Monday, 1 March 2010

Plato and Anti-Utopianism



Introduction

Berlin, Arendt and Popper are criticizing Plato because:

• There is no private, only common feeling

• Community of wives, guardians of the state should be taken care of-given food from the citizens

• Eugenics-guardians breed future guardians, only the best, the leaders are physically perfect

• Only philosophers can rule

• There is a greater truth governing the world which we cannot see, people are not truly enlightened until we discover this-cave analogy

• Totalitarian-possibly?

• Anti-utopia – a utopia that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as a criticism of utopianism or of some particular utopia.


Isaiah Berlin:
• Isaiah Berlin (1909–97) was a British philosopher, historian of ideas, political theorist, educator and essayist.

Free will and determinism:
Berlin was a strong opponent of ‘determinism’, (the view that human beings do not possess free will, that their actions and indeed thoughts are pre-determined by forces beyond their control) and ‘historical inevitability’ (the view that all that occurs in the course of history does so because it must, that history pursues a particular course which cannot be altered, and which can be discovered, understood and described through laws of historical development). In particular he attacked the belief that history is controlled by impersonal forces beyond human control.

Berlin did not assert that determinism was untrue, but rather that to accept it required a radical transformation of the language and concepts we use to think about human life—especially a rejection of the idea of individual moral responsibility.

Berlin suggested that acceptance of determinism—that is, the complete abandonment of the concept of human free will—would lead to the collapse of all meaningful rational activity as we know it.

Ethical thought and ‘Value Pluralism’:
Berlin's development and definition of pluralism both began negatively, with the identification of the opposing position, which he referred to usually as monism, and sometimes as ‘the Ionian fallacy’ or ‘the Platonic ideal’.

Political thought and Ethics:
Berlin emphasised the place of questions about the proper ends of political action in the subject-matter of political theory, he also recognised the importance of discussions of the proper means to employ, and the relationship between these and the ends at which they aim.

Berlin's primary mouthpiece for this message was Alexander Herzen, the nineteenth-century Russian radical publicist. The words of Herzen that Berlin repeated most insistently were those condemning the sacrifice of human beings on the altar of abstractions, the subordination of the realities of individual happiness or unhappiness in the present to glorious dreams of the future.

Karl Popper
Regards Plato’s approach to politics as dangerous

Criticises Platonic ‘Utopian Engineering,’ where any rational action must have a particular aim, so always act with the ultimate end in mind

It is too difficult to judge whether a blueprint for social engineering could work on a grand scale, the Platonic approach is too complex

The Utopian attempt to realise an ideal state is likely to lead to totalitarianism as it requires strong centralised rule of few

Their views have to be unchanging, which is impractical when experimenting with a society

Likens utopianism to totalitarianism-the utopian engineer will have to listen to their views over others

The changes are too sweeping, but we only have limited experience to apply such changes

Prefers his own concept, what he calls ‘Piecemeal Engineering,’ where you search and fight against the most urgent ills of society, rather than looking for the elusive ultimate good

This form of engineering can be applied at any time, easier to work out than looking for the ‘ideal’

We only have limited knowledge at the moment, so this ‘piecemeal’ approach is better

Likens Plato to Marx, “Both Plato and Marx are dreaming of the apocalyptic revolution which will radically transfigure the whole social world,” thus likening Plato to extreme radicalism

Critics Plato’s aestheticism, his desire of a world full of beauty, says that this is impractical and does not help men in need, the view that society should be like a work or art can lead to violent measures

Calls this Platonic fixation irrational, it may seek to achieve the eventual heavenly city, but it would always appeal to emotion rather than reason

Hannah Arendt
Wrote about totalitarianism.
Wide ranging views spanning various philosophical trends,
Negative view of modernity-age of mass society, private pursuit of economic interest
Labor, work and action-necessary to complete human life.
Freedom-new beginnings.
The birth of any individual in a new beginning.
She reintegrates thought and action, which had been separated by Plato.
Criticizes Plato using theory over practice, so damaging political meanings.
Plurality and freedom in political action.
Plato’s action elevated philosophy over politics, the philosopher kings were given huge importance.

1 comment:

Sarah Bartel said...

Sorry about the weird font size guys!