Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Putnam & Dewey on ethics

Foster: I'm aware of certain studies that interpret the pragmatic philosophy of John Dewey as nihilistic. But others think he was a philosopher who successfully tried to ward off nihilism. While he evidently rejected the notion of supersensible or transcendent objects standing behind just or good acts (as does yours truly), it seems he did believe that the principles of empirical psychology play an important role in the outworking of ethical theories within a social context:
"He [i.e. Dewey] studiously avoided participating in what he regarded as the unfortunate practice of previous moral philosophers of offering general rules that legislate universal standards of conduct. But there are strong suggestions in a number of his works of basic ethical and social positions. In Human Nature and Conduct Dewey approaches ethical inquiry through an analysis of human character informed by the principles of scientific psychology. The analysis is reminiscent of Aristotelian ethics, concentrating on the central role of habit in formulating the dispositions of action that comprise character, and the importance of reflective intelligence as a means of modifying habits and controlling disruptive desires and impulses in the pursuit of worthwhile ends" (Richard Field, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
Blosser: First, it goes without saying that most philosophers of this sort are generally people of good and decent morals. It shouldn't surprise us, therefore, when they express horror at tyranny and injustice, and when they want to "ward off nihilism."

Second, however, the more important question is whether they have any standards of right and wrong by reference to which they can justify these sentiments.

Third, it strikes me that Dewey's aversion to formulating general principles stems from the fact that he doesn't have any principles for which he feels he can furnish an adequate justification. It's one thing to furnish a psychology of moral behavior, as can be found in Humean emotivism or Aristotelian virtue theory; but it's quite another to furnish viable ethical principles. Here a pertinent question would be whether Dewey's psychology of emotions and appetites presupposes any clear notion of the good, as does Aristotles; for without such a notion, one remains wholly at sea with nothing to orient him.

Fourth, given the lack of any principles in Dewey, his disposition to "ward off nihilism" strikes me as comparable (provided we substitute the word "principles" for "God") to that of those French professors towards 1880, who were castigated by Jean-Paul Sartre for trying to formulate a secular morality in words such as the following:
"God is a useless and costly hypothesis, so we will do without it. However, if we are to have morality, a society and law-abiding world, it is essential that certain values should be taken seriously ... It must be considered obligatory a priori to be honest, not to lie, not to beat one's wife, to bring up children and so forth; so we are going to do a little work on this subject, which will enable us to show that these values exist all the same, inscribed in an intelligible heaven although, of course, there is no God. In other words -- and this is, I believe the purport of all that we in France call radicalism -- nothing will be changed if God does not exist; we shall re-discover the same norms of honesty, progress and humanity, and we shall have disposed of God as an out-of-date hypothesis which will die away quietly of itself. The existentialist, on the contrary, finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. It is nowhere written that 'the good' exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky once wrote 'If God did not exist, everything would be permitted"; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point." (From Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism)
Foster: In his new work, Ethics without Ontology, Hillary Putnam has a chapter entitled "Objectivity without Objects." This chapter, in my opinion, is really key to understanding what he's trying to do with respect to ethical theory. On p. 68-69, he writes:
"Once again, I suggest that such 'Platonism' [as that posited by G.E. Moore, et al.] is uncalled for. We needn't think that we are describing non-natural properties when we say that a theory is beautiful or simple or coherent. What we are doing is extremely complex, but here is a rough account: just as ethically important adjectives 'cruel' and 'compassionate' describe properties that human beings may have or lack, not supernatural properties, but also not properties that one can simply perceive (or 'measure') without having understood and learned to imaginatively identify with a particular evaluative outlook, so 'simple' and 'coherent' (in their scientific applications) describe properties that certain human products, scientific theories may have or lack, and that one cannot perceive without having understood and learned to imaginatively identify with a particular evaluative outlook."
Sorry for the length of the sentence above, but I think it helps to explain why Putnam rejects ontology in favor of evaluative objectivity. When we say that a certain person is "cruel," we are really talking about a property that we have ascertained the person possesing after we've learned what it means to be "cruel" through evaluative or imaginative means. There is no need to posit a supersensible or intelligible form "cruelty" to explain what we mean by the proposition, "John is a cruel person."

Blosser: First of all, it seems to me that Putnam is here saying something that is quite unextraordinary. Who in his right mind would claim that "cruelty" or "compassion" denote visible "objects," any more than "sin" or "grace"? But this does not mean that objective moral absolutes (such as "cruelty is always wrong" or "compassion is always good") -- which are NOT relative to time, place, or opinion -- do not exist.

