We don’t do God

In a dialogue with the late Christopher Hitchens, John Haldane outlines why he thinks religion is crucial as a foundational political principle in societies made up of diverse cultures, religions, etc. Very roughly his position is (1) that the governing of such a society must be built around certain core notions like the respect for others’ rights or the pursuit of their well-being, and (2) that religion gives us the best (indeed, he thinks the only) grounds for motivating such respect or such a pursuit.

Backing up slightly it would be helpful to give some account of what we mean by “religion” and therefore, by contrast, “secularism.” The way I’ve come to understand it — and the way I think Haldane understands it too — is as follows: religion involves adding an extra layer to a worldview that admits of some form of transcendent reality, such that we can act justly or unjustly toward this reality. Religious living, then, is acting justly towards this reality. I deliberately phrase this in general terms because not all religions think this reality is one, or personal, or omniscient, or eternal, or any of the other attributes of the God of classical theism. Nevertheless they all have some notion of just activity toward this reality, even if perhaps they wouldn’t phrase it in exactly those terms. Secularism, by contrast, denies either (a) that there is a reality transcendent of us or (b) that we can act justly or unjustly toward it. For the purposes of living, then, the secularist has no interest in such a reality, even if they intellectually accept that it exists.

With this in hand, return to points (1) and (2) I mentioned above. I won’t say much regarding (1), but I appreciate that Haldane draws attention to the fact that “neutral” governance is an unachievable pipe dream. The point has been made in various ways before, but essentially it boils down to the fact that any governing system is committed (implicitly or explicitly) to a conception of the good that guides the decisions and trade-offs they make in governing.

With regards to (2) Haldane’s proposal for a religious grounding is that humans are created as image-bearers of God, and so our respect of other’s or our pursuit for their well-being would flow from our honouring God as part of our proper religious activity toward him. To phrase this in somewhat Thomistic terms, our respect for others is a participation in our respect for God. Of course, while this proposal doesn’t require the religion of a theistic sort, it does require a transcendent reality of which we can coherently be called image-bearers of as well as that justice toward this reality involve some form of honour. So while this proposal is certainly broader than the Abrahamic religions, it doesn’t extend to all religions.

At this point two clarifications can be made. First, contrary to what Hitchens assumes, Haldane’s proposal is not inconsistent with evolution, since the notion of creation he’s interested in is much broader than some seven-day account of creation. While it doesn’t even seem essential to Haldane’s proposal that we be created (since the key is that we’re image-bearers), even if we assume it is the creation could equally have occurred through evolution. This is an unfortunately common conflation found in the New Atheists, and is completely besides the point.

Second, and more importantly, Haldane is not proposing some form of divine command theory as his grounds. This point actually comes up explicitly in the discussion itself, but I thought it worth bringing attention to. His point is not that we respect each other our of duty imposed upon us by a God found in the revelation of a specific religion. Rather it is that grounding the motivation for following principles we can all agree to — such as the golden rule, or the respect of inviolable rights — requires a religious basis, and probably something like the particular basis he proposes.

Given these clarifications, what are we to make of Haldane’s position? The structure of the discussion unfortunately did not enable him to develop it to any great length or nuance, but we can comment on the gist of it that he managed to outline. As I’ve said already, I think point (1) is spot on. Regarding point (2), however, I’m inclined to think that it’s possible to develop an account of common goods that enables us to give the secular grounds of which Haldane is so skeptical. I’ve discussed this in one form or another on this blog for nearly two years, now that I look back. So to some extent I disagree with Haldane, but this disagreement is not as severe as might first appear, as can be seen in three points.

First, while I think such a secular grounds can be given, these ground are built on top of the nuanced Aristotelian teleological account of the good which Aquinas ably showed entails the existence of a supreme intelligence.[1] The grounds are secular in that they can be understood apart from religious considerations, even if they entail religious conclusions.[2]

Second, it must be admitted that the secular account doesn’t preclude the religious account given by Haldane. The two act together, enriching each other in ways sometimes inaccessible to the other. For instance, there is an existential impact of seeing all humans as images of a beloved Father that is out of reach for a purely secular account.

