has motion due to its separation of the soul after death. The body no longer has motion because its organs, the cause of its movements, have decayed.

The organs cause the bodily motions while the soul functions are determined by our thoughts, thoughts that are defined as the wills and perceptions of the soul. Descartes defines the will as a desire of wanting something and making it possible, such as the will to walk which makes the actual walking possible. Perception just becomes ease for the will to become true. As learned in class, “will is more free, the more it is inclined to what is true” (Vaught).

Passion is the wanting something and going for it. Passions make the soul desire what it wants for its body. Therefore, one can decipher that an individual’s passion somehow foreshadows the person’s actions carried out through the body because both passion and action are in truth a reflection of the other. Descartes separates the body and the soul in order to define each one’s purpose and by separating the two, we understand that both the body and the soul go hand in hand to form the single individual that completes us all.

What is the primary function that one can say links the body and soul together as a whole?

Why does Descartes want to differentiate the soul from the body yet still continues to show how they both stand hand in hand in relationship to an individual?