28 June 2017
The question of the book which was published in May 2017 is whether the Western way of life and our liberal democratic system can survive the dramatic shift of global power (p. 28) to the East but the author, a journalist at the Financial Times, does not refer to the book “Easternisation” by his colleague Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times, book which was published eight months earlier.
The inside flap says that the book provides a forward-thinking analysis of what those who believe in enlightenment values must do to defend them from the multiple onslaughts they face in the coming years. “Enlightenment” is written with a small e. From pp. 24 and 104, it is clear that what is meant here is the Enlightenment with a capital e. The Enlightenment is one of reasons why Modernity was born in the West, says p. 24.
The author obtained in 1990 an undergraduate degree from New College, Oxford in Politics, Economics and … Philosophy. The main philosopher behind the Enlightenment is Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).
The book quotes Kant once. On p. 126, the author writes that Rousseau and Kant believed in humanity’s innate moral compass - the popular common sense that was celebrated by Thomas Paine. The index says at the word “democracy” that this is the idealism of Rousseau and Kant concerning … democracy, not concerning the Enlightenment since it is at the word “democracy”. (Or what? It’s the editor/publisher not the author who composes the index?)
Jean-Jacques was the chap who sent the children he had with his mistress to the orphanage across the street. Please allow this reviewer to pass over JJR’s general will leading to the social contract. (On top of his bphouse.com Honest Money blog, this reviewer has a paper "C’est la faute à Rawls”.)
Unconsciously, Luce demonstrates the main problem with democracy on p. 126 where he writes that Kant believed in humanity’s innate moral compass - the popular common sense that was celebrated by Thomas Paine. Luce is here referring to Kant’s categorical imperative.
The categorical imperative (German: “kategorischer Imperativ”) is the central philosophical concept in the deontological moral philosophy of Kant, introduced in Kant’s 1785 “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals”, says Wikipedia.
In the said work, Kant defined the categorical imperative as:
“Act only according to that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”,
After having given this definition, Kant went on to give us a formulation of the categorical imperative that he thinks is easier to use than the one already given. (J.B. Schneewind, “Autonomy, obligation and virtue: An overview of Kant’s moral philosophy”, in: Paul Guyer, (ed.), “The Cambridge Companion to Kant”, Cambridge UP, 1992. 309 p. 320)
“So act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature.”
As Mary Ugobi-Onyemere, IHM, puts it:
“[...] in Kant, metaphysical principles are like ‘regulative ideas’, and moral principles are absolute. With respect to persons, in his ‘categorical imperative’ , Kant posits an ‘innate moral duty’ as “species” of first ethical realistic principles. Kant asserts that the fundamental principle of our moral duties is a ‘categorical imperative’. It concentrates on the morality of actions while ignoring the consequences of such actions. This is absolutised since the morality of an action disregards the situation in hand. Kant illustrates the will as operating principle on the basis of subjective volitional principles that he calls ‘maxims’. And so, morality and other rational demands are requirements, which pertain to the maxims that motivate our actions. This proposal in Kant can be contrasted with the Thomistic ‘synderesis’, which is an innate habit.”
(Mary Christine Ugobi-Onyemere, IHM, “The Knowledge of the First Principles in Saint Thomas Aquinas”, Bern, Peter Lang, 2015, p. 51)
You don’t believe Mary Ugobi-Onyemere’s interpretation of Kant? Here’s Nobel laureate Friedrich A. von Hayek who copies the Kantian error:
“It impossible to decide about the justice of any one particular rule of just conduct except within the framework of a whole system of such rules, most of which must for this purpose be regarded as unquestioned; values can always be tested only in terms of other values. The test of the justice of a rule is usually (since Kant) described as that of its ‘universalisability’, i.e., of the possibility of willing that the rules should be applied to all instances that correspond to the conditions stated in it (the ‘categorical imperative’). What this amounts to is that in applying it to any concrete circumstances it will not conflict with any other accepted rules. The test is thus in the last resort one of the compatibility or non-contradictoriness of the whole system of rules, not merely in the logical sense but in the sense that the system of actions which the rules permit will not lead to conflict.”