Third, while I think secular grounds can be given I have no illusions about how difficult such grounds would be to comprehend, let alone actually motivate someone to follow through on them. The difficulty of giving such an account has been a recurring theme since the time of Plato.[3] And once we have developed an account of goods and virtues, the particular kind commonness relevant to the project, powers and how they extend to common powers, the relation of common to private goods, rational duties, authority, justice, and so on, it’s difficult to be struck by anything other than the complexity and abstractness of it all, even if it appears to us satisfactory as a piece of systematic philosophy. And realistically, how many people will have the interest or capability to inform themselves of such an account? A further existential point is that such a dry account is far less motivating than the affection and honour found in the religious life. Overall then, I think a secular ground can be given, but that it is far too distant and disconnected from everyday life for it to be socially valuable. Haldane’s religious proposal is much better suited to this job.

In closing I want to clarify that neither the discussion between Hitchens and Haldane nor this post, are meant as an argument for religion. Rather, they’re discussions about the social value of religion in a diverse society.

Notes

  1. I am referring, of course, to Aquinas’s Fifth Way. Perhaps one of the clearest expositions of this is Edward Feser’s Between Aristotle and William Paley: Aquinas’s Fifth Way in Nova et Vetera Vol. 11, No. 3. See also Haldane’s own defense in his contribution to Atheism and Theism.
  2. This is not unlike what is true of many arguments for God’s existence, which run from things like change, existence, contingency, grades of perfection, and so on.
  3. As Rob Koons and Matthew O’Brien say in their article on poltical animals, “In attending to social nature, the ethically minded metaphysician must avoid both the Scylla of atomistic individualism and the Charybdis of organic collectivism. The attempt to navigate successfully the narrow strait between them has been a recurring theme in Western metaphysics, from the time of Plato to the present.”

Common goods

I had originally intended to tie up the thoughts begun in previous posts on natural and moral goodnesssubstantial activitiesbasic goods, and virtual existence, but it has since occurred to me that this would be too ambitious for a single blog post. So, I’ll attempt to approach the topic in installments as I find the time. Those previous discussions are important for the direction I want to go, since we will be using much of the terminology and conclusions there. As such I strongly recommend reading them if you haven’t done so, and perhaps even rereading them if you haven’t done so for a while. In this post we will be introducing the notion of common goods, which will be much of our focus hereon out.

In general something is good to the extent that it realises its end. This is what Aquinas meant when he said that the “good has the nature of an end” (ST Q94 A2 corp). We’re most familiar with ends as intended by rational beings, but these are just a small number of the ends we’re considering. Non-rational animals act for particular ends too, of course. Beyond this the development process of living things is directed toward the end of healthy adulthood. And we’ve seen every substance is in some sense directed toward its characteristic behaviours given by its nature. (Besides the posts linked above, I also discussed this in section 2.2 here.)

Since goods and ends are so linked, a common good is therefore the realisation of a common end. And since common ends belong to communities or societies, it follows that common goods are the goods of these communities. But what is a community? It turns out the answer isn’t a simple matter: there are alternatives and each putative answer gives a slightly different notion of what the commonness of common goods involves. For the remainder of this post we will be unpacking all of this, with the help of our foregoing discussions.

In our discussion on virtual existence we outlined the three ways parts relate to their wholes: (1) parts which are actually present in their aggregate, (2) parts considered in themselves which are virtually present in their substance, and (3) parts considered as parts which are actually present in their substance (in the sense that they derive their being from the substance itself, and this substance is actually present). In (1) the parts each maintain their individual ends, and the end of the aggregate is merely the sum of the ends of its parts. Substances, on the other hand, have ends intrinsic to themselves. In (2) the end of the substance “overrides” the ends the parts would otherwise have in isolation, and in (3) the parts have the same end as the substance because they share in its being and nature.

In our discussion on substantial and aggregate activities, we noted that there is an analogous sense in which activities can be understood as substances or aggregates. And everything we’ve said about wholes equally applies to activities. For instance, we can also speak of virtual existence in the context of substantial activities. We introduce the idea by applying our hylomorphic analysis of virtual existence to a concrete example. Imagine we’re considering an orchestra playing a piece of music, and imagine we zoom in on one of the violinist’s playing. Recall that an action can be analysed hylomorphically, with the matter being the movement and the form being the intention. And recall that the virtual existence of parts in themselves involves retaining the matter while “filling in” (through intellectual activity) a form the part would have in isolation from the whole. What do we get in the case of our imagined example? Well, the intention of the violinist considered as a part of the orchestra is to play with piece together with the rest of the orchestra members. An intention that we might fill in would be the violinist practicing the piece by themselves. In this way actions can exist virtually in the substantial activities they belong to.

