Existentialism Philosophy

The Philosophic Foundation for Politics

At the risk of disturbing the slumber of the lethargic, the case in favor of politics needs to be made. With the distraction that passes for understanding, few have a grasp on the nature of social relations. Politics is normally defined as the activities or affairs of government. But it really is the art of human relations, applied to the organization of society. The basis for government grows out of the perceived need to establish order. Rules are the results of a desire to construct a road map for society to function. The confusion that litters the highways, rests upon a false understanding of how those arteries are constructed and where they are going. The philosophy of politics can supply the answer, if only you have ears to hear.

Allah attacks Aristotle: The philosophical roots of September 11 by George F. Smith

In an insightful article, Allah attacks Aristotle: The philosophical roots of September 11 penned by George F. Smith, the application of the nature of government is explored. Aristotle has been accepted as the source thinker, for what is generally known as Western Civilization. For over two millenniums, institutions have been struggling with his core principles that reflect a comprehension in the rational nature of man. For the tutor of Alexander the Great, truth is the absolute end and is reached through the process of rationality. When applied to the social realm the end purpose is the 'good' of the community, that takes shape in his notion of the 'good state'.

The justification for government flows out of the legitimate need to rule, in order to achieve the 'good' for the community. For the ruler or a government to be lawful, it must receive outside of itself, an acknowledgment that confers legitimacy. Aristotle concludes that man's rationality is sufficient to accomplish this task. The 'good' of the community is achievable when the 'good state' reflects its purpose, as the fulfillment of this end.

Thomas Aquinas departs from Aristotle not with their shared end for the truth, but in the means upon which that truth can be understood. This distinction is the central issue that has separated most cultures and has shaped governments to follow very different paths. For Aquinas, the creator reveals Himself as GOD, originator of the universe. The reason of man is His gift to man, and only through a fusion of rational thought, and 'Faith' in the prime mover, can 'Truth' be understood.

Now before you conclude which cosmology is correct, based upon your own beliefs; consider using your rational intellect to investigate the consequence of your decision. If Aquinas is correct, man cannot achieve the 'good' of the community or the 'good state' in the form of a government, alone. By contrast the 'perfect city' for Aquinas has the same goal in the 'good' for the whole community, but must include openness to divine influence, as a requirement to achieve that purpose. Upon this indispensable element, the imperfect rational capacity of man will be guided to avoid error.

When applied to politics, there is an axiomatic conflict in the forms of government that flow from your acceptance of faith and reason or reason alone. Attempts to bridge this gap have been made by the likes of Ayn Rand, but the ultimate question in politics is the same as in philosophy. The 'good' for both Aristotle and Aquinas requires moral and ethical conduct to achieve the goal. When the Objectivists relies on a man centered argument for moral behavior, they slip into the error of accepting that their own abilities, are sufficient to know the 'good'. The record of all of human history, is replete with the failure to achieve the 'Good State'. So why is it irrational to consider attempting to seek the 'Perfect City'?

The question of authority is that sticky wicket, that most want to avoid. Remember that prerequisite to have legitimacy to rule? Virtually every government in history has supplied the pretense of being lawful and justified to act in accordance with the best interests of the State. Note that innumerable examples of the State, have ruled without even lip service of the 'good state', but each claim to be legitimate. Their power to rule is always based upon the use of force, while they confuse just where the right to use the force they command, originates. If reason is adequate to achieve the 'good state', why is it always necessary to impose coercion to compel obedience?

It seems that the empirical evidence speaks loudly that not every person shares the same level of rationality, as the ruler; or that they have a different version of the 'good state'. Might the prevailing intellect just happen to be the authority with the biggest stick? Within this method of rational selection, the result is always the decision of man. There is no higher authority to guide or lead towards a greater understanding of the 'good'.

Now consider the marked difference when the process of faith and reason is used to achieve the 'perfect city'. At the outset, one must be willing to subjugate your own reason to the authority of a higher power. Since your own intellect is incomplete, as is that of all others, why is it so difficult to accept this conclusion? If you are willing to admit your own limitations, then you are capable of affirming that faith is not irrational. Preeminence of our own intellect have not been achieved by anyone, so we are all flawed. This can be difficult for the most talented, because man is consumed with the hubris of self importance, and often the smartest has the greatest amount of conceit.

The 'Perfect City' accepts the possibility of knowing the unknown, from a source other then your own intellect. Mysticism is often decried by those who's faith is solely in their own rationality. Usually they reject the plausibility of revealed knowledge, not because it's probability is minuscule, but because they are unwilling to yield to an authority outside themselves. When applying faith in the supremacy of God, to the political equation, one can readily see where that legitimacy really resides. Governments wish to be immune to restraints from a power, greater than that which they construct. So it comes as no surprise when the secular mores of State preservation, supplants worship to the rightful authority.

Since Aristotle is adhered to by most governments, ask them why the 'good state' has not been realized under their stewardship? Governments have never tried to rule by the precepts of the 'perfect city', because they are devoted to the false trust they place in their own rationalization, of their own abilities. Aquinas is right, not because it can be demonstrated with proof, but because faith is the missing ingredient in all the social problems, that government claims to be the solution.

The words of my college professor ring loud and clear when he says: " The great philosopher-theologian, Thomas Aquinas, after having written so profoundly on the truths of faith, put down his pen a year before he died, exclaiming that everything he had written (some 36 volumes in translation) were as nothing in comparison to what was revealed to him through contemplative prayer."

We have tried the method of Aristotle. Why not strive to give Aquinas' way a chance? If faith insults your reason, maybe you are not praying enough.

SARTRE - January 18, 2002

posted by SARTRE at 7/29/2002 |

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