(Hayek “The Principles of a Liberal Social Order”, paper submitted to the Tokyo meeting of the Mont Pélerin Society, September 1966 and published in: “Il Politico” 31, no. 4 (December 1966): 601–618,
reprinted in: Chiaki Nishiyama and Kurt R. Leube, (eds.), “The Essence of Hayek”, Stanford University – Hoover Institution Press. 1984, 363-381, p. 371)
The Kant quote from p. 126 further alleges that the categorical imperative, which Luce defines as humanity’s innate moral compass, corresponds to the popular common sense that was celebrated by Thomas Paine.
The “Dictionary of American History”, Encyclopedia.com, says that “Common Sense” was a 1776 influential revolutionary pamphlet by Thomas Paine stressing the logic of America’s independence, while avoiding abstract philosophy, favouring instead the ordinary language of artisans and biblical examples to support Paine's argument. Sideways, the Dictionary adds that Paine’s original title for the tract was "plain truth".
The only reference this reviewer found to common sense in the pamphlet is that the pamphlet's purpose was to examine that connection to and dependence on Great Britain, on the principles of nature and common sense, to see what we have to trust to, if separated, and what we are to expect, if dependent.
So far, for Paine’s definition of common sense.
Why not invoke the “common sense” of another USA revolutionary pamphlet, one of a century later, i.e., 1870? The pamphlet is “No Treason - The Constitution of No Authority” where Lysander Spooner writes that if the people of the USA wish to maintain such a government as the Constitution describes, there is no reason in the world why they should not sign the instrument itself, and thus make known their wishes in an open, authentic manner; in such manner as the “common sense” and experience of mankind have shown to be reasonable and necessary in such cases; and in such manner as to make themselves (as they ought to do) individually responsible for the acts of the government. But the people have never been asked to sign it. And the only reason why they have never been asked to sign it, has been that it has been known that they never would sign it; that they were neither such fools nor knaves as they must needs have been to be willing to sign it; that (at least as it has been practically interpreted) it is not what any sensible and honest man wants for himself; nor such as he has any right to impose upon others. It is, to all moral intents and purposes, as destitute of obligations as the compacts which robbers and thieves and pirates enter into with each other, but never sign, end of quote.
Common sense does not have a value of representation, but it has a value of meaning insofar as it notifies the existence of a reality that it determines by the attitude and conduct that we must take and follow in order to orient and lead us towards the object in question.
(Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., "Le sens commun : la philosophie de l'être et les formules dogmatiques" (Common sense : the philosophy of being and the dogmatic formulae), Paris, Nouvelle Librairie Nationale, 1922, 3rd rev. ed., pp. 38-39,
reprinted in 2016 by Editions Nuntiavit in Lourdes, p. 22)
This means that, contrary to what Kant and Hayek argue, common sense can never give us the rules to be applied without knowing the situation to which the rules have to be applied.
“Synderesis”, like the correct Greek word, “synesis” (insight) of of which 'synderesis" is a bastardisation, which Aquinas did not know, is indeed about naturally grasping the general principles to be applied to any intelligible reality after having in the same natural way grasped the truth in that reality, says Mary Christine Ugobi-Onyemere.
The Top Customer Review of March 11, 2016 on Amazon.com of the quoted Spooner pamphlet says that if you love Rousseau's "Social Contract" you will hate this book; for they are emphatically opposed. There’s Jean-Jacques through the backdoor of the orphanage.
The book which is hereby being reviewed opts p. 104 for Locke’s definition of social contract instead of that of Rousseau (no, instead of that Hobbes, the author says) although on p. 126 the author seems to agree with Rousseau’s “believe in humanity’s innate moral compass” which gives rise to Rousseau’s general will of the people.
This reviewer would have liked give the full five stars to the book because it debunks Western democracy once and for all. However, he assumes that the review will be considered rather critical. The reviewer therefore gives only one star. This will make the comparison with the other reviews easier.