Now, are communities to be understood as wholes, or activities, or some combination of the two? It doesn’t seem correct to identify the community with the activity because the parts of the activity are the individual actions whereas the parts of the community are the individuals themselves. At the same time it seems mistaken to completely divorce a community from its activity. The same group of humans could be an orchestra and a soccer team, for instance, but surely the orchestra is distinct from the soccer team? Put another when we consider the members of the orchestra we consider them as musicians, but when we consider the members of the soccer team we consider them as soccer players.

As such, it seems to me that we should consider communities in terms of both wholes and activities. Again, hylomorphism gives us a natural way of doing so: when considering a group of individuals it is their activity that determines what community they are. That is, the group is an otherwise indeterminate substratum and the activity is what determines them to being this or that community. That is, the group is the matter and the activity is the form of the community.

So communities represent a third category which is a hylomorphic combination of the first two. And just as there are three ways for parts to relate to their wholes, and three analogous ways for actions to relate to their activities, so there are three analogous ways for individuals to relate to their communities. How should we understand these in terms of the wholes and activities that make up the communities? With regards to matter (the whole), it seems intuitive that the underlying whole of a community will always be some kind of aggregate of individuals, each of which will be substances in their own right. With regards to form (the activity) we have three options: (1) an aggregate activity in which the individual actions actually exist, (2) a substantial activity in which the individual actions virtually exist, and (3) a substantial activity in which the individual actions actually exist. Each of these would translate to a different kind of community. In (1) the community is merely the aggregate of the individuals, and its end is the sum of the disparate ends of these individuals. In this case, the only things that can truly be called a substance are the individual substances. In (2) we see the reverse of this: the individuals are the parts of the community considered in themselves, and as such their individual ends will be “overridden” by the ends of the substantial community. (3) represents somewhat of a middle ground, and will be of much interest to us. Here the individuals are parts of the substantial community, but not in such a way that they have their ends overridden. This is because their actions are all directed toward the common end of the community.

At least two of these views already have names: (1) is called atomic individualism and (2) is called organic collectivism. Matthew O’Brien and Robert Koons introduce them as follows:

In attending to social nature, the ethically minded metaphysician must avoid both the Scylla of atomistic individualism and the Charybdis of organic collectivism. The attempt to navigate successfully the narrow strait between them has been a recurring theme in Western metaphysics, from the time of Plato to the present. The organic collectivist holds that the most fundamentally real things (the “substances”) are complete and sovereign human societies; on this view, typified by Jean Jacques Rousseau, for example, individual human beings are merely cells of the social organism, with a nature, an identity, and an existence wholly dependent on that of the whole. In contrast, the atomistic individualist, such as Ayn Rand, holds that individual human beings are the substances, with societies as mere aggregations or “heaps” (to use Aristotle’s expression)….

For organic, collectivist pictures of human life, the good of individual human beings carries no weight, since, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as an individual: the good of the society as a whole is everything. For atomic individualists, the ‘common good’ consists of nothing but the sum of measures of the individual welfare of participants.

Their article doesn’t work from the exactly same distinctions we’ve made, but it’s clear from the quoted passage that for the organic collectivist the community’s being a substance in some way “overrides” the individuals that are part of it. That is, the community is a substance at the expense of the individuals, which corresponds with what we’ve said of (2). I don’t know of a name for (3), so for the sake our discussion here we will refer to it as unitivism.

So we have outlined the three views of (1) atomic individualism, (2) organic collectivism, and (3) untivism. Each gives us a different picture of what makes a community, as well as a different understanding of the commonness of common goods. It is this that we must unpack to adequately answer the question at hand.

Let’s start with atomic individualism. On this view the community is merely the sum of its individuals, and therefore so is its end, and thus the common good is also understood as an aggregate of individual goods. A good is common, in this sense, by virtue of being predicated of the many individuals of in the community. So, for instance, health or wealth would be common goods since it is good for each individual to be healthy and sufficiently wealthy. And the health of the community, for instance, would be the aggregate of the health of the individuals. Common goods, in this sense, are contrasted with singular goods in that to be common to be predicated of many whereas to be singular is to be predicated of one. So, we speak of the health of the community as opposed to the health of this or that individual.

Next consider organic collectivism. On this view the community is a substance at the expense of the individuals. Since it is a substance it has its own end, and this is what the common good would be. Since the individuals exist only virtually in the community, this common good overrides their individual goods. An example comes from some socialist economic theories, where individuals are to give up their individual right to private property in order to be part of the political community. So we find that common goods, in this sense, are contrasted with individual goods. The common good, in our example, being the common property which is contrary to the private property of individuals, or what we might call “individual property”.