Second, while "objectivity without objects" could mean no more than I've said in the foregoing paragraph, it seems to me that Putnam is probably playing off the ambiguity involved in his notion of "objectivity without objects" to imply that the grounds for moral right and wrong are not found in any extra-individual or extra-communal absolutes. But I would regard that as a ludicrously untenable position, which lands one back in some form of individualistic or, more likely, communalistic subjectivism and relativism, with no more basis for justifying moral behavior than he began with.

Foster: For Putnam and Dewey, one must evidently be educated (properly) in order to participate in the adjudication of the ethical life; ethics is also a communal activity. Putnam says that education in a democratic setting "transforms" the "interests and aspirations" of the community. He is most explicit on this point when he pens the following words:
"Any human problem at all, insofar as it impacts our collective or individual welfare, is thus far 'ethical'--but it may also be at the same time aesthetic, or logical, or scientific, or just about anything else . . ." (Ethics without Ontology, p. 107).
According to Putnam and Dewey, ethics should not be the sole confine of philosophers. All members of a democratically-based community (espoused by Dewey and Putnam) should have a part in shaping what is right, wrong, just or virtuous for the community. Knowledge of what is "ethical" will be based on scientific findings and transformative education. Putnam reasons that ethics should be a "pragmatic" activity, engaged in for the good of the community. The best person to ask how a certain pair of shoes fit is the one wearing them. Likewise, the community can best determine its own needs, after it has been morally transformed through education in a democratic setting and after it develops prowess for evaluative or imaginative functions.

Blosser: This, of course, is simply the relativism of Group-Think subjectivism. I'm not surprised that Putnam revisits Dewey's socially-based attempt to build a viable ethics. When one has jettisoned God and natural law and all objective absolutes and principles, what else is left? The putative "needs" of the community. The trouble with this prescription, however, as any circumspect educator knows, is that half the time people (like students) don't know what they need because they have only the foggiest notion of what is really good for them, which presupposes a notion of a real objective good. What Putnam & Dewey sink to here is a kind of collective emotivism: the "good" is defined by what the collective "likes"; and we all know where that leads. Imagine a university curriculum based on polling the matriculating students on what they would like in the way of studies, disciplines, books, exams, and term papers.

Foster: Putnam's thought is not well developed in Ethics without Ontology. But I think it can be summarized in two words: "rationality" and "experimentation." In toward a discourse ethics approach, though I do not want to say that he totally agrees with Jurgen Habermas, who is well know for his communicative ethics. In any event, it is clear that he believes the decision to alleviate suffering should be one informed by education (in the Deweyan sense), one worked out by a community and fit the accepted communal standards for rationality and what is scientific or psychologically valid.

Blosser: "Rationality" offers no more of a standard for determining what's right and wrong than logic, to say nothing of "experimentation." One needs "content" to define what is "rational," and to guide experimentation. One would be a fool to suppose that ethics shouldn't be informed by "education" or interaction with his "community." But neither education nor the community guarantees any access to objective standards, as such. One might be as apt to discover true principles studying the dusty writings of DWEMs (dead white European males) on his own in the library as from his university or social community.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Hilary Putnam and the possibility of ethics

Foster: It is not my desire to defend [Hilary] Putnam (pictured left) tout court. In some ways I sympathize with his position, but we are clearly miles apart in other respects. What I don't under-stand is how Deweyan pragmatism is necessarily relativistic or necessarily amounts to de facto nihilism. In any event, I'll quote what Putnam says and the reader (i.e. you) can make up his own mind.

Blosser: Well, if you examine Dewey, I think the nihilist
handwriting is on the wall. He's trying to preserve a gentlemanly positivist self-composure, but his jacket is beginning to fray ...

Foster: Putnam defines "pragmatic pluralism" as "the recognition that it is no accident that in everyday language we employ many different kinds of discourses, discourses subject to different standards and possessing different sorts of aplications, with different logical and grammatical features--different 'language games' in Wittgenstein's sense--no accident because it is an illusion that there could be just one sort of language game which could be sufficient for the description of all reality" (Ethics without Ontology, pages 21-22).

Blosser: There's no problem here, as such. But his lack of "ontology" undermines his efforts to find any clear absolutes, it would seem to me.