Finally there’s unitivism. The unitivist agrees with organic collectivist that the community is a kind of substance, but disagrees that this comes in such a way as to override the individuals. We achieve this by noting that the realisation of the common end toward which all the members work together is a good for each member, and it is on account of their shared intention toward this end that they are considered a substantial community in the first place. Moreover the unitivist agrees with the atomic individualist that the goods of the community are the goods of the individuals, but disagrees that these goods are merely shared by virtue of predication and aggregation. We achieve this by noting that the common end is numerically the same for all the individuals, and its realisation is a single good shared by the individuals of the community without thereby being diminished. Consider, for instance, that the piece played by the orchestra is one and the same piece played by each of the musicians, a victory in war is one and the same victory for the entire nation, and so on. To use some Thomistic jargon the common good is a universal cause not a universal predicate. The common good, in this sense, is contrasted with private goods in that to be common is to be shareable with thereby being diminished and to be private is either to be unshareable or always diminished when shared.

Perhaps we should spend some more time unpacking this distinction between common and private goods. First some examples. We mentioned the playing of the piece for the orchestra and the victory in war for the winning nation are both common goods. Other examples are manifold, so long as we can identify the aggregate wholes engaging in substantial activities for common ends: victory in a sports game is a common good for the winning team, financial success is a common good for many companies, the picking up of a car by two friends is a common good for them. A previously mentioned example of a private good was food, for “if there is a loaf of bread between me and someone else, the more the I eat the less there is for the other person to eat.” Two other examples of private goods would be the two goods listed as common by the atomic individualist: health and wealth. While many individuals have health (on account of which it is a common predicate), they do not all share in one and the same health. Wealth is more or less a generalisation of food, in that the more money I give you the less I have for myself. Of course, private property would also be a private good.

Second, we note that in most (if not all) communities there will be certain private goods the members need in order to participate in and enjoy the common goods of that community. This often involves some form of equipment and training, but can also include other things. We will have cause to speak about this in more in later posts. We note this here because it reminds us that while common goods and private goods are contraries conceptually, they needn’t be (and often aren’t) contraries in practice.

Third, what we mean by activity should be construed quite broadly so as to apply to every kind of community we might consider. Indeed, once we do this we begin to see hierarchies of communities form. For instance, a soccer team participates in a soccer game, which itself is part of a larger tournament, which is run by the local soccer league, which is part of the national soccer league. The soccer team’s activity is also more than this or that game, but rather includes all their games as well as their practicing, recruiting, purchasing of equipment, and so on. The hierarchy of communities entails that when communities are parts of bigger ones, they can have private goods themselves. For example, playing a soccer game is a common good for both teams, but victory is private to one of the teams. That same victory, however, is common to the members of the winning team. So whether a good should be characterised as common or private depends on the community and individuals in focus.

Fourth, an important qualification: while common goods can be shared without thereby being diminished it doesn’t follow that sharing always leaves them undiminished. For instance, orchestras are limited in their size because once they get too big they become unmanageable. The same goes for political communities and friendships and presumably any community. Furthermore, including bad musicians in an orchestra might also diminish the end insofar as those musicians get in the way of the orchestra performing well. But in these cases it is not the sharing per se that is diminishing the good, but rather the sharing with too many people or sharing with bad musicians. With private goods, no matter how you share you will always diminish your ends.

Now, all three accounts of common goods can and do occur in reality. Of the three, however, it seems that the unitivist’s notion is most relevant to the study of the good of humans in social or political contexts. That we seek to study human goods means we are not primarily interested in goods that by their very nature occur at the expense of the human individuals. And that we seek to study human goods in social and political contexts means we are not primarily interested in goods that are mere aggregations of individual goods.

That orders regulate

In Summa Theologica II-I Q87 A1 corp. Aquinas says the following:

Now it is evident that all things contained in an order, are, in a manner, one, in relation to the principle of that order. Consequently, whatever rises up against an order, is put down by that order or by the principle thereof. And because sin is an inordinate act, it is evident that whoever sins, commits an offense against an order: wherefore he is put down, in consequence, by that same order, which repression is punishment.

The idea is that when one is directed (or “ordered”) toward an end, one is also directed away from contrary ends. Thus insofar as a part moves contrary to the ends of the whole (or “rises up against the order”, an “inordinate act”), it will be counteracted (“put down”) because of the directedness of the whole towards its ends (“by that order or principle thereof”). This will apply to substantial activities which, as we’ll see in a later post, gives us the correct analysis of common goods and human communities in general.

What’s particularly interesting is that from this simple fact we can derive the three, otherwise intuitive, criteria for just punishment:

  1. Guilt: we should only punish those who go contrary to the good of a community, since the order of the whole will only counteract those parts which move contrary to it.
  2. Proportion: punishment should be proportioned to crimes, since the order of the whole need only to counteract enough to restore itself from the part’s deviation.
  3. Equity: punishments are alike to the extent that their crimes are alike, since the reason for the counteraction is the deviation itself and not some irrelevant factor.

On the homogeneity of measures

In Summa Theologica II-I Q96 A2 corp. Aquinas says “a measure should be homogeneous with that which it measures”. While I could gather roughly what he was saying from the context, I must admit that this phrase confused me a bit. But what he’s saying isn’t really that confusing or complicated when we consider common examples of measures.

For instance, a ruler can’t measure length unless it too has length, and a clock can’t measure duration unless it persists through some duration. So that’s the first sense in which a measure is homogeneous with that which it measures: it must share the relevant characteristics of that which it measures.

We can take this further. A 30-centimeter ruler is not well-suited to measuring kilometers or nanometers, but it is well-suited to measuring many everyday household objects and regular sized drawings. Similarly, a clock that measures in seconds is not well-suited to measuring nanoseconds or hours. This raises a second sense in which a measure is homogeneous with that which it measures: it must be of a well-suited “scale”.

It seems to me that in the article, Aquinas is primarily concerned with the second sense mentioned here. “Law”, he says, “is framed as a rule or measure of human acts.” That is, the law of a community encodes what behaviour is good, and so it is by the requirements of that law that we judge to what extent actions are good or bad. Now, just as the length of a ruler should be scaled to the lengths we seek to measure, so “laws imposed on men should also be in keeping with their condition.” It is on account of this that even though an ideal law might forbid all vices, practically this isn’t a good idea:

Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.

Regent nomadic educated oligarchy

My brother studies politics and economic history, so sometimes we get into discussions about how governments should be structured. Yesterday we had an interesting discussion, so I thought I’d write something about it.

Anarchism and the problem of greed

We started by discussing anarchism. Now if you didn’t already know, anarchists aren’t proponents of chaos, they’re just not fans of some people having power over others. Rather, the goal is to have a community where everyone has equal power. Unfortunately, I think the idea of anarchism appeals to us western people mainly because we have been taught to worship at the altar of self-autonomy, and what could go more against your autonomy than someone having authority over you? Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think anarchism is a bad or ungrounded idea, I just think that that reason for it is pathetic. A better reason is greed: on the Christian worldview man is fallen, meaning we are selfish and greedy. And you don’t need to be a Christian to agree with this: just looking over history of the last century, or seriously examining your own heart will reveal the brokenness and greed within. In my opinion, it’s the people who think we’re fundamentally good that are naive, not the people who think we’re fundamentally broken. Anyway, the point is that when people are put in authority other people, their greed turns to corruption and their corruption turns to abuse of power, which is usually at the expense of the people they have authority over. The anarchist suggests a solution to this “problem of greed”: remove hierarchy. No hierarchy means no power, and no power means abuse of power for corrupt ends.

It’s at this point, however, that we need to introduce a caveat, which we’ll achieve by making a distinction: the difference between “power for” and “power over”. Imagine you’re part of an anarchist community (of workers, say) that needs to enter into some kind of negotiations with another community (like, for wage increases). Of course, if your community is too large it’ll be impractical to send everyone. Rather, what you do is nominate a representative an give him the power to barter within certain constraints at the negotiations (for example, giving him a range of acceptable wage options). Here the representative has power for the people, but not power over them. The decisions he makes can only be in line with the will of the community. In cases where someone has power over a community, their decisions can be against or without the will of the community[1]. Now, strictly speaking, the anarchist only really has a problem with power over, since in power for, the representative is in no position to abuse the power they have.

Right, so the anarchist solves the problem of greed by jettisoning power over; and this is the solution my brother is inclined towards. I tend to lean a different way. You see, my concern comes in when decisions are being made in an anarchist society. I tend to think that having an educated few make a decision is a better idea than letting the uneducated masses do it. I’m sure we all know of cases where people just aren’t in the position to know what’s best for them, and this is usually because they are misinformed or ill-informed[2]. And if we can’t speak from personal experience, we can at least appreciate where I’m coming from[3]. Now, if the educated few are making decisions, power over is unavoidable and the anarchist’s solution is not open to me. So how can I address the problem of greed? And what exactly would this system look like?