Foster: Putnam does not understand ethics as a system of principles, "but rather as a system of interrelated concerns, concerns which I [i.e. Putnam] see as mutually supporting but also in practical tension" (ibid, page 22).

Blosser: Isn't this precisely the problem, though: "ethics" reduced to a tug of war (dressed up in the language of "adjudication between") conflicting interests and concerns. But what are the criteria, and the basis for discerning or establishing the criteria, for adjudication?

Foster: [Putnam] adds:
"In fact what I call 'ethics' is precisely the morality that Nietzsche deplored, and regarded as a weakness or even a sickness (which is not to accuse Nietzsche of thinking that an ethics of machismo and physical courage would today be anything but a ridiculous throwback)" (ibid, page 23).
Blosser: Here I would side with Nietzsche against Putnam in calling his "ethics" effeminate and sentimental.

Foster: Specific examples of "ethics" in Putnam's estimation are alleviating the suffering of others or sacrificing oneself for the survival of a community. Ideas which admittedly need to be unpacked. He also affirms that there is such an animal as objective truth without objects. Logical and mathematical data are given as examples of objective truths that have no transcendent or supersensible objects behind them (e.g. "If Jim sees Joe, the jig is up."). Yet, Putnam seemingly wants to avoid drifting into the sea of cultural relativism and evidently nihilism (ibid, pages 115, 121-129). He takes both Foucault and Derrida to task in his new book for their poststructuralist notions that have been highly influential in literary criticism and some philosophical circles.

Blosser: All "gentlemen" want to "avoid drifting into the sea of cultural relativism and ... nihilism." The question is: do they have a means of achieving this avoidance? It's all well and good to want to alleviate suffering and to sacrifice for the community, but one needs compelling incentives to impose any obligation to this effect, which, it seems to me, he would have a hard time providing without "principles" or "absolutes."

Friday, August 06, 2004

Why modern & post-modern philosophers disappoint

I have occasionally expressed the view that modern and contemporary philo-sophers often disappoint-- that they take a lot of work to fathom, and once one fathoms them, one can have the feeling that it wasn't worth the effort. One is reminded of a remark by Fr. Norris Clarke, S.J., of Fordham University: there are three kinds of philosophers, he says -- (1) those who at first seem clear, but upon further reading become more and more obscure; (2) those who at first may seem obscure but become clearer and clearer upon each reading; and (3) those who seem obsecure at first and remain obscure. Contemporary students often complain when they first encounter writers such as St. Thomas Aquinas, who are encumbered by a kind of Aristotelian "essentialist" jargon. However, what they don't realize is that Thomas, like many other Ancient and Me-dieval philosophers, is actually a very clear-headed thinker of the second type cited by Clark. By contrast, students today tend to delight in reading Friedrich Nietzsche (pictured right) or Jean-Paul Sartre (below left) or even Martin Heidegger (above left) or Jacques Derrida (top right). They often feel a certain impression of resonance in what they read in such authors. What they don't realize at first, however, is that Nietzsche and Sartre are good examples of the first type of philosopher cited by Clark -- they seem clear at first, but become more and more obscure as one seeks to fathom what they are really saying. Heidegger and Derrida are difficult at first, and often students who struggle with them reach a point where they feel they have finally broken through to something profound, reinforcing a sophomoric sense of esoteric self-importance. What they don't realize at first, however, is that Heidegger and Derrida are good examples of the third type of philosopher cited by Clark -- they're difficult to fathom at first; but even when one has the feeling of having broken through to some depth, it eventually becomes quite clear that there nothing much of any clarity or worth there after all.

Sometimes students express surprise and disappointment when I say such things. I suppose it can make me seem a bit jaded about philosophy (though I assure you that this is not ultimately so, as I hope you will eventually see). I am reminded that Wittgenstein once told an eager enquiring student to forget about philosophy and go out and do something useful and practical in the world. I'm not denying that philosophy can be a great deal of fun and offer us the tools with which we can incisively penetrate much of the 'bunk' that surrounds contemporary politics, theology, etc. But I do think that, with the exception of a few great philosophers (particularly ancient and medieval), most of Western philosophy has been a tapestry of errors and distortions, woven together with strands of overweening presumption. I think, in this connection, of Mortimer Adler's delightful survey of modern philosophy entitled, Ten Philosophical Mistakes.

A former philosophy student of mine, Edgar Foster, once wrote me, in this connection:
Lest I be misunderstood, I do not think that Nietzsche, Heidegger or Hegel set forth truth in its adorable naked form so that their readers might grasp, appropriate and walk in Wahrheit [German: "truth"]. My point is simply that Heidegger or Hegel stimulate our critical thinking faculties. Furthermore, they stand out as shining examples of utter brilliance (IMO) when it comes to delineating lady philosophy and her putative CONSOLATIO.
Reply: I'm glad your linguistic stimulation has extended to the German "Wahrheit" now. I agree that these German ideologues can stimulate. But so can bare logic; or the study of marine reproductive life in the Everglades (and probably with less threat of losing your soul). And I don't see much that is consoling about the razzle-dazzle and brilliance of Heidy and Hegelly.

Your analysis may justly depict the PHILOSOFIA of Nietzsche but I'm not sure that it does justice to Heidegger or Hegel. Karl Rahner and John Macquarrie have both made hay (of two different types) by implementing Heidegger's transcendental method. Heidegger's perspicuous observations concerning the problemata of Cartesianism also merit praise, in my opinion.
Reply: Heidegger, when applied to religious thought, becomes dangerous. I consider's Macquarrie's theology "Christian" only in vocabulary, much like Tillich's systematic theology. It's essentially gnostic, if not pagan. Rahner is less consistent. He can be interpreted in ways that are
generally consistent with Catholic Church teaching, though there are dimensions of his work that I consider essentially inimical to it.

Kierkegaard [as you indicated earlier] has his good points, I will concede. But I much rather prefer John Locke's analysis of Jesus' earthly mission. He thinks, as you know, that the "proofs" from Scripture concerning Christ are quite rational. Affirming subjective revelation or an ongoing existential relationship with Jesus Christ does not mean that one has to resort to formulating the ministry and life of Jesus Christ in terms of the absurd.
Reply: I agree. I even like John Locke's general thrust here, though I'm also wary of him for other reasons.

You said a lot of good stuff in this paragraph, but for the sake of brevity, I had to snip some of your comments. At any rate, you may criticize me, but here is where we diverge in a major way. I personally prescind from Heidegger's "apostate" status and try to examine his thoughts apart from considering his spiritual status.
Reply:I do this with Max Scheler, too; though somewhat circumspectly, in view of his notorious womanizing. I can't escape the suspicion of "sin in the heart, and error in the head." Though I agree that theories and ideas do need to be considered on their own merit too.

. . . From a theological standpoint, I think Heidegger does disappoint. But, looking at matters from my frame of reference, philosophy is not theology and neither is theology synonymous with philosophy. I make this distinction at all times. Thus, I can declare that PB's monograph Scheler's Critique of Kant's Ethics is excellent from a pheno-menological (i.e., philosophical) perspective, even though PB is Catholic and I therefore question a number of theological assumptions with which he works when philosophizing. Would I use PB's book to help me give a public discourse at [a religious gathering] on Sunday? No way!
Reply: HEY!! . . . Unless you were giving a public discourse on Kant and Scheler, perhaps? ;-)

. . . Would I use it to teach a class of freshman or sophormores at Harvard or Yale? I would have no problem whatsoever. Because I prescind from a philosopher's spiritual status, be he apostate or Catholic, and consider his thought in a state of suspension (Epoche [Greek: "suspension" of judgment or "bracketing"]).
Reply: Agreed.

I did not mean to imply that you advocate a closed system of instruction. You do not. But you might be inclined to avoid using texts that I would avail myself of with alacrity. For example, I could employ Sein und Zeit [Heidegger's work, Being and Time] or Hegel's Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft [Hegel's work, Philosophy of Right] with no problem, even though there are elements of each work that I profoundly take issue with.
Reply: Well, I would have no problem with any of these, or with doing a study of Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf under the proper circumstances. But that last caveat is the operative item in my humble opinion.

I noticed something early on in my teaching of our undergraduates. I noticed that they don't do well with multiplications of technical "qualifications" of propositions. For example, if I take the statement that "abortion is wrong," then start to qualify it to death, the general conviction (if there IS any!) that abortion is wrong gets qualified to death. I noticed this with respect to issues of subjectivism and relativism with respect to moral and values and the most basic convictions of the students about what is religiously true.

When students are immersed in an academic environment where nothing either in the mode of teaching of the instructor or in the content of their reading and discussion reinforces confident belief in objective truth, right & wrong, the capacity to know absolutes with certainty, belief in God, etc., these beliefs are eroded. Students are far more vulnerable than I had at first suspected. THIS is why I started the habit of offering a prayer before class in this college where I can get away with that. Because I've seen just how important it can be in the formative life of an undergraduate to realize that there are adults in academe who actually believe these things and don't dismiss them as untenable superstitions to be confined to the distbins of medieval history.