Plato’s reluctant philosopher-king oligarchy

To see a possible answer we go all the way back to Plato. A while back I was reading his work, “The Republic”[4]. It’s a dialogue in which the character Socrates is engaged in a discussion, part of which involves the best way to organise the power structures in a society. The solution offered by the character Socrates in the end involves an oligarchy of reluctant philosopher-kings. To quote Wikipedia, an oligarchy “is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people”. It’s no coincidence that Plato’s oligarchy of philosopher-kings parallels my suggested “educated oligarchy”[5]. If memory serves, Plato suggested that we breed the elite thinkers (the philosopher-kings) to govern the society, picking only the best and most capable. He wasn’t unaware of the problem of greed either: that’s where the “reluctant” part comes in: if I understand him correctly, Plato figured that if there was a cost to being in power, the reluctance to be there (as well as the pure love of wisdom that the philosophers would have) would mitigate the potential for corruption.

A regent nomadic educated oligarchy

Now, I don’t really like Plato’s solution to the greed problem. It seems to me that it ultimately relies on the idea that we can partially overcome it, and I’m not too optimistic about that (or at least not for any meaningful length of time). So how would I solve it? When discussing with my brother, I realised that in order for corruption to take place the people in power need to be able to reap the benefits of their abuses of that power. This, in turn, means they need time and stability in their power over. So instead of having a fixed oligarchy, why not have a temporary one? On this model, there is no single persisting oligarchy making decisions. Rather, for any given decision an oligarchy of relevantly educated individuals are convened to make it and then they are disbanded (I call this, perhaps unhelpfully, a nomadic oligarchy).

Of course, there needs to be some way to facilitate all of this. To address this issue, I suggested introducing another group of people, called the regency, who either only have power for (imbued by the people), or a severely limited power over. Their job is to address issues facing the state which are raised, either by the people or by themselves, by choosing a temporary oligarchy of individuals educated in the relevant ways to make decisions relating to the issue. This oligarchy then handles the issue and once this is done they go on with their usual lives.

An example could be the following: imagine the state we’re considering doesn’t have a national health system, and the regency decides that it might be about time that one is established. They will convene an oligarchy of scientists, philosophers, economists, doctors, and maybe even representatives from relevant sub-communities (and whatever other relevant education I’ve left out), to hash it out and come to a decision. This oligarchy will either decide that such a health system is a bad idea at the moment, or they’ll come up with a plan to implement an effective one tailored to needs of the state[6]. In the former case, they might even suggest a re-evaluation in a number of years.

Because the regency don’t actually make the decisions at the end of the day, their power over (if they have any) is too limited to be of much use. Of course, some system for election would need to be put in place so that it cannot be abused, as well as addressing the question of how (and how often) the regency is selected. But these seem like that can be addressed without too much hassle. There’s also the question of how we gauge how educated an individual is, and how relevant they are to the issue at hand. These questions seem much harder to address, but not impossible!

UPDATE: My brother, reading this post, noted that it is possible that the oligarchy, though nomadic, could unfairly reap the benefits of their decisions when they go back to being citizens. Whether this concern would be addressed by sufficiently good answers to the questions I raised at the end is unclear to me at the moment. More pondering will be needed 🙂

Notes

  1. The “without” bit there is important. In usual practice we have representatives that make decisions for us, and even if those decisions are not against what we would have wanted, the fact that they were not made with us means the representatives have power over us. I had planned on referring to “power for” as “representative power” until I realised this nuance.
  2. This dichotomy of the educated few vs. the uneducated many actually arose in discussions with my brother about jury systems. I later came to realise that it applied on much larger scales too.
  3. My brother does, even though he doesn’t agree with my solution 😛
  4. As a side note about this, I was absolutely astounded when my analysis of the primary functions of the mind/soul (intellect, volition, and emotion) amounted to pretty much to the one Plato lays out in The Republic, with a few tweaks here and there.
  5. Of course I’m not equating “philosopher” with “educated”: philosophy in the days of Plato encompassed more than it does today (science, for example, was referred to as natural philosophy). Philosophy nowadays is simply one part of “educated”.
  6. It’s actually unclear to me whether the oligarchy would simply decide whether to implement one and then disband, or decide and then call in others to help them develop it, or just stay as they are an develop it.