This is also why I've changed the textbooks for my introductory philosophy classes from Locke, Hume, and Kant, to Plato, Pascal, and Peter Kreeft. Many colleagues at state universities would doubtless look askance at this, viewing it as a gratuitous dumbing-down of the course matter. But as I look at the lives of my students and consider where they are going in their lives professionally, and I think about the fact that this may be the ONLY philosophy class they will ever have; then I think that there are things that are FAR MORE IMPORTANT than their absorbing the epistemological subtleties of Kant's transcendental deduction of the categories of the Understanding. They need to have their sophomoric relativisms, which they have hammered into their heads through every available window of the media, debunked. Plato does a marvellous of of that. They need to know that all those things in this material world which promise happiness are not going to deliver on that promise, because they have a desire which no created good can satisfy. Kreeft does a marvellous job of summarizing Aristotle and Thomas on this. They need to know that the fact that something can't be "proved" doesn't mean that it's not true, that "proof" is person-relative, and that this fact doesn't mean that religious faith is merely subjectivistic fideism. Pascal does a marvellous job of driving this home.

So it's not that I think philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger are not important to study. They ARE for you and me and for students going on in seminary and philosophy. But they are probably not the best candidates for instructing undergraduates in the only course in philosophy they will ever have. (UNLESS you've got brilliant students who warm to the idea of reading such philosophers and can walk them through the conceptual mine fields of their writings, pointing out the implications of understanding them for their lives as future Winn Dixie managers and such).

Here again, I think there is a certain dialectical tension that one might experience in the pedagogical situation I am proposing. On one hand, I think my duty is to teach students and give them a broad and deep knowledge of whatever subject matter I am discussing with them. I utterly detest most forms of utilitarianism and my disdain may even come through when I teach students ethics in Scotland. For I know that there are insalutary aspects of utilitarianism that I would not wish on anyone. On the other hand, my job is to teach the youngsters three different types of ethical inquiry including utilitarianism....
Reply: Simplify, render understandable, and show the implications, for good and for ill. Above all, illustrate, and DON'T use the words "salubrious" or "hypostatic."

My approach is to balance out the insalubrious with the salubrious. Ergo, while I teach them about utilitarianism in a thorough manner without criticizing this type of ethical inquiry, I emphasise the strong points and weaknesses of Mills' (et al)
>ethical approach and highlight the pros and cons of deontology and existentialism. In the end, free will and God play a major part in how one responds to godless existentialism or teleological utilitarianism.

Did Kierkegaard reject all objectivity?

An interlocutor asks whether Kierkegaard adheres to any epistemological commitment to an accessible reality. He tends to think that Kierkegaard denies that there is "an objective dimension." He says that in the relationship to truth delineated by Kierkegaard is inwardly appropriated and seemingly cannot be demonstrated by rational proofs or apprehended by human reason. In this regard, he notes, Alasdair MacIntyre writes:

"The fundamental doctrine of Soren Kierkegaard is that not only are there no genuine objective tests in morality; but that doctrines which assert that there are function as devices to disguise the fact that our moral standards are, and can only be, chosen" (A Short History of Ethics, 215).

For my part, I'm aware of this reading of K. It's nearly 'standard' in some circles. It was Francis Schaeffer's reading at L'Abri in Switzerland where I studied one year. I agree that it seems to be supported by many passages in K. My problem with it is that I think K may be in two minds about these assertions, or, if not in two minds, then ironic. Irony pervades his work. As you know, his thesis was written on the concept of Socratic irony. And he's forever saying things like "It was intelligence and nothing else that had to be opposed. Presumably that is why I, who had the job, was armed with an immense intelligence." If K is ultimately a "corrective," as McInerny suggests, then I can see how K might be read as 'erring' on the side of subjectivity, as it were, in order to counter-balance the error he clearly perceived on the side of objectivism. Ultimately, in my view, the upshot of his philosophy is to say that we've been peering through the binoculars in search of the duck, all the while oblivious to the fact that it's been perched on our head. In other words, "that solitary existent," the "individual" in his lived experience-- his Erlebnis -- has been largely overlooked in the positivistic legacy that focuses only upon the objective facticity of truth. I don't think that a proper appreciation of the subjective dimensions of the apprehension of truth need lead one to reject the objective side of truth; and I'm not at all certain that K, despite his language, really means that we should. To take him at his prima facie word would be to take him for an out-and-out subjectivist, who thinks that authenticity and sincerity are all that matter in worship, for instance, and that it doesn't matter whether one is finally worshipping "the true God" or "an idol," as he suggested in that passage. I don't think this is finally a plausible reading of K, when all is said and done. I could suppose that he was merely confused about things, but I find that impossible for a genius of his intelligence. I chaulk it up to irony.

Philosophical interlocutor:
"That still does not mean that K espouses or advocates objectivity as a viable path to truth. He seems to say that truth, at least in its fullness, is ONLY subjective. He certainly does not believe that the objective proofs of the System constitute truth."
Reply: I take him to mean that objective probabilities are simply that. They're not necessarily untrue, but just not something that engages "that solitary existent." When we're talking about that for which one can live and die, we're engaging the subject's will and life and death. Hence, I wouldn't agree with your statement that for K truth is "ONLY subjective," but I WOULD agree with your qualifier that it's only subjective "in its FULLNESS." Which is to say, an objective truth, such as "Jesus died for the redemption of the world," is not a "living, meaningful truth" for an secularized apostate such as Martin Heidegger. It doesn't touch him. But for the person who wagers his entire existence upon it, like Blaise Pascal, it becomes a certainty to which he clings while knowing he cannot prove it to the skeptic. Objectively, the proposition is true for Heidegger, though he doesn't apprehend the fact; but the fullness of that truth is realize only for Pascal, who embraces it with the passion of inwardness.

Now, having said that, I would refuse the view that would deny that the proposition is objectively true for Heidegger, despite the fact that he doesn't apprehend it; he simply hasn't subjectively recognized that it's true for him too, thereby denying himself the full subjective plentitude of that truth.

Philosophical interlocutor:
K is ironic, to be sure. And maybe he is not an irrationalist. Neither, however, does he engage in the objectivization of aletheia [Greek: "truth"]. K himself pens the following:

"In the principle that subjectivity, inwardness, is the truth, there is comprehended the Socratic wisdom, whose everlasting merit it was to have become aware of the essential significance of existence, of the fact that the knower is an existing individual. For this reason Socrates was in the truth by virtue of his ignorance, in the highest sense in which this was possible within paganism."
Reply: I suggest that the qualifier he appends to the last sentence (" . . . in the highest sense in which this was possible within paganism") prevents the possibility of characterizing him as a subjectivist simpliciter.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

On questioning religious authority

A former student of mine, now finishing his doctorate at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, recently finished reading Ethics without Ontology by Hilary Putnam (pictured left), a philosopher at Harvard. He emailed me the following quotation from the book and asked me what I thought of it:
"Once people were allowed (or allowed themselves the freedom) to discuss alternative understandings of the Bible, the whole idea that the Bible in any way obviously and clearly mandates that every society must have a king, or if that society does have a king, then that king rules by Divine Right, was seen to be extremely dubious. It is after the Divine Right of Kings has been questioned, that is, when people have already begun to search for alternative conceptions 'about the way to live or the way to order society,' that modern ideas of freedom and reason arise as people begin to formulate the conceptions which will guide them when they live in societies which no longer have absolute monarchs--and, of course, once monarchy came into question, then aristocracy was soon likewise
questioned" (page 127).
After reading this, I couldn't help recollecting a book I read many years ago, still a classic on the subject, which I still consider one of the best book available on this subject generally: The Revolt of the Masses by the great Spaniard and student of phenomenology (especially Scheler's), Ortega y Gasset. Indeed I do think there is a "domino effect" sort of historical logic or chain reaction, and even that the fall of the "divine right's" concept played a fairly significant role in it (this, in turn, reminds me of Albert Camus' chapter in The Rebel, about "regicide" (during the English and French revolutions) and its relation to "deicide." Of course the Bible does not, as such, mandate that every society should have a king-- and monarchy in the OT can even be read as a concession of God through Samuel to the temporal desires of the Israelites who didn't find "theocracy" (via God's prophets) sufficient. But the process of beginning to question authority, which I suppose really begins with Lucifer in heaven, followed by the Serpent in the Garden, had many key milestones, one of the chief of which was Luther's "Here I stand!" (on the ground of "reason" and "conscience" = subjective or private interpretation inde-pendent of ecclesial magisterial authority), most certainly.